Tuesday, 25 July 2017

I'm the Head Cook Now

Well, it's already July 2017, so this 'week' is well on track to be the worst 'week' ever in the history of book deals, maybe ever. I am determined to renegotiate terms, though, and since Blaugust is fast approaching it's time to get back on the bandwagon. It feels right to get really stuck in to the weekly readings again after a long absence, and I can feel it doing me good. Except maybe in the case of Euclid.

This 'Week':

Elements by Euclid
Books VI & VII

I don't think it'll be a surprise to anyone that the readings from the elements are without doubt the most time-intensive part of the weekly reading project, and that simple the fear of them is largely responsible for how long a week takes around here. That said, once I actually knuckle down to it, the Elements are never as bad as I make them out to be.

Book six proved to be a pretty elementary study of the proportions of various geometrical shapes, most of which I would naturally have intuited, and none of the proofs were particularly compelling. Book seven was a complete change of tack and dived straight into number theory, and it's clear that this section is on much shakier ground, which makes sense, as I know that there weren't axioms for number theory until about 2300 years after this text was first written.

I love how critically Plutarch looks at these myths. He'll delight in telling you the story about Romulus and Remus were raised by a she-wolf, and then he'll mention that probably actually that's not a thing and by 'she-wolf' the Romans probably originally meant 'prostitute'.
 Jacques-Louis David ~ The Intervention of the Sabine Women

To be honest, I don't find this account particularly compelling. The finest part of it is undoubtedly the rape and intervention of the Sabine women that played such an important part in the early formation of Rome as a regional power, stories that I keenly look forward to stumbling across again as we read other Roman histories. As for the rest of it, without the grounding in what other historians of the time had already said, it was difficult indeed to get into the meat.

Romulus himself seems to be a considerably cannier politician than Theseus, performing just as many nefarious deeds but mostly doing them for the good of the Romans rather than for his own selfish ends, so Plutarch seems to like him a lot more than he does Theseus, and I can certainly get behind him on that.

Confessions of Augustine of Hippo
Books VII-IX

Holy moley. Maybe it's the antiquated translation, but reading Augustine was a real labour of love this time around, as it felt like these three chapters took and awfully long time. Many a bus trip was spent with my nose to my Kindle, which at least made it easy to highlight all the memorable phrases, of which there were many. Most notably, of course, was an appearance of the famous line "Give me chastity and continency, only not yet", but a couple of others will undoubtedly make their way into my quotes sidebar in the near future too.

I continue to be pleasantly astonished by Augustine's constant praise, the book reads like an extended psalm at points, but it does mean that he takes a lot longer to actually get around to progressing the story, which in these three chapters essentially boils down to "I finally got to grips with the whole soul thing, decided to become a Christian, so I quit my job and moved in with some mates to study together. And my mum died." His version is more fun to read than mine, though, and it's wonderous to me that so many of the stages along his journey were so similar to mine, despite the 1600 years between us.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
Book Seven: Chapters V-VII

Pretty much the first time during my read through Les Mis that I've finished my weekly reading and thought 'well, I bet that they skipped all that in the revised edition'. The conflict going on inside Valjean's head between his internal angels and demons as played out along the road is a bit of a giggle, but for the most part, these chapters aren't adding a whole lot.

Understandably, they're missing from the musical.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
Chapters XIII-XVI

The first couple of these chapters are some of my favourites of the whole novel, because John and his world-view come into stark conflict with the priorities of the Brave New World in a tangible way, first with Lenina and then with Linda, rather than the reader just being force-fed the plot by way of exposition. If the whole of the novel was like this, showing the actual outcomes of the world of conditioning and emotional manipulation instead of pontificating about it, I'd have a lot more time for it and wouldn't spend any where near as much of my time here whining about how lazy Huxley is.

Then we come at last to the lead-up to the inevitable conclusion, and it ends as it always had to with a great deal of the exposition that I had been greatly enjoying getting away from just a few pages before. The Controller gets some great lines, but as much as I enjoy a good quote that's still not enough to, you know, make me actually like the book.

The Stats:

This week we skated past 800 pages in English-language texts and a combined 1000 pages in other languages. To take a phenomenally inaccurate guess, if we assume the ludicrous 750 words a page that the GGWW tomes use as our average word count (not a completely stupid assumption given that I take most of my page counts straight from the GGWW itself), then that's just a shade under 1.3 million words read so far in the duration of the project, as many as there are in Marcel Proust's 'In Search of Lost Time', the longest novel ever written. To put this in perspective, though, that novel is just one of the 350-odd texts that we haven't even touched on that we hope to complete before the end of the project.


Pages last week: 127
Pages so far: 1856

Week XVII:

It's been a while since we tamed that Shrew, but it's time to get back to Shakespeare with Julius Caesar. We've also got a little history by way of Lucian, a touch of philosophy by way of Bacon, and of course more of our ongoing readings of Euclid, Augustine, Hugo and Huxley. It's a pretty jam-packed week on the reading list, but with Augustine and Huxley coming to an end soon we've got different, if not greener, pastures to look forward to.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#new #not_gbww #fiction #english
Chapters 17-18 (11 pages)

Here we are at the end of Brave New World. While I'm enjoying the departure from the tone of some of the heavier works in recent times, I can't honestly say that I'll be sad to see the end of Huxley.

Confessions of Augustine of Hippo
#gbww #autobiography #latin
Book X (22 pages)

We've got quite a lot on our plate this week, so we only have a single chapter of Augustine to get through. That said, this one is a bit of a monster of a chapter, so I doubt that it's going to be a walk in the park. I suspect we're in for some serious theologising, so I hope you're all feeling up for that. I admit to not really feeling like it right now, but Augustine has been surprising so far, so I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for now.

Elements by Euclid
#gbww #mathematics #greek
Book VIII (21 pages)

Because we were enjoying it so much, what we all need in life is more number theory. It's just as well that I have actually found applications for my Euclidian studies since I started reading the elements, or there's no way I'd have kept on slogging with it.

Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare
#new #gbww #play #english
(27 pages)

Good ol' JC may well be the Shakespeare play with the greatest cultural relevance, even if it's not the one your brain leaps to when you hear the name Shakespeare. I've only ever seen it in live the Dutch, as part of the epic adaption that is Roman Tragedies, but even in a foreign language famous quote after famous quote just force themselves into your brain. It's been a long time since I've read it, so I'm looking forward to revisiting this old friend.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Book Seven Chapters VIII-XI (17 pages) 

In weeks of heavy reading in the past, I've taken leave of Les Mis to give the other works room to breathe, but I just can't bring myself to do that this week, so I've left it in, leading to a very heavy week indeed. Let us not be put off by the assize of the task ahead of us, but soak instead in the bath of Hugonic prose for a while. #punachieved

Of Adversity by Francis Bacon
#new #ggb #bitesized #philosophy #english
 (1 page)

At least Bacon has the common decency to keep his contributions to the discussion short and sweet. I've been very impressed with Bacon so far, and adversity seems like a good little topic, so I think we're probably in for a real barn-burner here.

#new #ggb #oneshot #treatise #greek
(20 pages)

I read the first page or so of this just to try and get a little sense of what we were getting ourselves in for with Lucian, and I had a good little giggle at his savage wit. Clocking in at 20 pages, it's pretty long for an essay, but if it keeps on how it starts it should be good for a laugh, if nothing else.

Happy reading, everyone. Do pick something and read along, as knowing that I've got company will really help me to keep on track with this project. I'd love to finish my 7 years of reading before I die.

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