Wednesday, January 20, 2010

In bed with Horatio Hornblower

A certified letter is on its way to PHH Mortgage, with copies of our online account of activity, showing our payments and a copy of my email correspondence with them. If only I had recordings of our telephone calls! The guy on the phone yesterday told us to "disregard" the foreclosure notice, but that's a little like trying to disregard an axe sticking into your cranium. This morning, I was so distracted by the problem that I walked out of the grocery store without paying for my groceries. Not like a shoplifter. I went through the checkout and my groceries were scanned and I even swiped my credit card, but then wandered off without completing the transaction. They called me back in, of course, and were very nice, but it was a tad embarrassing and I must have looked like an idiot to the guy behind me in line. That's one nice thing about living in the south--everybody was so nice. They were all "Ma'am, Ma'am, do you mind coming back for a minute?" If I'd done the same thing at my old grocery store in Buffalo I'd have been tackled by a security guard.

But the whole thing is depressing and it's more cheerful to write about what I've been reading lately.

Earthfasts by William Mayne. A spectacular work of children's fantasy. Written in the 1960's, this book has language that is markedly more sophisticated than what is found in books written today for the same age group (10-13). Set in Yorkshire, it tells of two boys, Keith and David, who encounter a strange boy who appears to have been transported from a different time. The book is deliciously creepy. Of all the time travel books I've read, this is the only one that describes what might be some consequences of a real disturbance in the time-space continuum. There is this sense of terror that you just barely grasp. I was so entranced with this book that I did a little research on William Mayne and discovered that he wrote many high-quality children's books, but also that he was convicted of sexually molesting children, in the 1960s and '70s--the very time he was writing his books. I don't know what to say about that. It bothers me that someone who is capable of such sensitive writing was causing such harm.

Hornblower and the Hotspur by C.S. Forrester. I love nautical novels in general and Horatio Hornblower in particular. While I was reading this, I couldn't wait to get home from work every day and get into bed with a cup of tea and Horatio Hornblower. At the risk of sounding absurd, I'll say that I appreciate these books even more because being an officer in the 18th century British Navy is a job even more stressful than mine--one of the few, I'd say. At least I don't need to worry about getting blown up or drowning at work. So these are your standard stories of the British Navy during the Napoleonic Wars, but the Horatio character is irresistibly attractive. The books are not nearly as silly as the TV miniseries, which I like to watch too, but mainly because they make me laugh. Here's one of my favorite youtubes: a composite of Horatio Hornblower scenes set to Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.

The Rubber Band by Rex Stout. It's one of my current projects to read through the entire Rex Stout oeuvre--the Nero Wolfe detective series. There are a lot of Nero Wolfe books, which also feature his salty assistant Archie Goodwin. They're formulaic, yes, but I like the 1930s and '40s wise guy snappy dialogue and the way Wolfe tends his orchids, rings for beer and is too fat to ever leave his house.


  1. A little like trying to disregard an axe sticking into your cranium - I love it.

  2. I guess that is a bit worse than Lewis Carroll's vaguely suggested pedophila. The writer of what is the only real beginner's how-to ECG book for young doctors-to-be (perhaps for nurses to be also?), a Dr. Dubin, was also convicted of molesting young children. Unlike William Mayne, though, Dubin's writing was not sensitive or very good, even for someone writing a boring medical book.

  3. Ummmm...yeah, that's like "disregarding cancer" or something. WHATEVER! Glad things are moving forward, anyway.
    I never heard of that first book. Or that story.