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18
Feb

#Short Story: James Tiptree jr. (SF)

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. The Screwfly Solution (1977 )… the story’s tone was playful and threatening.
  2. POV: told alternately from the perspective of a devoted husband and wife.
  3. The ‘hook’ was the POV of Anne (the wife) in her letters
  4. bubbling with news and love….but later fear
  5. to Alan (husband) in Columbia doing scientific research.
  6. After reading Anne’s letter with the words:
  7. “The quietness is worse, though, it’s like
  8. …something terrible was going on just out of sight.”
  9. I could not put this short story down! 
  10. I even dreamed about it last night! 
  11. The Screwfly Solution is a quick read, and although
  12. …knowing the ending doesn’t remotely spoil it,
  13. …I’m hesitant to spell out too much.
  14. Here is the best description of aliens I’ve ever read:
  15. “…it was big and sparkly, like
  16. …a Christmas tree without the tree.”

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Truly, reading short stories is  most rewarding
  2. ….intense writing
  3. …and instant gratificaton  (reading time 30-45 min)
  4. I’ve included a  Wikipedia link about Alice Sheldon’s life
  5. It was unconventional….and ended in dubble suicide.
  6. #ReadShortStories

 

17
Feb

#Non-fiction: The American Short Story

Raymond  Carver

William Faulkner  

John Updike

Flannery O’Connnor

 

 

Finished: 17.02.2019
Genre: non-fiction, literary reference
Rating: A


Conclusion:

  1. This was an excellent overview of the American short story!
  2. The short story is no longer the baby brother of the novel.
  3. It is a genre open to experimentation, new ethnic voices and
  4. focuses on the most intense and life-changing experiences.
  5. Raymond Carver kept a 3×5 card on his desk with a quote by
  6. Anton Chekhov:
  7. …and suddenly, everything became clear to him…”
  8. This was an expression of the essential short story effect.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. In this digital age with our declining attention spans
  2. …some may consider short stories as
  3. bonbons for lazy readers.
  4. I’ve discovered  genius the day I dared to give up
  5. …on reading novels and read short stories.
  6. Example: The Complete Stories  by Flannery O’Connor.
  7. Invite the coyote into your life!
  8. Invite the short story into your TBR!

 

 

 

16
Feb

#Classic: Beowulf

 

Quickscan

  1. Plot:  Beowulf  relates the adventures of its Scandinavian hero,
  2. at the same time presenting a detailed description of
  3. the life and mood of the age during which it was written.
  4. Epic in a nutshell:
  5. Monster kills human – Grendel kills Danes in Herot
  6. Human kills monster – Beowulf kills Grendel
  7. Monster kills human – Grendel’s mother kills Esher
  8. Human kills monster – Beowulf kills Grendel’s mother
  9. Human and Monster  – kill each other
  10. Motif: quest for personal glory
  11. Major Theme: Good vs Evil…slaying of monsters and dragon
  12. Minor theme: Beowulf’s friendships… with King Hrothgar and Wiglaf (warrior)
  13. Question: Why so swords have names? Heruntling, Nagling

 

Conclusion:

  1. I found the translation
  2. …by Seamus Heaney breathtaking!
  3. Strong point: crystalline alliteration!
  4. line 209:
  5. “…the warrior boarded the boat as captain,
  6. a canny pilot along coast and currents.
  7. Strong point: Heaney taps into his vivid vocabulary
  8. …and his writing  is designed to draw the reader
  9. effortlessly from page to page through
  10. …this Medieval classic epic poem!
  11. I was not prepared for such an enjoyable read!
  12. But I must advise any reader to gather the
  13. basic story lines by reading a summary (wikipedia)
  14. before reading the poem.
  15. IMO..the story is simple and  not the best
  16. part of the poem.
  17. It is Heaney’s choice of words ...his translation
  18. …that brings Beowulf  life!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. If you are interested in studying Medieval Literature
  2. …Beowulf is a #MustRead
  3. If not…it STILL is a must read!.
  4. Tip: there is a great family tree illustration in this book!
  5. You can’t read this poem without it!
  6. In the film Annie Hall, Diane Keaton confesses to Woody Allen
  7. her interest in attending some college classes.
  8. Allen is supportive, and has this bit of advice:
  9. “Just don’t take any course where you have to read Beowulf.
  10. I had to laugh when I read that!
  11. I don’t agree with Woody Allen…..
  12. #Classic  for all to enjoy!
14
Feb

#Valentine’s Day 2019

 

Hellelil and Hildebrand, the Meeting on the Turret Stairs (1864)

  1. …is a painting in the National Gallery of Ireland
  2. …by Irish artist Frederic William Burton (1816-1900).
  3. Based on a medieval Danish ballad about the ill-starred love between
  4. Hellelil and her bodyguard, Hildebrand,
  5. …it features the lovers sharing a fleeting moment of intimacy.
  6. Things don’t go well for them.
  7. When her father discovers their attachment he orders
  8. ..that her seven brothers should kill Hildebrand.
  9. But the bodyguard turns out to be a formidable adversary.
  10. He has killed  six of the brothers and Hellelil’s father.
  11. Hellelil  intervenes to save the life of her surviving sibling.
  12. Hildebrand succumbs to his wounds and
  13. …she decides she cannot live without him.
  14. #Breathtaking
11
Feb

#Play: Chimerica

  • Author: Lucy Kirkwood
  • Title: Chimerica
  • Published: 2013
  • List of Challenges
  • Monthly plan
  • List of Plays and theatre links
  • Trivia:
  • Winner, 2014 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize
    Winner, 2014 Olivier Award for Best New Play
    Winner, 2013 Evening Standard Theatre Award for Best Play
    Winner, 2014 Critics’ Circle Best New Play Award

 

 

Finished: 11.02.2019
Genre: play
Rating: A

Conclusion:

  1. If you are in a winter ‘reading slump’ read a play!
  2. This award winning work by Lucy Kirkwood is a good place to start.
  3. There was a tank man (see cover), the photo proves it and
  4. Kirkwood has taken a creative leap to tell us who he is…
  5. why he is standing there….and what is in those shopping bags?
  6. A writer’s duty is to the story rather than the facts as they happened.
  7. Kirkwood’s Chimerica  is based  loosely on the
  8. 1989 Tiananmen Square protests.
  9. She fictionalized it and retained control of the impressive narrative.
  10. It took Kirkwood 6 years to write this play
  11. …and you can read it is 2,5 hrs.
9
Feb

#Classic: The Mill on the Floss

 

Finished: 09.02.2019
Genre: novel
Rating: C
#AudioBook  19 hr  – narrator Eileen Atkins

 

Conclusion:

  1. This book has been on my TBR since 2010!
  2. I have finally read this auto-biographical classic by G. Eliot.
  3. Spanning over a period of 10 years,
  4. The Mill on the Floss follows the coming of age of the
  5. …beautiful and idealistic Maggie
  6. …as she experiences family tragedy, forbidden love and
  7. the wrath of the English patriarchy.
  8. The 1+2 books were a (too) long exposition of
  9. family and childhood Maggie and brother Tom.
  10. Eliot in part 1 wants to expose the differences between brother and sister.
  11. TOM: “I’d do just the same again.” That was his usual mode of viewing his past actions.
  12. MAGGIE: Maggie was always wishing she had done something different.
  13. TOM: “Yes, you’re silly; but I never do forget things, I don’t.” (holds grudges like his father)
  14. MAGGIE: “I’d forgive you, if you forgot anything–I wouldn’t mind what you did–I’d forgive you…”
  15. TOM: …instinctive discernment of what would turn to his advantage or disadvantage
  16. MAGGIE: rushed to her deeds with passionate impulse.
  17. Theme: forgiveness is the thread throughout the  book
  18. Book 3 – 5 reveals adult loves and friendships
  19. Part 6 – must be one of the longest ‘break-up’s in literature!
  20. Part 7 – the river is the symbol of life and death.
  21. I was impressed by Eliot’s writing but needed
  22. a combination of audio listen and download Gutenberg.org book
  23. ….to keep me reading through long, long (preachy) speeches by Maggie.
  24. #Classic but you have to be committed to finish it!
7
Feb

#DNF: The Merchants of Truth

 

Finished: 07.02.2019
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: NO SCORE


Conclusion:

  1. I’m being brutally honest
  2. I wanted to love this book because I am a news-junkie.
  3. I thought I would enjoy knowing more about
  4. Buzzfeed and Vice…but the selections were bland.
  5. Techies are bringing entertainment not news.
  6. Buzz staying within boundaries but
  7. …Vice pushing the limits of ‘edgy’.
  8. Even the chapters about NYT and Washington Post
  9. …in part one could not
  10. ‘hook’ me into reading any further.
  11. Old school established customs/conservatism in
  12. boardrooms of the icons in the 1980s publishing world
  13. is not a great springboard into an interesting book.
  14. Scandals that brought down Peter Arnett and Dan Rather
  15. ….some millennials would say “Who?”

 

Last Thoughts:

  1. I used to force myself to finish everything I started,
  2. which I think is quite good discipline when you’re young,
  3. but once you’ve established your taste, and the penny drops
  4. that there are only a certain number of books
  5. you’ll get to read before you die
  6. So I’m closing this book and ….moving on.

 

 

 

5
Feb

#Classic: A Tale of Two Cities

 

Introduction:

  1. This book needs NO introduction…but here goes!
  2. A Tale of Two Cities (1859) is a historical novel.
  3. The plot centers on the years leading up to the French Revolution
  4. and culminates in the Jacobin Reign of Terror.
  5. Set in London and Paris, it tells the story of two men
  6. Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton,
  7. …who look similar but are very different in traits.
  8. The book starts with the iconic paradox:
  9. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
  10. it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…. etc.”
  11. The book ends with the famous haunting words:
  12. “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done;
  13. it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

 

Conclusion:

  1. You must put your “Dickens hat” on
  2. to get through…
  3. Part 1:
  4. cryptic beginning (Dover mail coach)
  5. “zoom out”   ch 5 ‘The Wine-Shop’
  6. to give you and idea of the chaos in Paris
  7. gaunt scarecrows = peasants
  8. broken casket spilling wine = blood
  9. approaching tempest = revolution.
  10. Best quote:
  11. “…every wind shook the rags of the scarecrows in vain,
  12. for the birds (aristocrats),
  13. …fine of song and feather, took no warning.”

 

  1. You will need some coffee
  2. to get through…
  3. Part 2:
  4. Tellson’s Bank controls its staff and customers
  5. Best quote:
  6. If the bank took on a young worker
  7. “…they kept him in a dark place, like a cheese,
  8. until he had the full Tellson flavor and blue-mould upon him.”
  9. Father and daughter bonding (Dr. Manette and Lucie)
  10. Emerging love entanglements
  11. French Revolution rages on

 

  1. Part 3:
  2. You will need kleenex
  3. to get through…
  4. the last ‘page-turning’ chapters
  5. …with the guillotine in the backround!

 

Dickens Template:  – (This book contains very few ‘Dickens’ comic  elements).

  1. Love triangle: Lucie Manette – Darnay – Carton
  2. Deaths : Marquis Evrémonde (assassinated) – Sydney Carton (guillotine, indifferent, and alcoholic attorney) – child killed under marquis’ carriage (Gaspard’s son)  – Foulon (hanged, unscrupulous financier ancien régime) – Mme Defarge (shot with her own gun!)
  3. Nicknames: Ladybird (Lucie) –  The resurrection man (Cruncher) grave robber.
  4. Star crossed lovers: Lucie Manette and Charles Darnay
  5. Little person (dwarf): None
  6. Little baby dies: None
  7. Prop:  (secret) document found in chimney in cell 105 North Tower Bastille
  8. Dr. Manette’s letter (which is read to the court) (Book 3, ch 10)
  9. Eccentric but loving character:  None
  10. Lawyer(s): Mr Stryver and Sydney Carton
  11. Banker: Mr. Jarvis Lorry
  12. Unrequited love: Sydney Carton for Lucie Manette
  13. Profesional money lender: None
  14. Villian: Mme T. Defarge
  15. Trusting and  naive girl:  None
  16. Young lower class gir who reached a good position:  none
  17. Marriage:  Charles Darnay and Lucie Manette
  18. Simpleton character….but very loving:  none
  19. Schoolmaster: none
  20. Fairy godmothernone
  21. Maid/nurse: Miss Pross (reminds me nurse Peggoty in David Copperfield)
  22. Dickens likes to toss shoes in stories:  Dr. Manette is also a cobbler
  23. Quirky names: none
  24. Son caring for father:  none
  25. Daughter caring for father: Lucie Manette – Dr. Manette
  26. Theater: none
  27. Friends for life: none
  28. Pub: none
  29. Comic relief character: none
  30. Theme: revenge   Mme DeFarge:  always knitting
  31. “…with the steadfastness of fate” 
  32. Malapropism:  Dickens is famous for his witty malapropism:
  33. Cruncher  speaks of the year of our Lord as “Anna Dominoes”.
  34. Apparently under the impression that
  35. ..the Christian era dated from the invention of a popular game
  36. …by a lady named Anna.  (this book had very few comic moments…)
  37. Literary technique:  extended metaphor “buzzing blue-flies” (book 2, ch 3)
  38. Flies suggest that the way the spectators hovered
  39. ..around the trial is similar to flies that are attracted to a potential feast.
  40. Dickens creates a clear comparison between the two items.
  41. Foreshadowing most poignant quote:  book 2, ch 13 (Carton–> Lucie)
  42. “…think now and then that there is a man who would
  43. …give his life to keep a life you love beside you.”

 

Last Thoughts:

  1. After reading A Tale of Two Cites  I felt closure.
  2. I was mesmerized by the movie version (1935) seen
  3. on TV in the 60s’ with my mother.
  4. Nothing impresses a child more than  a guillotine!
  5. Then in high-school this was my first classic ‘study’.
  6. I remembered nothing about the book
  7. …except Mme Defarge and her knitting.
  8. Now it was time to re-read the book as an adult.
  9. #MustRead

 

Ronald Coleman as the classic Sydney Carton.

 

2
Feb

#Classic: Heart of Darkness

 

Introduction:

  1. Despite my restraint (book embargo) I still bought
  2. 5 classic books in January.
  3. I was disappointed….not having enough self-control.
  4. The plan for February is to read as many classics as
  5. I can….on my IPOD!
  6. There are 20 audio classics just waiting for me.
  7. The Heart of Darkness has been on TBR since 2017.

 

Quickscan:

  1. Love triangles:  none
  2. Women: Kurtz’ fiancée in Brussels and native mistress in Congo
  3. Major characters: Marlow and Kurtz 
  4. Minor character: “The Russian” (…very irritating Russian accent on audio book)
  5. Genre: Gothic horror novella
  6. Plot twists: no twists or turns only the the idea of
  7. ‘what is going to happen’ kept me reading
  8. POV: unnamed narrator (1st pers) tells the reader about
  9. Marlow telling his story also as 1st person narrator (frame POV)
  10. Title: The Heart of Darkness: interiour workings of the mind
  11. Symbol: journey up Congo River =  sin
  12. Symbol: journey down Congo River = redemption
  13. Structure: 3 parts
  14. present day London/Belgium
  15. journey from Congo Central station –> to Kurtz up the Congo River
  16. return to Europe and a meeting with Kurtz’ fiancée
  17. Message: obsession that drives its victim (Kurtz) beyond the limits of humanity
  18. Message: the darkness of the human heart…man’s capacity for evil.
  19. Setting: London –> Belgium –> Congo –> Belgium
  20. Major theme: madness, moral corruption
  21. Minor themes: racism, violence
  22. Body count: 2 (Kurtz and helmsman)
  23. Conrad’s statement: cynical, critical take on European Imperialism

 

Conclusion:

  1. This was NOT my favorite Conrad novel/novella.
  2. I had to force myself to sit down an listen to this audio book.
  3. Part 1 started with lyrical descriptions of moon, sea, mist, light
  4. that  initially hooked me to keep reading.
  5. Unfortunately these were the only beautiful descriptions in the book IMO.
  6. Part 2: chaotic description of a steamship struggling to creep up river.
  7. Part 3: climax:  Marlow and Krutz finally meet.
  8. Conrad did me a favor and described his book for me
  9. with his comments about Kurtz’ pamphlet:
  10. vibrating with eloquence…but too high strung”.
  11. This book is Conrad’s way of asking ourselves
  12. …if we would have the courage like Kurtz to peer over
  13. …the edge of the abyss:  “The horror, the horror”.

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Conrad captured something about the way power
  2. operated across continents and race.
  3. I would highly recommend the award winning
  4. book Congo by David Reybourck. (2014)
  5. It is a gripping epic imperialistic policy of the Belgians in Congo.
  6. . . . more exciting than the novel The Heart of Darkness!

 

Favorite quote:

Part 1:
Watching the coast…is like thinking about an enigma
There it is before you smiling, frowning, inviting,
grand, mean, insipid or savage and always mute with an air of whisper
‘Come and find out.’

1
Feb

#Classic: The Twelve Caesars (Suetonius)

 

Quickscan:      List of Roman Emperors

 

Notes:

  1. This is not a book that I would choose to snuggle up with
  2. on a cold winter day. Thus I decided to listen to the audio book.
  3. I could keep doing my chores….etc and still absorb the
  4. tidbits of history that I did not know!
  5. 50 % of the book is about the first 3 Caesars:
  6. Julius, Augustus, Tiberius  chapters 1-18
  7. Audio book 40 chapters (20 min per chapter)
  8. Roman emperor was a risky job:  only 3 died of natural causes
  9. …the rest were assassinated or committed suicide!

 

Julius Caesar  (reigned 5 years)

  1. He wore laurel crowns as often as possible.
  2. The wreath suited Caesar especially well with
  3. the green leaves hiding his balding head.
  4. It was good to be reminded that Servilia (b.104 BC, d. 42 BC)
  5. was just a wicked as Livia was
  6. during her relationship with Augustus Caesar.
  7. Livia remains in my memory in TV series I, Claudius.
  8. Servilla came be seen in TV series Rome.
  9. The series I, Claudius NEVER showed
  10. …the audience the sadistic cruelty of Tiberius!
  11. You have to read about it to believe it!

 

Augustus Caesar (reigned 40 years)

  1. Father: Gaius Otavius (politician) but he died when AC was 4 years old.
  2. Adopted father: Julius Caesar.
  3. Wives: each of these marriages lasted 2 yr Clodia, Scribonia
  4. Livia was here to stay.
  5. She was a shrewd woman,  23 yr marriage, no children, 1 miscarriage.
  6. Augustus also divided city regions and districts,
  7. …appointed nightly watch against fires (sort of fire brigade).
  8. Calendar: Augustus was  born in September named 8th month August
  9. because in this month he received his first council ship.
  10. Lists: These pages about Augustus Caesar is a long list of achievements:
  11. circus games, gladiators, laws, allocating corn
  12. exhibiting curiosities: rhino, tiger and extremely long snake!
  13. Lists: of omens Augustus Caesar believed to foreshadow trouble (2 crows attack an eagle!)
  14. As soon as Livia comes on the scene
  15. ….the narrative becomes more interesting.
  16. After watching the TV series I, Claudius
  17. I could apply a face (actor, actress) to many names!
  18. Julia: Daughter is banished for 5 years for her lewd behavior.
  19. Strong point: personal habits were described
  20. …negligent in dress, took afternoon naps with his shoes always on!
  21. Augustus  slept in the same chamber on Palatine Hill for 40 years.
  22. His private room where he was NOT to be
  23. disturbed (top floor Palatine Hill home) called “Syracuse”.

 

Tiberius pg 104 (reigned 22 years)

  1. He was emperor Augustus Caesar’s successor.
  2. Augustus  adopted Tiberius (his mother was Livia AC’s 2nd wife)
  3. Tiberius was a reluctant emperor!
  4. Livia (mother) demanded equal share of power.
  5. Mother and son parted on bad terms.
  6. When she died Tiberius annulled her will and did not grieve his loss!
  7. Daughter-in-law Agrippina the Elder
  8. claimed Tiberius had her husband Germanicus murdered.
  9. Germanicus was Tiberius’ nephew AND adopted son.
  10. Tiberius banished her to the island of Pandateria.
  11. …and ordered a centurion to beat out one of her eyes!
  12. Tiberius was not finished yet….
  13. He starved his 2 (adoptive) grandsons to death.
  14. Tiberius was sadist…deriving pleasure from cruelty.
  15. In one day 20 people (men, women and boys) were killed flung down
  16. the Gemonian Stairs (steps located in the ancient city of Rome)
  17. …and then dragged into the Tiber River.
  18. He put a centurion to death for stealing a peacock out of his orchard!
  19. #Ouch

 

 

Conclusion:

  1. I took notes about the first 3 Caesars.
  2. You can discover the other rulers yourself!
  3. This was an excellent overview of these emperors
  4. The book solidified my understanding of the
  5. Julio-Claudian (27 BC-68 AD)
  6. Flavian dynasties (68-96 AD)
  7. Audio book narrator:  Charles Griffin (excellent).
  8. The writing is clear, simple and easy to understand.
  9. Strong point:
  10. Insights into the social and political order of the times
  11. …and the psychology of these powerful yet flawed individuals.
  12. I loved the music played between chapters….imperial!

 

Last thoughts:

  1. Roman emperors are not known as being compassionate
  2. …but Emperor Vespasian was the exception!
  3. If you like historial fiction perhaps you would like Lindsey Davis’
  4. The Course of Honour.
  5. The love story of Vespasian and his mistress
  6. …the freed slave woman Antonia Caenis.
  7. This book recreates Ancient Rome’s most turbulent period.