December 28, 2016

"You really should read it, Althouse, as it's an unusual and excellent book."

"I don't know how any cartoon could begin to touch the substance of the book. When my wife was first pregnant I read it aloud to her to help her relax at night. I thought it had a positive message of hope and regeneration. Other than the warren getting gassed, I don't see any particular darkness in it."

Said The Cracker Emcee in the comments to yesterday's post marking the death of the author of that 70s bestseller, "Watership Down."

I had said:
I've never read the book or seen the movie, but I just watched that 3-minute trailer. Man, the 70s were dark. Good lord! Who would want to see that?...

I tried reading a page of Adams's book "Traveller" -- the story of the Civil War as told by Robert E. Lee's horse, and it was unreadable. The horse is speaking in an American Southern dialect that's ridiculous and a chore.

No offense to the old man. I'm glad he had a good experience being a father encouraged by his daughters and finding huge success. Not my cup of tea, but so what?
I don't get the argument that I should read "Watership Down." I snubbed it in the 70s. Why must I go through the trouble of snubbing it again? There's zero chance I would read that thing. Well, maybe if Meade insisted on reading it to me when I was pregnant and struggling with an inability to relax and a shortage of hope and regeneration ideas. There are about 10 conditions in the previous sentence, you should see, and not one of them is close to occurring.

Meade does sometimes read to me in bed when I'm done using my eyes for the day, but it's never an animal fable. Last night, it was "2016 Was the Year the Feminist Bubble Burst/We thought women would break new ground in 2016. We were wrong" by Michelle Goldberg at Slate. ("For the last couple of years, feminism has been both ubiquitous and improbably glamorous.... Young women rebelled against the small indignities that make even the most privileged female lives taxing....")

And that wasn't about relaxing or looking for hope. The book I'm reading with my eyeballs right now is "Candide."
"There is a concatenation of events in this best of all possible worlds: for if you had not been kicked out of a magnificent castle for love of Miss Cunegonde: if you had not been put into the Inquisition: if you had not walked over America: if you had not stabbed the Baron: if you had not lost all your sheep from the fine country of El Dorado: you would not be here eating preserved citrons and pistachio-nuts."

60 comments:

The Godfather said...

You should read it. You might find that your taste has changed (improved?) since the '70's. Mine sure has.

My name goes here. said...

OMG! You and Meade are going to have a baby?!?

Paddy O said...

I liked Watership Down, I tried a few of his other books and they were much less engaging. I think you'd like WD, as it is also better than any movie version.

TWW said...

I love it when you are angry. A comment struck a nerve. By God, I'm not going to read it!!!! so, there!

coupe said...

On your other blog post about Fisher, I happened to look at her twitter page and was highly amused at her emoji bullshit.

I guess Steve Martin is in a world of shit now because he said she was beautiful, and all the women nazi's came out and beat the shit out of his tweet for saying beautiful didn't count if you were dead and decomposing, and was not something to aspire to anyway. Damned ankle biters...

Speaking of ankle biters, Fisher had her own tweet about beauty:

"Youth and beauty are not accomplishments, they're the temporary byproducts of time and/or DNA. Don't hold your breath for either. If you must hold air, take Gary's."

Gary being her dog, and I suspect (as in all dogs) it farted a lot. Which makes me wonder, if anyone picked-up her dog from the airport, or is it dead in his travel cage with a Euro biscuit left uneaten by his paw??

The Cracker Emcee said...

My 15 minutes are here at last!

coupe said...

Watership Down was so thick, that after printing, there are no more forests in Sherwood.

Rabbits there died in the open sun like fish in an empty lake.

Fernandinande said...

coupe said...
Gary being her dog, and I suspect (as in all dogs) it farted a lot.

Not all of 'em.

"this best of all possible worlds"
Or the worst of all possible worlds. Or maybe the dumbest of all possible ideas.

Humperdink said...

"My 15 minutes are here at last!"

Notoriety!!!

Ron Winkleheimer said...

I read both back when I was a teenager. Of the two, Candide stuck with me longer.

Spoiler Alert:


Candide is about how there can't be a God because there is evil in the world.

Kind of trite, but man is it funny.

Michael K said...

I read it to my kids and think it is a good book for kids. It is also recommended for Army officers as some of it is based on Adams experiences as an officer in WWII.

I read The Lord of the Rings series when a surgery resident. I picked up a copy that one of the nurses at Childrens Hospital was reading and got started at it. I read that to my kids, as well.

I sure reading either to Yale undergraduates would start a riot these days.

One thing you should read, and maybe even blog, is Codevilla's wonderful essay on Political Correctness in this month's Claremont Review of Books.

One of your leftist commenters does not see the relevance of Machiavelli in today's PC world. That person would also benefit but is unlikely to read it.

You should.

Christy said...

In spite of being raised on Disney, I strongly dislike tales of anthropomorphized animals. Oddly enough I liked Watership Down, but could not read The Hobbit. Ducking for cover now.

Candide is of a piece with Epictetus in my mind. Do you think so?

Chris Breisch said...

" I snubbed it in the 70s. Why must I go through the trouble of snubbing it again? There's zero chance I would read that thing."

Why so bitter? Did a large stack of the books fall on you at some point? Or perhaps you just don't like anthropomorphic allegorical tales? I can understand that. Many don't.

Others have their reasons for suggesting you read it. Mine is simple. It's an engaging and well-written book, that, surprisingly for a children's book, will make you stop and think as you read it. In fact, you'll likely stop and think more than once.

It's chock full of very thinly disguised symbolism. And yes, it's all about bunny rabbits, who talk, think, work together, and face real world problems.

Despite all of that, or perhaps because of it, it's a book well worth reading.

Ron Winkleheimer said...

One of your leftist commenters does not see the relevance of Machiavelli in today's PC world.

Machiavelli is always relevant.

Bob Boyd said...

I think the commenters should pick the name for Ann and Meade's new baby.
If it wasn't for the comments there wouldn't even be a baby.

How about Hazel?

Sydney said...

I often find that a book I rejected in the past appeals to me on trying it again at a different age. I rejected Watership Down in the 1970's, too, but I was a teenager then. I am thinking I might give it another try based on the comments here, now that I am in my 50's. (But that movie clip did not appeal to me, I have to say.)

buwaya puti said...

Tastes vary; there are things I will never try again myself. Proust for instance, does not appeal, having pounded my head on it. Having done with "Pride and Prejudice" I am not inclined to bother any further with Austen.
So you are excused Richard Adams.

Fred Drinkwater said...

It's a good thing you two have a garden to tend.

sparrow said...

Loved Watership Down, loved LOTR , never cared for "The Hobbit". Don't judge Tolkien on it. I read Shardik from Adams too but that was much more an uphill battle.

coupe said...

How about Hazel?

"We called them filberts after Saint Philibert of Jumi├Ęges..." - Emily Litella

"Not nuts you dingbat, tots!"

"Never mind..."

mockturtle said...

I never liked Voltaire but perhaps his philosophy about happiness being in your own back yard would appeal to someone who doesn't like to travel. Of course, he, himself fled to, and prospered in, England when the Revolution got too hot.

Seafarious said...

Thanks for bringing up Candide. In Leonard Bernstein's brilliant musical, the Professor teaches his students thusly:

"Once one dismisses
the rest of all possible worlds
One finds that this is
the best of all possible worlds"

And throws in a bunch of Q.E.D.s for good measure.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vmc72fCJivA

I find myself singing this quatrain every time I look through the New Real Peer Review twitter timeline. https://twitter.com/RealPeerReview

narciso said...

this is why I call steyn, the Voltaire of the 21st century, he mines dark humor and insight out of the insanity in this world, by contrast, there is no point to michelle Goldberg.

Achilles said...

Watership down is a way to introduce reality to young kids.

Last conversation I had about the book was with some people and I was trying to describe what it will be like for humans after AI takes over.

Achilles said...

The rududu is coming.

rhhardin said...

Bernstein's Candide "What's the Use?" has the best jokes lyrics.

youtube.

coupe said...
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wwww said...
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Tari said...

coupe, I think I saw a story about Fisher's dog being taken to visit her in the hospital a few days ago, so he's likely fine. Farty, like all French Bulldogs, but fine.

"Young women rebelled against the small indignities that make even the most privileged female lives taxing" - like what, exactly? I want to grab hypothetical people like these and shake them. And ask them "why the f*&% do you expect life to be one long trip to DisneyWorld? what went wrong with your upbringing that you expect a life without some small indignity or irritation, never mind actual pain and suffering?" They boggle the mind.

n.n said...

I wonder if the female chauvinists would have voted for the authentic feminist, Sarah Palin. Feminism died when the female chauvinists sacrificed women, men, interns, and babies, too, for political progress.

Oso Negro said...

New Tag - "Snooty Althouse". Read it as a beast fable.

mccullough said...

Meade should make a recording of the Canterbury Tales

coupe said...

Tari said...I think I saw a story about Fisher's dog being taken to visit her in the hospital a few days ago, so he's likely fine. Farty, like all French Bulldogs, but fine.

Ah good! I never traveled with my pet, as it was a cat. I left him at the vet, and he seemed to like that. It was funny when I took him home, he would run all over and check out each room. Satisfied, I guess, that yep - this was the right place.

Then he'd paw at the doorknob and I'd let him out. He'd be gone for 30 minutes and I knew he was re-marking all his property and leaving a "prize" for the neighbor.

EDH said...

"Meade does sometimes read to me in bed when I'm done using my eyes for the day..."

Ficta said...

Candide vs Watership Down: an interesting comparison.

Candide: not an allegory, per se, but also, about as subtle as a sledgehammer. Smug in its worldview. Intermittently funny. The characters are walking signboards. Maybe the character of Candide has a tiny amount of depth by the end. Candide is an amusing short read, and historically significant, but its not something I love, or feel the need to read again.

Watership Down: while technically an allegory at times and, I suppose, an "animal fable", that description doesn't really do it justice. It's an epic story with several memorable fully rounded characters. The allegory isn't single minded, although the book does wander in and out of various set pieces whose messages are not particularly subtle. But it builds its own rabbit-centric world with great care, from the structures of everyday life to politics and mythology and the result is breathtaking. This is not Animal Farm. The animated film captures almost none of the things that make it great. I read a lot, and there are not many books that mean as much to me as Watership Down.

Hammond X. Gritzkofe said...

Read both Watership Down and The Hobbit at the time. Of the two, Watership Down was less tiresome. Both were forgettable and pointless.

C'mon folks. If you can't be clever with the language like C.L. Dodgson, E.Lear, the sainted Shakespeare (or Laslo Spatula) but you have something to say, then just spit it out plain. Don't obfuscate it in allegory and metaphor.

Michael K said...

"My parents weren't aware that Adam's wasn't really a writer for children."

When I was about 10, I checked out "The Foxes of Harrow" from the library. The librarian called my mother to check if it was OK and she said it was.

I read all of Edgar Allan Poe about the same age.

Children today are children to age 30. Maybe 40.

Leslie Graves said...

Candide! Such a wonderful read. I am tackling Uncle Tom's Cabin for the first time.

mockturtle said...

I am tackling Uncle Tom's Cabin for the first time.

I read it about ten years ago and mainly because H.B. Stowe was a distant relative so I thought I should. The quality of the writing and the intelligent insight was a revelation I didn't quite expect. Excellent book!

David said...

"Young women rebelled against the small indignities that make even the most privileged female lives taxing."

Poor things. Life is indeed hard when resentment rises from your skin like steam.

LCB said...

The cartoon/movie stunk. The book was a great novel for a young teen (in the 70's, anyway). I've read it since, and although I still enjoyed it the "greatness" just wasn't there. LOTR I've read many times, and I always feel the greatness. BYMMV

Jim said...

Meade read you Michelle Goldberg? Did you have a safe word?

dustbunny said...

Avoided Watership Down, hated the Hobbit, gave up on other Tolkien when I realized it wasn't for me. This week I'm sadly reminded that being bored to death by Star Wars creates a bit of cultural dissonance hen a central character from the enterprise up and dies. I did like Carrie Fisher's books and some of her other performances but the Princess Leia phenomenon baffles me.

MadisonMan said...

How about Hazel?

Or Constance? Patience?

Presupposing a girl, I guess. For a boy, LM Jr?

rhhardin said...

wrong thread

iqvoice said...

If you've gone that far into Candide, then you are quite finished. Now read Zadig.

Saint Croix said...

The cool book Althouse should read next?

Nutshell!

Trudy has betrayed her husband, John. She's still in the marital home—a dilapidated, priceless London townhouse—but John's not there. Instead, she's with his brother, the profoundly banal Claude, and the two of them have a plan. But there is a witness to their plot: the inquisitive, nine-month-old resident of Trudy's womb.

Told from a perspective unlike any other, Nutshell is a classic tale of murder and deceit from one of the world’s master storytellers.

Leslie Graves said...

Reading Candide makes experiencing the Leonard Bernstein operetta that much more enjoyable. The Leonard Bernstein operetta has songs in it with titles such as "You Were Dead, You Know".

Also, these lyrics from "Quiet", sung by the Old Lady.

"Without you think I'm giving in to petulance and malice, but in candor I am forced to say that I'm sick of gracious living in this stuffy little palace and I wish that I could leave today. I have suffered a lot and I'm certainly not unaware that this life has its black side. I have starved in a ditch, I've been burned for a witch and I'm missing the half of my backside."

My mom played this soundtrack endlessly when we were teenagers.

Gabriel said...

@Ron Winkleheimer:Candide is about how there can't be a God because there is evil in the world.

What nonsense. Candide is a satire on those who say everything bad is part of God's plan and that it will all come out for the best. Specifically Gottfried Leibniz, whose shoes Voltaire was not fit to tie.

FullMoon said...

"You really should read it...."

I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest the command word "should" is not a favorite of AA..


A long time ago, I began substituting "You might consider" ...

mikee said...

Excellent writing is excellent writing, no matter the subject. What you get with Watership Down is similar, on an easier level of reading, to what you get with Tolkien. A world is created where your participation as a reader leads you on and on, wanting to experience more of that world. The same can be said of Jonathon Livingston Seagull, another 70's icon, but that is a kindergarten level book.

Candide, also excellent writing, may leave you with a smile on your face, or a frown. Your appreciation of the summation depends on your personality and maybe on your mood of the moment.

Do NOT read the Gormenghast novels. I threw the third book of the trilogy against a wall when I got to the last page, it was so unsatisfying an ending. So did every single person I know who read them. If you need a good trilogy, I recommend the Deptford Trilogy, which is about people born in Ontario who do not stay there. So it is a good winter read.

The Godfather said...

Full Moon said "I'm gonna go out on a limb and suggest the command word "should" is not a favorite of AA.."

I said Althouse "should" read Watership Down and I'll stick with it. It is NOT a "command word"; it's a recommendation word. A command word would be "must" -- or in this context just "read".

David Begley said...

The big news in this post is that Meade reads to Althouse in bed and at night when her eyes are tired.

How sweet and loving!

Roughcoat said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roughcoat said...

My favorite -- and, IMO, the best -- anthropomorphized animal novels were the Freddy the Pig books by Walter R. Brooks. There were 26 of them and I read them all. I found them at once magical, humorous, enthralling.

Anyone else read these books and like them?

Michael K said...

"anthropomorphized animal novels were the Freddy the Pig books"

I learned to read as my mother read a series of books called "Old Mother West Wind Stories," by Thornton Burgess.

They were good beginning and read aloud books for children just beginning to read.

Leslie Graves said...

@roughcoat: Never heard of them but they sound so good! And one of them is arguably a Christmas book so I can read it to my grandkids next winter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freddy_Goes_to_the_North_Pole

urbane legend said...

But women did break new ground in 2016. They discovered Ms. Clinton does not have control of the cosmos, nor is comfortably in the soothing hand of Whoever does. Once women adjust to this reality, ( insert your own view of the future here ).

As for Mock E. UhhVelli, terrific writer. I went to high school with him. He was lucky I did, because he couldn't spell or punctuate for anything. I only meet him because his sister, two years older, loved Reese's PB Cups. So between his need for a proofreader and her weakness, high school went really well. ;-)

Roughcoat said...


Leslie Graves:

"Freddy Goes to the North Pole" is very definitely a Christmas book! Also, it's a grand adventure story ... an odyssey of sorts.

The Freddy books all tell adventure stories, and as such there is a "dangerous" element. I mean, there is danger and conflict which Freddy and the good animals of the Bean family farm must confront and overcome.

The villain of the novels is Simon the Rat, who leads a rat gang in disrupting life on the Bean farm. He's dangerous and somewhat sinister but also highly intelligent and charming. I wouldn't say he's evil -- but he leans in that direction. Yet he can also be likeable -- he has some good in him too. A compelling character.

I've recently decided to begin collecting old early-edition Freddy books.

Enjoy!

The Cracker Emcee said...

Hated Jethro Tull in the '70's but 40 years later I find Stand Up to be a wonderful, evocative, almost iconic, album. So I won't wait for time to change the literary tastes of others and instead recognize that the only change to come will be over me.