Sunday, February 24, 2008

Sunday Salon Goes Splat

Well, hmm. Not a great start to joining in on the Sunday Salon. I did read a tiny bit on Sunday, but it wasn't quite what I'd hoped for. And, I didn't have the energy to write up a Sunday Salon post on what little I read, after getting a late start on our return home because extra lane timers were needed at the state swim meet in Laurel, MS. We had a pleasant weekend and volunteering as a lane timer means the excitement of watching great gigantic splashes of water moving toward you, seemingly in slow motion. What fun when they reach you! Always dress in quick-dry clothing for a swim meet. I also enjoyed all those Tiggers bouncing around in their swimsuits as they mentally prepared for their races.

Back to the immediate topic: It seems I have not succeeded in signing up for the Sunday Salon, although I tried twice, so I'll just do my own Sunday posts until I show up on the list. I'll come up with some decent moniker, next week, if I remain invisible at the official website.

For yesterday's Sunday Salon effort, I read an essay from Granta 67: Women and Children First: "Leonardo's Grave", written by Ian Jack. The title refers to the genuine Nova Scotia grave of a man thought to be one of the Titanic's lost stokers, J. Dawson, who may have been fictionalized in the movie Titanic (James Cameron says the naming was a coincidence and Titanic experts claim the J. Dawson buried in Halifax was an artist by the name of Joseph, not a stoker named Jack) and became a bit of a romantic hero in the form of Leonardo DiCaprio. Author Jack talks about the movie Titanic, what was real and what was fictionalized and how the facts became distorted even at the time of the sinking.

*Note: I've updated this post because I didn't have the Granta beside me while writing it and have altered it to reflect some screw-ups on my part. I'm sure there are more that I've missed. Thanks to Chris and Tammy for some explanation.*

My favorite part was his declaration that James Cameron took a tale of male heroics during a time of tragedy and turned it into a romantic story with a girl-power ending. That actually made me laugh because I'm not a fan of the movie and, although I'd always thought the scenery was set beautifully inside and out (it was lovely to actually feel as if one was seeing inside the steam liner in full color) my personal opinion was that the storyline was quite a joke. I loved the way the author explained the job of a fire stoker, the back-breaking time spent shoveling coal and being scorched in front of a burning furnace . . . and how little time that would have left such a fellow to teach a lady how to spit. The author noted that the Newfoundland Halifax, Nova Scotia grave of the real-life J. Dawson, two years post-movie, was still decorated with numerous flowers, notes and keys (because the fictional Jack Dawson was handcuffed and nearly drowned as the water was rising -- then, of course, Rose saved the day). He also nattered on about Wallace Hartley, one of the band members considered a hero for continuing to play on as the ship sank. This particular issue of Granta was released in 1999 and I purchased it at the local library sale, last week. I paid a quarter for it -- my favorite price.

I chose that issue of Granta specifically because of "Leonardo's Grave". I've just recently finished Walter Lord's classic story of the sinking of the Titanic, A Night to Remember, and Lord's follow-up book, written after the Titanic's discovery by Dr. Robert Ballard, et al., The Night Lives On, neither of which I've reviewed because of the tragic loss of my calendar. Okay, maybe not tragic but it's definitely disheartening. Both were enjoyable reads and I believe I'll just skip the reviewing, apart from saying that the latter is simply an update of what's been learned since the 1955 classic's publication and I consider both books worth reading although A Night to Remember is the better of the two. Anyway, "Leonardo's Grave" continued my recent Titanic-themed reading and it nicely rounded off that particular reading theme. I do believe I've finished with the Titanic, for now.

Other reading on Sunday: a tiny bit of Persuasion by Jane Austen. Of the works I've read by Jane Austen, Persuasion is the first that I've found not particularly compelling. The characters are a bit wooden and the writing itself somewhat convoluted. Usually, I have no trouble at all reading Jane Austen, but Persuasion was published posthumously and I have to wonder . . . did the editor die, also? Because someone needed to take a red pen to that book. I'll carry on and hope that the reading improves.

It's sunny outside, so I need to get going. Although the husband packed my camera, I didn't take a single photo this weekend, apart from one snap of the way people parked at the swim meet. More on that, later. The camera didn't come out of the bag, the rest of the time, because it was dark, dreary, rainy and cold in Laurel. There simply wasn't anything worth photographing until the drive home, when we saw a beautiful kestrel perched on a line parallel to the highway. The highway had no shoulders and, anyhow, my camera was buried in the trunk, so I wasn't able to photograph him. But, kiddo and I both said, "Cooooool." You'll just have to trust us -- he was cool.

Since several people on one of my book listservs have been downed by the flu, I wish all of you well and hope you're not among those filling out the brown bits in the CDC's flu map. Apparently, this year's flu is rampant and debilitating. We've been unaffected, so far. Stay well, everyone!

Bookfool, knocking wood


  1. I'm with you! I did not care for the movie, Titanic, one bit. "Oh, Jack." "Oh, Rose." "Oh, Jack." "Oh, Rose." Oh, give me a break. Talk about melodrama! The whole row of people in front of us at the theater were sobbing at the end and it was all I could do to NOT laugh!!

    No flu in this household, either. Hope it stays that way!

    We had a gorgeous Sunday with temps in the mid-50s!! Of course today it's snowing and back down to 30. Sigh. :)

  2. I hate to be 'one of those people' but Dawson is buried in Fairview Cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It contains more than 100 of the Titanic victims who couldn't be sent back home. It's a popular tourist attraction here in NS, believe it or not. Nova Scotia was where the ships brought the bodies after they were found.

  3. Les,

    Yeah, melodramatic and wildly unlikely (romance-wise). I thought it was pretty wild that the movie was so widely beloved. I thought it was soppy and ridiculous.

    We're in the 60's. But I can't get off my duff. I think I'm still just worn out from a long weekend.


    I didn't have the Granta issue beside me when I wrote that, so I'll go back and check -- that's probably my mistake because he did actually go to that cemetery you're referring to. I might be confusing the cemetery with another place the author visited. Honestly, what surprised me the most was that the author traveled so widely to fact-check. I'm assuming he must have been in the process of writing a book because I can't imagine that he did all that work simply for an entry in a literary magazine.

  4. Being a timer sounds exciting. But sometimes I hate it when life gets in the way of reading.

  5. I think Persuasion picks up after about fifty pages, but since it's one of my favourites I might be biased. ;) We've already had the flu a bit here (I've escaped, but the rest of the household was attacked)-ugh. And as for Titanic, I actually did laugh at the end (which did not amuse the theater full of Brits, where I lived at the time)...I was in eighth grade at the time, and it was still too melodramatic for me!

  6. Nikki,

    It was surprisingly fun timing. I've avoided doing so because swim meets are extremely noisy and I have a balance problem that is worsened by noise. I've always been just a bit afraid I'd fall in the water. I didn't, but there one fellow did. I'm sorry to say I didn't see it happen. Darn.

    Me, too. Life should not interfere with reading, but I'm afraid it does so with unfortunate regularity.


    Oh, good. I'm glad to know it's going to pick up. I think I'm only at about page 45 or so. I love Jane Austen and am hopeful.

    I'm glad the flu bug missed you personally; hope everyone else in the household has improved.

    It's probably a good thing I didn't see Titanic in the theater. I have an unfortunate habit of laughing at moments when other people are sobbing or completely serious.

  7. My word, that's a lot of Titanic reading! Didn't you find it a bit depressing?

    I couldn't help but notice that you've listed "The Wind-up Bird Chronicles" on your 'now reading' list. I love that book. I can't wait to hear what you think of the more surreal aspects of the story. :D

  8. Kookie,

    I did find it depressing, yes. Don't ask me why I continued; I'm odd that way. During the reading of A Night to Remember, I kept flipping to the passenger list, every time he mentioned any new name (for a time -- then I became totally irritated with myself and quit) because the survivors' names were italicized. I wanted everyone to be a survivor so desperately that it's amazing I finished the book, but it was a quick read.

    The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is taking me forever to read, but I'm enjoying it. It's definitely surreal, in many ways -- weird and quirky and unique. I can see why some people call Murikami a genius, but on the other hand he might just be really kinky and bizarre. Hard to say.

  9. I didn't post a Sunday Salon either this week but there's always next week. I figure there's no obligation to post every week!
    As for Persuasion, I haven't read it in quite a while but it does pick up and it has a lovely ending, I think anyway.

  10. Nat,

    I didn't feel obligated so much as I anticipated the fun of having an excuse to read shorter works for the joy of it, as I did last week. There's always next Sunday, of course!

    Today was not a great reading day; I only managed to squeeze in a few pages, so I'm still just near page 50 of Persuasion. I'm glad to hear you agree with Eva. Austen has never disappointed me, so I'm not going to give up on the book. I'm simply expecting improvement. :)

  11. I'm sorry, I'm busy slapping myself on the hand for never having heard of Granta! What a great post. Very interesting, NancyLoo.

    And you made me laugh out loud with the part about teaching a lady to spit. That was quite a plot point, eh? Chhhhheeeesy!

  12. Anonymous12:53 PM

    LOL @ the editor question. I haven't read that one yet. Yet.

    Sounds like you're on a Titanic theme! Oh, that sounds better than it reads. You have to boom out TITANIC! Never mind. Work is making me crazy and I'm sure it'll get worse.

    There's a Connie Willis book that has the Titanic as an underlying theme/subplot. Passages. It's spec fic. It's not one of my favorite of her books but it has all sorts of Titantic tidbits that you can either scoff at or crow.

  13. I visited the Sunday Salon a few days ago with thoughts of joining, but I think it would be one more thing that I would fall behind on (besides the fact that I got ZERO reading done on Sunday!).

    I haven't read Persuasion (and don't own I won't be reading it any time soon), but I felt that way about Northanger Abbey. The story was not necessarily convoluted, but very underdeveloped. It was a quick read, but not my favorite so far.

  14. Andi,

    No way. Can I slap your hand, too? LOL Kidding. But, I'm surprised you haven't heard of Granta. They have themed issues -- some tempt me and some don't interest me at all.

    The author actually mentioned the spitting bit. Yeah, cheesy. Really, when you think about it, Titanic was an Extremely Hollywood movie. I'll bet the Brits could make a moving, intelligent version. My opinion. :)


    I'm finding it difficult to squeeze in reading time, so far this week, but surely it will improve. You never know -- the editor might have croaked right along with her. LOL

    I'm over the Titanic theme. And, I understand. Maybe you should go back on the medication during tax season. Kidding, kidding.

    I've got To Say Nothing of the Dog, here, but I think that's my only Connie Willis. I'll have to give her a shot, soon. Do you know the title of the one you're referring to?


    I seriously get that. Sundays are usually a day that I play catch-up on Bible Study lessons and don't read the fun stuff. I managed to squeeze in both, last week, but this week was just a dud. If I manage to read a few short stories and post on them, I'll be thrilled. I have to say, though, that I HATE the name "Sunday Salon". It just sounds like something I would never, ever say out loud.

    I think I have a copy of Northanger Abbey -- I'll have to look. Sorry to hear you were disappointed with that one. I bought my copy of Persuasion while in Laurel for the swim meet, so I guess it's my February book. I'll try to make the most of it!

  15. We're into the 40's here. Feels like summer.

  16. Booklogged,

    We're in the 40's, tonight. We call anything below 60 "winter weather". Hence the coat. :)

  17. As Eva said, Persuasion does pick up as you go. It helps when it gets on a more linear story trail. :-) The first part of the book confused me a little--all the bouncing around events seemed to speed by. I'm not sure your impression of the characters will improve, but at least the story well. I did like Persuasion quite a bit by the end as I could relate well to Anne's character.

    The flu sure has been rampant. It's all over my office. :-( I hope you and yours stay healthy!

  18. Wendy,

    I'm about halfway through Persuasion and enjoying it, now. It did take a while, as you say, for the story to become less jumpy and more linear. Also, I think this particular version was badly typeset. There are commas in some very odd places; I've found that I've had to reread a few sentences and the second time around I realize that it's not me. Someone simply threw punctuation into the wrong spot.

    We're still fine, here (knocking wood). I heard a lot of people coughing at the swim meet, but otherwise nobody's mentioned the flu around our area for a couple of weeks. Even when it made the newspaper, kiddo said he hadn't noticed any great number of absences. Of course, I'm hoping we've bypassed it, this year! :)


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