Education of a Wandering Man, by Louis L'Amour

Louis Dearborn LaMoore was a high school dropout who by the time he died in 1988 he had sold 200,000,000 of his books. He had written primarily  Western novels (He preferred to call them "frontier stories")

L'Amour's success needs to be considered even before we look at "The Education of a Wandering Man, A Memoir by Louis L'Amour because, as an author, his success shouts loudly for some critics who label this book as less polished.

Many (myself included) didn't know L'Amour for anything except what seemed like a successful Western writer of historical fiction, before this book came out in 1989.

This book is a surprise giving us an overview of L'Amour's experiences in the western U.S. and Far East as seaman, ranch hand, mine guard and hobo. It shows that a person’s real life history is hard to beat for a good book.

The story starts with L'Amour dropping out of school at age 15 and becoming a wandering young man. He first became a hobo on the Southern Pacific Railroad, then a Cattle Skinner in Texas. He even became a world traveler, merchant seaman, based in Singapore. He made a living anyway he could. He worked as a hired hand, cowboy, and even as a prize fighter. He traveled the rails, lived in hobo camps, and learned while listening to men around the fires in the evening teaching him to be a natural storyteller.

When you read a story like this you don’t expect to have so many of the old classic’s discussed. During these years of traveling, Louis read everything he could find, educating himself. He learned from the masters in those books about the questions that have been discussed over centuries. His love affair with the books was real.

He always carried books with him in his travels. He would work a little and then always buy a book or two, if he could. What he bought was a regular part of the story along with what he was reading.  

One summer he spent three months alone in the mountains, living in an old shack, while taking care of cattle.  The shack had been used in prior years by those doing the same summer job and he found a sack of old books under some wood.  He wrote about his adventures during that time, and about the books he had found an read. The books were classic’s. Today they would also be called part of the "Great Books". They consisted of Aristotle, Plato, Nietzsche and others.

His story is a good lesson on being a reader first, and then a writer. L’Amour was a reader. He had an appetite for reading that seemed to never be satisfied.

He served in World War II and after the war started writing novels. One of his first was the novel "Hondo". It became a movie and John Wayne was the star and like other famous writers the movie let a lot of people know who he was.

The book shows where the passion for reading can lead and demonstrates how it serves those who are self-educated. They become someone different though their reading. They re-invent themselves. A great book to read even if you already like Louis L'Amour as a writer.

See Poetry Section for Poem, "I'm a Strange Here" by Louis L'Amour click here

Quotes by Louis L'Lamour

“Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” 


“Once you have read a book you care about, some part of it is always with you.” 

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished; that will be the beginning. ” 

“For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.” 

“The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast,
and you miss all you are traveling for.” 

“Few of us ever live in the present. We are forever anticipating what is to come or remembering what has gone.”

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, & Cats, the Musical

I loved the Play "Cats". It tells a story based on the poems from T.S. Eliot’s book- “Old Possum’s, Book of Practical Cats. My very favorite part of the play was the beginning of the second act. As it started out it said- “We had the Experience but missed the meaning”. We don't want our lives to be like that, we want to find the meaning of our experiences.

The story is of a tribe of cats called the "Jellicles" and the night they make "the Jellicle choice", which was to decide which cat will ascend to the Heaviside Layer and come back to a new life. 

Andrew Loyld Webber produced the play. Late in the production, and probably not part of the original plan, the director, Trevor Nunn, wrote the song Memory.  He based it on T.S Eliot’s poems, “Preludes” and “Rhapsody on a Windy Night”. The song, "Memory",  proved to be the most popular song from the play. It was sung by the cat character Grizabella who was once a glamour cat but had become only a shell of her former self. The song is a remembrance of her glorious past and of her wish to start a new life. It is presented in the first act, but then again near the beginning of the 2nd Act.  The song results in Old Deuteronomy choosing Grizabella to be able to go back and have another life.

Music has a way of taking us back to a time and a place. Memories are found by the music, as it seems to activate the brain. This happens in the medial prefrontal cortex region of the brain, which is one of the last to be changed with Alzheimer’s disease. That may help to explain why music can elicit such strong responses from people with Alzheimer's disease.

Many songs will bring back specific memories for us.  Musicals often introduce songs, that are so powerful years later they easily bring back the first time you heard them. Examples of musicals that do this well are: Les Miserable, Phantom of the Opera, and Cats.  

 Memory

Barbra Streisand recorded “Memory” in 1981.  Her presentation was awesome. It seems like it was made just for her to sing. The song took Grizabella and those that heard it back to a time and place and those memories expressed earned her another life. 

In 2009 when Scottish singer Susan Boyle performed this song, at her audition for the third series of the British reality TV show Britain's Got Talent, her career sky rocketed.  She seemed in many ways to be the character Fantine.

The Song

Midnight, not a sound from the pavement, Has the moon lost her memory, She is smiling alone In the lamplight, The withered leaves collect at my feet. And the wind begins to moan

Memory, all alone in the moonlight, I can dream of the old days, Life was beautiful then, I remember the time I knew what happiness was, Let the memory live again

Every street lamp seems to beat, A fatalistic warning, someone mutters and the street lamp sputters, and soon it will be morning

Daylight, I must wait for the sunrise, I must think of a new life, And I mustn't give in, When the dawn comes, tonight will be a memory, too, and a new day will begin.

 

Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, & Cats, 

Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe

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It has been at least 20 years since I first read “Things Fall Apart” and discovered it's author, Chinua Archebe. The book must have resonated with others because today it is the most translated African work of all time. It has been translated into 50 languages and has sold over 8 million copies.

In “Things Fall Apart” the main character was Okonkwo from a village in Nigeria. He was a warrior, father, and husband. A single minded hard man. 

In the beginning of the book the Africans appeared uncivilized. As the book proceeded we understand that they were indeed a African tribe with strong traditions and values.

The dignity and humanity of their lives just falls away with the influence of the white missionaries and intruders, whose teachings are foreign to the tribe and of which resistance is impossible. The Christian salvation just doesn't resonate. 

Okonkwo can't change himself, and seems to be alone in his understanding of what is happening, and he commits suicide. The culture is lost and a civilization is lost

Quotes

“The white man is very clever. He came quietly and peaceably with his religion. We were amused at his foolishness and allowed him to stay. Now he has won our brothers, and our clan can no longer act like one. He has put a knife on the things that held us together and we have fallen apart.”

 “There is no story that is not true, [...] The world has no end, and what is good among one people is an abomination with others.”