Sunday, October 22, 2017

Fortnightly Book, October 22

Learned, clear-headed, and practical, he fulfilled in all emergencies those three conditions which united ought to insure human success -- activity of mind and body, impetuous wishes, and powerful will. He might have taken for his motto that of William of Orange in the 17th century: "I can undertake and persevere even without hope of success."

The next fortnightly book is Jules Verne's The Mysterious Island, which is one of the most notable of the works Verne wrote in his own favorite genre, the robinsonade, that adventure of the intellect in which Man is faced with Nature, overcoming whatever the hostility of the latter may throw against him, and even turning it to human ends. Five Union prisoners of war escape from Confederate prison during the siege of Richmond by an improvised hot air balloon and are blown far off the map in a great storm. The balloon is damaged, and eventually they reach the limitations of what they can do to keep it aloft over the ocean, and must just trust to providence. They discover an island, exotic and filled with resources and dangers. But even allowing for that, the island has deeper secrets to uncover....

I'll also be watching the 2005 TV movie The Mysterious Island, which I happened recently to see in the cheap rack in the grocery store and, knowing that I would eventually be doing this book, picked up. It has an excellent cast, but it looks awful, and, indeed, the reviews of it are pretty uniformly negative, with one review I saw noting that it wasn't really Verne's story so much as an adaptation of it by random monkeys. The question is, Will this be gloriously awful, or just awful awful? In case it is the latter, which it might well be, CBS Radio Mystery Theater adapted the novel into a radio episode in 1977, so I'll do that as well; CBSRMT, being post-Golden-Age, is often uneven, but it's never simply awful.

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