A Dab of Dobbin


Please, release me, let me go, for I don’t love you anymore.

To waste our lives would be a sin. Release me and let me love again.

(Song written in 1949 by Eddie Miller and Robert Yount)

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Release . If there is one literary character that personifies the song Release Me, it is William Dobbin in the novel Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery. Dobbin remains faithful to Amelia Sedley for years, even after her marriage to George Osborne. His name crops up occasionally in other literature as a byword for faithfulness and unrequited love. In one of Agatha Christie’s novels, a character is described as “a regular Dobbin”; that one word reveals volumes about the person.

There is another “Dobbin” in Vanity Fair and that is Amelia Sedley, the character about which Dobbin is so Dobbinish. She marries Dobbin’s best friend, George Osborne and when he is killed in battle, makes her life a shrine to his existence. Cherishing the memory of George, she rebuffs Dobbin’s offers of marriage, treating him very shabbily.

Now whenever I encounter a literary Dobbin, I always analyze the object of their devotion. Many times it’s a real head-scratcher. Take, for example, George Osborne. He is the spoiled son of a rich man. A vain, self-centered spendthrift, he squanders his inheritance and leaves Amalia pregnant and penniless at the time of his death. He also flirts shamelessly with Amalia’s best friend, Becky Sharp. While reading the book, I could find no qualities he possessed that compelled his wife’s steadfast devotion. Over and over, I asked myself, “Why, Amelia, why?”

I can understand why there are Dobbin characters in the first place. They can be interesting. However, when I consider all of the Dobbins I have encountered in literature, most of them are like Amelia. Why is that? Why do the worst characters bring out a person’s Dobbinishness?

(Note to self: Don’t be a Dobbin—if you must, make sure that he or she is worthy.)

So my advice to all you literary characters out there is this: If you are considering being a Dobbin, I suggest you dabble in it first. Begin by being a Dob and investigate your Dobbee thoroughly and objectively. It could save you a lifetime of grief.



Cry Aloud, Spare Not


(Rhino Between the Lines)

Amalia was awakened by the sound of tapping at the window. Heart pounding, she listened in the dark. Tap. Tap. Tap. There it was again. Someone was outside her room. Amalia was afraid, but she was not one to hoard her fear—she poked her sister Anna sleeping next to her.

“Anna,” she whispered, “Wake up. Someone is tapping on the window.”

Anna was awake in an instant.

“Oh, Mole, are you sure?”


Both girls sat up in bed and strained their ears. There was no more tapping. Instead, they heard the sound of voices whispering. It was followed a minute later by the sound of the back door opening. Amalia stiffened.

“Whoever it is, they are in the house,” she whispered.

“What should we do?”

Amalia thought for a moment.

“I am going to warn the household.”


“Quiet! On the count of three, I’m going to run down the hallway to our parent’s room and wake them up.”

“Oh, Mole, please don’t. I’ll be so scared. What if you get caught by whoever it is?”

“I’ll risk it. It’s just something I have to do. Ready? One…two… three.”

Amalia threw off the covers and ran screaming down the hallway.


Franna and Virgil threw open their door and caught Amalia as she hurtled headlong into them.

“Mole! What is it?” cried Virgil.

“There’s someone in the house,” Amalia panted.

Franna lighted a candle and the three of them made their way to the front room. There stood Cyril, Amalia’s brother, with his arm around a young man, who seemed to be in a swoon

“Cyril! What in heaven’s name is this?” Franna exclaimed.

At the sound of her voice, the young man lifted his head and waved his arm.

“You,” he said, “have aroused by interest. Now go away; I’ve grown quite bored of you.” Then his head drooped once more.

Virgil came closer and sniffed.

“Cyril,” he said, “I believe your companion is drunk.”

Cyril sighed.

“He is, unfortunately. This is Goodman Anselm’s nephew, Willis, who is staying with him for a while. We met the other day and formed an acquaintance. I don’t know what happened to get him in this state, but he decided he could not go to his uncle’s in this condition. So here came here instead.”

Cyril looked around the room. There was Virgil, Franna, Amalia, and Anna. Lammet, hearing the commotion, had also joined the group.

“I am so sorry,” he said. “When he knocked on my window, I didn’t know what else to do.”

Virgil put his arm under Willis and nodded to Cyril.

“There’s no harm done,” he said, “Let’s get this one to bed for now; we’ll talk in the morning.”

Together he and Cyril frog-marched Willis out of the room.

Amalia stared after them and groaned.

“I am so stupid,” she said. “I’ve made a first class fool of myself. Mother, how could I be such a dolt, running and screaming like that?”

Franna put her arm around her daughter.

“I call that being brave,” she said. “You had no idea it was Cyril and his friend. Instead, you ran into what you thought was danger in order to save your family. I’m proud of you. You did well.”

Amalia brightened.

“You really think so?” she said. “I didn’t feel brave at the time.”

“Those who are truly brave rarely do. They just work with their fear to do the right thing.”

Later in bed, Anna poked Amalia.

“Are you asleep yet? I think you are brave, too—loud, but brave. Maybe tomorrow we can go somewhere and practicing screaming, just in case.”

“That’s a great idea. We must always make sure our voice is heard. It’s the brave thing to do.”

Daily Prompt:Brave

The Great Secret

The Daily Press word-of-the-day is Deny. It reminds me of a scene between Skandar and Amalia the day they first met. Skandar is on his way to London to be inducted as the brother of Prince Rhino, which means he must leave his old life behind, and that includes his natural brother, Alanar. Although Skandar must never speak of Alanar as his brother, his heart cannot deny his love for him. In the meantime, Amalia is curious about Skandar and senses that he has a secret, which she is determined to winkle out of him. She wonders whether or not Skandar is going to tell a lie; she is rather excited about the prospect.


Without thinking he blurted out, “This is just like the cave that my brother and I discovered!”

“Brother?” Amalia looked puzzled. “You have a brother?”

Skandar was aghast. What was he to do? He stammered as he searched for words.

“I, uh, I…well, I can’t really…what I mean is…there’s this person who…who…oh, bother!”

“Are you going to tell a lie?” Amalia asked. “Because if you do, tell a lie, that is, I really don’t mind. The lie, I mean. I just want to know what it feels like.” She looked at Skandar expectantly. Perhaps she would perceive his evil!

Skandar stared at Amalia.

“I am not going to tell a lie,” he protested. “I’m just looking for a way to tell the truth. There are some things I am not supposed to talk about and my brother is one of them.” Skandar threw himself down on the ground and began pulling up tufts of grass. Looking somewhat disappointed, Amalia plopped down beside him.

“So why can’t you talk about your brother?”

“It’s because of the Covenant. You’ve heard of the Covenant, haven’t you?”

“A little–but what does that have to do with your brother?”

“Because the Covenant states that I’m supposed to be the prince’s brother! It makes it rather awkward to already have one. What I mean is, Alanar, that’s my brother, and I had all sorts of adventures together. Just think how that would be if I went around telling everyone how much fun we had—my mother said ‘it would be inappropriate.’” Skandar looked at Amalia for reassurance. “Mole, do you understand what I mean?”

Amalia nodded sympathetically. At length she said, “I think it will be alright if you tell me about you and your brother. After all, I am not the prince and I won’t think it’s ‘inappropriate.’”

The “E” Ticket

The Daily Press Prompt is Witty

On Fridays, I usually write about authors and books and since witty books written by witty authors are my favorites, I had no problem responding to the prompt.

When Disneyland was young, you could purchase tickets for rides individually or you could by a coupon book. The tickets were ranked according to fun level and popularity of the ride, with “A” being the cheapest (usually the rides for small children) and “E” being the most expensive for the thrill rides or most entertaining rides (like The Matterhorn); the in-between rides were “B”, “C”, and “D.”

The coupon book was the better value so we always purchased it, and then hoarded the highly-prized “E” tickets. Witty books written by witty authors are the “E” tickets of literature. They are engaging, entertaining, enlightening, encouraging, edifying, and empowering. They are the only books to which I give a five-star review. So here is my list of E-ticket fiction books.

Fantasy The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien, His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman, and Space Trilogy by C. S. Lewis

Science Fiction Foundation Series by Isaac Asimov

Mystery Robot Series by Isaac Asimov and the novels of Agatha Christie

Culture and Society The Barchester Chronicles by Anthony Trollope, the novels of Jane Austen, and the novels of P. G. Wodehouse

Children and Young Adult The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, Anne of Green Gables Series by Lucy M. Montgomery, and The Time Series by Madeleine L’Engle.

There are not many books on the list, which is expected in a normal distribution. The “E” books are rare, comprising a very small percent of the book population. The other reason reason for the paucity of “E” books is that all but one of the authors is deceased. That makes it rather difficult to read their new books–they aren’t writing any.

The fact that I love the “E” books does not deter me from reading other books; they are like the “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D” tickets in the Disneyland coupon books. I read quite a bit, always in search of the elusive “E” ticket.

Finally, I have to include everything I write for The Book of Rhino as an “E” book. It would have to be because I put everything I love into it, which makes it valuable only to me and those particular readers who share my particular taste in literature. I suspect that we are also on the far end of a normal distribution, comprising only a small percent of the reading public. That’s alright. Someone has occupy that standard deviation.

Taking a Break


This is my last post for a while. I have lymphoma and have to start chemotherapy. Under its influence, I doubt I will feel much like writing.

I really like the blogging community and will miss my daily interactions. I hope to be back to normal by the first of the new year.

Many blessings to all you fellow bloggers; may you enjoy success in all your endeavors.

I hope during my absence that Rhino will not be forgotten.

S. M. Hart

Denatured Nature



Among the forces which sweep and play through the universe, untutored man is but a wisp in the wind. Our civilization is still in a middle stage, scarcely beast, in that it is no longer wholly guided by instinct; scarcely human, in that it is not yet wholly guided by reason. On the tiger no responsibility rests.

Theodore Dreiser ~ Sister Carrie

Here come the tourists. They truck in by the busload, hundreds of them, to stare at us, and let us stare at them in turn.

It’s a shame really that our visceral fear of humans kept us away from them. We never knew how interesting they are as a species. Instead of getting to know them, we fled from them whenever they came around. They had to drag us kicking and screaming into a relationship with them.

And now, here we are, as curious about them as they are about us. We can stare at each other all day long without fear. We are in a safe place.

Daily Prompt:

Solitary Characters

Korin-Underground Man

It is not only true that humility is a much wiser and more vigorous thing than pride. It is also true that vanity is a much wiser and more vigorous thing than pride. Vanity is social—it is almost a kind of comradeship; pride is solitary and uncivilized. Vanity is active; it desires the applause of infinite multitudes; pride is passive, desiring the applause of only one person, which it has. Vanity is humorous, and can enjoy the joke even of itself; pride is dull and cannot even smile.

G. K. Chesterton ~ Heretics

I equate the novels of Ayn Rand with the word “solitary.” The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged both have as their central character a solitary man, a rugged individualist, who stands alone against the tide of popular opinion.

(Note to self: Are all individualists necessarily rugged? Could other adjectives also apply? John Galt, fluffy individualist. Howard Roark, simpering individualist. Not quite the same magic. No, I think that if a character insists on being an individualist, he (rarely she), must be rugged.)

Solitary characters populate the landscape of Rand’s novels—they are her heroes and heroine’s. One knows they are because (1) only the bad guys travel in packs and (2) the heroes couldn’t tell a joke if their lives depended on it.

(Note to self: Remember that scene where John Galt is tortured by electrical currents? His tormentors want to know where his secret hideout is located. Wouldn’t it be funny if they were trying to force a joke out of him? They would have a better chance of getting him to disclose the hole-in-the-wall gang.)

“What is the joke about a skunk, a mole, and a rabbit who all walk into a bar? Say it, or you’ll get another jolt. Say it! Say it!”

Stubborn—make that rugged—silence.

“Alright, boys, give him another!”

“Wait! The coordinates are 39.1911 degrees north by 106.8175 west. Now may I be excused please?”

Actually, I am not quite correct in stating that Randy characters cannot tell a joke. Sometimes they are the joke. In one scene, Dagny Taggart and Henry Reardon are sitting in a restaurant having a decidedly unsolitary dinner. Their conversation includes comments on how self-conscious all the other diners are. If these two rugged (and apparently hungry) individuals are so hell-bent on being solitary, then why do they even notice the other people in the room? I’m sure their fellow diners did not give Dagny and Henry a second thought.

(Note to self: Don’t tell Dagny and Henry. I mean, what is the good of being a solitary character if your efforts go unnoticed? To stand out in a crowd, one not only needs the crowd, but the crowd must acknowledge one’s solitariness)

Daily Prompt:Solitary

Character Quotes


Sometimes I scatter words haphazardly across a sheet of paper without any conscious awareness of pattern—just spontaneous outpourings of thoughts and feelings. But when I step back and regard what I have written, I see the universe meant something after all. And I am willing and not willing to have it so.

Trevor ~ The Book of Rhino

Daily Prompt:Willy-nilly

Maugham’s Unicorn


Somerset Maugham uses two interesting literary devices in his novel The Razor’s Edge. One is that he is a cameo character in his own story. He uses himself having conversations with the other characters as a means of advancing the plot. The story revolves around a group of friends that Maugham occasionally visits, sometimes after an absence of several years. Like real life friends, they update him on what has happened in their lives since the last time they were together. As a result, for much of the book, readers do not “see” the characters doing things in real time. Instead, they are told about them second-hand as Maugham records his conversations. It gives the book the feel of a personal journal.

The other literary device he uses is having the main character, Larry, drift in and out of the story. It reminded me of Madeleine L’Engle’s unicorn in her book Many Waters.

“Oh, that’s a unicorn. They’re very odd. Sometimes they are and sometimes they aren’t. If we want one, we call and it’ll usually appear.”

Larry makes sudden and unanticipated appearances throughout the book. He is there, and then he isn’t. Like L’Engle’s unicorn, sometimes when he goes out, he takes people with him, not physically but emotionally. Maugham makes it clear that if it weren’t for Larry, he would not have written the book—yet, compared to the other main characters, his story takes up the least number of pages.

I wonder why Maugham did that. Why would he cast himself as himself in his fiction? Why is his most influential character his most ephemeral? For that matter, why are there unicorns, and where do they go when they “go out”? I must think about this because I sense that they are connected. I wonder if Larry and the unicorns are acquainted. Or perhaps Larry is looking for unicorns. Perhaps he is looking for Rhino.

Unique Blogger Award


I have been nominated for the Unique Blogger Award by noneuclideansofa, whose blog is exemplary for its uniqueness. That NES should include me in his list of unique bloggers is an honor. I am very appreciative of this recognition and will do my best to abide by its social compact. (Note: I am currently reading Foundation’s Edge in which one of the characters uses abbreviations as a sign of friendliness and respect. It is in this spirit that I am using the initials NES for noneuclideansofa.)

The rules of the Unique Blogger Award are:

  • Share the link of the blogger who has shown love to you by nominating you.
  • Answer the questions.
  • In the spirit of sharing love and solidarity with our blogging family, nominate eight to ten people for the same award.
  • Ask them three questions.

Here are my answer the three questions I was asked.

  1. What is something you’d show from a rooftop on a Sunday night during a rainstorm? Also, explain why at your leisure.

If I were on a rooftop on a Sunday night during a rainstorm, I would show passersby why it is not a good idea to be on a rooftop on a Sunday night during a rainstorm because of what happened the last time I went “perching.” It was a Saturday night, it was not raining, and the hotel upon which I sat with my sister and my cousin was only three stories tall. Nevertheless, it was dangerous. On the way up, we interrupted some guys on the stairwell preparing to…well, never mind. They barked at us and told us to move along. I was worried that they might push us off the roof.

  1. What is something you could enjoy complaining a lot about?

I could very much enjoy complaining about the excellence of our government. Imagine if that was the case—think of what wonderful rants equity, economy, effectiveness, and efficiency could inspire! The E-ticket!

  1. What is something you think about that keeps you awake?

Thinking about projects keeps me awake. I don’t know why it is that 2:00 in the morning is the time to think about writing, reading, sewing, cooking, shopping, and keeping the bats out of the patio. You would think I had nothing better to do.

I hope the answers to these questions are sufficient. I enjoyed thinking about them (but not at night.)

Here are my nominees for the Unique Blogger Award:










Here are my three questions for these unique bloggers

  1. What is the most recent book you have read?
  2. What literary character do you think would enjoy reading that book?
  3. Why do you think that character would enjoy reading it?

Thank you for your participation. I hope you enjoy it. Looking forward to reading your answers.

Curious Hart