A Transportation Compilation

It’s the holiday season, and that often means traveling in planes, trains, and automobiles — to reference the title of a 1987 movie.

Well, I once wrote about cars in literature, so I’ll focus this post on fiction’s planes and trains — and throw in a few buses, too!

Of course, lots of literature has characters taking incidental flights or railroad rides to get somewhere, but this piece will focus on plane or train appearances that are important to the story. And I’ll keep in mind that fiction published before a certain 1903 invention by the Wright Brothers featured more trains than planes. I wonder why? 🙂

Emile Zola’s riveting 1890 novel The Beast in Man practically stars a train. Driving that majestic locomotive is troubled Jacques Lantier — whose train and life both end up crashing. Speaking of 19th-century literature, a train also plays a VERY major role in Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

Tracks continued to appear in 20th- and 21st-century fiction. For instance, a train wreck in Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake causes a survivor to name his son Gogol, because that’s who the father was reading when the accident occurred. Also, authorities covered up their massacre of many banana workers by secretly carrying the bodies away by rail and tossing them in the sea — a real-life 1928 atrocity devastatingly recounted in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. And it’s hard to forget Agatha Christie’s mystery classic Murder on the Orient Express.

On a less grisly note, the Hogwarts Express is a big player in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels. That train takes students from London to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and it’s where Harry first meets his pals Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley — not to mention Draco Malfoy, the Slytherin boy with whom he’ll have many tangles over the course of seven books.

In Darryl Brock’s page-turning baseball novel If I Never Get Back, a train figures prominently when 20th-century protagonist Sam Fowler travels back in time to 1869. Later in the book, Sam meets Mark Twain on another train and then eventually takes a long, arduous 19th-century rail trip from Cincinnati to the West Coast. If only Sam could have flown…

Heck, if only the Bundren family could have flown when transporting the coffin of wife and mother Addie to her grave. But not having a harrowing land journey would have made for a much different As I Lay Dying, the tour de force novel by William Faulkner.

Which leads us to planes.

A past flight mishap in Alaska is one reason why the title character in Stanley Elkin’s The Rabbi of Lud doesn’t want to leave his New Jersey town despite the fact that it’s mostly “populated” by the buried dead (not Addie Bundren, though). Larry Darrell in W. Somerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge seeks the meaning of life after being traumatized by his World War I pilot experiences. Wally Worthington’s military plane is shot down in John Irving’s The Cider House Rules, and his being injured and missing for a long time has a profound effect on the plot and other characters.

Then there’s Richard Matheson’s iconic “Nightmare at 20,000 Feet” story — perhaps best known as a Twilight Zone episode starring a pre-Star Trek William Shatner — that will make anyone terrified of looking out a plane window. And Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling’s brother Robert Serling wrote several novels with aviation themes, including The President’s Plane Is Missing and Stewardess.

Plane rides are also important in several Jack Reacher novels. Without Fail, for instance, has an airborne Reacher getting a chance to talk with America’s vice president-elect after Jack and others are assigned to protect him from very real assassination attempts.

Reacher and other forms of transportation? There’s a suicidal New York City subway scene in Gone Tomorrow you won’t soon forget. And Lee Child’s drifter protagonist has ridden quite a few buses — in 61 Hours, for instance. Which reminds me of John Steinbeck’s quirky novel The Wayward Bus.

Planes, trains, and buses of course also appear in many children’s books — such as Richard Scarry’s A Day at the Airport, The Little Engine That Could (of which the best-known version is by “Watty Piper”), The Railway Series (by Wilbert Awdry and Christopher Awdry) that stars Thomas the Tank Engine of later television fame, and The Magic School Bus books (by Joanna Cole and Bruce Degen) that also got the TV treatment.

Of course, one could emulate the great band Rush and fly without being on a plane, but I don’t recommend it without a good special-effects person. Watch this very ’80s video and see. 🙂

What are you favorite fictional works featuring the transportation modes I mentioned?

(The box for submitting comments is below already-posted comments, but your new comment will appear at the top of the comments area — unless you’re replying to someone else.)

On Dec. 5, Brian Bess kindly posted a review (unsolicited!) of my 2012 memoir Comic (and Column) Confessional. As readers of this blog know, Brian frequently posts excellent comments here — and his book reviews are equally terrific!

I’m writing a literature-related book, but still selling Comic (and Column) Confessional — my often-funny memoir that recalls 25 years of covering and meeting cartoonists such as Charles Schulz (“Peanuts”) and Bill Watterson (“Calvin and Hobbes”), columnists such as Ann Landers and “Dear Abby,” and other notables such as Hillary Clinton, Coretta Scott King, Walter Cronkite, and various authors. The book also talks about the malpractice death of my first daughter, my remarriage, and life in Montclair, N.J. — where I write the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” humor column for The Montclair Times. You can email me at dastor@earthlink.net to buy a discounted, inscribed copy of the book, which contains a preface by “Hints” columnist Heloise and back-cover blurbs by people such as “The Far Side” cartoonist Gary Larson.

133 thoughts on “A Transportation Compilation

          • Throw in a trapeze artist with supernatural powers, a circus employee who’s murdering people, an Eastern European prison, a CIA agent, and you have classic MacLean.

            BTW, I’ve reached a verdict on the Connecticut Yankee musical that we discussed 2-3 weeks ago. I must say that…I really enjoyed it! The scenery is gorgeous, the score is on point (loved the arrangement by the orchestra), the acting was good, and I found myself tapping my foot to the Busy Doing Nothing song.

            My husband didn’t care for it. He thought there were too many inconsistences and that it veered off too far from the Twain novel. It is impossible to capture every single element from the book, so I didn’t quibble about it.

            I liked it. Props to you for telling me about this musical:)

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            • Ana, glad you liked the “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” film! Yes, very different from the often downbeat and sharply satirical Twain novel, but I guess the movie had some charms of its own.

              Now we just need a peppy musical based on an Alistair MacLean novel… 🙂

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                • “Townsperson # 3” — hahahaha! Love it! And you can definitely do the singing. Perhaps a Rush song: “Where Subdivisions Dare.”

                  Don’t know about me playing a CIA agent, though. It’s like…um…Casting Inaccurately Astor. 🙂

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  1. Nat Love is known for his career as a cowboy. He was born outside of Nashville and earned a reputation for his skills in handling cattle and breaking/training horses.

    Once he became of age, Love left Tennessee to pursue his career in the Western states. His first stop was Kansas, then he traveled through Oklahoma, and eventually settled in the Texas Panhandle. Nat Love quickly adjusted to cowboy life. Bat Masterson was a local sheriff at that time and he greatly admired Love for his skills. Masterson would look the other way when Love occasionally broke the law, often setting his fines very low and refusing to jail him.

    The Wild West life was Nat Love’s claim to fame, but people generally do not know about his second career on the railroad. After growing tired of the cowboy lifestyle, he changed careers and became a Pullman railroad porter for the western routes. These routes were familiar to him because they were the same ones he took as a cattle rancher, so it was a perfect fit. His time as a porter was uneventful compared to his cowboy past. He missed the action, but needed a more secure job to support his family.

    During a train ride from Colorado to Illinois, Nat Love met a businessman who remembered his cowboy days and befriended him. Love had been brewing an idea about a retirement community for Pullman porters for years. He discussed his ideas with the businessman, and together, they devised a plan to build housing, a hospital, and stores for all ex-Pullman Railroad porters. Nat Love’s business acumen developed early because he handled the house, farm, and finances of his family in Nashville after the father died. So his plan for this retirement community was not out of the norm for him.

    Nat Love’s autobiography is one of my favourite books. It is amazing how much he accomplished at a relatively young age. To go from cowboy to railroad porter to businessman was unheard of for a man of colour during that time, but he was successful in all of his endeavors.

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    • Did the retirement community happen? If so, where? I knew about Love before, even that he was from Nashville, but I’ll look out for hid autobiography when I’m out and about.

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      • Unfortunately, it did not. One of the requirements that the businessman stated in the plan was the creation of a general fund. All porters would’ve been required to contribute monthly to this fund.

        The majority of the porters did not want to participate due to their limited incomes. Working as a porter was stable, but the wages were still low, and the porters feared that Love’s plan would fail. They thought the retirement idea was too risky to invest in. Going to a financial institution with his business plan was out of the question, even with the backing/support of his white business associate. So the retirement community was never built.

        He chose Chicago as the location for his plan because a lot of retired porters from the South moved there once their careers with the railroad were over. I imagine that if his idea had materialised, it would have thrived.

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            • Captains of industry were not worker-friendly. Despite their low wages, porters had to buy their own uniforms and meals, plus the company deducted charges for things like broken dishes from their menial wages.

              I have no doubt that Nat Love faced opposition from Pullman for trying to do something that would benefit the porters. And since the retirement community was supposed to be built in Chicago, where Pullman’s headquarters were located, it’s not shocking that his ambitious plan failed.

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              • Ana, so true about captains of industry, then and now. Nasty, greedy, entitled people who exploited/exploit and rarely helped/help overworked employees — such as the porters, in George Pullman’s case.

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        • In my readings on the spread of the blues through recordings, the Pullman porters are often credited for same— they brought the Chicago Defender News to all interested parties along their routes, wherein blues 78’s were advertised, and they also brought 78’s with them to sell from the pressing plants up north!

          Was also aware of George Pullman, fine carriage builder but a nasty businessman– and of course, A. Philip Randolph, founder of The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters (the union finally, after all the troubles, founded for Pullman car porters) who was a leading figure in the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and ’60’s.

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    • Such a fascinating man and career, Ana. Thanks for that superb description of both. Will try to read Nat Love’s autobiography someday, too. A disgrace that he’s not as well known as other cowboys of his era — because of his color, of course.

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      • Race is a factor, but I wonder if regional differences are factors too. Nat Love is not excluded from Western history from what I’ve observed. His house and museum are located in South Dakota. He’s been mentioned in Utah history books. A local theatre group in California (in Los Angeles, I believe) performed a play about his life some years ago. That production is still on-going as far as I know.

        Love’s history is non-existent in Tennessee. One would think that Nashville/Davidson County (his birthplace) would have some type of exhibit that highlights his life. I credit my parents with introducing me to Nat Love because they exposed us to all types of literary and historical figures. My father was the king of obscure and little-known facts and history.

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        • It is often cited, as a way of confounding critics, that way back in the 1930’s, there was a black performer who was a member of the Grand Ole Opry: DeFord Bailey, another Nashville native. What is less often mentioned is that Bailey, while being the first black man who had an Opry membership, quit the Opry in disgust over the entrenched racism therein…

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          • Now THAT is a topic I would love to explore: black members of the Grand Ole Opry. The only interaction I know that occurred between Opry members and blacks was at the Ryman Auditorium. Opry performers were booked on integrated shows with the black jubilee singers from Fisk University, which of course was very taboo back then. I would love to know if there was any cross-racial performing.

            Thank you for that name! I like picking up tidbits on local history. And as a former TN resident, I know I’m going to enjoy researching this.

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            • DeFord Bailey’s most famous musical number, if I remember right, is “Panama Limited”– he plays the harmonica, and features imitations of various train sounds. This sort of thing was a harmonica staple in those days– superseding the former harmonica staple-type: fox and hounds.

              So far as I’m aware, Bailey never sang at the Opry.

              As you are a former Nashville native, allow me to leave you with the name of another black native of Nashville: Leroy Carr, blues pianist and singer, who worked most often, in recordings, with Scrapper Blackwell, guitarist. Carr moved to Indianapolis, where he partnered with Blackwell (becoming another piano and guitar duo, like Georgia Tom and Tampa Red, performers/authors of “Tight Like That”, a huge seller in the 1920’s among blacks). Carr’s most famous song was “How Long, How Long (Has That Evening train Been Gone)”– and it sold almost as well as “Tight like That”– over 100,000 copies at a time when 78’s went for 75 cents each!

              Had a chance to buy a 19th century program of the Fisk Jubilee Singers some years ago– still kick myself when I think about it.

              And one more thing (though I’m not proud of it, given the outcome). I worked for a landscaping company years ago that put in a huge planting at the entrance to Fisk U— the site drained poorly, and in less than a year, everything we put it was dead…

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              • I was going to wait until Christmas break to start researching this, but I couldn’t wait. Emailed a family friend who lives outside of Nashville and asked him to direct me to anything related to DeFord Bailey.

                He scanned and emailed some old newspaper clippings and local magazine articles that discussed Bailey’s life and career. After his career faded out, he ended up living in some housing projects in Nashville in the 70s, working odd jobs and playing gigs here and there. I just can’t believe that I’d never heard of this man before. All these years, I thought that Charley Pride was the first black country musician to ever record with a label, but I was wrong; DeFord Bailey was first.

                My family friend is going to send me an album from the Tennessee Folklore Society that has several Bailey songs on it. That might be a problem for me because I don’t have a record player, but I still want it. The music scene up here in the Northwest is fine, but there are times when I miss that good old Southern/rockabilly/blues/Delta juke/jazz music. Thanks again for telling me about DeFord Bailey.

                (BTW, I grew up in Memphis, but Memphis and Nashville have a symbiotic relationship, so I guess I indirectly grew up in Nashville:)

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                • see youtube for several more (I’m hoping you can access the site)– including live performances he made when an older man.

                  Pan American Blues is the title– not as I had it yesterday….

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        • Yes, region can be a factor. But, growing up in the Northeast, my high school history classes mentioned other American West icons, good and bad — Bat Masterson, Jesse James, Wyatt Earp, etc. — but not Nat Love.

          Glad that Love gets some recognition in western states, and that your parents introduced you to him and other important figures!

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  2. Here are two examples, so far unmentioned by other contributors:

    The Death Ship by B. Traven (1926), takes place mostly on a grimy hulk whose owners might just be more interested in it as a sunken item than a floating one, given the insurance involved. Bit who would sign on to crew such a vessel? Stateless sailors, without papers or passports, desperate for any kind of work, if not just a way out of the clutches of local authorities. A metaphor for late-stage capitalism? Probably yep– but a good one, and by a man who might have been agreeable to the designation “anarchist.”

    The Veiled Man (1891), by Marcel Schob, is a short story wherein all action takes place within a railway car– a man whose face the narrator cannot see murders another occupant– if there really was a man with his face obscured. There is definitely a murder…

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  3. Another excellent post Dave !!!

    Now I see that you and Kat Lib have already mentioned “Murder on the Orient Express,” by Agatha Christie a great mystery and also there was this movie. glmeisner “Around the World in 80 Days” another great one.

    Now Jack Reacher in “Make Me ” the drifter who only travels with a toothbrush Lee Child`s latest decided to hop on a train in the middle of nowhere to only to disembark for the odd name of the town called ” Mother`s Rest” and oh did he have a ride. Mr Child is making Reacher more of a soul with a tender heart makes me wonder what will be coming out for the nomadic drifter next October.

    A lot of horse carriage ride in “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, “Jamaica Inn” by Daphne du Maurier, “Gone With the Wind” by Margaret Mitchell.

    Then “Don Quixote” by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra ( I read the English translation of course),Jane Austen`s “Emma ” with horseback riding.
    In so many classics a lot of foot strolls and walks.

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    • Thank you, bebe! Glad you liked the post!

      Ah, a train ride in “Make Me.” 🙂 I’m looking forward to reading that novel. I’m currently reading the previous Jack Reacher book (from 2014) — “Personal.” Good not great so far, but I’m fairly early in it. Have you read that one? So far, it has had several plane rides, including one from the West Coast to the East Coast and another from the U.S. to France. Speaking of tender Reacher moments, he visits his mother’s Paris grave in “Personal.”

      Horse-carriage rides — nice mention, along with your naming of three iconic authors! Then there’s an interesting novel that contrasts the horse-and-buggy age with the coming automobile era: Booth Tarkington’s “The Magnificent Ambersons.”

      And horse riding! That’s a post in itself! In addition to “Emma” and “Don Quixote,” there’s “Jane Eyre,” “Daniel Deronda,” and so many other novels. Plus of course fiction set in the American West…

      Loved your comment!

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  4. “Summer’s going fast, nights growing colder
    Children growing up, old friends growing older
    Freeze this moment a little bit longer
    Make each sensation a little bit stronger
    Experience slips away
    Experience slips away…”

    *waves my concert Canadian flag bandana in the air*

    Fly By Night would work too:)

    Since you brought up Rush, I now must add other songs and artists with some type of travel theme in either their songs or band names:

    (1) Rocket Man – Elton John
    (2) Midnight Train To Georgia – Gladys Night & The Pips

    (3) Jefferson Airplane, who eventually changed into Jefferson Starship

    (4) Space Oddity – David Bowie
    (5) Chattanooga Choo Choo – Glenn Miller
    (6) Drive – The Cars
    (7) Sailing – Christopher Cross
    (8) I Drove All Night – originally by Roy Orbison, but it was remade by Cyndi Lauper, then again by Celine Dion

    (9) The Long and Winding Road – The Beatles
    (10) Cracklin’ Rosie – Neil Diamond

    You should’ve known I was gonna go there with the music side post, Dave. That’s what you get for including Rush in this week’s topic.

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    • Thanks, Ana, for the funny/serious comment!

      Love those poignant lyrics to “Time Stand Still,” the Rush song I linked to.

      And that’s a GREAT list of bands or songs with a travel theme! Some others would include “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” James Brown’s “Night Train,” The Who’s “Magic Bus,” Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and “Pink Cadillac,” The Clash’s “Brand New Cadillac,” CCR’s “Travelin’ Band,” U2’s “Daddy’s Gonna Pay for Your Crashed Car,” The Beach Boys’ “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Fun Fun Fun,” Neil Young’s “Long May You Run” (may be more about a person than a car), Don McLean’s “American Pie” (“…drove my Chevy to the levee…”), etc. 🙂

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          • If you haven’t already, maybe try Pet Sounds and Smile and Wild Honey and Surf’s Up and 20/20 and other albums from their obscure late-60’s-early 70’s period. It really helped the Beach Boys, who were huge fans, to see what the Beatles could make out of the LP format. And then, of course, they made their own.

            The radio hits have mostly been beaten to death by repetition, though i still love “I Can Hear Music”, “In My Room”, “I Get Around” and a few others.

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            • Thanks, jhNY! Yes, I realize the Beach Boys’ post-early-’60s stuff was more complex, and that Brian Wilson pulled together some genius recordings before falling apart for a number of years.

              BTW, I finished “Grail Nights” last night, and was blown away. It really deserves much wider distribution, as you noted is a possibility. Beautifully written, very readable, dialogue that sounds like real life, poignant, deep when dealing with deep matters (such as death and romantic disappointment) and also deep when dealing with more “trivial” matters (such as in that disturbing cock-fighting story). Plus Sheila is a fully realized, three-dimensional character.

              Will try to figure out a way to mention the book in a future column!

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                • My pleasure, jhNY! And I will name the author again: Amanda Moores.

                  I don’t see “Grail Nights” on Amazon; will it be there eventually? Or are you first waiting to find out its ultimate publishing fate?

                  The book has a great look, too. 🙂

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                  • As to your last question: yes.

                    Depending on how things go with publisher, I have an idea I’ll e-mail you about in the next few days.

                    As to the look: blame my grandmother who bought the book “Die Niebelungen” from which the illustrations derive, in 1920. Was originally published in 1908, but after WWI, Germany in desperate need of foreign currency, put it out for the US market, in German– the paper’s cheap; the prints are gorgeous… could not make out the artist’s name from the signature nor from the front page of the book proper.

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                    • Good luck with the publisher possibility!

                      Well, you had an eye for remembering, appreciating, and using evocative, striking illustrations that fit the mood of the book!

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      • Luxury Liner by Gram Parsons, Crawling from the Wreckage (into a brand new car) by Graham Parker, Rocket 88 by Jackie Branston and his Delta Cats, Mercury Blues by David Linley, Terraplane Blues by Robert Johnson, Me and My Chauffeur by Memphis Minnie, Come Fly With Me by Frank Sinatra, (Come Away With Me, Lucille) In My Merry Oldsmobile by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, The Wreck of the Old 97 by Vernon Dalhart, The Titanic by Leadbelly, Golden Rocket by Hank Snow, Hobo Bill’s Last Ride by Jimmie Rodgers, Waiting For a Train, also by Jimmie Rodgers, and that’s just off the top of my head….

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    • OK. Ana, one of my favorite artists is David Bowie, so I enjoy the mention of “Space Oddity,” and I should also mention his “Ashes to Ashes” that also mentioned Major Tom.

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  5. Hi Dave,

    I think the ‘jalopy’ in “Grapes of Wrath” would have been good fun if it wasn’t so desperate. I’m very close to finishing the novel, and still no little white house in sight 😦

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    • Hi, Susan! Yes, in another situation, the Joads’ ramshackle vehicle might indeed have been kind of fun. A good thing the son Al was an excellent mechanic!

      Definitely a very sad novel, with little bits of inspiration. As you probably know, the very end of the book is famous — and was apparently written or at least planned before Steinbeck actually wrote the novel.

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      • I’m so glad that you worded your comment this way, Dave, as unfortunately, I’m pretty ignorant about literature that I haven’t read. However, I can now add “Grapes” to the list of books that I have read. Wow. So devastating, and yet so beautiful. After poor Grandma, my emotions were completed wrecked, and I don’t think I got through a single page without shedding at least a couple of tears. No comment on the very end as I think it will take some time to digest. I have no idea what to make of the ‘ending’ as a whole. Without any kind of closure, I’m not sure how I’m going to move on..

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        • So well said, Susan. A REALLY devastating novel. You’re right that the emotional blows just kept on coming, with almost never-ending death and deprivation along with the bravery, indignation, stoicism, etc. I guess the conclusion is sort of a “life goes on when things are darkest” moment — even as one wonders what will ultimately happen to those Joads who survived.

          And, though not to as great an extent as with “East of Eden,” Steinbeck went a bit biblical; as you might have noticed, preacher-turned-fighter-against-injustice Jim Casy had the same initials as Jesus Christ.

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          • “And, though not to as great an extent as with “East of Eden,” Steinbeck went a bit biblical.”

            Then there’s that Rose of Sharon at the end…and the title itself, the ingredients of “the great winepress of the wrath of God”, though traveling by way of Howe’s more succinct phrasing.

            The wikipedia article contains this quote out of “The Grapes of Wrath”, which bears rereading, often even:

            “This is the beginning—from “I” to “we”. If you who own the things people must have could understand this, you might preserve yourself. If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into “I”, and cuts you off forever from the “we”.

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            • Thanks, jhNY, for the additional biblical/God references in “The Grapes of Wrath”!

              If only the 1% of the 1930s had taken to heart that great Steinbeck excerpt in your third paragraph. Of course, the 1% almost never does, in any era.

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          • I must admit that I missed the JC reference, though it makes sense now that you’ve pointed it out. What a man he was (Casy, not Jesus). And I kind of liked the religious parts of “Grapes” which is unusual for me. As Casy was an ex-preacher, I never felt like I was being preached at. And he was SO flawed that it was hard to take the religion seriously, but I very much liked the man.

            I am still reeling from so much that happened in “Grapes of Wrath”. I had a look back at some of your older blogs, and was surprised not to see some of these things in “Bring out your dead!”, however I was kind of relieved when I went back to “All’s well that ends well” from November last year, and saw “Grapes” mentioned there 🙂

            Speaking of endings, I recently read “Crime and Punishment” which was pain, pain, pain, and then he fell in love and lived happily ever after. Then I read “Mockingjay” which was pain, pain, pain, and then she got married and had some babies and lived happily ever after. Although literature isn’t quite as predictable as Hollywood, I guess we do want happy endings. Having said that, my gut reaction to the last scene of “Grapes” was that I liked it. I REALLY liked it, though it didn’t quite sit well with me. Then my brain took over from my emotions, and I wondered if it wasn’t perhaps just a little too gimmicky. But the more I think about it, the more perfect it feels. And as close to a happy ending as we were likely to get.

            My personal problem with the overall ending of “Grapes” was the lack of closure. You mention the Joads who survive, but I’m not even sure who survived. Sure, I can picture that Tom randomly finds himself in a Rivendell type place and the elves take him in and cook him dinner, and Noah has met Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn and they’re all fishing and having the time of their lives, but it seems unlikely. At least “Grapes” was completely unrealistic, and the thought of people starving to death, or living their whole lives without any hope won’t keep me up at night.

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            • Susan, a heartfelt and VERY interesting/reflective follow-up comment — with some of your trademark humor. Tom Joad in “The Lord of the Rings” — hahaha! “One trip west to bind them all…” 🙂

              But, seriously, Jim Casy WAS a flawed, amazing character — whose religion was palatable partly because it eventually became what would later be called “liberation theology,” or maybe just plain old humanism. And the ending of “The Grapes of Wrath” WAS gimmicky in a way — but, as you say, just about perfect.

              Readers do often have a desire for a happy ending, or at least a not totally unhappy ending. Hopefully, a happy or mixed ending feels “right” for a story — not just tacked on. The conclusion to the fantastic “Crime and Punishment” somehow seems exactly what it should be even though it’s not as downbeat as the rest of the novel. (Spoiler alert: Among the novels I feel is lessened by a happier-than-warranted ending is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The House of the Seven Gables.”)

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                • “Jane Eyre” would still be a great novel even with a completely unhappy conclusion, but somehow the part-happy ending worked for me after all the heartache Jane went through.

                  Of course, the coincidence of the distraught/exhausted Jane happening to collapse on the doorstep of her then-unknown-to-her relatives, and the improbability of Jane “hearing” Rochester’s voice from so far away, well, Mulder and Scully will be investigating all that when “The X-Files” returns…

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                  • “One trip west to bind them all…”
                    If only 😦

                    I enjoyed the happy ending of “Crime and Punishment”. He was in prison (not a big shock) falling in love with someone that I’d loved from the beginning, so nothing felt tacked on. I’ve not read any Hawthorne, however if I remember correctly, “Of Human Bondage” had one of those tacked on endings? The perfect woman appeared from out of nowhere so that Philip could fall in love and live happily ever after? Or I could be thinking of a Dickens novel?

                    And I too like the ending of “Jane Eyre”. She got her man, but I wouldn’t call it a happy ending. Like “C&P”, I thought it fit nicely with rest of the novel. And I love your “X-Files” reference 🙂

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                    • Thanks, Susan!

                      “Jane Eyre” is my favorite novel, so, whatever its flaws, overall I think it’s wonderful. 🙂 And Rochester’s grievous injuries did indeed make the conclusion rather mixed.

                      You’re absolutely right about “Of Human Bondage.” The ending seemed a little manipulated in its happy way, although there were some pangs about Philip giving up his travel dreams for domesticity and being a small-town doctor. But a superb novel, as you know.

                      And, yes, Sonya in “Crime and Punishment” is a character a reader can love and greatly admire!

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                    • I recall that in much of the ‘Epilogue’ Raskolnikov, although buoyed by the love of Sonya and feeling somewhat assuaged by that, still holds a bitterness in his heart toward much of humanity, still blaming external circumstances and avoiding responsibility for his actions. He is still tormented by his dreams and the leftover demons of his past are still plaguing him. However, he hears that Sonya is sick in bed and not going anywhere. He goes out that morning and looks at ‘the wide, desolate river. From the high bank a wide view of the surrounding countryside opened out. A barely audible song came from the far bank opposite. There, on the boundless, sun-bathed steppe, nomadic yurts could be seen, like barely visible black speck. There was freedom, there a different people lived, quite unlike those here, there time itself seemed to stop, as if the centuries of Abraham and his flocks had not passed. Raskolnikov stared fixedly, not tearing his eyes away; his thought turned to reverie, to contemplation; he was not thinking of anything, but some anguish troubled and tormented him.’

                      Suddenly Sonya appears beside him, sitting down next to him. She smiles and gives him her hand. On previous occasions, he had been reluctant to take it, insisting on sulking. This time their hands do not separate. The barriers he has erected fall away and he breaks down in tears, and embraces her knees. They both cry in silence but they’re both happy and content with this new peace they’ve reached between them.

                      Over subsequent days, he recalls the events of his past but it as if they happened to someone else. He has now reached some distance and detachment from his past. He pics up the Gospels but does not open them. The thought flashes in him: “Can her convictions not be my convictions now? Her feelings, her aspirations, at least…”

                      This is all within the last three pages of the 551 page novel. Only at this point does Raskolnikov finally ‘repent’, consider himself worthy of loving and being loved and facing the rest of his seven year sentence with acceptance. He has traveled a LONG way to reach this point but he finally does it. That makes this conclusion completely believable to me. He doesn’t change just because they acknowledge the other’s love. He has to evolve up to this point. And so it’s a fairly hard-won happy ending but it is earned completely.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Beautifully stated, Brian. One reason why “Crime and Punishment” is such an amazing novel is its deepness and complexity — with nothing pat or simplified or formulaic. So even a “happy” ending is rich and satisfying and, as you rightly say, hard-won.

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            • I think that ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ ends with a perfect metaphorical image of the renewal of life. Out of death comes the sustenance of life and so on. I did not need any literal closure of what happened next to which character at that point. That would be another story. With this novel, the people that died were no longer there and the ones that lived, such as Tom Joad, are presumably alive somewhere out there. The same statement could be made about the people in the railroad car in the middle of a flood that Faulkner said of Dilsey at the end of ‘The Sound and the Fury’: ‘They endured’.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Well said! “The Grapes of Wrath” ending certainly was an incredible “life goes on”/”people will endure” moment. There was plenty of misery undoubtedly ahead for the surviving Joads, but they hadn’t lost their humanity. Can’t say the same for the greedy “one percenters” of the time who made life hell for the Joads and the other desperate people coming to California.

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  6. This is such an incredible and actually a very informative read! I learnt a lot from this and enjoyed it very much. So thank you for transporting me for a few minutes there (pun not intended!), that was really amazing. I still enjoy, read and love your blog posts as much as I did the day I read you’re jack reacher one lol. Keep it up!

    Liked by 1 person

      • I promise it was not intended! But it was true. You transported me. What I love so much about your blog is that is is very intellectual. Although I hastily write reviews and comments (because of limited time because of my babies!) I actually wish I could type so well as you do. I miss that. You’re blog posts are so amazing though and very knowledgeable. I am a self proclaimed Epistemologist. Which is basically a person who study’s knowledge! It’s all I do, it’s kind of an addiction so your blog has been helping this addiction! But sorry for this long winded comment, it came out of no where!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, you’ve made my day. Thank you! I also try to make my blog posts conversational and entertaining; I’ve found some book pieces get a little TOO intellectual. 🙂

          I think your blog is great! Your enthusiasm and knowledge of literature are an impressive combination!

          Liked by 1 person

          • They can never be TOO intellectual. Nothing can ever be too intellectual lol. I do love the diversity in your blog though. And thank you, to be honest, I do this for two reasons) one, I love talking to fellow book lovers and two) I like to keep track of what I am reading and to write reviews. That is why I do it (:

            Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave, I really enjoyed the multitude of vehicles that were used in “Around the World in 80 Days”. The whole set includes boats, trains, and the infamous hot air balloon, even if it isn’t used as much as the movies have made it seem. The trains were the most used form of transportation is I remember right. The book had a near comical ending as the main character fails to account for the international dateline.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, RushCon fans are discussing this on our blog. It’s hard to figure out what’s the real story though. Geddy basically stated on yesterday that Neil “misspoke”, and that he just wants to stop touring worldwide rather than leave the band altogether. Continue making music, yes, but pair new music with a more stripped-down touring schedule.

      Phil Collins did the exact same thing during his Farewell Tour in the late 90s. He cited health and wanting to spend more time with the children after his divorce as the reasons for leaving the music industry. Collins is now in Miami working on a new album and tour dates, plus there are rumours about a Genesis mini-reunion.

      This is the approach that Neil will probably take. Focus on his health and family while still doing what he loves musically, but cut back on the heavy touring which I’m sure takes a toll on his body.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I subsequently read other articles and it does seem like it may not be a full retirement. Given Neil Peart’s desire to see more of his family and his dealing with tendinitis, smaller-scale concert tours and perhaps more studio recordings (as you note) might be a good compromise.

        So many musicians and bands have “retired” and then returned, but Peart’s very aggressive (yet sublime) drumming and his having a new family after tragically losing his first family gives him more incentive than most rock stars to cut back.

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        • Neil doesn’t strike me as the type to be wishy-washy and play coy about his future plans. If he says he wants to be a recording musician rather than a touring musician, I believe him. Rush won’t follow the playbook of bands that *retire* every other year.

          One area where I’d like to see Rush is in the performing arts. I saw the Trans-Siberian Orchestra over the Thanksgiving holiday. Some of the songs and performances reminded me of the live versions of La Villa Strangiato and the R30 Overture, two of my favourite Rush instrumental songs.

          Their instrumentals could easily be used in a rock opera. The compositions are incredible, and hearing them live…I can’t even describe it. Since the band is scaling back, I hope to see them in other musical projects, specifically in the performing arts.

          Dave, I am impressed with your Rush knowledge. Keep this up, and I’ll have to give you a Canadian flag bandana:)

          Liked by 1 person

          • Yes, Neil Peart seems very direct.

            Some performing-arts-connected work sounds like a great idea. Maybe a movie soundtrack, too?

            Well, my Rush knowledge is recently learned, thanks to your influence! If I ever earn that bandana, I’ll take a size large… 🙂

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            • Definitely musical scores and/or soundtracks. I just want them to continue making music in another capacity. It’s too bad you never got a chance to see them live.

              I can hook you up with a bandana, but if you want a Rush t-shirt, you’re on your own. All of mine are spoken for, and some have “Geddy’s Girl” on the back.

              Liked by 1 person

              • It would have been great to see them live. If only I hadn’t been in Indianapolis when they came to NJ and NYC this past June. 😦 And yes, making music in some capacity would be welcome. Heck, Neil Peart could write lyrics without leaving home and without worsening his tendinitis.

                LOL! You’re right that “Geddy’s Girl” wouldn’t work for me. 🙂 Maybe a “Lee’s and Lifeson’s Lit Lover” T-shirt?

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  8. Howdy, Dave!

    — What are you[r] favorite fictional works featuring the transportation modes I mentioned? —

    As an adherent of a dualistic solution to the mind-body problem posed by modern philosophers in this corner of the multiverse (at least most of the spacetime), I may appreciate Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha” and “The Journey to the East” less for their employment of modes of locomotion in mindspace and more for their use of modes of locomotion in bodyspace.

    It is clear the Buddhist-influenced “Siddhartha” centers on the ferry-across-the-river as its controlling metaphor to such an extent that it would be a completely different novel without it.

    And it is equally clear the Taoist-influenced “The Journey to the East” exemplifies the notable quotation attributed to Laozi, “A journey of a thousand miles starts under one’s feet,” with the point driven home in this early on-the-nose passage (even though it makes no reference to Reebok, Nike or Adidas): “[A]t certain stages of our Journey to the East, although the commonplace aids of modern travel such as railways, steamers, telegraph, automobiles, airplanes, etc., were renounced, we penetrated into the heroic and magical.”

    Of course, Laozi also allegedly claimed: “Those who know do not say. Those who say do not know.” So my appreciation of these two Hessian books may be wrong-headed on both counts.

    J.J. (Alias MugRuith1)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, J.J.!

      Yes, transportation can be both literal and metaphorical. One of these days I must read Herman Hesse!

      Thanks for your eloquent, thought-provoking, deep, entertaining, and funny comment. (Okay, that’s enough adjectives for now… 🙂 )

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      • — One of these days I must read Herman Hesse! —

        I know you mentioned the same ambition in your “Stack to the Future” blog post last month, so I offer this Pick 6 list of Hermann Hesse novels, based on my own order of preference should I someday get a chance to reread them:
        1. “Steppenwolf”
        2. “Siddhartha”
        3. “Magister Ludi”
        4. “The Journey to the East”
        5. “Demian”
        6. “Beneath the Wheel”

        Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks so much, J.J.!

          I just made my monthly trip to the library yesterday, but will take out the highest-ranked Hesse book I see during my early-January visit! Looking forward to it.

          You have read a LOT of Hesse!

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          • — You have read a LOT of Hesse! —

            The novels, yes. The poems, no. And, incredibly (to me), it appears the author’s prose was the secondary driver and his poetry was the primary driver of the Swedish Academy’s decision to award him the 1946 Nobel Prize in Literature, based on my interpretation of the presentation speech delivered by Anders Osterling, the academy’s permanent secretary (http://bit.ly/1NBENGv).

            Liked by 1 person

            • Interesting. I didn’t realize Hesse was also considered a prominent poet. Makes me think of those rare writers well-known for both poetry and novels — Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Hardy, to name two deceased ones; and Margaret Atwood and Alice Walker, to name two living ones.

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        • Howdy, jhNY!

          — An acquaintance recommended Siddhartha to teach me repose, but I couldn’t sit still long enough to finish it. —

          The same thing happened to me with a half-gallon of Ole tequila about 40 years ago!

          J.J.

          P.S.: To All Young Peoples Who May Have Accidentally Come Across This Comment on the Internets: Please bear in mind the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has advised that drinking too much booze — either on a single occasion or over time — can take a serious toll on your health (e.g., on your brain, heart, immune system, liver and/or pancreas) and that I have independently determined Ole kind of sucks, so if you’re going to discount the NIAAA’s wise counsel, then you really should go with something like Patron Silver. Of course, the 1800 isn’t exactly chopped liver, either. (Which is good, me being an ovolactovegetarian and all.)

          Liked by 1 person

          • There’s a point, which is too slippery to pin down while drinking the stuff, for me anyway, where tequila moves from being a depressant to a psychedelic, though it still retains its crippling properties. At least, unlike mescal, one is not expected to eat the worm within….

            Liked by 1 person

            • — There’s a point, which is too slippery to pin down while drinking the stuff, for me anyway, where tequila moves from being a depressant to a psychedelic —

              Indeed. And I suspect this point would have made it appealing to both Siddharthas in “Siddhartha” at different junctures in their respective timelines: The agave azul may not be the Bodhi tree, but it’s just all right with me.

              Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Dave, the first book that to mind was “The Girl on the Train,” by Paula Hawkins that came out early last year. It was voted in the 2015 Goodreads Readers Choice Awards as the year’s best Mystery/Thriller. It starts with Rachel, who commutes to London ever day. She becomes obsessed with a couple who live in the housing development that Rachel had lived in a few doors down from when she was married to Tom. She thinks that they have this perfect life, which she no longer has is and is bitter. Tom still lives in that house with his new love, Anna. The novel is told from the viewpoint of three women, Rachel, Anna and Megan, the wife of the “golden couple” Rachel watches when the train stops right beside the row of homes where she used to live. The story unfolds when Megan goes missing. I was talking about this book at a luncheon the other day, and a few of the other women who read this book hated it. I suppose in a way this book is one like “Gone Girl,” which people either loved or hated. It’s hard to like Rachel, who has as she says herself, went from “being a drinker to a drunk.” I actually really liked the novel (and Rachel, in spite of her many flaws), but it wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste. I think I wrote a comment here about this book right after it came out. Sorry for the duplication. 🙂

    As for planes, there was a series when I was quite young about a flight stewardess by name of Vicki Barr. They were written by Helen Wells, who also wrote the Cherry Ames (a nurse) series, in the same vein as Nancy Drew, the Dana Girls, the Hardy Boys, and many others. I must admit that I read them all, at least up until I became a teenager.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Kat Lib! You described “The Girl on the Train” VERY well, and it does sound like one of those love-it-or-hate-it novels like “Gone Girl” (which I haven’t read yet) and J.K. Rowling’s “The Casual Vacancy” (which I thought was excellent but a good number of people loathe).

      Some of those kid or YA series can be very addictive for younger readers. Even if some of those books are only so-so from an adult perspective, anything that gives kids and teens the reading habit is okay by me!

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      • Dave, you mentioned Agatha Christie’s “Murder on the Orient Express,” a favorite of mine. In fact, I think I just read that Kenneth Branagh was going to do another version of this novel on screen. There were several other novels that revolved around transportation, one being “4:50 from Paddington,” that starred Miss Marple and her friend who saw a murder happening while passing each other on the train. Another Miss Marple mystery was “Nemesis,” that had Miss Marple on a bus tour to look over British mansions and gardens, set up by a wealthy British friend to bring justice to his son (if I remember correctly). While Christie may not have been the best writer, she certainly knew how to spin a tale that was quite fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sounds like Agatha Christie’s mysteries had their share of “mass transit.” 🙂 Thanks for the excellent mentions of those novels, Kat Lib!

          Hmm…another iconic movie might be redone? I have mixed feelings about that, but I guess there’s always money to be (possibly) made…

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          • Well, I do agree somewhat with you, because I think most people know how “Murder on the Orient Express” turns out; however, there is something so sumptuous about spending time on this train that is so interesting to me. I had the good fortune to spend a summer on European trains traveling around Europe and while not as great as the “Orient Express,” they were so much better than American,”

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes, a movie that’s set on a nice train can be very welcome, even if a remake. 🙂 And Kenneth Branagh is extremely talented.

              I totally agree about European trains, Kat Lib. I love them, and they ARE so much better than American ones. Glad you had a whole summer of riding them! I’ve been on many European trains during shorter trips (four days to two weeks). One of my favorite rides was from Paris to Venice — getting out in the latter city and seeing the Grand Canal was unforgettable.

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              • The Lisbon – Coimbra train route is great too. It’s an almost 2 hour ride, but the time flies by when you’re looking at those beautiful historic buildings.

                Some layovers in Lisbon are quite long (about 10-12 hours depending on where you’re going), so it’s easy to take the train for a day trip to Coimbra.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Would love to visit Portugal one day, Ana, and take the wonderful train ride you described as well as do other things. I almost got to Portugal during the honeymoon for my first marriage. We planned to visit both Spain and Portugal, but there was so much to do and see in Madrid, Toledo, Granada, and Seville that we didn’t quite make it to Lisbon.

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                  • I’m the opposite. I can’t seem to make it to Spain because I can’t pull myself away from Portugal. I always discover something new in those off-the-beaten-path areas.

                    It helps being fluent in the language/knowledgeable about Lusophone culture because I can easily navigate through those small towns and find neat places that are not touristy. The owner of the hostel I stayed in during my last trip had a brother who was a sheep farmer. Very friendly guy. He invited us to lunch on his farm, and we had a great time.

                    Dave, let’s make a deal: I can live vicariously through you since you’ve been to Spain, and you can live vicariously through me since I’ve been to Portugal. We can pretend like we’ve visited both of those countries:)

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Ha! Sounds like a Vulcan mind-meld, Iberian Peninsula-style. 🙂

                      I hear you that one reason you love Portugal so much is your knowing the language and culture so well. That sheep-farm experience sounds fantastic!

                      I’ve been to France twice with my French professor wife, and one can REALLY enjoy a country and get off the beaten path easier when one is traveling with someone like that!

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              • My two girlfriends and I spent 9 weeks in Europe in 1969, and other than a few weeks in England, most were spent using the Eurail Pass to go from train to train for no additional cost. It was one way to spend nights on the train and rather than a hotel, pension or hostel cost every night, we would often spend extra nights just traveling. I think the longest we spent was 4 nights on the train; by the time we came into Hamburg, Germany, we finally got a hotel room and spent the day washing all of us and our clothes! This was back in the days that we literally spent less than $5.00 a day traveling. It was one of the best times of my life!

                Liked by 1 person

                • Such great memories for you, Kat Lib! The unlimited rides for one price were so welcome for young travelers on a limited budget, and, as you say, sleeping on a train saved even more money. (Though one could find very cheap hotel or hostel accommodations back then.) Four nights on a train — wow!

                  My most “one place to another” European trip was in 1979. Six countries (and more than six cities) in two weeks. Traveled alone, which had its positives and negatives. 🙂

                  I still have an Arthur Frommer “Europe on $5 a Day” guidebook somewhere in my apartment. Or maybe it was $10 or $15 a day by ’79…

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                  • Wasn’t it great to spend time in Europe during that time! My friends and I went over to England and were told by the trip organizers not to not appear as hippies, so we dressed very conservatively and most Europeans thought we were either English or Scandinavians and were treated very well by those we came into contact with. We never lied about who we were, but it did somehow make traveling a much nicer experience. We were once visiting the Uffizi Museum in Florence while there was an anti-NATO protest going on, and we met up with a very nice group of Communists who helped us get out of the museum safely. They even gave us small red flags to show that we were with the protest group. When we broke off the main group in Calais, we were I think the only ones who decided to go south around Europe as opposed to going north. We ran into many of the group who had decided to go north in Zurich — we were the only ones who had perfect weather the whole time through, other than a few rainy days in Zurich, so we had beautiful weather the whole trip, even in England.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Wow — you had a really fascinating time, Kat Lib! Well told! Hard to remember these days how much in disdain “hippies” were held by people who might have been rather conservative and not so tolerant. And great that you had such excellent weather.

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          • Dave, I forgot to mention one of Agatha Christie’s novel starring Hercule Poirot, “Death in the Air.” I don’t imagine that there were many of her novels that weren’t staged in some location or another.

            Liked by 1 person

            • “Death in the Air” — a great example of this topic, Kat Lib!

              I’m guessing Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None” wasn’t about the disappearing amenities for passengers in coach. 🙂

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  10. How about ships, Dave? With everything from A Night to Remember (Titanic), to The Mutiny on the Bounty, Moby Dick, The Caine Mutiny just about most literature dealing with colonial times in the Americas. I remember reading The Thorn Birds, in which a great deal of the plot occurred on Australian trains. That made Richard Chamberlain a household name.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. The mode of transportation figures prominently in John Steinbeck’s travelogue, “Travels With Charley”. I guess you could call his custom truck with a camper an early version of a recreational vehicle. He described it lovingly in his book and he even named it Rocinante in honor of Don Quixote’s horse.

    What about the wonderful Nautilus in Jules Verne’s “Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea” or the airplane that lands its passengers near Shangri-La in James Hilton’s “Lost Horizon”? The “mood” in both of these novels inspires awe and wonder! I can’t even put into words how both of these novels made me feel when I read them.

    Then there are novels that take place on ships……………

    Liked by 1 person

    • OMG — the plane ride in “Lost Horizon”! How did I forget to include that in my column? Very glad you mentioned that mesmerizing novel, lulabelle. I know you’re a big fan of it, and I am, too.

      Yes, the custom vehicle Steinbeck drove in “Travels With Charley” was in effect an RV. And it was given such a great name, as you note.

      One of these days I have to reread Jules Verne! I devoured at least a half dozen of his novels as a teen and very young adult, and absolutely loved them.

      Great comment! Thanks!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Frank Rich recently wrote an interesting piece in New York magazine called Loving Carol. Its about Patricia Highsmith,mentioned in prior post as author of ‘Strangers on a Train” a film /book that also came to my mind. Rich discusses,in detail, Highsmith’s challenging life,being a lesbian and trying to deal with difficulties as both a writer and woman in the 1950s. Her second book was called The Price of Salt.” Her publisher Harper & Brothers rejected it,they green lighted Strangers but this story was of a lesbian affair so too taboo. The current film “Carol” is based on this book. Another publisher published it but she used a pseudonym Claire Morgan. The next year Bantam bought the 35 cent paperback edition with leering cover set of seduction complete with lurid ad copy. It sold nearly a million copies.

    To get back to your topic,I’ll add the children’s book “Polar Express.” Book and film a favorite of my dad’s.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fascinating information about Patricia Highsmith, Michele. Thanks! Dismaying how much homophobia and sexism there was back then (both still around to some degree, of course) and also dismaying how publishers can be timid or exploitative or both.

      As for “Polar Express,” that’s a GREAT example of a train in children’s literature!

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  13. It’s all about the journey, not the destination, particularly in American storytelling. Trains figure prominently. Then there is Kerouac’s On the Road, which I read much later in life than most. They just kept moving. And how about the raft in Huckleberry Finn? A refuge of equality and peace.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for the inclusion and praise of the book review, Dave! I feel that I owe some credit to you for inspiring me in my review, which is pretty permeated with your presence from the book.

    And back to trains, or planes, or whatever mode of transportation is convenient for kickstarting a story, Dostoevsky’s novel ‘The Idiot’, which I read and reviewed recently, opens with a scene on a train. Prince Myshkin, the saintly epileptic (of course–it’s Dostoevsky, after all!) is returning to St. Petersburg after a stay in a Swiss sanatorium, hoping to establish contact with one of his distant relatives, engage with people again, and see what new life awaits him after his recuperation. On the way, he meets a man named Rogozhin, who exudes dark motives and obsession, especially with a beautiful fallen heiress, Nastasya Filipovna. Everything about the man would probably back off most ‘ordinary’ people but Myshkin is an open hearted, generous spirit who is receptive. Rogozhin responds to this and gets to the point where he claims that they are spiritual brothers. In a sense, he’s right, but the events of the ensuing novel reveal their connection in unexpected ways. Anyway, I won’t delve any deeper into the novel than that, other than to say that this opening scene is Dostoevsky at his best, immediately hooking the reader and eliciting curiosity about these two.

    Another ‘train’ novel is ‘Strangers on a Train’ by Patricia Highsmith. I have not read the novel but I’m familiar with the classic Hitchcock film version. Similar opening to ‘The Idiot’ by the way in that it establishes a pairing between two characters that are totally unlike one another.

    That’s about all the train lore that strikes my brain at the moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Brian, for your comment — and thanks again for your wonderful review of my book that I linked to in my blog post. Much appreciated!

      I had forgotten that “Strangers on a Train” was a novel as well as the famous Hitchcock movie. Like you, I’ve seen the film but haven’t read the book.

      One of these days I have to read “The Idiot” — a novel which your terrific paragraph would make anyone want to read.

      I have vague memories of a train trip or two in “Crime and Punishment” and “The Brothers Karamazov,” but not strong enough memories to include that in the column. 🙂

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  15. Thanks to Bill Tammeus for recommending Stanley Elkin, and to Brian Bess, jhNY, Donny Backes Jr., drb19810, Amanda Hillard Beam, and others for recommending “As I Lay Dying” and/or William Faulkner in general!

    Like

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