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lgpiper

Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
On The Beach (Vintage Classics)
Nevil Shute Norway
The Maltese Falcon
Dashiell Hammett
Obscure Destinies
Willa Cather
A Start in Life (The Michael Cullen Novels)
Alan Sillitoe
Mobilizing Web Sites: Strategies for Mobile Web Implementation
Kristofer Layon

Of Human Bondage

Of Human Bondage - W. Somerset Maugham The summer after I graduated from college, I lived in a small town in New Jersey and had no friends. So I watched a lot more TV than I ever had before. I vaguely remember watching a movie based on this book. Mostly, I remember that I fell in love with Kim Novak, although not so much as I fell in love with Monica Vitti that summer (there was an art-film house near by, just across the Delaware River). Still, I would have given up all to have Kim Novak, at least the Kim Novak I envisioned after seeing the movie, since Monica Vitti was clearly out of my league.

Then a year or so later, in graduate school, I read an abridged version of the book, and was again transported in some way or another. But, after re-reading this book, now several decades later on in life, I wonder what it was that I had seen or read previously. It's still an excellent book, but I can't say that very much of it seemed familiar. There's no way, that Kim Novak could be confused with Mildred, the woman in this book. For one thing, Mildred was rail thin, had no chest, had a greenish skin tone and was dark haired. I'm not sure Kim Novak (or Monica Vitti for that matter) comes even close to any of those characteristics. Also, the character portrayed by Kim Novak, in my recollection at least, was not nearly so useless a human being as the Mildred in the book. Yeah, I vaguely remember that she was troubled, but troubled in a way that made you want to bail her out, take her home, and love her ever after. Oh wait, that was the protagonist's, Philip's, problem with Mildred.

This book is more-or-less a coming of age story, but one I can identify with, as opposed to Catcher in the Rye, whose protagonist, Holden Caulfield, was someone I severely wished dead (at least when I read the book back in college when I was, admittedly, more of a Puritanical prig than I am now, if you can believe that to be possible). We follow the protagonist, Philip Carey, from childhood up through a year or so after his graduating from medical school at about age 30. Along the way, he tries his hand at accounting and at being an artist in Paris, before eventually settling on medicine, although he drags the medical studies out by spending a couple of years working in a shop because he lost all his money in a stupid speculation.

Early on in medical school, he falls hopelessly in love with a waitress named Mildred. She is coarse, ignorant, grasping and ugly. She keeps doing him wrong, so to speak, treating him with utter indifference, disappearing, then reappearing, all the while costing a boat-load of money. Poor Philip is so besotted he continues to put up with her when she deigns to be around.

Well, I was kind of into unrequited love back during the summer before graduate school as well, so perhaps that's where the book struck a chord with me. Now days, I think it's all a crock, but then, I didn't know any better. In a way, it seemed like fun, or something. Perhaps Kim Novak's portrayal reminded me of the person my spouse refers to as the "red-head from Cornell", although the Cornell chick wasn't red-headed, more's the pity (I have no idea why my spouse knows I had a thing for a young woman who went to Cornell, nor why she thought said young woman had red hair). Also, she (the Cornell woman) wasn't coarse, ignorant, ugly or expensive, just mostly indifferent. Whatever, it's a good book. Philip spends lots of time mulling the meaning of life from all kinds of aspects, so one is given lots of food for thought, so to speak. Perhaps, in the end, Philip manages to figure out life's meaning. One thing for sure, it has nothing to do with unrequited love. That's all a crock.

Anyway, this really is an excellent book, although perhaps not so excellent as it was before I became old and cynical. Whatever, everyone should read it.