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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop

Buzbee, Lewis. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop: a Memoir, a History.

I have to use this quote from the back of the jacket:

"A riveting, lurid account of the author's first tremulous encounters with 'book lust' and his helpless descent into full-blown bibliomania. A cautionary tale every parent in America should heed, and a big fat naughty pleasure for book nuts everywhere." --August Kleinzahler

The truth is nothing of the kind, but I love that satirical, tongue-in-cheek, misrepresentation Kleinzahler gives of the book.

It is the story of Buzbee's personal history with books, intertwined with a history of scribes, scrolls, printing press, authors and book sellers and publishers, from Egypt to Greece to Rome, and so on throughout the times and places of the world where the history of the book advanced.

Full of interesting facts, anecdotes, historical turning points, and lists of favorite bookstores, this little book appears to be a work of love.

Certainly not riveting, but a pleasant way to spend an evening or two.

Non-fiction/memoir/history. 231 pp.

Anne Boleyn (novels, history, biography)

"Beware the man of one book." St. Thomas Aquinas

More books on the subject of Anne Boleyn.

Fiction
Barnes, Margaret C
. Brief Gaudy Hour. (read this years ago and loved it)
Gavin, Nell. Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn.
Plaidy, Jean. Murder Most Royal: The Story of Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard.
Gregory, Philippa. The Other Boleyn Girl.
---. The Boleyn Inheritance.

Non-fiction
Fraser, Antonia. The Wives of Henry VIII. (I've read this, but it was excellent and considering my renewed interest, due for a re-read)
Ives, Eric. The Life and Death of Anne Boleyn.
Weir, Alison. The Six Wives of Henry VIII.

I want to read more on the subject and this list provides some possibilities. The Philippa Gregory novels have received recommendations from iliana and Lesley.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Puzzles and Challenges

I found this Daily Puzzle after visiting The Deblog. No, I'm not posting my time. And please don't ask. She has lots of links to puzzles. Fun, but a bit embarrassing in my case.

Carl has reminded me of the Fantasy Challenge in March. I will have to consult my various lists where I record titles and do some further research before making decisions. I've always read a lot of science fiction and fantasy so this Challenge will be a pleasure. In my last post, I indicated that February will be lots of pure entertainment reading - mysteries and fantasy. That position may need re-thinking; saving fantasy titles until March may be the wiser choice.


Reading iliana's post about Challenging Challenges, I realized I needed to do some checking on the From the Stacks Challenge. These are the books that were on my list (posted back in November), but I substituted one.

1. Tender at the Bone - Ruth Reichl
2. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
3. Five on a Treasure Island - Enid Blyton
4. Parnassus on Wheels - Christopher Morley
5. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins (substituted for The Haunted Bookshop - Christopher Morley)

I actually finished them all in December.

Poor Miss Information. I hate that I am so entertained by her difficulties.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen


Denny, Joanna. Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen. The Introduction includes this quote by Samuel Butler: "Though God cannot alter the past, historians can." Truly, that is exactly what has run through my mind on almost every page of this biography. How easy it is to alter history! It has been done so many times.--all that is required is pen to paper. If it is read and repeated often enough it must be true. If the historian or biographer omits this fact, the picture changes drastically. If something else is emphasized, the importance shifts.

Denny's sympathies are obviously with Anne, and frankly, mine are as well. Yet so little of the truth is known. So much is speculation. My preference is that a biographer present information in a more objective fashion.

Most modern historians have taken a much more objective approach to Anne than was the case immediately after her execution. Catholics called her a whore and held her responsible for the Act of Supremacy. At the other extreme, Protestants and advocates of the Reformation began treating her as a sort of martyr for her religious beliefs. Anne certainly supported Church Reform and progressive thought that challenged Catholic orthodoxy, and her enemies certainly included some staunch Catholics, but her execution was, ultimately, to clear the way for Henry's marriage to Jane Seymore.

The charges against her, of adultery and incest, seem extravagant and even Chapuys, the Spanish ambassador who despised her wrote:

"Although everybody rejoices at the execution of the whore there are some who murmur at the mode of procedure against her and the others, and people speak variously of the king; and it will not pacify the world when it is known what has passed and is passing between him and Jane Seymour."
Here are some interesting tidbits from the biography:

  • Henry had his father's ministers Empson and Dudley arrested and executed when he became king. (a preview of things to come; one estimate is that some 50,000 people were executed under his reign)
  • Sir Thomas More was by no means the martyr celebrated in A Man For All Seasons; he was, instead, a persecutor of heretics (Lutherans). His own words are stunningly offensive, so I won't quote them, but p. 102 in the biography gives his own words, which are damning.
  • Chapuys (the Spanish Ambassador) didn't believe that Jane Seymore was either pious or chaste and writes that the King "may marry her on condition she is a maid, and when he wants a divorce there will be plenty of witnesses ready to testify that she was not."
  • Chapuys (who hated Anne and referred to her as "the Whore" or "the Concubine" ) believed that Anne was a victim and condemned "without valid proof or confession."
  • The Lord Mayor of London commented during the trial: "I can only oberve one thing in this trial--the fixed resolution to get rid of the Queen at any price."

Annoying:
  • Denny presents Catherine of Aragon in what I consider an unfair light. She makes judgements about her that may certainly be true, but are presented as fact without evidence. Catherine fought the divorce/annulment. Whether she was a strong and valiant woman or the virago Denny believes is open to question. What woman who is being told that she committed incest and that her daughter is illegitimate is going to happy about it?
  • Every attempt of Catherine to block or delay the divorce, Denny treats as unreasonable, obstinate, and arrogant behavior.
  • She does the same with Anne, in the reverse, presenting her as the leading force in the Reformation. I'd prefer to present her evidence and state her opinion as opinion or possibility, rather than as fact.
(Ex. "From a first reaction of alarm, even repugnance, at becoming the target of the King's unwelcome advances, Anne's feelings now changed dramatically. It was not the barrage of letters and gifts, the pestering attention or songs of love which brought about this sea change. It was not a growing affection for Henry or a desire to become his wife. Least of all was it personal ambition to be lauded as Queen with all the riches and dazzling privileges which Henry could give her. All Anne's ambition was now focused on what she could achive for her faith should be thrust into that exalted position," (132).

The emphasis is mine. This excerpt is an example of interpretation of facts. It may be true, but how can we possibly know?
  • Denny sometimes uses quotes that are not introduced and without indentifying the speaker, using only a footnote. I had to flip back and forth to the Notes section to discover who said what in several cases.

Overall, I enjoyed this biography because there was so much information. I even enjoyed "arguing" with Denny about her obvious prejudice in favor of Anne. In a way, it may me read more closely, question more, research more. Anne Boleyn remains an intriquing figure; many questions can never be answered about how she really felt about Harry Percy, about her relationship with Henry, about her dedication to her faith. Her behavior at her trial and execution, however, is well documented, and the lady died with courage and dignity.

Biography. 327 pages + Notes & Extensive Bibliography. Copyright 2004.

Friday, January 26, 2007

What I'm Reading

I've opened and sampled quite a few books lately--then put them aside with varying degrees of reluctance because, while they all appeal to me, I really don't want to have the distraction of 4 or 5 books at a time.

So, yes, I've sampled some of Camille Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn (poetry explication and analysis), and Buzbee's The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop (books, book stores, bibliophiles), and Written in Bones: How Human Remains Unlock the Secrets of the Dead (from Egyptian mummies, to bog bodies, to the remains of the Incans). I can't wait to get back to them, but I've closed them all and put them aside because I'm REALLY reading Anne Boleyn: A New Life of England's Tragic Queen and The 36-Hour Day (a guide to caring for persons with Alzheimer's or other dementias). These are two works to which I'm devoting my time...although the others keep trying to tempt me away from my goal.

I've issues with Denny's biography of Anne which I'll discuss as soon as I finish, but there have been a number of facts that I was not aware of that make me curious and sometimes change my opinion of Anne's contemporaries. My admiration for Sir Thomas More (based largely on the movie A Man for All Seasons) has definitely dimmed.

When I commented about the biography on Bayou Quilts, another blogger (with that synchronicity that always delights me) pointed out that yesterday, January 25th was the date of Anne's marriage to Henry. And to add to the serendipidous coincidence, that was exactly where I was in the book-- the chapter on their marriage.

As for The 36-Hour Day, I would recommend this book without reservation to anyone who is dealing with a loved one suffering from dementia. I've read several books on the subject, and this one is by far the most helpful. I've flipped through and read chapters pertaining to certain aspects of the disease that we are currently experiencing, but have also started at the beginning and am reading it chapter by chapter, highlighting and flagging as I go. I spend plenty of time in waiting rooms, etc. and this paperback fits right in my purse and is easy to take along.

I'm becoming immersed in non-fiction this year. Next month, I'm going back to fantasy and mysteries and pure entertainment with or without literary value! February is a fine month for fiction!

The Knowledge Deficit

E. D. Hirsch's new book The Knowledge Deficit seems worth a read.

This article reviews the book. Here is an excerpt from the beginning of the article:

An educational experiment in 1989 pitted a group of students with high reading scores, selected especially for their lack of interest in baseball, against a group of low-scoring students who happened to be avid baseball fans. The two groups were asked to demonstrate their reading comprehension of a passage on baseball. Can you guess which team won?

In The Knowledge Deficit, E. D. Hirsch Jr. recounts this experiment and draws on the work of reading researchers and theorists to argue that “background knowledge,” knowledge not explicitly presented in a text, is essential to reading comprehension.

Sounds like common sense; however, the way we teach reading concentrates on decoding. Hirsch argues that: “We need to see the reading comprehension problem for what it primarily is—a knowledge problem.”

I can't help myself, I'm always intrigued by educational strategies both successful and unsuccessful.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A cross post

I've had questions and have read your questions about certain areas of the MBTI test, so after a little more research:

"This is the simple model. In fact, the Myers Briggs model is much more complicated than this - it is a dynamic model:
the preferences change and develop throughout life
the preferences interact with each other "

One area that I've questioned and see that others have as well is Judging. Mine was 11, which surprised me until I found this:

Judging and Perceiving
Judging and Perceiving preferences, within the context of personality types, refers to our attitude towards the external world, and how we live our lives on a day-to-day basis. People with the Judging preference want things to be neat, orderly and established. The Perceiving preference wants things to be flexible and spontaneous. Judgers want things settled, Perceivers want thing open-ended.

We are using Judging when we:

Make a list of things to do
Schedule things in advance
Form and express judgments
Bring closure to an issue so that we can move on

We are using Perceiving when we:

Postpone decisions to see what other options are available
Act spontaneously
Decide what to do as we do it, rather than forming a plan ahead of time
Do things at the last minute
We all use both Judging and Perceiving as we live our day-to-day life. Within the context of personality type, the important distinction is which way of life do we lean towards, and are more comfortable with.

The differences between Judging and Perceiving are probably the most marked differences of all the four preferences. People with strong Judging preferences might have a hard time accepting people with strong Perceiving preferences, and vice-versa. On the other hand, a "mixed" couple (one Perceiving and one Judging) can complement each other very well, if they have developed themselves enough to be able to accept each other's differences.

I do make lists, but I also postpone decisions. I schedule things, but then act spontaneously. I form and express opinions, but often decide what to do as I do it (especially with quilting). I love bringing closure so I can move on, but often put it off until the last minute. No wonder the J was only 11%.

More here and
here
and this one is very good.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Phantom


Goodkind, Terry. Phantom. The 10th installment in the Sword of Truth series ends with a cliffhanger...so there will be at least one more. Carl left a comment on an earlier post that Phantom is actually the middle book in a trilogy--that is part of the longer series.

The first chapter caught my attention and raised my hopes. Alas, for me, the book did not hold up to its early promise. It was wordy and repetitive, not just the technique of filling in events that took place in the earlier book, but rather in repeating the same thought as often as three times. A paragraph about Nicci's powers, followed by a paragraph about how powerful Nicci is, followed by a paragraph informing you that Nicci is one heck of a powerful sorceress.

Another aspect of this novel that bothered me was the emphasis on violence, on torture, and on rape. Not only are several main characters (Jagang, the 3 "sisters," Six, and Violet) sadistic, but Jagang's entire army is made up of men who enjoy horrific torture. Even Richard, when faced with the fact that his army could not defeat the sheer numbers employed by Jagang, decides to take a Sherman-like approach and take the battle to the Old World in a scorched- earth, heads-on-pikes, trophy-ears approach.

The story begins to feel like an excuse to live out some dreadful fantasies.

The only character who really stands out is Shota, the witch woman, who makes only a brief appearance.

Fantasy. Copyright 2006. 587 pages. Whew! Multiply that by 10!

Interesting Links: B. Potter, Sci-fi, Maureen Corrigan

First, an interesting article about the new biography of Beatrix Potter, BEATRIX POTTER: a LIFE IN NATURE by Linda Lear. Another biography to add to the list.

And this link to the Fantasy & Sci-Fi Lovin' Blog is for Carl and Angela.

I listened to this interview with Maureen Corrigan the other day on NPR. So many of you have posted good reviews of her book, and this only adds to my interest.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Maximum City


Mehta, Suketu. Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found.

When Suketu Mehta returned to Bombay, he didn't find the city he left behind in 1977 at fourteen. Of course, there is no way he could have found the same city because at 14 our memories of place are so limited and intimate. The Bombay he left was the Bombay of his childhood and the Bombay to which he returned as an adult could never be the same. The city of nostalgic childhood memories has undergone huge changes in 21 years, rapid and drastic changes.

Mehta then goes about learning this new city. Not that he hasn't visited in those 21 years because he has, many times. Many Indians in America yearn for their homeland and question Mehta about his experiences when he moves his family back in 1998. Can they go home again?

Mehta ponders the question asked by those who consider a return: "To what India do you want to return? For us, who left at the beginning of our teenage years, just after our voices broke and before we had a conception of making love or money, we kept returning to our childhoods. Then, after enough trips of enough duration, we returned to the India of our previous visits. I have another purpose for this stay: to update my India, so that my work should not be just an endless evocation of childhood, of loss, of a remembered India. I want to deal with the India of the present." He concedes, however, that the "terrain is littered with memory mines."

Gradually, and with much difficulty, the Mehta family comes to terms with the "country of No" and learns to negotiate the hazards and the difficulties of a country that operates in a manner unique unto itself. Mehta, a journalist, begins learning his new India by researching the 1993 riots, Bal Thackeray, and the Shiv Sena. He interviews murderers and politicians. He examines the role of the police. This is fascinating stuff. Often dismaying stuff. The moral compass seems awry. How can this murderer seem so normal? How can politicians be so callous, so corrupt?

Mehta also examines the gangs and gangwar; bar dancers; the movie industry- actors, directors, and gangsters, again; social advancement; religious differences... Every story is a story of an individual, of humanity, of a city in transition. And every story is compelling.

This book was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and deservedly so. I found it absolutely compelling. It is long and complex, informative, intriguing.

Non-fiction. Journalism, travel, memoir. 542 pages. Copyright 2004.

Also wrote about this one here.

Finished and In Progress


Finished Maximum City last night (well, about 1:30 AM) and will review it later, but a thoroughly satisfying read.

In process, Phantom by Terry Goodkind and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop by Lewis Buzbee.
Phantom is, unfortunately for me, number 10 in Goodkind's Sword of Truth series! I doubt the library has more than one or two of these -- I just picked this one up from the New Book shelves.
So far I'm enjoying it, but that means backtracking for 9 (NINE) books.

I prefer, of course, to begin at the beginning. However, that does not always happen to be the way things turn out. When there are only 3-4 books in a series, I don't feel overwhelmed, but starting with the last one in such a long series is a bit intimidating. So far, I'm enjoying it, and it reads really quickly, but it had better be excellent, or I'm not sure I'll go to the trouble of getting all the previous books.

Have just barely dipped into Buzbee's book. I couldn't resist, but knew I didn't want to have too many books going at once; now that Maximum City is out of the way, maybe I can give the thought required to read this book about reading.

Have also (I'm so easily tempted) tasted a bit of Paglia's Break, Blow, Burn and am very familiar with most of the 43 poems (she's included many of my favorites - the woman has excellent taste!). This one can be picked up at any time, and I love her critical analysis. Why? Because it mostly agrees with my own interpretations! She's chosen poems I love and her analysis (on the ones I've read) is exactly what I think, but in such perfect phrases. She also has included nuances that I've never noticed, but that make perfect sense. For anyone looking for a good book on poetry, Paglia is literary criticism at its best: insightful, erudite but readable, and full of enthusiasm.

And there are more responses to the Meyer-Briggs test in the previous post.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Which Acronym Are You? Re-visited (more additions)

Updates on personalitiy types according to the Meyer Briggs test (from this post and comments) :

Dark Orpheus - IFSJ
Bluestalking Reader -
Lotus Reads -EFSP
Carl V. -
Andrew - ISFJ
Pages Turned (Susan)- INTP
Dorothy W. - INTJ
Acquisitionist - ENTJ
SuziQ - INTJ
Stefanie - INTJ
Deb R. - INFP
Framed - ISTJ
Debra Hamel - ISTJ (100% introverted!)

Angela - ESTJ
Cam - ISTJ
Ann - INTJ
Dovegreyreader - ISFP

:) The majority are, indeed, I's. You can check out the comments here.

I kept the page that explained the types pulled up and had fun reading the additional info and the famous people who fell into your particular type. I've enjoyed having this bit of additional knowledge available. Thanks to all of you who played! Anyone else who is interested should try it - most people found it to be very accurate.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Synchronicity, again

Updating a draft from 1/14/07:

NPR interviewed Suketu Mehtu about Maximum City in December.

Pico Iyer's article.

Since then, I've discovered placeblogger, an interesting site recommended first by Time Goes By, then on an interview on NPR's Smart City. I love this program which airs on Friday nights in our area, and I often catch part of it as I'm heading home, then later, catch up online.

For some reason, I've always love the idea of city planning - what works; what mistakes have been made and how they are being corrected; how to make city living better, more convenient, more environmentally effective; green spaces; traffic problems; housing, etc. Smart City covers all of these topics and more.

On the Dec. 21 program (of Smart City), Steven Johnson, author of The Ghost Map was interviewed. Two synchronicitous items: he mentioned placeblogger (and I found a placeblog in Mumbai) and his book is about the Cholera Epidemic in London in 1854 (which relates to the novel The Great Stink - which was in many ways interesting, if not enjoyable).

I love the way information and life intersect, branch off, return, crossover, in such an intricate pattern of connections. All of those strands that tangle, coil, and form an intricate and complex series of links and bridges--sometimes quite naturally, sometimes in such unexpected ways. The way one thing leads to another, and another, and back again...

And one last intersection, Anjali of Lotus Reads met Mehta and his father and send me this photo. She suggested cropping everyone out but father and son. Trying to map all of the convoluted paths of a "reading itinerary" becomes too complicated.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Which Acronym Are You?

The Meyer-Briggs test for personality type is making the rounds on several lists. My results were, predictably, INFJ. Even after answering in my most social mood, my results are 89% introverted. That sounds worse that it is. Here are different profiles of the INFJ type. I'd bet that most readers and book lovers fall into this category although with various per centages.

Take the test and let me know where you fall. I'm nosy. And I do bet that the majority of you are introverted to some degree. :)

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Now reading... (with thanks to Lotus)


Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found by Suketu Mehta (originally discovered by way of Lotus Reads). So far, while certainly educational, the reading is almost like following the adventures in a novel. Excellent.

Mumbai (what was once called Bombay) is, in a strange way, a model city. It is an example of what can happen when too many people and too rapid expansion occur with too little foresight. And foresight is not a strong characteristic of governments or political parties anywhere in the world. Thus, Mumbai reminds me of examples of futuristic cities in some science fiction novels: A place where events have gotten ahead of themselves, where additional layers are added onto faulty foundations, where great technological advances and unimaginable poverty exist side by side, where space is at a premium and dependable infrastructure at a minium, where crime is often the only way to improvement, where the crucial necessity of water is difficult to come by and often contaminated, where those who work tirelessly for improvement are met with impossible odds. Where giving up and throwing up one's hands would be easier than battling what must seem inevitable. It is an example that the world should be paying attention to if there is to be hope for the future. For many of the problems this Maximum City faces exist all over the world...in incipient form and in smaller locations. Mumbai is a wake-up call of sorts.

Mehta's voice is comfortable, skilled, ironic, witty. I'm reading about events that have escaped my notice in my comfortable suburban world, but that have had huge effects on millions of people in Bombay. I'm reading with more comprehension than might have expected because Mehta manages to balance the humanity, the history, and the political so well.

Again, I read non-fiction much slower than fiction; yet, each time I pick up this book, my hands eagerly seek out my place, and I'm soon immersed in Mehta's Bombay.

The Rest Falls Away

Gleason, Colleen. The Rest Falls Away. This is the novel I won in the drawing over at Carl's. The first in a series by Gleason concerning the legacy of the Gardella family and their age-old battle with vampires. It is sort of "froth and furious" (the description of our heroine's attire as she attends the parties of the ton is the meticulously frothy aspect). The furious is the battle against evil in the form of vampires. Victoria's dreams lead her to the recognition of her role in this battle, and guided by her Aunt Eustacia, she undergoes an unusual education that prepares her for her dangerous vocation. Three men. A beautiful young woman. An ancient, but lovely and seductive vampire queen. Secrets, errors in judgement, adventure. A fun read.

347 pages.

Oops! Guess I hit "save as draft" instead of "publish." I thought this was published yesterday...

Friday, January 12, 2007

Voltaire Almighty

Pearson, Roger. Voltaire Almighty. Chapter One is titled "Of Uncertain Birth" as Voltaire was probably a bastard. Indications are that his mother's association with the chevallier Guerin de Rochebrune resulted in Voltaire's birth, although he was ostensibly the son of her husband, Francois Arouet. He was born in 1694.

He was a precocious child who, according to one legend, memorized and was able to recite a 73 line poem by the age of three. Pearson leaves this story in the realm of legend, but the young Voltaire was obviously not an ordinary child. Educated by Jesuits, Voltaire developed a life-long antipathy toward the Catholic Church. I loved this passage: "Not so much an old-school-tie network as a cassock conspiracy to maintain power and influence through the advancement -- and consequent loyalty -- of the brightest men in France. And abroad. For at that time the Jesuits directed some 700 schools throughout the world." Regardless of his anti-Catholic stance, Voltaire received the best education available, although it was strictly regimented and often boring. Pearson relates a good deal about the strictures involved and the curriculum. In spite of his disdain for the Catholic religion, Voltaire did absorb many tenets from the Jesuits, including the "greater emphasis on God the heavenly Father, a compassionate deity with a broad understanding of human frailty and a limitless capacity to forgive us our sins." Jesus received less emphasis. The Jesuits were also characterized by their "urbane intellectual and moral flexibility" and these concepts marked Voltaire.

Difficulties began on graduation, as Voltaire did not want to become a lawyer; he wanted to be a poet. Arouet senior and junior found themselves at odds. The young Voltaire began keeping "bad company" and was a wild and willful young man determined to say what he thought. His outspokenness put him in actual physical danger as he published satires that could, and did, often result in visits to the Bastille. Voltaire was twice incarcerated, and it made an impression.

He wrote plays, tales, and poetry that were often outrageous, but were lively and witty, and his company was always entertaining. Remember that I chose this book partly based on the portrait on the cover and the sparkling nature of the eyes. I'm not the only one who noticed this: "Ah, those eyes! Everyone mentioned them, men as well as women, and they always would--even in his last years when he had become quite indisputably 'dried-up and bony'."
And all of his portraits emphasize those twinkling eyes, as do even pen and ink drawings.

On his meeting and subsequent relationship with Emilie du Chatelet, the biography becomes not just a historical review of events, but an absorbing drama. Emilie was married, but her husband interfered not at all and, in fact, allowed Voltaire to improve the marquis' chateau, adding an entire wing and many luxuries. Emilie, a "delectable, passionate, fun-loving, tempestuous, unpredictable, unreasonable, extremely intelligent" young woman, was the "leading female scientist and mathematician of her day."

Their long relationship, until her death at 43, was not always easy, but the meeting of their minds seems to have overcome all (and there were many) difficulties that threatened to destroy their love/friendship. She died giving birth to a lover's child, but Voltaire, who also had another relationship at the time (with, uh, his niece) was present. His recovery from her loss was slow.

This biography, although initially difficult to follow, seemed to coalesce as it proceeded. Voltaire's relationships, his writings, his money troubles (until the lottery and good financial decisions made him quite wealthy), his publishing difficulties, his exiles, his fear for his life, his founding of his own "kingdom," his attacks on Cathololic principles and support of Deism, his feuds with other important figures of his time, his egotism, his illness (real and imagined), his various homes and travels, his innovative practices at Ferney, his influence in overturning unjust sentences and support of the victim's families, his final return to Paris... a remarkable life. A fascinating life. An absorbing read.

Biography. 420 pages + (14 pages of Dramatis Personae! A chronological listing of events, notes, bibliography). Copyright 2005.

Difficulty

I started my new post reviewing Voltaire's biography on a draft in Bayou Quilts. Now, I can't seem to copy and paste it here. Drat.

Also finished The Rest Falls Away, and need to review it, but I'm out of time. Have to get ready to go to Minden.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

More Books and more books and...



I've finished Voltaire Almighty. You see all the flags? Must go back and refresh myself on some of these points so I can write the review. Reading this biography was a rewarding experience, and I do want to read more about Voltaire and Emilie. Checked at the library yesterday, and they don't have copies of the other biographies I wanted, but they do have one called Voltaire in Exile which is listed in the bibliography of Voltaire Almighty. Unfortunately, I forgot what I was looking for while browsing, and so it will have to wait until my next visit. My time was limited, but can also look at getting copies through interlibrary loan.

Here is a stack of books that await my time. Which to choose next?

I've already gotten over half way through The Rest Falls Away - taking a desert after a full meal is always a pleasure.

My friend Beth also brought me a bag full of books that I'll need to get through as well. She waits at the door of B & N when a new book in one of her series is due--while she will wait for the next one to be published, once it is in print, there is no delay.


My library books (refrained from getting the usual number as there are so many books-in-waiting at the current time) -

Browsing led me to an old copy of one of Gladys Tabor's books of essays which I remember enjoying years ago. A biography of Anne Boleyn, another favorite topic. And more. Oh, again, all of my choices look tempting, which to choose to follow the adventures of Victoria in The Rest Falls Away...

Monday, January 08, 2007

Home Again

I'm fairly close to the end of Voltaire Almighty and must say that even though the author frequently includes (what seem to me to be) non sequiturs, causing me to back track and try to figure out where that sentence came from...he has completely drawn me into Voltaire's life. And what a life!

My book has flags sticking out everywhere! Here, because of an interesting bit of information; here, to mark a quote; here to remember a surprising incident, or fact, or person, or method of doing things. Lots and lots of flags.

My copy of The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason arrived this weekend while I was in Baton Rouge (visiting my daughter and her family), so I had that nice surprise on returning home. Today has been rather too hectic and tomorrow will be the same, but I've gotten a few things accomplished and had time to read tonight - a good thing, as I didn't have a chance to read much this weekend.

I tried to get caught up on emails and blog stuff today, but have had limited time. Received 3 Netflix movies and don't know when I'll have a chance to watch them, but that's the beauty of Netflix, I don't have to worry about fines or deadlines. The library is another story, and I must make time for that tomorrow.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Voltaire and Emilie

Slowly making progress with Voltaire Almighty. He's met and begun his relationship with Emilie (Gabrielle-Emilie Le Tonnelier de Breteuil, marquise du Chatelet). I remember now, reading a review recently on Passionate Minds: The Great Love Affair of the Enlightenment, Featuring the Scientist Emilie du Chatelet, the Poet Voltaire, Sword Fights, Book Burnings, Assorted Kings, Seditious Verse, and the Birth of the Modern World by David Bodanis. Maybe the memory of that review is partly what drew me to Voltaire Almighty. While searching for Passionate Minds on Amazon, I also discovered Voltaire in Love by Nancy Mitford and La Dame d'Esprit: A Biography of Marquise Du Chatelet by Judith Zinsser.

Candide is one of the Winter Classics choices of Framed and Booked. Maybe, during the course of this year, I can take a step into French literature with more biographies and Candide. We will see how that develops.

More on the topic of Resolutions and Improvements

Here is a link to my post on Bayou Quilts about Ben Franklin's Virtues. I'm not making resolutions per se, but I do want to keep in mind certain aspects that I want to work on. The Uberlist is not a list of things I've resolved to do, but a list of things that need to be done or that I'd like to accomplish. Possibilities. I wrote that post on Dec. 30, and I have been working on it.

Kim at SkybelleArts has created a quilted fabric collage listing the Nine Noble Virtues. What a creative reminder!

About 1/4 of the way through Voltaire Almighty. France was certainly a tricky place in which to maneuver for someone like Voltaire. He's already been in the Bastille - twice. Not in the worst of circumstances, though, as someone less well-known may have been.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A Bit of an Outcry on Library Purges

The Wall Street Journal's response to the Fairfax County Public Library (VA) method of determinating which books to discard: "libraries should seek to shore up the culture against the eroding force of trends..."

and "The particulars of this task will fall upon the shoulders of individual librarians, who should welcome the opportunity to discriminate between the good and the bad, the timeless and the ephemeral, as librarians traditionally have done. They ought to regard themselves as not just experts in the arcane ways of the Dewey Decimal System, but as teachers, advisers and guardians of an intellectual inheritance,"

and "The alternative is for them to morph into clerks who fill their shelves with whatever their "customers" want, much as stock boys at grocery stores do. Both libraries and the public, however, would be ill-served by such a Faustian bargain." Go, Wall Street Journal!

Thanks to Jill of My Individual Take (On The Subject) for the link to Library Stuff which discusses the WSJ article and also provides a link to The American Spectator which questions the Fairfax County Library's use of circulation numbers in discarding books.

"Other selections expunged from various branch libraries are Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and Virgil's The Aeneid.

Among the more contemporary authors excluded from some libraries are the likes of Kate Millett, Jack Kerouac, and Maya Angelou."

Now, that is downright scary, don't you think? To discard the above books to make room for John Grisham, David Baldacci, James Patterson, Nelson DeMille, and Stephen King... Not that I haven't enjoyed books by these authors, but they are not in the same class as many books that are being purged.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

"So Long, Hemingway?"

I just visted Dark Orpheus, and her post reminded me of the article I read by Camille Paglia on Salon. Looked it up and here is the link. The interview covers some of her political observations, not literary criticism. Her new book, Break, Blow, Burn sounds fascinating, so I ordered it.

3:00 PM Jeez! I thought I published this before I left the house to meet the Tai Chi in the Park group. And here it still sits...a draft.

However, I've discovered another interesting article about Library Purging, which only relates something I recently realized to be true. Several times lately, I've looked for books that my library had previously had on the shelves (some classic, some just books that I wanted to read again - which is why I had to order The Lady in White in the fall). Not all of the books purged are old, they are simply the ones that have not been checked out in a certain period of time and that probably depends on the library's space considerations. I do understand that in order keep purchasing and shelving new books, libraries must make room for them and that sometimes the decisions of which books to cull are difficult ones. But so much trash is written and published and purchased by libraries (I ought to know as I read a great many books that have no lasting value beyond the entertainment of the moment) and these should be the first to go.

I'm glad I'm not a librarian - I wouldn't want to make those decisions, and I wouldn't want to have to take all the rejects home with me, which would be my tendecy.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

And So It Goes...

Here is why I picked up the Voltaire biography. Don't you think he has nice eyes? I read nothing at all yesterday, and I have only 30 minutes left of today to get any reading done- don't think it is going to happen.

Yesterday, I was too busy eating blackeyed peas, corn bread, cabbage, and pork chops. The annual New Year's Day dinner around our house. Fee is more particular about this menu than he is about having turkey for Thanksgiving. After lunch, I took Laddie down to the country for a tour of Raft Bayou, checking out the winter wheat, bird watching, etc. We also trucked on down to the Lake Bisteneau land to check on things, but forgot to check and see how much water the new pond was holding after the recent rains. Then Fee and I watched a couple of movies last night.

Tonight I went to Tai Chi - my version of Carl's Uberlist includes getting back into a schedule of at LEAST 3 weekly sessions, whether regular classes or Tai Chi in the park. I used to do 3 lessons and 3 park days without missing many sessions, but not for a while. I suffered a bit, as I had not been in so long, but felt much better at the end of 2 1/2 hours. Didn't get home until nearly 10:00 and have piddled with a variety of things, but haven't read a single page. Non-fiction always takes me longer than fiction, but when the book just sits there unopened...well, it could take forever. It isn't as if it isn't interesting either; I simply haven't been in the mood.

I got quite a bit accomplished today - some chores and some things that just needed to be taken care of like letters and phone calls and appointments. A little yard work and a conflict with fire ants. Figuring out how to use the new photo editor to resize pictures and making copies of OLD family pictures (including one daguerrotype) for my niece. More of that kind of thing is on tomorrow's agenda as well, but I'm not stressing about any of it as long as I get some done each day.

Now, only 3 minutes left in today. Think it is time to post this and go to bed.









Listing and Musing

I've been busy creating an "uberlist" - the link is to Carl's explanation. I do have a talent for list making. I have 35 items so far, and some of those have subtopics. Truthfully, some of "my" list entails my husband's items; quite a few, actually. :) The talent for list-making does not necessarily extend to completion, but boy, can I create a good list.

Yesterday resulted in not a line read in a book of any kind. Very unusual, as I almost always devote time in the evening to reading. I'm not too far into the Voltaire biography (I really need a French history update), but I am enjoying it so far. Will I read Candide? That would be a start to an interesting reading itenerary. Or maybe something on the French Revolution, or Marie Antoinette, or ... well, of course, the possibilities are endless.

My knowledge of French literature is mostly limited to names and titles, not to content, and there are so many excellent authors and poets. Poetry, though, stands the chance of losing so much in translation, which is why I don't think I've ever been too drawn to French poetry. (That is an excuse, of course.) I do love some of Montaigne's essays, and translation doesn't appear to lose the wit and sense of companionability there. The language is so convoluted and the syntax so archaic, however, that I have to read a great while with little understanding before I settle in to make sense. Whole paragraphs, escape me (and have to be re-read) then I happen a single line or sentence that is abundantly clear. For example, the following is one sentence (though quite a long one) that is as true today as it was in the 1500's. He is advising a young woman who has requested his opinion about the education of children:

'Tis the custom of pedagogues to be eternally thundering in their pupil's ears, as they were pouring into a funnel, while the business of the pupil is only to repeat what the others have said: now I would have a tutor to correct this error, and, that at the very first, he should, according to the capacity he has to deal with, put it to the test, permitting his pupil himself to taste things, and of himself to discern and choose them, sometimes opening the way to him, and sometimes leaving him to open it for himself; that is, I would not have him alone to invent and speak, but that he should also hear his pupil speak in turn.

Monday, January 01, 2007

A New Beginning

Maybe Blogger and I will stick together a while longer. It is New Year's Day, and things are looking up. Have run out of time to experiment, but I've managed to upload the first picture in weeks. I'm thrilled. Now, back to the cabbage, blackeyed peas, etc.