Sunday, 1 July 2018

2018 Update ... and July

Wild Rose
Hello faithful readers!  No, I have not dropped off the face of the earth and all is not lost, especially this blog.  But I've been having some rather challenging times lately, which has translated into very little time to pursue reading or my blog.  I'm hoping things will change for the better in the last half of the year but that is still yet to see.  Now for a tiny update on my crazy life.

I believe my last monthly post was February and sadly, I never got to March.  On the first of that month, my daughter was in a serious car accident which fortunately all involved escaped with minor injuries.  We were all thankful but nevertheless such an unexpected and grave incident makes you re-evaluate many things.  I've truly been trying to focus my time on what is worthwhile and to spend less with busy-making pursuits.  My new focus hasn't translated yet into my reading, but I've been developing family ties and friendships in a way that is truly meaningful and very satisfying.

Gelato made from the freshest ingredients
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
In another unique and unexpected personal challenge, I altered my usual bookkeeping career into a construction one.  What was supposed to be only help with cleaning up, has turned into an education and foray into framing, woodwork, concrete (jackhammering), insulation, electrical, drywall, painting, and just lately, assisting in the install of a tongue-and-groove fir vaulted ceiling.  It's been quite a stretch for me waaaaayy out of my comfort zone, but I've loved almost every minute of it.  I'll be very sad when it's over which should be in the next month or so.  But all good things must end and I have many great memories and many new skills.  I'll always be grateful for the opportunity and for many of the wonderfully skilled workers that have taken the time to tutor me.

The Canada Cup International Softball tournament will once again take up more time in mid-July and I am once again head scorekeeper.  My job has kept me from devoting as much attention to it as I would have liked but I have an assistant this year who has relieved me of some of the duties.

A creative Easter table by my sister-in-law
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
As for reading, I've been dismally slow, but I do have some books on-the-go and a few that I plan to start in summer, so I'll list them here:

  1. The Elements of Style – Strunk and White
  2. Beginning to Pray – Anthony Bloom
  3. 12 Rules for Life – Jordan B. Peterson
  4. City of God – Augustine
  5. Testament of Youth – Vera Brittain
  6. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  7. Moby Dick – Herman Melville

I make no promises except to keep plodding along.  I'm almost finished book #1 and have started a review so I do plan to have at least one more post for July.

In any case, I do hope I have some readers left and those who are, thanks for your patience as I navigate the turbulent and lately reading-less waters of life!

Pansies for a very cool start to summer!
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Monday, 5 March 2018

Top Ten Tuesday ~ Top Ten Books That I Could Read Forever

Yes, I'm aware that it's not Tuesday.  But since I've been sooo lacking in reading time lately AND so busy with working and such, I thought when I had a moment I'd participate in the last Top Ten Tuesday and that moment came TODAY!  This theme is so interesting and I'm excited to pick my top ten ...

What would happen if I was being sent to a deserted tropical island by myself and I could only chose ten books to take with me?  Which ones would I choose?  Right now, I'm not entirely certain, so let's find out!

1.  The Bible

2.  The Iliad

3.  The Divine Comedy

4.  Jane Eyre

5.  The Brothers Karamazov

6.  Paradise Lost

7.  Hamlet

8.  War and Peace

9.  Metamorphoses

10.  Montaigne's Essays

The last choice I'm not entirely sure about.  While I love reading Montaigne and his thought process, I don't always necessarily appreciate his viewpoints.  And C.S. Lewis would have to be in there somewhere too.  Sigh!  So hard to choose just ten!

Upon review, most of my choices seem rather angsty, with death and war and heavy philosophy (don't we love Dostoyevsky?).  I think I need to do another list with lighter reads to take to my tropical island.   So this post will be continued .......

Monday, 12 February 2018

February ~ Where Has The Time Gone?

Is it February already?  Yikes, I would have sworn it was just Christmas last week. January has rushed by at a startling pace and I'm not quite sure where I spent my time, but let's see if I can gather my thoughts and give a clear picture .....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
A chilly but refreshing walk

Well first, let's start with something boring.  After keeping off most of my weight lost from being on Weight Watchers for over a year, I gained back 10 pounds.  I'm not quite sure how I did it because I wouldn't say I indulged over Christmas, but I did do a smoothie challenge for my food blog in January and I think that's the culprit.  Yes, smoothies are supposed to be healthy, but they are high in natural sugar and therefore calories.  So back to WeightWatchers we go.  Actually I've already lost 3 pounds, so I'm not worried but it was kind of shocking after such good maintaining.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
Dare to be Different!

I've started downhill skiing lessons and had my first one a week and a half ago.  I wasn't thrilled with it because the instructor had us walk up a hill and snowplow down for an hour.  Yes, an hour.  Boring!  I wanted to go!  So at the end of the lesson I grabbed another lady and we headed up to a run.  Happily we both made it down easily but it did make me realized that I need to get into better shape.

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

As for reading ........... and I will sound like a broken record here ........... I'm still trying to get through City of God, Crime and Punishment, Dead Souls, The Republic and Murder in the Catherdal (which, thankfully, is so short that it should take no time at all). Honestly, I read so little in January that it's shameful.  So putting January behind ....

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel
One of my favourite photos .... so far ....

In February, I need to keep plugging along with the above.  I was thinking of adding Henry James' The Ambassadors, as one of my Goodreads groups is reading it, but I started it and am not that enamoured with James' writing.  I didn't think I'd be, but I question with my reduced time, if I really want to put it into a book that I won't enjoy.  I'm longing to read either Middlemarch or Jane Eyre but I know that's a dream at this point.

And so I will sign off, with my usual wish to read more and be less busy.  If only one day it will come true!

Monday, 8 January 2018

Excellent People by Anton Chekhov

"Once upon a time there lived in Moscow a man called Vladimir Semyonitch Liadovsky."

Wow, Chekhov was in fine form with this short story!  A narrator relates a story of a literary man trained at law, Vladimir Semyonitch Liadovsky, and his sister, Vera Semyonovna, a listless woman who has been disappointed in life.  At the start of the story, Vladimir has compassion and love for his sister, who had her new husband die, survived a suicide attempt, and now is living with him, quietly revering his talents.

And although there is a peaceful harmony at the beginning of the story, we sense a restlessness within Vera, and a somewhat egotistical, intolerant manner within Vladimir who displays a rather self-satisfied demeanour with regard to his talents and an intellectual judgement over his those who cannot share is views.  

However, one day their quiet and predictable life is shaken when Vera poses an unsettling and unexpected question, "What is the meaning of non-resistance to evil?" Suddenly a new idea is brought upon Vladimir by someone close to him, someone whom he is used to seeing as a subordinate and one who praises him, no matter what the situation.  It is a liberal question that presses against his conservatism, a progressive question that goes against tradition, an elephant in the room, so to speak.  At first he cannot quite comprehend but Vera persists, "Where would we all be if human life were ordered on the basis on non-resistance to evil?"  Vladimir attempts to slough off the idea, by approaching it lightly in his next article but his sister is not satisfied, "Why would a gardener sow for the benefit of thieves and beggars, as one did in the story she just read?  Did he behave sensibly?" Vladimir is further distressed as he senses for the first time, the admiration he is used to receiving from her is uncomfortably absent.  He expounds that to write in such a way is to allow the thought that thieves deserve to exist. What garbage!

Moscow in Winter (1872)
Ivan Aivazovsky
source Wikiart

Their interactions increasingly degrade, as the question and Vera's change in manner begin to tear apart the equanimity and peace of their previous existence.  Vera wants to explore ideas, to search for answers; Vladimir simply wants to remain grasping his ideas, the ideas he has survived on during his life.  They talk and they discuss.  They do not understand each other.  

The ending I will leave uncommented on if others want to read this tale, but needless to say, it is not happy. Again, I'm so impressed with this story.  Chekhov explores tradition versus progress through this interaction of genders and siblings.  Who should better understand each other than people of the same blood, people who have lived together in close community and have a certain respect and love for one another?  However, they not only cannot agree, they cannot even understand one another.  But yet, one has to ask themselves what their relationship was built on, as it was only in harmony when the sister admired the brother and only gave compliments?  Was it their lack of a truthful and deep relationship that undermined their ability to comprehend one another, or was it really a clear picture of the struggles of Russian society between the old tradition and the new ideas of the time.  And we must not forget the title, Excellent People.  Both the brother and sister are good people but each have different ideas.  If we focus on "ideas" or "philosophies" and forget that we are dealing with people do we become less human and less able to understand each other?  And while life would have been more harmonious if the sister remained in her apathetic devotion to her brother, and the brother remained happy in his narrow-minded pursuits, would it have been better?  Their lives would have been more comfortable and untroubled, yet not as real.  Ask yourself, is it better to remain peaceful and happy in a life of past tradition and apathy, or is it more "human" to strive for goals and struggle for something better for self and society, but remain miserable within this quest?  And a question from Mudpuddle's comment below:  I wish I knew if Chekhov meant the title to be serious, in that we can all have good intentions and different points of view and yet still experience unsatisfying and disharmonious outcomes, or sarcastic in that both the brother and sister where not able to communicate their views and come to a resolution, their inner lives became more turbulent from examining them, and nothing really changed, so then they were really "excellent" only in the way they viewed themselves?  Great questions with no easy answers!

I definitely have to read this again at a later date after it settles and percolates a little.  I encourage anyone who has a spare ten minutes to read it and if you decide to come back and leave your thoughts, I'd love it.  While it's only a 7-8 page short story, it would have made a great read-along.  Who would have thought!

Deal Me In Challenge 2018 #1 ~ Two of Clubs

Thursday, 4 January 2018

January 2018 and My Reading Challenges

Christmas at the Town Hall
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

I've decided to include my reading challenges in this post because I've been doing so little reading lately that I'd have little to say otherwise.  Isn't that pathetic?  Oh well, a new year is here and with it new resolutions, so here goes ........

December went by so quickly.  My grandmother ended up passing away 4 days before Christmas.  It wasn't unexpected but still it was sad to see her go.  We'll certainly miss her but it was fun to remember her stories and the spunk she showed until the end. She had a long life, well lived.

Otherwise, I spent lots of time on the food blog and was so pleased with our 4 months of success.  You can read our 2017 Year in Review, if you want some stats, highlights, bloopers, funny tasting stories and if you want to see what I've been up to.  It was actually alot of fun to write.  I also was able to make it cross-country skiing once.  It was lots of fun, although I can tell I need some practice and my healing-once-broken-thumb does not have the power it used to yet, so I was feeling somewhat lopsided.  In any case, I plan to do much more skiing as the year progresses.  I also went bowling between Christmas and New Years and really enjoyed it so I think I might try to do it more regularly as well.  Too exciting, I know ...... , lol!

A View from Nordic Skiing
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

As for reading, I did finish off The Pickwick Papers from O's long read-along and almost in time too!!  I also managed to read The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm and I was SOOOO impressed by it. Fromm examines the very rare art of loving and explains that our society does NOT practice any disciplines that will help us love better.  He also gives examples of various views we hold about love that impede our ability to love.  While reading these views, I kept recognizing people I knew ..... it was rather unsettling but very insightful.  I highly recommend Fromm's book!

An Unexpected Local Ice Storm
very beautiful but the poor trees!
© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

January is usually the time to start our yearly challenges and while I originally was so disappointed with my 2017 reading that I was going to do NO challenges this year, O managed to change my mind (although perhaps she doesn't know this! ;-) )  So I am joining the following challenges with little hope of completing them but knowing they will at least focus me and I will read SOMETHING by having them.  Okay, here goes:

Back to the Classics Challenge:

Karen at Books and Chocolate hosts this great challenge again and here are my choices:

A 19th century classicMoby Dick by Herman Melville
A 20th century classic: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
A classic by a woman author: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
A classic in translation: Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son by Sholem Aleichem
A children's classic: Teddy’s Button by Amy Lefeuvre
A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne, or Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
A classic with a single-word title: Meditations by Marcus Aurelius or, Shirley by Charlotte Brontë or, We by Yevgeny Zamyatin or, Pensées by Blaise Pascal
A classic with a colour in the title: The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
A classic by an author that's new to you: A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and a Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell or, Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
A classic that scares you: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe or, The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Re-read a favourite classic: The Iliad by Homer

TBR Pile Challenge:

Adam at Roof Beam Reader is hosting this challenge to get those books on our shelves read!  My list is here:

  1. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
  2. The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
  3. A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and a Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides by Samuel Johnson and James Boswell
  4. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
  5. Tevye the Dairyman and Motl the Cantor’s Son by Sholem Aleichem
  6. Lives by Plutarch
  7. City of God by Saint Augustine
  8. Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake
  9. The Waves by Virginia Woolf
  10. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  11. Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol
  12. Le Rêve by Émile Zola

Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes by Robert Louis Stevenson
Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Victorian Challenge:

This is my first year doing this challenge.  Becky at Becky's Books and Reviews has a number of options.  I have no idea which I'm going to choose at the moment.  I'd love to do the A-Z challenge but I would be delusional to take on that one.  So I will probably just read and fill in some categories.  You can click on the link to look at the categories.

Deal Me In Challenge:

Jay at Bibliophilopolis hosts this challenge and has been very patient with my stumbling attempts to get through it.  I have no illusions that I'll finish it this year but what I love about this challenge is that it gets me reading wonderful stories, poems and essays which I would normally never pick up.  So I can be happy with my incompletedness each year ..... kind of .....

I took what I didn't finish from last year and simply chose new books to fill in the spots where I did read the stories/poem/essay.  Rather boring, but easy.  I need easy this year.

Clubs – Short Stories
A –  Cabbages and Kings - O’Henry
2 –  Excellent People - Anton Chekhov
3 –  The Queen of Spades – Alexander Pushkin
4 –  The Story of A Farm Girl - Guy Maupassant
5 –  The Hammer of God (Father Brown) - G.K. Chesterton
6 –  Doubtful Happiness - Guy Maupassant
7 –  The Honest Thief – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
8 –  The Unpresentable Appearance of Colonel Crane - G.K. Chesterton
9 –  The Diary of a Madman - Guy Maupassant
10 – The Birds - Anton Chekhov
J –  The Yellow Wallpaper - Charlotte Gilman
Q -  Love - Leo Tolstoy 
K -  Signs and Symbols - Vladimir Nabakov

Spades – Essays
A – Milton - Charles Williams
2 – England, Your England - George Orwell
3 – A Midsummer Night’s Dream - G.K. Chesterton
4 – On A Faithful Friend – Virginia Woolf
5 – A Note on Jane Austen - C.S. Lewis
6 –  In Defence of Literacy - Wendell Berry
7 –  The Tyranny of Bad Journalism - G.K. Chesterton
8 –  The Hotel of the Total Stranger - E.B. White
9 –  An Apology for Idlers - Robert Louis Stevenson
10 – Sense - C.S. Lewis
J – Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community - Wendell Berry
Q – What I Demand of Life - Frank Swinnerton
K – Death of a Pig - E.B. White

Diamonds – Poetry
A – A Sea Dirge - Lewis Carroll
2 –  Gesang Der Geister Über Den Wassern - Johann Wolfgang
               von Goethe
3 – Nothing But Death - Pablo Neruda (from Poetry Soup)
4 – Sonnett XXIII - Garcilaso de la Vega
5 – Love Sonnet XIII - Pablo Neruda
6 – Resolution and Independence – William Wordsworth
7 – Ode III – Fray Luis de León
8 – Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night - Dylan Thomas
9 – To A Mouse – Robert Burns
10 – From Milton [Jerusalem] - William Blake
J –  Easter Wings – George Hebert
Q – On His Blindness - John Milton
K – Phoenix and the Turtle - William Shakespeare

Hearts – Children’s Classic
A – A Triumph for Flavius – Caroline Dale Snedeker
2 – Three Greek Children - Alfred Church
3 –  The Story of the Treasure Seekers – E. Nesbit
4 – Detectives in Togas – Henry Winterfeld
5 – The Spartan - Caroline Dale Snedeker
6 – Shadow Hawk  Andre Norton
7 – City of the Golden House - Madeleine Polland
8 – Red Sails to Capri – Ann Weil
9 – Sprig of Broom - Barbara Willard
10 – Teddy’s Button - Amy LeFeuvre
J –  Call It Courage – Armstrong Sperry
Q – Just David - Eleanor H. Porter
K – Beyond the Desert Gate – Mary Ray 

What is that saying about a wing and a prayer, lol?!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

As for other less bookish things planned for January, I am going to, of course, keep working on and building our food blog, Journey to the Garden.  It's something I enjoy (although not quite as much as book blogging) and if I could make some income from it I would be very pleased.  Skiing, of course, is planned and I'm starting a few lessons that I was able to join inexpensively with some homeschoolers, so that will be fun.  I also REALLY need to get back into some sort of exercise regime.  I've been doing some brief aerobics regularly, but I want to incorporate walking, and of course, I'd love to get back into yoga.  On the distasteful side, tax prep should be started now, so I'm not scrambling last minute to do it, and with the added blog for (hopefully someday) profit, I have many more expenses to track.  I wish it could be magically done, but I'm the only magician around here so it's up to me.  Sad but true.  But honestly, my main wish for January is to get back to being organized.  Prayers and wishes for this miracle are gratefully accepted, lol!

In any case, hoping for a wonderful start to the year for everyone!

© Cleo @ Classical Carousel

Friday, 29 December 2017

2017 In Review

Fresh Air (1878)
Winslow Homer
source Wikiart

2017 Reading Stats:

Number Of Books You Read: 23 (wailing and tearing my hair ~ well, no, not really)

Number of Re-Reads: 5 

Genre You Read The Most From: Classics

Best in Books

Best book you read in 2017: The Histories by Herodotus.  Yes, honestly.  It was a meagre year for reading.  No offense to Herodotus though .... it WAS good.

Book you were excited about & thought you were going to love more but didn'tThe Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope.  Perhaps it wasn't much of a surprise. However, while I'm used to this series being light, Trollope also manages to weaves some depth into these books.  With this one, it was all about love affairs and a very silly woman.  It was somewhat annoying.

Most surprising (in a good or bad way) book you read in 2017: In a good way, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm.  It was recommended to me.  Fromm is very counter-cultural, but his assessment of people's ability to love, or more the lack of it, made so much sense!  Our society does NOT practice any disciplines that will help us love better, and in fact, practices disciplines that hurt our ability to love.  We need to be aware this in order to be present in our relationships with not only those closest to use but humanity in general.  This is definitely a book that everyone should read!

Book you "pushed" the most people to read (and they did) in 2017:   I haven't even finished it myself yet, but it was Plato's Republic.  I really think this is a beneficial book to read and we should push ourselves, not only to get through it, but open our minds to it!  It can also be taken too seriously, but experienced in balance, I believe it may change us in ways that we can't even imagine.

Best series you started in 2017? Best Sequel? Best Series Ender:  Hmmm ...... I didn't intend to read the WHOLE series, but I, of course, thoroughly enjoyed my re-read of Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson  It's probably one of my favourite books of all time!

Favorite new author you discovered in 2017:   M.M. Kaye is technically not new, but it's been sooo long since I read anything by her, I'm going to call her new (and for lack of anyone else to choose from).  I love her writing, and how she is able to craft a story that draws you right in!

Best book from a genre you don't typically read/ out of your comfort zone:  High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby.  It was on my Guardian's 1000 books list and in the library so I thought, why not.  Meh!  It was another one of those irresponsible coming-of-age books that are so annoying, where the writer can't understand why his life is so unfulfilling even though, by his behaviour, it should be patently obvious.  

Most action-packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year:  I really don't have a candidate for this category, so I'll say The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides.  But it perhaps wasn't action-packed and unputdownable in the conventional way, lol!

Book you read in 2017 that you are most likley to reread next year: None, but if I had to pick one, probably The Man Who Knew Too Much by G.K. Chesterton, only because I listened to it as an audiobook and I'd like to eventually read it.

Favorite cover of a book you read in 2017: The Moomins and the Great Flood had kind of a fun cover.

Most memorable characters of 2017:  Mr. Pickwick (The Pickwick Papers) and Horne Fisher (The Man Who Knew Too Much)

Most beautifully written book read in 2017:  Hmmm ...... well, probably  Shadow of the Moon by M.M. Kaye fits this category best.  Again, her writing craft draws you right into the story!

Most-thought provoking/ life-changing book of 2017: The Art of Loving.  According to Erich Fromm, there are few people who know how to love well.  But in order to love well, like anything else worthwhile, it takes dedication and consistent hard work.  Again, definitely a must-read!

Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2017 to finally read: The Histories

Favorite passage/quote from a book you read in 2017: There were so many good quotes in  The Art of Loving but I'm going to go with this one:  ".... Love is not primarily a relationship to a specific person; it is an attitude, an orientation of character which determines the relatedness of a person to the world as a whole, not towards one "object" of love.  If a person loves only one other person and is indifferent to the rest of his fellow men, his love is not love but a symbolic attachment, or an enlarged egotism.  Yet, most people believe that love is constituted by the object, not by the faculty."  ~~ Erich Fromm

Shortest/longest book you read in 2017: The Moomins and the Great Flood by Tove Jansson (52 pgs.) & The Histories by Herodotus (953 pgs.) 

Book that shocked you the most: High Fidelity probably because it's puzzling how someone can be so self-destructive and so blind to one's own behaviour at the same time.  Also rather depressing because I think we can all be blind in this way.  Some to a larger extent than others.

OTP of the year: Alex and Winter from Shadow of the Moon!  I thought, however, that their relationship would be rather rocky.

Favorite non-romantic relationship: Pickwick and Sam Weller from The Pickwick Papers.

Favorite book you read in 2017 from an author you've read previously:  The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton.  And I finally did enough research to "get" what Chesterton was trying to communicate.  Yippeee!

Best book you read in 2017 that you read based solely on a recommendation from someone else: The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm, recommended by my aunt.

Best world-building/most vivid setting you read this year:  Shadow of the Moon.  But Herodotus did a good job with his narrative and Dickens is always a good romp!

Book that put a smile on your face/was the most fun to read: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome.  His writing is fabulous and I laughed so hard much of the book!

Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2017: None this year.

Hidden gem of the year:  The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm.    

Most unique book you read in 2017: The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton.  Chesterton has the most unique style of writing that I've experienced.  His books take work, but boy, they're worth it!

Book that made you the most mad: High Fidelity by Nick Hornsby.  Again, don't act stupidly, with little regard for others and expect your life to turn out well.  Don't be surprised when you're alone and isolated.  Don't be delusional ......  

Your Blogging/Bookish Life

New favorite book blog you discovered in 2017:  The award goes to Mudpuddle's Mudpuddle Soup blog.  For a long time he's been populating our blogs with insightful and amusing comments.  Now he's launched his own blog.  Check it out.

Favorite review that you wrote in 2017: The Great Ideas ~ Opinion and Majority Rule by Mortimer J. Adler, only because it spurred some excellent conversation.

Best discussion/non-review post you had on your blog: see above.

Best event that you participated in:  The Shadow of the Moon Read-Along hosted by Cirtnecce at Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices ...... and the finish of the very long read-along of The Pickwick Papers hosted by O at On Bookes.  I really would love to be part of more read-alongs.

Best moment of bookish/blogging life in 2017:  I must say, I was very pleased that I posted by book/chapter of both The Histories and The History of the Peloponnesian War.  It was an arduous job but very satisfying.  It's made me more consoled at my terrible book total for the year.

Most popular post this year on your blog: My Hamlet, the Prince or the Poem? an essay by C.S. Lewis was again a leader this year, followed by The World of Tomorrow by E.B. White

Post you wished got a little more love:  None.

Best bookish discovery:  I will sound like a broken record but, The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm

Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year: I can hardly talk about this.  I didn't complete the Back to the Classics, or my Deal Me in, nor have I progress well through either my Well-Educated Mind Project or My Great Ideas Project, although the last I was most happy with.  

Looking Ahead

One book you didn't get to in 2017 but will be your number 1 priority in 2018: The Republic by Plato.  I need to finish this.  I also want to get to The Last Chronicle of Barset to finish The Barsetshire Chronicles.

Book you are most anticipating for 2018 (non-debut): A hard one because I don't want to commit to anything but possibly The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake.

Series ending/a sequel you are most anticipating in 2018: The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope.  This answer is the same as last year.  How depressing .... ;-)

One thing you hope to accomplish or do in your reading/blogging life in 2018:  I've started a food blog called Journey to the Garden, which is taking up much of my time.  The start-up and promotion takes a big chunk, so I envision, as we get more well-known, that I will have more time to get back to reading.  When this will happen is not known but hopefully sometime in 2018.  And if I'm honest, with better time-management, I should have more time for reading.  Wish me luck.

A long and prosperous reading year for everyone in 2018!!

The Magdalene Reading (1445)
Rogier van der Weyden
source Wikiart

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Tuesday, 12 December 2017

The Pickwick Papers or The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club by Charles Dickens

"The first ray of light which illumines the gloom, and converts into a dazzling brillancy that obscurity in which the earlier history of the public career of the immortal Pickwick would appear to be involved, is derived from the perusal of the following entry in the Transactions of the Pickwick Club, which the editor of these papers feels the highest pleasure in laying before his readers, as a proof of the careful attention, indefatigable assiduity, and nice discrimination, with which his search among the multifarious documents confided to him has been conducted."

It's hardly believable but O's 2 year read-along of the Pickwick Papers has finally come to a close and I have her to thank for finally being able to finish this 800-page marvel.  We read it in installments mirroring its original release which was an enlightening experience in itself. Looking back, I enjoyed reading only 2 to 3 chapters at a time, but the space between them, for me, was too long.  It's not that I necessarily forgot what had happened, but I found that when I picked it up again, I was somewhat disengaged with the characters.  It was almost like starting a book over and over again and never really getting traction.  If I was to do it over, I'd read a chapter per week instead of three at once and that way hopefully remain more present in the story.

Mr. Pickwick slides on the ice
source Wikimedia Commons
And the book itself ..... ?  I quite enjoyed Mr. Pickwick and his marvellous, and at times unbelievable, adventures.  At the beginning of the book, Mr. Pickwick, founder and president of the Pickwick Club, decides that he and fellow members, Nathaniel Winkle, Augustus Snodgrass, and Tracy Tupman, will leave London and travel the countryside to discover the wonderful qualities of life, each reporting to the others what they find. Their adventures lead them to saving ladies in distress, getting embroiled in circumstances they only want to avoid, courting offers of marriage, unwanted offers of marriage, interaction with criminals, jail and even love itself. Dickens imbues this novel with his own brand of humour by having an old confirmed bachelor find himself in all sorts of uncomfortable circumstances.  From finding himself unexpectedly sleeping in a lady's bed, to being sued for breach of promise of marriage, poor Pickwick finds his dignified sensibilities tried by unexpected challenges yet he always manages to respond in a measured and honourable manner that increased our respect for this lovable character.

Mr. Pickwick's first interview
with Sergeant Snubbin
source Wikimedia Commons

In Chapter XVI, Pickwick attempts to catch a swindler, Jingle, who is slipperier than an eel.  Jingle plans to run away with an heires and by hiding in the bushes outside the girls' boarding school, Pickwick attempts to subvert the scheme and expose the criminal.  But through various misadventures and bumbles, he manages to find himself locked in a cupboard by the headmistress and the ladies of the establishment. Rescued by Sam Weller, his valet, and his friend, Mr. Wardle, Pickwick rains imprecations upon the head of the absent Jingle.

Even more amusing, was the incident of the mistaken beds.  Late at night at an inn, Pickwick returns downstairs to retrieve his watch and upon returning, enters the wrong room!  He is just settled into bed when a lady enters and begins her own toilette. Horrified, Pickwick reveals his presence and attempts to assure her of his mistake and innocence, but the woman is frightened senseless, and Pickwick makes a quick exit. Not wanting another repeat of the disturbing and undignified experience, Pickwick plans to sleep in the hall, but is once again rescued by Sam.  The novel has so many amusing anecdotes, that is has to be read to enjoy them all.  And I finally managed it!

Mr. Pickwick, picnics
source Wikimedia Commons
At the time of the writing of this first novel, Dickens was working as a roving journalist and a reporter of Parlimentary news.  After his successful Sketches by Boz, Dickens was called in to write copy for certain illustrated sporting plates created by illustrator Robert Seymour.  Dickens soon began to write the instalments before the plates were produced, therefore changing the illustrative focus of the project to storytelling and he never looked back.  We all know of his illustrious writing career following The Pickwick Papers and I still have to read quite a few Dickens' novels yet, as I've only completed The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, A Tale of Two Cities, Dombey and Son, A Christmas Carol, David Copperfield, and, a long time ago, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.  So many great novels of his still to go.  Perhaps a project for 2018 ......???