Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Uncommonly Jolly Now

Reading was not a thing that I managed to find time for this week, so there's a little bit of a scramble to get this post up for tonight, but here we go...

Week in Review

Last week: 115 pages
So far: 321 pages

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part One, Ch. 14  -  Ch. 19
 Still behind on Lolita. This will be updated shortly.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Volume i, Book Second, Ch. 1 - 8.
Whoa, in comparison to the complete lack of movement so far, we've had a relative flurry in these eight chapters. A mysterious vagabond comes to town and is turned out of all the inns, before being put up in grand fashion by the good Bishop, who knows that this is the notorious Jean Valjean and does not give a hoot, as is his nature with which we are already so very familiar, dear reader.
Well, actually, that all happened in the first five chapters and the last three were a little bit of discussion on the penal system and the nature of rehabilitation. But they also include a large part of the history of the man and since these chapters provide and explain in great part some of the motivations that will carry him through the rest of the novel, they are useful chapters indeed.
The Jean Valjean we see here portrayed is a hardened criminal, and he hates all the world for making him so. The sympathic reader cannot help but be concerned for the wellbeing of our hero, the good Bishop. What harm will befall him and his household?

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the First, Ch. 12 - 16
I thought Mr. Dickens was going to come through for me there for a moment, I really did, but the mysterious woman that turned up on the doorstep stayed just that, a mystery woman. A mystery woman with an unhealthy interest in and enthusiasm for Mr. Bounderby and his activities, to be sure, but not one that suddenly leapt up in the service and stopped poor Louisa's wedding to the man. Mr Dickens, I am both disappointed and delighted that you've let me down.
Louisa is so delightfully sarcastic that I cannot help but like her, but she seems to be going to her marriage with a good deal of stiff upper lip, which is right and proper and all, but a bit crap. I'd hoped for a little fire. Not even Sissy shows any fire any more, having been thoroughly Gradground. What a pity. The only fire we even got close to seeing was from the enigmatic Mrs. Sparsit.  Not sure quite what's going on there, but it's Bounderby fun (Oh man, Classic. Gonna have to try and make a literature pun a week from here on in, I think).

Letter to Horace Greeley by Abraham Lincoln
Well, this was disappointing. Definitely Lincoln, written with the no-nonsense precision I've come to somehow expect from him through the zeitgeist somehow, but lacking the fire. Apparently written in response to an editorial in which he was criticised for not doing enough to free the slaves, the only reason I can see that this letter has any importance at all is that it was apparently written just after (but published earlier than) the Emancipation Proclamation, and thus its moderate tone constitutes Lincoln's attempt at playing the mild mannered Bud Abbott in order to set-up the punchline for the EP's Lou Costello.
I think I'll be more careful picking up the Americana in the future. It was an experiment, but not one I care to repeat in the near future. And I can't leave this without mentioning that in all the portraits, Horace Greeley is shown to have some impressive neck beard thing going on...either he wore hair shirts a lot or that man has a hairy chest to put the Teen Wolf to shame.

The Enchiridion by Epictetus
In contrast, this little number blew my socks off. You should read this, guys. By half-way through, I was pretty much convinced that were I not a practicing Christian I could be a Stoic in the mould of Epictetus and be damn happy. Sure, I'd probably be about as good a Stoic as I am Christian, but it seems to me to be an attractive way of living, if you were actually capable of meeting a state of mind even close to the prescribed ideals.
What I really like, though, is that instead of just stating the impossible to attain premise, Epictetus goes into depth about how to attempt to achieve this in the real world, and softens it. I've always associated philosophers, especially the Stoics, with a kind of brittle iron, but Epictetus' stoicism boils down to 'follow your path as best you can, but be considerate of other' or 'do unto others as you'd have them do unto you', and I can definitely see the attraction. Any mindset that doesn't insist that it's the only right way and go around insisting upon it to others is fine with me.
I should mention at this point that Mrs. Owl disagrees, and says that I am not a ceramic cup, that she would be sad if I died, and that Epictetus is a big dummy. She may have a point there.
The Missus 1 - Philosophy 0.

The Killers by Ernest Hemingway
Yep, well, that was a thing I read. If there was something deeper to it I didn't really get it. Doctor J is right that it feels a little Waiting for Godot, but as an Australian I can go further and say it feels like Waiting for Godot if it were written by an American, all bluster with all the nervous tension and the good jokes stripped out, and an undercurrent of racism that feels like it's there just to make sure you know that you're in the good old US of A. Fine read and all, but if it weren't written by a master no-one would look twice. I suspect that Hemingway fans feel let down by it too.

Week 4 Readings

Doctor J's reading list for this week see's actual GBWW content! We're officially off and racing with a little light Plato. The rest we can pick and choose, though, and as I've read The Tell-Tale Heart before, the only other thing that we're going to pick this week is a some Stevenson.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#not_gbww #copyrighted #fiction #english
Part One, Ch. 20 - 23 (26 pages)

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Volume i, Book Two, Ch. 9 -13 (16 pages)
I know what happens next, and so does pretty much everyone who's ever read the book or seen the play or the film. Short of another tangent, these are the formative chapters coming up, so hold on to your seats.

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
#not_gbww #fiction #english
Book the Second, Ch. 1 - 4 (32 pages)
Let's see now... Mr. Bounderby get embroiled in a shoddy business deal and loses all of his money, forcing Gradgrind to bail him out. Cissy catches sight of a stranger who she thinks might be her father. Blackpool's wife fails to do anything useful at all. And it's still not too late for romance to bloom for Mrs. Sparsit. I dunno, I'm making it up.

The Lantern-bearers by Robert Louis Stevenson
#new #oneshot #ggb #essay? #english
(10 pages)
It's been many long years since Mr. Stevenson and I were last acquainted, and since I seem to recall reading most of Jeckyll and Hyde while waiting around in hospitals and doctor's surgeries, I hope that we might met in better circumstances this time around. From the title I'm expecting something dark and gothic, so that could be fun. Mind you, it's found in a collection called 'Collected Essays', so maybe not so much. Let's find out.

Meno by Plato
#new #ggww #oneshot #philosophy #greek
(17 pages)
Let's start the GBWW in fine style, with a shot of Plato. I feel like a little boy again, excited for my first day of school, or my first chance to bowl with an actual cricket ball or my first chance to see Shakespeare. This week, I read my first Socratic dialogue!

Happy reading to you all.

1 comment:

Irac said...

Bounderby Fun! Love it. Keep up the literature puns.