You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, a fantasy adventure novel available at Barnes and Noble Online.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Nook and Joseph Conrad-

I have never read anything by Joseph Conrad until today. Thanks to my nook, I now have. Barnes and Noble offers free books to read with their ereader. I have the reader software on this computer, and recently got a Nook ereader machine. I had finished a free novel recently and was looking through my growing library of free books resident in my Nook for something new to read.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad looked interesting. It was just the sort of thing I wouldn't have gone looking for. Hence, a likely new reading experience. Heart of Darkness is in itself a novella by Conrad. It is also a sequel to the short story Youth which was included in the book titled Heart of Darkness along with the novella itself and several other short stories. It is Youth that I read today. It is a nautical tale set in the era during which the world transitioned from commercial sailing vessels powered by wind to steam powered ships of commerce.

Youth reminded me of the black and white movies I viewed on television in my childhood. Not all of them were black and white, of course. My own youth began in 1953 and continued for quite a number of years from then. Our television was always a black and white. My parents did not get a color set until after I left home. So, my childhood movie experiences were almost exclusively in black and white.

Those movies were filled with tramp steamers heading to exotic ports all over the world. Adventure had to sought via that mode of transportation most of the time. It was an image familiar to me. So, Conrad's pregnant prose brought forth offspring of vivid images in my mind. He proved to be a most capable writer.

The biographical information in the introductory portion of the book proved interesting as a precursor to the first tale. Conrad tapped into the memories of a twenty year career at sea, as well as experiences in distant and exotic ports. Experiences in ports less seemly and exotic, as well.

Having read Youth I am prepared to move on to Heart of Darkness. More than a high seas adventure, this novella explores the depths to which humans can sink in the quest of wealth at the expense of other peoples. It is a tale taking place in an era of imperialism and economic expansion. It exposes, to a degree, the underbelly of the wealthy nations of the world at the end of the nineteenth century as they pillaged the then dark continent of Africa.

Exposes, but does not necessarily condemn. Conrad was not possessed of sufficient wealth of his own to risk offending his readers, many of whom supported and benefited from the system of Empire. His works have been recognized as great works, often studied and analyzed. Sometimes over-analyzed, and apparently due for additional analysis from a post-modern perspective.

I suppose Conrad wouldn't mind. Of greatest importance to him, I suspect, was a sufficient income to finally overcome his debts and to live out his later years in comfort. That, and he no longer had to get his bread by going to sea.

I wonder what he would think of contemporary television programing like Deadliest Catch?

My Nook shall provide me with a wealth of similar reading experiences. Free books and a whole library I can carry with me just about everywhere makes expanding my reading horizons that much easier. Love my Nook.


La, Storyteller/Storysinger said...

Oh my god! I am soooooo jealous! You have a Nook and I want one! My sister has one. I'm thinking of knocking in the head and taking it :-P Glad you're enjoying your Nook and all those free books. I swear the fact that you can get the classics free on ereaders just might make more folks read them. How wonderful!!

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I'm curious what you think of H o D. I did a post on it awhile back

Michael Lockridge said...

La, I bought it because it finally hit the price I deemed was a reasonable investment considering my financial condition. Additionally, more authors are doing simultaneous e-releases with their hard back releases. It won't be like waiting a year for the paperback as I did when I was a bit less funded.

Pliny, one of the first things I realized was my complete lack of knowledge regarding the atrocities in the Congo in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I had never been aware of what went on there.

Exploration of such regions was a romantic venture, or so my recollection from my youth informs me. Over the years I have come to realize that "exploration" has seldom been truly romantic and for the most part is plagued with atrocities.

As to the story itself, it is beautifully written and a pleasure to read. Conrad does great work, especially in the light of English not being his native tongue.

Can I judge Marlow for not being more offended by the atrocities, for failing to jump up and shout down the evil? No. I realize that I have too often responded similarly to institutionalized ineptitude and passionless evil.

I need look no further than to today to find atrocities in abundance. I haven't the strength to shout down all of them, nor have I the wisdom to discern what most of them are really about.

In the end, I can generally only do what Marlow did. Soften the blow for someone as he did for the intended of Kurtz. Take such small actions as I have opportunity to perform to mitigate pain and suffering.

The story does one thing very well. It gives a vague form to passionless institutionalized evil. It shows ineptitude and inefficiency and misdirected resources, and how these things provide avenues for avarice on large scale and small.

Ivory or rubber, oil or gold, whatever it may be can easily claim a multitude of souls. Even the souls of nations. Sometimes just keeping yourself relatively unsullied and simply alive is heroic enough.

These few things I write in response. Having done so, I shall seek out your post.

Thanks for reading!

Michael Lockridge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Lockridge said...
This comment has been removed by the author.