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February 3, 2005
My tendency these days is not
to read one single book, but
to read many of them at once.
Sometimes I'll read a
radically different kind of
book as a "break" from the
others, but often I'll just (Dangerbaby makes fun of
follow a chain of associations me shuffling around the
and read a set of books that house with a stack of a
supplement each other in some half-dozen books...)
Pursuing the history of popular
trash, I choose to trace
Alan Quartermain to the source: QUARTERMAIN
H. Rider Haggard
"King Solomon's Mines" (1885)
From there, I wondered a little about
the source of this source: What about
the African explorers of Haggard's day?
Henry M. Stanley's
"Through the Dark Continent"
(1879, with preface from the 1899 edition)
And that reminded me about the
great Victorian quest for the
source of the Nile.
A mention of Burton (not entirely
complimentary) reminded me of this book, which
has been on my stacks for nearly 15 years:
"Sir Richard Francis Burton"
by Edward Rice (1990)
All of which, also prompted me to break
out some of the prime reference materials
I keep on hand...
"Life Pictorial Atlas of the World" (1965)
"The World Guide" for 2001/2002 sub-titled
"An alternative reference to the countries of our planet"
"Corto Maltese in Africa"
The Coro Maltese
provides the helpful
"The African Queen".
Burton-Spekes and the "discovery
of the source of the Nile":
Which of them deserve credit for
"discovering" the source of the Nile?
Well, Spekes got to "Lake Victoria"
first, on a side trip of the Burton Biographies come in
expedition, though Rice makes much of alternating waves
Speke's sloppiness in nailing down that of hero-worship and
the lake he visited really was the debunkery.
source, and complains of his
treacherousness in cutting Burton out It's very clear
on credit, and so on. which side this
one is on.
The Life Pictorial reveals something
Rice neglected to mention: most of
the water in the Nile comes from the
"Blue Nile", whose source is over in
Burton-Spekes were fighting over the credit
for the somewhat smaller "White Nile".
Maybe the right answer is "neither"?
I got into the Burton bio following
an "Africa" chain, but Burton's
interests really centered on Arabia
more than anything...
So then, following that line I read the
beginning of the Paul Bowles novel
"The Sheltering Sky" (1949).
I've been a little curious about
this book for some time --
Burroughs mentions it as a book
that got him interested in going Burroughs later complained
to Tangiers -- about this, and called Bowles a
"fakir", though what that was
Also Eno borrowed the title about I don't know -- "The
for one of his ambient Sheltering Sky" doesn't seem
pieces (and a friend of terribly romanticized to me...
mine uses another Bowles
title for his radio show
"Baptism of Solitude").
So, many lines converge on
But I'm not sure I'm
going to continue on
Idle, whiney, unsympathetic
characters going through
existential crisis. Ho hum.
Also following the Arabian
line, I pulled out some
Kahil Gibran (largely terrible).
But that was this odd volume
"Tears and Laughter", which
I can see is a bit inferior A case where
to the more famous works. websearches
do a better
He died in 1931, but job than
"Tears" was published haunting used (I was originally interested
in the late 40s: over book sales. in Gibran because his name
a decade posthumous. is dropped by David Bowie in
"Width of a Circle".)
If I had an "Arabian Nights"
around, I would probably start
working on that, also.
There's the Gutenberg version,
but I lack the discipline (or is
it desire? insanity?) to plough
through it on the computer...
Taking a break from the
I switched to a Ross Thomas (Someone *must*
book, "Out on the Rim" (1987). have done a porn
"Pacific Rim", right?)
Much of the action took
place in the post-Marcos
Philippines. It seemed to me like the
Philippines had come up
several times recently. E.g. in
It occurred to me Kipling's
that not only was "White
I weak on the Man's
history of the Burden"
place, I wasn't
sure where it was
So, it was off to
"The World Guide", Soverienty
which is good for the of the
lefty slant on history. Phillipines
to the US
as part of
a deal at the
end of the
And the "Life Pictorial Atlas"
pins down the location:
Starting at eastern
Austrailia, if you head
north you'll travel
through Indonesia and
then the Philippines on
your way to Taiwan. I think the reason
They're across the South I couldn't place
China Sea from Vietnam. them is that in a
glance at a world
just seem like part
of the same system
This is just one of the chains
I'd been following of
late... another complex of
associations could be listed
concerning my project of
reading "the Illiad".
All this means is that it
takes me quite a while to
get through a half-way
serious book, with all of
the various interruptions
(not counting all of the Avoiding
other things I read: television
web-sites/mailing helps quite a
lists/newsgroups...). bit though.
You can't follow every reference, but I try
and follow some, though I couldn't tell you
how I pick and choose between them...
Many a blue tab just sits there TABS
on the page, some get promoted to
a todo list, and others -- very few --
I actually get around to reading.
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