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24
Jun

The Death of the Heart

 

1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
a. The title indicates that something will die in the story
b. ….it is a challenge to the reader to discover it

 

2. Who are the  main characters?
a. Portia:
b. Love child Thomas’s father, upsets Quayne’s posh London lifestyle
c. Thomas and Anna Quayne:
d. Anna weds Thomas on the rebound.
e. It is a undemanding marriage lacking passion.

 

3. How does the story get started?
a. Thomas and Anna Quayne open the door with no enthusiasm to find
b. to find a 15 yr orphaned half sister of Thomas on the doorstep.
c. Portia is an outsider who disrupts their orderly and quiet life.
d. The Quaynes have an arranged marriage.
e. Anna who is childless settles for other admirers,
f. St. Quentin, Eddie and Maj. Brutt,
g. who will entertain her without the need for physical rewards.

 

4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading characters?
a. external – Thomas and Anna show brittle sophistication accepting outsider Portia.
b.They feel they are doing the right and proper thing.
c. internal – Thomas and Anna suffer from insecurities; collapsing marriage
d. Portia does not need the ‘right thing‘ (polished for society)
e. but needs the ‘good thing’ (love and attention)
f. Thomas and Anna struggle to come to terms with the difference.
g. external – Portia is desperate to find her place in her new world.
h. internal – Portia struggles with illusion of romantic love (affair Eddie; Maj. Brutt)
i. and her loss of innocence.

 

5. What is the structure of the book?
a. 3 parts – The World – The Flesh – The Devil (temptations for Portia)
b. 3 seasons – Winter – Spring – Summer
c. 3 places – London – Seale-on-Sea (Kent coastal village) – London

 

6. Does this story create any special mood?
a. Setting: Bowen goes into great detail describing houses and rooms.
b. Windsor Terrace: gleaming marble (cold, hard); fireplace with a ‘hard’ glow
c. House lacks real warmth.
c. Seale-on-Sea: plumbing pipes that gurgle, people tumbling down stairs, parties.
d. House is filled with emotions.

 

7. What is the general theme of the story?
a. Isolation: each character flees to private space in the house
b. Portia: her room with barred window
c. Anna: her room to read love letters kept in locked drawers or bathroom
d. Thomas: his downstairs study
e. Mother-daughter relationship:
f. motherless girl needs Anna
g. childless woman needs Portia
h. ….but they have difficulty finding each other.

 

Conclusion:

  1. This is Elizabeth Bowen’s masterpiece.
  2. She describes pre-WWII British upper-middle class.
  3. Bowen’s words are satirical and at times humorous.
  4. Yet….the book did not sweep me off my feet.
  5. Why?
  6. The book was a sea of pauses, silences, a few clever
  7. gestures to reveal character and a diary that upset so many lives
  8. ….but not much else.
  9. I missed words that sent chills down my spine.
  10. For example: Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth (pg 173)
  11. “What Lily craved was the darkness made by enfolding arms,
  12. …silence which is not solitude but…compassion.”
  13. Nowhere in The Death of the Heart did I read such depth of thought.
  14. On a positive note…it is an remains a classic, like it or not.

 

22
Jun

American Ulysses

 

  • Author R.C. White
  • Title: American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant
  • Published: 2016
  • Trivia: #20BooksOfSummer
  • Trivia: New York Times best seller

 

Introduction:

  1. The book is a biography so the structure is what you would expect.
  2. What you don’t expect is White’s ability to show Grant in 3- dimensions.
  3. Husband – military strategic genius – pragmatic president.

 

  • Family life in Ohio
  • Military study at West Point
  • Love affair with ‘my dear Julia’ Dent
  • Mexican-American War
  • Civil War
  • 18th president of United States
  • Retirement (30 month trip around the world)
  • Writing memoirs in collaboration with Mark Twain.

 

Why did I read this book?

My main purpose was to learn why Grant was so successful in the Civil War?

  1. I followed the chapters about the battles at Belmont, Fort Henry, Fort Donelson
  2. Shiloh, Iuka, Vicksburg, Chattanooga and Richmond.
  3. I used google maps and wikipedia to form an image of the battlefield.
  4. It was a fascinating read.
  5. Grant would scout the landscape to discover IF he could use it to his advantage.
  6. His emphasis was on:
  7. strategy: siege – classic…surround and just wait.
  8. (broke out of siege in Chattanooga; set up 12 mi siege line around Vicksburg)
  9. speed: delay only accrues credit for the defender (regroup/resupply)
  10. break the cracker line: (supply lines food and ammunitions)
  11. create diversions, cut telegraph lines, smash RR tracks and bridges
  12. Be alert: scurrying rabbits and squirrels indicated to the ‘pickets’ that
  13. enemy infantry were creeping closer through the brush.
  14. broad battlefield: keep enemy guessing where Grant would strike (Vicksburg)

 

What were some  dangers that Grant tried to avoid?

  1. Over confidence of troops after newspapers predict an easy victory at Shiloh.
  2. Miscommunication and mud:
  3. …terrain can delay messages and arrival of reserve troops.
  4. Intelligence:
  5. …danger of believing all deserters who bring news of enemy positions and size.
  6. Inflated egos of commanders (McClernand was Grant’s nemesis)
  7. Don’t ever leave HQ without assigning a second in command.
  8. Teach soldiers to live off land and stretch 2 days rations over 7 days!

 

Why was Grant such a great Civil War general?

  1. He was  always calm and decisive.
  2. He molded army and navy forces into one team.
  3. He listened and asked questions.
  4. He did not micromanage (trusted commanders).
  5. He seldom engaged in criticism after a battle.
  6. He avoid unnecessary insult to brave soldiers (surrender Gen Lee Appomattox)
  7. Whenever playing defense
  8. ……Grant always planned to go on offense, plan B.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. When I finished this book last night
  2. …and read about Grant’s final campaign (death)
  3. I felt I lost a friend.
  4. This was the most moving biography I’ve read in a long time.
  5. Personally, parts 1-3  were the best (youth, West Point, Civil War).
  6. Parts 4-6 (Reconstruction,  18th President, World tour) were less interesting.
  7. What a great general
  8. …. he won the Civil War and impressed us with his humility.
  9. #MustRead
21
Jun

Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh

 

ANALYSIS

1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
The title refers to Williams’s frequent trips to the artsy enclave of Provincetown Massachusetts. The Pilgrims first landed near the site of modern Provincetown on the tip of Cape Cod in November 1620 before moving to Plymouth. They made a pilgrimage for religious freedom, Williams made his his pilgrimage for the the animated Greek male marble sashaying around the P-town dinner party circuit.

 

2. What sort of conflict confronts Tennessee Williams?
a.external – Williams is forever battling between the destructive (pills, alcohol ) and creative (plays).
b.internal – He tires to free himself from his mother’s puritan repression, while trying to win the affection of distant, dismissive and combustible father.

 

3. How is the conflict resolved?
As soon as Williams started his writing (won 1000,— Rockefeller Scholarship) he left home.
He had to leave the unsayable secrets (sister Rose slowly sinking into madness), the sense of masquerade (parents toxic marriage) and the palpable emptiness.

4.  How does the author reveal Williams to the reader?
Conversations with partners (Frank Merlo), producers (Elia Kazan) and parasites ( other riff raft that hung on to Williams’s coat tails especially Maria Britneva). Lahr has made an extensive use of the notes and personal diaries of Tennessee Williams.

 

5. Did you identify with any of the characters in William’s plays?
No, I couldn’t identify with the characters. Luckily I did not have a father “who fell in love with distance (pg 36) or a prim and proper mother who suffocated him in her ‘haunted household (pg 33).

 

6. Does this story contain any symbolism?
Glass Menagerie: The title represents the ‘famlly’s fragility’ (William’s family). The decor on stage, the fire escape, alley and secondhand furniture represented Tennessee’s existence in St. Louis Missouri.
Street Car Named Desire.: But I found the most profound symbolism in SCND:
Blanche DuBois asks for directions to her sister’s apartment. She must take two streetcars one named ‘Desire’ the other ‘Cemeteries’ and she will be at her sister’s address ‘Elysian Fields’ ( mythological land of the dead).
Blanche is literally and figuratively at the end of the line. (pg 121)
Blanche DuBois is Tennessee Williams who longs for the safety of embrace for the release of unhappiness ( last line as she falls into the arms of a doctor who takes her to a mental institution) “ “I’ve always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

7. Was there a villain in the story?
Tennessee William’s mother: She boasted “ the only psychiatrist in whom I believe is our Lord” (pg 55). She lodged a paranoia and terror in her children. She changed Tennessee’s behaviour and drove Rose her daughter into madness.

 

8. Can you find any examples of figurative language?
The plays are the literary works that Williams will be remembered for, but I could his poems are capable of arousing deep emotion. When Williams felt he was living on “borrowed creativy” he wrote this poem to shape his lack of inspiration.

“Old men go mad at night, but are not Lears
There is no kingly howling of their rage, their grief, their fears dementedly, […]
No title of dignity, now, no height of old estate, give stature to the drama

Ungrateful heirs, indeed! Tier treacherous seed
turns them away from more than tall gold-hammered doors:
Exiles them into such enormous night
skies have no room for it

And old men have no Fools except themselves.

 

9. What do you think the purpose of the Tennessee Williams was by writing his most famous plays (Glass Menagerie, Streetcar named Desire, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Sweet Bird of Youth) ?
Williams used his plays to enter an imaginary world: “ Suddenly I found that I had a stage inside me: actors appeared out of nowhere…and too the stage over.” ( pg 34).
The driving force, impulse and impetus for writing was to break free from his dysfunctional family.
The comparison between his plays and his childhood was the BEST part of the book.
Mother’s monolithic puritanism was the most damaging element in Tennessee’s life
In in my opinion. his mother was more damaging than the pills (when TW died they found 13 bottles of prescription drugs, Aldomet, Zyloprin, Reglan, Seconal etc) and alcohol.

 

10. Does the story contain a single effect or impression on me?
Of course the brilliant rise and tragic fall of Tennessee Williams is the first impression I experienced. He used sex as ‘spiritual champagne’ and Rx prescription pills for his blues. By being desired he was empty of need. (pg 88).
The second impression and one of the most important reasons to read this book is my new understanding of how a play is written, painstakingly re-written several times and masterly staged in collaboration with the director.

 

Conclusion:
I was deeply impressed by the life of Tennessee Williams.
Of all the characters he created it I think
Alma in Summer and Smoke is the best representation of the playwright.
Once she casts off her parents and the rectory, the serenity she finds is not the peace of heaven but the bliss of pickups and pills. (pg 99)

What is the line in his plays that made a lasting effect of me?
Summer and Smoke:

“The prescription number is 96814” she says in the finale.
“I think of it as the telephone number of God!”

 

18
Jun

Ragtime

 

  • Author:  E.L. Doctorow
  • Title: Ragtime
  • Published: 1975
  • Genre: historical fiction
  • Trivia:  Nr 86 on Modern Library’s top 100 novels 20th
  • #20BooksOfSummer
  • Setting: New Rochelle; Lawrence Mass; Atlantic City
  • Timeline: 1900-1917

 

1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
I had no idea what the connection between title and book was an had to do some research. Ragtime was a popular music genre in 1900. It  represents the last time America moved at such a slow, measured pace.  Doctorow writes about this  period just before the chaos of  WWI.

2. What is the predominant element in the story?
Ragtime follows the lives of three families: a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (WASP); a black family and an immigrant family. At the beginning of the novel these families’ existences are entirely segregated. At the end of the story they come together to become an unique American unit.

3. Who is the single main character?
All the major characters are in the middle of the action but not really central to it. Doctorow mixes seamless fictitious characters with historical figures. J.P. Morgan – Booker T. Washington – Emma Goldman – Commander Peary – Sigmund Freud – Houdini – Evelyn Nesbit – H.K. Thaw – Stanford White.

4. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
Each narrative has a conflict. Father and Tateh  want to react to changing times while Coalhouse Walker wants to start a revolution!
a. WASP: – Father wants to fight the elements and reach the North Pole
b. Black: – Coalhouse wants to fight racial injustice and destroy Morgan Library in NYC.
c. Immigrant:  – Tateh wants to survive hardships of tenement life.

7. What point of view is used?
a. A nameless ‘little boy’ tells the story. In chapter 15 we learn more about him.
b. An unidentified ‘we’ is used probably referring to Americans in general.

 

10. Does the story have a thematic message?
People are  trying to find a feeling of stability and purpose.
a. Novelist T. Dreiser is unhappy with the review of his book Sister Carrie. He sits alone in his chair and feels he is facing in the wrong direction. Throughout the night he turns his chair to find ‘alignment’.
b. Commander Peary looks for geographical ‘alignment’ the exact point on the North Pole.
c. J.P. Morgan seeks ‘alignment’ in trying to become immortal (reincarnation).

11. Does the story contain a single effect or impression for the reader?
Doctorow shows the reader the American Dream from different angles.
The rich and famous discover failure and disappointment (J.P. Morgan)
The poor immigrant fascinated by ‘moving pictures’
…becomes a successful film director. (Tateh)

 

Conclusion:

  1. Ragtime was a very easy and entertaining book to read.
  2. Doctorow’s style is the use of short sentences and ever changing scenes.
  3. The action keeps moving to a ‘ragtime beat’.
  4. Tip: do a quickscan of the historical figures on Wikipedia before reading the book.
  5. Your back round information will make it easier to ‘place’ these people in the story.
  6. Strong point: motif  photograph (motion pictures or paper silhouettes).
  7. Motif is repeated several times:
  8. Photo of Evelyn in newspapers as first American sex goddess! (ch 11)
  9. Photo of Comm. Peary trying to  capture the North Pole. (ch 10)
  10. Silhouette portraits tossed in trash by dejected lover
  11. …only to be salvaged by his young nephew. (ch 14)
  12. The photo’s have a deeper meaning that goes beyond the literal object.
  13. In a photograph people leave a portion of themselves,
  14. …a residue of light and shadow. (chapter 15)
  15. Doctorow is doing the same
  16. …only his medium is ‘words’  not celluloid.

Last thoughts:

  • The book was good….not great.
  • I cannot understand why this is on the top 100 novels list!
  • I would have included
  • Advise and Consent by Allen Drury instead!

 

12
Jun

The Sympathizer

 

Conclusion:

  1. This book grabs the reader with the first sentence:
    ” I am a spy, a sleeper, a spook, a man of two faces.”
  2. The theme of being divided into two halves (..two faces)
    was laced throughout the text:
    ‘better to be…
    villain than virtuous extra
    to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven
    loved than hated
    hated than ignored.
  3. The narrator’s tragic flaw is in the title:
  4. He would be better off if he saw things from one side,
  5. but he didn’t. He saw it from both sides
  6. ch 14: “you’re too sympathetic, the General said….”
  7. Writing was at times very original.
  8. — She had a mind like an abacus, the spine of a drill instructor,
  9. and a body of a virgin even after five children
  10. — Cognac made everything beautiful,
  11. …the equivalent of a mother’s kiss for a grown man.
  12. Religion is a prominent theme in the book
  13. The narrator is the bastard the son of a maid and French priest.
  14. Again the ‘two faces’ of the narrator are visible (ch 2).
  15. —  “We genuflected, but in actuality we were atheists.
  16. The text is riddled with ecclesiastical allusions.
  17. — holy men like my father, who had not only holes in
  18. his socks but also had a hole somewhere in his soul.
  19. — in his cassock, this holy man who sweated in his
  20. unnatural garb to save us from our tropical sins.

Last thoughts:

  1. This was a very intense.
  2. There were times I was captivated by the narrator’s observations.
  3. There were times I was bored to death.
  4. (movie-making in Thailand and re-education camp).
  5. The climax began in chapter 19.
  6. It was a difficult read (violence, torture) and did not enjoy it.
  7. Nguyen ends the book still trying to answer
  8. universal and timeless questions about
  9. power, revolution, freedom dreaming of eternal sleep
  10. …or dreaming of nothing.
  11. This is a unique book by a new voice in America.
  12. I hope you take the time to read it
  13. …and decide for yourself if it is a winner.

 

 

 

 

 

 

10
Jun

Book Tag

 

  1. There is no better way to start a Saturday morning…..books and coffee.
  2. At the moment there is a great ‘Book Tag’  circulating in bloggerland.
  3. Here are a few of the lists I enjoyed:
  4. Brona’s Books,  On Bookes and Howling Frog Books.

 

 

The list of questions:

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?

  • Stuart Little by E.B. White – this was my childhood favorite

2. Which book character would you switch places with?

  • Stuart Little.

 

 

3. What is your current read, last read and the book you plan to read next?

 

4. What book do you tell yourself you’ll read, but probably wont?

 

5. What book are you saving for retirement?

  • War and Peace (L. Tolstoy) ….No excuses now, I’ll have to start this soon!

 

6. What book outside your comfort zone did you end up loving?

  • Madame Bovary (G. Flaubert). This was my first book I read in French 2012.
  • It took me 3 months to read, but loved every minute of the struggle!

 

 

 

7. What book reminds you a specific place/time/person?

  • My sister was a huge influence on me when it comes to books
  • She wanted my copy of Forever Amber (Cogi books, 1960)
  • …I would not give it to her.
  • She wanted me to read Under the Volcano (Signet Classic, 1965)
  • …I hated it.
  • My mother was a lot of fun. I always joked with her ” Mildred, you pierce me!
  • …we would both have a good laugh!

 

8. Which book has been with you most places?

  • Webster’s Collegiate Dictonary (G.&.C. Merrian Co., 1961)
  • My mother gave it to me when I left home to live in The Netherlands.
  • “…must not neglect your spelling, dear!”

 

Touching moment:

  • …many years later I happend to find a quote she wrote
  • …in the back of the book.
  • These were her words of wisdom to a daughter leaving home for good…

 

 

9. Which book have you reread the most? I do not re-read.

 

10. Three bookish confessions?

 

 

If you’d like to join in, here are the questions for an easy copy & paste.

1. What book has been on your shelf the longest?
2. What is your current read, last read and the book you plan to read next?
3. What book do you tell yourself you’ll read, but probably wont?
4. What book are you saving for retirement?
5. Which book character would you switch places with?
6. What book reminds you a specific place/time/person?
7. Which book has been with you most places?
8. What book outside your comfort zone did you end up loving?
9. Which book have you reread the most?
10. Three bookish confessions?

9
Jun

As I Lay Dying

 

Plot dilemma:

  1. What to do with a dead body?
  2. Addie, the mother is dying and wants to be buried in
  3. Jefferson Mississippi cemetery, 40 miles away.
  4. Timeline: 10 days (8 days traveling on dangerous backwoods road)

Point of view:

  1. 15 narrators
  2. 59 interior monologues
  3. No 3rd person all-knowing narrator
  4. So we are not sure if the points of view of others are reliable!

The Family:

  1. Anse is the husband and is full of country wisdom.
  2. He thinks his luck has changed when the road came to his house!
  3. Addie is the mother who is dying.
  4. All her life she has tried to break through the wall of isolation.
  5. She never finds any meaning in her grinding existence.
  6. Jewel is the favored son, the illegitimate son.
  7. He wants his mother entirely for himself.
  8. Cash is the practical carpenter son.
  9. He express his love for Addie in deeds. (builds her coffin)
  10. He does not need the word love.
  11. He is Addie’s eldest son and keeps a closeness with her
  12. …that excludes father Anse.
  13. Darl is the son who is denied his mother’s love.
  14. His thoughts and ‘6th sense’ take up 30% of the book!
  15. Dewey Dell is the  unwed pregnant daughter.
  16. She thinks about the  unborn child…
  17. ‘I feel like wet seed wild in the hot blind earth.’
  18. Vardaman is the unhinged youngest son.
  19. He has no idea what death means.
  20. He drills holes in the coffin so mother can breath.
  21. When the body starts to stink and decay his famous line is:
  22. “Mother is a fish.”
  23. This is not a family you will forget!
  24. Dr. Peabody (family doctor) reflects on death.
  25. It is Faulkner’s definition of death.
  26. “…death is a function of the mind and that of the minds of the  ones
  27. who suffer the bereavement.
  28. The nihilst says it is the end,
  29. the fundamentalist (religious fanatic)
  30. the beginning when in reality it is
  31. …no more than than a single  tenant
  32. or family moving out of a tenement or town.”

The journey:

  1. Addie wants to be buried ‘with her people’.
  2. A pilgrimage begins…to get the coffin to  Jefferson Mississippi.
  3. Irony: family risks life and limb not to save the mother
  4. ….but to bury her.
  5. The crossing of a  flooded river is like crossing the river in Hades!
  6. As I Lay Dying is often called a humorous epic.
  7. It is a hopeless quest to reach the cementery!
  8. Darl looks at the mules who must pull the wagon with the coffin.
  9. He gives us an idea of the wisdom of animals…
  10. “…in their eyes a wild, sad despairing quality as if they had already
  11. seen in the thick water the shape of the disaster
  12. …which they could not speak
  13. …and we could not see.

Modernism:

  1. Faulkner was influenced by Joyce’s use of stream of consciousness.
  2. The character contemplates  complex philosophical ideas.
  3. The most famous example is Darl in chapter 17.
  4. “And before you are emptied for sleep, what are you.
  5.  And when you are emptied for sleep, you are not.
  6. I don’t know what I am. I don’t know if I am or not.”
  7. It reminds the reader of Shakespeare’s
  8. Hamlet: To be, or not to be–that is the question…” soliloquy.

Names of the sons:

  1. Darl: denied mother’s love…name refers ironically to ‘Darling’.
  2. Jewel: illegitimate…name refers ironically to something precious.
  3. Vardaman:
  4. name refers to Gov Vardaman of Mississippi; called the ‘Great White Chief’ because of his populist appeal to the common man and strong belief in white supremacy.
  5. Cash:
  6. name refers  to W.J. Cash. He was a journalist who  attended school with Faulkner. Cash wrote an important  essay in 1929: The Mind of the South.  In 1930 Faulkner named one of his characters ‘Cash’, chapeau au bas to W.J. Cash.

Conclusion:

  1. I could go on and on about this book.
  2. But you should discover it for yourself.
  3. Each of the 5 children is a product of the ‘Old South’
  4. Social issues are highlighted in the characters:
  5. Lack of education (Dewey has no idea how she got pregnant!)
  6. Mental illness (Cash:’ aint none of us pure crazy…
  7. …aint none of us pure sane.”)
  8. Social class (dirt poor and lazy
  9. …make the Beverly Hillbillies look sophisticated!)
  10. Why did I wait so long to read it?
  11. Faulkner always intimidated me.
  12. I thought he would be too difficult to read.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. I was not prepared for Faulkner’s
  2. ….philosophical musings and humor!
  3. This book will make you stop and re-read many parts.
  4. The text is so dense with meaning… truly beautiful writing.
  5. #BestAdvice:
  6. Make sure you know ” who’s who ” in the family before reading.
  7. The chapters are very short and switch back and forth b/t characters.
  8. William Faulkner is on a level far above many writers I have read.
  9. He left me dizzy after reading the book!
  10. He was a southerner and an expert on good drink.
  11. Still he kept his humility.
  12. As a joke her wrote his own epigraph:
  13. “He wrote books and he died.”
  14. This is the best book I’ve read this year!

 

 

6
Jun

Pale Fire

 

Introduction:

  1. Pale Fire is a 1962 novel by Vladimir Nabokov.
  2. The novel is presented as a 999-line poem titled Pale Fire.
  3. It was written by the fictional poet John Shade.

 

Quickscan:

  • I cannot explain the story in details, you have to discover it yourself!
  • Here are some items that can help you get started.
  1. Setting:
  2. Wordsmith College, New Wye Appalachia (J.Shade)
  3. Cedran, Utana (C.Kinbote sits in a log cabin in the mountains)
  4. Satire:  academic environment

 

  1. 2 narrators
  2. John Shade (Robert Frost type poet, 61 yr)
  3. Charles Kinbote (confused teacher at college; stalker?)
  4. 3 major characters – Shade, Kinbote and Jack Grey (mentally unstable)

 

  1. 3 plot lines – each follows the major characters
  2. These plot lines will intersect at the book’s climax.
  3. The daily events on campus strangely resemble life in Zembla!

 

  1. Structure:
  2. Foreword by Charles Kinbote,
  3. He has a manuscript of the poem by his neighbor.
  4. Poem by Shade  Pale Fire
  5. Commentary on Pale Fire by Kinbote
  6. Index
  7. Tip: There is a secret in this book and if don’t skip the forward you will know it!
  8. Whenever you read that  something in Nabokov is ‘pointless’ (pg 181)
  9. …you should look for the hidden point!
  10. Tip: Notice that commentary turns out not to be about the poem…but about what?

 

  1. Theme:  Exile (there are  more themes….but I choose the most obvious one)
  2. Charles Kinbote, an ex-pat (as is Nabokov) from the country of Zembla.
  3. This  country strongly resembles  Nabokov’s homeland Russia.
  4. — revolution in Zembla resembles the overthrow of monarchy in Russia
  5. — Zembla is also located somewhere in Eastern Europe, just like Russia.

 

  1. Literary device:
  2. Nabokov uses the same 4 part  format that  he had used
  3. …during the translation of Eugene Oneigin. (1949-1957)
  4. This is a way to draw the reader into the book in a very original way.

 

Conclusion:

  1. I have an old sweatshirt with more holes than swiss cheese.
  2. But when I wear it I feel I can think like Socrates,
  3. …imagine like Tolkien and write with an acid pen like Swift.
  4. I depend on this sweater to be there for me.
  5. Unfortunately I need more than my
  6. ….Bilbo’s Mithril Shirt to help me understand Nabokov.
  7. I opened the book, my head fell into my hands and I thought:
  8. “What have started?”
  9. Is it a book?  a poem?  Look at all those  footnotes!
  10. Nabokov is more than Lolita, much, much more.
  11. There are at least 80 books written by critics and scholars
  12. …just trying to explain all that Nabokov squeezes into this strange book.
  13. I read it, but feel I haven’t grasped it.
  14. Word plays, allusions to Russian history and all the references to other
  15. literary works  and writers sometimes went over my head.

 

Last thoughts:

  • This book is too complex to review in depth in my little blogpost.
  • I don’t have…the insights to explain it.
  • Now I can only give a quickscan of the parts I do understand
  • …and  perhaps you will be tempted to read this book.
  • You have to be sharp if you want to discover allusions like:
  • Andron and Niagarin (bumbling Russian spies)
  • …allusion to Rozencrantz and Gildenstern (…also bumbling boys)
  • John Shade had sent his poem to the New York Magazine
  • ‘The Beau and the Butterfly’
  • …allusion to The New Yorker Magazine with it’s famous Spring cover!
  • I am  left dazzled by the labyrinths of Nabokov’s mind.
  • The book reminded me of the movie ‘Usual Suspects’ with Kevin Spacey.
  • If you see the movie the ending will surprise you….just like this book!
  • If you watch the move AGAIN…you will see  successive discoveries
  • …you missed….just like this book!
  • Nabokov said:
  • “… one cannot read a book: one can only re-read it!”
  • How true….
  • #OnceInALifetimeExperience
2
Jun

Medea

 

Introduction:

Colchis on the Black Sea

  1. This is back round information not in the play:
  2. Medea is a woman in Greek mythology.
  3. She was the daughter of the king of Colchis,
  4. granddaughter of Heilios the sun god and later 
  5. …wife of the hero Jason.
  6. They had two children Mermeros and Pheres.
  7. Janson leaves Medea when Creon the king of Corinth
  8. …offers him his daughter Glauce.
  9. The play tells of a insanely jealous Medea
  10. …who gets her revenge on her husband for his betrayal.

Characters:

Medea, the princess of Colchis
Jason, Medea’s husband, a great hero
Glauce, Jason’s new wife, the princess of Corinth
Creon, Glauce’s father, the king of Corinth
Aegeus, the king of Athens
Medea’s nurse, who delivers the prologue of the play
Jason’s sons

 

  1. Theme:  revenge
  2. Timeline: 1 day
  3. Setting:   431 BC,  Corinth Greece

Structure:

  1. The play is short (31 pages) with no specific division into acts or scenes.
  2. Medea laments the cause of her grief and
  3. …shares her plot for revenge which foreshadows her actions.
  4. Prologue:  Nurse:  speaks  to the audience with backround information and
  5. …the central problem of the play.
  6. Parodos: enter of the chorus (sing, dance)
  7. Episodes: action of the drama alternated with spoken passages by the chorus (odes)
  8. Exodus:  at the end of the play, the chorus gives some piece of final wisdom.

The play begins…

  1. Medea and Jason settle in Corinth.
  2. They have lived together for some years and have 2 sons.
  3. The play starts
  4. ….the nurse and tutor whisper the gossip…
  5. Jason is  leaving his wife to marry Glauce.
  6. Medea wails with grief and hates the sight of her children!

Core of the play:

  1. Medea’s reaction to news of Jason’s marriage.
  2. — the terrible revenge she decides to take against Jason.
  3.  — the difficulties of women in ancient Greece.

Main focus of the play:

  1. Euripides stresses the horrifying details
  2. ….as Medea plans  to kill her two sons with her own hands.
    — her decision to kill the children
    — her following through on it
    — the result this has on Jason

Highlights of the play:

  1. Medea is portrayed as a ‘wronged wife’, a victim.
  2. Marriage is inevitable:
  3. — we women are among the most unfortunate creatures
  4. …to take for our bodies a master for not to take one is even worse.
  5. Women have an easy life:
  6. — how wrong they (men) are,
  7. I would very much rather stand three times in the
  8. …front of battle than bear one child.”

We must not forget Jason:

  1. In the great scene of confrontation
  2. Medea reminds Jason she saved him
  3. and now he has betrayed her.
  4. Jason says:
  5. yes she saved him but he…brought her to Greece, a civilized country.
  6. Jason says:
  7. he decided to marry Glauce …also to benefit Medea and their children.
  8. They would have had a ‘connection’
  9. …to the royal household and a protection for them.

Conclusion:

  1. Medea is a character without a home.
  2. She is cut off from her father by marrying Jason without permission.
  3. Then gets herself banished from Corinth by vowing revenge on Jason.
  4. With no home and no husband Medea’s life  in Greek society
  5. would be little better than that of a slave.
  6. There is a very thin line between love and hate in this play.
  7. Medea is a desperate woman pushed over the edge.
  8. She is even driven to kill her own children.
  9. Medea lives the rest of her days in an unhappy exile
  10. grieving for her murdered young boys.
  11. I read Medea on the Kindle
  12. …while listening to the audio book.
  13. Narrated by:  Judith Anderson and A. Quayle .
  14. Length: 1 hr and 8 mins 
  15. I choose the abridged audio book because the
  16. unabridged was awful to listen to.
  17. Always sample before you buy!
  18. The difference between both versions was 20 minutes.
  19. I compensated this by reading the play while listening.
  20. Once and a while a small bit of  ‘quick dialouge’ was omitted.

Last thoughts:

  1. This was one of the most depressing plays I’ve ever read.
  2. But this play is an iconic role for women!
  3. I wanted to see the play on DVD.
  4. Olivia Sutherland (2016) that has gotten rave reviews in Medea.
  5. I’ve seen a small 4 min clip on  You Tube.
  6. Unfortunately the actress is very young and did not have
  7. the gravitas for such an evil woman.
  8. I think if I could ever find the video ….
  9. Diana Rigg would be the best version.
  10. Broadway, Longacre Theater  appearance in Medea in 1994. (these 2 pictures)
  11. She won  1994 Tony Award for Best Performance for a leading actress.

1993 production of Medea at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London

 

 

 

 

 

 

31
May

Great lists: Tracy, Brona and Cleo

  1. Bitter Tea and Mystery is my go to blog for  Crime Fiction Books!
  2. Tracy has selected her Crime Fiction #20BooksOfSummer
  3. …and I just had to share it with you.
  4. There will be time when I ….need  a break from the classics.
  5. When the sun is shining and
  6. …I just want to relax with some ‘cloak and dagger’!
  7. Perhaps you love CF as much as Tracy does.
  8.  I am  always am ready to try Tracy’s suggestions!
  1. Brona’s Books  is my go to  blog for  anything Australian!
  2. She host a yearly #AusReadingMonth (November)
  3. …keeps me up-to-date with Sydney Writers Festival (May)
  4. and I can virtually follow her admiring the sights in Sydney and the world
  5. …on her Four Seasons travel blog.
  6. Here is Brona’s  list #20BooksOfWinter.
  1. Classical Carousel is my go to blog for classic inspiration!
  2. (Greek, Roman, Medieval, Renaissance and Modern 1850-present.
  3. The idea is to challenge yourself to read at least 50 classics
  4. in the next 5 years. (Nov 2013-2018)
  5. Here is Cleo’s  impresssive list of classics!
  6. I see I have a lot of reading to do before 2018 to catch up with Cleo!
  7. Cleo has  also made her list of  the #10BooksOfSummer.
  8. Here is a list of books in her  summer beach bag.