"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Review: THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY


Without realizing it I decided to read The Picture of Dorian Gray during October which has been turned into Victober, a month set aside to reading Victorian authors. I wouldn't say that I enjoyed my reading of this late 1800s classic by the Victorian author Oscar Wilde. In fact, at one point I would have said I hated the book, though I didn't end on that note. Why? Well, I didn't like any of the characters. Not one. I detested the lifestyle that was accentuated. The hedonism of not only Dorian Gray but others of his class was deplorable. And lastly, I admit to being bored reading long stretches about that lifestyle. Not a winning combination.

And yet -- and this often happens when I read classics -- there is much to learn from the story. Italo Calvino defined "a classic as a book that never exhausted all it has to say to its readers." So what is it in Dorian Gray that still speaks to us today, over 120 years after it was first published?

The Picture of Dorian Gray is first and foremost a story about striving for eternal youth. Shmoop describes it as the "holy Grail of anti-aging" books. This is certainly a theme that has interested mankind since the beginning of time and clearly is one we are obsessed with today. Why just today I clicked past a show on a TV where a beautiful woman was talking about some process one must use to avoid getting wrinkles. Today's youth, forced to read The Picture of Dorian Gray for a class assignment, would clearly recognize the desire for eternal youth to be a main theme of the book as they see it in their culture everyday.

Secondly, Dorian's story plays on the theme of selling one's soul to the devil in order to gain a desired outcome. One knows intrinsically that Faustian bargain never ends up well. Dorian looks young but his portrait ages. He involves himself in all kinds of hedonistic activities, including murder, yet his soul only seems to change on the picture, not on his face. What a magical portrait, one that must be played with to view the results, no doubt.

What I didn't know until I investigated a bit deeper into the themes of the book was Wilde was playing around with a modern (to him) trend that was in vogue during the time period. The hedonistic lifestyle, called the 'Decadent movement', was a late 19th century artistic movement known for prizing beauty and the aesthetic experience over everything else. The yellow book, given to Dorian by Henry, is likely a thinly veiled reference to a popular book of the decadent movement: Against Nature by Huysmans. The protagonist in that book seeks aesthetic pleasures in an almost robotic way. Dorian Gray as a character is consumed with the pursuit of pleasure to the point that nothing is pleasurable any longer. People living during that time period would have recognized the decadent movement as played out by most of the book's characters.

Apparently this didn't keep people from criticizing his work, however. The cacophony of noise around the bad morals of the book became so loud that Wilde wrote an epigraph for the second edition, which really reads like a preface. In it he accuses his readers with "the unpardonable crime of trying to confuse the artist with his subject matter." He, Wilde, was making art. They, the reader, turned it into something scandalous. 

Reading classic books rarely brings me the pleasure I expect until I do a bit of research afterwards and discover all the themes and symbols I missed along the way. Then I am tremendously glad that I finally got around to reading the dang book. That would the case with The Picture of Dorian Gray. I like it much better now that I've done a bit of research about it. Ha!

An engraving done for the 1910 version, for the scene when the picture of Dorian Gray is unveiled. Designed by Paul Thiriat. Engraved by Eugene Dété.

The version of the book I read was the e-book format of the classic illustrated book. I was terribly disappointed by it since it had only three of four illustrations. I'm like a kid. I want to look at pictures, and not just three or four of them!

To make sure I give credit where credit is due, I gained a lot of the knowledge I shared on this post from this site:

Shmoop Editorial Team. “The Picture of Dorian Gray Introduction.” Shmoop, Shmoop University, 11 Nov. 2008, https://www.shmoop.com/study-guides/literature/picture-dorian-gray.

-Anne

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Sunday Salon --- A Fall Photo Diary


The NW Trek Hoot and Howl event yesterday: A winning combo of wild animals, spooky decorations, fun games, candy, and family. We had so much fun with our grandsons. We are already planning on going back next year.

Weather: Overcast. Mild. Here Bingley is standing on a pile of leaves this morning from our purple mountain ash tree, which has dumped almost all of its leaves this week, as we predicted.

Brotherly love: Jamie was tired and needed a nap but his brother, Ian, kept him interested with his antics. I love fall photos. Don't you?

Oregon Ducks: We were back in Eugene, this time for a Friday night game. Our mascot dressed up like a combo Batman/Duck, calling himself 'Duckman.' We won the game, by the way, but it was a close call.

 
Treasures: My mother has been cleaning out cupboards and cabinets. Above are a few treasures she shared with me: A photo of my mom and her sister as children; a pen and ink drawing I did in college; a 1893 edition book titled, "The American Scholar Self-Reliance Compensation: Three Essays by Ralph Waldo Emerson; another original pen and ink done by someone my dad knew; and a sheet of music written by a friend from high school days and his musical mentor, Chet Earle.

An October walk: Scarecrow tractor; rotten pears underneath tree; Anti-racism and Social Justice Small Library; coleus; 'Live Like the Mountain Is Out' is something we all understand living in the shadow of Mt Rainier; holly berries on a bush in the yard of a historic home, the Ryan House; Japanese windflowers; girl with basket; skeletons hanging out with witch.

Current reads: The Picture of Dorian Gray (80%, e-book); The Moment of Lift (75%, print); On Tyranny-Graphic Edition (5%, print); 84, Charing Cross Road (25%, print); Magpie Murders (52%, audio); The Authenticity Project (35%, audio).


Classic Club Spin # was 12: Which means I will read something by Robert Louis Stevenson. Which book should I select?

We were delighted to find Dug Days on Disney+ this week. Funny. Funny. Funny.

Gardening: We've been busy this week getting the garden ready for winter. I finished deadheading the hydrangeas, even drying three bunches. Don pulled up the tomato plants and did a bit of pruning. I have cut back most of the rose bushes but a few blooms are still hanging on.

Have a good week. Make soup. Put your garden to bed. Snuggle.

-Anne

Friday, October 15, 2021

THIS IS YOUR TIME Ruby Bridges


Our dryer isn't drying anymore. No big deal. We call a repairman who says he'll come and fix it in a few weeks. A few weeks? Well, maybe that is a big deal. In the meantime we have two loads of wet laundry and only liquid sunshine outside. Time to visit a laundromat. Now for some of you this is probably no big deal but for spoiled me it caused a mild panic attack, especially after I read a Yelp review of the closest laundromat: "Nice place as long as you ignore the Meth heads hanging around."  I talked my husband into going with me on the promise that we could walk the dog together as we waited for the clothes to dry. So we went with two laundry baskets full of wet clothes, our pockets full of quarters, and the dog all leashed up ready for a walk. Since the laundromat was in a neighboring town to ours we started off our walk, after stuffing the driers full of clothes and quarters, with an air of expectation. What did this new town have to offer us? We didn't get far before we found our first big surprise. (No it wasn't a Meth head!) It was a house covered with Black Lives Matter signs and messages and a small library on the corner of the lot. Inside was a message about how this library was intended to enhance cultural and racial understanding and equity issues. I was entranced. The note went on to say that any books not on these types of topics would be removed but users of the little library were welcome to donate other books on BLM, equity, social justice, anti-racism, etc. 

I borrowed a small children's book called This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges. Inside the front cover was this sticker (see photo, left.) What a clever, affirming idea. To have a little library which is so cute and inviting, full of literature about social justice.

We all think we know a lot about Ruby Bridges, the brave little girl who helped desegregate schools in Louisiana when she was six, because the famous illustration of her done by Norman Rockwell. The hatred and vitriol that was thrown on this one little girl by grown adults is beyond awful. She had to escorted to school every day by federal marshals and she attended class alone every day, since all the white parents withdrew their children from school. What I didn't know before reading this book was Ruby and her teacher, Mrs. Henry, formed a bond during their year together.

"I felt safe and loved, and that was because of Mrs. Henry, who, by the way, looked exactly like the white women in that screaming mob outside. But she wasn't like them. She showed me her heart, and even at six years old, I knew she was different. Barbara Henry was white, I was black, and we mattered to each other. She became my best friend. I knew if I got past the angry mob outside and into my classroom, I was going to have a good day" (18).

There is a photo in the book of Ruby Bridges and Mrs. Henry when they reunited in 2014, 64 years after the year they spent together at William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.

Ruby Bridges words in This Is Your Time are a call for action today and a look back, accompanied by black and white photographs from back in the 1950s and 1960s, when her saga was first unfolding.

Today we have to go back and visit the laundromat again. The repairman came and was unable to repair our dryer without the required part. He put us off for another few weeks when he should be able to fix the dang thing. It is time for another walk as our clothes dry in the laundromat. This time when we pass the Anti-Racists for Social Justice library I will replace This Is Your Time, perhaps donating my Claudia Rankine book for the cause.

Anne

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Review and quotes: THE PLOT


Title:
The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz

Book Beginnings quote:


Friday56 quote (from page 21, the last chapter of the preview):

 


Summary: Jacob Finch Bonner was once an promising young novelist with his first published work gaining modest praise from reviewers.  After years of attempting to write a second or a third novel he is now teaching at a third-rate MFA program in Vermont and attempting to maintain a modicum of self-respect. During the required BBQ the night before the MFA seminar begins, Bonner runs into the most pompous person he has ever met and sure enough that person is part of his class. When Bonner attempts to help Eric Parker on his writing, Parker says he doesn't need help since he has a plot that won't miss and will surely break all kinds of publishing records. After Parker tells Bonner about his plot, Bonner agrees that it is a winning plot. Years later when Bonner learns that Parker died not long after leaving the MFA program, he decides to make that plot, his plot. The book indeed breaks all kinds of publishing records and the movie script is sold. Everything is going great until one day Bonner gets a message, "You've stolen the plot, and I know who it belongs to." Life takes a decidedly negative turn from there.

Hailed as breathtakingly suspenseful, Jean Hanff Korelitz's The Plot is a propulsive read about a story too good not to steal, and the writer who steals it. (Goodreads)

Review: My husband and I listened to most of The Plot during a recent car trip, getting home with about 20% left to go in the audiobook. Since we both liked the book well enough we decided to set aside some time later in the week to finish listening to it. At that point I honestly was a little underwhelmed, having heard so many great reviews about the book by you, my book blogging friends. The writing was good. The plot had taken a decidedly sinister turn and I was not quite sure which way it would go. But it didn't have the WOW factor I was expecting.

A week later, hubby and I were once again in the car together and decided to listen to a bit more of The Plot. We probably didn't have enough time to finish it but would make progress toward completion. That decision went out the window almost immediately as there was a huge plot twist which grabbed us and wouldn't let go. As we moved from the car to the house to finish listening my husband remarked he felt almost dirty, like he needed to take a shower, to get that twist off him! We finished the book in stunned silence. OMG, neither of us saw that ending coming.

Is The Plot my favorite book of 2021? No. Do I think you would enjoy it and should read it. Yes. But beware, it doesn't end as you think it will and that plot twist will likely catch you unaware, too.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.   
  

-Anne

Monday, October 11, 2021

TTT: Very vivid settings in literature


Top Ten Tuesday: 

Such vivid settings in literature I can really imagine being there. (I am only drawing my examples from books I've read.)


Hogwarts
No matter what you think of Rawlings' politics, the lady created the most vivid setting in all of literature.


Maycomb, Alabama
The fictitious town where Scout, Atticus, and Jem live in To Kill a Mockingbird.


Narnia
Where some animals talk, and fauns live. Even trees can come to the rescue if called by the big lion, Aslan. Once ruled by four children of Adam: Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy.


Arrakis
The desert planet in Dune by Frank Herbert.
 

The Old West
Texas to Montana in the late 1800s as described in Lonesome Dove by McMurtry. 
 

India
Every sight, sound, and smell comes to life in Arunhati Roy's book The Ministry of Utmost Happiness.


Stratford-upon-Avon, England
Shakespeare's home town and family life in the 1500s comes to life in the wonderful book Hamnet by O'Farrell. I am convinced that she got all the details completely correct.


Moloka'i
The island in the Hawaiian chain comes to life in a book by the same name by Brennert and so does the leprosy colony that was a big part of the island's history.


Jane Austen's England
Set in the Regency period, Austen was a master at describing everyday life for the class of people she was a part of.


The marshes of North Carolina
Every shell, blade of grass, seabird, and crab came to life in my imagination in the marsh which was the setting for Where the Crawdads Sing.


Queensland outback in Australia
The fictitious town Willstown on a cattle station in Australia's outback from the classic book, A Town Like Alice by Shute.

What vivid seetings do you remember from books?

-Anne

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Classics Club Spin #28 --- for Victober


I'm combining two challenges: The Classics Club Spin (the 28th such spin) and Victober, which is designed to encourage the reading of books by Victorian authors during the month of October. Victoria was queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1837–1901) so the authors I will consider were publishing during those dates and are from UK, Ireland, or the Commonwealth. 

Instead of titles of books, this time I'm listing Victorian authors. When the spin number is announced on Oct. 17th, I will select a book by the winning author.


1. Dickens
2. Shelley
3. Bronte, Anne
4. Bronte, Emily
5. Bronte Charlotte
6. Eliot
7. Hardy
8. Gaskell
9. Wilde
10. Kipling
11. Collins
12. Stevenson
13. Doyle
14. Stoker
15. Wells
16. Thackeray
17. Gissing
18. Rossetti
19. Montgomery
20. Conrad

 

Join me by creating your own list of classic books you want to read 1-20. On October 17th a number will be spun and that is the book you will read by Dec. 12th. 


Update: The Spin number is 12. So I will be reading something by Robert Louis Stevenson. Can you help me make a choice?



-Anne

Sunday Salon -- October 10th

Our Purple Mountain Ash tree ready for its yearly dump of leaves.
 

Our deck this morning after a rainy, windy night.

A close-up of the leaves. Aren't they pretty together?

Update: The boys dropped by after church for a very autumn-y moment.

Weather:
Rain. Yesterday we guessed that our Purple Mountain Ash would shed all its leaves by next weekend. Today, after last night's rainstorm, I amend that guess to earlier in the week. See photos
above.


Waffletown Blocks:
Jamie has discovered the joy of waffletown blocks.  He and grandpa are having fun building with them and moving them around. (I made the photo into art using Waterlogue.)

Sick: I've been sick this week. I'll spare you the details but suffice it to say I read little and have little to share so the posting will be short this week. I'm on the mend, but staying home from church just in case I'm still contagious. 

Books:

  • I did finish one book this week: The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeycutt by Annie Lyons. I think it will supply good fodder for our book club discussion dealing with the topic of end-of-life/death issues.
  • Still reading:
    • The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World by Melinda Gates. For an upcoming book club. Print, 75% completed.
    • The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Classic. E-Book. 22%.

News I found interesting this week (some of it distressing): 

  • COVID-19 cases linked to new cases of diabetes, and could be more severe effects for those cases (National Geographic, October 8th)
  • The Senate committee report on the ways Trump attempted to weaponize the DOJ so he could stay in power after losing the election. Sounds like a coup attempt to me. (TPM, Oct. 7th)
  • Facebook knows its service is dividing country whistleblower reports. "Facebook makes its money from “engagement-based ranking” -- that is, maximizing clicks from material that generates strong reactions. Sadly, negative emotions such as anger and bias guarantee more engagement. Thus, Facebook’s algorithms prioritize content that in many instances instills anger, fear and anxiety." (WaPo, Oct. 6th)

  • Surfing beyond life's scars in Liberia. I used to live in Liberia and I'm always happy to read good news out of this troubled country. (Reasons to be Cheerful, Oct. 7th
  • Beach front property seized in 1924 from Black owners is being returned to heirs 97 years later. It is now worth 75 million. If this story doesn't make you smile, nothing will. (Reasons to Be Cheerful, Oct. 6th)

Funnies...

This one goes with the Critical Race theory and teaching of uncomfortable topics in schools (above)

 
(This one's for you, Carly!) Ha!

And what are Fred and George up to this week?

Fred is tangled up in charging cords.

Fred again. Just hanging out in the sink.

Is this George? I don't know. It's definitely a cat, not a drumstick.


-Anne

Friday, October 8, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation -- 'The Lottery and Other Stories' to...

Six Degrees of Separation

We begin with



The Lottery and Other Stories
by Shirley Jackson
Jackson, the master of the horrifying short story, is a great author to read in October.
 

The Lottery: A Graphic Adaptation
by Miles Hyman and Shirley Jackson
I've never actually read "The Lottery" short story but I have read this graphic novel, an adaptation of the famous, classic story 



Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen, illustrated by Cliff Richards
Of course I've read Pride and Prejudice but I only read the graphic novel of its spin off, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, not the regular print version.
 
 
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
I'm not one for zombie stories but I did read this book several years ago and actually was thinking about it just yesterday. The zombies were so persistent.

 

Zombies vs. Unicorns
edited by Holly Black
It's a question as old as time. Zombies or unicorns? Lots of YA authors weigh in on their preference. I haven't thought of this book in years.

 

Lips Touch Three Times
by Laini Taylor
Another short story collection about supernatural beings that I haven't thought of for years. This book was a National Book Award finalist the year it was published.
 

The Complete Stories of Flannery O'Connor
Another short story collection by a master of the form. This book won the National Book Award in 1971. 



That brings us back around to The Lottery and Other Stories.
I've been enjoying books in this form this fall. Perhaps it would be a good time to pick and read this collection finally.

 

-Anne