Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

By my personal star rating system a five star book represents a book I will read again. Rudyard Kipling's Kim is ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ by that measurement.

Continuing with my Project Gutenberg - Rudyard Kipling binge I just finished Kim. A lot of things have happened since I last read Kim: the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the CIA support of Pakistan's ISI cat's paw the Taliban, successful attacks on the World Trade Center, the invasion of Afghanistan, the invasion of Iraq, and you get the picture. A lot of things have happened. And these things have given me a better idea of the forces Kipling writes about in Kim. It's all there: the Afghans, the Russians, the British (in place of the US), the spies, the machinations, and the religions. I'll have to re-read Kim just to review the teachings of Teshoo Lama, the Tibetan lama.

Kim is another coming of age story (Looks like Kipling enjoyed that type story.) This time it is Kimball "Kim" O'Hara, the orphan son of an Irish soldier raised in the native streets of Lahore. Kim is the Roy Hobbs of British India spies, a master of disinformation, stealth, and self preservation at an early age. We follow his recruitment and training into the profession. But for me the real story in Kim is the relationship between Teshoo Lama and Kim. They are like a Crosby and Hope road picture, laughs, gaffes, misadventures and ultimately enlightenment. (Don't ask in which film Crosby and Hope were enlightened, but I always was.)

Let me quote myself here , “So why might I read (Kim) again? Kipling is a good story teller. That point can not be undersold. The people in the story are full of life. The scenery (the Indian plains, the mountains, the Grand Trunk, the trains ) is majestic and powerful. The dialects are fun. And the histories of the men are appealing.” And I will repeat myself, I want to re-read the teachings of Teshoo Lama. I think there is much to learn there.


George W. Parker

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

By my personal star rating system a four star book represents a book I might read again. Rudyard Kipling's Captains Courageous is ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ by that measurement.

I went to Project Gutenberg the other day looking for a copy of Kipling's The Man Who Would Be King. While browsing there I picked up a copy of Captains Courageous. It has been a long time since I read the story, and honestly, the Spencer Tracy movie version was jumbled up with my memory of the book.

Captains Courageous is the coming of age story of Harvey Cheyne, the spoiled son of a wealthy family. The short synopsis: When Harvey falls over board from a large cruise liner he is rescued by a small fishing bark, the We're Here. Harvey learns what it means to be a man while earning his keep during a fishing season on “The Banks.” Harvey is returned to his doting mother and self-made rich father who then teaches Harvey the value of an education. Harvey grows up to be a resilient, educated, soon to be, captain of business, a Captains Courageous.

That doesn't sound like a particularly exciting story line to me. Does it to you? So why might I read Captains Courageous again? Kipling is a good story teller. That point can not be undersold. The people in the story are full of life. The scenery (ocean waves, fog, wind in the sails) is majestic and powerful. The dialects are fun. And the histories of the men are appealing. And in our current time of “entitled children” it's good to see a spoiled boy become a respected man. Is that still possible? I have a seventeen year old son, I'll let you know.


George W. Parker

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Dracula by Bram Stoker

By my personal star rating system a five star book represents a book I will read again. Stoker's Dracula is ☆☆☆☆☆ by that measurement.

This is the third time I have read Dracula. I still find Stoker's use of a journal style presentation annoying. I think the final showdown in the shadows of Castle Dracula is way too brief. And is anyone really as good a human being as Mina Harker? (At least she notes that they are lucky to have a wealthy friend or none of this battle could battle been accomplished.)

But the horror is still there. The glittering specs of light gathering into ravenous beauties. The fog moving across the yard to envelope the bedroom. Renfield fighting to save Mina's soul. The army of rats at the Master's command. The dead captain at the ship's wheel bring Dracula to England. The burning red eyes. What's not to like and enjoy?

George W. Parker