Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Blaugust 12/31: A pain somewhere in the room

This post is part of Blaugust East. That festival of gaming blogging only very tangentially related to Great Books. It's also part of what I've taken to calling Blaugust Prime inside my own head, but that doesn't have a fancy page to link to.

For those of you that are interested, yesterday's post has been updated with the results of last week's quiz.

When I was a child, and throughout high school, I was a voracious reader. I would devour books, and between fortnightly visits to my local library I would regularly read a few-thousand pages on anything and everything that I could get my hands on. Lately, I've found it pretty difficult just to find the time to read a hundred pages or so each week, in between making a token effort in packing a house, finishing up my work commitments, and trying to be an active member of the blaugust community too. Oh, and seeing my wife some time...yeah, there's always something you forget, isn't there?

Never mind me. I hope that you found a little peaceful time this week to read, and think about what you've been reading, whether you're following along with this little project of ours or reading something else. It's nearly always time well spent, and I found the time that I did manage to scrape together this week was very rewarding.

To celebrate the release of "Bring Your Own Book", a Balderdashy/Apples to Applesey card game that I checked out earlier in the year that is essentially a more sophisticated version of the SF classic "Clench Racing" (which I've always wanted to run as a convention event, but I run the wrong type of conventions). I played the preview version of BYOB while reading this week and have posted my efforts. I'll let you decide how I did.

Week 6 in Review

Last week: 102 pages
So far: 629 pages
Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Book the Second, Ch. 7 - 9

Title of a mystery novel: "When the Devil goeth about"

A more story-driven excerpt from Dickens after the heavy-handed preaching that we've been having the last few weeks. Aha! That's what Tom was up to, the little sneak! Harthouse's scheme's haven't come to their conclusion, yet, but I have a sense that they're coming. The star of these chapters is the final appearance of everyone's favourite worrier, Mrs. Gradgrind, who provides both our title quote for this week and this reminder of week one of our little project: ‘You learnt a great deal, Louisa, and so did your brother. Ologies of all kinds from morning to night. If there is any Ology left, of any description, that has not been worn to rags in this house, all I can say is, I hope I shall never hear its name.’

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Volume i, Book Three

Lyrics from a Country & Western Song: "I regret the time when I saw Bonaparte and Talma enter the Bel Savage arm in arm." (I could ha' struck him down right then and there, but I done left my gun down on the farm)

Aside from the first chapter, one of Hugo's delightfully whimsical jaunts down memory lane in French history, it seems that this book exists just to establish that Fantine was very in love, and ultimately a good girl, and that's she wasn't acting in a sinful debaucherous sort of way when she was made pregnant by a man who will never again be seen in the story. I guess this would have been important to Hugo's readers, but it's in stark contrast to a modern story where the additional element of a 'fallen woman making good' would be a more attractive prospect than setting Fantine up as some kind of virtuous saint.

Mowgli's Brothers, excerpt from The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

Item for a Curriculum Vitae: "I speak for the man's cub."

Readers only familiar with the Jungle Book from the Disney film might find this one a little strange, and I appreciate a scatting monkey and a bear making a hulla-Baloo as much as the next man, but this is the version of the Jungle Book that I'm most familiar with, since my grandparents brung me up right. Kipling has a wonderful sense of the defining characteristics of different animals, but while I found this a pleasant diversion from some of the week's other reading and will one day look forward to reading it with my own children, I don't think this one is "Great".

Apology by Plato

A universal truth: "...either death is a state of nothingness and utter unconsciousness, or, as men say, there is a change and migration of the soul from this world to another." (is it cheating to use a philosophy text for this one?)

My new tracking page proudly proclaims that Plato is now my most-read author in terms of number of titles, but since that number is two, I guess that's not that exciting. What is exciting, is that the Apology kicks Meno's ass.

The classic example of how philosophers are too damn clever by half. Socrates makes a reasoned argument, cross-examines his accuser with literally the textbook use of his Socratic Method to demolish the prosecution's points (well, some of his claims are a bit meh, but...), and pretty much gets himself off. Having accomplished this, in his moment of triumph, he proceeds to remind everyone why they hate him, get each and every one of their backs up, and then act smug when they hand down the guilty verdict that he all but goaded them into giving. Having not learned his lesson, he then goads them with fine logical arguments into handing down the death penalty, before launching into his hauntingly beautiful philosophical swansong in the form of a discussion on the nature of death. Maybe my opinion is coloured by my last reading having occurred on a beautiful beach during an Australian summer, but I cannot imagine a finer way for a philosopher to go out. This one is definitely going straight to the pool room.

Taming of the Shrew by William Shakespeare

A pick up line: "I'll pheeze you, in faith." (I don't know what that is, but it sounds pretty dirty).

Of Shakespeare's comedies that I've read, which admittedly is not a large number, this one makes the most sense. Easily readable and laugh out loud funny in parts, this was a breeze to read, but those of modern sensibilities will find the overarching message (that of women being the possessions and playthings of men, and how a wife should worship the very ground her husband walks on) somewhat disturbing. That this message is pounded home in the closing scene by Katharina herself, the spirited woman tricked out of her own self by a scheming husband, is just salt in the wound.

I still think this one belongs in the list of truly great books, despite its message being a foreign one to my own modern ears. Almost all the loose ends are tied up (the exception being the disappearance of the play-within-a-play motif following the second act), and the whole thing flows together. Very tight, very enjoyable. I'd still recommend it.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Part One, Ch. 28 - 33
In my desperation to get my readings finished this week, I took Lolita to a meeting in case I had any spare time, and accidentally left her behind. The poor girl must be feeling a little neglected. Anyway, I was keen to get back into Nabokov this week after being admonished by Michael, but it wasn't to be due to my own generally clutzy forgetfulness. Once I get her back, I'll push this reading to next week.

Week 7 Readings

Here comes the big one, baby! The Odyssey! Also available on Dr. J's smorgasboard this week is a bunch of other good stuff, so we'll dip heavily into that and leave off Les Mis. once again to make room. We're leaving Bacon behind as I've realised that his Essay's are on the supplementary list that we'll be reading, so there's no need to cherry pick individuals ones right now. A couple of short readings this week too that should be worth your while, if any of you are tempted to dip in but don't want to commit too much time.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#not_gbww #copyrighted #fiction #english
Part One, Ch. 28 - 33 (22 pages)
A week for the tension to build is quite enough, I think. Here's hoping that we manage to retrieve the poor lass from where I've left her and really dig into Nabokov this week. 

Hard Times by Charles Dickens
#gbww #fiction #english
Book the Second, Ch. 10 - 12 (? pages)
Time to finish up act two of three. That means that nothing it going to get any better for our heroes in the next three chapters. Predictions: Cissy appears not at all, Louisa does something silly, and poor old Stephen Blackpool gets thrown in prison with Loo's few donated pound as supposed proof of his guilt.

Odyssey of Homer
#new #gbww #philosophy #greek
Books I-IV, (43 pages)
I grew up on the Greek myths and legends, so Homer has always been a little special to me; but it's been a few years since my last reading of the Odyssey, and I look forward to seeing how I feel it's been coloured after my recent reading of Coleen McCullough's wonderful Song of Troy.

Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln
#new #oneshot #ggb #history #speech #english #reallyshort
(1 page)
Maybe the most famous speech ever? Definitely in the top ten. Anyways, we bothered to read Horace Greeley, we could hardly skip out on Gettysburg, could we?

The Eruption of Vesuvius (Letters LXV and LXVI) of Pliny the Younger
#new #excerpt #ggb #history #latin
(7 pages)
All I know about Pliny the Younger is that there was also presumably an elder Pliny, that there's nothing by him in the GBWW proper, and that he was supposedly he fellow that coined the phrase "fortune favours the brave". Maybe in this excerpt? We'll have to read to find out.

On Old Age by Marcus Tullius Cicero
#new #oneshot #ggb #philosophy #latin
(27 pages)
We've been disappointed by Cicero before, but I'm confident that he's been working on sexing his material up a little and that this time he's going to come through for us. Not that confident, actually, but let's give it a try.

May your reading this week bring you solace and challenge your mind in equal measure.

1 comment:

AristoWan said...

I thank you for the recommendations. I'm surprised I've even read a few of those but my palette is rather lacking so any names I get I go for. Also a thanks to Jon for recommending "Against a dark background" Just finished it.