Friday, October 31, 2014

Edgar Allan Poe

Guess who came through my town last night just in time for Halloween?  Edgar Allan Poe.  

The real Edgar Allan Poe

Actually, his name is Duffy Hudson, an actor from the Los Angeles area who performs all over the United States as Edgar Allan Poe.  I have seen him perform this skit a couple of times, as well as Albert Einstein and all of the characters of Dickens' A Christmas Carol.  He is truly mesmerizing.  

Duffy Hudson as Edgar Allan Poe

He performed: "The Tell-Tale Heart;" the poem, "Annabel Lee;" and "The Raven."  
"The Tell-Tale Heart" is one of my favorites since I first read it in high school.  When I was a little girl, I enjoyed watching Vincent Price and his Edgar Allan Poe movies.  I can't believe my mom let me watch them.

Edgar Allan Poe sharing "The Tell-Tale Heart"

Anyway, in between the recitation of stories, Poe shared with us his emotionally tragic and complicated life.  Afterward, he answered questions from the audience.  

One of the questions was something like, why do we have this negative idea of Poe as a man who was not in his right mind?  Mr. Hudson said he thinks it was due to the man who wrote and published Poe's obituary, a writer himself who was envious of Poe, and painted him as a drunk.  

Edgar Allan Poe, contemplating
But Hudson said that Poe was actually quite brilliant, and while he drank, he was not a drunk. Though Hudson portrays Poe as a madman as part of his act, he claims the author was definitely not. Poe suffered from numerous personal events of loss and heartache that would challenge anyone's well-being; but other than that, he was sharp and an extremely talented writer who was definitely in his right mind. 

So, if you hear of Edgar Allan Poe stopping by your literary society in your town, be sure not to miss him.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Literary Movement Reading Challenge 2015


This has to be the most challenging reading challenge I have yet discovered.  It is at Fanda Classiclit. (Man, I feel like I'm going to school again.)  Here are the rules:


1.  Reading (or rereading) at least one book each month according to the literary movements we are covering; here is the list:

                                   January       : Medieval
                                   February     : Renaissance
                                   March          : Enlightenment
                                   April            : Romanticism
                                   May             : Transcendentalism
                                   June            : Victorian
                                   July             : Realism
                                   August        : Naturalism
                                   September  : Existentialism
                                   October       : Modernism
                                   November  : The Beat Generation or The Bloomsbury Group
                                   December   : Post-Modernism

2.  To learn about each movement, you can click the link on the above list, it will direct you to pages I have created for each movement. I gathered the information from Wikipedia and/or online-literature, or other sources. If you want to have more details, you can click the sources links as well.

3.  Just as other movements, time period of literary movement might be overlapping one another. And one author could be influenced by more than one movement. For example, I put Dostoyevsky in Existentialism, but he might be regarded also as a Realist.
Q: So, in what month should I put him?
A:  Pick one of them, and read the book, after that you can analyze, in what movement Dostoyevsky shall be put.
Q: What if I have put him in the wrong movement/month, must I move the post to the right one?
A:  No need to do that, this challenge IS to learn about the movements. See point 4 next.

4.  Brief analysis - Inside your review, you are required to add brief (or long if you like) analysis about the book/author you have read, to answer these questions:
a.  Whether he/she fits the literary movement you have categorized him/her? Tell us your reason.
b.  If not, where he/she should be? Tell us your reason.
c.   If he/she doesn’t fit, who do you think would fit better? Again, the reason, please...
d.  [optional] What do you think about this literary movement? How did it correlate with our civilization?
This way we can learn more about the literary movements, from others’ reviews as well as ours.

5.  As the goal is to learn how literary (and the civilization) have been evolving, you are required to read according to the movements in the fixed order.

6.  A linky will be opened on the 15th of each month for each movement post, and will beclosed on the 15th of the next month.

7.  The champions will be they who (would be announced after the challenge is closed):
a.  Read at least one book for each movement (at least 12 movements); the more the better.
b.  Submit their reviews according to the movements, in time.

8.  The challenge focus is not how many books we’d read, but whether we could manage to read for all the movements in the right order, in the right time. This need courage and discipline, so we deserve some incentive. How about a book that you have been dreaming on? At the end of the challenge (only if the participants are at least 5 excluding me), I will pick one winner randomly from the champions (see point 7), to win: 1 (one) copy of your dream book of $20 or less from The Book Depository. Yeah, unfortunately, only one winner would get the prize, but if you want, YOU can set your own prize you would reward yourself if you succeeded the challenge!

9.  So, are you sure you really want to do this? I don’t…. But, I am going to do it anyway, as “life—says the wise Forrest Gump—is like a box of chocolate, you’ll never know what you’ll get!” Maybe I would enjoy the challenge very much; or maybe I would be much enlightened after this; well…at least, I would be able to say, that… I have never failed on MY own challenges. How’s that??

10. If you’d like to join, just submit your blog/Goodreads (where you would post your reviews) link in the  linky below.


For any feedback/question/discussion, just write in the comment box or mention @Fanda_A at Twitter, using hashtag: #LitMoveRC.

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I am totally excited.  After some research, I will put up a list of books I want to read according to their movements, and hopefully I will be able to make use of those books I own waiting for me on my bookshelf. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Complete Essays, by Michel de Montaigne

That's one big momma!
This is the third biography on TWEM list.  It does not read like a typical biography because it is actually a sizable collection of opinions and contemplations by Michel de Montaigne, covering various topics, concerning life and the world and everything in between.

Did I mention it was a sizable collection?

Thankfully, Susan Wise Bauer (The Well-Educated Mind) provides a suggested list of essays to read, which, according to Goodreads, amounts to 19.0% of the total 1283 pages.  In the beginning, I was motivated to read additional essays of my choice, but that did not happen.  I was grateful to get through the suggested essays.  They were not bad or horrible; I just found myself longing for a good story in a story format with a happy ending.  This was not that kind of book.

In any case, I did pick up some great quotes and remarks, and I did a lot of circling and underlining and drawing little stars and making little comments within the margins.  Of the essays I read, the most marked up were: "On Sadness," "Our emotions get carried away beyond us," "To philosophize is to learn how to die," and "On the inconsistency of our actions."

The most commented on was "On educating children."  I think I went back and forth between agreeing and disagreeing with the author.  Montaigne includes this comment:
For those who want to learn, the obstacle can often be the authority of those who teach.
Our souls are moved only at second-hand, being shackled and constrained to what is desired by someone else's ideas; they are captives, enslaved to the authority of what they have been taught.  We have been so subjected to leading-reins that we take no free steps on our own.  Our drive to be free has been quenched. 
I wondered if the author would be a fan of child-directed education.  Probably.

One of my favorite quotes was this one:
Truth for us nowadays is not what is, but what others can be brought to accept.
But the OMG moment came from "On virtue."  At the tale end of the essay, Montaigne says this:
The Assassins, who are a people dependent on Phoenicia, are considered by the Mahometans to be sovereignly devout and pure in morals.  They hold that the surest way to merit paradise is to kill someone of an opposing religion.  They therefore show contempt for all personal danger and are often to be found singly or in pairs, carrying out such profitable executions at the cost of their certain death, appearing before an enemy in the midst of his troops to 'assassinate' him-
Montaigne wrote his Essays between 1570 - 1592, but that little bit could have been written for our own times. Eerie.

This title counts towards TWEM Biographies and The Classics Club.


Monday, October 6, 2014

The History of the Kings of Britain, by Geoffrey of Monmouth


It has been said that a source written close to the time of its events is closest to the truth, right?  So here's an oldie, but goodie: The History of the Kings of Britain was completed about the year 1136.   But it is so unbelievable and outrageous that we have the right to question if the author, Geoffrey of Monmouth, is even real.  

Whoever Geoffrey of Monmouth was, his account should probably be considered more of a romantic tale of Britain rather than a true history.  Basically, the author puts together an idealistic account of the birth of Britain, like Aeneas and the founding of Rome.  Speaking of Aeneas, Geoffrey included a connection between Aeneas' great-grandson, Brutus, and the beginning of Britain.  Get it: Brutus...Britain?  

There are plenty of chapters on the continuous battles between the Britons and Romans and Britons and Saxons.  There are several chapters on Constantine.  An entire chapter is dedicated to the prophecies of Merlin.  I expected the story to become more familiar when I got to the chapter on King Arthur, but there was no extracting the sword from the stone, no Excalibur, and no Lady of the Lake. And according to Geoffrey, King Arthur fought the Romans frequently.  By the end of the book, the Saxons had the upper hand over the Britons, and it wasn't looking good for them. And just like that, the history of Britain was over (though it felt as if it had just begun).

The History of the Kings of Britain is just a little entertaining read, but probably not a useful source for factual information.  I would probably suggest something else for my report on an historical account of Britain.

This counts towards:


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Mt. TBR Checkpoint #3

Since I only set my goal for 12 books, I completed my challenge back in May.   Naturally, I had time for 12 more.  However, I continued to choose new books that were not from my bookcase, and I was losing time in making up that second dozen.  I was going to fall short and cut my list back to 12 again.   Next year I am going to do better planning of my TBR list from my bookcase.  

In the meantime, to answer some questions from Bev @ MyReader’s Block:

Who has been my favorite character so far?  

Considering the books I read for my TBR list this year, the easy answer is Scarlett O’Hara from Gone With the Wind.  While Melanie Wilkes is a beautiful character, Scarlett is one-of-a-kind.  She’s feisty and insistent and charming and extremely rebellious.  She is a survivalist.  I like that about her. 

Choose 1-4 titles from your stack and using one word from the title, do an image search.  What I got:

1. Gone With the Wind

WIND
2. Great Expectations

EXPECTATIONS
3.  The Four Arthurian Romances   

ROMANCES
4.  The Age of Innocence

INNOCENCE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books that were hard to read for various reasons




OK, I found eight books that I struggled through, for whatever reason.  Click on titles for additional opinion about each book.

1. Song of Solomon - Toni Morrison

This is my first choice because it was so difficult, content-wise, that I only read one chapter - which took a week to suffer through; and I am so sure that I will never try it again.  It sucked the joy of reading right out of me.


2. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad

I have no explanation for this one.  I just loathed reading every second of it.   And if you think the book is weird, try watching the movie version, "Apocalypse Now." 


I almost did not complete this one - a really unique and strange way to tell a story.   A lot of people enjoy it, but I was like, "Get to the point!"


4. Mrs. Dalloway - Virginia Woolf

This one was like hearing little voices in your head, but instead you are reading the subconscious minds of several characters.

5. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Ugh!  I felt like I was stuck in a Frida Kahlo painting.


6. Possession - A.S. Byatt

Got through it, but it never kept my attention.  Mystery, romance, Greek mythology, and poetry all wrapped up in an epistolary novel.  Wah-la! 

7. Persuasion - Jane Austen

It's an Austen.  I struggled with it because it was way over my head, and I could not appreciate it as I wanted to.  But someday I hope to give it another go.  


8. The Portrait of a Lady - Henry James

Mr. James made me so irate over one single character, You-Know-Who!  I hated him so much, that I scowled throughout the reading of this book.  (Talk about effective writing! He's only a fictional character, Girl.  Get over it!)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Banned Books: Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.


Banned Books Week was this week, and it was a perfect excuse to read another book from my TBR pile.  The lucky winner was Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., published 1969.

I found this little book at a used library sale for 25 cents and read it in three days.  Before I talk about it, however, I have an opinion concerning this whole banned books situation.  (BTW, I am a mom, and my opinion is formed with my motherly concern for young people.)

After reading Slaughterhouse-Five, I understood immediately why it was problematic, at least for those under the age of 17.   It makes sense that schools would vote not to make it available to minors.

Slaughterhouse-Five is a work for mature readers. Personally speaking, this book would have left my high school-aged mind in the dust, and I would have never been able to follow or comprehend it, let alone make an informed decision about it.

Schools do not have to provide every book ever published.  If you want to read Slaughterhouse-Five at age fifteen, and it is not available at school, first check with Mom or Dad, then (with their permission) borrow it from the public library in town or buy a used copy for super cheap on Amazon.com.  (I understand my logic is old fashioned, but so be it.)

Elementary, middle, and high schools (at the very least) have an obligation to provide the most important and best literature to its students.  Schools should be in the business of educating young people by inspiring them with the great Masters of academia: math, history, science, composition, literature, art, and music.  Yet, some of those Masters should be postponed until college-age and adulthood.

Books with vulgar language, blasphemy, and sexual content should be reserved for a more mature audience that is equipped to self-sensor. Self-censorship allows us to make decisions about what is personally appropriate.

It should not be the school's responsibility to shock students by using literature that oversteps boundaries.  Those boundaries are there to protect the immature sensibilities of young minds that may not have the ability to discriminate in a healthy manner, yet.

Instead schools should be fortifying students with standards and values in order to prepare them to make good judgements later when they are more experienced.  This is how we teach young people to self-censor.  

Again, parents should be the first filter regarding what their child is exposed to, but they should be confident knowing that the school they send their child to is not feeding him literature he is not ready to ingest.  Schools have plenty of other books to choose from, in place of those which are inappropriate.

So, while I am in favor of freedom to read what we want, I also believe schools are responsible for using good judgement when choosing literature for impressionable minds.

And now, my experience with Slaughterhouse-Five: 

In my initial opinion, I suspected that Vonnegut was angry about something or with someone: America, the U.S. military, the inevitability of war, God, Jesus.  He made a mockery of these things.

The main character, Billy, is a poor excuse for a man.  He is lame enough to believe that he has no ability to change anything in his life - he has no free will - so he cannot make a difference in the world.  He is a vegetable.

Through Billy, I think Vonnegut wanted to demonstrate that humans behave like machines: useless to do anything different outside of human nature, in order to effect change. Vonnegut particularly scorns people who cling to their religious beliefs - to which I say, he is wrong. Some religious beliefs are harmful to society, but the Christian beliefs Vonnegut personally targets are not.  (That's a topic for another blog.)

Also, I think that the author rejects the idea that war is inevitable, but unfortunately, it is true because of the world we live in.  Good nations and courageous world leaders must stand up to evil.  Hitler was destroying lives in Europe, and American men sacrificed their lives to help save Europe from Hitler. The questionable decision to bomb Dresden does not negate the reasons why WWII happened.

And finally, Vonnegut makes the U.S. military appear as foolish clowns and self-interested slobs. This was difficult to swallow.

However, on the other side, if Vonnegut wanted to demonstrate the horrors of war and PTSD, he did a superb job because, overall, the story was powerful, and I do not think I shall ever forget it.

You know, we still live in the same world that Vonnegut portrayed in Slaughterhouse-Five, and we still must face evil if we want to bring about change.  Sometimes life demands hard choices.

Or we can exist like a Tralfamadorian: focusing only on events that make us content, ignoring what is bad, and believing that life is meant to simply exist and then die - just like their hero, Darwin.

But the good news is, we do have free will.  You decide.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: What's on your fall TBR list?



What's on your fall TBR list?

1. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy


2. The History of the Kings of Britain, by Geoffrey Monmouth


3. The Complete Essays, by Michael de Montaigne


4.  The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis (The Horse and His Boy, The Magician's Nephew, The Last Battle)


5. The Story of the Grail and the Passing of Arthur, by Howard Pyle


6.  Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott


7.  My Ántonia, by Willa Cather


8.  The Life of Saint Teresa of Avila by Herself


9.  Meditations, by Descartes 


10. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, by John Bunyan


The first four are actually summer reads, which have taken me this long to read that now it is autumn. Number five counts towards my Arthurian Lit Challenge, and numbers eight, nine, and ten count towards TWEM biography list.  But the two books that I anticipate reading more than any others this fall are Little Women and My Ántonia.  Lately, I have been craving a lovely story to read, and I am hoping either one of these will deliver.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: ten authors I need to read more of


 and need to read more.


Often I have enjoyed reading the answers to these fun questions put out by The Broke and the Bookish and have coveted the time to answer them myself.  Since it will be awhile before I am able to write about a book I finish, I am anxious to write about some bookish things right now.  This is my first time participating.

These are the authors I have read only one book from and definitely want to read more:

1. Émile Zola 


My first read was Germinal earlier this year, and instantly I was captivated.  I plan to start from the very beginning of the series, but I don't know why I am taking so long to just buy the first book. Definitely in 2015!

2.  Willa Cather


I read O Pioneers! and loved the beauty of Cather's writing and the simplicity of the story.  I bought My Ántonia and keep leaving it at the top of my TBR list.  

3.  Fyodor Dostoevsky


Crime and Punishment intimidated me for its Russian-ness, but I really, really enjoyed Constance Garnett's translation.  So I have since picked up two more titles from Dostoevsky with the intent to read them.  

4.  Virginia Woolf


Oh, how Mrs. Dalloway perplexed me, but I think Woolf intrigues me more than anything.  I have to read something else from her.

5.  Franz Kafka


The Trial was so strange, and I really liked it.  I want more weirdness!  The next one I read from Kafka will be Metamorphosis.  

6.  Ayn Rand


A lot of people pass on Rand because she is severely intense!!!  No, I mean, SEVERELY INTENSE!!!  One must keep a dictionary open, which may handicap the entire reading experience. That is how I felt about The Fountainhead.  However, I share Rand's philosophies, and if I wrote fiction, I would have written The Fountainhead myself.  One day I will read Atlas Shrugged. 

7.  Ernest Hemingway


I cannot believe I have only read one Hemingway in my life: The Old Man and the Sea.   A few bloggers have given me lists of what to read next by Hemingway, and they are on my TBR list.

8.  J.R.R. Tolkien


I know...I have only read The Hobbit, and not The Lord of the Rings, yet.  I will.  But before that, I really want to read Tolkien's version of Beowulf first.  

While I did not make it to ten, I did include eight of the most pressing authors I am inspired to read more of as soon as I find the time.  


Monday, September 15, 2014

The Journals of Lewis and Clark Analysis


Go to my review of The Journals of Lewis and Clark.

Following are several questions that Fanda offers for further analysis:

What challenges did the expedition face?

The men of the Lewis and Clark expedition faced every conceivable obstacle and challenge one can think of pertaining to a journey into the unknown: terrain, weather, illness, lack of food, lack of supplies, Indians, wild animals, and other mishaps. 

Sacagawea Saving Supplies, by Rob Wood
Terrain: Some examples of obstacles include carrying their supplies and canoes uphill to go around the falls; crossing the Rocky Mountains in snow; and walking on sharp rocks that made walking painful.   Meanwhile, the roaring rapids were not any easier. 

Weather: A hard downpour flooded their sleeping area and ruined many samples of plants and animals they had collected.  Sometimes the winter was unbearable, as they lacked sufficient clothing or blankets.  And the summers were intolerable, especially when the mosquitos increased. 

Lewis and Clark in the Bitterroots @  Jim Carson Studios
Illness: While they brought medicines with them and used them frequently, including for the Indians, most of the time they just had to suffer through a sickness or painful condition with rest and food.  Many times they had to slow down the progress of the expedition until whoever was ill recovered.

Lack of food: Given the great expanse of undeveloped area, they had an abundance of food because the land was full of wildlife.  They hunted animals for supplies, too, to make boats and clothing.  But sometimes when they were unsuccessful in catching anything to eat, or there just wasn't anything to hunt, they had to buy meat (dog) from the Indians, which they came to appreciate and enjoy.  And other times they only had roots to eat.  Yuck.

Lack of supplies: Imagine the condition of your clothing after a two year adventure.  I don’t know how much clothing they took with them, but by the end, Lewis or Clark described the men’s clothing as threadbare, including their blankets and moccasins. 

The Encounter@ James Ayers Studio
Indians: Lewis and Clark always used caution when meeting new tribes, though it helped to have interpreters and Sacagawea.  Most of the tribes were friendly and open to helping the adventurers, but Lewis and Clark were constantly on guard due to numerous incidents with theft.  Nonetheless, after two years of meeting with Indian tribes, they only had one violent altercation (with the Tetons) over stolen weapons.  Stolen horses were one thing, but don’t take a man’s gun. 

Wild animals: This was probably the biggest threat because they had several dangerous confrontations with bears.  Even a bullet wouldn’t stop a bear.  Poor Charbonneau came very close to being eaten. 

Other mishaps:  Did you know that Lewis was shot by one of his own men?  Toward the end of the journey, during a time of hunting, another member shot Lewis unintentionally (thinking he was an elk) but ran away when Lewis called to him.  Thankfully, the wound was not lethal, and Lewis was able to recover; but Lewis understood that this other man was mortified for having accidentally shot him.

Going Over the Falls, by Charles Fritz
What does it mean to be human?

I think this is a survival story.  While every person on this journey understood the risks – at least that there were risks involved - they still may not have known what to expect, but they were willing to go and to be adventurous and survive every obstacle and burden. 

Survival called them to “make do” at times with what they had; to persevere faster, harder, and further; for courage and bravery to outwit or outrun a grizzly bear; for geniality and restraint when meeting others whose language was unknown and may mistake them for a war party of an enemy; to endure pain, discomfort and sickness; and to stand up for righteousness in the face of injustice because one's authority and character were being tested.  During the lone Indian battle, Lewis said, 
I now got back to the pirogue as well as I could, and prepared myself with a pistol, my rifle, and air gun, being determined – as a retreat was impracticable – to sell my life as dearly as possible.
Lewis and Clark Expedition

What is the end of the history?

The end of the expedition is exciting.  It happens suddenly, and at first without much fanfare.  The prospect of home gave them a boost of energy to row faster and harder.  When they recognize cows on the banks, they realize that they are very close to the end of their journey, and when they finally land, Americans are so excited to see them because, as Lewis and Clark found out, everyone gave them up for dead or had long forgotten them.  It was a joyful occasion to announce their arrival with much pomp and circumstance because they were alive and had amazing news to share with the people of the United States.

An Evening Reading, by Thomas Lorimer (1941)
To that end, the purpose of this history was to describe and reveal the rich and beautiful lands of the North West teeming with abundant wildlife and unique vegetation, to note the numerous Native American tribes that lived on these lands and their willingness to make peace with, take council from, and trade with the people of the United States, and to confirm and establish a safe passage through these lands to the Pacific, specifically for trade.

Furthermore, it gave us a sample of man’s humanness: of courage, prowess, strength, leadership, compassion, perseverance, ingenuity, and endurance; of good men working together, looking out for one another, being concerned for the welfare of each other; of man’s desire to seek friendly relationships with strangers and be respectful of their customs, so long as they were not against God’s commandments; of man’s ability to use wisdom and knowledge for good intention; of man’s capacity to stand for justice and not be lenient toward sinfulness; and finally, of man’s will to live and survive.

Lewis and Clark and Seaman @ St. Charles, Missouri
The Lewis and Clark expedition set the standards on exploration – how to lead, manage, work together, and be successful.  Of course, they never thought they would be accomplishing that, but only saw it as a call to do something important for their country.  Yet they left a great legacy, and all explorers can learn much from their experience.