Friday, February 24, 2012

eBook Review: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

Mark Twain, The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 206 KB
  • Publisher: Public Domain Books (September 14, 2004)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars (17 customer reviews)
  • Price: $0.00
1. Short review:

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: Author's Note to "Those Extraordinary Twins".
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? Neither.
The book is free. At that, it is overpriced. This book wasted my time.

2.2. What I did not like: Before I start, go get yourself a drink and a snack. This is gonna take a while.

Structure: 21 chapters + Conclusion + 'Author's Note to "Those Extraordinary Twins"'

1. David 'Pudd'nhead' Wilson;
2. York Leicester Driscoll, aka Judge Driscoll;
3. Percy Northumberland Driscoll, his brother;
4. Thomas a Becket Driscoll, aka Tom, Percy's son and Judge Driscoll's nephew;
5. Luigi and Angelo Capello, Italian twins and, for all practical purposes, one character;
6. Roxana (no last name [nln]), aka Roxy, one-sixteenth black and, therefore, negro;
7. Valet de Chambre (nln), aka Chambers, Roxy's son and even less black; and
8. "Colonel Cecil Burleigh Essex, another F.F.V. [First Families of Virginia] of formidable caliber--however, with him we have no concern."
(Twain introduces the last named character thus in the first chapter but never refers to him again. He violated his own Rule 14: Eschew surplusage. I include him to illustrate how badly this tale was told.)


Tom and Chambers were born on the same day, 01 February 1830. Tom's mother died within the week. Roxy raised both boys.

Roxy switched the boys and raised the Driscoll heir as her son. In truth, once switched, we heard no more of Tom-as-Chambers until the Conclusion. And that bit is disappointing:

The real heir [Tom-as-Chambers] suddenly found himself rich and free, but in a most embarrassing situation. He could neither read nor write, and his speech was the basest dialect of the Negro quarter. His gait, his attitudes, his gestures, his bearing, his laugh--all were vulgar and uncouth; his manners were the manners of a slave. Money and fine clothes could not mend these defects or cover them up; they only made them more glaring and the more pathetic. The poor fellow could not endure the terrors of the white man's parlor, and felt at home and at peace nowhere but in the kitchen. The family pew was a misery to him, yet he could nevermore enter into the solacing refuge of the "nigger gallery"--that was closed to him for good and all. But we cannot follow his curious fate further--that would be a long story.

Bloody shame. That is a story I want to read. But back to the sogenannte plot.

Percy died and left Chambers-as-Tom to the care of his brother, Judge Driscoll. Roxy revealed to Chambers-as-Tom that he was Chambers. Chambers-as-Tom gambled away his money time and again. He sold Roxy 'down the river' even though she was freed by Percy. Roxy escaped from her master and returned.

All the above takes eighteen long, tedious chapters just to set up the action in the last three.

Chambers-as-Tom killed Judge Driscoll to inherit his money. The Italian twins were arrested and brought to trial for the murder. Wilson defended them successfully, implicated Chambers-as-Tom, and revealed the boys were switched in the sixth month of their lives.

As tedious as the set up was, the climax was worse. The court proceedings were ridiculous. When the gallery erupted in shouts, the sheriff called for order, vice the judge. Nothing was properly introduced in evidence. The defense attorney, Wilson, called himself as a witness. Wilson passed fingerprinted cards to the jury and asked them to examine the cards. The prosecutor never objected. The jury delivered no verdict.

It was apparent to me that Twain had never witnessed a trial. With his courtroom scenes, Twain violated his own Rule 8 [governing literary art]: They require that crass stupidities shall not be played upon the reader. . . .

I gave this eBook 3 stars on Twitter, but I regret that. I now give it 2 stars; one for the 'Author's Note to "Those Extraordinary Twins"' -- which is worth the two minutes it takes to read -- and one for the name of Mark Twain.

Oh, yeah, the formatting sucks: no breaks between chapters; not even an extra line feed.

2.3. Who I think is the audience: Masochists.

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read? No.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book? Were this the only exposure I had to Mark Twain, I would never read his work again.

2.6. Other: The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. I find it unbelievable that other reviews gave it 4 and 5 stars.

2.7. Links: None.

2.8. Buy the book: No, don't.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

eBook Preview: A Lonely Kind of War

Marshall Harrison, A Lonely Kind of War: Forward Air Controller, Vietnam

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 605 KB
  • Publisher: Xlibris (December 15, 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004H8GCQM
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars (23 customer reviews)
  • Price: $3.03
     I downloaded a sample of A Lonely Kind of War to my Kindle about a week ago. Wow! Maybe it spoke to me just because I first climbed into the cockpit of an Air Force jet a few years after Vietnam, but I did not need the glossary. I understood the lingo.
     I bought the book. Look forward to reading it. It boasts an odd price -- $3.03 -- but click on the title anywhere on this blog to take you to the Amazon page for A Lonely Kind of War.

No Songs for Dogs

    'No Songs for Dogs' will make an intriguing title for a story. Trouble is, I have no idea what the story should be about.
    I can conjure up some nebulous designs. One, a post-apocalyptic world in which dogs are diseased; one boy has a dog companion whom he fights to save from the law -- and the dog fights to save him. Two, gene-modded dogs that are near human but have no rights; humans are buried with hymns, dogs no. Three, 'o' is the only vowel used; the title is a cypher for a clandestine operation.
    So, Gentle Reader, I ask your help please. Which of the nebulous designs above do you prefer? Or will you suggest another?
    Who is the hero?
    What is at stake?
    Where does the action happen?
    How? Well, that's the story, isn't it?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Firefox fits

Most times -- 49 out of 50 -- I run Linux and connect with Firefox. Why did I tell you this?

On Valentine's Day, I read Catherine Caffeinated (see blogroll). Catherine recommended Buffer (, a Twitter add-on. Her description of its features sounded cool, so I clicked and added a Buffer button to my Firefox browser.

Big mistake. Firefox crashed.

Three times I tried to restart Firefox, but each time the browser crashed. For several days, I had to connect using Internet Explorer on Windows XP. (I run a partitioned harddrive with Windows XP in the lower partition and Ubuntu Linux in the upper partition. I choose the opsys to boot at start-up.)

To make the problem worse, I had no other browser on the Linux side. Hey, Linux is infinitely more stable than Windows. What could cause a problem? Now I know.

This morning I started up Firefox and, after multiple tries, got it to download Chrome. When the download completed, Firefox crashed. I installed and booted Chrome and searched the web for a way to uninstall Firefox. I found that I could boot Firefox in safe-mode, search out the problem, and fix it. So I did. The problem was as suspected. Buffer. I removed Buffer. Firefox works again.

I place no blame on Catherine Howard. Buffer worked for her. But I run geeky-works, and the Buffer button did not work for me.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

eBook Review: Admiral Farragut

Alfred Thayer Mahan, Admiral Farragut

Product Details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 435 KB
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
  • Language: English
  • ASIN:  B004TQH05Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled 
  • Average Customer Review: no reviews
  • Price: $0.00 

1. Short review: 

2. Long review:
2.1. What I liked: The only contemporary biography of Admiral David Glasgow Farragut.
Roller-coaster or walk-in-the-park? This should be an historical roller coaster, but Mahan's turgid style turns the bio into a tedious walk-in-the-park.
The book is free. At that, it is worth the download. Were it 99 cents, it would be overpriced.

2.2. What I did not like:  Mahan's style. Whenever Mahan had an idea, legions of words issued forth from his pen and trampled it to death.

2.3. Who I think is the audience:  Die-hard naval history buffs. 

2.4. Is the book appropriate for children to read?  Yeah. It'll put 'em right to sleep.

2.5. On the basis of reading this book, will I buy the author's next book?  I suppose I have to read The Influence of Sea Power Upon History, 1660-1783 'cause I am a die-hard naval history buff, but after reading Admiral Farragut, I ain't looking forward to it. It will be a chore, not a pleasure.

2.6. Other:  Mahan presents a wealth of historical information that I have not seen anywhere else:  1) Farragut's service as a young midshipman aboard the USS Essex in the War of 1812; 2) Farragut's decision to move his residence from Virginia to New York on the eve of the Civil War (both Farragut and his wife were southerners); 3) the fact that Farragut ignored his orders and bypassed rather than reduce or capture two forts on the Mississippi delta to take New Orleans (after New Orleans was taken, the forts fell from lack of supplies); Farragut's cooperation with David Porter on the Mississippi; and 4) the details of Farragut running his ships into the harbor at Mobile.

Congress created the ranks of rear admiral, vice admiral, and admiral specifically to reward Farragut for his wartime accomplishments.

Mahan's style reflects that of the 18th century more than that of the 19th century.

2.7. Links:  David Farragut (If you are a die-hard naval history buff, go ahead and download the book below and read it; else, click the link above and read the Wiki.)

2.8. Buy the book:  Admiral Farragut


Thursday, February 2, 2012


     The last Oprah show occasioned mourning in my home. Mourning from my wife.
     She lived her life by the Gospel According to Oprah. If Oprah said it, it was so. Irrefutably so.
     The saving grace was that Oprah seldom spouted advice on how to live. No, she was more into "This is my guest today, and -- wow! -- isn't he great?" and "This book changed my life" shows. To me, this meant that my wife tried to follow Oprah's example and left me to follow my own heathen ways. Okay, there was some prodding that I should 'get with the program' but, unlike the Borg, resistance to Oprah was not futile.
     Then came the demon stepchild of Oprah: Doctor Oz.
     Doctor Oz is nothing but advice on how to live. "Eat this. Don't eat that. Exercise this way. I know better than you." If Oprah gave us Gospels, Oz gives Epistles, Proverbs, and Commandments.
     For example, Doctor Oz hosted a show on 'superfoods': blueberries, tofu, broccoli, and I-can't-remember-the-other-two. That day, we went to the market. What do you think we bought? That evening I had a meal of blueberries, tofu, and broccoli -- in the same dish! Gag.
     The next day, Oz said something different, and we were off and running again, chasing after some TV-inspired illusion of perfection.
     I don't know what black magic Oz performed on his show today. I assiduously want NOT to know. I pray that it doesn't kill me before tomorrow when the dicta will change and again we will go haring off to see the Wizard.

     "That's how we keep you young and fair / In the merry old land of Oz."

Well, the clip from the movie has been withdrawn. Here is an audio clip:

     (PS I miss Oprah.)