Saturday, February 28, 2015

"Persuasion" by Jane Austen (again)

Persuasion is my favorite of Jane Austen's novels, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it with Heidi during her read-along.  We dug deeply into the text and turned up so many treasures, and I have learned a lot about this book from all the participants.  Heidi, please do another read-along soon!

In Persuasion, Anne Elliott meets up with the man she was once engaged to, Captain Frederick Wentworth.  Eight years previous, she had broken off their engagement, and had regretted that ever since.  Neither of them had ever fallen in love again, and this book charts the rekindling of their romance as they slowly ascertain each others' feelings and whether things could ever again be as they once were.

Because I reviewed this a few years ago, I'm not going to spend more time than that on plot or why it's my favorite -- you can read all that in my first review here.  Instead, I want to talk about how often Austen emphasized that it is self-persuasion that can be the most harmful, even more than allowing others to persuade you of something.  I had always assumed the title referred to when Anne Elliot allowed Lady Russell to persuade her not to marry Frederick Wentworth.  But now I think it refers more to how Anne and Wentworth both persuaded themselves regarding that event.  

Anne persuaded herself that she was acting for Wentworth's good when she gave him up (see chapter 4).  "The belief of being prudent, and self-denying, principally for his advantage was her chief consolation" (p. 29).  She knew she ought to obey her parents, and Lady Russell was her surrogate mother.  Obey Lady Russell, she did, and she persuaded herself that Wentworth would be better off as a result. 

Wentworth, angry and heartbroken, persuaded himself that Anne was weak and timid, that "[s]he had given him up to oblige others" (p. 66).  He spent eight years persuading himself he had forgotten her, only to discover that he could neither stop loving her nor forget her.  If he had admitted to himself that he still loved her when he was promoted to captain only two years after they parted, he could have tried to reconnect with her, and they would have been spared six years of loneliness.  

So that's what I took away from this reading of Persuasion:  that it's far more dangerous to persuade yourself of something untrue than to allow others to persuade you.

Instead of listing some favorite lines like I usually do, I'm going to share some pictures of the copy I bought 'specially for this read-along.  It's one of the prettiest books I own.  I found it at Books-a-Million, and you can buy this edition here online.  They had a whole bunch of great classics in a similar style, and I also bought Jane Eyre because it was too lovely to resist.

It has those nifty page edges that look like they're hand slit, and pages are thick and creamy.  I happened to have a pen that perfectly matched the cover, so my notes inside look like this:

And while I was at the book store, I also found the absolute perfect bookmark to use for this read-along:

This was on a display of all kinds of beautiful classics-inspired book marks and such.  I spotted some of them at Barnes & Noble the other day too.

This is my nineteenth book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Paper Hearts" by Courtney Walsh

I read this book in under 30 hours.  That's how much these characters sucked me into their lives.  I never get to read a book that quickly these days -- it takes me at least a week for most books, and often longer.  But I have a cold, so I kind of took the afternoon off on Monday, once Sam had his schoolwork done.  Camped out on the couch with this book and a box of Kleenex, and the kids came over now and then when they needed something.  (The Kleenexes were because of the cold, not the book.)  I threw caution (and the other 4 books I'm reading) to the wind and read the first 170 pages that day, and finished it on Tuesday.  Unheard of!  Absurd!

Yes, I inhaled this book.  I think I liked it so well because it reminded me a lot of one of my favorite movies, You've Got Mail (1998).  Just like in that movie, the heroine here owns a book store she inherited from a parent, and a newcomer is going to push her out of business, though here he's a doctor and not a fellow book store owner.  I guess I've always thought it would be cool to own a book store, though far more work than I'm actually willing to do, lol.  But experiencing that vicariously is a lot of fun for me.

Also, the hero is damaged goods with a tragic past, and you know how I love those.  He's not quite broody enough to be Byronic, but he's very sad and in need of hugs nonetheless.  So I was rooting for him to get a happily-ever-after.

The whole thing takes place in a small town called Loves Park that is a sort of Romance Central -- it's a tourist destination for couples, with a special postmark people like to get on their wedding invitations and other equally floofy, lovey-dovey stuff going on.  Abigail is 29 and single, with a mother who is absolutely insistent she get married as soon as possible.  Abigail is equally insistent she is content being single and running the bookstore her father bequeathed her. 

Enter Dr. Jacob Willoughby, a widower with his name straight out of Jane Austen and his looks straight out of a movie (I kept seeing him being played by Brendan Fraser).  He buys the building that contains Abigail's Book Nook, and he plans to use the whole building to create his own medical clinic.

You can see where this is going.  Oh, but I didn't tell you about the absolutely horrible woman Jacob has working for him!  Her name is Kelly, and several times after one of her scenes, I had to close the book and fume for a bit before picking it up again.  Dreadful woman.  Quite well-written, in other words, to have me loathing her so thoroughly.  Kelly is ostensibly helping Jacob set up his clinic because she is a successful businesswoman (and Jacob's dead wife's college roommate), but she's really trying to hook up with Jacob.  

So, with the exception of Kelly, I really enjoyed this book and heartily recommend it to people who like "inspirational romance," which is not usually my cup of tea at all.  So I'm not sure if that makes my recommendation weigh more or less, lol.

And actually, it's given me an idea for a novel, one about a woman who insists she doesn't want to get married and means it.  I've read a lot of books where a singleton tells people she's perfectly happy to be single, but inside she's yearning for love, whether she knows it herself or not yet.  And I realized while reading this that I'd be way more interested in the story of a woman who says she doesn't want to get married because she actually doesn't.  She's honestly content being single.  And you know what they say:  write the book you want to read.  So I've popped that idea into the old percolator, and we'll see if anything comes of it.

Particularly Good Bits:

Who needs a man when you have shelves of beautiful books and dreams of growth and success?  (p. 8).

It was so hard having handsome enemies (p. 11).

"But the very best love stories are the ones that are flawed and full of forgiveness and pain and joy and challenges and happiness" (p. 361).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG.  There's some kissing, but it's all pretty tame.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Mailbox Monday Once More

Linking up with Mailbox Monday again this week :-)  I got this in the mail a few days ago:

I'm hoping to start reading it soon!  I've read a couple reviews that said it was sweet and cute... but not too sweet or too cute.  Sounds like a good antidote to that late-winter "why isn't spring here yet" melancholy that tends to hit me in February.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Want to Join My "Little Women" Read-Along?

I've been meaning to write this post for simply weeks now, but other things keep taking precedence.  No more!  I hereby confirm that yes, I am going to host a read-along of Little Women, and yes, it will begin on March 1.

Like this banner says, it will probably take us several months to make our leisurely way through Little Women.  There are almost 50 chapters, and I usually manage to write a new chapter post every 2 to 3 days, so... yeah.  Not a slender tome!

In case you're wondering, let me tell you about how I run a read-along.  Obviously, we all read the same book at the same time.  I will do a blog post about each chapter, where I review what happened and post some of my thoughts on it.  I usually include a favorite passage or two, and a question for discussion.  Participants then get to comment on the blog posts as they please, and we have some lovely discussions that way.  If you want to see exactly how it all works, feel free to check out one of my previous read-alongs here.

There's no official sign-up sheet or anything, and I know lots of people have already expressed their interest on this page.  But if you think you want to participate, or just think it's a cool idea and want to spread the word, feel free to put one of these buttons on your own blog:

The Literary Heroine Blog Party -- 2015

The Literary Heroine Blog Party is always a bright spot in February for me. February is my least-favorite month, but I definitely look forward to this party! I always meet charming people and discover some new blogs I want to follow. If you want to participate too, just visit Kellie Falconer's blog, Accordion to Kellie. There's always a marvelous give-away associated with this party, and this year she's giving away a handmade tulle skirt from her Etsy shop, which she sells for a tidy sum.

I'm going to try to answer the questions differently from previous years, when I can think up something new to say :-)

Here we go:

1.  Introduce yourself! Divulge your life's vision, likes, dislikes, aspirations, or something completely random!

As you know, I'm Hamlette. I'm 34, I'm a writer, I've been married for almost 13 years, and I'm a stay-at-home, homeschooling mommy. My son "Sam" is seven, my daughter "Sarah" will be 5 this weekend, and my younger daughter "Tootie" is very 3. I love to write, read, watch movies, blog, bake, crochet, sew, and daydream.

2.  What, to you, forms the essence of a true heroine?

A true heroine helps others. She does not turn away from those in need, but kindly assists other people however she can. She strives to understand others and herself. If she finds she has been wrong or misguided, she learns from her mistakes and becomes a better person, rather than stubbornly going on as before.

3.  Share (up to) four heroines of literature that you most admire and relate to.

I'm trying to be different from my answers in 2013 and 2014, so I'm going to choose these four:

Dorothea Brooke from Middlemarch by George Eliot.  She's sensible, intelligent, and so warm-hearted.  She wants to help everyone around her, and generally manages to.

Thursday Next in Jasper Fforde's wacky series that's named after her.  Self-sufficient, intelligent, and manages to keep her head in some very peculiar situations.

Turtle Wexler in The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin.  Determined and intelligent (sensing a theme here?), she solves a mystery that baffles many grownups and learns a lot about human nature in the process.

Jerusha Abbot in Daddy-Long-Legs by Jean Webster.  A new favorite!  She's quirky and fun-loving, curious and yes, intelligent, and an aspiring author.

4.  Five of your favorite historical novels?

I'm again going to assume that "historical novel" means novels set in a time prior to our present day. So to choose five I didn't mention previously, I'll say: Persuasion by Jane Austen, An Antic Disposition by Alan Gordon, Homer Price by Robert McCloskey, Shadows over Stonewycke by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella, and The Virginian by Owen Wister.

5.  Out of those five books, who is your favorite major character and why?

Anne Elliot from Persuasion by Jane Austen. I think a lot of readers kind of shake their heads at Anne Elliot -- that silly girl who persuaded herself to give up True Love. But whatever you may think of Lady Russell, she was basically Anne's adoptive mother, and Anne obeyed the Commandment to honor your father and mother when she broke off her engagement with Frederick Wentworth. Significantly, that's the only Commandment that has a promise attached to it: "it will be well with you, and you will live long on the earth." And sure enough, Anne's obedience is eventually rewarded.

6.  Out of those five books, who is your favorite secondary character and why?

Admiral and Mrs. Croft from Persuasion.  I can't talk about one without the other!  They're a devoted married couple, and truly enjoy each others' company.  They're also clear-sighted and open-hearted, and altogether make me smile every time they appear on the page.

7.  If you were to plan out your dream vacation, where would you travel to - and what would you plan to do there?

This year, I pick going to New Zealand and seeing all the places where Peter Jackson's Middle Earth movies were filmed. The Shire, the Green Dragon, and anywhere else we could get to!

8.  What is your favorite time period and culture to read about?

I love the WWII era, all the various cultures involved. Some of my favorite books that take place during that time include The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, Shadows over Stonewycke by Michael Phillips and Judith Pella, A Memory Between Us by Sarah Sundin, and Catch-22 by Joseph Heller.

9.  You have been invited to perform at the local charity concert. Singing, comedy, recitation - what is your act comprised of?

I think I'll help with scenery and costumes this year, and let others have the spotlight.

10.  If you were to attend a party where each guest was to portray a heroine of literature, who would you select to represent?

I chose Anne of Green Gables and Jane Eyre before, so since I'm on a Robin Hood kick right now, I'll say Maid Marian, and my hubby can go as Robin.

11.  Favorite author(s)?

Raymond Chandler, Laurie R. King, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Jasper Fforde, Alexandre Dumas, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jane Austen, J. R. R. Tolkien, Thor Heyerdahl...

12.  In which century were most of the books you read written?


13.  In your opinion, the ultimate hero in literature is…

Helpful, nice, and practical. You want one specific person?  I'll go with Captain Frederick Wentworth from Persuasion this year, since I'm currently rereading it.

14.  In your opinion, the most dastardly villain of all literature is...

I think I'll go with Sauron again, from The Lord of the Rings.  He just wants to smash and wreck and break everything.  Bad, naughty, evil Sauron.

15.  Describe your ideal dwelling place.

Our house, Tir Asleen.  I could happily live in this house for the rest of my life.  Lots of room for books and my piano.  Plenty of space to spread out big, messy projects.  Enough floors that I can go off by myself once in a while and find a teensy bit of solitude to recharge or calm down or simply BE, even if it's just for 3 minutes.

16.  Sum up your fashion style in a short sentence.

If it's not comfortable, I won't wear it.

17.  Three favorite Non-fiction books?

Again, trying to be different from the previous to years, so I'll go with Hamlet:  Poetry Unlimited by Harold Bloom, A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz, and The Key:  How to Write D**n Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth by James N. Frey.  I unreservedly recommend all three.

18.  Your duties met for the day, how would you choose to spend a carefree summer afternoon?

Writing in solitude.

19.  Create a verbal sketch of your dream hat - in such a way as will best portray your true character.

A cowboy hat of indistinct color, well-worn and sweat-stained, that fits like I've worn it for years.  Something a bit like this, which John Wayne wore in The Comancheros (1961).

20.  Share the most significant event(s) that have marked your life in the past year.

Had my gall bladder out in September, which was very unexpected.  Other than that, nothing big has really happened :-)  I like uneventful years!

22.  Share the Bible passage(s) that have been most inspiring to you recently.

"Call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me." Psalm 50:15.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

I Don't Blog About Books Enough, Do I?

Naomi and Arwen have both posted this recently, and it looks like such fun, I decided to join in :-)  It's Valentine's Day, the day we celebrate love, and I love books, so... the world makes sense again, right?

1. Favourite childhood book?  The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins by Dr. Seuss

2. What are you reading right now?  Persuasion by Jane Austen, Middlemarch by George Eliot, The Christian Imagination by Leland Ryken, and Corral Noctorne by Elizabeth Grace Foley

3. What books do you have on request at the library?  Dreaming Spies by Laurie R. King

4. Bad book habit?  Skimming descriptions.  A bit here and there is fine, but if a book goes into paragraph after paragraph of describing anything, be it person, place, or thing, I get bored and skim.  I want to know what happens, not what the drapes look like.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?  My Hands Came Away Red by Lisa McKay and a ton of books for my kids

6. Do you have an e-reader?  I have the Kindle app on my phone, and have read a grant total of one book with it.  I'm in the middle of my second, this one:

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?  Several at once!  This is almost entirely due to owning a house, though.  I used to read one at a time, but now I have one upstairs and one on the main level, sometimes two.  And now one on my phone, usually.  

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?  Hmm.  Since starting this particular blog, I take more notice of bad language in books than I did for a while, so I can "rate" books accordingly.  My TBR list has also quadrupled....

9. Least favourite book you read this year so far?  Definitely Outlaw by Angus Donald

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year?  Either Hamlet:  Poem Unlimited by Harold Bloom or A Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?  Probably not often enough.  I tend to turn to books for a brief respite from daily strife, and so it's kind of important for them to be in my comfort zone right now.  

12. What is your reading comfort zone?  Books where I like the characters a lot and things end well.

13. Can you read in the car?  Absolutely.  Just finished a book in the car this afternoon.

14. Favourite place to read?  I don't think I have one?  I read wherever I may be when I have a moment to read.  Yesterday I was reading a book on my phone in the check-out line at Walmart.

15. What is your policy on book lending?  I will give you a stern warning not to break the book's spine, and write down the book's title and your name and the date on some piece of paper so I can remember who has my book.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?  Yes.  Generally the bottom corner, which is less bothersome to others, and generally just to mark where I found some very interesting passage.  I use bookmarks to mark my place.  I'm a devoted collector of bookmarks, and just got two in the mail today!

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?  Yes, if they are My Books and not someone else's, and if they are so deep I need to record my thoughts for future reference.  Some books get lots of notes in them, new ones with every re-read, like my copy of The Lord of the Rings...

18. Do you break /crack the spine of your book?  Never if it's a paperback!  In fact, I will get really upset if someone else borrows my book and cracks the spine.  A hardcover, though, sometimes does require a gentle cracking.

19. What is your favourite language to read in?  English.

20. What makes you love a book?  Characters I want to be friends with and hang out with in my imagination.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?  Finding out someone likes a similar book.

22. Favourite genre?  Mysteries.

23. Genre you rarely read but wish you did?  Westerns.  I'm reading more and more of them, though!

24. Favourite biography?  Probably The Abracadabra Kid by Sid Fleschman, which is an autobiography of one of my favorite YA authors.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?  Yes.  Not a big fan of the genre, over all.

26. Favourite cookbook?  Toughie!  Probably The Nero Wolfe Cookbook by Rex Stout because it's a lot of fun to read.  For every day cooking, though, can't go wrong with Betty Crocker's Big Red :-)

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?  F. Scott Fitzgerald On Writing edited by Larry W. Phillips

28. Favourite reading snack?  Hot chocolate!

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.  The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway was so blooming famous that the first time I read it, I was sorely disappointed because it wasn't Deep and Profound.  Happily, my second reading was far more positive.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?  If by critics you mean "people who are paid to review books in various publications," not often.  I don't agree with a lot of movie critics either.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?  I would rather give a positive review, and I try to make clear in my negative reviews whether I thought the book was bad, or I just disliked it for personal reasons.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose?  Hmm.  Why would I want to read in a foreign language?  I guess maybe German, because I can read a little in it and wish I knew more.

35. Favourite poet?  Kenneth Koch

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?  One.  If I have more than one checked out at a time, I start to feel pressured to quick zip through them.  Reading should not be stressful!!!

37. How often have you returned books to the library unread?  Rarely.  More often when I was a kid/teen, though even then it was very rare.  

38. Favourite fictional character?  Sherlock Holmes

(Either you get it or you don't.)

39. Favourite fictional villain?  Um.  Hmm.  Hmmmmmmmmmm.  See, but I tend to really dislike or hate or even loathe villains because they are making life difficult or bad or horrible for the heroes, and I want to be friends with the heroes if it's a book I love, so... does this mean like, "a bad guy you hate a little less than the others" or does it mean "a bad guy you could forgive for being bad."  Or "a bad guy you enjoy reading about."  ::Dithers::  Every time I think of one, I realize they're an antagonist, not actually a villain.  Does Severus Snape count?  He's a little bit villainous at times.

41. The longest you’ve gone without reading?  A day or two.  

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish.  Recently ditched Outlaw by Angus Donald

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?  When reading fiction?  Nothing whatsoever.  My parents used to tease me that they could discuss my Christmas presents with me in the room as long as I was reading, because I would be totally oblivious. 

When reading non-fiction, then my kids and my husband stand a decent chance of distracting me.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel?  Peter Jackson's Middle Earth movies.  I love them so much, right now I'm devoting 28 posts to them over on my other blog.

An excellent place for a picture of a certain grim-faced man.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?  I'm gonna go with Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) because I never really have liked the film, but when I read Truman Capote's story, I liked it a lot!

46. The most money I’ve ever spent in the bookstore at one time?  Over $100.  But in my defense, it was Christmas time and I was buying presents for other people.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?  Fiction?  Never.  Nonfiction?  Some.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?  Graphically described sex scenes or gratuitous bad language.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?  Very.  I have them all alphabetized by author.  Series go either in series order if there is one, or else in alphabetical order by title.  My TBR shelves are grouped by author if there's more than one book by an author.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once you’ve read them?  I keep them if I love them and want to read them again or reference them.  Otherwise I give them away, sometimes here on my blog!  Otherwise I try to sell them on my own yard sale, and then donate the leftovers to the library for one of their fundraiser sales.


51. Are there any books you’ve been avoiding?  Well, of course there are books I will never read because they are disgusting.  But there are also books like War and Peace that I want to read in theory, but haven't gotten up the courage/time to start.

52. Name a book that made you angry.  Longbourne by Jo Baker tried to mess with my views of the characters in Pride and Prejudice and that was not kind.

53. A book you didn’t expect to like but did?  Um, I tend not to read books that I don't think I will like.  I had to back in college, of course, but anymore, nope.

54. A book that you expected to like but didn’t?  The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz

55. Favourite guilt-free pleasure reading?  Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe mysteries are always a good time!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Hoping for a Cowboy Valentine?

As you may know, I'm trying to read more westerns lately.  Partly because I'm writing westerns myself now, and partly because I realized it's ridiculous to love westerns and cowboys as much as I do and not read more cowboy books!  So I've been delving into Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour and so on, but I'm also making an effort to read modern western writers too.  One I've discovered is Elizabeth Grace Foley (read her blog here) -- I've really enjoyed two of her books, The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories and Left-Hand Kelly.  So when I learned that the e-book version of her new novella, Corral Nocturne, is only 99 cents this weekend, I snapped it up.  I'll read it on my phone over the next while and review it here when I'm done, but since I know some of my blogging friends also love clean western stories, I thought I'd give you a heads-up about it being on sale right now!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

"Death by Petticoat: American History Myths Debunked" by Mary Miley Theobald

I picked this up at Colonial Williamsburg in November because it looked like a fun book and I wondered if it would be appropriate for Sam, my 7-year-old, who loves history.  Turns out, it was both fun and appropriate.  Took me a while to dig my TBR pile down to it, but I'm glad I finally did.  This is a really fast read -- no myth takes more than 1 1/2 pages for Theobald to debunk convincingly.  Not an in-depth history book, but an informative one.

Want to know if there was ever a "closet tax" that kept people from putting closets in their houses years ago?  Or whether or not women really wore wax makeup that melted off their faces if they sat too close to a fire?  Or if the position of a horse's legs indicate how the war hero on it died?  All the answers are here!

And now that I've finished it, I'm going to let Sam read it :-)  You can visit the author's website here to get a taste of the sorts of things that are in her book, and also find citations for much of the info, which are sadly missing from the book.

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  G.  

Thursday, February 5, 2015

"The Light of Western Stars" by Zane Grey

I really liked this book a lot.  Until the final page.  I found it unusual and rather thrilling, and I enjoyed it greatly.  Until that last page, where Grey disappointed me so soundly I'll probably never read this again.

Before I go into why I was disappointed, I'll briefly outline the story.  Madeline Hammond comes west to find her brother.  She's exceedingly wealthy.  She falls in love with the west, buys a ranch, and sets about making a really cool home for herself.  And there's a cowboy named Gene Stewart who kind of goes from crude to awesome to crude to awesome with some regularity.  Madeline is drawn to him, he's drawn to her, and everything points to them having some kind of very tumultuous life together for many years, if they can ever just get together once and for all.  Also, there's an evil bad guy named Don Carlos who hates both of them with the fire of a thousand suns because... that's what bad guys do.  I was always a little unclear on just why he hated them so much, but I figured it'd all come perfectly clear at the end, when he and Gene Stewart had a glorious showdown of some sort, and Don Carlos was finished for good.

Except that's not what happened.  And even if, instead of a glorious showdown, Don Carlos had just gotten thrown in jail for being a stinker, I'd have been fine with that.  But that didn't happen, either.  In fact, nothing at all happened to Don Carlos.  He didn't even get apprehended.  He is still out there.  Any minute, he can pop back up out of the blue and menace Madeline and Stewart again!  This is all wrong, people!  It isn't right, it isn't fair!

I feel like Zane Grey was so excited over the very last line of the book (which was good) that he just forgot all about Don Carlos.  I also feel quite certain that, in the very next instant after that last line, Don Carlos pops out from behind a rock and shoots Gene Stewart.  And I will never know because Zane Grey left me hanging for all eternity.  Mutter mutter mutter.

Particularly Good Bits:

She scarcely remembered when she had found it necessary to control her emotions.  There had been no trouble, no excitement, no unpleasantness in her life.  it had been ordered for her -- tranquil, luxurious, brilliant, varied, yet always the same.

It was only by looking back that Madeline could grasp the true relation of things; she could not be deceived by the distance she had covered.

Once more, for the hundredth time, the man's reliability struck Madeline.  He was a doer of things.

...sarcastic as alkali water...

Heedless, desperate, she cast off the last remnant of self-control, turned from the old proud, pale, cold, self-contained ghost of herself to face this strange, strong, passionate woman.

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for western violence and a sprinkling of bad language.

This is my 18th book read and reviewed for The Classics Club.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

"Hamlet: Poem Unlimited" by Harold Bloom

My mind has kind of exploded.  This book is crammed with so many thoughts and ideas about Hamlet that I have never encountered before that I really feel almost addled.  It doesn't helped that I read the whole thing in one afternoon -- I think I need to read it again, a chapter at a time, to better absorb everything Bloom is saying here.  I fully intend to do so before I start a read-along of Hamlet this summer, because I know it contains many things I'll want to discuss and share then.

Actually, by the time I finished reading this book, I began to feel very unqualified to lead a read-along of such a complex, convoluted, important piece of literature.  I'm sure the feeling will pass, to some extent, but I hope I can hang on to the sense of my own insignificance so that I don't start prating about the play as if I am some sort of Hamletian authority, since I totally am not.

One thing that Bloom really brought home to me is how much I love this play, but not Hamlet himself.  Bloom says, "He does not want or need love:  that is his lonely freedom, and it provokes the audience's unreasoning affection for him" (p. 44).  Wow.  That summed up so succinctly why I love Hamlet, but don't like or truly understand him.  Brilliant.  He goes on to say, "All of us in the audience share Shakespeare's ambivalence toward Hamlet, for on some level the prince frightens us as much as he attracts us" (p. 101).  Exactly.

I don't have much else to say about this, other than that, if you've studied Hamlet before and wish you understood more of it, or if you love Hamlet and are always eager to see new angles and perspectives on it, by all means, get thee to a library or book store and find a copy.  I'll share here just a few of my favorite passages, but the whole book is both short and illuminating.  While I don't agree with all of Bloom's conclusions, he has so many excellent observations and ideas that I now find him invaluable.

Particularly Good Bits:

As a meditation upon human fragility in confrontation with death, it competes only with the world's scriptures (p. 3). is a play about playing, about acting out rather than revenging (p. 11).

Polonius is an old meddler, and Guildenstern and Rosencrantz are confidence men at best, but the fragile and lovely Ophelia is quite another matter, and Hamlet is monstrous to torment her into true madness (p. 42).

Hamlet is so exuberant, whether in irony or grief, that his rhetorical excessiveness rivals Falstaff's (p. 55).

Before Act V, Hamlet is confident of his soul's immortality, but I think he is different after his return from the sea, and I suspect he courts annihilation (p. 71).

For Hamlet himself, death is not tragic, but an apotheosis (p. 93).

The prince may not be going to join Falstaff "in Arthur's bosom," yet he is going to move us to an apprehension of value gained rather than lost by his immolation.  Though Hamlet's apotheosis is so difficult to describe, the audience's sense of it appears to be all but universal.  Even to the most secular among us, Hamlet's death has vicarious resonances, though it cannot be called an atonement....  We tend to feel augmented, rather than diminished, by Hamlet's death" (p. 97).

If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for discussions of death and brief references to sexual matters contained in the play.