Tag Archives: classic literature

Bookshelf Battle Cast – Episode 1 – “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens” – Stave 1 – Marley’s Ghost – Discussion and Study Questions

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Huzzah, 3.5 readers!

The Bookshelf Battle Cast lives!  Yes, on this fine blog, I’ll be reviewing pop cultural happenings, attempting to be funny, and telling you all about my adventures as a magic bookshelf caretaker, yeti fighter and so on.

The podcast will be very different.  I am very, very far from being the world’s greatest vocal talent, so I’ll be playing it straight.  Each episode, I’ll be reading a piece of public domain literature.  After you listen to me read it in my mush mouth voice, stop by this incredible blog for a discussion and study questions.

FYI – apologies.  I’m new to this.  There were some technical difficulties.  I said I’d let my spokeswoman tell you all about who I am, but for some reason, Garageband did not like that file.  It became a big production to try to re-record the podcast, so I’ll try to figure out that for the next one.  Forgive me people, I’m learning as I go.

Oh well.  Check out what my spokeswoman would have said here:

In Stave 1 – “Marley’s Ghost” we begin with a classic line in literature – “Marley was dead to begin with.  Scrooge pops the joyous bubble of his nephew and local charity collectors, only to be warned by the ghost of his fellow usurer Jacob Marley that if he doesn’t change his ways, he’ll be a ghost too, forced to trudge the world with chains attached to him, lamenting the life he wasted on counting coins instead of helping the less fortunate.

STUDY QUESTIONS:

#1 – Dickens really, really, really wants the reader to know up front that Jacob Marley is dead, engaging in humor to insist, almost to a ridiculous degree, that he’s dead.  What’s the point of that?

#2 – Scrooge’s nephew states to his uncle that there are things that exist that bring him no monetary profit, but they make his life better just the same.  Christmas, says the nephew, is one of those things.  Is the nephew a positive thinker, a man who knows how to build spiritual wealth, or do you side with Scrooge, i.e. the wealth in your piggy bank is all that matters?  Can you think of some things that don’t bring you a monetary profit but still enrich your life?  Would you give those things up in order to make more money?  Can money buy happiness?

#3 – The charity collectors attempt to separate Scrooge from some of his dough, arguing that men of means have a duty to provide aid and comfort to the poor.  Scrooge counters with the claim that he supports prisons, union workhouses and so on (through taxes) and thus doesn’t owe the poor anything else.  What say you?  Are taxes enough, or should people with bucks to spare share them with the poor as well?

#4 – Jacob Marley is a ghost.  Chains and cash boxes and other monetary related devices are attached to him.  He must drag them around wherever he goes.  Further, Jacob spent his life never venturing past the counting-house, collecting money and ignoring the plight of the poor.  His punishment, like the punishment of the many souls Scrooge sees outside, is that in death, he must wander the world, seeing all the things he could have experienced and enjoyed in life, but now is unable to do so because he’s dead.

Will you be a ghost one day?  That’s a bigger discussion.  You will be old one day though…and your body will eventually give out on you.  When you’re old and gray and your knees fail, your body gives up and it exhausts you to walk more than five feet, what will you wish you had done in your youth?

CHALLENGE: Make a list of things you want to do before it’s too late to enjoy them…then DO THEM!  Picture your afterlife as a Jacob Marley-esque ghost, forced to drag chains and wander the world.  What would you like to see and do so that, if you ever become such a ghost, you can be happy knowing you got to do those things when you were alive?

Thanks for listening, 3.5 listeners.  The second stave will be out as soon as possible.

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Daily Discussion with BQB – What is your favorite Shakespeare Play?

Good morning 3.5 readers.

Did you know that this year marks the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death?

Too soon, Bill. Too soon.

As you avid 3.5 readers may be aware, the Shakes-meister is a friend to the Bookshelf Battle Blog.

When I died on the toilet after eating a lightning infused toaster pastry, I met him in the afterlife. He was assigned to be my spiritual guide.

But enough of my bragging.  The next time I talk to Billy Shakes (he still calls me from time to time, it’s a little creepy) which one of his plays should I tell him is your favorite?

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Mark Twain on Zombies – Part 2

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“God created war so that Americans would learn geography. The devil created zombies so that Western Americans would practice their calisthenics.”

And so, as the American West Continued to Be Zombed throughout the late 1800s, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known to readers by his pen name, Mark Twain, refused to be deterred from embracing his life long love affair with the written word.

Hidden away in his residence with the doors and windows boarded up and a carving knife at the ready to make quick work of any intruders, be they zombie or ill-mannered human, Mr. Twain persisted in memorializing his thoughts on the zombie menace for future generations to enjoy:

  • “Never allow someone to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option. Of course, if this person turns out to be a zombie, make it a priority to blow its brains out.”
  • “Books are for people who wish they were someone else. Alas, zombies have no use for them, for they are so miserably stupid.”
  • “Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. Now imagine that you are a zombified Congressman. But I repeat myself thrice now.”
  • “In a good book room, you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them. Enjoy the feeling while it lasts, for no doubt a hideous zombie will jump out from betwixt the book stacks and scare the living daylights out of you.”
  • “If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and man. As for zombies, they will bite the shit out of you whether or not you try to feed them cow brains as a substitute for human brains. Zombies are truly ungrateful pricks.”
  • “I’ve lived through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened. My tales of zombie homicide, for example, are voraciously true.”
  • “Education is the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty. Oh how I wish I had never been educated about zombies.”
  • “A banker is a fellow who lends you his umbrella when the sun is shining, but wants it back the minute it begins to rain. Meanwhile, a zombie is a rotten fellow who wants to consume your brain.”
  • “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it. I doubt the zombie brains I have stomped upon have shed much in the way of forgiveness upon my boot heel.”
  • “Of all the things I have lost, I miss my mind the most. I suspect a filthy zombie has devoured it.”
  • “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. If there is ever a third, it will be the glorious day upon which we learn that all of the zombies have up and died.”
  • “The human race has only two really effective weapons: laughter and shovels to aid us in the bashing of zombie brains.”
  • “Never argue with stupid zombies. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.”
  • “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day…unless you run into a disgusting zombie.”
  • “I thoroughly disapprove of duels. If a zombie should ever challenge me, I would take him kindly and forgivingly by the hand and lead him to a quiet place and kill him, most likely by punching him in the brain.”
  • “I haven’t any right to criticize books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticize Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Every time I read Pride and Prejudice I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone and then shout, ‘Die again, zombie bitch!’”

EDITORIAL NOTE: Yeah, that last quote is all Twain except for the “Die again, zombie bitch!” part at the end. His original quote ended with “shin-bone.” The Twainster was not a fan of Jane Austen apparently.

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Literary Classics with Professor Nannerpants – An Introduction

Good Day 3.5 Readers.

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Professor Horatio J. Nannerpants – Esteemed Literary Scholar/Poop Flinger

In the first year of this ridiculous blog, Bookshelf Q. Battler took on the role of a cool, hip online literary lecturer, educating his 2.5 readers (his stats weren’t as high then) about classic novels and poetry in a fun manner.

In year two, he turned the blog into a chronicle of his life as a magic bookshelf caretaker/yeti fighter/human selected by an alien despot to change the world through his writing.

Personally, I found that change to be tres blasé and ever so derivative. If I had a nickel for every blog about a magic bookshelf caretaker/yeti fighter/human selected by an alien despot to change the world through his writing I’d be a fabulously wealthy simian.

Now in year three, BQB has turned his attention yet again to actually writing a novel in an effort to appease the Mighty Potentate.  Occasionally, when he is unable to think what his novel characters should do next, he writes top ten lists implying your significant others are all manner of horrible abominations and helps his staff of malcontent columnists spread their ridiculous opinions.

Ironically, BQB has found that his first year posts are the most searchable, most likely by high school or college English students writing papers about the classics.

(And between you, me and the four walls, 3.5 readers, if any of these kids are citing Bookshelf Q. Battler in their papers and getting A’s then I weep for the state of our education system.)

Ahh, but I do drone on, don’t I? This is where I come in.

Have you ever heard of the old saying that if you were to lock a thousand chimpanzees in a room filled with typewriters, one of the chimps would eventually produce a clean, error free copy of Hamlet?

I am that chimp.

It all began as an experiment at the Advanced Science Institute of Science University.  BQB, literary lover that he was, was studying under the esteemed Dr. Hugo Von Science (they were still friends in those pre-East Randomtown Zombie Apocalypse days.)

As part of a research project, BQB rounded up a thousand lab chimps, locked us in a room with a thousand typewriters and over the course of a year, my colleagues produced:

  • 179,854 pages covered in doody
  • One clean, error free copy of a James Patterson novel.  Ashley Judd and Morgan Freeman were immediately cast for the movie version.
  • One typo laden copy the collective works of Digital Underground. “The Fumpty Fance is Your Fance to Do the Fump.” Oh chimps, you try so hard and yet you fail, for there can only be one Humpty Hump.

And finally, I was the first chimpanzee in the history of the world to prove the assertion true.

I typed a clean, error free copy of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

And then I smeared it with my doody.

BQB got an A+ for his project.  Dr. Hugo had other plans for me.

Curious about my abilities, the mad scientist performed all manner of tests on my brain.

Dr. Hugo wanted to know if it was possible to educate a chimpanzee.

So he hooked my head up to electrodes and forced me to watch PBS for three weeks straight.

So many documentaries.  So many British TV shows.  So much Masterpiece Theater.

During a storm, an errant thunderbolt zapped the Science Institute, sending a current to the electrodes, which in turn, shocked me.

This left me with the ability of speech….in a British accent.

I used my newfound skill to plead for my freedom with Dr. Hugo but he would not have it.

Bookshelf Q. Battler proved to be kinder and when the coast was clear, he left my cage door open.

For many years, I traveled the world, experiencing all that I could.

Highlights include:

  • Climbing Mount Everest.  What a waste of time.  There’s nothing to see up there.
  • Visiting my friends and family in the jungle.  Alas, Thomas Wolfe was right when he said you can never go home again. All those chimps wanted to do was laugh and throw their poop. Sure, it’s fun for the first five minutes but after that I’m the only one who wants to talk about the collective works of Lord Byron.
  • I was briefly a member of Congress.  I had to quit because everyone there was better at poop flinging than I was. (I’m not even joking.)

And finally, by donning a disguise, and holding myself out as a hirsute little person from London,  I was able to convince a renowned university to accept me as a student of literature.

There I stayed for many years, immersed in my love of the written word, obtaining a doctorate I used to obtain a position as a professor of the classics at the same aforementioned institution.

Note that I haven’t said which one as I continue to hold this position and I don’t wish to be outed as a chimpanzee. I think I’m safe though as only 3.5 individuals read this blog.

Long story short, BQB would like to continue to put his stat counter on the rise by increasing this blog’s search ability amongst students in their late teens to early twenties who stayed up all night smoking refer and playing video games and need to whip up a last minute paper about Longfellow in order to do their parents proud by pulling down a C-.

Under my alternative name, I have written articles in the world’s premiere academic journals.  Thus, I loathe the idea of having my work appear in a poorly studied blog.

Yet, I do owe BQB a favor for helping me escape.

Naturally, I won’t use my nom de plume so I will use the name I was given back when I was but a lowly lab chimp.

Horatio J. Nannerpants.

Yes. Based on the filthy stereotype that chimpanzees love…excuse me I have to finish this banana.

Oh…oh yes! Oh sweet, sweet curved yellow potassium stick! You are better that hot sweaty chimpanzee sex!

Pardon me.  Where was I?

Oh yes. Class in now in session, aspiring literary scholars.

And by the way.

That’s Professor Nannerpants to you.

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Beware the Ides of March

Caesar:
Who is it in the press that calls on me?
I hear a tongue shriller than all the music
Cry “Caesar!” Speak, Caesar is turn’d to hear.

Soothsayer:
Beware the ides of March.

Caesar:
What man is that?

Brutus:
A soothsayer bids you beware the ides of March.

– William Shakespeare

Julius Caesar Act 1, Scene 2, 15–19

The Ides of March are here!  Are you being wary of them?

THE SIBERIAN YETI:  Bookshelf Q. Battler, what is an “Ide?”  And also, get back in your cage!

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER:  Good question, Yeti.  Well, the first one was, anyway.  The “Ides” of any month means the middle of that month.  Most months have 30-31 days so the “Ides” will fall on or around the 15th.  I argue the 15th but people might differ.  (I suppose some might claim for a Month with 31 days, the “Ides” would fall on the 15.5th day, or in other words, the morning of the 16th.  February, with only 28 days, will have its “Ides” on the 14th.

Enough babbling from me, it’s March 15th, so if you’re Julius Caesar, then beware!

THE SIBERIAN:  You will never get 4000 Twitter followers and your blog is a waste of gigabytes.

BOOKSHELF Q. BATTLER:  Well, I never!

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And I Thought I Was a Slow Writer…

Harper Lee, the now 88 year old author of the classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, has announced that her second book, Go Set a Watchman, will be published this summer.

According to this CNN article, Lee originally wrote Scout as an adult, with flashbacks to her youth. Her editor preferred the flashbacks, urged Lee to write an entire novel about young Scout, and the rest is history.

To Kill a Mockingbird was published on July 11, 1960 and this sequel, which will feature an adult Scout, will come out July 11 of this year, a full 55 years later.

In other words, calm down wannabe writers.  If one of America’s most beloved authors took five and a half decades off between novels, you can forgive yourself for putting your novel off for a week while you binge watch Breaking Bad.

I’m not sure about the name though.  Go Set a Watchman.  It doesn’t really sound very sequel-ish.

My To Kill a Mockingbird Sequel Title Suggestions:

Mockingbird II – Judgement Mock

Mockingbird II – Scout’s Revenge

Mockingbird II – Scout’s Honor (that’s actually pretty witty)

2 Mock 2 Murious

Journey to the Center of the Alabama

Mockingbird vs. Mockingjay – the Ultimate Scout vs. Katniss Royale

Mockingbird II – Electric Boo-Radley-ga-loo

Mockingbird II:  Atticus’ Revenge

By the way, one of the morals of this story?  Save your work.  According to the above article, Lee thought the novel was lost, but it was found by her lawyer.  Alas, Ms. Lee didn’t have the ability to save a copy on a flash drive because back in those days, your options were either a typewriter or, yeesh – pen and paper.

I hate to admit it, but I’m only half-way through To Kill a Mockingbird.  Ten years ago, I started to read it, found it marvelous, got busy, put it down, forgot about it, have been meaning to re-read it all the way through this time ever since.

Now I actually have to since there is a sequel.

And I’m just throwing it out there, but even though she’s 88, Lee really needs to push out a third, just so she can enter the ranks of today’s authors who now pretty much start out with trilogies from beginning.

“Hello, I’m Harper Lee, Author of the Mockingbird Trilogy.”

Hey, all joking aside, this is great.   I look forward to it.   What do you think?

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The Daily Scrooge – Part 6

“I wish,” Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: “but it’s too late now.”

“What is the matter?” asked the Spirit.

“Nothing,” said Scrooge. “Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.”

As discussed in yesterday’s post, A Christmas Carol is all about one man’s ability to change.  The ongoing question – do we have that ability?  Has anyone ever suffered from X issue only to one day come around and leave X issue in the past?  Feel free to share!

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The Daily Scrooge – Part 5

But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

If Charles Dickens were alive today, he’d totally have a show on MSNBC.  Moral of most of his works?  Greed=Bad.  Charity=Good.  Here, we have Marley’s Ghost, an apparition of Scrooge’s former business partner, lamenting the mistakes he made in life, urging Scrooge to not repeat them.

Marley keeps repeating the word “business.”  “Mankind was my business.  The common welfare was my business…”  No, in actuality, Marley did not make any of these good deeds his business when he was alive, but he is trying to say that he should have made these actions his business.

A Christmas Carol is all about change, and urging people to change their erroneous ways before it is too late.  What do you think?  Can people change, or are they destined to stay the same?

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The Daily Scrooge – Part 4

How shall I ever understand this world? There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty, and yet, there is nothing it condemns with such severity as the pursuit of wealth.

You have to admit, he’s got a point.  Life is undeniably difficult, if not impossible, as a person in abject poverty.  Ironically, people who keep that fact in mind and work hard and find ways to put as much financial distance as they can between themselves and poverty get villainized.

Dickens may have considered that with the character of Fezziwig, Scrooge’s original boss who got him into the money counting game.  Even though Fezziwig was wealthy, he always threw a big party on Christmas, and one can assume he always helped the less fortunate he encountered.

It is all a balancing act.  You’d hate to be poor.  People will hate you if you’re rich.  Either way, someone is going to hate something.

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The Daily Scrooge – Part 3

A conversation between Scrooge and the ghost of his old partner, Jacob Marley, who has been dead for seven years at the start of the book:

“Man of the worldly mind!” replied the Ghost, “do you believe in me or not?”

“I do,” said Scrooge.  “I must.  But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?”

“It is required of every man,” the Ghost returned, “that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellowmen, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death.  It is doomed to wander through the world — oh, woe is me! — and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness!”

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.

“You are fettered,” said Scrooge, trembling.  “Tell me why?”

“I wear the chain I forged in life,” replied the Ghost. “I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.  Is its pattern strange to you?”

Scrooge trembled more and more.

“Or would you know,” pursued the Ghost, “the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself?  It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago.  You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”

Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.

“Jacob,” he said, imploringly.  “Old Jacob Marley, tell me more.  Speak comfort to me, Jacob!”

“I have none to give,” the Ghost replied.  “It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men.  Nor can I tell you what I would.  A very little more, is all permitted to me.  I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere.  My spirit never walked beyond our counting-house — mark me! — in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me!”

Marley and Scrooge had been cut from the same cloth – two penny pinchers who reveled in cheapskatery.  So arguably, Marley’s ghost being forced to drag around chains as punishment for the life he lived must be troubling for Scrooge, who lived the same life.  What is the significance of Marley having to wander around carrying chains?

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