Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Being Something-ological

Last week's Wednesday Quiz will be marked in about 24 hours, and we've only had one entrant. I mean, I know that poetry isn't everyone's cup of tea, but you get points in my book just for showing up!

If you're just tuning in to the Leaflocker, last week we began on a big project to read the greatest books of all time We're only 100 pages in so far, so it's not too late to join us. Or of course you can jump in any time you see us reading something fun.

I was a little bit worried that I'd get the first week of our approximately 360 week project off to a bad start there for a little while, but a little bit of lunchtime reading put me back on the right track. 
Overall, it was a pretty easy week of reading, with a few glimpses of the heavy stuff, but mostly just an introduction into what we've gotten ourselves into. As I'm sure I'll get sick of saying in the next few posts, spoilers lie ahead, go do your homework for last week, then come back and mull over it with me.

Week in Review

Last week: 97 pages
So far: 97 Pages
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part One, Ch. 1  - Ch. 9
I found this better than last time I made the attempt, but still uncomfortable. Last time I was shocked when I found myself sympathising and even liking Humbert, and that proved too unsettling to continue. This time, I felt more of his sinister nature and foreshadowing coming through, particularly that scene in which he's sitting in the park peeping on all the girls, and while I'm still symphathising a little, it didn't make me feel dirty enough by association to want to go have a bath every few minutes. I think what makes it particularly creepy is Humbert's inability, for even a short period of time, to go without thinking of sex, it's very impressive storytelling in a way that I don't ever want to contemplate learning how to do.

No introduction to Lolita herself yet, except as mentions in passing, but we're starting to get an insight for the protagonist and his curious mind, and things are definitely ramping up.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Volume i, Book First, Ch. 1 - Ch. 9
Now that's the Victor Hugo I remember. Nine chapters in, and we've spent every one of them describing the nature, household and habits of the Bishop of Digne, an altogether humble and  excellent cleric and man; and also an utterly unimportant character that will never again figure in the story the moment that Valjean steps out of his doorway (except by acting as a sort of proxy conscience, I suppose). Still, this is the nature of Les Mis., I recall hearing somewhere that at least a third of the words in this monster tome don't relate to the story at all, so there's plenty more where that came from.

I expect to hear plenty more about the good bishop next week. Hugo likes the character, as well he might, as he's based on a man who said nice things about an apparent ancestor of Hugo's (probably not actually related), so there's something to be gained for Hugo's reputation in improving the reputation of Digne. He's also using the opportunity for a little dig at those self-serving members of the church that don't measure up to the high standards that their boss sets, even though our good Bishop doesn't seem to hold it against them.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the First Ch. 1 - Ch. 7
Ah, Dickens. So reliable. Of course, someone called Choakumchild is a perfect choice for a schoolmaster, and Mr. Gradgrind is a bright and cheery sort guaranteed to be the life of any party. The story is really rollicking along, with Gradgrind taking on Cissy when her father jumps ship, her un-Gradgrindy ways combined with his recently recalcitrant children seems like a recipe for disaster, all the while some almost Shakespearean jests are made by the gathered circus types. The contrast between Dickens, who wrote largely for serialisation, and Hugo, who patently didn't, is obvious, Dickens truly have been the Matthew Reilly of his day, he truly knows how to move a story.

We can already see the obvious building blocks for the anvil of a moral that Mr. Dickens is undoubtedly going to drop on us repeatedly later in the book, presumably that living to accumulate facts and information isn't really living at all. I also feel compelled to say that Mr. Bounderby's attitude towards Louisa is decidedly more discomforting when read contemporaneously with Lolita.
Most quotable moment this week definitely comes from the inestimable Mrs. Gradgrind, and her request that her children "Go and be something-ological directly". Have to use that one, I think. Somethingological is a damn good name for a blog, in my humble opinion.

Week 2 Readings

Now's the bit where we're going to make wild guesses as to what's coming up, so that we can laugh at ourselves next week when we're hilariously off the mark. I've revised the format a little from last week to give those that want to pick and choose from our syllabus a bit more information, and I'll also go back and update last week for consistencies sake. Page numbers are a rough guide as to length, but are by no means the gospel truth.

This week, if we'd been following along with Doctor J's reading plan instead of shunning the Gateway to the Great Books series like the plague, we be reading a little bit of Francis Bacon, a Twain short story, the 1689 English Bill of Rights, a piece by Charles Lamb, Xenophon's March, and Fabre's Sacred Beetle. Actually, some of that sounds interesting, so let's supplement our reading this week with a light smattering of plague after all...

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#not_gbww #copyrighted #fiction #english
Part One, Ch. 10  -  Ch. 13 (31 pages)
In the coming chapters, I'd expect Humbert to relate the rest of his pre-Lolitan sexual misadventures, in which he continues in his downward spiral until meeting his 'nymphet', whereupon he'll lose all vestiges of nicety and begin to become a complete lust-consumed scheming pervent of the highest order. Should be fun to watch.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Volume i, Book First, Ch. 10 - 14. (21 Pages)
In which we will continue to extoll and expand upon the virtues of the good Bishop of Digne, and completely fail to meet the protagonist of the story. I cheated a little bit here, as this will bring us to the end of Book I, and Book II is called 'The Vagrant', so I'm feeling pretty confident about that little prediction.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
#not_gbww #fiction #english
Book the First, Ch. 8 - 11 (25 Pages)
Either we'll go back to the Gradgrind household, where the introduction of poor Cissy Jupe will cause utter uproar and chaos, or we'll head off somewhere else entirely for an entirely unrelated plotline that will somehow become critical thanks to an amazing co-incidence later on. I have no particular reason to suspect the second option, but it's Dickens, after all, so I don't think it's such an unrealistic expectation.

Of Truth by Francis Bacon.
#new #oneshot #ggb #essay #english
(2 Pages)
It's two pages, written by the man who may, or may not, have been the brains behind Shakespeare. We're going to spend some time reading some of his longer work in the coming years, so we might as well start acclimatising ourselves now.

#new #excerpt #ggb #autobiographical #greek
Book IV
(26 Pages)
I mean, come on, it's freaking Xenophon's March! It's stamped on my brain as a must-read, but now it's time to find out if it's famous because it's actually good, just because it's an ancient Greek text that's easy to read, because of its associations to a certain local politician, or worse, simply because it was featured in Age of Empires when I was at an impressionable age. We'll read the famous bit, then if we like it we'll tackle the rest sometime once we've learnt ancient Greek.

My First Play by Charles Lamb
#new #oneshot #ggb #essay #english
(4 Pages)
Ever since I devoured The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I've been looking for an excuse to sit down and read something by English master critic Charles Lamb, who got a very good rap in the book. This isn't one of his well-known works, but let's try it out, since there's not any other Lamb on the menu any time soon.

So if you've only got a few minutes to join our little book club for this week, there's something on this list for you. Happy reading to you all.

No comments: