Sunday, July 19, 2009

Tom Swift, Jr., in "Kabulistan"

One of my Facebook friends started one of those game rounds, this one involving listing 15 books that would stick with me. The instructions went like this: Here are the rules: Don't take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you've read that will always stick with you. They don't have to be the greatest books you've ever read, just the ones that stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes. ... And in no particular order...

I'm showing my list below. But lately when I'm driving on the freeway, I get the image of a Tom Swift, Jr., kid's science fiction book that I read aeons ago when it was a challenging read. You can see from the cover why it might come to mind in heavy traffic.

The book is titled Tom Swift and his Triphibian Atomicar. And that link has the following summary that had a surprisingly contemporary ring to it:

An atomic-powered car that travels on land, water, and through the air -- Tom Swift Jr.'s latest invention -- is an extraordinary achievement. But even its young inventor could not anticipate what a dramatic role the Triphibian Atomicar would play in a technical aid mission which takes Tom and his top-flight engineers to the untamed Asian land of Kabulistan, to help the new republic develop its natural resources.

Time and again Tom must pit his skill and courage against fierce, nomadic tribesmen. But this is not a one-sided conflict between the ancient and the modern. Beneath the façade of thunderous hoofbeats, spears, and scimitars is a scientific mastermind bent on destroying the members of the Swift expedition in order to conceal from the Kabulistan government his discovery of a fabulous ruby mine lost for two centuries.

After a series of danger-packed episodes, Tom and his pal Bud Barclay are caught in a seemingly inextricable, underground trap. How Tom builds a "do-it-yourself" rocket in a cavern laboratory and sends it homing for aid is a brilliant stroke of ingenuity.

The young scientist-inventor's daring exploits in the primitive Middle East country of Kabulistan will keep the reader breathless with suspense until the last page of this gripping story.
So does this mean young Tom was a budding imperialist? Or a pinko radical sympathetic to Third World liberation movements? I'll have to say I don't remember the details of the story so I can't really say. But having a flying car sure would be cool at times. I mean, as long as you had the only one. Otherwise, we'd have traffic jams on the freeway and above it.

My list from the Facebook post:

OK, I'm game. I like the Notes function because I'm long-winded. But the instructions aren't always so clear. And I won't embarrass my heathen friends by naming the Bible because they didn't mention it. (You know who you are!) Actually, I'm not sure I've ever read every word of it.

1. The Mansion by William Faulkner (I consider his works part of the Scriptural canon, too)
2. Faust, Part 2 by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (the really good stuff in in Part 2)
3. Tom Swift and his Triphibian Atomicar by Victor Appleton II (I think of it every time I'm in a traffic jam)
4. The Organization Man by Wlliam H. Whyte, Jr.
5. The Beginnings of Desire: Reflections on Genesis by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg
6. The Culture of Contentment by John Kenneth Galbraith
7. Moses and Monotheism by Sigmund Freud
8. The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too by James K. Galbraith (my current secular bible on economics)
9. The Seven Laws of Money by Michael Philips (Kind of 1970s hippie-philosophy style, but one of the best books on money I've ever read)
10. Moby Dick; Or, The Whale by Herman Melville (It doesn't get better than Melville. Except for Faulkner, of course.)
11. La raza cósmica by José Vasconcelos
12. Josef und seine Bruder [Joseph and His Brothers] (4 vols.) by Thomas Mann
13. The Specter of Munich: Reconsidering the Lessons of Appeasing Hitler by Jeffrey Record
14. Elisabeth: Kaiserin Wider Willen [Elizabeth: Empress Against Her Will] by Brigitte Hamann
15. Geschichte der Opposition in der DDR, 1949-1989 [History of the Opposition in the GDR] by Ehrhart Neubert


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