A man has lived his life convinced that something rare and strange lies in wait for him – a monumental catastrophe that has never happened to anyone before. He shares his secret apprehension with one person, until his fear begins to dominate her life as well. What will happen to him? To her? To them?
In this episode, Jacke continues his review of Henry James’s amazing novella “The Beast in the Jungle.” (Don’t worry if you haven’t listened to the first part – this one has everything you need!)
We’re closing in! For those of you following along, we’re only a few days away from the culmination of our Dubliners project. If you haven’t been reading the stories each day, don’t worry. This isn’t assigned reading; I don’t give out homework.
Except for one thing. This year, you must reserve some time for The Dead on Christmas Eve. THAT is required.
Well, just kidding, of course. No, it’s not required – just highly, highly encouraged. I’ve been doing this a long time, and I’m telling you, reading Joyce’s famous novella on Christmas Eve is as good as it gets. Up there with presents under the tree and It’s a Wonderful Life and my family’s great new tradition of buying a tree at the Home Depot parking lot* and then having lunch at Five Guys. (My kids are driving the Christmas train these days.)
But hey! There’s one tradition I get to keep for myself. It’s private and reflective and deeply enriching. And that’s reading The Dead on Christmas Eve.
We’ll get there! But for now, take a look at this video to whet your appetite. The Dead is not only a perfect story, it inspired a perfect movie, directed by John Huston (his last film). Only a genius director at the end of his career could have exercised the restraint necessary to make this film.
And here’s some commentary on the trailer.
Oh sure, it’s not Die Hard. But its quiet, devastating beauty are just as potent. So brew up a little Irish coffee, toss some more wood on the fire, and cozy up to this film.
That’s you this year: sitting under a big quilt with your special someone and/or those ghosts that chase us all and watching a beautiful film.
And then: keep reading the Dubliners, and we’ll all get to the story itself on Christmas Eve. Onward and upward!
* Part of the tradition: “Do you want some paper under this tree to protect the roof of your car?” says the man at the Home Depot. “Does anyone ever say no to that question?” I ask.
Happy Dubliners Day! What’s that, you ask? It refers to a holiday tradition I have, which is to read one of James Joyce’s Dubliners story each day in the fifteen days leading up to Christmas Eve. Just like an advent calendar! And today, December 10, is the day to begin. I recommend taking off work, getting roaring drunk on Guinness or some good Irish whiskey, and jumping into the icy river of your choice while screaming sentences from Finnegans Wake at the top of your lungs.
Just kidding! All you need is about fifteen minutes and a clear, open mind. Follow this calendar (it’s not hard!) and you will be a better person at the end of it. Your Christmas Eve just might be the best you’ve ever had. Trust me.
How did this tradition begin? Well, it first came about when I read The Dead, one of the greatest short stories (some would call it a novella) ever written. The Dubliners stories lead up to The Dead the way the songs on Sgt. Pepper lead up to “A Day in the Life.” And with apologies to Dickens, The Dead is probably the greatest Christmas story for adults in all literature. (Maybe I’m forgetting one. But I don’t think so.)
Anyway, I first read The Dead at age nineteen or so. and was completely blown away. I wanted to read it over and over, I wanted to feel everything I felt the first time, but I didn’t want the impact to lessen. And so I thought, “I should re-read this story once a year for the rest of my life.” It wasn’t hard to go from that to “…and it should be on Christmas Eve!” And from there to “I’ll read one Dubliners story a day until I get to The Dead on Christmas Eve!” And that’s how it all began. A secular holiday tradition, but no less spiritual for that.
So here we go! This year I’m inviting you to come along with me for the ride. We’ll start with the first story in the book, “The Sisters.” All texts are provided courtesy of the incredible Project Gutenberg. There’s a great rendition of the story in the video above, too. All highly recommended. Enjoy!
THERE was no hope for him this time: it was the third stroke. Night after night I had passed the house (it was vacation time) and studied the lighted square of window: and night after night I had found it lighted in the same way, faintly and evenly. If he was dead, I thought, I would see the reflection of candles on the darkened blind for I knew that two candles must be set at the head of a corpse. He had often said to me: “I am not long for this world,” and I had thought his words idle. Now I knew they were true. Every night as I gazed up at the window I said softly to myself the word paralysis. It had always sounded strangely in my ears, like the word gnomon in the Euclid and the word simony in the Catechism. But now it sounded to me like the name of some maleficent and sinful being. It filled me with fear, and yet I longed to be nearer to it and to look upon its deadly work.
Old Cotter was sitting at the fire, smoking, when I came downstairs to supper. While my aunt was ladling out my stirabout he said, as if returning to some former remark of his:
On this national day of voting
Can’t we put aside our differences
And recognize the great source of our unity:
We all hate politicians
Go vote, everyone!
And then, after you’ve recovered from that, take a look at my book The Race, which is about a disgraced former governor trying to make a comeback after a sex scandal. He has it all: name recognition, funding, political savvy…and the hatred of a nation.
And when it’s finished? What then? Well, I suppose it’s back to you and me, reader. Amazon does have a discount on the books. The blog is always free. And review copies are still available. We’ll manage!
Hello everyone! Some of you may recall the last time I did a Goodreads Giveaway, where I shipped off five free copies of The Promotion. I think it’s fairly common to recap these things, with a mathematical analysis of how many people requested the book, how many reviews it led to, what the impact was on sales, and finally some conclusions about lessons learned. Far be it from me to prevent information from reaching you, my loyal readers! So with apologies for the delay, here’s the list of conclusions I reached from the first Goodreads Giveaway:
As is so often the case, the reviewer writes a description as good as any that I myself can come up with:
It follows the story of a lawyer who is tasked with the job of recruiting new attorneys to join the firm he works for. From the get go we can see he’s not having the best of times. His wife who became addicted to gambling has left him and his work life isn’t much better. The new job role gives him a sense of purpose, or passion, to try and encourage people to join the business, only after a few odd lunches with two other colleagues Jennifer and Martin, he can’t help but feel that things aren’t going too well.
He becomes obsessed with a woman named Mina Meinl and soon it is all he can think about, almost like one last hurrah, if he can solve the mystery of her, his life will improve. But underlying all of this is the story of someone who has lost his or her way in the world. I’ve seen some people describe this mans decline into madness, but what I got was the slow, subtle cracks of someone falling into a depression.
There’s more too. Head over to More Books Than Shoes to read the whole thing. And here’s the capper:
Another well-written novella, with many layers of thought threaded throughout. If you want something that you can read fairly quickly and keep you intrigued, this is the perfect book for you.
Star Rating out of 5: 5
How wonderful. I’ll be smiling all day. My thanks to More Books Than Shoes for a perfect way to kick off my October. Onward and upward, people!
Are you a reviewer? Do you like free books? Just let me know you’re interested and I’ll happily send you a copy.
By “whatever v. whatever” I don’t mean to imply indifference. I know people care passionately about this. And they’re right to! It’s their livelihood, their passion, their art that’s at stake.
No, by “whatever v. whatever” I mean “traditional v. indie” or “print v. ebook” or “established v. new” or however else you view the transformations in publishing.
I’m not taking sides (except to say I’m on the side of readers and writers). And I’m not an expert in this debate. Frankly I find that most of the commentary reveals more about the person making the argument than it does about the issues. (Hello, Laura Miller!)
But I wanted to point out something I mentioned a year ago, when the debate was about gatekeepers and independent authors. It’s a story with a point, even a moral, but I’m not going to be so heavy-handed as to explain it. It’s offered here for you to take or leave, as you wish.
Here’s the post, in all its glory. Onward and upward, people!
This is a true story:
So the author writes a 30,000-word story and finds himself in literary limbo. Even though he’s achieved some success with his previous books, magazines aren’t willing to publish a story this long. They only have so many pages, after all, and adding extra paper will be expensive to print and ship. For traditional book publishing it’s too short. Asking readers to pay hardcover prices for such a slim novel does not seem viable.
What can he do? The story is what it is. It’s the length it needs to be. The author doesn’t want his readers to get a version that’s been chopped down or padded out. The other alternative is to leave it in the drawer. The readers get nothing. Continue reading →
In honor of on-campus interviewing everywhere… an excerpt of The Promotion (on sale now at Amazon.com):
When Big Law Meets Big Trouble…
“Humor, depression, and hope all together in one short book… The Promotion was my first book by Jacke Wilson, and now I am wondering if I have been sleeping under a rock not to have noticed this amazing author…” – My Author Within
You need to understand this first: I have a weakness for people with passion. Continue reading →