Read Down 2017: When the world was mysterious

Education, internet, and the ease of travel, in my opinion, have lifted the veil of mystery that once shrouded the natural world.  We don’t know everything, and certainly I don’t, but when reading down my kindle books that I gathered long ago, I am reminded that stories could be woven out of metaphysics and travel and the precarious nature of life way back when.  I like being reminded of the comfort and knowledge that I take for granted.

Plus, it will be officially spring in another week and the re awakening around here is a magic in itself that never gets old.

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A Dreamer’s Tales, Lord Dunsany

I picked up another Irish writer (William Hodgson was Irish, too), and I read that these works were an influence on Tolkien, Lovecraft, and LeGuin.  This is a short work, only a few hours of listening on Librivox or an even shorter time to read, I enjoyed this on a very snowy Sunday and finished it even with an hour and a half break to play outside in the torrents with my son. He paints a magical and mythical natural world, considering issues both earthly and spiritual.  Of those writers influenced I have only read Tolkien, but I have hoarded both Lovecraft and LeGuin because I am optimistic they can create a similar magic.  My favorite two and most memorable stories were the ones where he dreams that he has committed a heinous act and therefore the living won’t allow him to be properly buried and he is in a perpetual state of unrest and limbo, even in death, and a pirate captain who learns to curse his crew and does so even after they mutiny.  Of course these things are not so plausible to audiences with more knowledge and exposure to more points of view than the audience that he was writing for.  Magical and fun tales, a short read, an all around win.  Don’t know what that is supposed to be on the cover, but it’s a better cover than the standard public domain covers on my kindle books.

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The Green Mouse,  Robert W Chambers

I should have reviewed this one for Valentine’s Day, being an amusing story about a machine that pairs up lifelong lovers due to matching their “psychic vibration.” It’s quirky and delightful, with the inventor having the luck of being the love interest of a rich woman who can put capital behind his idea.  Of course, it is a highly successful invention also because it matches up people based on social status, which must add to the compatibility of psychic waves.  Skin color must also contribute to compatibility waves, because the rich widowed man who accidentally sets the machine out to draw his match to him worries that it might reveal that someone “black” might actually be his soul mate, and oh, what a tragedy would that be, but thankfully it is a lovely snow white woman of his own class, even if she is “closer to 35 than 25” but the bloom is thankfully completely not off the rose.  He’s probably fat and ugly but since she’s getting a little old and he still thinks she is pretty it’s cool.  The Green Mouse understands that love is not just about love. It is about reinforcing stereotypes and pairing up the “right” people.

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The Man Who Would be King, Rudyard Kipling

I did an extensive project on Rudyard Kipling in the 8th grade, but I think this is the first time I had read something other than his poetry. This story is normally part of a collection of his works, but for some reason I had this 30 page tale as a separate work. This is significantly darker than the other two books I have been mentioning in this post.  Kipling knew the realities of the white man trying to conquer the rest of the dangerous and little known world.  The story is about two white opportunists who decide that they want to live by their own rule so spirit off to a distant land to conquer and rule it, and it ends badly.  Tragically.  Like, madness and death tragic.  But it’s a thrilling ride.  I was having trouble focusing on reading it so I dug up the Librivox version, aptly narrated by a woman named Phillippa with a strong British accent, which just completely made the whole thing.  I have to see what else she has narrated because I need to read all her things.

The world is not so magical or quite so conquerable nowadays. We have to read about times when the world was more mysterious, which I intend to do with reading more Jules Verne and some of the H.G. Wells that also need to be devoured in my quest to read down the neglected titles at the bottom of my kindle books list.


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