Saturday, October 30, 2010

Book #41 - The Aeneid (Virgil)

Sing in me, O muse, and let me tell the story of that heroic Trojan warrior, Aeneas, who flees from his fallen city, wanders the Mediterranean, and ends up founding the great city of Rome. Let me sing this story without the use of copious amounts of alcohol, because it's only 1pm and that's way too early to be boozing it up. And this decaf coffee just ain't cutting it, if you know what I mean, O muse. It tastes good, like coffee should, and it's from Ritual Roasters in San Francisco, who make awesome coffee, but the lack of caffeine is always a bit of a letdown when it comes to coffee. Yet that's what a middle aged guy like me is relegated to these days, O muse, because caffeine gets me too wired out and nervous and then I can't get to sleep for days on end and that's just no good, especially when I have to focus at work, which can be hard to do when you've been up for 52 hours straight. Dammit, muse, I've digressed.

Anyway, after finishing up Gilgamesh, I decided to move forward in time about 1000 years to ancient Rome, where the poet Virgil decided to write an epic poem in the spirit of Homer. In The Aeneid he describes the fall of Troy and the subsequent wanderings of Aeneas who will eventually found Rome, the city that Virgil lives in and which is ruled by Augustus Caesar, a very powerful man whom Virgil wants to suck up to, thus giving Virgil the motivation to write his epic poem in the first place. Well, Augustus and Virgil are long dead, but The Aeneid lives on, and it's my job to support its continued existence by reading it and blogging about it.

The poem consists of 12 books, which today we would call chapters. I have finished the first three so far. I was a little bit daunted by reading this one. I read the Homeric epics, The Iliad and The Odyssey, in college and high school respectively, and while I enjoyed them very much, and while the stories have really stuck with me through the years, I remember that parts of them were a little hard to get through. Well, parts of The Iliad anyway. But I'm happy to report that The Aeneid has been a great read so far. The story really moves along, and is quite poignant and moving in parts, even after 2000 years. The only problem I've encountered is that one really needs to know their Greek and Roman mythology to understand everything that goes on in this story. In particular, I wouldn't recommend reading this unless you've already read The Iliad and The Odyssey because so much of what happens in the Aeneid is related to what happens in those epics. And also because Virgil is consciously invoking those works, which were written down maybe some 700 years previously to his writing of the Aeneid.

The story so far: In Book I we meet Aeneas, a Trojan warrior fleeing the fallen city with a ragtag band of fellow Trojans, seeking the promised land called "Italy" where it is prophesied that he will found a new city called Rome, which will eventually rule the known universe. Yes, I know, it's just like Battlestar Galactica, except that the cylons are Greeks. Aeneas has the goddess Venus on his side, because she's his mother, but he has an enemy in Juno, who is pissed off because he's Trojan, and the Trojan prince Paris voted Venus more beautiful than Juno or Minerva in a beauty contest. Yep, there's a lot of back story here, as there is in most other parts of the Aeneid. But all you really need to know is this: don't fuck with the Gods because they will get pissed off and come after you relentlessly. In fact, even if you don't piss them off, but someone from your city once pissed them off, even a little bit a long time ago, then you're still probably fucked because that's the way the Gods roll. But here's the rub: it has been prophesied that Aeneas will found Rome and so nothing that he does, or that any of the Gods do, can really stop this. They can delay it, and make his life a living hell, but there seems to be some part of fate that is beyond even the Gods control.

But I've digressed again. So in Book I Aeneas and his ragtag team are at sea, fleeing Troy, when Juno makes a big storm and tries to kill them all. She fails, and they shipwreck near the new city of Carthage, which it turns out is run by a friendly queen named Dido, who takes the Trojans in and asks to hear their story. Books II and III are Aeneas's retelling of the fall of Troy and their subsequent wanderings to her. Book II in particular tells the story of how the Greeks defeat the Trojans using the famous Trojan horse, and it includes vivid descriptions of the subsequent sacking of Troy. When the Greeks break into the city at night and start the sacking, Aeneas wakes up and is determined to fight them to the death. He fights a bit, but then Venus, his mother, comes to him and tells him that he must flee...that he is fated to found Rome and he thus needs to escape and fulfill his destiny. She then allows him to see what mortals normally cannot see...he sees the Gods helping the Greeks defeat Troy, which makes him realize that fighting the Greeks is futile. Mortals can't beat Gods in warfare. So he packs up some heirlooms, grabs his kid, carries his elderly father on his back, and with his wife following they run away (conveniently illustrated in the picture at the top of this post). But Aeneas makes a mistake by telling his wife to follow them, because she lags behind and is cut down in the streets. Oops. But seriously, the whole scenes of the sack of Troy are both very moving and very exciting. And there's lots of bloodshed. This could make a good movie...maybe with Brad Pitt? Oh wait...

Book III recounts the wanderings of Aeneas and his Trojan refugees from Troy up to the point of their shipwreck in Carthage (which was on the shores of what today is Tunisia). One interesting part of this chapter is that they find a survivor of Odysseus's crew, who is trapped on the island of the cyclops. They take this man on board and he joins up with them, as they escape from the cyclops unscathed. It's kind of fun that Virgil weaves his story in with that of Homer's Odyssey. Too bad he didn't go in for some kind of merchandising tie-in as well.

Now it's onward to Book IV...and because I've had no alcohol of caffeine today, I'm not too tipsy or wired out to prevent me from continuing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Book #40 - The Epic of Gilgamesh (Anonymous)

The manuscript you see above was not written by Charles Dickens. Not even remotely. Book #40 is not only the oldest book on my list, but it's also the oldest frickin' book in existence. Seriously dude, it's old. It was written in the days when people chiseled their books on rocks instead of penning them on paper. Yep, I'm talking Flintstones old. The historical Gilgamesh, and there apparently was one, lived around 2750 BC, and this epic was written sometime around 1000 B.C. That can start to boggle your mind if you think about it; the time between Gilgamesh's death and the birth of Christ was longer than the time from Christ's birth to the present day. That's a long time. The geologists I know (and I do know a few) would argue that this is really just a short bit of time, but almost everyone else would not.

The Epic of Gilgamesh as we know it is incomplete. It was discovered in the mid-1800s by a British archaeologist and wasn't translated for years. The "manuscript" was carved onto 12 stone tablets, and is not always 100% legible. Tablet #12 seems out of place narratively, and is assumed to have been added later. Also, there seem to have been many versions of this epic during ancient times, as well as many poems written about the life and adventures of Gilgamesh. The 12 stone tablets are clearly not the first version of this story. The edition I read was by Stephen Mitchell, who filled in the blanks from the writing on the tablets with phrases from other versions of the epic and added lines and transitions as necessary. So while not a literal word-for-word translation, it is probably a better version to read if one wants a literary experience rather than a primarily archaeological one.

The story is not long; I read it in an evening. But it's a good story, and fun to read...all the more so for being over two billion years old. Turns out people back then worried about the same things we do: how to avoid death, the suckiness of growing old, and who can I sex it up with tonight. When the story opens, Gilgamesh is king of the Mesopotamian city of Uruk. He's strong and powerful, and is described as 2/3 god, 1/3 human. But not only is he king, he's a total asshole as well. In particular he makes sure he gets to take the bride's virginity before any couple in the city can get married. Yep, that's gonna win the people over. Plus he "crushes" the young men of the city, whatever that means. So the people call up to the Gods, who take pity on them and decide to create a man of equal strength and courage to Gilgamesh. The plan is that this man, Enkidu, will balance out Gilgamesh. And it actually works.

Enkidu is a wild man living in the woods with the animals after the Gods first send him down to Earth. A hunter discovers Enkidu, and send word to Gilgamesh, who decides to send out a prostitute from the temple to "tame" Enkidu. The prostitute comes to the forest and she and Enkidu get it on. I mean REALLY get it on. For seven days straight. I have to say that this is one of the sexiest passages I've read in quite awhile...and it's quite explicit. It's nice to know that some things have not changed with time. Anyway, after Enkidu is exhausted from all the ancient Sumerian nookie he realizes he's no longer an animal, and decides to come to the city. He's been civilized by sex. He hears of Gilgamesh from the prostitute, and he longs to both challenge Gilgamesh to feats of strength as well as to befriend him, because he's lonely and needs a friend. It's interesting that sexual intimacy with a woman still finds him lonely and wanting friendship. He needs a guy friend with whom he can hang out, drink beer, watch some football, and slay savage dragons (more on that later). And so does Gilgamesh.

So Enkidu heads for the big city lights. Along the way he hears how Gilgamesh treats new brides, and this pisses Enkidu off. So when he gets to Uruk he goes to a wedding and blocks Gilgamesh from entering the bridal chamber. Gilgamesh is not happy about this. No he's not happy at all. So they have a big long homoerotic fight, and Gilgamesh eventually pins Enkidu down, who then admits that Gilgamesh is stronger. This makes Gilgamesh happy, and they are now officially BFFs. Gilgamesh is so excited about having a new friend he suggests they go risk their lives and try to kill Humbaba, a crazy monster out in some distant holy forest where mortals are forbidden to go. Enkidu is clearly not as stoked about this idea as Gilgamesh, but he soon caves and they prepare for their adventure. The city's elders are not too convinced that their adventure is a good plan, but now that Gilgamesh has found his new buddy he's totally into going out and getting some serious glory, rather than staying home and raping more brides, so that's that. He and Enkidu make a bunch of weapons in preparation for their adventure.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu set out on their journey, and they travel way faster than mere mortal men. And they don't even use jet-packs! Along the way Gilgamesh starts to chicken out, but Enkidu talks him back down, and then awhile later Enkidu freaks out and Gilgamesh has to talk HIM back down. Gilgamesh has as series of bad dreams but Enkidu keeps cheering him up by putting an almost laughably optimistic spin on their interpretation. So with their mutual support they finally make it to the forest where Humbaba lives.

Gilgamesh and Enkidu proceed to chop down some of the sacred trees in the forest, and a very annoyed Humbaba suddenly appears. They fight! Things aren't looking so good for the BFFs when Gilgamesh appeals to the god Shamash for help. Shamash hears his plea and sends down some storms to attack Humbaba. Humbaba falls under the onslaught, and Gilgamesh moves in for the kill. Humbaba reminds Gilgamesh that he's working for the god Enlil, and Enlil will be really pissed if Humbaba turns up dead. Gilgamesh starts to get all merciful when Enkidu speaks up and tells him just to kill Humbaba and then they can leave before Enlil even finds out. Gilgamesh listens to his buddy and kills Humbaba, and they travel back to Uruk with a pile of new lumber from the sacred forest they cut down, along with Humbaba's head as a trophy. When they return they build a huge city gate with the lumber from the forest.

Now that our two friends have thoroughly insulted the God Enlil, they continue on their hubris ways by insulting the god Ishtar, who wants Gilgamesh to become her lover. After Gilgamesh points out that Ishtar got tired of all her previous lovers and punished them terribly, she gets very angry and tries to kill Gilgamesh and Enkidu with a sacred bull. But the two BFFs kill the sacred bull and openly taunt Ishtar. Never a good thing to do with a God. Now all the Gods are getting pissed at them. So the gods have a meeting, and they decide to cause Enkidu to fall ill and start to slowly die from disease. Enkidu is really bummed out about this, but when Shamash tells him on his sickbed that Gilgamesh will be inconsolable after he dies Enkidu cheers up a bit. And then he dies.

Gilgamesh is indeed inconsolable upon Enkidu's death. He like totally loses it. He goes into denial and refuses to bury Enkidu until he sees a worm crawl out of his nose, which seems to jolt him back to reality for a minute. But Enkidu's death has made Gilgamesh totally freaked out about death. So he puts on animal skins and goes out to wander in the wilderness, trying to find Utnapishtim, who managed to survive the great flood that almost destroyed humanity, and who is the only person upon whom the gods have granted immortality. His search won't be easy as Utnapishtim lives in the place where the sun rises, where no mortal has ever been. Gilgamesh travels a long time to a double-peaked mountain and then to the entrance of the tunnel where the sun travels every night to get to the other side of the Earth. Gilgamesh has only 12 hours to cross through the pitch-black tunnel before the sun comes through and burns him to a crisp. So he runs and runs through the pitch black tunnel, and yes, he makes it on time...otherwise there wouldn't be a story, really. On the other side of the tunnel is a lush land from where the sun rises. After some more adventures and trials Gilgamesh finally meets Utnapishtim and asks him how he too can become immortal. Utnapishtim tells him to chill out, that nothing lives forever. He explains that when the gods bring someone into the world, they also decide the day of death. Death is certain, so get over it.

Utnapishtim then tells Gilgamesh his story, which is one of the most interesting parts of the book, because his story is remarkably like Noah's, even though The Epic of Gilgamesh was written before the Old Testament. The god Enlil once decided to destroy all of humanity with a flood (he certainly seems like a peevish God), but fortunately another god tipped off Utnapishtim, who was a king, and told him to build a huge boat and take two of every living thing on it. Sound familiar? So Utnapishtim builds the boat and there's a huge flood and everyone else dies except for Utnapishtim and his wife. Utnapishtim and his boat come to land first on a mountain, and he releases a series of birds to see if they can find land. The third bird returns, and Utnapishtim eventually reaches shore. When Enlil finds out humans have survived he's royally pissed, but the the other gods tell him he's a jerkwad for killing everyone indiscriminately and he should be ashamed of himself. He sees their point, and so he makes Utnapishtim and his wife immortal to make up for killing everyone else. Um, perhaps too little too late, Mr. Enlil.

Utnapishtim finishes his story and tells Gilgamesh to get the f#&k out of there, that he won't ever be immortal and he needs to go home. But at his wife's urging, he relents a bit and tells Gilgamesh of a magical plant that grows at the bottom of the sea, which will make old people young again if they eat a little bit of it. This satisfies Gilgamesh's urge for immortality, even if it involves eating part of what's probably a nasty-tasting plant every once in awhile, and so Gilgamesh dives to the bottom of the sea (with the help of rocks tied to his feet) where he grabs one of the plants. Then Utnapishtim sends Gilgamesh off across the sea towards home, piloted by Utnapishtim's private boatman. Gilgamesh is feeling pretty good about everything. Until he fucks it all up. One evening, as he and the boatman are camping, Gilgamesh decides to go for a swim, leaving the precious plant unattended. No, Gilgamesh, what are you thinking?!? So the inevitable happens: a snake crawls and eats it. Yep, now there's a really young snake and the magic plant is gone along with Gilgamesh's dream of a new youth. Oops. Dude, NEVER leave a precious plant unattended! How did you get to be king anyway? When Gilgamesh sees what's happened, he sits down and cries like a little girl. Then he goes home to Uruk. In the final scene, he shows off the great city to the boatman, who is still accompanying him, pointing out the great walls and marvels of the city.

At first glance the ending seems like a WTF in "WTF, that's it?". But then, upon thinking about it, it all makes sense to me. Gilgamesh has given up the search for immortality, given up his epic struggles with the gods and monsters. He has come to live in this world, and can now appreciate how beautiful his city is. It's never stated outright, but one knows that he will be a good king from now on, building his city and being good to his people. The bride raping won't be continuing. And we know that the legend of the good and great king Gilgamesh has been passed down, verifying this interpretation. His hubris was punished, but he has learned his lesson. Even though he is 2/3 god, 1/3 human, one senses that he has become all human by the end of the story. In a way, this is a very odd bildungsroman (now there's a word, like weltanschauung, that's only used by graduates of a liberal arts college).

I found this story fascinating. I can imagine reading it again in a few years (it's short, so that's not that big a commitment). The parallels to Biblical stories (Noah, the snake and the fall from Eden) are really interesting...where did these stories originally come from? were they passed along through different societies? The fact that the story of Gilgamesh is so old, that it's the first recorded story humanity ever told, is captivating in and of itself, but the fact that it has so much symbolism and allegory and much that we can still relate to 3000 years later...makes it all the more incredible. The world has completely changed since the days of Gilgamesh, yet people are still the same. Maybe the geologists are right...3000 years is really only the blink of an eye.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Money for Nothing

Today I finished up the last 100 pages of "Sister Carrie". Man, it was painful in places. I was surprised how it ended, in that it wasn't as totally bleak as I thought it would be...just 3/4 bleak. But the 3/4 bleakness was pretty damn bleak. And yet it was almost impossible to put down, for as depressing as the final third of the book was, it was the best part of the book for became a total page turner.

Hurstwood keeps looking for a job, but never finds one. Why not? Well, at first it's because he feels that all the jobs that might be available are beneath him. I don't think he quite realizes his predicament. And if you'll remember, as Dreiser points out, he's now in his mid-40s and so is obviously washed up and totally over-the-hill. Week after week go by with no money coming in, and thus his savings dwindle away. Then he simply becomes totally apathetic and resigned. And then he gambles some of his remaining money away trying to score big in poker games (never a good idea, by the way). Carrie is worried, but doesn't do anything about it except to nag Hurstwood to get a job from time to time. Finally Hurstwood gets a job as a scab streetcar conductor during a strike. This makes for one of the more gripping chapters of the book. Work conditions are terrible (it's mid winter), and strikers are attacking the trains and the scab operators. Police and guards ride on the trains, but there's only so much they can do. On his second day at work, when a bullet from a striker grazes Hurstwood's shoulder, he decides to call it quits and goes home. And that seems to have completed the breakdown process for Hurstwood. He never seriously looks for work after that.

Meanwhile Carrie has had enough and gets motivated herself. When she was in Chicago she acted in an amateur play put on by the local chapter of the Elks. The play was terrible, but she loved to be in it, and it was clear she had a natural talent for the narrator says at one point, she had a very high emotional intelligence, and was very evocative onstage. Plus she was a hottie. The crowd loved her. So she goes looking for theatrical work on Broadway, but having no real experience it's almost impossible for her to break into the business. Still she manages to land a job as a girl in a chorus line. She does well, and one night, emboldened by her talent, she improvs and speaks a line in response to the main actor, even though she wasn't supposed to ever speak onstage. The crowd roars in laughter and the actor improvs a line in response, which gets even more laughter. The director tells her to keep doing that in subsequent performances. She gets a slight raise to her meager wages, which are all needed for household expenses. Hurstwood is still just sitting around, hoping something will turn up as he stares into space sitting in his rocking chair all day. Good plan, Hurstwood.

The book gets increasingly painful as Carrie's life begins to take off while Hurstwood's falls off the cliff. The contrast between the two makes everything so much more poignant. Carries gets a larger speaking part, draws rave reviews, and gets another raise. She starts appearing in advertising posters for the theatre. Her parts get bigger and bigger, and her beauty and talent are winning her numerous fans. Disgusted by Hurstwood, who has finally run out of money, she moves out, putting $20 in an envelope on the table as she leaves him. This motivates Hurstwood to do...nothing! He's a broken man. He begins begging on the street. He moves into a flophouse to save money, and then moves out onto the street, sleeping in homeless shelters and going to soup kitchens for food. Remember, this was before the days of welfare, so he has no real options. Meanwhile Carrie gets a huge raise, becomes a huge star, and now can afford anything she wants. It's all her materialistic dreams come true! She has enough money to buy all the clothes she desires, and then still has a bunch of money left over! She has male admirers! Former friends come out of the woodwork to see her! But despite all the admirers and "friends" she's made lonely by her fame and fortune. She doesn't get close to anyone. Hurstwood approaches her for money a couple of times, and she gives it to him, but he has enough pride not to keep begging from her. Plus she's a star and is hard for him to get to (I should study this carefully because no doubt that's what will happen to me when this blog takes off).

Finally the inevitable happens to each: Hurstwood gets tired of begging and scraping by, so he rents a room in a flophouse, turns on the gas, and kills himself. Meanwhile Carrie never even hears of his death. Instead she's now a rich and famous star but realizes now that she has all the money she could ever need and more, that she's still unhappy. Perhaps just as unhappy as ever. All the nice clothes and jewelry she always longed for are now in her possession and yet she's just as unhappy as before. This seems to be Dreiser's indictment of our materialistic society: be careful what you wish for, because when you get it you'll still be unhappy as ever. Longing for material goods will never make you happy, because you're doomed either to be always longing for enough money to buy them, or else having enough money to buy them and then finding out that you're still completely unsatisfied once you have them. Money can't buy happiness. Money can't buy me love. Hmm, OK, but at least she's not DEAD and buried in a pauper's grave like Hurstwood. I dunno, I'd rather be rich and unhappy than poor and unhappy. Is that so wrong?

I went online and found some rather scathing reviews of this novel, including one by Garrison Keillor. He and others complain about Dreiser's writing style, which can be clunky, moralizing, melodramatic, and overly philosophical. Yeah, I can see this, but for me the story itself overwhelms any bluntness in the writing style. The fact that I can find a book that's a page turner and yet incredibly painful to read shows that it had an effect on me. I hated parts of it, and couldn't put it down at the same time. I so wish I could find more books like that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Book #39 - Sister Carrie (Theodore Dreiser)

I'm about 2/3 of the way through Theodore Dreiser's "Sister Carrie" and I have to say this book is scaring the living hell out of me. Not only is it depressing, and seems like it will clearly not end well, but the problems the characters face seem eerily relevant to today's harsh economic climate. Allow me to explain...

The novel opens with Carrie Meeber, an 18 year old from some hick town in Minnesota or some such place, boarding a train to seek her fortune in Chicago. The eternal lure of the big city has captivated her and she's off to live with her older sister and her husband, find a job, and live the life that we have all enjoyed watching on "Sex and the City". Well, as it turns out, the 1889 version of "Sex and the City" features single women working in sweatshops and not having any money to hang out with friends and drink cosmopolitans, which is just as well because they won't be invented for another 100 years. Oh, and the sister and her husband are poor themselves, never go out because they have no money, and just want to use Carrie as a source of rent, which she must pay out of the meager wages she receives, leaving her with almost nothing. Fortunately for Carrie she was totally hit on by a traveling salesman who sat next to her on the train to Chicago. The salesman, Charlie Drouet, meets up with Carrie in Chicago. When she tells him she's leaving Chicago to go back home because she can't stand living at her sister's place and because she lost her job in the sweatshop because she got sick and couldn't work for a few days he tells her "No problem, I'll put you up in an apartment and you can be my, I mean fiance". Carrie thinks about this for about 3 seconds and then accepts the offer, although to her credit she feels a bit first. But then Drouet puts her up in an apartment, and buys her nice clothes and all kinds of bling and she's like "Oh yeah, bring it on Mr. Salesman. When are we getting married?"

Drouet soon moves in with her and promises her they'll get married as soon as this big business deal he's working on comes through, but deep down she knows that's not likely, and besides she's just not all that into him. But she's definitely into the things he can buy for her. In fact, a big theme of the book seems to be economics and material consumption. Carrie would fit right in in the early 21st century shopping malls of California. She loves clothes, and material things, and the latest fashions, and wants them all. Drouet buys her some things, and she's grateful for that, but she clearly wants more. Well, don't we all. Welcome to America.

Then Drouet introduces Carrie to his buddy Hurstwood who manages an upscale bar. Hurstwood's a stout man in his early 40s who's well-dressed and very sociable, which he needs to be for his job. Hurstwood is totally smitten by Carrie, and when he learns that she's not married to Drouet he decides to go for it. So he starts hanging out with Carrie when Drouet is out of town on sales calls. He soon tells Carrie he loves her and wants to marry her, but she says she'll have to think about it because even though she doesn't love Drouet, he's been awfully nice to her and has put her up in an apartment and she hasn't had to hit the sweatshops anymore, etc. What Hurstwood hasn't told Carrie is that he's already married. Oh yeah, he's a scumbag alright. Unfortunately for him, his wife soon figures out that he's seeing someone on the side, and she tells him she's getting divorced and is taking everything. D'OH! Meanwhile Drouet also gets wind of their romance and confronts Carrie, who admits it. Drouet tells her Hurstwood is married, and she is totally pissed fact, she's more upset over that than by the fight she's having with Drouet. Drouet storms out, although he'd like to make up with her. Carrie doesn't know what to do, and neither does Hurstwood. But then Hurstwood gets an opportunity one night when the safe in the bar gets left unlocked, and he finds $10,000 dollars inside. He pulls it out an stares at it, and wonders if he should take it or not...when suddenly the safe door locks itself, and he's holding the money! Damn, I hate it when that happens. So he puts the money in his bag and runs off.

Hurstwood goes to Carrie, who tells him to fuck off, but he says "No, you gotta come with me, Drouet is hurt and in the hospital". Carries is freaked out and goes with him to the train station, but when she slowly realizes they're on a train to Detroit and not the hospital she gets suspicious, and he admits that he lied and that he and his wife broke up and he wants to run away with her. Oh man is she pissed, but she goes along with Hurstwood. They go to Montreal, where a detective corners Hurstwood and says that while he can't be arrested in Canada, the detective will ruin his reputation and make his life a living hell. So Hurstwood writes the bar owner from whom he stole the money, apologizes, and sends the money back. All is forgiven, except that Hurstwood now only has $1000 to his name. He and Carrie decide to go to New York City to live. Hurstwood buys part ownership in a bar, and all goes well for awhile, even though the bar is not up to the standards of the one he managed in Chicago. Poor Hurstwood is now a small fish in a big pond, but still he manages to scrape by. But then some new neighbors move into the flat next door and Carrie befriends the wife. Seems the new people have lots of money, and the wife tells Carrie that she needs to buy all the latest fashions and Carrie is like totally into that. Hurstwood is not, but he puts up with it until his bar loses his lease and he's forced out, meaning he's lost his source of income. So Carrie has to stop buying new cloths and they have to move downtown to a cheaper apartment.

Hurstwood begins to look for work, but it looks bleak. And this is the part that just kills me. Dreiser keeps going on and on about how Hurstwood is totally over the hill, and no one wants to hire him because he's too old, and he's in all this pain because he has to walk all day looking for a job and his aged body can't take it...and he's 42 YEARS OLD! That's younger than me. Let me repeat that...he's YOUNGER than me. Well, fuck you Dreiser. That cocksucker was 29 when he wrote this book. And look what he wrote: Hurstwood is totally fucked and he's younger than me. So what happens if I, the middle-aged scientist/musician, lose my job in this economy? It looks like the tenements of New York will be my fate, and a slow downward spiral, according to the famous writer Theodore Dreiser. Yeah, fuck you, Dreiser. I suppose things could look up in this book, as I haven't finished the novel yet, but Dreiser is painting a bleak picture and somehow I think this whole thing will end horribly. Just what I frickin' need. Sigh. Where's my martini? Hey, bartender, the old blogger guy needs his martini!! Quick, before he dies!