Tuesday 23 August 2016

A Gulf of Flagitiousnesses

The reading was a bit of a challenge for me this week, as some poor weather reduced my walking reading time, some poor temperament some of my normal reading time, and some of the readings were just pretty dense and inaccessible without applying a good portion of effort, but I more-or-less squeaked by, leaving me only the reading from the Elements to push this morning. I promised myself that I wouldn't leave Euclid until last any more, but I never have been good at keeping promises.

This Week:

Elements by Euclid
#gbww #mathematics #greek
Book V

Just yuk. Yuk. Yuk. Yuk. Please go back to geometry, Euclid, I'm drowning here. Or at least invent fractions or something. I'm really starting to wonder if understanding this thing is going to be remotely possible for me, even with my fancy poster (i'm still working through book II on the poster, so I have to do a lot to catch up).

Of the Education of Children by Michel de Montaigne
#new #gbww #philosophy #french #short

To prime the obvious petard that has been presented to me: 'I was reading a French book, where after I had a long time run dreaming over a great many words, so dull, so insipid, so void of all wit or common sense, that indeed they were only French words.'

This one started out strong with a lot of really quotable lines in the first section where he has some wonderful turns of phrase, but I think I'd prefer it if Montaigne stuck to the shorter pieces rather than rambling like this. You want to raise a good son, according to Montaigne you should get him a tutor, talk to him only in Latin, send him to Germany lots, let him decide what to learn but make sure he learns pretty much everything (but not Greek, stuff Greek) and don't let him see his mother very often. If I were a French countess in the Middle Ages I might take his advice, but for myself I think I'll leave this one to lie.

Confessions of Augustine of Hippo
#new #gbww #autobiography #latin
Books I-III

Whew! This autobiographical text is written in the form of an extended prayer of attrition, and as such is a bit of a struggle to work through when you first start out, even for someone like me that does a lot of reading of psalms and prayers, but Augustine eases up a bit over time and becomes more accessible as time goes on.

Some of the anecdotes from his life when he was young and carefree and trying desperately to be one of the hippo cats were very relatable for me. I've never been a big follower of crowds or sucker for peer pressure, but I definitely dredged up some uncomfortable childhood memories in the reading of book 2. A particular incident fills me with shame to this day. I know my mother reads this blog sometimes...do you remember that time I shoplifted a pretty ribbon, mum?

The Confessions also include the word 'fornication' more often than one tends to find in this day and age. By the end of the reading I was giggling out loud each time that I came to an instance, with probably indicates that I've not yet attained the level of maturity required to read 6th century theology.

I'm not familiar enough to with the various 5th century sects and heresies to pass sensible comment on the Manicheans. Believe it or not I once actually had a lot of that stuff in my head, but I'm drawing a blank on exactly what transgressions I'm supposed to be disapproving of in chapter three, but hopefully we'll get to it next time we meet.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Book Six

Does anyone else picture Javert as Stannis Baratheon? I know I do.

I love the way Hugo repeatedly dangles the hope of a happy ending before his characters before yanking it away again with another surprise plot twist, and I adore it when a seemingly hopeless situation suddenly presents a solution that could give them an out but causes moral quandaries. It was difficult to stop myself reading this week, because I know M. le Maire has some tough thinking to do and I do so enjoy a moral quandary.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#new #not_gbww #fiction #english
Chapters 6-9

Well, we're more than half-way into the book and it still feels like it's building up steam. The contrast of cultures plays the lead role in these chapters, with both cultures finding the other repulsive, which is fine and all, but it's all done in this bare-faced, utterly unsubtle way that makes even Hugo's characterisation feel nuanced. Apparently the attractions of pneumatic women apply universally though, so that's good to know.

The Stats:

We’ve gone past 1500 pages read in the project, and while some of them have seemed like hard work, that means we’ve read enough pages of great literature to fill the pages of Gone with the Wind. And I remember how long it took to read GWWT, so that feels like quite an achievement.

Pages last week: 111
Pages so far: 1557

Week XXV:

Elements by Euclid
#gbww #mathematics #greek
Book VI (28 pages)

Book six might seem like a bit of a monster after the last couple of comparatively shorter chapters, but at least be have the consolation of knowing that once we finish this week’s reading we’ll be half-way through. Put it like that and it sounds depressing, but I’m pretty sure that’s a positive. Let's hope book VI isn't related to book V, because at this point I think book V was a write-off.

Of Anger by Francis Bacon
#new #ggb #philosophy #english #reallyshort
(2 pages)

For our short philosophy text this week, it’s back to Francis Bacon and whatever it is he has to tell us about anger. If I were to guess, it’s that anger is bad for us and that we should just forgive everyone and move on. Given that the text is only two pages, I find it hard to believe that he could say much more, but he is the master of squishing that stuff in there. Let’s find out.

Theseus by Plutarch
#new #ggb #philosophy #english #reallyshort
(15 pages)

Hot on the heels of Montaigne’s recommendation last week, we’re going to jump into Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. The Lives are yet another large work, even if we've lost of them over the years, but we’re going to dive in and out of them as time permits in order to give ourselves a little room to breathe.

Confessions of Augustine of Hippo
#gbww #autobiography #latin
Books IV-VI (24 pages)

Part two of the Confessions. I honestly have no idea what’s coming. In fact, I find myself saying variations on that so often that I have to wonder if these little blurbs each week are really a useful addition to the post. What do you folks think?

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
#not_gbww #fiction #french
Book Seven Chapters I-IV (22 pages) 

I can only hope that we’re in for some philosophising and wrestling with conscience in the next few chapters. Hugo is at his best when he really gets inside characters heads like this. Strap yourselves in, it's gonna be great.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#new #not_gbww #fiction #english
Chapters 10-12 (29 pages)

All the pieces are in place for things to really heat up over in London, aren’t they? The clash of worlds, the crumbling of towers, the dropping into place of clumsily foreshadowed plot points…I’m trying hard to read BNW sympathetically, but it’s hard. There’s a lot of preconceived notions in my head that are hard to override.

Blaugust writing prompts:
1) What have you always meant to read, but never gotten around to?
2) Do you have a favourite pop-science text, something that makes a hard subject come alive for you?
3) Don't have time to read? How have you been filling your downtime?

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