This Literature Post Contains a Secret Supreme Court Message

Today’s column will be sort of random. What pulls it together is the first letter of every fiction title I’ll mention, because together those boldfaced letters spell out a message by the time you reach the end of this post. Here goes:

Beloved by Toni Morrison. A novel, about the psychological toll of slavery and more, chosen by The New York Times in 2006 as the best American fiction work of the previous 25 years.

Redburn by Herman Melville. The lesser-known but excellent Melville work, published in 1849, about a sea voyage to Liverpool that predated The Beatles.

Evelina by Fanny Burney. A novel about the adventures (romantic and otherwise) of a young woman that’s one of the most readable books of the 18th century.

Three Junes by Julia Glass. An interestingly structured novel with three separate but interconnected parts set in 1989, 1995, and 1999.

Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener. The famous stories-sewn-together-as-a-novel that feels more modern than a 21st-century reader would expect.

Kindred by Octavia Butler. Part science-fiction, part sobering social commentary as a 20th-century African-American woman is repeatedly pulled back in time to the Antebellum South.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. The best YA novel ever? Could be. About a brainy, spirited orphan girl in 19th-century Canada.

Villette by Charlotte Bronte. Uneven and not as riveting as the author’s Jane Eyre, but still pretty darn good.

Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque. This memorable novel, set in late-1930s Paris, features a German surgeon refugee who becomes romantically involved.

Native Son by Richard Wright. This riveting novel is a sort of 20th-century version of Crime and Punishment, with the added theme of American racism.

A Is for Alibi by Sue Grafton. The first of the engaging “alphabet mysteries” that star very human private investigator Kinsey Millhone. Sadly, the friendly Grafton (I spoke with her twice on Facebook) died before writing the 26th book.

Underworld by Don DeLillo. A long, sprawling novel that says a lot about the United States in the second half of the 20th century.

Gerald’s Game by Stephen King. I’m in the middle of reading this ultra-suspenseful book — which, though published in 1992, evokes the current Republican “war on women.” Gerald’s bad behavior toward his wife Jessie (and the sexual misconduct of other males in the novel) would make many a vile Republican politician proud.

Hollywood by Charles Bukowski. A hilarious fictionalization of the author’s experience writing the screenplay for the movie Barfly.

Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott. The great, justly famous historical novel. But while it’s Scott’s best-known work, it’s not his best work.

Silas Marner by George Eliot. Many high-schoolers supposedly dislike this novel, but I think it’s compelling and moving. And quite short for an Eliot book!

Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift. Fascinating satirical novel that can be enjoyed on different levels by kids and adults.

Ulysses by James Joyce. Oops — never read it.

Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri. So masterful that it became one of the few short-story collections to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Life of Pi by Yann Martel. A boy warily co-exists with an unfriendly tiger when they’re cast away at sea.

Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. The author’s first really successful novel is hilarious and socially astute.

Yet he still was confirmed. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

My 2017 literary-trivia book is described and can be purchased here: Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time.

In addition to this weekly blog, I write the award-winning “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for The latest weekly piece — which puts a local spin on the repugnant Brett Kavanaugh — is here.

51 thoughts on “This Literature Post Contains a Secret Supreme Court Message

  1. Dave, sorry for late reply to this one, been busy moving house. What a horrible experience. But this was a very clever blog, and I’m glad to hear that you’re finding “Gerald’s Game” compelling. Though it is a VERY cringy book. I first read it many, many years ago, but it’s definitely stayed with me

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Susan! And no comment is ever too late. ๐Ÿ™‚

      I finished “Geraldโ€™s Game” a week or so ago, and it was indeed VERY cringe-inducing. There are Stephen King novels I like better, but this book is definitely compelling and one I will not forget, either.

      Moving is SO stressful. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The best of luck with whatever you have left to do.


      • Thanks, Dave. Last thing on my list was – get well deserved junk food, eat at carwash and use their free wi-fi to catch up on email stuff. So I was pretty much done by the time I commented here ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t know why, but I find moving so emotionally confronting. I don’t feel like I have a huge connection to my material possessions, and then I watch strangers load them onto a truck as if they’re not personal, and I realise I do care very much. Fortunately I was able to move most of my books before they got there ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

        • Very glad that move is now more in your past than in your future, Sue. What a relief. Yes, it’s an odd feeling seeing one’s possessions loaded onto a truck by strangers. Nice you were able to move your books separately. The many-paged “The Luminaries” probably required its own box. ๐Ÿ™‚


          • Just to clarify, in case anybody thinks I’m a thief, I did actually get my car washed, I wasn’t just sponging their free wi-fi!

            I only have an electronic copy of “The Luminaries” so that was easy to move. My four different copies of “The Gunslinger” and the other 12 books that I have in that 7 book series is a whole different story!

            Liked by 1 person

            • Sue, no one would have thought less of you using free wi-fi without your car being washed around the time of a stressful move. ๐Ÿ™‚

              LOL — yes, eBooks are easy to carry! But the larger of Stephen King’s novels and series can give movers nightmares!


  2. So as far as Lilyan goes, she’s a very smart and resourceful dog, so we came in one day and she’d opened up the cabinet we keep her/Willow’s dry dog food in a plastic sealed container, but she’d opened the cabinet door and got the container opened and ate all of it. Then today we were out and, dummy me, I’d not also moved up the cat’s dry food to a high enough location, so Lil opened the cabinet door, found and opened Jess’s plastic container and all was gone. Now, since I’ve got no idea who ate how much each one of them about this new bounty of food, It’s hard to know who ate what but my detective brain thinks that looking at all of them, Lilyan looks the most guilty to have done this. Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

      • So far so good, as I learned from the last episode and had both dogs out as soon as we got home, then again when they had their much smaller dinners than usual. I was using my “little grey cells” that Hercule Poirot claimed was why he was such a great detective. ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Re Kavanaugh:

    Over all, the oligarchy has its reasons, and we who live below, because we are free, are free to endure, so long as we are able, whatever they do.

    The law is the creature of power. We had hoped for a better outcome.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, jhNY. “the oligarchy has its reasons” — exactly! And, in the case of Kavanaugh’s confirmation being rammed through, possible reasons include having Republican control of the three branches of the federal government; having a Supreme Court majority to protect Trump against Mueller, protect Citizens United, and perhaps outlaw abortion; etc.


    • I have to agree, M.B.! Even more impressive considering there wasn’t a specific “YA” category back then. ๐Ÿ™‚

      “Itโ€™s one thing Iโ€™m certain of in these very uncertain times” — loved that line!

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Not only is this acrostic a brilliant way to make yet another literary point, the inclusion of Michener’s “South Pacific” relates to me personally, since the song from the Broadway musical based on the book is often on my mind lately. Here are the lyrics, which resonate deeply, painfully, righteously, in my head to this day and forever, thanks to the songwriting geniuses Rodgers and Hammerstein:

    You’ve got to be taught
    To hate and fear,
    You’ve got to be taught
    From year to year,
    It’s got to be drummed
    In your dear little ear
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
    Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
    And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught.
    You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
    Before you are six or seven or eight,
    To hate all the people your relatives hate,
    You’ve got to be carefully taught!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, thepatterer, for the kind words and that VERY-relevant-to-today musical reference! I’ve actually never seen the Broadway musical based on Michener’s book, so those vaguely familiar lyrics were mostly new to me! Yes, brilliant — and humane — songwriting.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Dave and thepatterer, thanks for the mention of South Pacific. I enjoyed the movie musical a lot, but I was fortunate enough to see the revival of the play in Lincoln Center — I think it was the last musical I was lucky enough to see, after my surgical problems from the botched hip replacement, enough to say that there were other problems and surgeries after that that caused me other problems (?). One of the main problems that day was that there were drenching downpours from the time we arrived in NYC until we got back to Bucks Co. So bad that we had to abandon all umbrellas — the streets were littered with them! And the drive home took us forever because we had to change course several times. Not one of our happier times for a Broadway show. Nor was it one of our favorite shows! I’m sure there’s a cause and effect somewhere there; what do you think?

        Liked by 2 people

        • Thanks for the link, thepatterer! Well sung! (But perhaps lip-synched? ๐Ÿ™‚ ) Again, a great song. Michener himself seemed very comfortable with having diverse casts in a number of his novels (“Caravans” is another example) at a time when many books did NOT have diverse casts.

          Kat Lib, it sounds like you had a very mixed experience with that revival. Not fun. Seeing Broadway plays can be wonderful. But the logistics and cost? Not so much. Sorry it wasn’t a favorite show to make up for all that rain.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Great list of books and clever post, Dave, as usual. I wish it were possible to identify sexual predators by his or her party affiliation but Iโ€™m sure Paula Jones would say itโ€™s not that simple. The list goes on in both parties – Al Franken, John Conyers, Keith Ellison, Blake Farenthold, Trent Franks, Pat Meehan, and the list could go on. Itโ€™s a good thing we have literature to use as an escape from real life scandals. For those who are victims there is no escape from the effects, whether perpetrated by a Republican or Democrat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Molly!

      I agree there are sexual predators in both major parties. The difference is that, in at least a few recent cases, Democratic sexual predators were denounced by some fellow party members (as in the case of Conyers and Franken) or basically resigned voluntarily (Franken). Meanwhile, most national Republican politicians continue to publicly support a multiple sexual predator (Trump) and just voted to give Kavanaugh a lifetime Supreme Court despite him being credibly accused of sexual misconduct by three different women.

      Yes, there is no escape for the women who are victims of all this. They know they will be shamed, vilified, and threatened for telling the truth.

      Liked by 2 people

  6. That was quite clever, Dave!. I agree with the sentiment expressed, but it is quite frustrating with nothing much to do about it. The only thing I could do was send an email and call my Republican senator’s office on Friday. Per usual I’ll hear back in about 6 weeks. At least the other senator in my state reliably votes as Democratic. Both of us have changed our voting place to the Poconos, and it’s not too far away, and by that time, I don’t think there will be many people voting up here, but I’ll stand in line all day if necessary to do so. It’s that important to our country! I haven’t read that many of the works you cited, other than “A is for Alibi,” “Anne of Green Gables,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” and “Silas Marner.” As far as trying anything new, I’m feeling overwhelmed by what’s on my to-be-read list!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Kat Lib! I agree that it’s a helpless feeling when just, moral indignation is overwhelmed by Republican ruthlessness. That party’s misogyny is awful and toxic, and it’s beyond depressing that some GOP women (such as Susan Collins) buy into it.

      Great that you sent an email and called the Republican senator, even though that will evoke a belated form letter at best. I greatly admired the people (mostly women) who descended on DC during the past week. Harder for Republicans to ignore that the way they basically ignore calls, letters, emails, social media, etc. — though of course they ignored the protesters, too. And despite the GOP always doing everything in its power to suppress voting and democracy itself, many people descending on the polls next month has to be tried.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I so agree, Dave. I think that for first time in his long life, Bill will vote the Democratic ticket down the line. At least I hope so, or at least one of us will have to walk home from the polling place, which I’ll guarantee won’t be me! ๐Ÿ™‚ Ha! He’s been a life-long Republican, but I don’t think he voted at all in the 2016 elections!. I do know that he’s as outraged by Trump and his cohorts as I am, so I’m hoping that will be as many as him at voting time as am I.

        Liked by 2 people

        • LOL! Funnily said, Kat Lib! I hope for the sake of the relationship that no Republicans are voted for. ๐Ÿ™‚ And I guess we all hope, hope, hope that at least some Republicans have become so disgusted with all the hate and dictatorial qualities displayed by Trump, the GOP Senate, etc., that they will vote differently.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I didn’t want to make light of it, but I know that during the last election (2016), Bill was going through a very difficult time in his life because of a very close family death, so I’ll give him a pass on that one. I didn’t make light about it, and I’m glad I didn’t. So, here’s my mea culpa as expressed by my dear friend and housemate (and a Catholic!).

            Liked by 2 people

            • Well, in 2016, many people wanted CHANGE — whether the compassionate change of Bernie Sanders or the harsh change of Trump. And Trump, as awful as his campaign words and actions were, back then threw out a few tidbits (such as claiming he would never touch Social Security and acknowledging that the Iraq War was a mistake) to give the illusion that he might be a “third way” candidate — not quite a traditional reactionary Republican. As it turned out, of course, he’s a reactionary Republican on steroids who almost makes the ultraconservative George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan look like liberals. And, as you alluded to, if 2016 Trump voters now regret their vote rather than stubbornly stick with The Donald as he violates every norm of human decency, that is to their credit.

              Liked by 2 people

                • Drolly stated, literaturepoliticsfamilylife! There are VERY few “different kind of Republican” politicians/candidates these days. Almost all of them opportunistically/disgustingly express their allegiance to Trump.


                  • I’d say that anyone voting for Trump for any good or what they think are good reasons, e.g., Susan Sarandon, I think they are quite mistaken. I think I’m going to cull my DVDs of any of her DVDs, just as I did of my Mel Gibson DVDs when I moved to Kennett. I’ve got too many other good movies/TV shows and books to read, to watch/read things that don’t make me sick to my stomach, so there’s that (though I must admit I’ll miss Thelma and Louise, which I shouldn’t admit to when they drive off the Grand Canyon), but I can’t quite reach that point yet!).

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks for those thoughts, Kat Lib! My memory is that Susan Sarandon was a Bernie Sanders supporter during the primaries who ended up voting for Jill Stein in the 2016 election. While there’s definitely a debate to be had on whether it’s okay to vote for a third-party candidate, I think Sarandon’s “sin,” if there was one, was wanting to vote for a true progressive. So I feel she’s in a different category than the reactionary Mel Gibson, who has some Trump-like aspects. Just one person’s opinion; I hear what you’re saying. ๐Ÿ™‚


                    • Very often, artists are miserable creatures about whom the best that can be said is they made something better than themselves. In former times, the political musings of the theatrically employed were not taken seriously by serous people, save when the commentary devolved to statements such as that made by John Wilkes Booth.

                      Let’s be old-fashioned at least in that way, and enjoy the Sarandons for what they do well, and not discard them for what they say badly.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • jhNY, I guess when some celebrities (such as Trump) become politicians, other celebrities (such as Sarandon) have even more of a right to make their political views known.


                    • OK, I do agree with both of you in that I’ve said I’d never boycott or anything approaching that of an actor/musician/artist/etc., when it comes to their opinions on anything like politics or religion. His/her work should stand alone on its own, and not my personal opinion of his/her character I find suitable. Not that don’t have some standards, but it’s a pretty low bar for me. My best friend loves Patti Smith’s songs, but when I was praising her book about her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe among other things, she wouldn’t read it because of Mapplethorpe. She’s generally not judgmental about anyone, but apparently he crossed some line for her. Anyway, I won’t be discarding my DVD of “Thelma and Louise” any time soon!


                    • Thanks for your thoughts, Kat Lib. It’s definitely a fraught subject when trying to separate or not separate the work of an actor, author, or other famous creative person from their views. For instance, I definitely didn’t want to see Woody Allen’s films after he hooked up with a woman who was sort of his adopted daughter, yet there have been some great novelists who I continue to read despite their having (a relatively small amount of) racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, or other distasteful elements in their work.


                  • Down below, under my reply to KatLib’s comment of 10/10/18 at 3:40 PM, please, for coherence’s sake, insert “discard them” in the last sentence:

                    “Letโ€™s be old-fashioned at least in that way, and enjoy the Sarandons for what they do well, and not (insert here) for what they say badly.”

                    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thanks for the reading suggestions, Dave! So many people here have recommended Vilette, so itโ€™s on my list, along with Lee Child, another recommendation many people have made.

    As for Kavanaughโ€”I would have been shocked if he hadnโ€™t been confirmed. Iโ€™m not pleased about it, but Iโ€™m not surprised. But this too shall pass.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re welcome, Elena! “Villette” and its semi-autobiographical protagonist Lucy Snowe are definitely worth the time, even though the novel drags in spots. But its better moments are almost “Jane Eyre”-worthy. Often a downbeat book, at least partly because Charlotte Bronte wrote it after her sisters Emily and Anne had died so young.

      I’m addicted to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels! Most of them demand to be read in one or two sittings. ๐Ÿ™‚

      As for Kavanaugh, I agree about the lack of surprise. I was hoping against hope, but the Republicans these days are absolutely ruthless. Heck, the spineless sellouts Susan Collins and Jeff Flake were probably terrified to vote “no” given how the GOP and its base would have wreaked vengeance on them. Yes, this will pass, but the damage caused in the meantime is and will be heartbreaking. (Given how the last two Supreme Court seats were stolen/rammed through, I think the Democrats have every right to try to expand the court to 11 people if they regain power in DC.)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah, Supreme Court nominations are maybe the most consequential, or at least have the longest-term impact, of presidential decisions, alas. So very unfortunate, but as you said I doubt most Republican members of Congress could go vote against Kavanaugh if they wanted to keep their seats. And frankly, I sincerely doubt that Kavanaugh is the first sexual predator on the bench. We just never cared before.

        I wonโ€™t lie, I shall take great pleasure in voting against my Republican reps in the upcoming elections. Doubt it will do any good, but at least Iโ€™ll feel good about it ๐Ÿ™‚

        Liked by 3 people

        • Very true, Elena. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ The 53-year-old Kavanaugh could be on the Supreme Court for three or four decades. And, as you said, there have undoubtedly been other sexual predators on the court in addition to Kavanaugh and of course Clarence Thomas. Sickening. I’m also looking forward to voting next month, and hoping the anti-Republican turnout will be large enough to at least partly overcome GOP money, gerrymandering, voter suppression, and other dirty tricks.

          Liked by 2 people

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