Posts

Showing posts from 2018

New Year's Eve & Reading Goals for 2019

Image
Hoping all of you have a lovely New Year's Eve, whether it's already past midnight for you, or, like us West Coasters, you're still waiting.  :)

I typically spend New Year's Eve all warm and cozy at home with a book.  It'll probably be AI Superpowers (published just this year), which I started a couple days ago.  So far, it's really intriguing:

The Code of the Woosters - A Novel for New Year's Resolutions

Image
Already feeling the post-holiday blues?  Sometimes you just need a good British comedy to help get you back into the festive spirit.  And for good British comedy, you simply can't go wrong with P. G. Wodehouse.

The Code of the Woosters (1938) is book #7 in his Jeeves and Wooster series but, as with many of the adventures of this duo, it can be read on its own. The scene opens with Bertie Wooster, an idle man-about-town, shunning the opportunity of a Round-the-World cruise, against the counsel of his smarter but dutiful servant, Jeeves.  Wooster's boredom disappears when his beloved Aunt Dahlia shows up, demanding he steal a silver cow creamer from collector Sir Watkyn Bassett, who, she believes, wrongfully acquired what was rightfully her husband's.  The trouble is, Bassett is the same magistrate who Wooster had a run-in with before, not to mention the father of his dreaded sometime fiancee, Madeline Bassett.  Wooster's friends Gussie Fink-Nottle and Stiffy Byng compli…

2019 Christian Greats Challenge: Past & Present

Image
Carol at Journey and Destination is hosting a new challenge - focused on Christian literature!  Though I've read Christian classics on-and-off through the years, I've been meaning to read more, and this seems like the perfect chance! 

Here is my (overly ambitious) list:

The Divine Comedy - Parts 2 & 3: Purgatorio and Paradiso

Image
Previously:Part 1: Inferno

PurgatorioAnd of that second kingdom will I sing
Wherein the human spirit doth purge itself,
And to ascend to heaven becometh worthy After enduring the nine circles of Hell, Dante and Virgil finally make it out of the underworld and back to the surface of the earth.  Under a starlit sky, they watch as a boat filled with souls and captained by an angel approaches the foot of Mount Purgatory.  Dante continues on his own journey as he follows Virgil up the nine levels of the mountain.  Together, in a similar vein to their experiences in Inferno, the two travelers observe the different disciplines which souls must endure before they have been "purified" of their remaining sins and made fit to enter Paradiso.

Mount TBR Challenge 2019

Image
This is a favorite challenge of mine, all about reading books you already own.  (FWIW, I'm bolstering my list with a couple of my parents' books.  We share with each other!)  It's crazy, but I'm also choosing a steep challenge this year: 24 books.  Don't know how far I'll get, but I'm pretty excited with the list!

Here it is, in no particular order (and subject to change):


MOUNT BLANC - 24 BOOKS
Fiction:
Nostromo - Joseph Conrad✓ The Professor - Charlotte BronteCancer Ward - Aleksandr SolzhenitsynLight in August - William FaulknerThe Moonstone - Wilkie CollinsAll the Light We Cannot See - Anthony DoerrThe Red and the Black - StendhalThe Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre DumasMoby-Dick (reread) - Herman MelvilleJane Eyre (reread) - Charlotte BrontePilgrim's Progress (reread) - John Bunyan✓ The Time Machine (reread) - H. G. WellsBonus: Wuthering Heights - Emily BronteBonus: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne BronteBonus: Bleak House by Charles Dickens If I…

The Divine Comedy - Part 1: Inferno

Image
Dante, lost in a dark forest, is overcome by feelings of fear and loneliness, until he is met by the spirit of Virgil, the Roman poet and author of the Aeneid.  Virgil was sent by Beatrice, Dante's deceased childhood sweetheart, to come to his aid and help him back into the way of light and salvation.  The way back, however, starts as a downward descent into and through the nine circles of Inferno.  The journey becomes a test to Dante's courage as he, led on by Virgil, faces the cries, tortures, and apparitions of sufferers in Hell, some of whom he recognizes.

Catching My Breath - Christmastime, Dante, and Beyond...

Image
After patiently saving vacation days, today I can at last disconnect from work emails and other stressors.  I really want to slow down even more over my almost two-week holiday, beginning with these last few days of Advent.


Top Ten of 2018 + Reading Goals Recap

Image
There's three weeks left in the year, but I honestly don't expect to get much reading done till my Christmas break (beginning the 20th!!!), so I thought I would start my yearly retrospective a bit early.

These were my reading goals for 2018:
Bring back Book Journals - Kind of a fail. I started a book journal with Ben-Hur but lost momentum early on.  I'm still tacitly reading it, and maybe during my break will start posting about it again.Read more non-fiction.  Check!  Of the 45 books I read (or partially read) this year, almost a third were non-fiction, and some of the fiction was based heavily on real life.  That's pretty good for me.Escape the comfort zone.  Check.  I read a number of books this year that definitely challenged me, and some made me extremely uncomfortable.Revive the blog.  Check.  While podcasting, I made an effort to write posts that complemented the episodes, and that worked out nicely. In spite of having more or less reached my 2018 goal of 40 boo…

Slowing Down with Tolkien, Lectio Divina

Image
With all that's been going on in my life lately, I've been finding it necessary to take action to slow down.

I know, that sounds like an oxymoron.  But as a recovering perfectionist and incorrigible planner, I tend to labor over any life changes, even if it's merely the quest to find a little peace and quiet.  I have learned a few things from this methodical approach, although in reality, just the awareness of trying to slow down has helped lead me into some more practical, if unexpected, steps.

Turning off the "TV" Prior to all of this, I had (for other reasons) decided to take a YouTube fast for three weeks this past November.  For me, YouTube is the equivalent of cable TV, except that I get to choose the content through a very personalized subscription list.  Typically, I can spend hours just trying to keep up with each channel, and I actually avoid some channels in part because I can't keep up.

Taking a break was really hard, but very good.  I did not fee…

Top Ten Classic Friendships

Image
Haven't participated in Top Ten Tuesday in a while, but I'm excited for this week's topic: top ten platonic relationships from books.  Families, friends, and mentors - classic literature is chock-full of great examples!

Davey Balfour and Alan Breck Stewart from Kidnapped (Robert Louis Stevenson) - I have to reread this book every so often.  I just love the complex dynamic between two friends who have such different backgrounds, views, and goals.Gandalf and Pippin from The Lord of the Rings (J. R. R. Tolkien) - Another duo who don't get along too well at the beginning - Gandalf, the no-nonsense wizard, and Pippin, who is just a bit clueless.  Nonetheless, when push comes to shove, they're on each other's side and find common understanding.
Mudpuddle, Jill, and Eustace from The Silver Chair (C. S. Lewis) - Probably my favorite group of characters from the whole Narnia series!  I admir how they're all three loyal to each other and their quest.  Maybe less real…

Nature Walk + Thoughts for the Week

Image
Well, it's finally come - the end of a long, much needed, and memorable weekend.

Today my family and I went for a walk at a local bird reserve.  We've been going here for over a decade; it's like visiting an old friend now.  Autumn is the best time to see it, though already a lot of the maples have lost their leaves.




After a short detour through the woods, the trail opens up to the tidal flats, home to plenty of sea gulls, mallards, and Canadian geese.  I've always thought this looks like something out of Middle Earth.




Though a cold day, it was a great way to unwind and mentally "reset" before the coming week.

Speaking of which, work has been pretty exhausting, and I'm trying very hard to stay positive.  Rapid changes and new responsibilities are the challenges right now.  I hope things will get easier by January.

To offset the stress, I've been alternating between several books:
The Concept of Anxiety - Kierkegaard, aforementionedOpen Letters - Václav…

Reading, watching, and writing updates

Image
Reading
Something not immediately evident from this blog is that I'm a recent "fan" (for lack of a more precise word) of Soren Kierkegaard's writings.  His book Works of Love changed my life in 2016, but being so profound in topic, it was not a book I felt comfortable writing a review on.  I did review Fear and Trembling, though once again, not delving too deeply as I felt myself inadequate of completely analyzing it. 

I approach philosophy as outsider, not from the "ground up," so many cross-references are a bit lost on me.  However, there's something addictive about Kierkegaard in particular that makes the struggle worthwhile.  It's like listening to the ramblings of a friend who would be incredibly obnoxious if he weren't so incredibly brilliant, even obviously to outsiders like me.   


The Concept of Anxiety has sat on my bookshelf for a while.  Right now I'm going through a great deal of anxiety (though not the worst I've ever experi…

Pe Ell's Polish Pioneers

Image
What was life like for the Polish immigrants in Pe Ell, Washington, one hundred years ago? As told in the words of their descendants today, this book preserves their experiences; their joys, their sorrows, and their struggles to make a better life for themselves and their families as they assimilated into a new country and became Americans.
I stumbled across this book at the thrift store this past summer: Pe Ell's Polish Pioneers by Leo E. Kowalski.  It seemed really obscure but I decided to give it a try.  Lately I've been hankering to learn more about local history, beyond Lewis & Clark and Captain Cook (though their stories still excite me), and I've been interested in Polish history since encountering pieces of it in college courses.  The lesser known episodes of history are my favorite, so I thought I might like this one, which takes place in Pe Ell, WA, just two counties south of Seattle.

The story begins with an overview of Poland, ca. 1900.  The once-power…

Lord of the Flies Revisited

Image
However Simon thought of the beast, there rose before his inward sight the picture of a human at once heroic and sick. Earlier this year, I considered the question "What Is a Classic?", in part as a mental exercise and in part to determine what I could reasonably talk about on my podcast.  With a detour to Ishiguro, my general conclusion was that classics are determined by the culture, and as "the culture" in a generic sense becomes surpassed by infinite subcultures, the classics will eventually consist of whatever disparate books are revered by those subcultures.

If you're still with me... I didn't really talk about the books I, as a subculture of one, consider to be classics.  If I created a personal list of classics, it would not be equivalent to my "axes" or favorites, though there'd likely be some overlap.  I guess that's because I see the former list evolving as my values evolve, and the latter list comprising fixed milestones.  Any…

My NaNoWriMo Inspiration

Image
Thanks to all who expressed interest in my NaNoWriMo project!  The challenge officially starts at midnight, tonight, but I probably will start tomorrow afternoon.  My goal is not necessarily to reach 50k words, but to finish my long-running novel in progress.

Tales of Calantha is the code name for the novel - a story that originated in my head about ten years ago and which I've been seriously writing for the past couple of years.  Lately I've described it as half-spoof, half-serious combination of different Victorian tropes and themes, especially from Gothic novels. 

In this post, I thought it would be fun to go over different elements of the story and some real Victorian novels that inspired it.


Setting

Brimshaw - Inspiration:  Thornfield Hall from Jane Eyre
An old house situated on a cliff in an isolated forest.  Inside, it's a mishmash of Baroque architecture, collectibles, and curiosities...plus the obligatory secret passage!

The Conservatory - Inspiration: Alice's A…

Life Lately (Podcast & Blog Update)

Hi readers and listeners - just a quick life update...

I mentioned recently my non-blogging life has been very busy in the last month or so.  What I didn't anticipate was taking on many new responsibilities at work, very suddenly and unexpectedly.  By November, depending on how things turn out, I may not have much free time; and whatever I have, I need to spend on NaNoWriMo, to finish my novel-in-progress. 

So, in order to make this adjustment easier possible, I'll be taking another unplanned break from podcasting, starting next week, with no ETA on its return. 

via GIPHY

I plan to keep blogging, if sporadically.  I have at least one new review to share - Lord of the Flies - which should be coming here pretty soon.  Also, I don't plan to quit reading, so you can expect at least a monthly check-in with those reviews. (Reviews are much faster to publish, to say the least.)

Really sorry to anyone who's been following along with Season 3.  It's a tough choice to mak…

Reacting to "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" - Episode 34

Let's listen to Edgar Allan Poe's "A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" - an eerie narrative about a man who takes a walk in the hills and comes back with a story to tell.  It's a new one to me, so I'll be sharing my candid reactions along the way.  Let me know what you think of it!

Links:
"A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" by D. T. McGregor at LibriVox (public domain)

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - Hourly Updates, October 2018 edition

Hour 15

Between doing weekend things (laundry, cleaning, yay) and thinking about work stuff - plus a heavy dose of LOTF - I got majorly derailed this afternoon.  My goal for the evening is to finish chapter 6 and then probably switch gears to something lighter.

Hour 11

Progress: Read first couple of chapters of Pe Ell's Polish Pioneers by Leo Kowalski.  I don't think I've ever visited Pe Ell, WA, but pioneer stories are always intriguing.
Read "The Life You Save May Be Your Own" by Flannery O'Connor.  This one made me feel squicky.  
Continuing to read Lord of the Flies...very, very slowly.  I am picking up on a lot of things that went over my head before.  The most interesting thing is that each chapter contains some kind of horror or atrocity, just very subtly.  When you catch those references, you can fully understand the build-up to the ultimate evil in the book (which is what I remember most).

Hour 7
Joining late, but better late than never!  I always like…

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon - TBR Stack, October 2018

Image
It's that time of year... Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon!

This bi-yearly event is one I look forward to with zest.  It's an excuse to take all Saturday to do my favorite thing. I'm starting late - 6 hours late - but that's ok, because this is just a fun marathon (and I like to get my sleep).

Without further ado, the lineup:

The Code of the Woosters / Wodehouse Tales & Sketches / Hawthorne Lord of the Flies / Golding Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea / Verne Three Men in a Boat / Jerome The Boy in the Mask / Gyles
This time, my goal is to not get bored or fatigued.  So I might just ditch the list and do a Sherlock Holmes marathon.  Or, pick random books I own that I haven't read.

Bringing WWI to Life - Peter Jackson's They Shall Not Grow Old

Image
My sister shared this with me - a new documentary called They Shall Not Grow Old by Peter Jackson (director of The Lord of the Rings).  He took film footage from WWI, restored and colorized it, and added voiceover so you can get a sense of what it was really like.  Hoping this makes it to the U.S.!


Nine Creepy Victorian Short Stories - From Stoker to Doyle - Episode 33

It's October again: that time of year when you reach for a chunky sweater, a spicy latte, and, of course, a spooky book to read. In this episode, I share nine of my favorite Victorian short stories by authors such as Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, and H. G. Wells.  You probably don't want to read these at night...

Three Old Movie Reviews - Heston, Peck, Cooper, et al

Image
So, I'm not much of a movie watcher these days, much less a reviewer.  But I've started keeping a journal of books read and movies watched, by month.  (Got this idea from Rachel!)  This month's been particularly good, so I thought I'd share a few quick recommendations:


Dad's Army (TV, 1968–1977)

This comedy is set in WWII and follows a group of Home Guard soldiers in an English town named Walmington-on-Sea.  Their leader, Captain Mainwaring, manages a bank by day and serves as an officer by night.  He takes the whole thing very seriously, determined to transform his ragtag followers - butcher, undertaker, spoiled boy, and all - into a force capable of defending against an invasion.


If you enjoy British humor, this show is likely to appeal to you.  It combines several different types of comedy, including dry humor and slapstick, into a coherent medley of laugh-out-loud moments.  My favorite thing about it is the ensemble of characters.  They're each quirky, uniq…

H. G. Wells on Victorian Short Stories

Image
Lately I've been wandering down memory lane with H. G. Wells' The Country of the Blind and Other Stories (1911).  This collection holds, in the words of Wells: "all of the short stories by me that I care for any one to read again."  Some are new and some familiar - two of them are personal favorites, which I'll be mentioning in Monday's podcast episode ("Nine Creepy Victorian Short Stories").

In the Introduction, Wells gives us a little recap of the short story form and its writers, as far as it had evolved in the late Victorian era.  He praises Kipling, whose writing "opened like window-shutters to reveal the dusty sun-glare and blazing colours of the East."  J. M. Barrie also gets a mention, along with Henry James, Stephen Crane, Jerome K. Jerome, and Edith Nesbit.  Other contemporaries are listed, whose names are less known to modern readers.  Joseph Conrad alone is noted as having, in Wells's eyes, continued in the 20th century to…

The Jungle Book: Returning to Rudyard Kipling - Episode 32

This week, I revisit Rudyard Kipling and his famous feral child Mowgli.  The Jungle Book is one of my favorite Disney stories, but I did not like the book as a child.  How does it read now that I'm older?  (And when is that new movie coming out?!)


Sources / Further reading:
My Boy Jack (2007) - Biopic
"The White Man's Burden" - Kipling's poem
"The Black Man's Burden" - H. T. Johnson's response
Mowgli (2019) - Trailer

"In the Rukh" - Mowgli's Sequel

Image
Like many famous characters, Mowgli makes his debut in a different time frame than we are accustomed to seeing him.  "In the Rukh" shows the feral child now grown to be a young man, having some of the same traits as young Mowgli - his distrust of settlements, for one - in addition to a self-confidence and refinement of skill which awe the locals to the point of superstition.  Gisborne, an English ranger, is fascinated by his new acquaintance and is intent on hiring Mowgli on to be his assistant in managing the forest.

It's been so long since I read The Jungle Book proper, I wasn't sure what to expect in this short story.  Overall, I found it interesting, yet underdeveloped.  It could be that, being so used to the character of Mowgli as a child, I struggled to accept him as a grown-up man, and what might have made a good sequel instead poses The Jungle Book as a superior prequel (a working hypothesis; I have started rereading it and am enjoying it more, so far).

The …

Two Views of the Twentieth Century - Episode 31

We kick off Season 3 with two giants of 19th-century science fiction: Jules Verne and Albert Robida.  Both French authors, Verne and Robida crafted futuristic novels set in the 20th century, predicting changes in technology and society.  Join me in this trip to the past, which at times feels amazingly reminiscent of the digital world we live in today.

Links / Further reading:
Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne
The Twentieth Century by Albert Robida

Robida's Fantastic Drawings of the "Twentieth Century"

Image
On Monday, the podcast returns for Season 3!  I have quite a line-up planned, with plenty of variety, so stay tuned for that.

As a sneak peek - Monday's episode features two French authors: Jules Verne and Albert Robida. Both authors wrote futuristic, coming-of-age novels set in the 20th century.  I'll talk about their predictions in the episode, but for now, check out these illustrations by Robida:









"My Kinsman, Major Molineux"

Image
Over on Instagram, I'd mentioned I've been getting into Hawthorne's short stories again.  He's a favorite author of mine, and when I read the collection Twice Told Tales (already five years ago, wow!), I was blown away by the craft of his shorter works.  I finally broke down and bought the complete Tales and Sketches, and for my first reading chose "My Kinsman, Major Molineux," one of the more famous ones.

The story is set up simply enough: a young man and clergyman's son, Robin, sets out one day to seek his fortune.  More specifically, he leaves the countryside and arrives in Boston in order to get in touch with Major Molineux, a relative who had once offered to help him get started in life.

It's a dark, gloomy night in Boston.  Robin goes from door to door, inquiring for his kinsman.  Everyone laughs at him, while he wanders through the streets looking for at least one towns-person who will listen to him seriously.  Finally, he meets a man who tell…

Ten TBR Classics by My Favorite Authors

This week's Top Ten Tuesday challenges us to come up with to-be-read books by our favorite authors...

1. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Scarlet Letter
Yes, I probably sound like a broken record, but I still haven't read this one.

2. Joseph Conrad: Nostromo

3. Franz Kafka: Diaries
Diaries...that's a little awkward.

4. Jules Verne: From the Earth to the Moon

5. Agatha Christie: The rest of the Poirot series
It's been over a decade since I read it, so I might just start over.

6. Charlotte Bronte: The Professor and Emma

7. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: The Firm of Girdlestone
This is getting obscure, but Doyle's lesser-known works rarely disappoint.

8. J. R. R. Tolkien: The Fall of Gondolin

9. Fyodor Dostoyevsky: Crime and Punishment

10. Soren Kierkegaard: The Concept of Anxiety

My biggest takeaway from this list is that, barring Dostoyevsky and Kierkegaard, I've scarcely discovered any new favorite authors in the past 6–8 years.  Pretty sad.

Dear Mrs. Bird - A Lovely Read for Fall

Image
I first heard of this book from Cirtnecce at Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses & Prejudices...She wrote so highly of Dear Mrs. Bird that I couldn't wait to get my hands on a library copy.  Three months later, it finally arrived!


It's London in the middle of the Blitz, and twenty-something Miss Emmy Lake wants desperately to leave her dull desk job and become a War Correspondent.  Opportunities are scarce, especially for young women, so when she spies a job opening at The Evening Chronicle, she takes it, no questions asked.

Unfortunately, it turns out Emmy has agreed to become a typist for a ladies' magazine: Woman's Friend.  The eminent yet stringent editor, Mrs. Henrietta Bird, runs an advice column for women.  To her disappointment, Emmy has not been hired to get the scoop on the latest War developments - in fact, her job is merely to type up Mrs. Bird's responses to readers' questions, on topics ranging from the absurd to the tragic.

What seems like a simple…

End of Season 2 - Summer Break

Image
If you missed it in last Monday's episode, I mentioned Episode 30 was the last installment of Season 2.  I've also decided to take the rest of August off, as well as the whole of September, before coming back for Season 3 in October.

This break gives me a chance to make improvements to the podcast, diversify my reading, and work on other projects such as writing.  It also happens to be a good time personally, since I'm going through some sudden changes at work which will need more of my attention (and energy).

In the meantime, be sure to catch up on older episodes, suggest new books or topics, and follow me on Instagram (@classicsconsidered).  There is a lot of new content coming to this site as well, so watch for more updates in the coming weeks!

Books I Gave Up On

Image
Two weeks ago, I mentioned I was reading The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux.  Well...I'm still reading it, and I'm not even halfway.

For a story about a family moving to the jungle, this book is extremely slow.  I keep thinking "I'm finally getting into it!" only to get bogged down by endless descriptions of Allie's (the dad) smart-aleck comments and ego bigger than the commune he's founding.  So yeah, I'm thinking about calling it quits.

It irritates me to give up on a book...I'm a completist by nature.  Since 2012 (when I started keeping track), I've given up on 14 books, which spread out over 6 years is still more than I'd like.  On the other hand, there have been books I wish I'd given up on (Kafka's The Castle) but for whatever reason just couldn't bring myself to do it.

With that in mind, which are the 14 that made the unlucky cut?  In roughly reverse-chronological order:

14. The Kill by Émile Zola - I talked about this a few…

Finding 'A Room of One's Own' - Episode 30

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf takes us through a history of women in fiction, from the unknown poets of Elizabethan times to 18th and 19th-century writers like Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë.  This little book is not only for feminists, but for anyone interested in the life and classic writings of female authors.

Apologies for the intermittent background noise, near the beginning of the episode.  It was probably me leaning on my "lectern" - i.e. a white cabinet on wheels, which may not be the most stable setup...  I'll be taking extra precautions in the future!

Sources / Further Reading:
"Virginia Woolf Was More Than Just a Women’s Writer" - Humanities magazine
Virginia Woolf's suicide note (Wikisource)
Napoleonic Code (Encyclopedia Britannica)

Clara Schumann's Lieder - A Classical Cousin

Image
Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own has me currently entranced with its gentle, yet poignant questions about women's history - not just in fiction, but in culture and arts generally.

According to a Washington Post quiz (which, given its loaded questions, ought to be taken with a pinch of salt), I come under the umbrella of "Yes, but..." feminists, meaning I identify as somewhat feminist but am also critical of feminism as it stands today.  Without getting deeply into the topic - I am trying, by a thread, to stay apolitical on this blog - I would say that's a fairly accurate summary of my outlook.

My main concern for women's rights are those basic ones which are still lacking in other countries.  In Woolf's book, I am reminded that women in the West underwent similar struggles.  For example, as lately as 100 years ago, a choice of career was limited:
...I had made my living by cadging odd jobs from newspapers, by reporting a donkey show here or a weddin…