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“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu

 

 
While conversing with my friend Peter in front of Bernie’s coffee shop in Noe Valley San Francisco, for some reason we got into a discussion about India where Peter and his wife Barrie spent many years and where I have, for a long time, longed to go. I mentioned a book about India I read several years ago of which I was quite fond. I could not remember its name but promised Peter I would search for it and let him know. After three days of searching on my computer, I located the book and sent the information to him. I also decided to buy the book on Amazon and reread it on my Kindle to see if it was as enjoyable as I remembered.

After reading a few pages, I recalled that the book was also one of the reasons I had put off traveling to India. You see, when I travel, I prefer traveling alone and although I enjoy the “Great Sights” like anyone, I especially like searching for the odd and a little dangerous — like the night I found myself in a knife fight in a rural town in Turkey that eventually prompted the leader of the Turkish mafia to demand I persuade him why he should not have me killed. I knew India for me would never be merely a visit to the Taj Mahal or the Red Fort and the like, but a lifetime commitment.

“A journey, I reflected, is of no merit unless it has tested you. You can stay at home and read of others’ experiences, but it’s not the same as getting out of trouble yourself.”
Shah, Tahir. The Complete Collection of Travel Literature: In Search of King Solomon’s Mines, Beyond the Devil’s Teeth, House of the Tiger King, Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Travels With Myself, Trail of Feathers. Secretum Mundi.

 
Anyway, I guess the book can be considered a travelogue. There are many great travel books, like “A Short Walk Through the Hindu Kush,” and several by Krakauer that read like great novels. Tahir Shah’s book is one also — where the travel leaves off and the novel begins, however, is difficult to discern.

The book begins with Tahir Shah as a young boy in England visited by Hafiz Jan, the hereditary Afghan guard of the tomb of his ancestor the great Muslim general Jan Fishan Kahn (a nom de Guerre that translates to, “He that Scatters Souls.”) He traveled to England because he had a vision of young Tahir, the last of his line, falling into a culvert and dying. He believed it was his duty to prevent it. Hafiz Jan is welcomed by Tahir’s father and takes up residence in Tahir’s home where he sleeps on the floor in front of his bedroom door. The Afghan guard had also spent some time as an apprentice to a great magician in India before assuming his hereditary duties guarding the tomb. The magic we are talking about here is not magic but illusion — the illusions of magicians like Houdini and the Indian god-men and sadhus for thousands of years. Hafiz Jan began teaching the eager young Tahir some of the secrets of illusion he had learned as the magician’s apprentice. The training went well until one day, during an exhibition of Tahir’s magic educational accomplishments, a mishap occurred that almost set his parents on fire. Soon after, Hafiz Jan was sent back to India to resume his hereditary duties.

Years later, Tahir, as a young man, traveled to India found the guard, apprenticed himself to the guard’s teacher, a rather overbearing sort and after a mostly unpleasant education sets off at the request of his teacher to travel throughout India searching for “insider information.” What one learns along with Tahir are the tricks of the trade of the god-men, sadhus and the like that have enthralled millions of poor and gullible Indians and attracted hundreds of westerners to journey there to sit at the feet of holy mystics absorbing their wisdom — for a price.

“Because,” he called out, “we were on a quest . . .” “A quest for what?” “For a third eye. You see, in the seventies, India was Disneyland … it was the Disneyland of the soul.”… “[W]e had all been to India in search of the third eye, but had left with nothing but diarrhea.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. SArcade Publishing.

While searching for these Godmen, Tahir and his sidekick, a 13-year-old thief and con-artist named Balu, spent some time at a luxurious mostly pink ashram of a well known Guru and in addition to describing at length the oddness of the entire set up,  Tahir recounts some of the Godman’s more private weirdness:

“When it came to divine eccentricity, Sri Gobind was no exception. His followers took great pride in the tales of their teacher’s irregularities. Every so often, gripped by an insatiable desire, the guru would jump naked from his bed. Running into the heart-shaped gardens, he would relieve himself in the bushes. Or, in the middle of an address, he had been known to rip off all his clothes and anoint his flabby belly with buffalo milk butter. Each morning, his fans averred, the holy man would douse himself in a bath of potassium permanganate. The immersion gave his skin its exotic purply-brown tinge. He would dress his hair with a pomade of seasoned egg whites,-dab his earlobes with witch hazel; and spray his nether regions with his own blend of catnip cologne.”
Shah, Tahir. Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An Incredible Journey into the World of India’s Godmen. Arcade Publishing.

During his travels, Tahir explores and writes about the economic and social life of India through stories about the people he meets. People such as the cadaver collectors and their business providing the bones for the skeletons in most medical school classrooms of the world, and the women who rent cows after the owners milk them in the morning then stand on the street corners during the day selling the pleasure of feeding the cow to passers-by and in the evenings selling the cow patties to brick makers before returning the cows to their owner. The reason why India with its incredibly concentrated population is not sitting on a pile of garbage and human refuse is that that very garbage and refuse is the resource that supports much of the population.

“Real travel is not about the highlights with which you dazzle your friends once you’re home. It’s about the loneliness, the solitude, the evenings spent by yourself, pining to be somewhere else. Those are the moments of true value. You feel half proud of them and half ashamed and you hold them to your heart”
Tahir Shah

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

PS: Amazon had a special on where one could buy all of Tahir Shah’s travel books for the price of one, so I bought them all. I am now enjoying his story about finding a fake map of the mythical King Solomon’s mines in a curio shop in Jerusalem and setting off to Ethiopia where he believes the mines described in the fake map might have been located — if they were real. There he hires a taxi driver as an interpreter, travels by some of the most uncomfortable and dangerous modes of transportation imaginable, explores an illegal gold mine where children are sent into the narrow tunnels and many of them die, spends several nights in an Ethiopian jail, just misses a dinner with Idi Amin, is befriended by the manager of a government gold mine who wants to emigrate to America, travels to a land where the men, instead of head hunting for a hobby, cut off the testicles of their enemies and carry them in sacks around their necks and so on and on. Alas, despite the danger and discomfort he finds nothing but adventure.

“Most journeys have a clear beginning, but on some, the ending is less well-defined. The question is, at what point do you bite your lip and head for home?”
Tahir Shah

(It sounds a lot like life, doesn’t it?)

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I just finished a John Gresham short story about a lawyer who gets fed up practicing law, rips off a few clients and runs off to a tropical paradise and lives happily ever after. While I like Gresham, he is no Sheldon Siegel. Once a week I trundle the two miles to the outskirts of hell, where the English language bookstore is located, to check for Sheldon’s latest publication. While his mystery and courtroom scenes are great, it is the latest doings of his main characters Mike and Rosie that I look forward to. They are more real to me than my life here.

Two of my favorite authors are Sheldon Siegel and William Kotzwinkle. At least Sheldon Siegel sounds like and author. Kotzwinkle sounds like a character in Pee Wee’s Playhouse.

Speaking of Pee Wee, I am waiting for a revival of Pee Wee Herman and Soupy Sales’ great performances. In case you do not recall (or are not old enough to recall) one of Soupy’s more memorable bits was to tell his juvenile audience to go into mommy and daddy’s room while they were asleep and go into daddy’s pants, take out his wallet, extract a dollar and mail it to Soupy. While most 5 to 10-year-olds got the joke, their parents had Soupy thrown off television.

Pee Wee, on the other hand, is the metaphor for our generation, a happy life in a children’s playhouse exposed in the dark theater of history. Pee Wee’s comeback was in one of my all time favorite movies “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (the original) where he plays a vampire’s assistant. You should see it. There are memorable performances in it by Rutger Hauer as the chief Vampire and Donald Sutherland as Buffy’s instructor in vampire slaying.

One of my ex-clients, Danny Elfman, the oscar winning musician, got his start in movies by writing the theme songs for the Pee Wee playhouse movies. Danny told me once that he was an “Artist,” not a doped up guitar player. I wonder if Willie Nelson considers himself and artist.

Danny’s brother Rick was also a client. Rick is the director of some of the worst movies ever made. Movies so bad that they appear in the cult movie section of video stores. Movies so bad they use a pseudonym for the director’s name. He directed such classics as “Forbidden Zone,” “Shrunken Heads,” “Streets of Rage” (Wherein he uses the pseudonym of “Aristide Pierre Laffite Sumatra of the Ton Ton Macoute”) and “Modern Vampires.”

The last of which, I made my film acting debut in a walk-on role and crossed off item one of my bucket list. The movie was about a war in Los Angeles between the Vampires and the Mafia, one of the last movies in which Rod Steiger appeared (and justly so). I of course played a Mafia Don who, in my one scene, holds open the trunk of a black limousine into which my two mafia henchman, dump the “Queen of the Vampires”(played by Kim Cattrell in one of her earliest and most regretted roles) tightly wrapped in strings of garlic to keep her comatose (I kid you not). Sic Transit Gloria.

Ciao…

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Introduction

I met Trenz Pruca about ten years ago in Daly City California. In order to escape the fog and mist, I had ducked into a coffee house in a strip mall. As I ordered, I looked around the shop and noticed a large dark presence in a booth at the back of the cafe. Since all the other booths were occupied, I with my cafe latte in hand walked to the back of the shop and asked the presence sitting there if I could join him. He nodded and I took the seat opposite. Now close enough for my eyes to penetrate the gloom and study my table mate, I received a shock. Sitting across from me in the darkness appeared to be a six-foot-three-inch white rat with dark glasses wearing a black fedora and a red and white striped scarf. Before him, a Mac-book was propped open. Next to it, a half finished cup of espresso settled wearily.

We had a brief mostly one-sided conversation as I tried to slake my curiosity. He responded to my attempts to engage him in a dialogue with a series of grunts.

Thereafter, I would run into him by chance now and then. He could usually be found sitting in the dark corners of lightly patronized coffee houses in semi-forgotten towns that rim San Francisco Bay or during the winter months, Marrakesh, typing away on his Mac-book and obsessively downing endless cups of strong doppio espressos. Although he never spoke much and he certainly never indicated he enjoyed my presence, we became what seemed to pass for friends.

A few years after that first meeting he surprised me by showing up at my door on my Name Day bearing a bottle of Charbono. Thereafter, once a year on my name day, March 15, he stops by my house to celebrate with a glass of the Charbono wine that he likes so much. Every day, he sends me reams of emails, most of which are gibberish. Now and then, however, I find he has written a clever bon mot or an interesting sentence or two from which I have culled the contents of this book.

A few months after I first met Trenz, I ran into him in a coffee house in Emeryville. It was here I received another shock. Until then, I had thought he was a six-foot-three-inch white rat. I was wrong. I had assumed he was a white rat from the few times we met because of his rodent-like denature and my youthful conjecture that, unlike me and my swarthy Mediterranean neighbors, individuals with slightly pink skin were considered white. Nevertheless, I noticed a rather un-rat-like short stubby tail jutting from his long almost floor length dark coat and the strange bluntness of his snout. After some prodding, I learned he was, in fact, a Naked Mole Rat, one of those hardy, courageous and gentle creatures so beloved of scientists and odd individuals everywhere. He finally admitted to it when I pressed him during that visit. The long dark coat and cap he explained, protected his sensitive skin from the sun and hid his nakedness as modesty demanded. He required the thick dark glasses held together by adhesive tape because his vision was poor and the light disturbed his eyes.

“Why,” I asked, “do you live here and not with your own kind?” He stared at me silently for a while, as he often did — a long while. Then finally, when I thought he would not respond he said in a soft voice, “I assume you noticed I am quite large.” “Yes,” I acknowledged. “But why with humans?” Again a very long silence. Then, “True, you humans are rather untrustworthy, barbaric and not very bright, and you spend all too much time foolishly talking about yourselves.” More silence, finally: “But I decided sitting in a dark coffee house with you humans was slightly preferable to living in a cave somewhere with a bear or similar creature, eating raw meat and grunting and growling and scratching myself — only slightly better, you understand.”

That, I was to find out much later, was not exactly the truth. He grew up in East Africa near the Horn of Africa. His family was reasonably well-off for Mole-Rats. As the photograph, he gave me that graces the top of this Introduction shows, he cut a dashing figure as a young Mole-Rat rat. Alas, war and political turmoil ended his idyllic life and he was forced to flee the land of his birth. After bouncing  about the world. he landed here in the Bay Area penniless and if truth be know slightly deranged.

I obtained more recent photograph of him taken during his travels. It appears as thought the photograph was taken of him as he passed through Japan. As the photograph shows, it must have been a difficult time for Trenz.

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As far as the items contained in this book are concerned, I have attempted to cull the more interesting from the mass of emails and provide some rudimentary editing. Some of the longer pieces included here he never finished and I have no hope he ever will. Others, seem to defy comprehension. Nevertheless, I hope you enjoy at least some of them.

One note, although, for the sake of organization, I attempted to gather similar subjects into chapters, there is no magic to the order in which the chapters appear, One can start one place as well as another. There is no reason why readers cannot begin anywhere. I suspect it will be just as enjoyable, or not, no matter how they go about it.

J.E. Petrillo, Editor.

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British Warriors

I have just finished reading the last novel in Bernard Cornwall’s trilogy about King Arthur. Previously, I read the first nine novels of his series set in the time of King Alfred of England and his immediate descendants. While both series can be classed as historical novels, they each concern the life of a made up hero who has an out of proportion impact on the affairs of the kings and times they tell about.

We know that at the end of the Fifth and the beginning or the Sixth Centuries a warlord with the name of Arthur lived. We also know that during that time the Saxon invasion of England was temporarily halted and about a generation of relative peace followed. All the rest is legend and surmise.
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Arthur

Britain had a population of about 4 million throughout the Roman ascendancy. It collapsed to about 2 million within a few decades following the Roman legions departure. Many people left Britain along with the military. Some were Roman elite who returned with the armies to the remnant of the empire. Many others, the Celtic aristocracy primarily, emigrated to Brittany and Galicia in Spain. Most of the others died of disease, hunger and slaughter as civic order collapsed.

The Saxon migrations into the rapidly depopulating England, during the two hundred or so years it lasted, totaled only about 30 to 50 thousand people. The warbands on both sides rarely were larger than 100 or so armed men, not much bigger than a modern biker gang. They terrorized the small hamlets (about 50 families each) that made up most of the villages in the depopulated country. They killed the men raped the women and stole whatever goods the people may have had, until they realized that they could increase their profits by offering the villagers, for a price, protection from other biker gangs and, more likely, protection from themselves. With the extra money, they paid those who were better at playing the harp than fighting to make up songs about how great they were.
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British habitations following departure of Romans
Into this chaos rode Arthur and his 20 or so henchmen riding large war horses (Dark Ages Harleys?) and engaged the Saxon gangs in a series of lightning raids into their turf. The horses were probably descendants of the mounts of the Samaritan cataphracts (Heavily armed mounted troops from Samaria) that the Romans imported to Britain to pacify the country.
I find it interesting that following the conquest of Britain by the Romans, they brought in an alien ruling elite and superior social organization but left the indigenous population subservient but intact. Relative peace and prosperity reigned over the island for four hundred years. Following the departure of the Romans, the native Britons fought amongst themselves until the Saxons arrived with their war of extinction. About 100 years following the peace Arthur secured after his victory at Mount Badon, the Saxons succeeded in driving the Britons into the mountains of Cornwall and Wales. Then, for about two hundred years, the Saxons fought amongst themselves until they also were faced with a war of extinction from Danish invaders. Alfred halted the invasion and his decedents pushed them back until about 100 years later the Normans conquered them all, Saxons, Danes and ultimately Britons, bringing in a ruling class that provided superior social organization and relative peace for the subservient indigenous population for the next 400 years or so — by then almost everyone thought they were English.

Anyway, all the novels were good old swords and a little sorcery along with a lot of grunting and killing in battles and more killing and raping after the battles ended and a lot of drinking of mead and ale and more killing and raping and a lot of oaths pledged and broken and Kings and Queens and starving and diseased peasants and so on.

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

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El Dorado Hills is an almost place, almost a forest, almost a mountain, almost a city, almost a community and living here is almost a life.

Today, the caesious skies above the Golden Hills filled up with rolling clouds promising cooling temperatures and a bit of rain. Too cold for swimming, I contented myself with a little Poe, some apples and a glass of cranberry juice. Later, after a nap, I pondered if I could do more to entertain myself. Unable to think of anything, I left Hans Pfaall in his balloon somewhere over the North Pole and waded into the problems of Morgaine the qujalan and Vanye her ilin, pursued by Thiye of Hjemur the Immortal Lord of Rahjemur, as they fled across Andur-Kursh in a desperate effort to close the Gates at Ivrel.

Later, HRM and I giggled and shouted our way to the orthodontist. Returning home feeling I had a satisfactory day so far, I took a second nap after which we enjoyed a dinner of spaghetti and meatballs accompanied by a bottle of Lone Buffalo Zinfandel given to us by Stevie and Norbert. I then puttered about on T&T, posted a few articles in my blogs and went to bed believing that I had accomplished more this day than I started out to do.

Unfortunately, my dreams raised a symbolic re-creation of something that I failed at in my past. I was only able to rescue part of it in my dream. After a brief period of dissatisfaction, I persuaded myself that I had done better in my dream than I had done in real life, so I woke up the next day in a good mood.

My life feels like I am swimming through a vat of maple syrup. It tastes good and the smell is delightful, but the going is slow and the blueberry pancakes are missing.

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Ireland-1

On March 17, while roaming through the Amazon website, I came across a book by Frank Delaney entitled “Ireland: A Novel” about Irish stories and storytelling.

Ireland has always been a special, perhaps even magical place for me ever since that day many years ago when while sitting in a pub somewhere in Kerry drinking a half and half I noticed a man beside slumped over the bar seemingly deep asleep. Suddenly he woke up with a start — hair wild, sticking out here and there like shards of glass, face red and lumpy, watery grey-blue eyes and missing a few teeth behind a stubbled jaw. He turned towards me  and said, “De ye know how d’Irish lost da battle o d’Boyne?”,  in a brogue so thick I could barely understand him. He then launched into an hour-long tale of King Billy with his shining armor and King Jimmy who ran away — about the last minute fording of the river by the English cavalry preventing the out manned and out gunned Irish from achieving a stunning victory and changing history. I was enthralled.

Weeks later, standing on the hill at Newgrange overlooking that same Boyne winding through the green far below, I could, in my mind, see the wounded King Billy riding off after being shot by the Irish gunners, rallying his troops to victory and the silver river turning red with blood.

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I turned from that scene and entered Newgrange, the massive 6000-year-old structure older than the Pyramids, older than Stonehenge (no one claimed it was built by aliens either). Bending low, I followed the long dark tunnel (people could freely enter then) to the large room in the center where no light penetrated.

On the longest night of the year, the winter Solstice, whoever it was that may have worshiped there so long ago gathered and awaited the dawn. Upon the sun’s first breasting of the horizon. a shaft of light would flash through a passage above the tunnel and illuminate the chamber in a brilliant magical glow. How wonderful, I thought, it must have been for those from a society bereft of movies, social media, books and the like to gather here once a year and experience such splendor.

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Anyway, that and my fondness for storytelling prompted me to order the book and begin reading it on my Kindle. As strange as it may seem, it was not until later that I realized that it was also Saint Patricks Day.

I found the novel delightful. It contains a series of tales told by an itinerant storyteller. The stories about Ireland include The Architect of Newgrange, King Connor’s Comeuppance, Saint Patrick Drives the Snakes along with the Devil from Ireland, Brendan Discovers America, and Finn McCool’s Wedding.

“THE GREAT IRISH WARRIOR, FINN MACCOOL, had the longest arms and the fastest legs and the fairest hair and the bluest eyes and the broadest shoulders and the soundest digestion of any man ever living. He was a god, a leader, a warrior, a hunter, and a thinker. And he was a poet.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 152). HarperCollins.

(Hmm, by “soundest digestion” did the storyteller mean the ability to eat everything from rusty nails to spoiled meat or was he focused on the other end of the digestive tract, stools, neither watery nor hard as rocks?)

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In the novel, all these tales were linked  by the account of a young man’s obsession with stories and storytelling and his long search for the itinerant storyteller who when he was a child had met the storyteller, listened to his stories and was forever changed. Although the storyteller relates most of the tales in the novel, the young man does also, including an appealing story about Brian Boru.

There is also a wonderful lecture by the fictitious but delightful history professor T. Bartlett Ryle, who loved Spenser’s poetry but hated his harsh treatment of his beloved Irish. The lecture given at his first class with his new students may be one of the more amusing expositions of what the story of history is and is not. It begins:

“THE MOST DISGRACEFULLY NEGLECTED PERIOD of Irish history stretches from the year seven-ninety-five to the year eleven-seventy. Those dates are in what many people call the Dark Ages. I am not one of those people. And I sincerely doubt that any of your teachers has clearly defined the centuries of the Dark Ages, so let us strap them down here and now. Most of the stuff that’s spoken about that era is good enough to grow roses in.”

“I dislike the term Dark Ages. Day by day, ancient texts and archaeology’s finds are brightening those centuries, and it may well prove to be the case that one day the Ages won’t deserve to be called Dark anymore. The word you should be searching for is medieval. In my lectures you’ll hear only the terms early medieval, high medieval, and late medieval. Let me see nothing else in your essays. You may write about the sexing of chickens—there’s deep sympathy around here for that sort of thing. You may write about the effect of drought upon a toper. You may write about the fate of maiden ladies who work in bishops’ houses. But you may not write about the Dark Ages.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 229). HarperCollins.

He goes on:

“So: old Irish, Vikings, and Normans—three people on one island; my purpose here is to pick a way for you through that mixture and give you a teaching our history since the Normans that’ll render you fit to go forth, marry decently, raise a family, live to a ripe old age, evacuate your bowels no more than once daily, cultivate your garden, or if you prefer, spend your life in low dives, gambling on two flies climbing up a wall while drinking cheap liquor imported from Rumania. I hope you’re still with me—in spirit if not in spite.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 232). HarperCollins.

Santayana’s statement that “Those who do not remember history are forced to repeat it” is partially true. We humans, singly or collectively, seem to make the same mistakes over and over again. We also suffer from our common tendency to concentrate on the minutia we understand and avoid where we can the difficult complexities of life. For example, the introduction of the steel plow, the internal combustion engine or the transistor may have changed everything but we still went about our lives and politics obsessed with the same things we have always been obsessed with, among which was how to control and ultimately consume all the resources necessary for us live and our species to survive.

“When politicians and those who observe them consider matters, they frequently fall into the trap of assuming—hopefully or desperately, depending which side they’re on—that a status quo may last forever. They forget what changes things—events. That’s what all politics are changed by—events.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel (p. 234). HarperCollins.

The young man, Ronan by name, goes on to become a storyteller himself wandering the byways, homes and pubs of the country where, in return for shelter food and some Guinness and Irish whisky, he told stories of old Ireland, of its heroes and its villains, its suffering and triumphs even about Kings Billy and Jimmy at the famous Battle of the Boyne.

“We merge our myths with our facts according to our feelings, we tell ourselves our own story. And no matter what we are told, we choose what we believe. All “truths” are only our truths, because we bring to the “facts” our feelings, our experiences, our wishes. Thus, storytelling—from wherever it comes—forms a layer in the foundation of the world; and glinting in it we see the trace elements of every tribe on earth.”
Delaney, Frank. Ireland: A Novel. HarperCollins.

Pookie says, “Check it out.”

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Although I am traveling, I still manage to put in time reading novels. Recently I read Arturo Perez-Reverte’s latest. Perez-Reverte whose taut but lush adventure and mystery novels generally take place in Spain during its long sad decline from world empire until the old order was finally snuffed out by the armies of Napoleon. His series of books, featuring the melancholy but indomitable soldier and peerless swordsman Captain Alatriste, are classics.

The Siege, as its name implies, takes place during the interminable multi-year siege of Cadiz where the armies of Napoleon and his brother Joseph, the imposed King of Spain, had chased the government of the tattered empire and its inconsistent allies, the English. Cadiz, however still had access to the sea and many of its merchants, smugglers and privateers flourished even while the bombs daily rained down on parts of the city. The plot revolves around the attempts by the brutal and corrupt Chief of Police to solve a series of exceedingly vicious murders.

Unfortunately, Perez-Reverte introduces a sub-plot, a bodice ripper straight out of Danielle Steele — A romance between the dashing but crude and dangerous, curly-haired, handsome and muscular captain of a privateer, Pepe Lupo (Joe Wolf) and his employer, the refined, learned, capable, aristocratic, accomplished and almost beautiful owner of one of the city’s premier shipping companies, Lolita Palma. Lolita, virginal from to tip of her leather boots to the top of her lace mantilla, unfortunately, is 32 years old and unmarried. In the Cadiz of that time, at 32, she hovered between the twilight of fuckable and the onset spinsterhood. Perez-Reverte, damn him, shamelessly introduces a scene where Joe confronts Lolita at an elegant ball, causing her to snap open her fan and rapidly cool down the rising warmth of a blush.

“At least,” I thought, “he does not have the poor woman wet her drawers.” Alas, not more than a couple of dozen pages later, as Joe Wolf’s cutter heads off on another venture in legalized piracy, the still virginal Lolita, standing behind the crenellations of the tower above her Palacio and staring at the corsair’s ship as it disappears over the horizon, does just that. Arturo Perez-Reverte, you should be ashamed of yourself

Nevertheless,
Pookie says “check it out.”

“…all things have their allotted time in the suicidal order of things— in life, and in its inexorable outcome, death.”
Perez-Reverte, Arturo. The Siege: A Novel (p. 358). Random House Publishing Group.

Note: Reading this book makes me wonder if getting involved in the shithole that was Spain at that time was not as great a mistake for Napoleon as his march into Russia. It is usually the inability of empires to know their bounds that bring them to ruin. I wonder if that was the genius of Augustus Caesar; to recognize there were limits to the expansion of empire beyond the need to establish secure boundaries. It probably enabled the Roman Empire to survive for another 1000 years until the thugs of the Fourth Crusade finally put it out of its misery.

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