HOOK AND PAN – A VERY SHORT STORY

Shiver me timbers,” shouted Hook as, once again, Peter Pan eluded his grasp.

“Shiver me what?” teased Pan. “What timbers? Where?”

“You know,” said Hook. “Timbers. Like … I don’t know … the timbers on a roof. What do I know about wood? I’m a pirate, not a contractor!”

For a brief, confusing moment, Hook saw a mental image of himself. Contractor in a lovely, rather rural village. Overcharging customers. Taking his own, sweet time getting the job finished. A couple of assistants he could treat as slaves. Children and a wife to bully. Maybe piracy could be a land-based industry …

Nah. Too complicated. Besides, he already had a ship …

72-BW-Rigging-Beaver-3-052916_072

“Well,” teased Pan, “If you’re going to talk about timbers, you should at least know what you’re talking about.” Pan darted away and perched high in the rigging. Hook could hear the boy’s laughter and the soft bell-like sound of Tinkerbell’s merriment.

“Damned that fairy,” he muttered. “Someday I’ll get her. And that annoying lad. Just you wait … ”

But Pan and Tinkerbell were already gone. All that remained was a hint of sparkling pixie-dust falling slowly through the salty sea air.

THE PASSING OF ANNE GOLON – AUTHOR – ANGELIQUE (MARQUISE DES ANGES)

I just read that Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime.

If you read French, there is an article in Figaro located here.

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children?”

With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from the French. I have been told by many people who’ve read the series in French, that much was lost in a not-very-good translation.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust. I have since bought a newer version and I have most of the follow ups in paperback.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was downright weird.

Then I met Angelique.

Fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins

Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy and for being too powerful for the comfort of his enemies, Angélique finds herself in the underworld of Paris — homeless, penniless, with babies to protect. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one of which is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten, her defeats are setbacks. Her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a women taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own — and she does. She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was a super hero from the past. Unstoppable. Tough. Smart. She suffered the worst that life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable horrors and impossible challenges. Along the way, there were more than a few casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.


She passed away Friday, July 14, 2017 in Versailles, Paris, France.

angelique french edition


They collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. She was located in Paris, alive, well, and still writing.

As of August, 2009 — there were three yet-to-be-translated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

To date, they remain untranslated, but I live in hope that they may be. Soon, I hope. I’m not getting any younger. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 40 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the newer Angélique books.

You can still find information at Angélique Books. It’s not easy to find intact copies of the books, but if you are interested, don’t give up. Amazon has some, off and on. ABE Books sometimes has copies. And of course, there’s eBay. Marquise Des Anges (the original name of the book in France) was made into a movie in 2013, but it has never been released to the American market and I have never been able to find a copy of the movie that will play on my DVD player. I can hope this will happen someday.

Maybe there will be new English-language copies eventually. I hope to see them republished. Soon would be good. They are available in German and of course, in French.

Fare thee well, Anne Golon. You changed my world.

BOOKS WE PRETENDED TO READ

We are watching a show called “Shetland” which to no ones surprise, is set in the Shetland Islands. A cop show, but great scenery and an accent I can only sometimes follow. One of the characters is staring into a book. It’s “Finnegan’s Wake.” James Joyce. His daughter calls and he tells her he’s reading a book.

“What book?” she asks.

Finnegan’s Wake,” he says.

“Dad,” she says. “No one reads Finnegan’s Wake. We all pretend we read it.”

Garry nods. I nod. This is a big one on the long list of books we say we read, but didn’t. Some of us are still lying about it. I never trust anyone who says they read Ulysses, much less Finnegan’s Wake. Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Who needs Homer?

These books were part of a course. College, usually, but some were part of high school. We had to read them. It was compulsory.  We couldn’t do it. We tried but got stuck a few pages in. If we couldn’t get the gist of it from “Classic Comics,” there were Cliff notes. The one for Ulysses was more than 300 pages long. That was the moment when I really missed Classic comics because they also had pictures. Some of my deepest reads were Classic Comics.

I read it in French. So there.

It begins in school when they give you lists of books to read over the summer. I was always a reader. Most of the time, I’d already finished the books on my list. The remaining few were not a big deal. Reading a book, no matter how thick, was rarely a problem for me. After all, I love books.

Literature courses inevitably included books that I would never read voluntarily and in some cases, at all. Maybe these were books that no one would voluntarily read. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that’s the entire point of literature courses — to force you to read books no one likes and possibly no one ever liked. How about Silas Marner? When was the last time someone read that because it sounded like a fun read?Despite current trendiness, Jane Austin was nobody’s favorite author in high school. I read it, but I didn’t have to like it. You may lob your stones this way. Pride and Prejudice was the only book I ever threw in a lake. These days, I feel guilty about the fish.

There, I’ve admitted it. I do not like Jane Austin. Not then, not now. Neither does Garry. We also don’t like the movies made from the books.

Dickens. Another author I couldn’t wrap my head around

By the time I got to college, among the many books I did not read was James Joyce’s Ulysses. I followed it up by not reading Finnegan’s Wake. Not only didn’t I read it, I barely got through the Cliff Notes. But I got an A on the paper for my “unique understanding of the characters and motivation.” Good Cliff Notes, eh? I did read Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and thought it wasn’t half bad. At least I could discern a plot and everyone in it wasn’t a prig — as they were in Austen’s novels.

I slogged my way through all of Dostoevsky’s books. Voluntarily, but I couldn’t tell you why. To prove I could? I was young and they were deep. The angst of the characters appealed to me. Teenagehood was angst-ridden. I read Les Miserables. The whole thing. In French. I think I even liked it. I also read Camus in French. I must have understood the language a  lot better back then than I do today.

This is the book, without the music

I read all 1800 pages of Romaine Rolland’s Jean Christophe because my mother loved the book. She also had me read Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun’s depressing tale of grinding poverty and despair in the Norwegian highlands. I barely made it through Madame Bovary. War and Peace was a non-starter.

Growth of the SoilI never made it through anything by Thomas Hardy. Or Lawrence Durrell. I loved Larry’s brother Gerald Durrell. He was hilarious and wrote about my favorite subjects, animals. I slogged my way through Lady Chatterley’s Lover only because everyone told me it was hot. I thought it was dull. My brother had some books stuffed under his bed that were a lot dirtier and more fun. And they had pictures.

I never owned up to not reading those important, literary masterpieces. When the subject came up — which it did when we were students and even for a few years after that — I would try to look intelligent. I’d grunt at the appropriate moments, nod appreciatively.

So yesterday, I was looking at a review I wrote about Dahlgren and realized I was lying about literature. Again. I hated the book. I didn’t merely dislike it. I found it boring and pretentious. It had no plot, no action, and as far as I could tell, no point. I mealy-mouthed around my real feelings because it’s a classic. Everyone says so.

So my question is, who really read it? Who loved it? Did everyone pretend because they heard it was a great book? How many people lie about reading great books when in fact, they never make it past the preface? Or the book flap?

I’m betting it isn’t just me.

SCAMPER, DASH, SLOUCH, AND STUMBLE

We scrambled just yesterday and today, there is dash. Can slouch and stumble be far behind?


What’s with the Daily Post’s sudden concern for various styles of walking?

I am far past scrambling. Barring a life and death emergency, my dogs may scamper — and they do it with style and elegance — but I will not. My dashing days are done and gone, but I’m pretty sure I have some slouching and a good deal of stumbling left for my future.

Or, as William Butler Yeats put it,

THE FAR ARENA ON AUDIBLE.COM

“The Far Arena” by Richard Ben Sapir. Narrated by Peter Noble.

This great book is finally available again in print as well as on Kindle and as an Audiobook from Audible.com. Thirty-six years after I first read it, you can buy it again. Now that I’ve listened to it for the first time (as opposed to reading it), it is not only as good as I remember. It is better.

The Far Arena is classified as science fiction, but not in the traditional sense. It doesn’t fall into any genre except perhaps speculative fiction, which is a catch-all term for all the books that can’t be otherwise categorized. Time travel? Sort of, although the only “mechanism” is time itself.

The Coliseum at Pompeii


The story in brief: A Roman gladiator is flash frozen in the arctic ice. He is accidentally discovered by a team drilling for oil not far from the arctic. He is subsequently defrosted and brought back to life. What follows is his story as a Roman married to a Hebrew slave, and his perceptions of our modern world from the point of view of a man whose world disappeared 2000 years earlier.

For example, while in the hospital, he asks about the slaves who serve him. He is referring to the to nurses and other workers who attend to his needs. His new friends explain that they aren’t slaves, that they work for wages and are free to leave, or be dismissed by their employers. He thinks this is a fantastic idea.

“You mean they do everything you tell them to do, but when they get old and can no longer work, you don’t have to take care of them? What a great idea! Slaves without responsibility.”

“They aren’t slaves,” insist his modern friends.

“They are treated like slaves, they act like slaves. They are slaves,” he responds.

That is paraphrasing, of course, but it’s the spirit of the dialogue. This isn’t a quick piece of dialogue in a long book about “other things.” The discussion of “what is slavery” is an underlying theme throughout the book along with “the corruption of giant corporations” which apparently has not noticeably changed between the days of the Roman Empire and today.

Although I had read the book several times, I had never listened to it. I wasn’t intending to listen to the whole thing. I just wanted a little taste. I have a giant heap of books I have promised to read and I thought “I’ll give a little listen” and come back to finish it when I have more time.

I had forgotten how good the book really is. It has been a long time since I picked up a book and was sucked in from the first paragraph until the very end … and was still wishing there would be more. It gave me a sharp pang, realizing how few really great books I read these days. How many are touted as great, but reading them, they are no better than ordinary and often far less.

Written by: Richard Ben Sapir
Narrated by: Peter Noble
Length: 18 hrs and 44 mins
Unabridged: Audiobook

Not only was Richard Ben Sapir a brilliant writer, but Peter Noble is a terrific narrator. He handles dialects with ease and give the book the intensity it deserves. Never over the top, never too dramatic, he is as perfect as a narrator could be. And considering how much I love the book, I’m surprised to find myself saying it.

I had a lot of trouble not restarting the book from the beginning and giving it a round 2, just in case I missed a paragraph somewhere. What is really eerie is how the main character, drawn into modern times following 2000 years of cryogenic sleep, understand this world better than the people he meets in 20th century Europe.

The man from Rome understands corruption. He understands slavery, whatever we choose to call it. He knows that the rich and powerful will never support the poor and will always do what is to their benefit.

It is a level of cynicism which sharply focuses the lens of 2017.

Great Quotes to Ponder

“I am old. I should have left before. Any fool can ride the chariots of victory. It takes judgement to get off at the right time.” 

“We are all the children of Rome, without knowing it. Our months are called after Roman emperors or gods, our summer is July and August, named after Julius Caesar and Augustus Caesar. When you people scream fascist at us, you are referring to the rods of authority called fasces by the Romans. The idea of law written down and to be observed equally comes to us from the Romans, and our alphabet comes to us exactly from the Roman. From plumbing to the idea that surrounding someone in battle gives victory, Rome gave them to us. Rome is our common, civilized roots, so deep that many of us in the West do not even realize it unless we are educated to it. Rome is our intellectual father, and we have been living off its remnants for two thousand years.”

“Honesty is too strong a drink to be unwatered all the time; rather it should be given in doses.” 

“The authorities? The authorities?” I laughed. “Why is it people think the authorities are some form of gods with either great justice or great, cunning evil, rather than the same plodding fools they see in their daily lives, and most of all in their mirrors?” 

“Woman, so often you have said that even in the darkest night there still exists a sunlight so bright we cannot look at it. Now if this is so, somewhere in this bright day is a night so dark the terrors know no bounds. So let us not be so happy.” 

THE FAR ARENA – AVAILABLE ON KINDLE AND AUDIBLE.COM

The Far Arena by Richard Ben Sapir

A couple of years ago, I bought a used copy of this long out-of-print book. I had first read it when it was released in 1978. I was working at Doubleday and it fell to me to do the write-up for it in the monthly publication that was sent to book club members.

A large part of my job was reading books. Talk about great jobs, that was the best. I’m not sure I ever fully recovered from my Doubleday years. Not merely was I paid to read and write about books, but I received (as did all the editors and graphic artists in the department) new copies of every book we worked on. We all had huge personal libraries. We also had 2 hour lunches and wonderful co-workers. I looked forward to work the way most folks anticipate the weekend. It was that good. I realize this is a digression, but I wanted to put this in context. Maybe brag a little.

I wanted to let you know this great book is finally available on Kindle and as an Audiobook from Audible.com. It’s about time!

FarArena

The Far Arena is classified as science fiction. It is, but not in the traditional sense. It doesn’t fall into any genre except perhaps speculative fiction, a catch-all term for odd books. Time travel? Sort of. But without the machinery.

The story in brief: A Roman gladiator is flash frozen in the arctic ice. He is accidentally discovered by a team drilling for oil and subsequently defrosted and brought back to life. What follows is his story as a Roman married to a Hebrew slave, and his perceptions of the modern world from the point of view of a man whose world disappeared 1600 years ago. His observations on modern society are priceless.

For example, while in the hospital, he asks about the slaves who serve him. He is referring to the to nurses and other workers who attend to his needs. His new friends explain that they aren’t slaves, that they work for wages and are free to leave, or be dismissed by their employers. He thinks this is a fantastic idea.

“You mean they do everything you tell them to do, but when they get old and can no longer work, you don’t have to take care of them? What a great idea! Slaves without responsibility.”

“They aren’t slaves,” insist his modern friends.

“They are treated like slaves, they act like slaves. They are slaves,” he responds. Who would argue the point? Not me.

That is paraphrasing, of course, but it’s the spirit of the dialogue. I have never looked at the world quite the same way since I read this book. Modern workers have all the freedom of slaves, but no assurance that anyone will care for them when they are no longer able to work. That’s a pretty good deal from the owners’ … I mean employers’ … point-of-view.

This is a brilliant, unique book. It stands apart from most other books I’ve read. All other time travel stories are about modern people visiting the past. This is the only book I can think of where a man from the past offers a view of the past to the modern world. And it’s not pretty.

Richard Ben Sapir wrote other books that are unusual and worth reading. I especially liked The Body. But The Far Arena stands head and shoulders above the rest. He only wrote a few novels. His world was really comic books, or what are now called “graphic novels.” Finding copies of Ben Sapir’s books used to be challenging, but this one is now available both as Kindle and \from Audible.com — and you can both at a much reduced price if you buy them together from Amazon.

I’m delighted it is finally available and hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to read or listen to this gem!

This story would make a wonderful movie. I can see it all in my mind’s eye. It’s exceptionally well written, highly literate and well-researched, Convincing. All those things and a great, gripping story too.