Friday, May 22, 2015

Henry James--The American (1877)

Henry James makes his first appearance on the IWE list, which however only includes three or four of his books, and none of the longer, more difficult later ones. I have read numerous Henry James books--I think eleven--for my other list, including this one and the three notoriously dense and subtle ones that formed the capstone of his career and are now widely considered to be his masterpieces. The American, an early work, probably his first that is considered important, which I have recorded as reading previously in March, 2002, and The Turn of the Screw I remember as being the two I liked best. Of the three later books, The Wings of the Dove and The Ambassadors I cannot say I was ever really able to get into to the extent that the books mean anything to mean. The Golden Bowl, which I read last of these three and a couple of years after the others, I was able to hang in with much better, though I still was not able to come away with a sense of why all of these fine nuances and minutely shades of meaning among this particular set of characters were supposed to matter as much as they presumably did. For the man, especially if he is a man of the quivering lipped, concave chested race of readers, who aspires to be admitted into the ranks of people who know anything about literature and whose mere acts of reading and thinking contribute to its ongoing vitality like those who prune and water do for a garden, understanding what Henry James is about and taking a proper adult joy in it is, if not mandatory, one of the surer ways to access the inner rooms of this intellectual fraternity. Here is my own history with the Master, with a brief observation on each book, by which my progress towards the state of Henry James connoiseurship can be measured:

Turn of the Screw--also read around 2002, liked the story, seemed more vivid, thoughts and impressions of characters more pertinent than in some of the other books.

The Wings of the Dove--August, 1995. I don't think I made heads or tails of it at the time.



The Ambassadors--August, 1996. My understanding did not improve much during that year.

The Bostonians--April, 2002. An earlier (1886) book, more readable, New England setting, I don't remember being blown away by it, but it wasn't bad. Learned about the term "Boston marriage". Also on the IWE list.

The Golden Bowl--May, 2002 (there was a question on the GRE literature exam, the source of my "A" list, for which the five answer choices were all Henry James novels. I got to this question obviously in 2002). See above.

The Portrait of a Lady--September, 1998. The early James masterpiece. Made no impression on me.

What Maisie Knew--June, 2002. I found a note I made on this, dated June 8, 2002:

"James is an extreme (though comparatively lucid) specimen of the cerebral, super-precise author. We can see that truly nothing makes its way onto the page without its *entire* purpose, mode of expression, point of view, etc., diligently thought out and accounted for. The question with me is always, how accurate--how naturalistic, in the end, are these characters, who are rather unlike anyone else in the whole of literature, though the technique and the philosophy behind it are very sound, logical, and even (at times) exquisite."

Nothing much stands out in my memory with regard to Maisie, other than that it was a characteristic Henry James novel of the late middle period, the sort of book (a lesser known but still considered good work by a celebrated author) that I often feel an exaggerated affection for while I am reading it, even if I recall very little of it in after years.



So I guess I have only read eight Henry James books, not the eleven I claimed earlier. And none in the last thirteen years. It really does not seem that long. At this rate I guess I'll be dead before I know it.

I do wonder sometimes with Henry James whether I would be able to tell that he was good if all of the most firmly situated experts did not constantly assure the world that he was. I think I might if I was handed one of his more conventional efforts, but there is some doubt there.

As noted above, I counted The American as one of my two favorite Henry James novels during this earlier period, so I was not unhappy to take it up again. The Marquis de Bellegarde and his mother are two of the my favorite characters in literature, at least as far as being memorably drawn goes. They inform my idea of one extreme that aristocratic hauteur can reach. Valentin is more of a recognizable type, I suppose, but it is a lively depiction. For the others, it is well-established that in Henry James the ruling idea of a book is paramount, and that the role of the characters is to serve the idea. He was happy here in that the idea represented by the two most severe of the Bellegardes was so strongly impressed upon him as a living force that it could be embodied in two characters. Madame de Cintre and Newman are less convincing. Claire is supposed to be the most enchanting and exquisitely refined woman that can be imagined, though other than her conversation's being impenetrably correct and controlled at all times, she does not display a lot of personal agency or give much indication of having anything resembling passion for anything in her life. As to Newman it seems decidedly unlikely that a man who had amassed a colossal fortune in mineral extraction and railroads and other industries by the age of 35 would suddenly develop a Henry James-like interest in getting away from all of that money-making and lounging around Paris for a couple of years trying to ingratiate himself with a cloistered and decayed family clinging to its ancient nobility that at the time in which the book was set has no recognized rank or political authority in the eyes of the French state. But as noted, these kinds of incongruities are sometimes the price of admission to the undoubtedly unique world of Henry James.

I wanted to run a few of my favorite quotations from the book, most concerning my main man the Marquis Urbain de Bellegarde:

"He was 'distinguished' to the tips of his polished nails, and there was not a movement of his fine perpendicular person that was not noble and majestic. Newman had never yet been confronted with such an incarnation of the art of taking oneself seriously..."

There were at least two other occasions in the book where someone--I believe all of the persons thus described were Bellegardes--possessed a quality to the tips of his fingernails.



"His manners seemed to indicate a fine nervous dread that something disagreeable might happen if the atmosphere were not purified by allusions of a thoroughly superior cast."

"If he has never committed murder, he has at least turned his back and looked the other way while someone else was committing it."

"His tranquil unsuspectingness of the relativity of his own place in the social scale was probably irritating to M. de Bellegarde..."

"'We all know what Mozart is,' said the marquis; 'our impressions don't date from this evening. Mozart is youth, freshness, brilliancy, facility--a little too great facility, perhaps. But the execution is here and there deplorably rough.'"

This next one describes the follies of some highly sophisticated and intelligent Parisians who find themselves forced to settle down in a rustic inn in a nondescript Swiss village for a couple of days:

"At last the bishop's nephew came in with a toilet in which an ingenious attempt at harmony with the peculiar situation was visible, and with a gravity tempered by a decent deference to the best breakfast that the Croix Helvetique had ever set forth. Valentin's servant...had been lending a light Parisian hand in the kitchen. The two Frenchmen did their best to prove that if circumstances might overshadow, they could not really obscure the national talent for conversation..."

"Monsieur de Bellegarde appeared to have nothing more to suggest; but he continued to stand there, rigid and elegant, as a man who believed that his mere personal presence had an argumentative value."

Newman's vulgar American friend, Mr Tristram, on Paris:

"You know it's really the only place for a white man to live."

While we are still waiting for our first French book on the IWE list, this is the first one that is at least nominally set in Paris, though the peculiar flavor of Henry James's Paris is a bit of a departure from the way I usually experience that city, both through art and in actual life. Still, as I am undertaking this entire list as something of a farewell tour of all my youthful ideas and aspirations, perhaps ultimately even to life itself as I once imagined it, anytime the list brings us to Paris as the primary setting of a book, it is a momentous occasion.

As I read through these books I am making a collection of all of them, trying to get older hardback copies from the 1930-1970 era if I don't have them already. I am not looking for anything rare or unique. I like the Modern Library and other popular sets, for example, and any copy I generally find attractive will do. For The American however I decided to stick with the circa 2000 Penguin paperback edition I bought when I read it back 2002, as I had felt at the time it was a good reading edition, the notes were aimed at someone who was around my basic level of education and so on. It also contains the original 1877 text of the book; James evidently re-wrote a substantial amount of it thirty years afterwards and some editions of the book have that version of it, though the consensus seems to be that the 1877 version is the better one, and as the 1907 version presumably incorporates more of the opaque later James style, I am sure it is the one I would prefer in any event. This sort of thing, of there being two or more versions of a famous book, occurs more often then I had realized. The edition of Brideshead Revisited that I read a few years back for example I realize now was actually the 'corrected' 1959 version heavily re-written by Waugh, though I think the original 1945 publication is the one that most people are thinking of when they praise. It is something I have learned to be on the lookout for.



Henry James at age 17?

Off-topic, and I don't want to go to much into it at this time because I want to finish this post, but I read something the other day where another novelist-critic, someone who could I suppose be considered a literary insider in some segment of the literary world that still possesses an identifiable enclosure, opined that The Canon was dead, dead, dead, that it would be impossible to define one from the mass of words that is being published nowadays and so on in that vein. I never use the term 'Canon' myself as this was never used at my school--they believed in Great Books, but the number of unassailable Great Books was really very small, limited to around ten or fifteen maximum even from the greatest centuries, only a minority of which were works of imaginative literature, of which a minority of these were prose fiction. I suppose it is possible that the Great Books in this sense are dead, though I have the confidence at least that if a genuine one does turn up, and passes one full time through the generational cycle--usually around eighty years--we should be able to recognize it at such. The Canon as I understand it is has a little bit broader membership and sort of includes everyone who has a claim to importance over some stretch of literary history. Similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame, it has an inner ring of the Real Greats (Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Dante, Tolstoy, etc) whose membership is not merely a given, but without whom the entire enterprise would be pointless, but there are also contentious arguments at the fringes about whether certain people really belong in or not (Highpockets Kelly, Dave Bancroft, Alice Walker, Norman Mailer). Henry James is solidly in the Canon, though (unlike his brother) seemingly not an inner ring Great Book, in baseball terms about the Three Finger Brown or Eddie Matthews level, a clearly superior and even unique player who amassed impressive statistics over a period of years in a highly relevant environment. Anyway, while there is a class of the most advanced writers and readers who pooh-pooh the idea of the Canon, and has been far as I can tell for most of literary history (I am reminded of Susan Sontag's constant referencing of writers that even the assiduous middle class reader of literary reviews would never have heard of as obviously the best and most important in the world), the lower tiers of the scholarly and reading public will for the foreseeable future I am pretty sure require something of the kind to take form, and thus certain books or writings from our era will by some consensus attain to canon-like status.    

The Challenge

I am disappointed that Henry James gave us such an incredibly weak challenge. Ten movies made the field. The movies are supposed to be like the teams from lower level leagues that are mainly in the tournament to allow the books to advance. In the pre-tournament era we were only getting two or three movies per Challenge, now the last two have been movie heavy. I am leaving them in for now because the score required to qualify for this tournament is 34, and books with fewer than 34 reviews are generally not readily available or well-known anyway, and of the books which turned up for this challenge, the only one that piqued my interest at all was a food memoir that had only three reviews and was not available at a single library in my entire state. So I had to accept a complete dud of a tournament.

1. Dan Brown--The Da Vinci Code..........................5,486
2. Godzilla (2014 movie)..........................................3,764
3. Melancholia (movie)................................................867
4. Robin Hood (2010 movie)........................................865
5. Out of the Furnace (movie)......................................672
6. Diana Gabaldon--Lord John & the Private Matter...385
7. Rebel Without a Cause (movie)................................357
8. Sklya Madi--Too Consumed (Book 2)......................206
9. A Late Quartet (movie).............................................195
10. Summer Stock (movie)............................................153
11. Scent of Green Papaya (movie)..............................140
12. Patricia D'Eddy--A Shift in the Water.....................116
13. Skyla Madi--Forever Consumed (Book 3)..............112
14. Game of Death (recent movie)..................................38
15. Suzanne Wright--Consumed: Deep in Your Veins....36
16. Liz & Dick (movie)....................................................34

1st Round

#16 Liz & Dick over #1 Dan Brown

The Da Vinci Code had finished first in one of the pre-tournament challenges, and I read a little bit of it, thinking that as it was so popular there must be something to it. In truth though it is really, like so many of these genre books that sell zillions of copies, stupefyingly boring. The characters are all ridiculously wealthy people at the top of their fields who have degrees from the best universities, clothes from the most elite tailors, world class private art collections, and yet they are incapable of expressing a thought or response to life that possesses any interest or spark of ingenuity.

I have decided not to make any rules around banning past winners from being eligible for future challenges. The only books that are ineligible for the challenge are those on the IWE list. 

#15 Suzanne Wright over #2 Godzilla

Book over movie.

#3 Melancholia over #14 Game of Death

The pseudo-art movie over the high explosive modern action film

#13 Skyla Madi over #4 Robin Hood

#12 Patricia Eddy over #5 Out of the Furnace

#6 Diana Gabaldon over #11 Scent of Green Papaya

I am giving the books a wide path here.

#10 Summer Stock over #7 Rebel Without a Cause

Summer Stock is a few years older, and I have never seen it.

#8 Skyla Madi over #9 A Late Quartet

Elite 8

#3 Melancholia over #16 Liz & Dick

The pseudo-art movie over a TV biopic I have no desire to see.

#6 Gabaldon over #15 Wright

Gabaldon basically wins because her book exists in public libraries, and Wright's does not.

#8 Madi over #13 Madi

In the battle of two books from the same series I give the precedent to the one first in order (as well as the higher seed).

#12 Eddy over #10 Summer Stock

Final Four

#12 Eddy over #3 Melancholia

#6 Gabaldon over #8 Madi

Gabaldon is the only book left in the field that exists in libraries near me.

Championship

#6 Gabaldon over #12 Eddy

An embarrassingly easy championship for Gabaldon.



I have adhered to protocol and at least taken Lord John and the Private Matter out of the library. Set in 1757 London, the action opens with Lord John, hidden from view, observing a syphilis sore on the penis of the man to whom his cousin is betrothed. It soon becomes apparent that Lord John is highly familiar with eighteenth-century London's pulsating gay scene. Also his mother throws a dinner party at which Samuel Johnson is a guest and Lord John and his gay friends sneer at the Doctor as a tiresome, blustering buffoon. Hopefully we will get a better winner next time.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

May Reading Update

Time to check in with the readership, loyal or otherwise.

A List: Dostoevsky, Brothers Karamazov, 326/940.
B List: Henry James, The American, 344/449.
C List: David O. Stewart, American Emperor: Aaron Burr's Challenge to Jefferson's America, 182/317.

The A-list is the one I read at work. I was on vacation for a week at the end of April, which accounts for the slow progress on Dostoevsky.

The Burr book is not completely devoid of value insofar as I was not familiar with most of the information in it. However as a narrative work it is not very dynamic or interesting, and such information in it as would have sufficed to give any general reader a decent idea of what happened could have been condensed into a fifteen or twenty page article to this point. To cite one example of what I mean here, at the beginning of the book there are around seven pages listing the names and brief descriptions of the major persons who figure as characters in the narrative. The note on Burr's daughter, Theodosia Burr Alston, includes the assertion that "Burr exactingly supervised Theodosia's education, even after her marriage, and she has been called the best-educated American woman of her generation." It would have been interesting if the author had gone into this more deeply, as besides being worthwhile to know what being the best-educated woman of one's generation consists of, it would doubtless be edifying and instructive to observe how this education manifested itself in the day to day life and social interaction of its possessor. It would have helped as well to flesh out and bring the reader into some intimacy with the character of Burr himself, which remains rather remote as the book moves along. Perhaps something of this is still to come, though so far we have had only had a couple of very short paragraphs during the introductory sketching of Burr's character and position in the first chapter of the book, which noted that Burr believed women were the equal of men in intellectual talent and that Theodosia, according to the memoir of a traveling young Englishman "...speaks French and Italian with facility, is perfectly conversant with the writers of the Augustan age, and not unacquainted with the language of the Father of Poetry [i.e., Greek]". But there has been no further elaboration or incorporation of any of these elements into the book.

Picture Gallery 



Edward G Robinson as Smerdyakov, 1927


 


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