Category Archives: Heart of Darkness


Book Face PlantSince Mrs. Dalloway is likely to hang out at the bottom of my WEM list next to Heart of Darkness for some time it’s fitting that they share the following literary connection.

After receiving directions from a very distracted and agitated Rezia, the new-to-town Maisie Johnson thought the following:

Oh! . . . Horror!  Horror!


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Not to Bum You Out

I’m so tired of all these women dying.  I’ve nearly lost track of them, first it was Helen, then Emma, Alyona and Lizaveta, Anna, Eustacia, and now Lily. Why?  Why must we read so much tragedy?  Why the death?  What’s wrong with a happy ending once in a while?

Then I stumbled across this article in my facebook newsfeed.  Friends, it’s worth the read (it even mentions three of our authors.)  The subject is tragedy.  The context is Christian worship.  The backdrop is our life.

If you only click on one external link today, I encourage you to choose the one above.  You can even leave the arguments about worship behind, but I’d love to know what you think about the tragedy vs. entertainment question.

Is our WEM reading list reminding you that we live in the valley of the shadow of death?  Is it drawing you face to face with the world of iniquity from which we would rather shield our minds?  Are the authors and their sin-filled worlds making you cling firmly to the Author of creation?  Is the despair of the characters wakening a vision of the evil that surrounds us outside the pages of fiction?  Or, are the novels a source of pacification and escapism?  Are the classics entertaining?  Should the classics be entertaining?


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The Fastest 300 Years EVER!

Sancho and the donkey.  Christian.  Yahoos and Houyhnhnms.  Elizabeth and Darcy.  Oliver.   Bertha-in-the-attic.  Hester and Pearl.   Moby Dick.   Uncles and Madams.  Rascal.   Anna-Kitty-Levin-Vronsky-oviches.   The Heath.   Isabel.   Huckleberry.   The Journeys of Henry and Marlowe.   And now Lily, whose outcome, at least for me, is still uncertain.

While paging through the Well-Educated Mind list of fiction books, I realized that Don Quixote was published in 1605 and House of Mirth in 1905.   300 years!  I congratulate myself and you, fellow readers, on plowing through 300 years of literature.   May the crop be plentiful!  I suggest a glass of red wine and some good chocolate to celebrate.



Apocalypse Now, and Later, and Later

202 minutes

That’s the length of Apocalypse Now Redux, apparently the extra scenes in this 2001 definitive version of Francis Ford Coppola’s 1979 movie put it over the top.  But it’s not the length that’s the shocker, it’s my final analysis that my send you into a tailspin.  Brace yourself.

If you have to decide between reading The Heart of Darkness and watching Apocalypse Now, pop in the DVD.

No joke.  Recommending a movie over it’s written source of inspiration is new to me, but I have some rationale to calm your worried countenance.

  • Conrad’s purpose in telling this story was to depict the darkness of human existence.  He does, but Francis Ford Coppola does so even more.
  • The colors, lights, shadows, and fog of the cinematography are far more striking than those in my mental images of Marlow’s journey.  Had I ever done drugs I probably would have been better suited to picture these things on my own.
  • The soundtrack is equally creepy and haunting in a very 1979 way.
  • AN is no more confusing than HoD.  I won’t say it’s less, but definitely not more.
  • The movie is brutal.  Bru. Tal.  And I think that’s what Conrad was going for.
  • You can knit while watching the movie.  Oh wait!  I can do that while reading the book, too!
  • Ruth is absolutely right, Martin Sheen, Robert Duvall, Dennis Hopper, and Marlon Brando are really great.  If by great you mean superbly creepy, and I do.
  • The heads aren’t shrunken, they are full-sized.  Full-sized, yet still bodiless.
  • Knowing and experiencing the origin of the phrase “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.” will boost your chances of doing well on the obligate pop-culture category on Jeopardy.
  • And because it deserves to be said one more time: the book was horrible, but the movie is worse.  Even Joseph Conrad would have wanted you to watch it instead.

And last, but not least:

  • Despite The Heart of Darkness’s small pagination it will probably still take you more than 202 minutes to read it, so instead grab the 153 minute original version of Apocalypse Now and exterminate the brute as quickly as possible.  Oh, the horror.
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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Heart of Darkness


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My new title for Heart of DarknessHeart of Darkness.1

What’s the moral, Marlow?  Marlow, the storyteller, is simultaneously appalled and understanding of Kurtz’s brutality against the people of the Congo.

I confess; I may have been a little grouchy at the time.  Heart of Darkness wasn’t my favorite book, and based on your responses at our last hebdomadal check-in, it wasn’t your favorite either.

Why?  Was it too short?  Was it too hard to keep track of things?   All that inner, outer, central station stuff and the nameless characters.

Christina speculated that Conrad had more to the story in his head that he just forgot to write down on paper.

I kept reading, hoping something to happen.  It was a lot of build up for nothing much.  Maybe I’ve watched too many episodes of Criminal Minds.  I waited and waited for the gory, disturbing scene that would show how Kurtz was getting all that ivory: proof of his Heart of Darkness.  All I got was a brief threat of natives and a dying, crazy man.

It was definitely not my favorite novel.

Why wasn’t Heart of Darkness your favorite WEM classic?

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Posted by on April 19, 2013 in Heart of Darkness


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Heart of Darkness
Part II

Marlow is resting on the deck of his steamboat.  He gets to listen in on a conversation between the manager and his uncle.

Has anyone else noticed that Conrad is not keen on naming minor characters?

It was in this section that I noticed Conrad use variations of a word.

In speaking of a different wandering trader, the manager says,

“No one, as far as I know, unless a species of wandering trader–a pestilential fellow, snapping ivory from the natives,”

Pestilential?  as in relating to pestilence?  My kindle dictionary told me that the word means “harmful or destructive to crops or livestock”, but I liked’s definitions better.

3. pernicious; harmful.
4. annoyingly troublesome.

Ah, so this other trader is annoyingly troublesome, is he?  The two men decide to get the trader hung.  No one will question the manager’s authority.  Whoa.  Seems like we have a pestilential club.

These two really are a fan of pestilence.  Only a few sentences later, they use the word pestiferous to describe Kurtz’s plans for the trading stations.

“The fat man sighed.  ‘Very sad.’ ‘ and the pestiferous absurdity of his talk,’ continued the other; ‘ he bothered me enough when he was here.  “each station should be like a beacon on the road towards better things, a centre for trade of course, but also for humanizing, improving, instructing.”

The men end their conversation hoping that the Congo itself will take care of Kurtz.  So many other have died from illness or “other reasons”, maybe he will too.

The wandering trader is an annoying gnat-to-be-squashed and Kurtz’s plans for the trading posts are bothersome mosquitos?

pestiferous: 1. bringing or bearing disease. 2. pestilential  3. pernicious; evil.

Pestilence is more than a few bugs.
Pestilence is an epidemic, a plague.
It’s deadly and wide-spread.
In in the case of Heart of Darkness, it is evil.

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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Heart of Darkness


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One year ago, close to our one year blog-iversary, I wrote this post.  It was fun.   Too much fun.   This year, my friends and I decided to get together with our beloved husbands and have a friendly Scrabble competition in honor of National Scrabble Day (April 13th).   I’ll leave you to guess which husband/wife team came out victorious.    When we were finished with the normal game, we created this:



We ran out of “R’s,” (Oh, the horror!), but had fun anyway.   Wish you could have joined us!


J-E-A-N-N-E-T-T-E, C-H-R-I-S-T-I-N-A, and C-H-A-M-P-I-O-N


Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Heart of Darkness, The Blog



Deeper into Darkness

Heart of Darkness Check-In

So where does this Monday find you in Conrad’s classic?

Short novels make for short check-in posts.

Please share your place in the comments.


Posted by on April 15, 2013 in Heart of Darkness


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Where are we?

Heartof DarknessYes, I realize we are reading Heart of Darkness and that much of the book takes place in the Congo.

But where are we at the start of the novella?  on a boat, right?  The book says “the Sea-reach of the Thames“.  I’m not sure where that is, but I’ve heard of the Thames before.

Wherever we are, we’re there with Marlow, the narrator, the lawyer, the accountant, and the Director of Companies.  I’ve got that part.

Why are we on the boat?  Something about a flood?  I don’t get feelings of worry or desperation, so is this just the tide?

I get the idea that the opening setting isn’t very important.  That it’s just a way for Conrad to trap some listeners for Marlow’s tale?

I can hear Marlow figuring it all out…

I want to tell a creepy tale about the inhumanity of civilized men in the deepest parts of Africa.  I know.  I’ll create a storyteller, and it will add to the mood of my book if I put my storyteller on a ship in the middle of the night.  yeah… that’s it.  And then I’ll make my storyteller talk about the time when he was on his boat in the middle of the night.  It will make the listeners feel like their right there with him in Africa.  Honey, call my editor.  I’ve got a great idea!

Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what Conrad was thinking.
What were you thinking in the beginning pages of the book?

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Posted by on April 11, 2013 in Heart of Darkness


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Knitting. Again.

I know what you’re thinking.  Because of this, and this, you’re concerned that I’m trying to subtly change our site into a knitting blog.  That’s not my goal, in fact I’ve passed up the chance on several other occasions to post about the knitting that made my fingers twitch for wool in previous novels – for instance there was Henry’s mother’s offering of socks before he went to war, and Huck’s knitted suspenders, and that’s just to name that last two.  See, I’ve spared you, friends.

But this one is important, second only to Dicken’s use of knitting in A Tale of Two Cities according to my footnotes.  The two women Marlow encounters as he enters the Belgian trading company are ominously stitching away on black wool.  It doesn’t take a Conrad scholar to notice the parallels between the darkness of their yarn and darkness of his.  That worsted can only mean the worst.

Knitting Kindle

But apparently there is even more to the story.  The ancient Greeks taught of three Fates, two of which spun the life-threads of all people, the third cut the thread when lives were over.

So, are the two threads those belonging to Kurtz and Marlow?  Who’s the third Fate?  Why doesn’t Marlow die?

Did I mention that I have knitting patterns saved for nearly every novel we’ve read over in my Ravelry account.  No?  Well, maybe tomorrow, oh, sorry, this is a reading blog, this is a reading blog . . .


Posted by on April 10, 2013 in Heart of Darkness


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