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.

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



Thursday, July 28, 2016

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett (1910)

What an outstanding book.
I didn't know what to expect but it is such a pleasing story. A children's book yes, it has that feel but it covers many of life's major problems much of them with fine Yorkshire honesty.

This is an excellent book for children to read and discuss; so many spot-on life lessons are laid out clearly and plainly. 

Found this when I ran out of reading material up north.
It has a beautiful cover made of some faux leather like material.
The characters are great, and the 1st half is with out flaw, the second half brings in the power of positive thinking; a new concept in the early 1900s and it gets just a little thick at times.

Ben gives a little insight into his opinion on authority:
“Th’ best thing about lecturin’,” said Ben, “is that a chap can get up an’ say aught he pleases an’ no other chap can answer him back. I wouldn’t be agen’ lecturin’ a bit mysel’ sometimes.”

Mrs Sowerby steels the show at times with her wisdom.
“Two worst things as can happen to a child is never to have his own way - or always to have it.”

Ben:
“The robin flew from his swinging spray of ivy on to the top of the wall and he opened his beak and sang a loud, lovely trill, merely to show off. Nothing in the world is quite as adorably lovely as a robin when he shows off - and they are nearly always doing it.”  
I have noticed this year especially that the Robins are some of the most friendly and least fearful of the birds in the neighborhood.

Martha:
“Listen to th' wind wutherin' round the house," she said. "You could bare stand up on the moor if you was out on it tonight."
Mary did not know what "wutherin'" meant until she listened, and then she understood. 


  Martha may be the most fun to read of all.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Overland to Cariboo: an eventful journey of Canadian pioneers in 1862 By Margaret McNaughton (1896)

Found this old gem recently, payed $2 for it, can't find any better on the net for under a $100.

It is an "account" of what happened in second hand by the wife of one of the adventurers.

An astonishing account of perseverance, blind stupidity, and luck (by most) in trying to get to the Gold rush site in Cariboo.Once again greed is a substantial motivator. The Great Expectations of many are met in spades but only after substantial hardships.

And as in Great Expectations these men have forged life long alliances with their fellow travelers that served them well through out their remaining years.

The book has many pictures (some useless) but all intended to capture the moment which they do.

Really nice condition copy.
The stout looking Margarete.
Let's go!
Are you kidding me? Wooden wheels NO metal parts, what a nightmare.

The Canadian Indians of the day were much friendlier than our Western Indians; Canadian Eh?
Without their help at critical points some of the travelers would not have made it.

A 50hr trip by car!

The Panama Canal was under construction at the time of the writing but the only other way to get there in 1862 was around the Horn.

I didn't count how many times "the boat overturned and they lost every thing" came up but it was a lot.

The book ends with a one page Bio for some of the key players and illustrates how hardship can make the man. And how hardship endured together can forge a future

Kudos to all the Canadians and the Immigrants that accomplished this dream.





Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)

I did not like it as much as David Copperfield however it is very good. As relevant today as when written.

As with all Dickens it has the Good, the Bad, the Ugly, the Evil, the Kind, the Smart, the Dumb, the Intelligent, and the Common folks depicted in very insightful ways. Oh, and redemption too.

I would say that the 1st half sort of plods along but it takes all that to set the stage for the second half.
The 2nd half becomes a whirl wind of action, intrigue and adventure.

Got tired of waiting to find a better one at the estate sales so I picked this one up.

No date, maybe early 1900's

Pretty good condition.
Don't know how they served themselves or the readers by leaving out the details but this is all you get when it comes in a set.
The only illustration was a very poor choice but, they often are.

Amazing contrasts between city and country characters.
The city characters all have a forced duplicity in that they are play acting when at work and more real to their nature when at home. Wemmick is so likable at home and I wish he were a friend of mine; able to switch from business to personal and keep the two in their own compartments. I guess I have known many who can and cannot make this transition; if required it is the better way to go, duplicity that is.

 One of the searing quotes:
"All other swindlers on earth are nothing to the self-swindlers" never heard it put so sharply.

Pip to me becomes a good "every-man" in-spite of his (and others for him) Great Expectations. Oh to recall my own Great Expectations and to now confront the reality of a life where much good has been achieved, many missteps taken and my Great Expectations won't be achieved.

The young many about town, having fun spending all his money, getting in debt and finding out he is a fraud. So as soon as he discovers his benefactor's real identity we as readers are forced to decide what we would do; keep riding the gravy train comes to mind. Pip has a young man's idealism and decides otherwise.

Although he never "goes back to the farm" he admits several times he may have been happier staying there.

Magwitch is one character that is a product of his upbringing (this of course could never happen today) but strives to good for his own legacy. He however is chained to his inescapable past doings, as are we all.

The concept of a benefactor is the only device that on the surface seems rare however social privilege has in fact a similar effect. And too the benefits of making and retaining friends through out the course of life is a critical take away and should be heeded well by the young reader. Loosing all your formative years friends is a mistake. FYI by formative years I mean your late teens and twenties, friends after that (in the words of my stepfather) are most likely just acquaintances. 

Several times we wish Handel would stop over thinking things and consider the better option or just take it all in instead of coming to things with a preconceived notion.

The book has many lessons for those of you living a dream. I think the hardest lesson to see is how each life event is going to force a future upon you, and how to shape that event outcome for the best; the forest for the trees issue. The old adage: life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it, could be calculated for each of the characters in the novel, it would be fun to place each of them on an X Y chart.