Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Le Horla by Guy de Maupassant

"What a wonderful day! - Quelle journée admirable!"

What a lovely start to the story.  The narrator describes himself reclining on the lush grass of his yard under a gorgeous plane tree.  He loves his house and the region of his forebearers close to Rouen. The Seine flows lazily alongside his garden and in early afternoon he spots a parade of ships drawn by a tugboat, including an impressive Brazilian three-mast ship, gleaming white and he is filled with such joy at the sight that he salutes the magnificent vessel.

Five days later, he claims that he has been seized by a fever, a mysterious force that makes him feel rather sad more than sick.  His despair grows and in spite of seeing a doctor, it continues to worsen.  Finally, he decides to take a short trip to set him aright, visiting Monte St. Michel, and while he does return refreshed and certain that he is cured of his malady, he relates a curious experience that he had at the monastery.

While being guided by a resident monk, the monk tells him that at night the local folk often hear two goats bleating, one with a strong voice and one with a weak voice, and while some people discount the tale, fishermen have seen a faceless shepherd leading two arguing goats, one with the head of a man and one with the head of a woman.

Monte St. Michel
source Wikipedia

Our narrator is perplexed.  Surely if rational beings other than ourselves existed we would have encountered them by now.  The monk, however, gives a perceptive reply:

"Do we see even the hundred-thousandth part of what exists?  Take the wind, for example, which is the greatest force in nature, which knocks men down, demolishes buildings, uproots trees, sends up the sea in mountains of water, wrecks cliffs, and throws mighty ships against the shoals, the wind that kills, that whistles, that moans, that groans ---- have you ever seen it, and can you see it?  It exists, regardless."

With the sickness coming back upon him, the man agonizes with nightmares, and the unexplained consumption of water and milk from his carafes in the morning.  Escaping to Paris, he has an unsettling experience with a doctor, a clairivoyant, which further cements his mental exploration of other-worldly phenomenon.  Yet again when he returns home he experiences an increasing unease and a consciousness of an entity which has invaded his home, apparently from the Brazilian schooner that he glimpsed months ago.  He is distaught, deranged and we can only guess at the outcome as he attempts to dispose of this being who has not only penetrated his home but his soul.

"Woe to us!  Woe to man!  He has come, the ... the ... what is his name ... the .. it seems as if he's calling out his name to me, and I can't hear it ... the ... yes ... he's calling it out ... I'm listening ... I cannot ... say it again ... the ... Horla ... I heard it ... the Horla ... it is he ... the Horla ... he has arrived!"

It may sound odd to say, but this was one of the more delightfully suspenseful short stories that I've read in awhile.  While I believe that we cannot control what happens to us in life, we can control our reactions to it, yet in this story, the man's self will is appropriated to an extent that he loses part of who he is.  His mind, while not necessarily possessed, is subjugated by a force that is able to manipulate his thinking and apprehending.  What could be more terrifying? Complete loss of control.  It makes an extraordinarily creepy tale.

Next week, I have a children's classic on slate, The Tanglewood Secret by Patricia St. John.  With my unexpectedly busy life that has left me little time for reading, I just hope I can finish it and review it in time!

*** Note:  I did read ¼ of this short story in French before my brain gave out and time began to run away from me.  An accomplishment nonetheless, but it made me realize that I need much more practice with this excellent language!

Week 3 - Deal Me In Challenge - Four of Clubs

Monday, 16 January 2017

Herodotus' The Histories - Book I

Book I (Clio)

"Herodotus of Halicarnassus here presents his research so that human events do not fade with time.  May the great and wonderful deeds --- some brought forth by the Hellenes, others by the barbarians --- not go unsung; as well as the causes that led them to make war on each other."

Immediately Herodotus establishes who he is, that he is conducting an inquiry into events, and that he is an unbiased observer, treating both the Hellenes and barbarians alike, lauding each of their deeds.

He goes on to deal with the cause of the enmity between them:  according to the Persians, those dratted Phoenicians started it all.  They sailed to Argos and kidnapped some women, Io, the daughter of the king being one of them, and that is how she arrived in Egypt.  This version is vastly different than the Io version told by Ovid in his Metamorphoses.  In retaliation, the Hellenes then kidnapped the king's daughter, Europa, from the Phoenician city of Tyre, again a different version from Ovid's recounting of Europa's kidnapping.  Yet not being satisfied with one kidnapping, the Hellenes set out again, this time absconding with the king of Colchis' daughter, Medea. Now, when Paris, the son of Priam, heard about these kidnappings, he thought nothing of stealing Helen.  Even though the Hellenes were seen as the aggressors who began the hostilities, the Persians thought it plain silly to be so concerned about these women, as they would not have been kidnapped unless they were willing.  Well, okay .....  But to add another twist, the Phoenicians disagree with the Persians, saying that Io had relations with the captain of the Phoenician ship and had to sail away to hide her pregnancy.  Heredotus will not say either way who was right, but he does know the first man to commit unjust acts towards the Hellenes .....

The Abduction of Helen (c.1740-60)
Johann Georg Platzer
source ArtUK

Croesus of Lydia was the first man to subjugate the Hellenes and his rule passed to Kandaules.  Now, Kandaules had a beautiful wife and he insisted on showing her, in all her nakedness, to his servant, Gyges, so he would confirm her loveliness.  Gyges is appalled, but what can he do?  He is told not to allow the queen to know that he has seen her naked, but she spies him slipping out the door and plots her revenge. Confronting Gyges, she says he must either slay Kandaules and become king, or die immediately.  Gyges chooses the former, dedicating much silver as an offering to Delphi, and therefore is able to invade Smyrna and Miletus. Thus runs a list of Lydian rulers and their deeds.

The Imprudence of Candaules (1830)
William Etty
source Wikipedia

Croesus, the son of Alyattes, attacked the Ephesians, the first of the Hellenes to be assailed.  He subdued city-state after city-state: the Lydians, Phrygians, Mysians, Carians, Ionians, Dorians, Aeolians, etc, etc.  At the pinnacle of his wealth, a man named Solon arrived in Sardis with many wise men of Hellas.  He had effected laws for the Athenians at their invitation, then travelled for the ten years the laws were in place so as not to be convinced to repeal any of them.  Croesus was curious as to who was the happiest and most prosperous man in the world, expecting the answer to be him, but Solon frustrated his expectations by naming two others.  When Croesus challenged his answers, he replied that to be considered for this title, it must be judged how a man ends his life; until then he can only be called "lucky".  Croesus disparaged Solon's wisdom and was sent a dream that his son, Aryes, would die by an iron spear.  He, with hesitation, allows his son to go on a boar hunt, commissioning Adastos, a slave who he had rescued, to ensure his safety.  Ironically, Adastos accidentally kills Aryes with his spear throw and though Croesus pardons Adastos, the slave kills himself on the tomb of Aryes.

Croesus Showing Solon His Riches (1655)
Casper Casteleyn
source ArtUK

Herodotus relates more stories about Croesus and his ancestors, then returns to the worry of Persia and their possible aggression.  Croesus sends a delegation to Delphi where the god, Apollo, returns his answer, advising him to ally himself with Sparta, and Croesus understands this to mean victory. Finally, he and his Lydian army meet the Persians, led by Cyrus, at Sardis, but the Persians are victorious and Croesus is taken prisoner.  On his pyre, when Croesus recounts the words of Solon, Cyrus has a change of heart and commands his release, but the fire is already raging and only an unexpected storm of rain in answer to Croesus' prayer to Apollo saves him.  Now friends with Cyrus, Croesus instructs him how to stop the plundering of his city and therefore rescue his army from corruption, then requests the right to question the oracle on his mistaken prophecies, yet he learns that he is the one who had misunderstood and accepts blame.

Priestess of Delphi (1891)
John Collier
source Wikiart

Thus runs more Lydian history and moves to the birth of Cyrus, whose grandfather plotted his death at his birth because of dreams he'd interpreted of Cyrus' overthrow of him:  Grandfather Astyages discovered that Harpagos, his servant, disobeyed his orders to kill the boy (instead giving him to a herdsman to kill who ended up raising him as his own) under the guise of friendship he gets Harpagos to send him his son, and then serves his son for dinner to the father.  Harpagos unknowingly eats his son, and then all is revealed when Astyages has the son's head, hands and feet brought in.  This was not a good decision, for, when the wisemen or Magi reveal to Astyages that Cyrus is no longer a problem to his rule and his grandfather allows Cyrus to live in Persia, Harpagos stirs up dissent among the populous who already dislike Astyages' cruel reign.  The servant contacts Cyrus in Persia and Cyrus raises an army, who defeat the Medes who were not dedicated to fight for their despised leader.  This is how Cyrus became king and later deposed Croesus to rule all of Asia.

King Astyages of Media Orders Harpagos to Kill Young Cyrus (late 18th century)
Jean Charles Nicaise Perrin
source Wikimedia Commons

Herodotus now launches into a monologue of the customs of the Persians.  Fascinating to learn that the Persians will not vomit or urinate in front of anyone.  Good to know. Our sensibilities are all safe.  Fortunately, although they will make business decisions while drunk, they will reconsider the decisions the next day when they're sober. Strangely though, the decisions they make when they are sober, they will also evaluate while they are drunk.

The Persian (1902)
Vasily Surikov
source Wikiart

Then we swing back to Cyrus: after he conquered the Lydians, the Ionians and Aeolians sent messages asking to be subject to his rule, but since they did not band with him is his battle with Lydia, Cyrus refuses.  Then follows a history of the Ionians, Dorians, etc.  It appears that although these areas are located on the coastline of Asia Minor, the peoples migrated from the Greek city-states, and in fact, Athens is considered an Ionian city although it does not like to be referred to as such.  Halicarnassus, the birthplace of Herodotus (although he does not mention that fact) used to be the sixth Dorian city but now there are only five.

Cyrus not only conquers the Lydians, but conquers all the Ionian coast and we are given more history of the surrounding area.  Next, Cyrus plans to advance on Assyria, and its city of Bablyon is described, including two queens that ruled it, Semiramis and Nitokris. Nitokris is particularly interesting as she made many clever improvements in infrastructure.  She built her tomb in "mid-air" above one of the city gates, saying that if ever a future king was in need of money, he need only open her tomb, but warned that it should only be opened in dire need.  No king dared disturb the tomb until Darius came to power, but instead of money he found a note:

"You would not open up the grave of the dead if you were not so insatiable and shamefully greedy."

Back to Cyrus who went to war against the son of Nitokris, but before he reached Babylon, he was offended by the River Gyndes that swallowed one of his horses (yes, that's right, a river) and he spent the whole summer dividing his army in work to destroy it, dividing the river into 360 channels.  Rather childish of him but I suppose he was quite enraged.  Then in spring he marched on Babylon.  He defeated the Babylonian army outside of the city, but many men returned to the city with great stockpiles of food, and Cyrus found himself at an impass.  However, with great guile, he diverted the Euphrates where it entered Babylon, and attacked by the riverbed, taking the inhabitants by surprise and conquering the city.  Herodotus now describes the Babylonian crops and their enormous yields, their boats, their shoes, and their means of marrying off their daughters in an auction for money but if the couple cannot get along, the money is repaid and supposedly the girl returned.  Sadly however, since the Persian capture, the Babylonians are impoverished and prostitute their daughters.  A fascinating custom is that instead of doctors, they carry the sick person to the square and allow others to advise him, very helpful if someone else has had the same sickness and knows of a cure.  Herodotus says that their most disgusting custom is that once per year every woman must sit in the sanctuary of Aphrodite and have intercourse with a stranger.

Cyrus the Great's Siege of Babylon (1819)
John Martin
source Wikimedia Commons

Cyrus now turned his battle-filled eyes to Massagetai which at this time was ruled by a woman named Tomyris.  Refusing his proposal of marriage, seeing it for what it was, she suggested that he return to rule his people and allow her to rule hers, but if he insisted on battle, either come into her territory or let her come onto his.  The generals of Cyrus suggest that they allow Tomyris onto Persian territory but Croesus convinces Cyrus otherwise.  After having a dream that Darius is plotting his overthrow (which is really an omen of his death), the two sides battle and eventually Cyrus is killed.  Tomyris defiles the corpse by placing his head in a wineskin filled with blood.

Head of Cyrus Brought to Queen Tomyris (1622-23)
Peter Paul Ruebens
source Wikiart

Book II (Euterpe)  ⇒

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Little Woman by Franz Kafka

Young Woman Drawing (1801)
Maria-Denis Villers
source Wikiart

I can't believe I have never read Kafka.  So with this surprising fact in mind I dived into this short story for my Deal-Me-In Challenge.  Perhaps I expected too much ...

The narrator immediately makes the reader acquainted with his challenges with this "little woman".  She has complete contempt for him and his life, and his perceptions appear wrapped up in her treatment of him.  However, he reveals that she is almost a stranger to him, yet nevertheless, she disparages and demeans him incessantly and with impunity.  She even goes as far as to ellict people's compassion for her struggles to tolerate him, not by revealing them, but by exhibiting a demeanour of quiet suffering.

Landlady (1886)
Konstantin Makovsky
source Wikiart

I did not understand this story at all, nor did I find it the slightest bit compelling.  Given that the narrator reveals that the woman is nearly a stranger to him, one cannot even imagine her as a wife or sister or mother and so there it ends.  How can one be interested in a relationship that is not one, nor experience annoyance that is based on nothing tangible?  Apparently Kafka based the little woman on his landlady when he lived in Berlin-Steglitz.

In spite of this less than inspiring story, I am looking forward to reading more of Kafka with hopefully a different reaction to his works.

Next week, I'll be reading the short story Le Horla by Guy Maupassant.  I'll attempt to read it in French but it's rather long so I'll have to see if my skills are up to it.  Stay tuned .....

Week 2 - Deal Me In Challenge - Nine of Clubs

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Vulgarity by G.K. Chesterton

Interior of a Tavern, Peasants Carousing (1635)
Master of the Large Jars
source ArtUK

I've been keen to read a Chesterton essay for awhile now, but have not drawn him for the Deal Me In challenge yet.  Luckily, this time, he's my first draw of the year!

Wearing many hats, Chesterton is known for his poetry, philosophy, theology, orating, journalism, biographies, and literary and art criticism.  I haven't read many of his essays, but of those I have, I've found his style entirely unique, a sort of meandering while at the same time being very pointed.  Reading this essay was similar to my previous experience.

Although more practical inventions such as telephones and aeroplanes have foreshadowings of their later inventions, vulgarity itself is so new that even its name is somewhat misleading.  The Latin word "vulgus" was generally used to describe "something that was not particularly common among the common people."  In fact, the vulgar is not very common if one searches for evidence of it.  Farmers, peasants, the poor, and even savages are rarely vulgar.  This new "thing" requires a new name and definition and although Chesterton questions his ability to give it, because he has just been reading a book about love, he has a few ideas.  Curious ..... I can't wait to see what he comes up with.

Vulgarity consists of two elements: facility and familiarity.  The first means that a man may "gush", that his words flow without any thought or self-control; they "stream from him like perspiration".  He appears confident and admired but he "never need stop explaining himself, for he understands neither himself nor the limits of explanation."  The second element can be defined as profanity, a "loss of holy fear and a sin against the mystical side of man."  This man can "handle things confidently and contemptuously, without the sense that all things in their way are sacred things."

"The point is that the fool is so subjective that it never occurs to him to be afraid of the subject."  He can be both a Pagan fool and a Puritan fool, because each is so familiar with his subject that he becomes blind to the depths of it and loses his objectivity.  On the other hand, a man writing to the woman he loves or the saint writing of his sin, is able to view each with a clear perspective because he has a healthy respect for each and the complexities are clear to him.

Phew!  I certainly understood the gist of Chesterton's points but following his train of thought can be challenging.  I suspect that I need more practice!

Next week for my Deal Me In Challenge, I'll be reading the short story, A Little Woman by Franz Kafka, my first reading of Kafka ever.

Week 1 - Deal Me In Challenge - King of Spades

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January 2017 ~ Out With The Old, In With The New !

Inspired by O and Cirtnecce's monthly posts, I've decided to try to follow their most excellent examples and join in the monthly fun.  Not only will these posts hopefully focus me on my reads, but also provide a general journal of the year's happenings.  I truly hope 2017 will be a better year for all.

January not only brings us out of the holidays, but brings me to the realization that not only has the year hardly begun, but I've overcommitted myself in my reading commitments once again.  I'm beginning to read the histories with Ruth at A Great Book Study after we finished our Biographies project in 2016, starting with Herodotus' The Histories; I'm trying to make my way through Anthony Trollope's The Barset Chronicles --- after spending two years on Framley Parsonage, I'll be starting A Small House at Allington; I'm reading Don Quixote with Bookstooge; Dr Zhivago with a Goodreads group, O's The Pickwick Papers read-along, and have been invited to be part of a Goodreads project to read through the Church Fathers starting with Clement I.  Add to these reads, yearly challenges: the Back to the Classics Challenge, a Russian Literature Challenge; the Deal Me In Challenge, not to mention my continuing Shakespeare Project, Great Ideas Project, and C.S. Lewis Project and I can be called insane.  Perhaps Don Quixote has affected me more than I wish to admit.

Madonna of the Book (1479)
Sandro Botticelli
source Wikiart

And since January is a month of new beginnings and resolutions, what would I like to see in 2017?  Personally, a more settled world would bring me great joy.  Does that sound ridiculous, like asking for world peace and an end to hunger?  Not really, especially if I see my wish as a journey rather than a destination.  Because really, change begins with people, and it can begin with one person: yourself.  So I'm going to strive to have more patience with what I see as stupidity and instead, try to see each person as someone who is simply at a different stage in their journey and attempt to be a good example.   On a less altruistic level, I would like to continue losing weight. I lost 22 lbs since the end of August and if I could lose another 20+ I would be thrilled; not probably a realistic goal as that might leave me too thin, but if I aim for it, hopefully I'll meet a happy medium.  I also have plans to take up cross-country skiing!  I've always wanted to do kayaking in the summer and cross-country skiing in the winter, and the beautiful area where we live has plenty of opportunities for both.  I began this resolution a little early, last week in fact, and had a wonderfully exciting time, skiing for 4 hours, climbing up and whooshing down hills.  I can't wait to return to the ski hill.  We're in the middle of blizzard-like conditions so I don't think a lack of snow will be a problem this year!

Skiers (1886)
Frits Thaulow
source Wikiart

Without dwelling too much on the pessimistic, 2016 really stunk as a year, but I have high hopes that 2017 will bring more peace and contentment even within the sometimes whirlwind that we call life.  Focusing on friends, reading and all the things that I'm thankful for, will hopefully help usher in a new improved year!  Wishing everyone all the best for 2017!

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

2016 In Review

The Distraction (1888)
Jehan Georges Vibert
source Wikiart

2016 Reading Stats:

Number Of Books You Read: 46

Number of Re-Reads: 12 

Genre You Read The Most From: Classics

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2016: Jane Eyre.  A personal favourite.

Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn'tVillette by Charlotte Brontë.  I could not believe that this was the same author who had written Jane Eyre.  The caustic, critical demeanor of the main character was surprising, but perhaps echoed Brontë's outlook on life at the time.  Jane Eyre had an innocence to it, yet in Villette, that innocence was stripped away.  It was rather unsettling.

Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read in 2015: In a good way, The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore.  I read it for Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices read-along and was so impressed with Tagore's writing and his insight into human nature.  The story was incredibly thought-provoking and effective.  I will definitely read more of his works.  Thanks for introducing me to this wonderful author, Cirtnecce!

Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did) in 2016:   The book I hope I pushed some people to read was The Death of Ivan Ilyich.  The message behind it is so powerful and redeeming.  In spite of the theme, truly an inspiring work!

Best series you started in 2016? Best Sequel? Best Series Ender:  I read The Lord of the Rings trilogy with Cirtnecce (did she ever finish?) and thoroughly enjoyed it.  If I had another 8 reading hours in the day, I'd read it every year but since I don't, once every 5 years or so will have to do.  My favourite book of the three would probably be The Two Towers, followed by The Return of the King.  While I enjoy The Fellowship of the Ring, it tries my patience with the seemingly endless wandering through the forest.

Favorite new author you discovered in 2016:  I can't believe that I'm going to say this ....... Ovid Some of the content and perceived embellishment in his poetry and stories annoyed me, yet on the other hand, they were very enjoyable and quite fascinating.  I still don't think that I'd like him as a person, but as a poet, I must admit that he draws you in!

Best book from a genre you don't typically read/ out of your comfort zone:  The Well at the World's End.  At the time of its printing, I don't believe it fit into any genre, being called a precursor of the fantasy novel.  It was indeed a curious story but quite uniquely compelling.  I need to read more by Morris.

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year: The Moonstone.  Perhaps it was because I read it on vacation and had the time to just sink into it.  I'd read The Woman in White before, and enjoyed it but The Moonstone passed my highest expectations for Collins.  If I ever come across another book like this one, I'll be a happy reader.  One of the best for 2016!

Book you read in 2016 that you are most likley to reread next year: If I could, I would read To Kill a Mockingbird every year.  

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2016: Oh well, my covers were rather boring this year.  Let me see ...... The Well at the World's End has kind of a funky retro book cover.

Most memorable characters of 2016:  Jane Eyre (Jane Eyre), Jesus (The Man Born to Be King), Thomas Merton (The Seven Storey Mountain), Aslan (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) Ivan Ilyich (The Death of Ivan Ilyich), Scout (To Kill A Mockingbird)

Most beautifully written book read in 2016:  Yikes, I can't say that I truly read a beautifully written book this year.  I was fascinated with the depth of To Kill A Mockingbird; I was enthralled by the unusual style of The Well at the World's End, and I was impressed with the depth of research and the insightful plot development of The Man Born To Be King.  Sorry, that's all I've got!

Most-thought provoking/ life-changing book of 2016: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy.  A masterful novella that gives a big picture of life and then distils it down to the meaningful aspects of it.  It makes the reader look at the obvious, the obvious that none of us sees or acknowledges, and prods us to make a change before it's too late.  Strangely, it reminded me of A Christmas Carol.  The Brothers Karamazov would have fallen into this category, if I had understood even half of it.  Perhaps it will happen with my 10th reading! :-)

Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2016 to finally read: Metamorphoses

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2016: Ah, so many to choose, from Dostoyevsky to Harper Lee.  However, once again, I'm going with a Thomas Merton quote as I did in 2014.: "...... All men who live only according to their five senses, and seek nothing beyond the gratification of their natural appetites for pleasure and reputation and power, cut themselves off from that charity which is the principle of all spiritual vitality and happiness because it alone saves us from the barren wilderness of our own abominable selfishness."  ~~ Thomas Merton

Shortest/longest book you read in 2016: Gratitude by Oliver Sacks (64 pgs.) & The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1,013 pgs.) 

Book that shocked you the most: The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  It is astounding and more than a little unsettling that he grew to rule a nation. His delusional hatred of Jews and non-Arians was not cloaked at all.  It made me realize that if it could happen once, it could happened again.

OTP of the year: Oh, this year the couple is easy to choose!!!  Jane and Rochester from Jane Eyre!

Favorite non-romantic relationship: Scout and Atticus from To Kill A Mockingbird.

Favorite book you read in 2016 from an author you've read previously:  The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoyevsky

Best book you read in 2016 that you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else: The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality by Kyriacos Markides.  Full of wonderful life lessons for a deeper faith.

Best world-building/most vivid setting you read this year: Hmmm ..... I can't believe that I'm saying this, but the winner is Far from the Madding Crowd.  As much as I disliked his characters, his descriptions of Wessex made you a part of it.  Wonderful!

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read: Metamorphoses by Ovid.  His tales were shocking at times but very engaging.  I wouldn't say it put a smile on my face, but it was fun!

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2016: The Man Born To Be King by Dorothy Sayers, but also was uplifting.  A spiritual paradox and she conveyed it beautifully.

Hidden gem of the year:  The Home and the World by Radbindranath Tagore.  A million thanks to Cirtnecce for hosting this read-along.  She's exposed me, not only to a wonderful writer of whose works I'll read more, but also gave me an extensive lesson on Indian history.  Thanks dearest friend!  

Most unique book you read in 2016: The Well at the World's End by William Morris.  It was sort of an odd read, really, kind of like reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, a Howard Pyle book, and Le Morte d'Arthur rolled into one.  It's rather unexplainable, so it's best to just read it!

Book that made you the most mad: Victory Over Verbal Abuse by Patricia Evans.  One of those random books that I sometimes read to discover what new philosophies abound.  I was rather shocked by this one.  Of course, I know verbal abuse exists and the damage it does to relationships and there should be some sort of therapy to deal with it and support for the victim.  But if someone doesn't answer your questions, you're abused?  If someone doesn't talk to you, you're abused?  There was even an example in the book where I couldn't even tell which person was the abuser as which the abused.  It made me angry because I felt by including such minor treatment under the umbrella of abuse, it decreased the impact of the problem of true verbal abuse.  

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2016:  He's not new, but I don't think I've listed his blog before and he has some wonderfully insightful commentary:  Books on Trial.  If I could express my thoughts as concisely and effectively has he does, I'd be happy ....

Favorite review that you wrote in 2016: Ecce Homo by Friedrich Nietzsche because I became very satirical and somewhat silly when I wrote it.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog: The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  In spite of its disturbing content, it certainly stimulated conversation.

Best event that you participated in: Both The Home and the World Read-Along and the Jane Eyre Read-Along.  I will even give an honourable mention to The Faerie Queene Read-Along which I believe O is the only one finished, as the rest of us keep going and going and going and going ......

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2016:  Finishing my The Well-Educated Mind biographies and completing my reading of Aeschylus' dramas (except for Prometheus Bound which is suspected to be the work of his grandson) And again, having lots of reading fun with my blogging buddies!

Most popular post this year on your blog: My Hamlet, the Prince or the Poem? an essay by C.S. Lewis has gone crazy with hits, being the leader with 565 views. Second is Ecce Homo by Friedrich Nietzsche with 548 views. 

Post you wished got a little more love:  None really.

Best bookish discovery:  Sadly, I didn't buy nearly as many books as I normally purchase during the year.  I found two editions of The Man Born to Be King, both hardcovers, one dated 1946 and the other dated 1969.

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year: Nooooo!! I completed Reading England 2016, Ancient Greek Classics Challenge, and Books in Translation Challenge, as well as finishing up my Well-Educated Mind Biographies Project that I began two years ago.  I failed to complete the Back to the Classics Challenge, 52 Books in 52 Weeks, Deal Me In Challenge, and the 2016 Bardathon Challenge.  As for my on-going challenges, I read no new C.S. Lewis books, Framely Parsonage for my Barsetshire Chronicles read, read a Shakespeare play and poem for my Shakespeare Challenge, no books for my Non-Fiction Adventure Book List  and added a How To Think About the Great Ideas Project. Enough said!

Looking Ahead

One book you didn't get to in 2016 but will be your number 1 priority in 2017: A Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope.  Good grief, this is ridiculous!  I really love Trollope when I read him, but for some reason it's been difficult to pick up his books and start.

Book you are most anticipating for 2017 (non-debut): The Histories by Herodotus, and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2017: The Last Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope.  No, you're not seeing triple from last year or the year before.  Will I ever finish this series?  Stay tuned.  I also have The Gormenghast trilogy on the slate for 2017 --- that is if I don't get distracted.  It's been known to happen .... ;-)

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2017:  To attempt to read fewer books at a time and therefore have more systematic reviews.  No one else, I'm sure, notices my madness, but I do.  A post at a time would be much more sane!

Wishing everyone happy reading days and lots of them in 2017!!

A River Meander (1899)
Thomas J. Yarwood
source ArtUK

This survey is brought to you by Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner!

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Top Ten Books of 2016

Todd's Warehouse, Stonegate, York
Henry Cave
source ArtUK

The last Top Ten Tuesday of the year from The Broke and the Bookish asks us to name our top ten favourite reads for 2016.  Of course, I thought I'd participated in this end-of-year meme every year but when I looked back, I could only find a post for my Top Books From The Last Three Years.  Sigh!  I guess it's better late than never to start!

Reading A Book
James Tissot
source Wikiart

Sadly, I did not meet my reading goal of 60 books this year, reading only 45.  However, there is a silver lining in the cloud; I read more pages than last year and I have a number of HUGE books that I'm still working on (think, The Faerie Queene, Don Quixote, The Gulag Archipelago, etc.) so no, I'm not weeping tears of regret.

So without further ado, here is my top ten list for 2016, set up as Brona did, to build the suspense.


The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien

I think I've read this trilogy about 8 times.  I just love it!


The Man Born to Be King by Dorothy Sayers

I had to include this play and what better place than with Tolkien, Sayers friend and contemporary.  Her impeccable research into the life and times of Jesus, along with her detailed direction for this play was amazing.  An excellent read!


While not technically a book, but a lecture, C.S. Lewis brings to light some unique ideas and questions with regard to a play that has been studied to death.  It's also the top viewed post on my blog, quite a feat considering I only read it this year.


The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

Thanks to Cirtnecce for introducing me to Indian history and this most wonderful writer during her read-along.  I will definitely search out more of Tagore's works.


The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton

I've read this biography now twice and loved it equally each time.  I'm continually blown away by Merton's insight into life and the human condition.  Yes, I'll read it again!


The Oresteia by Aeschylus

Adultery, murder, betrayal, power, oppression, escape, judgement .....  What more could one ask for in a book?  The Oresteia delivers it all, yet with many lessons that are as applicable today as then.  Aeschylus is one of my new favourites.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Ah, I just love this book!  Read for Hamlette's read-along my enjoyment of it was stretched out over months and I enjoyed reading it so much as this measured pace.  My fifth read of it and just as good as my first!


The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy

I don't know why the brilliancy of Tolstoy amazes me.  I didn't expect much of this short novella, but Tolstoy managed to capture the last days of Ivan with such poignancy .... his thoughts, dreams and regrets.  The message was universal with many insightful ideas to ponder, as well as touching the heart.  Tolstoy is a genius!


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

I hadn't read this novel for decades and with this re-read I wondered how I could have been so short-sighted.  I absolutely loved it.  My wish is to read it every year.  Lee captured her characters, life experiences and the effects on their development so brilliantly.  I don't think I could ever read Go Set A Watchman after this.


The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Wow, I struggled while reading this book.  I felt like I was swimming in a maze of ideas and philosophies that were quite over my head.  Luckily I just kept reading.  It was only when I finished that everything started to come together and I could appreciate what a masterpiece this book is.  I know that I still haven't grasped even half of what's there, and I can't wait to read it again ...... and again, and again, and ......


Metamorphoses by Ovid

I almost gave The Brothers Karamazov number one position but surpisingly, even to me, I chose to give it to Ovid.  While Metamorphoses was shocking and at times gross, the effort and aptitude of Ovid's work couldn't be ignored.  His stories stick with you and somehow get into your soul.  Bravo, Ovid.  I wouldn't want to know you, but your poetry is sublime!