??. by Harold Pinter
Finish date: 15 February 2022
Good news: Two ageing writers: Hirst is a wealthy but crippled by his memories
…early stages of dementia. Spooner re-invents himself from memory as he goes along. The two old men reminisce about cottages they may have had. Pinter mocks social privilege of the upper class in England The lively conversation soon turns into a revealing power game. when two servants, Briggs and Foster enter the room. The relationships among these men are exposed, with trouble and hilarity. It’s a bleak, disturbing, small, intense and bitter play also very funny!
Good news: Style: Witty banter; awkward pauses (intentional to “wake up the audience”.
Language is used as a weapon. Memory…or lack of is not just as a dramatic device ….but as a key to understanding of the play. Title and end of play: No Man’s Land (reference to dementia)
Strong point: this play whose dialogue is ‘fueled with alcohol’
It will make you laugh….and touch a heart string.
Strong point: Language is a like a cross-word puzzle…at times confusing.
Weak point: it must be seen on stage…and preferably with
…great actors like McKellen and Stewart!
What did I learn by reading this play?
Literary device: subtext
Pinter, however, preferred to focus on the subtext and tension beneath dialogue.
Example subtext in No Man’s Land:
Spooner asks Hirst if he often hangs “around Hampstead Heath”
and the pub Jack Straw’s Castle.
Both are notorious for homosexual activity in the 1960s and ‘70s.
Something one might miss…but this subtext is there.
13. by Rudyard Kipling
Finish date: 17 January 2022
I think this would be one of the most difficult book to teach young readers. Dialogue?
Fergit ut. (forget it) ‘T wuz… (it was…)
They’ll tell that tale again us fer years.
Fwhat’s th good ‘o bodderin’ fwhat…
Ha’af on the taown, and ‘t’ other ha’af blame fool. (awful!)
Bad news: While reading Captains Courageous I had difficulty with the dialogue. Despite my attempt to read the book…while listening to the and audio version the story never appealed to me. Kipling describes the boats, sail, cross-trees, trawl-buoys, rigging
…in excessive nautical detail. Pages and pages of ‘tall tales’ the crew members tell each other …and the ‘sing-alongs’ sounded corny. My only hope was to find some ‘cracker-barrel philosophy’ in the text (somewhere)…that would inspire young readers.
The book is unbalanced: 70% boats, sea conditions, fishing – 20% the crew – 10% Harvey Kipling eventually rejected the novel as simply a “boy’s story” …and he was right. I doubt a young reader would really enjoy this story.
This book was written in 1897 and times….and children have changed.
#NotFavorite childern’s classic…at all!
- Thanks to Karen @Books and Chocolate
- for hosting yet again….#BackToTheClassics.
- Email: email@example.com
- 19th C Classic: Iola Leroy – F. E.W. Harper (1892) – REVIEW
- 20th C Classic: The Ways of White Folks: Stories – Langston Hughes (1934) – REVIEW
- Classic by woman: Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Novel – Z. N. Hurston (1937) REVIEW
- Classic in translation: Palace Walk – N. Mahfouz (1956) REVIEW
- Classic BIPOC Author: Song of Solomon – Toni Morrison REVIEW
- Classic new Author: Hiroshima – John Hersey (1946) REVIEW
- Classic favorite Author: Nobody Knows My Name – J.Baldwin (1961) REVIEW
- Classic animal in title: La maison de chat qui pelote – Balzac (1830) REVIEW
- Children’s Classic: The House of Dies Drear – Virginia Hamilton (1968) REVIEW
- Humorous/Satire Classic: Pour une nuit d’amour by E. Zola (1880) REVIEW
- Travel Classic: Voyage au centre de la terre – Jules Verne (1864) REVIEW
- Classic Play: Le bourgeois gentilhomme – Molière (1670) REVIEW
- Playwright: Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906)
- Title: A Doll’s House
- Genre: play
- Opening night: 1879
- Reading time: 30-45 min
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly reading plan
- This was a very easy play to read.
- The dialogue is …
- clean, simple, evocative, alive and easily spoken.
- In Act III when Nora finally finds her voice she
- pummels her husband….who can’t handle the truth!
- #MustRead classic play!
- This play is an audience favorite:
- Film adaptations with Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Jane Fonda and Juliet Stevenson
- Stage production is planned June 2020 London with Jessica Chastain.
- At the moment a spin-off is on stage in London.
- Nora: A Doll’s House –> Young Vic Theatre in London.
- Stef Smith’s adaptation of the Ibsen play sends the title character on a time-traveling mission,
- exploring how far women’s rights have progressed in the last 100 years.
- The play re-frames the drama in three different time periods:
- the women’s suffrage movement,
- the Swinging ’60s in London, and
- present day.
- The play was recently named a finalist for the 2020 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize.
Structure: Three act play:
Act 1: exposition (married life, Christine returns)
Act 2: rising action (Nora’s secret is discovered!)
Act 3: climax and resolution occur simultaneously (Nora…walks out the door with her baggage!).
- This created a sensation in 19th C Royal Theatre Denmark on 21 December 1879!
- Ibsen broke with the traditional well-made play structure.
- The well-made play from 19th C first codified by French dramatist Eugène Scribe
- …with 5 equal parts in 5 acts: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, denouement.
- Problem play…
- …character Nora is in conflict with a social issue or institution ( marriage)
- Ibsen presents in A Doll’s House the
- treatment of women (..as unequal)
- particularly the entrapment of women …in marriage
- in a very realistic manner.
Timeline: 3 days
- The play begins on Christmas Eve and
- concludes the day after Christmas… the 26th.
- Nora and Torvald (married)
- Christine (BFF)
- Nils – employee at Torvald’s bank
- Dr Rank (family friend)
Quickscan: (…no spoilers)
- — The institution of marriage was sacrosanct in 19TH C
- — This play was highly controversial and elicited sharp criticism.
- — Nora Helmer gains the reader’s empathy.
- — Nora’s change: sheltered 19th C child wife….to mature woman who finds her voice
- — Theme: woman trapped in a patriarchal society (…loveless marriage)
- — Foils: Nora —> Christien (friend); Torvard (husband) —> Nils (employee)
- — Foils: partners Nora and Tovard —> partners Christine and Nils
- — Symbol: most important is the Christmas tree —> beautiful, admired, decorated
- …parallel with Nora. During the play the tree loses it’s splendour, ornaments as does Nora
- …appearing in a bedraggled state.
Nora and Tovald:
NOT honest with each other
NO respect for each other
KEEP secrets (…at least Nora does…)
UNEQUALS – man controles and is above wife
NO true love
Christine and Nils —> exactly the opposite!
YES honest with each other
YES respect for each other
NO kept secrets
- Author: Shirley Jackson (1916 – 1965)
- Title: The Lottery
- Genre: Short story, horror, realism
- Published: June 26, 1948 ( The New Yorker)
- Reading time: 6 minutes
- Classic Club Master List
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- Even thought I knew how the story ended
- …I felt a dread.
- This horror of the ending and the even cheery,
- …atmosphere of the scene
- …small town USA just rattled this reader.
- Narrative style: deadpan, 3rd person
- Strong point: unexpected shock of the ending
- Tone: calm
- Point of the story: expose how people seize upon a scapegoat
- …release the cruelties that people seem to have dammed up within themselves.
- Trivia: story is taught in high school for decades
- …often referred to as the best-known short story of the 20th century.
- Author: Graham Greene (1904 – 1991)
- Title: The Quiet American (210 pg)
- Genre: novel
- Published: 1955
- Trivia: 2019 BBC News lists The Quiet American
- ….as on of the 100 most influential novels
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- This was an excellent book. (reading time: 4 hrs)
- I needed to detach myself for one day
- from the political turmoil on TV #Election2020 USA.
- Novels are a means to escape reality…
- yet they describe in ‘fiction’ what many don’t want to acknowledge.
- I wanted discover Graham Greene’s view of U.S. foreign policy.
- USA –> ill-advised and ill-informed
- …sounds still very relevant in 21st C!
- Greene portrays the French/British colonialism and American involvement in the
- Vietnam War ….as a love triangle: Fowler – Phoung – Pyle
- Central issue: the politics of intervention in a foreign nation.
- Strong point: characters
- …Britain (Fowler), America (Pyle), France (Vigot) Vietnam (Phoung)
- Fowler:…..repeating “I’m not involved. Not involved.”
- Pyle:…naive as he stumbles around Vietnam creating havoc wherever he goes
- Inspector Vigot: “We are fighting your (US/UK) wars, but you leave us the guilt”.
- Phoung: treated like property, to be passed among different nations.
- Author: Alice Munro
- Title: Runaway (8 stories, 352 pg)
- Genre: short stories
- Published: 2004
- Trivia: 2013 winner Nobel Prize (first female since 1901)
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- Good news: Munro develops the characters and
- creates the mood with a sense of place: small town Canada.
- Bad news: These are NOT short short stories!
- Ms Munro writes short stories exclusively.
- Just because these stories are less than novel-length
- …does not mean they are simpler.
- IMO Ms Munro is a skillful writer, winner of Nobel Prize 2013
- …but I did not experience the reading pleasure I hoped for.
- Her stories are not intensely compressed and
- seem…to be endless. I lose interest very quickly.
- I don’t think I will attempt another Munro collection soon, sorry.
- I hightly recommend Amy Witting
- ….for some TOP short stories.
- She is an Australian writer who you probably never heard of!
What trends did I find in the stories?
- Protagonists are all women.
- Story is usually about 4 main characters.
- Ms Munro likes to start a story
- ….then jump 40 years to the past revealing memories. (Tricks, Passion)
- 3 stories form a ‘novella’ (Chance, Soon, Silence) with a 40 yr timeline
- The story Powers moves from beginning to end covering 40 years.
- 7/8: stories a character dies.
- 2/8: stories are coming of age stories (Passion, Tricks)
- 6/8: are about marriage
- …ties that bind, yet sometimes the ties can chafe – and strangle
- 8/8: stories …at the end Munro’s women characters are left alone.
- You can feel loneliness even in a marriage!
- POWERFUL ENDING
- Ms Munro retains a feeling of complexity and mystery about
- The marriage of Carla and her husband.
- The greatest reading pleasure is leaving it up
- To the reader to decide what is going to happen.
- Themes: freedom
- … Carla runs away from the marriage
- …at the end Carla runs away from the truth!
- When will Carla get her revenge?
- Ending suggests she will contain her rage….for now.
- This was the kick-off story
- …the literary ‘amuse’ before
- the main course!
Chance – Soon – Silence
- Strong point
- Munro really knows how to describe
- a character, physiology and attire.
- She describes people with all their quirks.
- Themes: freedom, faith, elderly parents, distant daughter, where is your HOME?
- Strong point: Very powerful ending….a moving stories.
- Writing skill: snapshot of a love affair, family life, parent’s marriage (Soon)
- …looking back at the pain (loss of contact with daughter Silence)
- …and the pleasure of remembering. (Chance)
- I would consider these 3 stories a beautiful novella!
- CHANCE – beginning of affair with Eric. BEGINNING
- SOON – 13 months later visits mother….she is dying ENDING
- SILENCE – daughter cuts off all communication….ISOLATION
- Coming of age….flashback
- What was Grace really looking for?
- Memories of her first feeling of passion….that summer?
- 20% dialogue that reveals very little about the people in the story.
- 80% POV 3rd person backstory about the characters.
- Strong point again….POWERFUL ending.
- That is Ms Munro’s trademark.
- She knows the last few lines will linger in the reader’s mind
- Writing technique: Flashback….40 years ago
- 70% dialogue
- 30% POV 3rd person
- Themes: Children, adoption, misunderstandings, loneliness
- Writing technique: frame story
- Ms Munro begins at the end and moves into a flashback.
- This way she tells how the characters came to be where they are.
- The story being drawn out by an eager listener, the teen-age daughter Lauren
- …demanding the her story from her parents…am I adopted?
- Title: says it all….Trespasses = sins
- 15% dialogue
- 85% POV 3rd person
- ….very touching story
- starts in the past….then jumps 40 years.
- Star-crossed lovers
- Robin and Daniel who meet
- …for a brief intense moment
- …like ships pass in the night.
- The last story in the collection is a curious mix of
- diary and third-person narration.
- with the focus on Nancy,
- …an impertinent, egocentric woman
- who never seems to understand what is occurring. (OOPS!)
- 2 married couples
- whose lives intertwine….but in a sad way.
- This was the LONGEST story
- ….and IMO not very good.
- It does not adhere to the basics of a short story.
- Author: Ayn Rand (1905 – 1982)
- Title: Atlas Shrugged (1168 pg)
- Genre: fiction
- Published: 1957
- List of Challenges 2020
- Monthly plan
- You either LOVE the book or you HATE it.
- I can’t state it more simply.
- This is crystalline capitalistic philosophy spun in the
- warm cocoon of a novel to make it more digestible.
- I continued to soldier on being pummeled by waves and waves
- of soap opera stuff, profound statements and superfluous details.
- I read with my cat in front of the fireplace
- …and keep falling asleep!
- The cat slept as well.
- Sorry I have to agree with one of my GF Friends ‘Bridget’
- and give this book a score of 1!
- I read Atlas Shrugged to understand
- why a friend of mine liked it so much.
- Bad News: I did not like Atlas Shrugged
- Good News: We are still friends!
- The book is 350 pages too long.
- It is unnecessarily padded with character sketches
- of some of the politicians, engineers, scientists and activists involved.
- A swirl of useless descriptions and
- facts makes this book….unbearable.
- …I wasted many reading hours.
Chapters are too cynical, too sour, too claustrophobic.
- Worst book I’ve read in a very long time!
- Who wants to hang out with these awful people?
• Author: Edgar Allan Poe
• Genre: short story in the horror genre
• Title: The Imp of the Perverse
• Published: July 1845 in Graham’s Magazine
• Length of story: 4 pages [16 paragraphs]
• Published by Penguin Books
• Setting: 1830-1840’s in prison cell, narrator tells his story…how he got on death row
• Theme: an impulse forcing people to act irrationally
• The Imp of the Perverse is a short story that begins as an essay.
• It discusses the narrator’s self-destructive impulses, embodied as The Imp of the Perverse.
• Poe wrote it to justify his own actions of self-torment and self-destruction.
• Many of Poe’s characters display a failure to resist The Imp of the Perverse.
• Murder in The Black Cat
• Narrator in Tell Tale Heart
• The opposite is displayed in the character C. Auguste Dupin.
• He exhibits reason and deep analysis.
• Part 1 Is written in essay style mentioning subjects
• in philosophical terms (primum mobile, à posteriori) ), logic (phrenology) and mysticism (Kabbala)
• Poe cleverly reveals the ‘narrator’s own ‘imp’ by being so wordy!
• The narrator admits he has always wanted to anger the listener (reader) with confusing language.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing….”
• “I am one of the many uncounted victims of the Imp of the Perverse.” (pg 281)
• Part 2 contains the narrators story….
• He inherits an estate after murdering its owner.
• He ends up on death row after a perverse impulse causes him to confess the murder.
• The Narrator: An apparently demented man who appears intelligent and well educated.
• The Listener: Unnamed person listening to the narrator’s story.
• Madame Pilau: Woman who died after inhaling the smoke from an accidentally poisoned candle.
• The Murder Victim: Unnamed person whose property passed to the narrator.
• Pedestrians: People who witness the narrator’s confession.
Style: first person point-of-view with an unreliable narrator
• Had I not been thus prolix, you might either have
• misunderstood me altogether or […] fancied me mad. (pg 283)
• This is a spirit that tempts a person to do things….they would normally not do.
• Poe explains that the ‘imp’ is an impulse in each person’s mind.
• Alliteration: laconic and luminous language (pg 281)
• Climax: Poe uses a climax words that are arranged to increase their importance.
• “The impulse increases to a wish, the wish to a desire, the desire to an uncontrollable longing, and the longing ( to the deep regret and mortification of the speaker and in defiance of all consequences) in indulged.” (pg 282)
Voice of Poe:
• Poe states we use the word ‘perverse’ without really knowing what is means.
• Perverse = headstrong, obstinate, contradictory
• Poe is a master when it comes to entering human thoughts.
• He describes how we ‘put off until tomorrow that we could do today’ because we are perverse.
• With each passing day the anxiety grows.
• I do exactly what Poe describes…
• when I have to make an appointment for the dentist!
• “The clock strikes, and is the knell of our welfare.” (pg 282)
Voice of Poe:
• In paragraph 6 we read one of the famous lines:
• “ We stand upon the brink of a precipice.”
• Poe describes the uncontrollable urge to jump.
• I could only think of the Austrian, Felix Baumgartner.
• In 2012 he stood who on the ‘precipice’ of space before making his famous skydive from the stratosphere!
• This is one of Poe’s lesser known works.
• I expected great writing and got loopy sentences going on and on about nothing!
• After further reading I realized this was Poe’s intention….to irritate the reader!
• The story just kept getting better and better.
• Weak point: the first 4 paragraphs are difficult to get through.
• This almost deterred and discouraged me…but I did not stop!
• Strong point: the story in itself is ‘perverse’ .
• Poe deliberately uses confusing writing and structure to irritate the reader.
• A writer usually wants to please the reader!
• Poe preforms this “perverse” act that defies logic and reason.
• I thought I would just breeze through 4 pages of The Imp of the Perverse.
• How wrong I was.
• I have read each and every word in this story…twice!!
• That is an accomplishment in itself.
• Below is a summation of each paragraph.
• Read it ….or read the story first ……your choice.
• I was surprised by the style, structure and plot.
• Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe are works of art….
• …and deserve a high score.