Showing posts from January, 2014

Solving 'How to Solve It'

I hit the ground running when I started George Pólya's How to Solve It: A New Aspect of Mathematical Method.  Somewhere in the middle, the momentum disappeared, and months later, I feel so relieved to have finished it.  For all that, I give it 5 out of 5 stars...yes, indeed, why??

This is a math/logic/philosophy classic from 1945, dealing with heuristic, "the study of the methods and rules of discovery and invention."  More particularly, it is a comprehensive guide to problem-solving.   The first 40 pages or so are strictly about "How to Solve It" and classroom strategies, while the rest of the book elaborates on these themes in the "Short Dictionary of Heurstic."  The back of the book has some sample problems/solutions, which, if I had more time and energy, I wouldn't mind trying.

Hopefully the word "math" does not turn you away!  That is the one weakness of the book - most of the examples are in algebra and geometry, which, even for me, …

"Josef K. was dreaming."

Last fall, at long last, I got a copy of Kafka's Complete Short Stories.  (That would be most everything except The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika.)  It's a book to be savored slowly, piece by piece, while imagining it to be twice its length (~ 450 p.).  I quickly found the best way to read it is jumping back and forth between the longer stories in the front and the micro fiction in the back.

Franz Kafka - most people love his books or despise them.  That's pretty understandable.  He's not the most accessible of authors.  On my part, I fell for his writing after listening to The Metamorphosis; since then, I keep coming back to his books.  Back to their chilling simplicity, back to their gloomy, frequently vulgar depiction of society.  Back to the endless plots that lead nowhere good!

But of course, there's more to it than that.  There is a lot of truth in Kafka's world.  Absurdity, isolation, irony, and confusion.  The real world is not so far off; sometimes it i…

Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 5 & 6

{Summary of previous part + new questions below the cut.}

In chapter 4, Tatyana's impulsive - and, for the era, improper - love letter was rejected by a polite but upfront Onegin.  While Lensky and Olga are living out the fairytale romance leading up to a wedding, Onegin refuses to take part in fulfilling the neighborhood's gossip about him and Tatyana.  His attitude towards her, in his own words, is that of a friendly acquaintance, scarcely more than brotherly love.  He warns her to be more careful with her feelings, as other people will not treat her with understanding as he has.  Heartbroken, Tatyana must go on as if nothing happened, while still having to face the opinions of her family and inquisitive neighbors.

Chapters 5 & 6 Questions

- One of my favorite scenes is Tatyana's dream.  How do you interpret it?  Any ideas as to why it is usually omitted from major adaptations (including Tchaikovsky's opera and the 1999 film)?

- Chapter 6 finds us in the middle of su…

Eugene Onegin, first thoughts

First off - I'm feeling quite sheepish and sorry for my absence during this read-along!  This weekend I am, at last, finally writing my first post and catching up on all of your interesting insights!

Second apology: for my not-so subtle promotion of the 2013 Met Opera production, now on DVD.  I promise I'm not affiliated with the Met in any way - this is just my favorite adaptation of the story!  If you like opera at all, it's worth checking out.

Back to the topic at hand.  This is my fourth year reading Onegin.  How it could possibly be the fourth, I don't know; it's just a tradition I started freshman year of college.  Each translation reads like a new book, and this time it's Charles Johnston.

So far, I have mixed feelings about Johnston's.  It might be the easiest to read yet, whether because of accuracies or liberties, I don't know, though I suspect the latter.  It certainly rhymes better than the Mitchell translation -  there's something to be s…

The Brothers Karamazov - 1: A Nice Little Family

(A number of bloggers I follow write their thoughts on lengthy books as they go along.  In fact, I believe one of them did this for The Brothers Karamazov in the last year or so.  Credit to them for the good idea!)

For years, I've wanted to read this novel.  I enjoyed The Idiot and Notes from Underground, and people only say good things about this one.  Coinciding with o's Russian Literature 2014 challenge, it seemed high time to put it off no longer!

The Brothers Karamazov is divided into 4 parts or, if you like, 12 books.  I do like this format.  If I'm to read a long book, short chapters are preferable.  (Moby-Dick is similar, except that there are no parts or subdivisions.)  Anyways - I plan to write a post for each book.  Because "book journalling" inherently requires talking about plot twists, many of these posts will be spoilery. I'll add page cuts when I get to those parts.

In book 1 we jump right away to meeting the main characters.  Always a good sig…

Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 3 & 4

In part 1 of our read-along, we met a rather vain but world-weary Eugene on his way to his inherited country estate.  By chance, he befriended his neighbor Vladimir Lenksy, a young, Romantic (and romantic) poet.  We also get to meet Olga Larina, Lensky's beloved, and her sister Tatyana, as opposite in personalities as Onegin and Lensky.  Chapter 2 concluded with a pithy description of the sisters' mother and father.  There's much to suggest that every "narrator's aside" in this story holds some significance, so we'll see if/when/how these themes tie into the story.

You can join this read-along at anytime!  Please add your blog post link(s) in a comment (directly below the title of this post).  Comments in lieu of a post are also welcome.  All discussion questions are optional.

I have a little catching up to do, but I hope to post my own thoughts over the next week.  :)  It's been great reading all of your posts so far!

Chapters 3 & 4 Questions

- Im…

Eugene Onegin Read-Along ~ Chapters 1 & 2

Welcome to the first part of our reading of Eugene Onegin! Please add your blog post link(s) in a comment (directly below the title of this post).  Also, if you would rather leave a comment than write a full post, that works great, too!  Chapters 1 & 2 discussion is "current" for the next week or so - please see the schedule for an update on this - but of course you can join in at anytime.

I came up with a couple of optional questions, while trying to leave it as open-ended as possible.  The book is full of ambiguity, making it ideal for diverse opinions.

Chapters 1 & 2 Questions

- First impressions of Eugene?

- What do you make of the narrator's commentary?

- Thoughts on the characters sketched out in Chapter 2?

Ongoing Questions

- Reactions and/or predictions?

- Any quotes or passages that stand out?


~ One of Mrs. Larina's favorite authors is Samuel Richardson, an 18th century English writer who was popular well into the 19th century.  He is best known for Pam…

Eugene Onegin: Editions, editions, editions

Happy New Year 2014!  It's going to be an awesome year for reading - I'm so very excited to start the challenges I joined for the year. 

In one week, in fact, we start the Eugene Onegin Read-Along!  On January 7th, there will be a post with the first link-up/check-in.  Over the following week and a half, you can then add the link to your blog post(s) on chapters 1 & 2. 

I mentioned briefly before a quick list of copies and places to read Onegin.  Here I want to talk about them a little more in-depth:

Online - original Russian

I am (sadly) in no ways qualified to make a recommendation for a Russian edition.  However, a free online version, linked to by Wikipedia, can be found here:  ЕВГЕНИЙ ОНЕГИН

Online - English translation

The one I have read is Henry Spalding's translation, from Project Gutenberg.  It comes in many formats, and it has a Victorian vocabulary, which is kind of nice.  On the other hand, some of the word choices are very "thesaurus."

Another fre…