Friday, June 16, 2017

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (1868)

I was looking for something a little light and settled on Little Women

This Rainbow Classics 1934 copy is illustrated by Hilda van Stockum

The full color plates are nice but the silhouette graphics at each chapter are my favorite

All in all I am very impressed, what a great story, such insight into life. young dreams and harsh realities.

Its an interesting contrast to Gone with the Wind in that it is a Northern viewpoint. (life seems to be the same before and after)

Women's roles were more narrowly defined in those days but this does not out date this story. 

I think that every man and women getting married should read this book 1st. It outlines some of the fundamental tenants of marriage that I think apply as much today as they did a hundred and fifty years ago.

The lure of fame, the comfort of home, the desire for wealth, its all here. 

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Master of Precision: Henry M. Leland (1966)

I 1st read the Master of Precision in the early 80's, and wanted to revisit it as I am getting back into manufacturing in the great city of Detroit.

Forgotten because he didn't put his name on the companies he started most notably the Cadillac Motor Co. and the Lincoln Motor Co.

So in fact old Henry started two of the most popular lux brands in the industry.

One of the sides lines that the book reminds us of is just how much of an A-Hole Henry ford was; a small man who lied and cheated others just because he could.

Henry came from the Horse Age and lived into the Air Age. He was without a doubt one of the fathers of the Automobile Age. Lelands father was farmer and drove an eight-horse wagon between Boston and Montreal.

The Father of Precision may be a better name:  
I had trouble at first, in the early 1900s, in selling Mr. Leland our roller bearings. He then taught me the need for greater accuracy in our products to meet the exacting standards of interchangeable parts. Mr. Leland came to the industry with a mature experience in general engineering and in gasoline engines, which he had long made for boats. One of his specialties was precision metalwork, which went back to his experience in tool making for a federal arsenal during the Civil War, and which he afterward developed in the Brown and Sharpe Company, machine-tool makers of Providence, Rhode Island. It has been called to my attention It has been called to my attention that Eli Whitney, long before, had started the development of interchangeable parts, a fact which suggests a line of descent from Whitney to Leland to the automobile industry.

And who do you think created the electric started for the industry?
After getting to know the young Daytonians  Henry Leland told them about a friend of his who had stopped to help a woman whose car had stalled. As he cranked the starter, it kicked back and broke his jaw. The man later died from an infection as a result of that accident. This led Leland to ask Kettering and Deeds if they could use electricity to start a car. Of course, they accepted the challenge. A self-starter would not only prevent such accidents but would also open up the car market to women who were unable to crank a car. They returned to the Barn to try and make the first self-starter for automobiles... It was an intense period of hard work, trials and errors, but they ultimately had the system functioning well enough to submit the patent in November of 1910 and had it running on a Cadillac in January 1911. Following extensive testing in Detroit, Deeds and Kettering received an order for 12,000 systems from Henry Leland. The size of this order caught them by surprise and they were unable to find anyone to make such a quantity. So now they had to become manufacturers and moved into a new building downtown, effectively ending the need for the barn. But from 1908 to 1911, it was the birthplace of automotive electrical equipment.

I was born and raised in Detroit and will most likely die here, my father and his father worked in the car industry. I watched the decline of Detroit my whole life and never thought I would live to see the return.
But with pride I am happy to say that it is truly on its way back and the energy here is amazing.
I am joining in with the others to bring small scale manufacturing back in the areas of leather working.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Lorna Doone: A Romance of Exmoor by R D Blackmore (1869) Illu. C. Clark

Possibly one of the best books I have read.
LD is an outstanding time capsule, plenty of characters and just enough on each of them so we get to have an opinion of and a relationship with them all.

This is of course my style of great book; written by a master, takes place along time ago, and has many life lessons folded into it.

John claims to be stupid or slow but we see is just careful and measured. It is the classic Romeo and Juliet but they both live in the end. There are brothers and sisters who like and dislike each other, cousins and uncles who are good and bad, neighbors with daughters and neighbors who are murderers. There are many historical references which always have me looking up the facts. All in all it is a wonderful story to drop down into and leave our current train-wreck behind.

My copy was as inscribed a gift for Christmas in 1917, I bought it in October of 2016 while in Toronto visiting the Bata Shoe Museum during the HCC convention. I search out an antique book sellers when I travel for souvenirs and found Contact Editions The book I had seen online that they had turned out to be not very interesting and so I asked about my genre and they pointed out this wonderful copy. We had a nice conversation and I was on my way back to the seminar happy as a clam.
Turns out the second inscription was as a gift for Christmas in 1987... and so I wonder who will get it in 2087?

Some excellent passages
- "Least said soonest mended, because less chance of breaking"

- "He who will not when he may, when he will, he shall have nay"

- A classic romantic, pages long description of the beauty of the forest.
"Then the woods arose in folds, like drapery of awakened mountains, stately with a depth of awe, and memory of the tempests. Autumn’s mellow hand was on them, as they owned already, touched with gold, and red, and olive; and their joy towards the sun was less to a bridegroom than a father.
Yet before the floating impress of the woods could clear itself, suddenly the gladsome light leaped over hill and valley, casting amber, blue, and purple, and a tint of rich red rose; according to the scene they lit on, and the curtain flung around; yet all alike dispelling fear and the cloven hoof of darkness, all on the wings of hope advancing, and proclaiming, “God is here.” Then life and joy sprang reassured from every crouching hollow; every flower, and bud, and bird, had a fluttering sense of them; and all the flashing of God’s gaze merged into soft beneficence.
So perhaps shall break upon us that eternal morning, when crag and chasm shall be no more, neither hill and valley, nor great unvintaged ocean; when glory shall not scare happiness, neither happiness envy glory; but all things shall arise and shine in the light of the Father’s countenance, because itself is risen.
Who maketh His sun to rise upon both the just and the unjust. And surely but for the saving clause, Doone Glen had been in darkness. Now, as I stood with scanty breath—for few men could have won that climb—at the top of the long defile, and the bottom of the mountain gorge all of myself, and the pain of it, and the cark of my discontent fell away into wonder and rapture. For I cannot help seeing things now and then, slow-witted as I have a right to be; and perhaps because it comes so rarely, the sight dwells with me like a picture.
The bar of rock, with the water-cleft breaking steeply through it, stood bold and bare, and dark in shadow, grey with red gullies down it. But the sun was beginning to glisten over the comb of the eastern highland, and through an archway of the wood hung with old nests and ivy. The lines of many a leaning tree were thrown, from the cliffs of the foreland, down upon the sparkling grass at the foot of the western crags. And through the dewy meadow’s breast, fringed with shade, but touched on one side with the sun-smile, ran the crystal water, curving in its brightness like diverted hope.
On either bank, the blades of grass, making their last autumn growth, pricked their spears and crisped their tuftings with the pearly purity. The tenderness of their green appeared under the glaucous mantle; while that grey suffusion, which is the blush of green life, spread its damask chastity. Even then my soul was lifted, worried though my mind was: who can see such large kind doings, and not be ashamed of human grief?
Not only unashamed of grief, but much abashed with joy, was I, when I saw my Lorna coming, purer than the morning dew, than the sun more bright and clear. That which made me love her so, that which lifted my heart to her, as the Spring wind lifts the clouds, was the gayness of her nature, and its inborn playfulness. And yet all this with maiden shame, a conscious dream of things unknown, and a sense of fate about them.
Down the valley still she came, not witting that I looked at her, having ceased (through my own misprison) to expect me yet awhile; or at least she told herself so. In the joy of awakened life and brightness of the morning, she had cast all care away, and seemed to float upon the sunrise, like a buoyant silver wave. Suddenly at sight of me, for I leaped forth at once, in fear of seeming to watch her unawares, the bloom upon her cheeks was deepened, and the radiance of her eyes; and she came to meet me gladly."

- Nothing indeed has changed
"For, according to our old saying, the three learned professions live by roguery on the three parts of a man. The doctor mauls our bodies; the parson starves our souls, but the lawyer must be the adroitest knave, for he has to ensnare our minds. Therefore he takes a careful delight in covering his traps and engines with a spread of dead-leaf words, whereof himself knows little more than half the way to spell them"

 - If this is not the definition of my mother nothing is!
"Then (if you come to think again) lo!—or I will not say lo! for no one can behold it—only feel, or but remember, what a real mother is. Ever loving, ever soft, ever turning sin to goodness, vices into virtues; blind to all nine-tenths of wrong; through a telescope beholding (though herself so nigh to them) faintest decimal of promise, even in her vilest child. Ready to thank God again, as when her babe was born to her; leaping (as at kingdom-come) at a wandering syllable of Gospel for her lost one"

- Why I read
"Pure pleasure it is to any man, to reflect upon all these things. How truly we discern clear justice, and how well we deal it. If any poor man steals a sheep, having ten children starving, and regarding it as mountain game (as a rich man does a hare), to the gallows with him. If a man of rank beats down a door, smites the owner upon the head, and honours the wife with attention, it is a thing to be grateful for, and to slouch smitten head the lower"

Friday, January 20, 2017

Dubliners by James Joyce (1914)

After the Count I needed something short.  The Dubliners seamed good and I had never read any Joyce.

It reminded me how much I like poetic English especially coming from The Count translation where I'm guessing that any lyrical formations in the French version were lost.

However, it also reminded me why I hate short stories. Also reminds me that I do not care for the early 20th delve into realism.

A nice 1926 copy. 

Some Quotes:
"He had neither companions nor friends, church nor creed. He lived his spiritual life without any communion with others, visiting his relatives at Christmas and escorting them to the cemetery when they died. He performed these two social duties for old dignity's sake but conceded nothing further to the conventions which regulate the civic life."

"One of his sentences, written two months after his last interview with Mrs. Sinico, read: Love between man and man is impossible because there must not be sexual intercourse and friendship between man and woman is impossible because there must be sexual intercourse."

Oh how true, how true.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas (1844)

Long, complicated, and a little difficult to follow.

It was OK, except for the "death potion" gimmick,.
Where as in Ivanhoe the ghost was used to complete the story and would have been difficult with out it, I don't think Dumas needed it.

I see a common thread between this and the Country Parson; in that story Balzac is very interested in and well versed in finance too. I'm getting the impression that the French may have been the early capitalists? People from low places moving up the ladder, people from high birth falling in disgrace all based on finance.

For some reason I did not feel much for these characters, Dumas is a little dry.

The slow and obscure way that the revenge plot was revealed made for anxious reading.

The number of names was overwhelming so I needed and recommend a character list, to keep track of them.

I am convinced that this requires a second reading to smooth out the stammering story.

We learn about Carnival in 19th cent. Rome that was very interesting and that there is an actual island named Monte Cristo!

A nice 1984 printing with not enough illustrations.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Don Quixote by Cervantes (1605-15) Charles Jervas Translation

Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, are Dumb & Dumber. 

The 1st half of the book is without question the best part, the second half is a little contrived. 

Can't figure out when my copy was printed, early 1900's. It has 3 illustrations; one across from the Title page and two others that must have come from another book that was being printed in the shop that day; they are completely pointless pictures simply tossed into the the book, probably to make it an "illustrated" printing. 

So we are learning about obsession and the self delusion of a "leader," and the blind following of a hopeful believer. Similarities to today's political figures are hard to ignore. 

It could be that this story is / was just an entertaining folly for the diversion of those who could read at the time of publication. 

It's relevance today is to me in Sancho's observations and reactions to the callings, musings, and actions of his Knight. 

Sancho has visions of grandeur... remember when you were told the "you can be anything you want" fable?
That only worked to disappoint those of who dream big. For those who had no dream we have the dutiful follower Sancho. 

Sancho is the real "every man" mostly concerned about his next meal, and where sleep is to be had at the end of the day. 

His endless quotes are excellent; Cervantes clearly had seen and listened allot. 

Our Don on the other hand is like so many of us; looking for relevance by creating a world (in his head) where perfection lives, where rules are defined, and where I am special because I declare it. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Country Parson by Balzac (1839)

My 1st attempt at Balzac, very interesting, very surprising.
I had no idea what to expect; it is typical in many ways of the period even references J F Cooper's The Prairie. Balzac makes many references to the great expanses of the French country and as with many of his contemporaries waxes on about the beauty.

Without an in depth knowledge of French History it is a little hard to get the whole intent of the Author. I have never read of such things (in the last 1/4 of the book) regarding the politics of family and State economics. The issue of land divided equally between all siblings bringing about the ultimate result of  a "land rich, income poor" populace.
It was very difficult for me to determine which side of the politics he is on. In one moment he praises modern developments, the next he yearns for a return to the Church as central to daily life. Disdain for the ruling bureaucracy is clear but the hope of fixing it with the new young people is clear as well.

In general a very optimistic look at how and and what makes a comfortable society. He was influenced by the great outlook that was at this point of time in history, one of Science and Engineering. It was only at the very end that he gets almost as sappy as does Burnett in the The Secret Garden.

One of those books that intrigues and echos thru your head over and again.

Found this 100 year old copy; I think that the translation is excellent.

Hard to see the lining but nice Art Nouveau decoration.
No print date, beautiful floral decor.

A I love to read "books that are referenced in books" Balzac has Madame G reading and being transformed by the Paul et Virginie, I wonder if there is a good English trans?

Many insightful comments:
Ever since that event the profound politicians who exercise the censorship of sentiments, and settle other people's business in the intervals of whist. 

He made it clear that great things would be the result of the presence of a rich and charitable resident in the parish, by pointing out that the duties of the poor towards the beneficent rich were as extensive as the rich towards the poor.

In Gerard's letter to Grossetete he is disappointed with his life:
Again and again in fact we have admitted to each other in confidence that we are victims of a long mystification which we only discover when it is too late too draw, back when the mill- horse is used to the round, and the sick man accustomed to his disease