Thursday 30 July 2015

Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington

"I was born a slave on a plantation in Franklin County, Virginia."

This was my third book on slavery in succession that I've read for my WEM Project.  The Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and the Narrative of the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass were the first two, and while I enjoyed the history and information I gleaned on a subject of which I know little (I plead ignorance on the basis of being Canadian), I really did not feel touched by either book as a whole.  Really, I wondered if there was something wrong with me.  Yes, I felt sympathy for the plight of the slaves; just the thought of being owned and having stripped from you the many things that make one human, was horrifying.  The degradation and the suffering generated disgust. Yet there was something missing, for me at least.

In my Frederick Douglass review, Cirtnecce made a comment, and suddenly my mind opened up and I had it; the reason why I was left rather cold by the other two books.  This was my response to her:

"What I've missed from these books so far, is a way to move forward in a human way. You can speak about practicalities and reason and that's useful, but if one tries simply to protect one segment of the population or to legislate people's behaviour, it almost seems as if nothing has truly changed. I'd love to read something that communicates ideas of how to make changes in the hearts and minds of people; imo, that's the way to effect true change."

That was it!  I was looking for a book that would precipitate a transformation, and in Booker T. Washington's biography, I received more than I could ever hope for!

Washington briefly chronicled his experiences as a slave during the Civil War, where he gained his freedom through emancipation at the approximate age of ten.  Eventually he made his way to the Hampton Institute, earned an education through hard work, and because of his perserverance and a solid work ethic, Washington was chosen to become the first leading teacher of the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, a school formed to promote the higher education of blacks in Confederate States.  Washington's biography offers an in-depth history of his creation and formation of Tuskegee, which Washington built not only with his hands, but his rather creative mind and intellect.

This book is a fascinating portrait of not only a man who rose above slavery, but conquered the demons that it bred, to see a way forward for blacks and whites to live, not just in harmony, but in cooperation with each other to make a better community and a better world.  In spite of the racial prejudices he encountered, Washington never responded in anger, preferring to examine the issues and problems that caused the prejudice, and to respond in a way that was beneficial for both blacks and whites.  He never viewed himself as a victim and in his gracious and measured responses, won accolades and respect on each side of the divide, narrowing it with his quiet, yet determined, demeanour.

There are so many wonderful quotes in this book that I hardly know where to start.  I'm going to choose to concentrate mostly on the Tuskegee school, since it was such a large part of Washington's life and therefore his existence, and it really exemplified his philosophy for social change in a manner that was visual and effective.

Tuskegee Univeristy Panorama (1916)
source Wikipedia

Washington structured the Tuskegee school not only to promote learning but to entrench something possibly even more valuable ...... hard work.  The students were given preference, not only because of their academic abilities, but their willingness to work hard.

"No student no matter how much money he may be able to command, is permitted to go through school without doing manual labour .......  From the beginning, at Tuskegee, I was determined to have the students do not only the agricultural and domestic work, but to have them erect their own buildings.  My plan was to have them, while performing this service, taught the latest and best methods of labour, so that the school would not only get the benefit of their efforts, but the students themselves would be taught to see, not only utility in labour, but beauty and dignity; would be taught, in fact, how to lift labour up from mere drudgery and toil, and would learn to love work for its own sake.  My plan was not to teach them to work in the old way, bt to show them how to make the forces of nature ----- air, water, steam, electricity, horse-power ---- assist them in their labour ............  Mistakes I knew would be made, but these mistakes would teach us valuable lessons for the future."

The Oaks - Washington's home
on Tuskegee campus
source Wikipedia
However, while work and academia were important, Washington did not neglect the spiritual growth of his students including services and prayer, using a non-denominational model.  I know little about the times in this respect, but I can imagine that this was a revolutionary way of structuring an academic institution:

"If no other consideration had convinced me of the value of the Christian life, the Christlike work which the Church of all denominations in America has done during the last thirty-five years for the elevation of the black man would have made me a Christian.  In a large degree it has been the pennies, the nickles, and the dimes which have come from the Sunday-schools, the Christian Endeavour societies, and the missionary societies, as well as from the church proper that have helped to elevate the negro at so rapid a rate."

And paramount to anything, Washington exemplifies forgiveness:

"It is now long ago that I learned this lesson from General Armstrong, and resolved that I would permit no man, no matter what is colour might be, to narrow and degrade my soul by making me hate him.  With God's help, I believe that I have completely rid myself of any ill feeling toward the Southern white man for any wrong that me hay have inflicted upon my race.  I am made to feel just as happy now when I am rendering service to Southern white men as when the service is rendered to a member of my own race.  I pity from the bottom of my heart any individual who is so unfortunate as to get into the habit of holding race prejudice."

"I early learned that it is a hard matter to convert an individual by abusing him, and that this is more often accomplished by giving credit for all the praiseworthy actions performed than by calling attention alone to all the evil done."

History class at Tuskegee Institute 1902
source Wikipedia
Washington rather fell into public speaking, feeling that it was more important "to do things than merely to talk about doing them."  He first went north with his friend and mentor, General Armstrong,  a white educator dedicated to the education of blacks and a founder of the Hampton Institute, and spoke at a series of public meetings.  In 1895, Washington was asked to speak at the Atlanta Exposition, an important exposition to showcase products and new technologies.  His speech was received with accolades from both whites and blacks alike, and afterwards, Washington became a highly sought after speaker about the benefits raising black ingenuity, hard work and resourcefulness to the level of white America.  He promoted the improvement of race relations where blacks and whites both stood on level ground.  There is a fascinating section of the book where Washington expounds on his manner of public speaking and it includes some gems of advice:

" ....... It seems to me that there is rarely such a combination of mental and physical delight in any effort as that which comes to a public speaker when he feels that he has a great audience completely within his control.  There is a thread of sympathy and oneness that connects a public speaker with his audience, that is just as strong as though it was something tangible and visible  ...... I never tell an anecdote simply for the sake to telling one ......  I believe that one always does himself and his audience an injustice when he speaks merely for the sake of speaking.  I do not believe that one should speak unless, deep down in his heart, he feels convinced that he has a message to deliver ....."

At the close of the book, Washington first gives a schedule for his Tuskegee school which is rather interesting from the view of posterity:

5 am.          Rising bell
5:50            Warning breakfast bell
6 am.          Breakfast bell
6:20            Breakfast over
6:20 – 6:50 Rooms are cleaned
6:50            Work bell
7:30            Morning study hour
8:20            Morning and school bell 
8:25            Inspection of young men’s toilets
8:40            Devotional exercises in chapel
8:55            Five minutes in the daily news
9 am.          Class work begins
12 pm.        Class work closes
12:15          Dinner
1 pm.          Work bell
1:30            Class work begins
3:30            Class work ends
5:30            Bell to “knock off” work
6 pm.          Supper
7:10            Evening prayers
7:30            Evening study hours
8:45            Evening study hour closes
9:20            Warning retiring bell
9:30            Retiring bell

And his teaching philosophy, while appearing relatively simple, is designed to have far-reaching results.  Washington strove to empower his students, not only academically, but to give them skills to serve them well in life.

"In our industrial teaching we keep three things in mind:  first, that the student shall be so educated that he shall be enabled to meet conditions as they exist now, in the part of the South where he lives ----- in a word, to be able to do the thing which the world wants done; second, that every student who graduates from the school shall have enough skill, coupled with intelligence and moral character, to enable him to make a living for himself and others; third, to send every graduate out feeling and knowing that labour is dignified and beautiful ---- to make each one love labour instead of trying to escape it."

During this time, the Tuskegee school had so many applicants that they were forced to turn away half and could only supply one half of the graduates that were requested.  A huge accomplishment from twenty years ago when Washington started the school from sweat, common sense, an empathy for all people, and a firm belief in industry.

A final quote by Washington which I think encompasses much of his philosophy:

"Before the end of the year, I think I began to learn that those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.  This lesson I have tried to carry with me ever since."

Tuesday 28 July 2015

The Canterbury Tales ~ The Knight's Tale

As the pilgrims draw lots to determine who will be the first to tell their story, the first draw goes to the Knight.

              And when this excellent man saw how it stood,
              Ready to keep his promise, he said, "Good!"
              Since it appears that I must start the game,
              Why then, the draw is welcome, in God's name
              Now let's ride on and listen to what I say."
              And with that word we rode forth on our way ...

The first page of The Knight's Tale
source Wikimedia Commons

The Knight's Tale

After being appealed to by a number of deposed queens and duchesses from Thebes, King Theseus of Athens attacks the city and gains victory over Creon, King of Thebes.  During the fighting, two knights named Palamon and Arcite, are taken prisoner and thrown into a dungeon.  Left to rot there forever, Palamon one day spies Emelye, who is as fair as any damsel and the sister of Theseus' wife Hippolyta, and he falls in love.  Arcite, wondering at this cousin's lovelorn look, spots her too, claims his love of her, and acrimony is born within the love triangle of the cousins.

Portrait of a Knight (1510)
Vittore Carpaccio
source Wikiart
Years later, Arcite is released by Theseus upon request of a friend, but is sentenced to exile from which he laments Palamon's better fate of prison, due to his being able to gaze upon Emelye, whereas Arcite has now been denied that pleasure. Eventually he risks returning to Athens in diguise as a page named Philostratus, who enters Emelye's household.  One day he comes upon Palamon, who has escaped, they begin to fight but are stayed by Theseus who announces that he will set up a grand tournament of knights, and the one who is the victor will win Emelye's hand in marriage.

Meanwhile, we find, that while Emelye has been the centre of this strife and turmoil, that she actually does not wish to marry either knight.  She relates to the goddess, Diana:

"To whom are open earth and sea and sky,
Goddess of maidens, well you know that I
Desire to be a maiden all my life,
And never to be a man's love nor his wife.
Among your followers I have kept my place,
A maid, in love with hunting and the chase
And to go walking in the greenwood wild
And not to be a wife and be with child;
For nothing will I have to do with man.
Now help me, lady, since you may and can."

But while Diana could help her, she refuses, stating that Emelye's destiny has been ordained to marry one of the knights, but which, she will not tell.  Emelye submits to her fate with good grace.

Emilie dans le jardin observée par
Arcitas et Palamon emprisonnés (1460)
source Wikimedia Commons
Palamon prays to Venus for victory, but we get a long description of Arcite in his battle attire before we hear of him offering sacrifices, and for him, it is to the god, Mars; so we have Palamon appealing to the goddess of Love, and Arcite appealing to the god of War.  Who do you think will win?

Ah, it appears that Arcite triumphs, bearing down Palamon and his knights, capturing him and taking him to the stake.  Venus is shamed with the outcome, but Saturn asssures her that she will also have her desire.  But how, with Palamon conquered and Arcite set to wed Emelye?

Well, Arcite has little time to enjoy his achievement.  Helmetless, he is pitched to the ground by his horse, landing on his head and receiving mortal wounds. He lasts a short time before succumbing, and Emelye and Palamon are in mourning.  But good King Theseus delivers a long speech about the Prime Mover and how all earthly beings must submit to the higher order of things. He blesses the wedding of Palamon and Emelye, and they live happily without jealousy and with extreme tenderness.

One can tell that there is much more to this tale than what is simple cloaking the surface.  First, there is the obvious emphasis on fate or destiny or a higher power:  Emelye, though she does not wish to marry, readily capitulates to Venus' edict that she must; and, of of course, while it initially appears to all the people that Arcite will wed Emelye, there is a "blueprint" already in place for everyone's destiny that man, in his puniness, cannot yet see.  A life lived well is to submit to the inevitable, yet take opportunities when they come to you.

Emilie à la chasse assistant au combat entre Arcitas et Palamon
Source: Wikimedia Commons

There is also an emphasis on nature and it's interaction with man.  The General Prologue initially drew us right into Nature and Spring "Whan that Aprille with his shoures sote, The droghte of Marche hath perced to the rote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour, Of which vertu engendred is the flour."  From the sky and nature, we are then taken to be introduced to the earthly pilgrims.  In The Knight's Tale, in the building of the sepulcher for Arcite, there is an obvious battle between nature and man, as Theseus fells the "old oaks" to make a funeral bier:

"You will not hear from me how all the trees
Were felled, nor how the local deities,
Nymphs, fauns, and hamadryads and the rest,
Ran up and down, scattered and dispossessed,
Nor how the beasts and wood birds, one and all,
Fled terrified when the trunks began to fall;
Nor how the ground stood all aghast and bright,
Affronted with the unfamiliar light ...."

There is a continuous tension between man and his environment, again perhaps due to either his lack of foresight, or his inability to understand the grand plan of the Prime Mover.

And, of course, in the battle between Arcite and Palamon and their gods, in spite of the appearance of war winning over love, it is love which achieves the ultimate victory.

I'm certain there are many other themes included, such as pageantry, hierarchical Medevial structure, and not so much the capriciousness of the gods, but the uncertainty of destiny, but I've probably explored this tale as much as I can for the first read.  One curious point struck me though ..... although this story is set in Greece, the gods are all given Roman names, instead of their Greek ones.  I have no idea why, but it is a puzzling choice.

The next tale up, is The Miller's Tale ......

The Canterbury Tales/ The Brubury TalesProject

The Knight's Tale

Thursday 23 July 2015

The Narrative of the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass

"I was born in Tuckahoe, near Hillsborough, and about twelve miles from Easton, in Talbot county, Maryland."

Born into slavery as Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey around 1817/1818, Douglass learned to read and write as a boy with the help of the wife of his master. In spite of his situation, he claims that he always had an implicit belief that he would not always be a slave.

"From my earliest recollection, I date the entertainment of a deep conviction that slavery would not always be able to hold me within its foul embarce; and in the darkets hours of my career in slavery, this living world of fath and spirit of ope departed not from me, but remained like ministering angles to cheer me through the gloom.  The good spirit was from God, and to him I offer thanksgiving and peace."

At around twenty years old, he escaped to the north, married, and soon afterwards changed his name to Douglass.  Becoming involved in the abolitionist movement, Douglass was encourage to speak and tell the story of his experiences as a slave.

Yet while he was welcomed by the anti-slavery community, Douglass did not only find critics outside this movement, but also opposition from within.  He was limited by white abolitionists as to what he could say during speeches, attempting to avoid any reference to current issues or a way forward for black people as a race.  Yet upon the publication of his book, Douglass' popularity soared and he gained a credibility he has not experienced previously.

Douglass elucidates on the cruelty of slavery that goes beyond the physical. He speaks of being shut up in a "mental darkness" by the refusal of masters to educate their slaves.  He relates how slaveholders would practice mental fraud on their slaves by allowing and encouraging them to drink to excess during their free holiday time, with the result that the conditions of slavery and liberty did not appear to have a decided difference.

Douglass also gives the recipe for making a content slave:
"...... I have found that to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.  It is necessary to darken his moral and mental vision, and, as far as possible, to annihilate the power of reason.  He must be able to detect no inconsistencies in slavery; he must be made to feel that slavery is right; and he can be brought to that only when he ceases to be a man."

Douglass has some interesting insights into slave masters:

"....... and of all men, adopted slaveholders are the worst  ...... He was a slaveholder without the ability to hold slaves.  He found himself incapable of managing his slaves either by force, fear, or fraud.  We seldom called him, "master;" we generally called him "Captain Auld," and were hardly disposed to title him at all ....... He wished to have us call him master, but lacked the firmness necessary to command us to do so ......"

There are apparently two editions of this narrative, this one being a rather shorter narrative, and the Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, which is a third publication and expanded to give more detail about his life including some history of the period.

The next book in the WEM order is Up From Slavery by Booker T. Washington. While the first two slave narratives have been interesting, they certainly haven't been gripping and I must admit I'm not really looking forward to this next book.  In any case, onward and upward!

Monday 20 July 2015

The Cantebury Tales ~ The General Prologue

I've decided to join O at Behold the Stars in her reading of The Canterbury Tales.  Yes, it's one of my projects for the year, my The Canterbury Tales/The Brubury Tales Project, but I've been really terrible at keeping up on my projects so I'm hoping someone else will give me that kick where I so desperately need it, or at the very least, drag me along.

I'm starting off reading from The Portable Chaucer with a translation by Theodore Morrison, but I suspect that it doesn't include all the tales, so once the library book comes in, I'll be reading The Penguin edition translated by Nevill Coghill.  O, the clever person that she is, is reading it in Middle English. Something to aspire to but not now. :-Z

Portrait of Chaucer - 17th century
source Wikipedia

It is surmised that Chaucer met Bocaccio, who perhaps influenced this work, as it begins in a similar way to Bocaccio's The Decameron.  In The Decameron, a number of lords and ladies escape the Black Death of Florence and begin a story-telling marathon in their exile, whereas in The Canterbury Tales, a group of pilgrims are on their way to Canterbury and on their journey, each tells a tale.  Originally Chaucer meant each pilgrim to tell four tales, two on the way there and two on the way back, but the manuscript breaks off with them still on their travels, so the final intent of Chaucer remains unknown.  The original order of the tales is also unclear, but going with O's the Riverside Chaucer, we'll be breaking the tales down as follows:

Week 1: General Prologue
Week 2: The Knight's Tale
Week 3: The Miller's Prologue and Tale, The Reeve's Prologue and Tale, The Cook's Prologue and Tale
Week 4: The Man Of Law's Introduction, Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue
Week 5: The Wife of Bath's Prologue and Tale
Week 6: The Friar's Prologue and Tale, The Summoner's Prologue and Tale
Week 7: The Clerk's Prologue and Tale
Week 8: The Merchant's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue
Week 9: The Squire's Introduction and Tale, The Franklin's Prologue and Tale
Week 10: The Physician's Tale, The Pardoner's Introduction, Prologue, and Tale, The Shipman's Tale
Week 11: The Prioress's Prologue and Tale, The Prologue and Tale of Sir Thopas
Week 12: The Tale of Melibee
Week 13: The Monk's Prologue and Tale, The Nun Priest's Prologue, Tale, and Epilogue
Week 14: The Second Nun's Prologue and Tale, The Canon's Yeoman's Prologue and Tale
Week 15: The Manciple's Prologue and Tale, The Parson's Prologue and Tale
Week 16: Chaucer's Retraction. Conclusion.

If I haven't finished by the beginning of November, you can all throw rotten tomatoes at me.

So let's start off with The General Prologue.

Initially Chaucer describes the setting of the pilgrims' starting point, in a beautiful poetic manner that establishes the ambiance of a lovely spring day.

"As soon as April pierces to the root
The drought of March, and bathes each bud and shoot
Through every vein of sap with gentle showers
From whose engendering liquor spring the flowers;
When zephyrs have breathed softly all about
Inspiring every wood and field to sprout,
And in the zodiac the youthful sun
His journey halfway through the Ram has run;
When little birds are busy with their song
Who sleep with open eyes the whole night long
Life stirs their hearts and tingles in them so,
Then people long on pilgrimage to go, ....."

Chaucer, himself one of the pilgrims, arrives at Southwark at the Tabard, and meets with twenty-nine other pilgrims, all ready to set out for Canterbury.  He introduces each, starting with The Knight, who is is honoured and respected and who has fought many battles in the name of Christ.  Yet in spite of his skill with a sword, he is deferential and temperate, embracing his code of chivalry.  His son, a Squire, is with him, a lad who is determined to have exploits to honour his lady.  He also has a Yeoman traveling with him, tidy and trim with a doughty demeanour, a strong bow and a St. Christopher's medal.

A Nun, known as Madame Eglantine, carries the dignity of religion with her, showing a love and empathy for animals and a tidiness that becomes her. Nevertheless, this Prioress is attached to courtly ways and displays a pride in her accomplishments.  She is escorted by a Priest and an Attendant Nun who acts as her secretary.

Next, a Monk is introduced and while his description is an unexpectedly unusual description for a Monk, during Chaucer's time the church was experiencing a degradation of religion and many of its adherents were infected with worldly desires.  This Monk much prefers fashion and hunting to the austerity of his order. It sounds like Chaucer, the narrator, approves of his designs and exploits.

The next in line is a Friar, who is gay and jolly. He is like a roving churchman who performs church services as he goes.  Yet, again, this Friar likes wealthy men, pretty women and money given as penance.  He prefers bars and barmaids to giving consolation and blessings to lepers.  Our rather unreligious Friar is christened Hubert.

The Merchant is very caught up in his business and enjoys the elevation of his station.  He knows his job well and is very full of himself, yet is he as rich as he seems?  Not only his financial acumen is highlighted, but his personal shrewdness, and the narrator confesses that he is never able to discover his name.

An Oxford Student shows his poverty by his shabby clothes, but exhibits a richness in learning and the value of philosophy.  He is willing to both learn and teach.

A crafty, yet diplomatic Lawyer or The Man of Law is one of the party.  He appears efficient and respected in his field.

The Franklin, or the "free man," loves his food so much that there is always food at his table.

Five Guildsmen, a Weaver, a Dyer, a Carpenter, a Tapestry-maker and a Haberdasher are wealthy and respected in their crafts.  Their livery identifies their artistry. With them, they carry a Cook who ensures that they eat well.

The Skipper or Shipman is well-traveled and experienced at his job, but he is not shy about stealing from the wine casks.  He does not appear at home on a horse, riding it as if he were at sea.

The Physician

The Physician is particularly interesting.  I sense a sarcasm within Chaucer's description and though he seems to know his profession and be able to deal with a number of maladies, he takes advantage of his patients for financial gain, and his spiritual life is less than ideal.

"Of nothing in excess would he admit.
He gave but little heed to Holy Writ.
His clothes were lined with taffeta; their hue
Was all of blood read and of Persian blue .."

Next, The Woman or Wife of Bath is a rather large, broad-beamed woman, but she is dressed well and has a skill at weaving that is unsurpassed.  She's had many husbands and lovers and is well-versed in the art of love.  She is also well-travelled.

The Parson is given a long description praising his integrity, his sacrifice and his faithful adherence to his faith.  He is patient, gives offerings to the poor, and tries to teach by being a good example to others.  He is a wonderful illustration of a man of virtue, and a credit to his church flock.

The Plowman  c. 1525
Hans Holbein the Younger
We meet the brother of The Parson, The Plowman.  He loves God with all his heart, and is in charity with everyone.  He tithes regularly and his clothes reflect his humble station.

A big beefy man is The Miller and his physicality is emphasized, along with his rather unpleasant countenance, and his proclivity for stealing corn and selling it at three times the price.  He leads the pilgrims out of town whilst blowing his bagpipes.

The Manciple, or officer who buys supplies for a college, monastery or other institution, is lacking a formal education but is, nevertheless, ingenious in his dealings and more adroit than his clients.  He is a master at deception.

Possessing a fiery disposition and a wiry frame, The Reeve, or steward of a manor, is of questionable character.  While he ensures that no one steals from his master, he himself avails himself of that which belongs to his employer.  He is so shrewd that no one can catch him in his dishonesty.

The Summoner, a man who brings those who are in violation of church law to ecclesiastical court, is a lecherous character with a fearsome leprous face.  He uses the little Latin he knows to cover his intellectual inadequacy.  He does not have a respect for his vocation.

The Pardoner, one who grants papal indulgences, is a waxy, greasy sort of fellow, who we are led to disbelieve.  He carries with him a number of fake relics, which he sells to unsuspecting, trusting people.  He is religious and respectable on the surface, but underneath, he is rotten.

The Host is a big, cheery man who appears to have control of the group.  He sets the rules out for the tales, four for each pilgrim, two going to Canterbury and two returning.  We will see that this plan does not pan out.

The Narrator:  is it Chaucer, or is it Chaucer but not really Chaucer?  We will see, as we go.

The portraits of these pilgrims show the social organization of Chaucer's England.  First comes the Knight, the Squire and the Yeoman, which represent the nobility or the upper class.  Next comes the Clergy: a prioress with her attendent priest and helper, a Monk and a Friar.  After the clergy comes the pilgrims who represent the merchantiles and professions of the cities and towns of Chaucer's England.  Finally we are introduced to a number of figures who perhaps don't represent a particular group, but nevertheless have a firm identity in Chaucer's time.

Chaucer's depiction of the pilgrims follows the Medieval literary technique of description in that description can be accomplished in two ways: using both internal qualities and external attributes.  We can ask ourselves as we read, how these two means of description affect the reader; which might elicit a stronger response and how does one influence the other to create tension within a story.  Chaucer uses each to make a social commentary and his means of using this technique is quite fascinating.  You get a sense with Chaucer's descriptions, that while he can appear to be praising and giving his characters good qualities, at times he is, in fact, doing quite the opposite.

The Canterbury Tales/The Brubury Tales Project

The General Prologue
The Knight's Tale

Thursday 2 July 2015

Summer ~~ Books in my Bag

Source: Library of Congress

Yikes!  This is the longest that I've been AWOL since I started this blog.  I've been so busy in the month of June that I haven't had time to read, let alone to blog.  And to top it off, I was bitten by the writing bug, so I've been letting whatever is inside my head, come out.  This can be a little scary.  Needless to say, this is not my usual modus operandi and somewhat disturbing. Fortunately, the busyness continues only until mid-July, but then ends (Yippee!!) and I can hopefully get back to normal --- or as normal as I get.  Ha ha!

Soooo, as for the books that I have planned to read for summer ........  I have a number that I have to finish up, from anywhere from a month ago, to a year ago.  I'll be focussing on:

What is to Be Done?:  Chernyshevsky's classic novel and response to Turgenev's Father's and Sons, advocating a socialist model through radicalism and social education.  I still have to get to Notes from the Underground by Dostoyevsky, which is his response to Chernyshevsky.

Gone With the Wind:  for Corinne's read-along which, of course, has already ended.  I was enjoying the book so far, so I want to finish it.

The Essays of Montaigne:  I still have to finish up the recommended essays and I have one more blog post to compile.  I love Montaigne so this won't be a chore.

Of Other Worlds: Essays and Stories:  I've read about ⅓ of this and love it. But I have to finish it.  This summer for sure.

The History of Napoleon Buonaparte:  I love this book and I don't know why it's taking me so long to finish.  This biography was written no more than 10 years after Napoleon's death ---- a very valuable viewpoint.

The Terror:  a nice gift from my blog friend, Andrea.  I read half last summer and I want to finish it this summer.

On the Coast at Trouville (1881)
Claude Monet
source Wikiart

Series and Challenges:

Framley Parsonage:  How embarrassing.  I really, really need to keep on reading The Barsetshire Chronicles.  I'm enjoying them, I've just stalled.  Such is life.

Sense and Sensibility & Pride and Prejudice:  I need to get moving on my Austen Project.

Up From Slavery:  I've started this one and it's my favourite so far of the slave narratives.  For my WEM Project

Ecce Homo:  Another book from my WEM list.  I'm not sure how I feel about this one.

The Canterbury Tales and The Brubury Tales Project:  I really should get started on this if I want to finish it by the end of the year.

My Challenges: 

Classics Club List:  there doesn't seem to be as many Classic Club Spins lately, so I'm going to choose a book from my list, as I think I'm dragging behind a little.  I'm going to take The Histories by Herodotus which is supposed to be a fun read (no, that's not a joke.  I'm serious.)

My Shakespeare Project:  perhaps Henry V which I didn't get around to reading for my reading of the Henriad.

Guardians 1000 List:  yes, the never-ending list that I won't finish before I die. For this, I was thinking of reading A Confederacy of Dunces.  If anyone wants to take a quick look at the list, I'm open to recommendations!

Deal Me In Challenge:  Yipes!  I'm so behind.  I need to try to catch up at least a little.

California Coast
Albert Bierstadt
source Wikiart

Should I Or Shouldn't I?:

Ulysses:  I started this rather thick book, but I really dislike it.  Joyce is a pretentious, annoying .... grumble, grumble, grumble.  Well, enough said. Should I finish because I started?  Because I was silly enough to include this book in my TBR Pile Challenge?  I haven't decided yet.

The Lord of the Rings:  I often choose to read this in the summer and I haven't read it for about 4 years, but do I have too many other books going on?   Or do I throw caution to the winds?

Ovid's Metamorphoses:  I have included this book in my reading list for the past two years and I just can't seem to get into it.  I was going to delve into it this summer but somehow it doesn't seem like a summer book.  Hmmm ......

Sanary Landscape (1937)
Moise Kisling
source Wikiart

I was going to list a few new books that I wanted to read, but you know what? I'm not even going to go there.  I have way too many listed already and I know I won't read them all, but at least this post will give me some focus for summer.

In any case, I hope you all are having a great summer so far and are getting lots of reading in.  I just wanted you to know that I haven't left forever and I should be back fairly soon!  À bientôt!