Thursday 25 July 2019

The bag wants flour

On the whole, 2019 has been a pretty good year for my reading habits. I haven't gotten back to high school levels, but I've been reading steadily enough and reading relatively diversely too, thanks to our college book club. It hasn't been a great year for my weekly reading project, though, as I've made absolutely no progress on reading the 'classics' that are on my list since early September last year, despite finishing my assigned readings, just because I hadn't gotten around to writing about them...for about 11 months. 

Still, better late than never, so let's get a review of 'Week' XXI of our little conversation out of the way so that we can get on with it.

The Week That Was:

The History of Herodotus

Book III

We've all met a guy just like Herodotus, who just can't bear to let any fact that comes to mind go unmentioned, regardless how irrelevant it is to the main thrust of whichever story he sets out to tell. In amongst the meat of the story of the rise of Darius -which would be a fine yarn all by itself- is a bit of a side-note about the Greeks and a couple of fantastic, and I mean that in every sense of the word, stories about the creatures of India and Arabia which continue to be a delight. Herodotus is interesting enough when he's relating history but at his best when he's trying to describe things that he clearly doesn't understand, such as ants as big as foxes or where cinnamon comes from. Trying to glean little nuggets of truth out of these perplexing little stories is a good time all around, and I strongly recommend giving this one a try for yourself, dear reader.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Chapters XI-XIII

Three chapters of such possibility, such drama, and yet with so little of substance actually happening in them! I am willing to accept that the real story isn't the events of the story but what's going on in poor Robinson's head, but still, the possibilities for interesting bits of story so far left hanging are frustrating me to no end. I'm sure Defoe will get there, but perhaps not before our weekly reading of his novel stretches out to take the twenty-three years our hero has spent on the island. Personally, I'm feeling every one of them.

Two Friends by Guy de Maupassant 

The French stories that we've been reading have really packed a punch, and this one was no exception. The contrast between the flowery prose of the two carefree friends enjoying the summer, the sudden change in tone, and then the return to normality as if nothing had changed...oof. I am a sucker for a hopeless, pointless little stories with the backdrop of war and this number scratches that itch just right. I hope there's more pussiant stories from this guy to come. #punachieved

Immortality by Thomas Browne

As foreshadowed, this was dull. I don't know why I thought that it wouldn't be dull and am honestly a little upset at my past self for agreeing that this one should have made the reading list this week. I see why it was the sort of thing that excited Adler when he was pulling together the GGB, given that it's chock full of classical references and allusions to back up the idea that great literature is all inspired by other great literature; but that theory assumes that Browne is worth reading, and personally all I got out of the reading was a reminder to be more careful when picking my readings instead of just blindly following along after Dr. J.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

Volume II - Books II & III

I'm finding it slightly troubling during this re-reading to find out just how much my multiple viewings of the musical have coloured my memory of Les Mis. I'd completely forgotten that in the original version Jean Valjean is returned to prison and has to stage a prison-break -in true dramatic Valjean fashion- in order to return to rescue Cosette from the Thenardiers.
On the topic of the musical, though, they really did do a number with the adaptation. Do yourself a favour and sit a moment and hum 'Master of the house' along with this excerpt from their introduction:
“The duty of the inn-keeper,” he said to her one day, violently, and in a low voice, “is to sell to the first comer, stews, repose, light, fire, dirty sheets, a servant, lice, and a smile; to stop passers-by, to empty small purses, and to honestly lighten heavy ones; to shelter travelling families respectfully: to shave the man, to pluck the woman, to pick the child clean; to quote the window open, the window shut, the chimney-corner, the arm-chair, the chair, the ottoman, the stool, the feather-bed, the mattress and the truss of straw; to know how much the shadow uses up the mirror, and to put a price on it; and, by five hundred thousand devils, to make the traveller pay for everything, even for the flies which his dog eats!”
This man and this woman were ruse and rage wedded — a hideous and terrible team.

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens 

Chapters V & VI

I think it was at about this point in the tale that I gave up on Pickwick last time around, frustrated with the authors tendency to get sidetracked from the point of the story, if indeed there even was one. This time around I'm rather enjoying the tour, although I do find myself wondering if we've actually going anywhere, somehow I can't imagine a story with these bumbling characters if the story itself wasn't bumbling all over the place too. Is that overly charitable towards Mr Dickens? I guess we'll just have to keep reading and find out.

Some Numbers: 

This week we reached the milestone of  having read exactly 1000 pages that were originally written in English. Greek trails behind, having reached 781 pages this week, while Latin and French together make up exactly 100 fewer pages than that. All of that would mean something if the page numbers that we were using for this project had any relation the amount of actual material consumed, but since the number of words per estimated page that I've been using in this project varies wildly, please continue to take the numbers with a pinch of salt.

Pages last week: 124
Pages so far: 2462

Week XXII: 

I hope you're enjoying Herodotus as much as I am, dear reader, as we have quite a lot of the Histories to come, including the significant wodge that is Book IV on Dr. J's reading list this week. We also have the pretty significant undertaking that is reading Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay Nature, which I am including in the readings against my better judgement because I vaguely recall being enamoured of a number of pithy Emerson quotations in my youth, though none of them come to mind right now.

Never fear, we haven't abandoned fiction, though. We'll also include a chapter each of Dickens and Defoe, just to keep them fresh in our minds, snack on a short story by Oscar Wilde, and round out the week with another few books from Les Mis.

Do pick one or two (or all) of the readings and come along with me on a little journey this week. Any journey is improved with fellow travellers on the road.

The History of Herodotus

Book IV (42 pages)

#gbbw #manandsociety #history #greek

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Chapters XIV (9 pages)

#ggb #imaginativelierature #novel #english

Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson

(13 pages)

#ggb #naturalsciences #essay #english #oneshot

The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde

(8 pages)

#ggb #imaginativeliterature #shortstory #english #oneshot

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo 

Volume II - Books IV & V (28 pages)

#non_gbww #novel #french

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens 

Chapters VII (7 pages)

#non_gbww #novel #english