The great Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), also known as Dr Johnson, has often been praised for his wit and wisdom (and outspokenness) on all manner of subjects. He wrote only one novel, Rasselas (which he wrote rapidly to pay for his mother’s funeral expenses), and is now better remembered, not as a poet or a critic (though he was praised as both), but as a lexicographer (he composed the first detailed dictionary of the English language) and as a great conversationalist. Here are ten of our favourite utterances from the great Doctor, on a wide variety of topics. Most of these come to us via his trusty biographer, James Boswell (1740-1795), whose Life of Samuel Johnson (1791) is often called one of the great literary biographies.
On life: ‘Life is a progress from want to want, not from enjoyment to enjoyment.’
On reading: ‘A man ought to read just as inclination…
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This feature will now have a Latin title. Why? Because Latin is cool! At any rate, I had hoped that this feature would be weekly, but it is harder to sense a legitimate connection between booze and books than I thought. Of course, the connection can be obvious, like if a book features a certain alcoholic beverage prominently. (E.g. James Bond novels and vodka martinis) But, usually I’m going for something more subtle and relying upon gut feeling.
For example, one beer which won’t be recommended below is North Coast’s Scrimshaw Pilsner, which recalls the manga Chrono Crusade to mind. Chrono Crusade is a Japanese comic set in America with Model 1911 toting nuns fighting supernatural battles against rebel demons and other things that go bump in the night. The Scrimshaw reminds me of this book because it is an Americanized version of a foreign beer in the same way as Chrono Crusade is a Japanese version of America. The beer’s creaminess evokes the diary farms of Wisconsin–where much of the manga’s action takes place, its brewer is based in California–whither our heroes journey, and the many scenes occurring around a wharf and other areas of blue-collar labor remind me that pilsners are beloved of the working class.
However, you won’t see me recommending manga here! I have Medieval Otaku for that. Interestingly, the three beer and book combinations this week are all related to wolves in some way. May you find time to enjoy both the literature and the ale!
1) Founders’ Centennial IPA
This beer features some well integrated flavors. Melded with the malt backbone of the beer are the hops which lend it sweet grapefruit and piney bitterness. My friend disliked the piney aftertaste, but I thought the flavors balanced better than most American IPAs. Its fine balance makes me almost think of it as an English IPA.
What work of literature does this beer bring to mind? None other than The Sight by David Clement-Davies. This happens to be one of the most tragic books I’ve ever read, made even more so by how endearing the characters were. Our main characters happen to be wolves living during a turbulent time in the Middle Ages. This is probably one of the best YA novels ever produced. So, the piney flavor of the IPA reminds me of the tragedy, the sweet malt and grapefruit hops of the likable characters, and the well balanced flavors of the book’s solid storytelling. Yet, to tell you the truth, I forgot what the main plot of the story was. I’ll have to revisit it someday!
2) Victory Brewing’s Winter Cheers
This is a very unusual beer: a wheat ale made for the winter months! Most winter ales fall among the winter warmer, porter, or stout range. Winter Cheers makes up for its lack of malt by having a full and voluptuous body. The banana and clove flavors taste very vibrant on the palate–almost as vibrant as the Belgian ale called Duval. At the same time, I can’t help but compare it to Weihenstephaner, a very famous wheat ale produced originally in a German abbey.
And so, this beer reminds me of Spice and Wolf by Isuna Hasekura. (Yes, I won’t recommend comics here, but light novels are another animal!) Holo starts out as a goddess famed for producing great harvests of wheat. Yet, around the time of the first novel, a new monotheistic religion with parallels to the Catholic Church has gained ascendancy, which causes the villagers to cease to believe in Holo. She decides to leave the village and enlists the aid of the travelling merchant Craft Lawrence so that she may return to her snowy homeland of Yoitsu. This story features several action scenes and much intrigue. When things get too rough, Holo can transform into a giant wolf when she drinks blood or nibbles on a little wheat.
How does the beer remind me of that besides the obvious parallel of wheat beer and a wheat goddess? That this wheat ale is made for winter reminds me that the final destination of the novel is the northern region of Yoitsu. The fact that paganism proceeds from the father of lies, the devil (Duval in Belgian), and that both paganism and the devil are opposed by the God’s Church–prominent members of which live in abbeys–remind me of how this beer’s viscosity is somewhere between Duval and Weihenstephaner. Holo herself is a very vibrant and unique character, as Winter Cheers is a vibrant and unique beer.
3) Lancaster Brewery’s Winter Warmer
Here’s a proper winter warmer! (It is also better served at room temperature–or at least not ice cold.) High in alcohol at 8.9% ABV and strong in malt bill, this robust beer helps one relax during the winter months. Potent dark chocolate bitterness almost suppresses the hints of apple and cherry. That some of its proceeds go to support the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania show its connection to wolves.
The novel reminiscent of this beer hit me like a sack of bricks: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. The dark chocolate bitterness reminds me of the nihilism running through the novel. This almost suppresses the fact that life has meaning, but that meaning is still perceptible–as the dark chocolate of the beer cannot totally efface the fruity notes. The dark black color with a reddish hue around the edges reminds me that the book began with the black and bloody deed of murder. This same hue can be found in Russian Imperial stouts, which forms the final connection.
This is a particularly tough time of year for many of us because it’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month, if for some reason you don’t know that). You’re trying to make something good and actually write 50,000 words in a month. You’re behind deadline, and there’s no way that you’re going to get to fifty grand by the end of the month. Being in many ways a stereotypical “nerd” with my comical knowledge of Star Trek and my ability to list all the gods in the Deities and Demigods or all the times and ways that a Grey or Summers has died, for me, part of really enjoying a thing is delving as deep as I can into knowledge about the thing. By the same token, as someone who works in and loves the performing arts, I believe strongly in the power of an individual to…
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I’m almost twenty four years old. A fragile age indeed; I have yet to conquer all the good and the bad that life can throw at me. But I’ve seen things, I’ve done things. Scars have been inflicted upon my body and soul. I’ve kept secrets, I’ve nurtured bizarre dreams and fantasies until they became demons. I’ve lost more battles than I can count…
And I’ve fallen… time and time again…
And yet… it’s not the fall that breaks most people. It’s the fear that they’ll never rise up again.
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A very nice poem.
Yes, you can blame Facebook for this post, too, although it’s not quite as potentially traumatizing as last week’s set of story-fodder links.
See David Gerrold wrote a thoughtful post on potential future SFWA Grandmaster awards (officially the Damon Knight Memorial Grandmaster Award), and added some equally thoughtful and sensible comments in the thread that followed. In the middle of this are some seriously sad observations – sad because of the behavior and attitudes they reflect.
“(One of the conversations was “we gotta honor more women”–the subtext being “to show we’re not misogynist.” The problem there is that SF was overwhelmingly a male-dominated genre for a long long time so the sex ratio is still kinda skewed among the older generation. That will change in another decade or two, of course.) “
The sex ratio… since when was it necessary that there be a “sex ratio” unless we’re…
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