Friday, April 17, 2015

Fielding--Amelia (1752)

I was looking forward to this one, which I had not read before. I have read Tom Jones and Joe Andrews, many years ago now (as well as his absurd play Tom Thumb), and I anticipated that Amelia must be Fielding's Idiot, the third book, in order of fame, of a great writer, inferior to the other two only by the measurement of grandeur or scope with regard to theme, while otherwise, all of the author's great qualities would be on display in barely diminished form. Given this level of expectation, it is probably inevitable that my predominant response to the book was disappointment. I generally enjoyed it well enough, and I was able to get into a good daily rhythm and routine in my reading, but still, the drop-off in excellence in Amelia from the other Fielding novels looms over every aspect of the experience of reading it.



I knew nothing about this book beforehand, apart from the blurb in the IWE, which says it is 'remarkably readable, fitting the 20th-century taste better than nearly any other novel of its century'. No doubt the taste of the general American reading public is much altered from what it was in the mid 1960s, but I don't think this was an accurate assessment even then, with regard to readability. Due to the skill for plotting which Fielding displayed in full in Tom Jones, as well as the general tendency in older novelists to take more time in setting up their stories before putting them in full motion than modern readers would tolerate, I kept thinking that this is what was taking place, first in the long section in the prison, then during the long section in the lodgings in London, and even with about 100 pages to go when Booth's debt and poverty attains its last extremity, I thought there were enough balls arranged in the air, so to speak, to produce a wild and spectacular finish. But it never quite took off. Also the book is devoid of great, or even especially interesting, characters. Fielding himself is still interesting as the narrator, and shows a few flashes of the humor that is one of the glories of his other books when he is writing in an expository manner, but none of the characters in Amelia are funny at all. Indeed, the characters are all either petty, weak-willed, mean-spirited if not vicious, coarse or insipid, without any compensatory endearing qualities. Because of this, similar to Richardson and other 18th century novelists, and distinctly unlike Fielding's more celebrated works, the book seems airless, and lacking in atmosphere. The rooms and houses and even bodies the characters occupy are not vivid, a scene over a bottle of wine or an encounter on a street will have no sense of expanse beyond the space in which the characters are interacting, as if the room or street they are in is either a blank space or made of lifeless cardboard.



One thing that especially bothered me in this book was the way in Dr Harrison--who is supposed, I guess, to be the main moral hero of the story--endlessly rallied and ridiculed Mrs Atkinson, whose father had taught her what was by our standards a considerable amount of Latin and Greek, about her learning every time he saw her, making sure, once he had found the limits of her knowledge (which was beyond, say, the memorization of most of the Aeneid) to barrage her with quotations he could be certain she would not be familiar with. This was all because she was a woman, and for a woman to pretend to classical knowledge was offensive to him, and, evidently, to Fielding. I am certainly not much of a strident crusader against all of the traditional offenses perpetrated against excluded groups and animals and who knows what else by powerful European descended males, but I did find this annoying. What's the harm in knowing a little Latin, or anything else. I guess it was the pretension to equal status in this area with the doctor, which could not be tolerated.


This book was rarely published in mass market editions in the 20th century. The picture above indicates that there was a Penguin edition in the late 90s/early 2000s, but there don't seem to be many copies of it in circulation. My own edition is a 1968 Everyman printing, in two volumes, unnecessarily, I think (the two volumes, which run around 300 pages each).

While I was criticizing the book quite a book, I still had a good deal of fun reading it and thinking about it, which fun I am having with all these old IWE books. Also I like to be thorough, or at least feel thorough, and now I can tell myself that I have gone deeper in my familiarity into Fielding, and into the 18th century English novel generally, and I get a certain amount of satisfaction out of that too.

The Challenge

1. Richard Atkinson--Guns at Last Light: War in Western Europe 1944-1945........................1,475
2. Merlin (TV show-2008)............................................................................................................321
3. Walter Moseley--Rose Gold......................................................................................................243
4. Before I Go to Sleep (movie).....................................................................................................223
5. Phantom of the Opera (1925-movie).........................................................................................212
6. Away From Her (movie)............................................................................................................195
7. Love and Other Disasters (movie).............................................................................................147
8. Kit Rocha--Beyond Jealousy......................................................................................................133
9. Cromwell (1970 movie)..............................................................................................................126
10. Mission Impossible (TV show)...................................................................................................95
11. Ain't Them Bodies Saints (movie)...............................................................................................66
12. The Plainsman (movie)...............................................................................................................54
13. Amelia C. Gormley--Strain.........................................................................................................53
14. Eileen Welsome--Plutonium Files: America's Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War...50
15. David O. Stewart--American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America..........46
16. Anna Belfrage--Revenge and Retribution...................................................................................43

This challenge is unusual in that it is so heavy on movies and television. Most of the time in this format two or three movies would come up at most. If it becomes a trend though I will have to tweak the system yet again. 43 reviews to qualify for the tournament is a pretty low bar though, so I don't suspect a lot of high quality books were among those that missed the cut this time.

Round of 16

#1 Atkinson over #16 Belfrage (93-67)

Atkinson prevails here by virtue of being by all evidence a serious book, while the Belfrage is the 6th volume of a popular series about time traveling that I do not feel up to trying at this time. While I might also be inclined not to want to read another 877 page history of World War II in Europe, the Atkinson book is the third volume in a trilogy of which the first was awarded a Pulitzer Prize. So it has some credibility.

#15 Stewart over # 2 Merlin (98-86)

In this tournament even more than usual, books have a strong priority over movies and television shows.

#3 Moseley over #14 Welsome (68-61)

I have actually read the Welsome book. It was not terrible, for a book about plutonium anyway, though I found the parts about the geniuses and their university and government careers and researches more interesting than the parts where decent but considerably less brilliant people were abused in the name of science. That at least is what I remember about it. I don't feel the need to read it again.

#13 Gormley over #4 Before I Go to Sleep (59-50)

Going to stick with the formula favoring books over movies except in exceptional cases where I really want the book out of the tournament, and don't want the movie out.

#12 Plainsman over #5 Phantom of the Opera (83-79)

At least here you have two old classics going at it. The 1925 Lon Chaney Phantom of the Opera is already on my main movies-to-see list, which is the only reason why I am going to eliminate it here.

#6 Away From Her over #11 Ain't Them Bodies Saints (73-70)

These movies feel to me like similar kind of generic modern middlebrow Hollywood fare. One is from 2006 and the other from 2013, so I went with the older one.

#7 Love and Other Disasters over #10 Mission Impossible (69-63)

Movie over a television series, when I am presented with no other compelling reason.

#8 Rocha over #9 Cromwell (51-49)

The Rocha looks like some kind of romance novel for the biker crowd. If Cromwell were the only movie in the tournament I might have advanced it. But given the dearth of book vs book matchups in the first round I wanted to get the tournament into that mode going forward.

Round of 8

#15 Stewart over #1 Atkinson (96-92)

Stewart wins mainly by virtue of being 400 pages shorter. That is all I am going on during the tournament phase, which I have to do quickly largely influenced by my perception of the kind of book something is.

#13 Gormley over #3 Moseley (75-74)

Since the tournament has no suspense if there are never to be allowed any upsets, I have created a rule that if a single title shows up more than once during the selection of the field it is entitled to an upset in a matchup it would have lost however many times over one it came up. Unfortunately it happens here. I was kind of hoping that Moseley would win in this field. But it was not meant to be.

My impression of Moseley is that he is a genre writer, though one who gets a little more respect from real literary writers and critics than most such writers. I have read some what I take to be standard genre books as a result of this challenge, and also because some rabble rousers have been exhorting guys like me to read more of this type of literature, but after a few forays into that corner of the writing world, I want my author to have some cred with legitimate literati before I read another book of that class. Moseley is also black, though I have the impression that this is not exclusively why he is somewhat more promoted to the more literary-oriented reader than other crime writers. If you remember in the last tournament, I decided that a book in translation would get some extra consideration because my record of reading modern translated books is so abysmal. I have been wondering is I should give extra points in this to authors of color, women, people who are extremely non-traditionally heterosexual, and so on, though I have decided to hold off on that for now. This was brought on in part because there was something in the last month that was circulating on the internet about people who had pledged not to read any books by white male authors for a year, the rationale being in most instances, I am sure in all sincerity, that the readers were concerned about all of the exciting books by other types of people that they were at risk of missing, a risk that apparently does not apply if you give up reading white guys for a year. I joke about this more than I should, I guess, and there are certainly many fine books out there that one could argue should be better known (maybe even there are a few by white guys themselves, logically impossible as that sounds upon first consideration). In truth though I think that your legitimate big time literary readers are eager enough for any really outstanding book, or advance in the field, that anything seriously will at least find an audience among these readers, if not the mass public. Some people act at least as if they really believe that there are all of these neglected literary masterpieces out there, the equal of anything in the traditional canon, that people have ignored because racism, sexism, and the like, and I don't think it is likely that that would be the case. That would be the cultural equivalent of another renaissance, though I suppose some people think that we are living through another time like that. If we are, I think the challenge to literature is coming more from the dominance of technology and statistical data in everyday life rather than from non-traditional and unsuspected literary productions.

#12 Plainsman over #6 Away From Her (101-76)

First movie to make the Final Four. An easy victory for The Plainsman

#7 Love And Other Disasters over #8 Rocha. (57-55)

Second movie to make the Final Four. It was entitled to an upset also, and gets the opportunity here, though the Rocha book would have been an almost equally shaky contender. An awful elite 8 game.

Final Four

#15 Stewart over #7 Love and Other Disasters (81-68)

Love was not entitled to a second upset. Cruise control for Stewart.

#13 Gormley over #12 Plainsman (64-58)

Lousy shooting by the Plainsman.

Championship

#15 Stewart over #13 Gormley (79-64)

Gormley does not get a second upset either, and Stewart, with Moseley knocked out, rolls to an easy championship. I guess I will be reading about Aaron Burr at night for the next month or so.



David O. Stewart, the author of this book, is a longtime Washington D.C. lawyer, and not an academic. I don't know how much credibility non-academically credentialed historians have nowadays. But the book won, and I am going to read it.

Monday, April 6, 2015

New Feature! Monthly Reading Update

Given the haphazard nature of the posting on this site, I thought that maybe putting up a short status on the 6th of every month of where I was at, besides being a good record for myself, would make the blog seem a little more regular or 'alive' especially during long absences.

A List Reading (ca. 1994 GRE Literature Guide): Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov. Progress (pages read) 16 of 940.

B List (1966 Illustrated World Encyclopedia List: Henry Fielding, Amelia. 528/611.

C List (Bourgeois Surrender Challenge books): Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. 301/493

It is unusual that I have three novels, and all old ones at that, going concurrently. The A List in recent years has trended heavily towards criticism and books about books with the occasional poem rather than prose fiction, and the C List is not set up to be biased towards novels. The Dostoevsky being such a monument of world literature it might seem that it ludicrous to have other books going at the same time so that one can devote all of one's intellectual energy towards trying to get something out of him; however I have finally managed an arrangement when I read the 'A' list books at work (during breaks and other legally sanctioned down times only, of course), and the 'B' books during the alert times of day at home. A little of the 'C' book is the last thing I will do at night before going to bed, which is why there is an emphasis on their being shorter, easier, and more modern than those books in the other two lists. Also the Brothers Karamazov will be coming up again on the B List, which unfolds in alphabetical order, within the next 3-5 years, so I am taking this first reading (though I did get through the first 300 pages at least back in school), which I just started on Friday, in a less intense manner than some might think proper.

A little anecdote regarding my Tree Grows in Brooklyn reading. We had an old wartime copy of this book at home and I started reading that, but one night when I was evidently too exhausted even to get through a chapter of that I must have put the book down in an unusual place or fallen asleep holding it and had it drop out of my hands because for a week afterwards I couldn't find it again, and finally had to take a more recent copy, which had much larger print, page breaks between chapters and so on than the old war-issue copy, so I am on that now. After another week went by I finally found the other copy placed in one of our book cabinets in which it had not been before, lying on its side where it would not have been visible with the door closed. Obviously someone had found it and put it there without telling me.

For the record, the page progression in the wartime copy would be/is 256/420.

The entirety of this post was written with a screaming (though already well-fed and changed) baby in the background. I guess I will have to go attend to her now.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Lazio

1. Rome.......................24



2. Alba Laziale..............1
    Arpino.......................1

California

1. Los Angeles.....................6



2. San Francisco..................4
3. Alameda..........................3
4. Napa.................................2
    Santa Barbara..................2
6. Contra Costa....................1
    Kings...............................1
    Monterey..........................1
    Orange..............................1
    Riverside..........................1
    San Bernardino................1
    San Mateo........................1
    Sonoma.............................1

Friday, March 6, 2015

Massachusetts

1. Plymouth.....................10



2. Middlesex.....................7
3. Dukes............................3
4. Norfolk..........................2
    Suffolk..........................2
6. Barnstaple.....................1
    Berkshire.......................1
   Worcester........................1

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Robert Penn Warren--All the King's Men (1946)

This was a real book, of the old school. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1946, the film version garnered the Oscar for best picture three years later, indicating that the story was seen in this country at least as one of the seminal works of the immediate postwar years. While there are a lot of things in and about this that I like I was really impressed with the beginning of the book, the first 100-150 pages or so. A lot of the books on this list, even when they are great literature, are books that are thought to hold some appeal for teenagers and lesser experienced readers. But the beginning of All the King's Men, I thought, was something even a real man might want to read. There were political machinations, graft, corruption, personal and sexual power and domination, the interaction of highly skilled professionals in various fields in various arenas where power, money and women are contended for.  As the book went on however (my edition had 464 pages), it took the course of being less and less constantly centered on Willie Stark, the Huey Long stand-in who was by far the most compelling character in the book, and more on the narrator, Jack Burden, who though a little more hard-bitten than the usual examples of the type, is more of a traditional writerly character. The amount of space devoted to recollecting his long and not especially eventful romantic history with his adolescent girlfriend I think was especially unfortunate. I don't mind a little of that sort of thing, especially when it can serve to set a certain nostalgic atmosphere or mood, but this went way beyond that. A lot of modern readers find fault as well with the fairly lengthy Cass Mastern interlude, which is about the journal and romantic intrigues of one of Burden's Civil War era relatives, but I actually liked it. Flashbacks to the Civil War in southern novels, especially of this period, where the connection was still so palpable and personal, are usually pretty interesting.

The style of this book, which is highly descriptive and tends somewhat towards what would now be considered the wordy side, is very reminiscent of much masculine American literary writing in that era from around the mid-30s to the mid-60s, which is what I largely grew up on, but which I had not revisited in some years. I can still re-adapt to the style fairly easily, though it takes a couple of paragraphs for me to get back in the particular frame of mind needed to consume information in this form. I bought my copy of the book at a library sale in 1986, and have been lugging it around all this time, though I had not read it until now. The title page says it is a first edition, though it had already long been re-bound in orange library binding (which I kind of love anyway, by the way). The pages were yellowed and the book looked and felt like an antique to me even at that time, though the novel itself would only have been forty years old.



I am trying to convey what I most like about this book, for it has some very fine and powerful qualities. Since I am not being paid to produce polished essays, I am going to try to list some things that come to my mind bullet-point style:

1. The parts about driving on the old, (though at the time of the book's setting, they were new) lonely highways through the rural country and small towns and even the modest cities of Louisiana, which seems to have been still very much a quasi-feudal place in 1930 are very evocative.

2. There is often a sinister sense in books set in the 1930s in places outside the direct cultural authority of New York, London, Paris, Hollywood, and certain kinds of windblown midwestern American towns, and the character of Willie Stark especially gives this book a little bit of that, as if there is something bad in this environment that would crush any weaker person and that cannot be avoided or escaped from even by a stronger one. All of the indoor scenes feel to me to be taking place under dim institutional lighting, and the outdoor ones to carry some aura of geographical oppression in them.

3. I would not have wanted to live there, but I admit to having a fascination for certain aspects and relics of the Old South, particularly the era from 1910-1950 or so. When I am in that part of the world as a tourist I find I experience a certain sensation, almost like a thrill of danger, if I come upon old building or monument or even a tree that appears to have been overlooked in the process of modernization and preserved something of the old sinister but also in a way organic and vital aura that is usually lacking in the modern landscape. This is certainly not a romantic impulse, and a lot of these instances evoke a sense of horror or repulsion in its associations, but there is an attraction to it at the same time because of the darkness and reality that has been so well preserved in these kinds of books. There is some of that in here.

4. Another of my little tourism hobby horses is visiting state houses, which are usually old, attractive, uncrowded places, with a sense of drama and grandeur in understated ways. They often have old and somewhat grand bathrooms, for example, or staircases, or elevators, or light fixtures, or trees on the grounds, that have not been substantially modernized since the end of World War II. So it was enjoyable for me that much of the book took place in one of these buildings.



Most of the other things that come to mind are repititions of things I have already touched upon.

The New and Improved Bourgeois Surrender Challenge

I had written last time of changing the challenge to a tournament format. My initial plan had been to include every book (or movie, or record album) that came up in one giant tournament, but the magic words for All the King's Men produced around 70 competitors, most of which, as you can get a hint of in the list below, consisted of prestige books, which was a departure from the last Challenges under the old system. I decided to limit the field to the top sixteen contenders and see how that worked out:

1. Hunger Games: Catching Fire (movie).....................8,580
2. Secret Life of Walter Mitty (movie-2012)..................2,392
3. Carlos Ruiz Zafon--Shadow of the Wind....................1,633
4. Betty Smith--A Tree Grows in Brooklyn....................1,475
5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (movie)........................1,278
6. Donna Tartt--The Little Friend......................................924
7. David Foster Wallace--Infinite Jest...............................792
8. Night of the Living Dead (movie)..................................699
9. Nicole Krauss--The History of Love..............................599
10. Elizabeth Gaskell--North and South............................598
11. Jonathan Safran Foer--Everything is Illuminated........584
12. Charade (movie)..........................................................583
13. Don Delillo--Underworld.............................................397
14. Cecilia Ahern--P.S. I Love You.....................................396
15. Salman Rushdie--Midnight's Children.........................346
16. Virginia Woolf--To the Lighthouse..............................308

First, or Sweet Sixteen Round

#16 Virginia Woolf over #1 the Hunger Games.

Any good book will always have the preference over any movie in these tournaments, with the exception of one circumstance that I will reveal if the case ever arises.

#15 Salman Rushdie over #2 Walter Mitty

#3 Carlos Ruiz Zafon over #14 Cecilia Ahern

I don't know anything yet about Carlos Ruiz Zafon but the Ahern book appears to be a cookie-cutter genre/romance novel for the wine-drinking, shoe-shopping Sex in the City crowd, and I had marked it for automatic elimination against any 'real' book.

#4 Betty Smith over #13 Don Delillo

Besides being the higher seed, Betty Smith's book is shorter, older, and is more in the range of what I feel like reading at this time.

#12 Charade over #5 Salmon Fishing in the Yemen

Any movie with some claim to classic status that I have not seen will almost always have the preference over a more modern movie.

#11 Jonathan Safran Foer over #6 Donna Tartt

An extremely tight battle between two books that came out in the same year (2002), neither of which I am especially interested in reading. Foer wins because it's 300 pages shorter.

#10 Elizabeth Gaskell over #7 David Foster Wallace

Though I am not dying to read him either, I would give David Foster Wallace the win over markedly inferior competition. However Mrs Gaskell is good competition, she is older, and even at 521 pages her book is half the length of Wallace's.

#9 Nicole Krauss over #8 Night of the Living Dead.

Nicole Krauss has come up on the challenge twice now. I am mildly interested in her.

Elite 8

#3 Carlos Ruiz Zafon over #16 Virginia Woolf

Virginia Woolf loses here because I have already read To the Lighthouse. It is of course a great book, or at least I thought it was at the time that I read it, but I am curious enough about the highly seeded Zafon to be comfortable pressing forward with him.

#4 Betty Smith over #15 Salman Rushdie

Another grinder for Betty Smith over a powerful modern brand. However, her book was still shorter as well as older, and she was the higher seed as well. Those are deciding factors in this tournament.

#9 Nicole Krauss over #12 Charade

I have not read enough of the new young literary people to be be desirous of dismissing them out of hand against movies. Yet

#11 Jonathan Safran Foer over #10 Elizabeth Gaskell

Foer probably would have won here anyway due to his book's being 300 pages shorter. However a third criterion I am using is local library availability, and North and South does not seem to be in the collection of either of the libraries I can go to.

Final Four

#11 Jonathan Safron Foer Over #3 Carlos Ruiz Zafon

Availability and publication date were a wash here. Zafon got extra consideration because his book is a translation and we get so few books not written in English on the Challenge. Foer again wins by a nose because his book is 200 pages shorter. I don't mean to emphasize length so much, but I already have two literary lists I read off of, and this challenge is intended to be a means for me to find some fun reads that did not quite qualify for either of my lists and to keep in contact what is going on in contemporary life without excessive tension and anxiety.

#4 Betty Smith over #9 Nicole Krauss

Along with Foer, Betty Smith had the toughest draw in the tournament, Krauss's book is considerably shorter, but Smith wins on age and for being the higher seed.

The championship

#4 Betty Smith over #11 Jonahan Safron Foer.

Similar set-up to the Krauss win. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is clearly the kind of book that I like, and I am looking forward to reading it.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Shakespeare--All's Well That Ends Well (1602 or 3)

First Shakespeare on the list. As we get deeper into it we are beginning to pick off more and more of these firsts, but there are still a few big areas out there that we have not gotten into. First Dickens, as well as other well-represented authors. First French, Russian, Spanish, modern Italian and Scandinavian books. First work in English of straight poetry (we have had a couple of dramas, namely this and Dryden, that have contained a considerable amount of verse so far). This is also the last of the series of readings, mainly plays and smaller novels, that were relatively short. The next five books on the list, at least--I try not to keep in mind more than five books ahead in doing this--are all on the longer side, at least 450 pages, with a couple even longer than that. I will read those at a somewhat more accelerated pace. I have been somewhat deliberate in reading these shorter ones because I wanted to feel that I had spent a little time with them. They all are become dear to me in some way and I don't want to just blow through them.

I have been finished with All's Well That Ends Well for about two weeks and have found that I have not had the energy in the evening, nor the time during the day, even to write up my little report. I don't want to fall behind on these.

I found with this, as I found with Virgil and Faulkner, the other two inner ring all time great authors we have come across on this list so far, that it was difficult to read late at night, which is by necessity the time when I do most of my reading (and writing), for more than a handful of pages before my concentration would break down and I would dose off to sleep. It is not that the books are completely beyond my reading ability when I am at close to full alertness and strength, as I have been reading these authors, and others in the same vein with a fair degree of familiarity with the style and language, at least, for twenty-five years. But old man fatigue is starting to hinder my ability to go back and take up the real Greats unless I am very fresh, well-rested and relaxed, which is a combination of circumstances I am finding it hard-pressed to attain.


I haven't said anything about the actual play, which I am pretty sure I had never read before, as I would have recognized when I read Colley Cibber's Love's Last Shift a few years back the plot device of the neglected wife arranging for another woman to make an assignation with her wayward husband and taking the would be mistress's place in bed once darkness fell (which had been done long before Shakespeare as well). I enjoyed reading it, apart from my frustration on the occasions when I was unable to keep my eyes open. Everything with Shakespeare, especially after his first few plays, partakes of the character of the grand manner, and I am always alert to that sense, even if I am not alert enough to follow and make sense of the flow of the particular words on the page. I was surprised when I bothered to look at it at the relatively late date assigned to this play, as I tend to think of the comedies with Italian, or in this instance French-Italian, settings, as belonging to more or less the same period, and that the earlier part of Shakespeare's career before 1600, after which the tragedies became predominant. However I see that I am three or four years off in my calculating and that the 1600-1603 period was more comedy-heavy than I had realized, with Twelfth Night, Measure For Measure, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and other of the maturer ones coming out in these years.

I do not have a sense of what the best order to read Shakespeare would be if one is going to do it across a period of many years and at intervals among many other books. The IWE list does not have all of the plays, either--Pericles and Titus Andronicus at least did not make the cut--but it has most of them, and they will be coming up alphabetically. I think this was a good one to start with, as it is one of the lesser-known plays to the general reader, but it does partake of many of the best-loved qualities of the Shakespearean canon, the wit, the infectiousness and romance aroused by the language, the sense of being present both by the poetry and the setting of the story at the heart of all that defined and ever mattered about European civilization. The recovery, or acquisition, of some of these sensations is the whole raison d'etre for my undertaking this list at my time of life after all.

But I still haven't said anything about the play itself. No thoughts worth recording have come to me about it, nor have I been able to produce any on my own. High literature to someone like me is more a primer for how to try to live a little more nobly, with a little more purpose, with some mitigation of disgrace, than it is a fount for inquiring into serious ideas and human problems.   


Main Square, Rousillon, France

The Challenge

I am going to attempt to revamp the Challenge between now and the next occasion for it, as it has died entirely in its current form. Here are the sorry results for the last exercise of this version of it:

1. The Countess Conspiracy--Courtney Milan.....................191
2. Confessions of Catherine de Medici--C. W. Gortner......127
3. Travels--William Bartram (1739-1823)..............................18
4. Framing the Early Middle Ages--Chris Wickham...............7
5. Romancing Lady Cecily--Ashley March..............................5
6. The Shaping of Southern Culture--Bertram Wyatt Brown...1

There was a movie challenge also:

1. The King's Speech.....................1,465
2. The Merchant of Venice (2004)...186
3. Quai des Orfevres..........................11

The Bartram book apparently is well-regarded. I am thinking in my future version of the game to go to a tournament format in which I choose in one-on-one matchups which book I think likely to appeal to me most through to a final.

I saw The King's Speech a few years back. I thought the subject, and the spirit in which it undertook that subject, to be strange. I wasn't in the mood to revisit it at this time.