Crazy Jane and I discussed our Ernest Shackleton books. (I read his autobiography South while she read Jennifer Armstrong's Shipwreck at the Bottom of the World.) She disliked that they ate penguins so much. I don't really get that; she's normally fairly level-headed, so why can't she see that starving men will eat birds, no matter how adorable?
She also really disliked that the dog handlers were in charge of shooting the dogs. (Mentioning it made her weepy.) She would have liked Shackleton to give someone else that job. But maybe he was initiating the trainers into his crime family* and testing their loyalty.
I pulled the following quotes for in-depth discussion.
A man must shape himself to a new mark directly the old one goes to ground. (p. 75)
I have marveled often at the line that divides success from failure and the sudden turn that leads from apparently certain disaster to comparative safety. (pp. 173-4)
We had flung down the adze from the top of the fall and also the logbook and the cooker wrapped in one of our blouses. That was all, except our wet clothes, that we brought out of the Antarctic, which we had entered a year and a half before with well-found ship, full equipment, and high hopes. That was all of tangible things; but in memories we were rich. We had pierced the veneer of outside things. We had "suffered, started, and triumphed, groveled down yet grasped at glory, grown bigger in the bigness of the whole." We had seen God in his splendors, heard the text that Nature renders. We had reached the naked soul of men. (p. 200)
We also discussed the stupidity of war, as highlighted by the men who survived a year and a half stranded in Antarctica only to be killed by European civilization upon their return.
Of the fifty-three men who returned out of the fifty-six who left for the South, three have since been killed and five wounded. ... McCarthy, the best and most efficient of the sailors, always cheerful under the most trying circumstances, and who for these very reasons I chose to accompany me on the boat journey to South Georgia, was killed at his gun in the Channel. Cheetham, the veteran of the Antarctic, who had been more often south of the Antarctic Circle than any man, was drowned when the vessel he was serving in was torpedoed, a few weeks before the Armistice. (p. 333)Governments have killed hundreds of millions of their citizens in the past 100 years.
The moral to take away from the Shackleton books was summed up in Roald Amundsen's quotation, "Do not let it be said that Shackleton has failed. No man fails who sets an example of high courage, of unbroken resolution, of unshrinking endurance" (pp. xii-xiii).
Next up for us is the Theodosia Throckmorton series by R.L. LaFevers, then Moby-Dick, and then Crazy Jane wants me to read Half Magic by Edward Eager.
* = Conversation.
A RANDOM STRANGER: Can you think of a movie or book where someone is given the task of murdering a family member to prove their commitment to the group? I know it's a common plot device, but I can't think of any specific instances right now.
MY WIFE: It seems like it's used a lot in any movie with a fraternity or a family. Like Legally Blonde.
ARS: Legally Blonde featured no murder.
MW: You mean actual murder? I thought you were giving an example.
ARS: No, real murder.
MW: Then maybe a gang autobiography or something.
ARS: Like Legally Blonde?