I was very, very sorry to hear that Ray Bradbury passed away.  Goodbye Montag, goodbye deserted cities of Mars, goodbye Greentown, Illinois.  Here is a collection of 20 quotes by the master storyteller, but I think this is one of the best tributes so far:  “Short man, / large dream, / I send my rockets forth between my ears / hoping an inch of good is worth a pound of years.” 

I ran across clips from the old Zorro with Guy Williams, who is basically a Latino Errol Flynn and fabulous in every way.  This clip got me thinking, though, that Zorro is practically Batman.  Avenging injustice with a black superhero costume, black horse/batmobile, secret lair, and helpful servant…that’s pretty much everything you need.



And everything else:

I skipped along through Thornyhold by Mary Stewart in one day.  The cover was a bit embarrassing and looked vaguely like a Christian romance or something, which is quite misleading: a good chunk of the book is about the heroine’s childhood, and while something like a romance does eventually develop, the fellow doesn’t even put in an appearance until more than halfway through the book.  The rest is an introspective look at the way the heroine’s personality was formed and how it changes as a result of the mystery in which she finds herself.  The book is not a classic, perhaps, but Stewart’s works possess considerably more depth than they are given credit for, I think.  I read this while in the throes of moving and unpacking, and it was just the ticket for an enjoyable, moderately light read after a hard day.

Oh dear.  I’m still not entirely certain what I thought of Cold Mountain.  I dearly wish we had read this in Southern American Lit class, as I would’ve loved to hear Dr. Peterman take it apart with a pickaxe and show us the gems buried inside.  I found myself with the itch to write a paper on the symbolism and mythology in the book, and I was particularly interested by how Frazier made it clear that the true enemy is not of the North or the South, but rather inside human nature everywhere.  There is no good or bad side in his depiction of the war; in fact, he doesn’t really depict the war at all.  He tells stories of battles, but the main story itself takes place far from any battlefields.  The “villains” in the story, if one can call them that, are mostly renegades, people not clearly aligned with either side, using the war as an excuse for cruelty against whomever they encounter.  The story had certain parallels with the Odyssey and reminded me a fair bit of Ovid too in its mythic quality and the way the characters would interrupt the action to tell a story.  All of that, I liked, and Frazier is undoubtedly a very talented writer—I loved his turns of phrase and ended up underlining a lot just for the sounds of the words.  I was considerably less fond of the interludes of brutality and squalor.  I know, it’s a war story, and those things are a part of war, but I still think there were less ugly ways to make his points.

I was also quite enraged by the ending.  SPOILER ALERT: don’t read the rest of this post unless you want to ruin it for yourself.  I was angry that Frazier killed off Inman, for several reasons.  I don’t enjoy being toyed with, and that’s what the last 15 pages or so felt like: I was afraid at least one character was going to be killed off at several points, and then when it finally happened, the death didn’t feel real.  The next chapter taunted the reader with what seemed to be a recovery (implied by the existence of the children), and then pulled the rug out from under the reader again by throwing in Ruby’s marriage, which made little sense to me.  I have no problem with main characters dying, but I really wasn’t sure why Frazier decided to kill off the character in the first place.  To my way of thinking, a writer must have a darn good reason for killing off a character.  Cheap effect, shock value, and emotional manipulation are not good reasons, and I suspect Frazier had a better one…I’m just not sure what it was.  If he was going for a parallel with the Odyssey, then Inman’s death was a departure from the story of Odysseus.  We’d already established that Ada and Ruby could survive without him, so that point didn’t need to be re-proven by killing him.  Frazier may have trying to say that Inman was too damaged by the war to survive and have a life with Ada, but that contradicts the section just previous in which Inman sees Ada as his redemption.  If Inman could come to terms with the whole thing, it seems like the least Frazier could do to tolerate it as well.  Frazier may have been hammering home his point about random brutality and the dark side of human nature by showing that real life has no rule that the protagonist must survive, and life is often unfair.  But really, he’d beaten that one into us enough by that stage.  I suspect there’s some deeper, symbolic reason for Inman’s death that I’m just not seeing.  Have any of you folks read the book (or seen the movie), and if so, what was your take on the end?