- Author: Leslie Jamison (editor)
- Title: Best American Essays 2017 (20 essays)
- Published: 2017
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly plan
- #TBR 2019 challenge update
- #TBR 2018 challenge update
- I’ve reviewed the first 5 essays
- …and will let you discover the rest.
- The BEST essay was by Rachel Ghansah.
- “The Weight”
- Try to read anything by this Pulitzer Prize winner
- ….you won’t be disappointed.
- Personally I was NOT impressed with the selected essays.
- They lacked creativity, insight and
- there were too many long personal essays.
- I’m not interested with your family relationships!
- I’ve read other collections that are WELL worth your reading time:
- Zadie Smith – Feel Free
- Two Shallow Graves C+
- Jason Arment…
- served in Operation Iraqi Freedom
- as a Machine Gunner in the USMC.
- He’s earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction
- from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
- Arment is a warrior as witness who writes down things we don’t want to know.
- Reading time: 22 minutes
- This is not an essay
- …it is probably a chapter from
- Arment’s published book in 2017 Musalaheen (memoir)
- Arment writes vividly
- …but I’m not interested in war literature.
- The Weight A++++++
- Rachel K. Ghansah…
- is an American award-winning essayist.
- She won a Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing in 2018 for her profile of
- white supremacist and mass murderer Dylann Roof
- who killed nine black people at a church in South Carolina.
- Gahnsah writes about her past reluctance
- to revere James Baldwin in this essay.
- She wants to provide a model others can build upon so that they
- …do not buckle under “The Weight” of Baldwin’s legacy.
- The man can finally rest in peace.
- Reading time: 38 minutes
- This essay is absolutely stunning!
- I suggest you read anything you can find
- by Rachel K. Ghansah!
- White Horse D-
- Elise Goldbach...
- She writes a courageous personal essay about a
- campus sexual attack and its aftermath.
- After 6 minutes I realize this is not the
- …essay I want to spend time reading.
- Reading time: — minutes
- This essay is difficult to read….so DNF!
- The City That Bleeds D-
- Lawrence Jackson…
- is a professor of English and history at
- Johns Hopkins University.
- He is a literary critic and compelling biographer.
- Essay starts out as a description of police officers
- on trial for brutality…and suddenly is a essay about
- L. Jackson’s ancestors in Baltimore.
- Reading time: 15 minutes
- This essay is makes valid points on
- the state affairs in Baltimore
- …the city that bleeds
- …but it did not hold my interest.
- It felt like Jackson shifts words here and there
- and tells me things I read in the news.
- The essay lacks depth.
- We Are Orphans Here C+
- Rachel Kushner…
- is an author of several novels
- The Flamethrowers (2013) and The Mars Room (2018)
- Ms Kushner spends a weekend in the Shuafat Refugee
- Camp in East Jerusalem.
- The essay is probably not simply about a place or a journey,
- but rather is about what she may discover
- about people, life on that journey and in that place.
- Reading time: 15 minutes
- This essay is travel essay
- The hard part was trying to find
- Kushner’s quest…
- …the reason for writing this essay.
- I think she wanted to confront the image
- that the international media uses to depict
- Shuafat Camp…
- ” …as the most dangerous place in Jerusalem”
- with her personal experience pg 66
- “…how wonderful it was in Shuafat Camp…how safe I felt.”
- The essay was….average.
- Unfortunately, it did not appeal to me
- Editor: S. Shannon
- Title: August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle (13 essays)
- Published: 2016
- Wikipedia link: August Wilson (1945 – 2005)
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly reading plan
- August Wilson understood the power of the theater.
- He used it to its full potential by
- …inserting honesty and realism into every play.
- Some consider August Wilson “America’s Shakespeare”.
- August Wilson was an American playwright
- …who did the unheard of- penning ten plays.
- …one for each decade of the 20th C.
- Wilson received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama:
- Fences (1987), The Piano Lesson (1990)
- These 10 plays gives a glimpse into
- …American history through the
- …lens of the Black experience.
- August Wilson’s Pittsburgh Cycle is a
- …series of critical essays about the plays.
- I have reviewed the first 5 essays
- …you can discover the rest of the book yourself!
- Essays 1-6 were interesting
- Essays 7-13 …seemed to repeat many thoughts
- about two plays: Gem of the Ocean and Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.
- Weak point: the essays do NOT explain all 10 plays
- One of the most famous play is Fences NOT reviewed!
- It is considered the African-American version
- ot The Death of a Salesman
- A few essays were very instructive about…
- Seven Guitars, The Piano Lesson, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- ….but still feel that the book
- does not live up to my expectations.
- Jitney (1982) (no reviewed in an essay)
- Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (1984)
- Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (1984)
- Fences (1987) (no reviewed in an essay)
- The Piano Lesson (1990)
- Two Trains Running (1991) (no reviewed in an essay…at length)
- Seven Guitars (1995)
- King Hedley II (1999)
- Gem of the Ocean (2003)
- Radio Golf (2005) (no reviewed in an essay)
1. The emancipated century – J.H. Scott ( 2 plays discussed) – easy to read
- Play: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone
- Set in 1911… the play is about African Americans cut adrift by
- The Great Migration to the North and by slavery from their African past.
- The characters meet in a boarding house
- They represent a cross-section of African Americans.
- The boarders are in the midst of a
- …massive search for their “song,” or identity.
- Play: The Piano Lesson
- Set in 1936…this is a …
- Family conflict between Bernice and her
- …brother Boy Willie about the family piano.
- For Boy Willie the piano is a way to get some quick cash to buy land.
- For Bernice, the piano is a source of strength.
- It reminds her of the courage and endurance shown by her ancestors.
- Boy Willie looks to the future
- …while Bernice looks to the past.
2. Situated identity in The Janitor (J. Zeff): short essay about a play that is NOT in the cycle.
- The Janitor is a 1985 4 minute play.
- A janitor is someone society ignores.
- He is left to sweep the floor.
- The janitor gets an idea.
- …sees a microphone in an empty hall
- …and just starts talking.
- Message: identity is a work in progress which is in your control,
- “…but what you are now ain’t what you gonna become.”
3. Two Trains Running (S. Saddler, P. Bryant-Jackson) – This essay did not appeal to me. SKIM!
- This was a comparison of two books by
- American scholars Living Black History, M. Marable and
- The Archive and the Repertoire, D. Taylor.
- Where is the play?
- I noticed they referred to the play
- Two Trains Running but do NOT review this play at length
- …so I decided to skim this essay and
- …investigate the Pulitzer Prize 1992 play on Wikipedia.
- I learned more on Wiki…than in his essay!
4. World War II History (E. Bonds) – excellent essay, I learned a lot about the difficult period just after WW II. Black men struggle to move on after the war. They feel they are not benefiting from the post WW II economic boom. They feel like…they are still fighting.
- Play: Seven Guitars
- Set in 1948…
- …The play begins and ends after the funeral of one of the main characters.
- Events leading to the funeral are revealed in flashbacks.
- The essay explains the 7 characters (7 guitars) and their
- individual out-of-tune chords (life experiences).
- What I did not realize was how important the boxer
- Joe Lewis was for the African American community.
- Wilson uses Lewis’s fame and downfall as an essential part of the play.
- It is so sad to read that African American GI’s were fighting
- …on two fronts:
- the enemy overseas….and racism at home.
5. Stereotype and Archetype in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (M. Downing) – best explanation difference stereotype vs archetype I’ve ever read. Excellent essay, lucidly-written, logically-structured, and convincingly argued.
- Play: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
- Set in 1920s…the historic exploitation of
- black recording artists by white producers.
- The essay explains how August Wilson started with
- stereotypes assigned by whites to blacks in the play.
- Then he remakes them into archetypes.
- I would have missed this
- …completely by just reading the play!
- Wilson places the stereotype (ST) at the beginning of the play
- …adds monologues…adds POV of African American characters
- …draws the original ST (evokes criticism, suspicion, scorn)
- …into an archetype (evokes empathy, understanding, compassion)
- Example: Ma Rainey is introduced as
- ST: chaotic, unreasonable, difficult, a risk with the law
- Wilson breaks this ST into components and rebuilds Ma as
- AT: mother, queen, goddess
- Author: Gerard Dawe (1952)
- Title: The Wrong Country (14 essays)
- Published: 2018
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly plan
Gerard Dawe is a retired (2017) Professor in English from Trinity College Dublin and a poet.
Born in Belfast and started is family life in the west of Ireland, Galway.
Series of 14 essay on modern Irish writing from from WB Yeats onwards.
The epigraph is by Hugo Hamilton’s The Speckled People and
reflects Irish writers and their writing for me….excellent choice of words by G. Dawe!
“…You can’t be afraid of saying the opposite,
even if you look like a fool and everybody thinks you’re
in the wrong country, speaking the wrong language.
The book is also dedicated to an Irish poet who passed away in 2017, Gerard Fanning.
I have never heard of him.
His poem collections are difficult to find in The Netherlands.
I ordered his collection Water & Power.
I was the last book before his death.
I’m curious what he has to say.
The essays are in the form of invited lectures or contributions given by G. Dawe.
Tone is conversational and because it is a lecture it takes random turns.
I had to read carefully and ask myself “what did I really learn from this lecture?”
I read about the author on Wikipedia before starting Dawe’s writing.
It gives a helicopter view of the writer before I start an essay.
Some of the writers discussed in the essays:
W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) Nobel Prize 1923 and
Samuel Beckett (1906-1989) Nobel Prize Literature 1969
Seamus Heaney (1939-2013) Nobel Prize 1995
- Note: …it is quite exceptional to have 3 Nobel Prize winners
- emerge from an Irish Protestant Group in literature!
James Plunkett, John Hewitt, Eavan Boland, Dorothy Molloy,
Michelle O’Sullivan, Leontia Flynn, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Ethna Carbery
Elizabeth Bowen, Mary Lavin, Kate O’Brien, John McGahern, Brendan Behan, JP Donleavy, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Deane, Derek Mahon, Medbh McGuckian, Stewart Parker.
- Read Eavan Boland’s The Poet’s Dublin....beautiful
- Reading Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin‘s
- The Boys of Bluehill (40 poems published 2015)
- Read an essay by Seamus Heaney about Patrick Kavanaugh.
- Read Seamus Heaney Poetry
- Read Elizabeth Bowen The Death of the Heart
- Reading Medbh McGuckian Selected Poems 1978-1994
- Early years: 1913 – 1939: Lockout Dublin, WW I, Easter 1916
- 1940s – 1950s: Tragic writing lives of American and Irish generations
- 1950s: Emigration of young Irish women to Britain
- 1960s: Boozy literary Dublin
- ….and onwards 2010s.
My notes on 7 essays:
Hearing Things: W.B. Yeats – S. Beckett
Beckett and Yeats had similar social, educational, Irish Protestantism backrounds. Beckett would create in his drama testimonials to Yeats. Beckett and Yeats met only once . 1933 Beckett went through extremely difficult tragic year: death cousin (TB) May 1933 and loss of his father (heart attack) June 1933. This marked the real beginnings of his life as a writer. He was 27 years old.
Plunkett’s City: James Plunkett
James Plunkett was an Irish writer (1920-2003) He was educated by The Christian Brothers in Dublin.
Plunkett grew up among the Dublin working class, petty bourgeoisie and lower intelligentsia.
Strumpet City is a 1969 historical novel by James Plunkett set in Dublin, Ireland, around the time of the 1913 Dublin Lock-out.
Strumpet City is movement between Dublin, Kingstown and the coastline of Dublin. Characters talk to one another as they observe the city around them. This is the long tradition of perambulation in Irish writing. The book starts in 1907 and ends 1914 with a troop ship leaving Dublin Bay for WW I. In the seven years the 1913 Lockout, struggles for social justice and democracy in Ireland revolve around Dublin.
Dawe introduces met to a poem which I read and listened to: Easter 1916 by W.B. Yeats.
This is a nice read/listen on Easter Morning….and remember what happened en changed Ireland forever.
John Harold Hewitt (1907 – 1987), who was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was the most significant Belfast poet to emerge before the 1960s generation of Northern Irish poets
that included Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Michael Longley.
Hewitt’s verse expresses the
damage done by political division and nostalgia for a different past.
John Hewitt was a father figure for young Northern poets like Heaney and Longely.
I read Dawe’s essay and did not learn very much. I kept searching on the internet for a better image of this poet.I listened to readings of his poems “The Watchers” and “The Local Poet.” In this poem you can sense Hewitt’s modesty and shyness between the lines. Beautiful.
On Culture Northern Ireland website I found a concise introduction to John Hewitt that appealed to me more than Dawe’s essay.
We need Hewitt now more than ever to remind us that we have a tradition and a definable, colourful, multi-layered Ulsterness. That Ulster has a cultural and cultured mind that has nothing to do with universities. Now that we have, at least for political reasons, ceased to kill each other, Hewitt can teach us how to write poetry again in the peace of who we really are.
From The Ginger Man to Kitty Stobling
This is going to be an interesting essay because I HATED The Ginger Man by P J Donleavy. It was listed on Modern Library’s list of Best 100 novels of 20th C. Perhaps Gerard Dawe can tell me what I was not ‘getting’ in Donleavy’s book!
60% of the essay was a Dawe’s attempt to put Irish literature in the historical context of the 1950s (social,political) Donleavy was mentioned in two sentences! No analysis. 40% of the essay was about Patrick Kavanaugh. He produced an Irish classic “The Great Hunger” (poem) and fought tirelessly against the establishment in Dublin. Ireland 1950s was an age of innocence but also full of dark secrets (difficult (patriarchy) conditions for women, child abuse in the Catholic Church, Magdalene laundries).
The Passionate Transitory: John McGahern – REAL DISCOVERY!!
The Observer hailed him as “the greatest living Irish novelist” before his death in 2006 and in its obituary the Guardian described him as ‘arguably the most important Irish novelist since Samuel Beckett’. I never heard of John McGahern! (1934-2006)
Dawe’s essay was not very enlightening. I learned more while reading McGahern’s Wikipedia page!
McGahern had a very challenging life, moving schools repeatedly – often for no good reason – losing his mother to cancer when he was 10 yrs old…growing up with an absentee father and enduring physical, emotional, psychological abuse at the hands of his policeman father.
One of the preeminent Irish writers of our time, John McGahern has captivated readers with such poignant and heart-wrenching novels as Amongst Women and The Dark. Moving between tragedy and savage comedy, desperation and joy. John McGahern….all his books reflect his hard life experiences. Characters, events, attitudes are all peeled back to reveal reality. Sounds like a good author to add to reading lists!
I bought his first novel….The Barracks (1963) and his last book before he died…Memoir (2005).
Elizabeth Reegan (represents McGahern’s marries into the enclosed Irish village of her upbringing. The children are not her own; her husband is straining to break free from the servile security of the police force; and her own life, threatened by illness, seems to be losing the last vestiges of its purpose.
The Barracks (1963) AE Memorial Award, McCauley Fellowship.
The Dark (1965)
The Leavetaking (1975)
The Pornographer (1979)
Amongst Women (1990), Irish Times Literary Award (1991), nominated for the Booker Prize (1990).
That They May Face the Rising Sun (2001), Irish Novel of the Year (2003), nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award.
Non-Fiction: Memoir (2005)
Fatal Attractions: John Berryman in Dubiin
John Allyn McAlpin Berryman (1914 – 1972) was an American poet and scholar…not Irish but visited in Dublin. I wonder why Dawe added this essay to his book? This essay feels out of place…#JustSaying
History Lessons: Derek Mahon and Seamus Deane
Derek Mahon (1941) is an Irish poet. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland child of Ulster Protestant working class parents. Derek Mahon is regarded with Heaney and Longley as the leader of the resurgence of Irish poetry from the late 60s onwards. He writes lyric poetry of enormous wit, elegance and scepticism
Seamus Deane (1940) is an Irish poet, novelist, critic and intellectual historian. Born in Derry, Northern Ireland, Deane was brought up as part of a Catholic nationalist family. Of all the writers I’ve read about in the first 7 essays….Deane is the least interesting. Sorry, Seamus.
- I’ll let you discover the last 7 essays yourself.
- The purpose of reading this book was to broaden
- my Irish reading horizons.
- Author: M. de Montaigne (1533-1592))
- Title: The Complete Essays
- Published: 1580
- Edition: Penguin Classic (1344 pages) + audio book 49 hrs 56 min
- List of Challenges 2019
- Monthly plan
- Classic Club Master list
- Michel de Montaigne explores the human condition
- …in a very personal and clever manner.
- His essays chart the course of 20 yr of self-investigation.
- He pretends to most of the vices.
- If there be any virtue in him, he says, it got in by stealth.
- I enjoyed the most personal essays:
- Book I
- This selection of essays is ‘the hook’.
- They are personal and frank.
- Unfortunately there are also many essay in
- book II and III …. I consider ‘duds’.
Happiness not be judged until after our death
- …including 140 pages entitled “Apology for Raymond Sebond’
- The “Apology for Raymond Sebond” is
- three times as long as any other essay that Montaigne wrote
- The essay has been seen as an attack on authoritrian religion and
- a covert threat to Christian faith.
- It was a slog to listen to….and
- I just started to do some household chores
- …and let the words go in one ear and out the other!
- This essay sticks out like a sour thumb
- If you encounter this essay and feel as I did
- …just skip it!
Affection of fathers for children
On resemblence of children to fathers
Book III (…there were only 3 essays I liked)
- Montaigne is the frankest and honestest of all writers.
- He does have opinions that still ring true today.
- Strong point: Montaigne writes about themes that charm the
- reader ( see my list of favorites).
- We relate to them.
- Strong point: Montaigne’s style is not dry….but daring
- …filled with depth and witty observations.
- Weak point: don’t approach these essays expecting
- that they are an easy read (21st C standard)…they are not!
- The book was published 1580 and
- …written to one sex only.
- A certain nakedness of statement was permitted
- …which our manners of a literature addressed
- …equally to both sexes, do not allow.
- Montaigne could have used the advice of one of his
- favorite authors:
- “The eloquence that diverts us to itself harms its content.” (Seneca)
- Author: Blaise Pascal
- Title: Pensées
- Published: 1670 (incomplete at death)
- Language: French
- Edition: Le Livre de Poche ISBN 978225316960
- List Reading Challenges 2018
- Monthly planning
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- Difficult, difficult..very difficult to read in French!
- I realized the edition I had was more than just Pensées.
- Of the 736 pages I read the first part (pg 5-257)
- …and that was enough!
- But, no matter how difficult this book was
- …I never gave up.
- I knew there had to be some ‘gems’
- of wisdom waiting for me.
- Pascal was a genius in his time.
- He excelled in science and mathematics
- …before his turn to religion.
- Pensées captures his insights in elegant
- pithy (difficult) phrases.
- His words at times went over my head (existential)
- …but at other times his words went straight to my heart.
- I will end with one of his most famous quotes:
- “Le coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point”
- The heart has its reasons which reason does not know.
- Yes, I had thoughts….about Pascal’s thoughts!
- Here are a few things I jotted down while reading.
- This is a #Classic…and I am glad I can
- …say I have a general idea what it is about!
Humor: (pg 51)
The causes and effects of love:
… if Cleopatra’s nose had been shorter
….it would have changed the face of the world!
Faith: …beautifully said! (pg 55)
Faith is in our heart and
makes us NOT say I know….but I believe.
Chiasmus: (pg 66)
The sentence is grammatically the same, even when it is reversed!
Peu de chose nous console parce que
Peu de chose nous afflige
A few things console us because
A few things distress us
I skipped a few long discussions
about imagination vs reason….it was just too long
too complicated. (pg 66-73) Forgive me…
pyrrhonism – I skipped pg 113 – 119… Forgive me…
disproportion of man – I skipped pg 161 – 171… Forgive me…
These are not ‘short thoughts’ (pensées)…they are small essays!
that are difficult in English…not to mention in French.
Pascal uses (…what I call) 1-2-3 — 3-2-1 logic!
The words are reversed to give another meaning.
This ‘redoubles’ its complexity!
I have to read these fragments very slowly and let the thought sink in!
Here is an example:
Il soit force (1) d’obéir (2) à la justice. (3)
Il soit juste (3) d’obéir (2) à la force. (1)
It is forced to obey justice
…it is just to obey force. (pg 93)
Amusement (pg 121)
Men attempt to forget their misery
rather than find true happiness.
Only amusement permits him to flee
…his tragic existence.
Religion: (pg 151)
- There are a few true Christians.
There are those who believe
- …but through superstition.
There are those who do not believe
- …through the lack of moral restraint.
Few are in between
Religion: (pg 154)
Faith says what the senses cannot say
not the contrary of what they (senses) say.
Faith is well above…and not against.
Thought: (Pensée) (pg171)
Our dignity is contained in the mind (pensée)
It is there that we pick ourselves up again….
Try to think.
- Author: A.J. Liebling
- Title: Just Enough Liebling
- Published: 2004
- Trivia: A posthumous collection of Liebling’s writings
- Finished: 19.09.2018
- Genre: non-fiction
- Rating: F- (..can I go any lower?)
- List of Challenges 2018
- Monthly plan
I cannot for the life of me understand the high
scores this booked has accrued on Goodreads.com
Reading books that numb my soul
teach me to appreciate how
a good book can change a life!
This books wins the prize.
Worst non-fiction I read in 2018
and here is why…
- If you have the time….here are my notes.
- If you decide to skip this review
- …I understand completely!
At Table In Paris:
- Liebling studied in Paris 1925-1926 and
- traveled around Normandy etc.
- The stories are filled with references
- to buildings and streets he knows well.
Paris the First:
- Liebling describes his visit to Paris with his parents in 1911
- He was 7 years old…and I wonder if a child is a reliable narrator.
- While Liebling’s parents dine on French food and wine “en ville’
- …he was firmly in the care of a dreaded nanny ‘fraulëin”
- This chapter was quaint but awful.
- It was an overblown narrative about childhood memories and
- fantasies with nanny and family in Paris.
- I lost interest about half way through the story.
- I hope the dispatches from the WW II years will be better.
The War and After:
- Unfortunately the reports written during Liebling’s time in Europe
- during WW II were disappointing to say the least.
- He is still gushing about food and wine and not
- enough storytelling about the people. Unbalanced.
Letter From Paris June 1940:
- Clinical tone…I expected more emotion describing the dread of
- invasion of Paris after Holland and Belgium’s swift collapse.
- The images I remember from Suite Française (I. Némirovsky)
- …are still vivd in my mind.
- Liebling did not come close to
- describing the angst the Parisians felt with the
- Germans standing ready to pounce on the city.
- Trip from England in convoy sailing to
- …Port Arthur Texas during WW II.
- This story was just pointless
- …waste of my reading time.
Quest for Mollie:
- This was not a WW II dispatch…..it was a novella!
- I just cannot understand the praise given to
- Liebling’s WW II correspondance.
- His stories are too long…and I cannot find a moment
- the hook ” that captures my attention.
- This is yet another chapter that I have started in good faith
- …and ended up being disappointed.
Days with the Daydaybay:
- Long description of Liebling’s
- ….walk around the streets of the Sorbonne.
- He recalls his student days there.
- Long description of Liebling’s entry into liberated Paris.
- The narrative includes his fellow reporters from other
- newspapers: Jack Roach and A. Morrison.
- This was one of the better stories….but still too, too long.
- Details, details and more details that numbed this reader.
The Hounds with Sad Voices:
- Liebling returns to Normandy (1957) and is
- searching for a chateau. All he can remember is
- the sound of hounds with sad voices near the building.
- But as always Liebling’s days end in restaurants.
- This is yet anothr gastronomic exposition….ho-hum.
- It is no surprise that Liebling loved his food and drink.
- He drank and ate excessively and reached a weight of 250 lbs.
- He sufferd gout in the later years of his life.
- He died at the young age of 59 yr.
City Life: The Jollity Building …and the rest of the stories
- The last half of the book describes
- …colorful promoters, boxers, trips to the
- ….Place Bar & Grill.
- Liebling loved the horses so we also
- read about the Turf & Field Club and Belmont Racetrack.
- Eating again…
- Libeling wrote for The New Yorker magazine so
- we can assume he was a good writer.
- But in my opinion the stories were too long and
- the pace was slow because of downpour of
- details that inundated this reader.
- Liebling’s vivid descriptions of boxing matches
- and other sporting events are of a bygone era.
- It did not interest me at all.
- In truth…I read 60% of the book…then skimmed the rest.
- I was glad when I could close the book.
- Reading books that numb my soul
- teache me to appreciate how
- a good book can change a life!
- This books wins the prize.
- Worst non-fiction I read in 2018….so far!
- Author: Seneca ( 4 BC – 65 AD)
- Title: Letters From a Stoic
- Published: 124 letters written at the end of his life.
- Trivia: Letters were written to Lucilius a CFO in Sciliy in 65 AD
- Topic: how to become a devoted stoic
- List Challenges 2018
- Monthly planning
- Classic Club Master list
- For more information about Seneca and Stoicism
- …I refer you to the links in the header.
- This book is perfect bed-time reading.
- Tone is casual.
- Focus is on practical moral advice.
- Your mind can relax after a hectic day and let
- Seneca bring you back to basic thoughts about:
- mercy, anger, kindness, fate, happiness, and peace of mind.
- Strong points: writing style is full of brevity and sparkle.
- There are so many quotes that have lingered
- …too many to sum up.
- At the end of the book…the last letter (letter CXXIII)
- Seneca left me with these thoughts I use daily:
- Nothing is burdensome if taken lightly
- …nothing need arouse one’s irritation so long as one
- …doesn’t make it bigger than it is by getting irritated!
- It is in no man’s power to have whatever he wants
- …but he has it in his power not to wish
- …for what he hasn’t got.
- And as a person who struggles with an aching lower back
- Seneca spoke to me with these words:
- I’m deriving immeasurable satisfaction from the way my
- …tiredness is becoming reconcile to itself.
- What was brought on by exertion
- …rest is taking away.
Travailleurs de la mer
- Author: editor J. Hiddleston
- Title: Victor Hugo, Romancier de l’Abîme (essays)
- Published: 2002
- List Reading Challenges 2018
- Monthly reading planning
- Here is the list of the French Books Read.
- I have included reviews of books 2017 – 2018.
- Perhaps you can find a book you’d like to read!
- If you are interested reading any books by Victor Hugo
- ..it is always nice to have some back round information
- …you might not know!
- I’m reading Les Miserables at the moment
- …and want to read Hugo’s
- Dernier jour d’un condamné
- Travailleurs de la mer
- Here are a few notes I made after reading these essays.
Structure: 11 essays
7 essays in French
4 essays in English
Ch 2: Dernier jour d’un condamné
- Victor Hugo abandons ‘romanticisme noir’
- …in Bug-Jargal and Han d’Island.
- ..for romantic realism in Dernier jour d’un condamné.
- Hugo creates a character
- who presents arguments against capital punishment. (voice of V Hugo)
- Hugo uses the first person narrative.
- Trivia:…character never reveals the crime committed
- Trivia:…character reveals sarcastic bravoure
- ….rather than remorse for his crime.
Ch 6: Travailleurs de la mer
- In this chapter Delphine Glees draws my attention
- not only to Hugo’s writing Les Travalleurs de la mer
- but also to the drawing he made to accompany the book.
- Drawings do not represent the reality
- …but the fluctuating conditions of the sea and ships.
- Hugo stresses the impossibility of remaining stable in the world.
V. Hugo was also an artist
Ch 8: L’Homme qui rit
- This was a difficult chapter to understand
- because I have not read Hugo’s L’Homme qui rit.
- In this work Hugo uses costumes to reflect
- the personalities of the characters
- …and at times a sense of danger.
- Clothes are iridescent, opaque, white, black
- …and at time sparkling with lies!
- Themes Hugo often uses are:
- Gullibility (crédulité) of people (easily fooled)
- Poke fun at the grotesque – Quasimodo- in
- Notre-Dame de Paris …to forget their own misery.
- Manipulation of the aristocracy
- …sometimes court jesters are smarter than the king!
Ch 10: Barriers
- Hugo is fascinated by barriers…they are
- fragile, arbitrary and at times not ‘watertight’. (étanché)
- Barriers of the elements: Travailleurs de a mer
- Barriers of the social classes: Les Mis and Quatrevingt-treize
- Barriers that keep things out and keep thing in: Les Mis
- These frontiers exert pressure on the exterior and interior.
- The struggle between these frontiers will help humanity to advance.
- Hugo is interested in the shells people wear…their homes,
- their geographical shell (land of birth)
- …that may reveal their true identity.
- Hugo spends a great deal of time describing shells:
- constructions, edifices, scaffolds, walls, clothes that people wear.
- Shelters with barriers can be found in Les Mis:
- Gorgeau’s shack, the Petit-Picups convent, the house on rue Plumet
- …and ’l’éléphant de la Bastille.
Ch 11: Suicide
- Suicide is widespread in Hugo’s novels…
- …with the exception of Dernier jour d’un condamné.
- Some say Hugo’s obsession with suicide
- stems from the trauma of his brother’s suicide.
- Javert: commits suicide in Les Mis
- Valjean: places himself in a potentially suicidal position ( on the barricades)
- Trivia: Dante places suicides in the 7th circle of hell:
- … above Judas but beneath heretics and murderers.
- Suicide: the character is in an intolerable position
- no other way to make amends
- no other way of fulfilling a patriotic duty
- no other way of remaining faithful to one’s principles
- no other way of avoiding dishonour
- Javert: suicide represents
- the triumph of the spirit against the letter of the law.
- the triumph of humanity and love
- …against the blind and rigid principle.
- This book was like a box of chocolates
- …you never know what you’re going to get!
- Not having read all the works of Victor Hugo
- …some of the references went over my head.
- But I did manage to lean one or two things.
- The tone of the book is academic.
- Personally I think some of the
- illustrious authors still need to ask themselves:
- Is this really good writing?
- Chapter 9 by Yves Gohin was an example.
- His analysis is impressive
- …but his style of writing left much to be desired.
- Gohin creates never-ending sentences that are
- impossible to read and grasp his concepts.
- He uses too many independent clauses.
- Gohin had something worthwhile to say
- …but his thoughts ramble clumsily from one to other
- …using sentence fragments that
- left ‘this reader’ exhausted and confused.