Showing posts with label European River Cruise. Show all posts
Showing posts with label European River Cruise. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"The Master" and" Mistler's Exit"

As I said at the conclusion of my entry covering our river cruise, one of my favorite pastimes on board any vessel is to read some good books.  Alas, a river cruise is such an active one, reading time was limited, but between various ports, I managed to read two novels by familiar authors.  They were purposely selected for the trip because I admire their fine work and they share Europe as their geographic focal point.

First, I enjoyed The Master by Colm Tóibín, and a hat tip to my son, Chris, for sending it to me after he had read it. Chris is a writer of sorts, and this is a writer's book, an interior exploration about how one's life experiences subliminally enter the writing process.  I had read his book, Brooklyn, a couple years ago and at that time said "there are similarities to the work of Henry James, contrasting the old world to the new, and written by a man about a female protagonist -- a remarkable novel well worth reading. One cannot help but contrast Brooklyn to James' Portrait of a Lady." 

The Master is in fact a highly fictionalized account of Henry James' life during the last decade of the 19th century.  Born into a family of wealth and intellect, Henry essentially becomes condemned to a life of inner loneliness, although he was well traveled and had family and friends.  Tóibín shows the subtle absorption of those relationships into James' fiction, particularly his sister Alice, his attraction to Minny Temple, his cousin, and later, to a relative of James Fenimore Cooper, Constance Fenimore Woulson (all three of these women die during his lifetime, Constance by suicide). But James' life was one of sexual ambivalence -- as he was equally attracted to three men.  There is Hammond ( a manservant), Oliver Wendell Homes (after he had returned from the Civil War), and Hendrik Andersen (a sculptor).  Tóibín walks the line as many historians do -- that perhaps James was "hopelessly celibate" (as James described himself in one of his own letters). 

These relationships, as well as his travels -- to America and throughout Europe, are incorporated into his fiction, and Tóibín imagines how and why in this spellbinding novel, so exacting in its prose.  As an example, here is what he writes when Alice dies: Alice was dead now, Aunt Kate was in her grave, the parents who noticed nothing also lay inert under the ground, and William was miles away in his own world, where he would stay.  And there was silence now in Kensington, not a sound in the house, except the sound, like a vague cry in the distance, of his own great solitude, and his memory working like grief, the past coming to him with its arm outstretched looking for comfort.

In many ways, The Master shares some of the characteristics of the next novel I managed to finish during the trip, Mistler's Exit. This is also a tale of loneliness, written by one of America's most unique novelists, Louis Begley.  I say "unique" as here is a novelist, a very fine writer, who came to his craft decades after being a renowned international attorney, an unusual path for a writer (although ironically Henry James attended Harvard Law School -- as did Begley --, but for only a year as James had no intentions of becoming a lawyer).  And I say "loneliness" as the protagonist's sense of solitude is suddenly self-imposed after he receives the diagnosis of inoperable cancer and decides to make a clandestine visit to Venice for a week, keeping the reason for the visit from his wife and only son, in order to take in the city one last time and to think about how to break the news to his family.  Instead, he is followed by a young female photojournalist with whom he has intense sex in Venice, although he remains emotionally removed from it.  Characters come and go, old acquaintances, including a girl he loved in college, but never slept with at the time.  He would like to do so now, but "this time he would not cheat," a double meaning in the work.

Thomas Mistler was born into a privileged family, his father a successful banker, but Mistler charts his own course, breaking from his father's expectations of a successor and instead builds an international advertising business.  Begley writes with an eruditeness that is only rivaled by his classmate in Harvard, John Updike, unique in American literature where the norm is great writing often coming from authors not nearly as well educated. 

It is a fine introduction to Begley's style, very reminiscent of the "Schmidt" trilogy.  In fact, sometimes I thought of Mistler as "Schmidtie," but if you like this work, you will like his trilogy.

The epigraph to the novel, taken from Jacques Chardonne's Demi-Jour, makes a fitting ending to this entry, a reminder to live every moment as one's last and how meaningless "things" are in one's life.  I certainly found that out when we returned from the trip.--.......

Too bad about what men will lose; they'll never notice it,  Everything ends well because everything ends.

Monday, October 14, 2013

European River Cruise III

I had promised to post a few more photos of our trip  There is already a plethora of photos in the published entries, Part I and Part II, the ones I thought told the story best and of course most of my favorites.  But space precluded the inclusion of some of the more idiosyncratic ones that have no particular thing in common other than I like photographing doors, windows, different architectural features, especially when they are evocative of place, passage of time, displaying interesting shadows, and candid people shots. They are not in chronological order but, rather, by city visited, and not all cities are represented. Best way to breeze through these is to click onto the first one and keep on clicking at the bottom where all the photos are in a line ....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Budapest to Amsterdam River Cruise II

Google BlogSpot cut off my entry on our river cruise at this point so I have had to post it in two parts.  Therefore, to view the first part please click here

Day 12     WERTHEIM - MILTENBERG (continued)
The ship departed for Miltenberg during lunch, arriving late in the afternoon for a brief walking tour along crooked cobblestone streets lined with steeply gabled, half-timbered houses. Later, the ship left Bavaria and the Main River behind.

We arrived in Rüdesheim shortly after lunch and Ann visited Siegfried's Mechanical Musical Instrument Museum while I read more. In the afternoon, the ship departed for Koblenz, cruising through the legendary Rhine Gorge, beginning the most scenic part of our entire trip, a 41 mile stretch of waterway comprising 30 castles & the famous Lorelei rock.  This made for ideal scenic photographs and I can't do justice to all but have selected a few. We arrived in Koblenz in the evening and took a brief walking tour on our own after dinner.

The ship cruised to Cologne in the afternoon, where we had a walking tour through the old part of the city and visited the fabled 13th-century gothic cathedral. It was there that I had that epiphany of having seen the cathedral before in its war-torn state from my father's photographs (see the first part of this entry).  The stained glass window restoration was particularly impressive with even a modern new stained-glass window, designed by Gerhard Richter, one of Germany's leading artists. Cologne is also known for its beer, and we encountered some very well-served fellows leaving a bachelor party. The ship departed that night for Amsterdam.

After arriving in Amsterdam early in the afternoon, we enjoyed a scenic canal cruise through this city known as the “Venice of the North.” Amsterdam was the home of my parent company which meant we had been there several times before, so the canal cruise was not new; however we hadn't done it in so many years and it was Sunday, so all the "Sunday Drivers" were on the canal and it was interesting to see the boat traffic.  I always love seeing the barge homes along the canals and of course was again moved by the famous house where Anne Frank and her family once lived in hiding.On the way to Amsterdam on the river there was lots of small boat traffic flying by.

The day had an inauspicious beginning.  Since we had such an early flight, AMA had ordered a private car for us (all the buses were leaving later), but somehow it was cancelled by another passenger (they had a private cab scheduled for the same 5:45 am departure time), so we stood around, mostly outside in the early morning cold waiting for a replacement ride.  Nonetheless we got to the airport still with plenty of time, but we were dropped off at the wrong terminal (this particular Lufthansa flight was operated by United, different terminal, but no one told us that) so we had to walk a mile with our luggage to get to the right one.  Then we had to deal with a Kiosk From Hell to get our boarding passes and to "upgrade" to "Economy Class Plus".  Flight went fine, but we got into Newark pretty tired and had to get to our car in Ft Lee, and then started our drive down to FL in the mid afternoon..  Made it to somewhere north of Baltimore, and as we were still on European time, got up at 3.30 AM the next day (Tues.) to make it through Washington before the Beltway becomes a parking lot.  I had intended to drive the entire 1,000 or so miles right home at that point.  My GPS said we'd arrive around 8.00 pm, but we finally had to stop in St. Augustine, only 3.5 - 4 hours from our home, as there was intense rain in FL and between our exhaustion and that factor, decided to call it a night.  Finally arrived last Weds. morning to find our other car's battery dead, although our house minder was supposed to have run it!

All in all, a wonderful trip, but in my opinion two weeks is a little too long.

Unlike ocean cruising, we were on the go most of the time on a river cruise -- activities are heavily scheduled --and moments for reading were fleeting  Nonetheless, I had brought a number of novels to read and managed to finish two. As this entry is already long enough, I'll write up my comments in another entry later.  Perhaps I'll include some other photos of our trip as well (as if there are not enough already, but I have other favorite ones of doors, windows, passageways, locks we transited, miscellany which I enjoy photographing). If you landed on this site via one of the photographs, just a reminder that there is a Part I, with other photographs of the trip, which can be viewed here.