Monday, November 23, 2009

Reading Group Reminder!

Book Groupies,

This is just a friendly reminder. If you're planning on reading along with my book group, we're going to start reading Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck this weekend, so secure yourself a copy with all speed. Fly to the bookstore or library at once and don't forget that it's a holiday weekend which makes store hours all wonky (and, in some cases, unspeakably crowded. Be good to yourself. Don't wait until this Friday to get your copy!) It's a good weekend to start reading as you'll probably be off of work anyway if you're not like 10% of the country and there already.
I thought I would pass this along in case anyone is interested. Again, I am clearly not shilling for Penguin Books, but they are offering all 10 of the books in our reading group as a set, brand new and matching for $99. I've mentioned before that as they are all classics you can probably find all of the titles in thrift stores for less than a dollar each but, I don't know, maybe you're concerned with interior decorating and want a handsome set instead of the comically ragged copies I'm reading. They are very nice looking. I might do it myself if I weren't 1) poor and 2) an owner of all of the titles already. Although also if you go that route, be warned that we may use a different translation of Dante's Inferno.

As a side note and a bit of a fun fact to add a bit of color for those about to read Of Mice and Men, the title comes from a poem by Robert Burns. Now, don't let the text of the poem alarm you. I assure you that the book we're reading is written in very contemporary, very easy to read English. If you struggle with the poem, I think it was composed on the tongue which means you might be better off reading it in a very loud Scottish accent. I know my wife loves it when I do that (and so do my neighbors I'm sure.)
Burns was one of the great Scottish poets. He lived in the 1700s. Another famous poem of his is "Address to a Haggis." There's an event you can celebrate in your own home on St. Andrew's Day (Jan. 25. Mark your calendar) called a Burns Dinner. After saying grace, the haggis is brought to the table piping hot and Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns is read to the plate of sheep innards. When the poem is finished, you dig in.
Anyway, here's the poem from which Steinbeck drew the title for his book Of Mice and Men.

To a Mouse

by Robert Burns

On Turning up in Her Nest with the Plough, November, 1785

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

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