Friday, May 29, 2009

The New Golden Bough (2)

Sir James George Frazer. A New Abridgment. Ed. Dr. Theodore H. Gaster. New York: New American Library. 1890 (1959).

Why read it? Study of primitive rites and cultures, vestiges of which underlie our own modern culture. A study of primitive superstitions.

Sample Quotes and Ideas (2)

“…overall picture of how, at the primitive level, man in general thinks and acts, and of how that primitive mentality persists sporadically even in the more advanced stages of his development.” Gaster, Editor’s Foreword, xx.

“For such was the rule of the Sanctuary of Diana of the Woodland Glade: A candidate for the priesthood could succeed to office only by slaying the incumbent priest in single combat, and could himself retain office only until he in turn was slain by a stronger or craftier…. …could fling his challenge only if he had first succeeded in plucking a golden bough from the tree which the priest was guarding.” p. 32.

“In Germany yellow turnips, gold coins and rings, saffron and other yellow things are still esteemed remedies for jaundice….” p. 41.

“Cure for a tumor: Take a root of vervain, cut it across, and hang one end of it around the patient’s neck, and another in the smoke of the fire…. As vervain dries up in the smoke, so the tumor will…dry up and disappear.” p. 42.

“If you are troubled with pimples…watch for a falling star, and then instantly, while the star is still shooting from the sky…wipe the pimples with a cloth or anything that comes to hand. As the star falls from the sky, so the pimples will fall from your body; only you must be very careful not to wipe them with your bare hand or the pimples will be transferred to it.” p. 42.

To be continued.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The New Golden Bough (1).

Sir James George Frazer. A New Abridgment. Ed. Dr. Theodore H. Gaster. New York: New American Library. 1890 (1959).

Why read it? Study of primitive rites and cultures, vestiges of which underlie our own modern culture. A study of primitive superstitions.

Sample quotes and ideas:

“In postulating ‘homeopathy’—that is, the principle that ‘like produces like’—as one of the primary bases of magic, Frazer cites in proof the numerous rites in which something desired is simulated in advanced, e.g., rainfall by pouring water or sunlight by kindling fire.” Gaster, Editor’s Foreword. xvii. ……….“Indeed, what Freud did for the individual, Frazer did for civilization as a whole…. As Freud deepened men’s insight into the behavior of individual by uncovering the ruder world of the subconscious, from which so much of behavior springs, so Frazer enlarged man’s understanding of the behavior of societies by laying bare the primitive concepts and modes of thought which underlie and inform so many of their institutions and which persist, as a subliminal element of their culture, in their traditional folk customs. Gaster, Editor’s Foreword. p. xix.

To be continued.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Only Yesterday. Frederick Lewis Allen.

New York: Bantam Books. 1931.

Why read it? Remember the 1920s? You will while reading this book, even though you did not live in the 1920s. Allen vividly re-creates the time that I think marks the beginning of modern society in the United States. You will recognize many of the practices in the 21st century that originated in the 1920s. The era of the 1920s, from the end of World War I to the collapse of the stock market in 1929, is one of the most colorful decades in U.S. history.

Sample Quotes and Ideas:

“Whether the human race gains in wisdom as time goes by is uncertain; the one thing we can be sure of is that its absurdities take changing forms.” p. viii. ………. “Shout as the crowds might for Wilson and Justice, they voted for Lloyd George and vengeance.” p. 17. ………. “As Ray Stannard Baker has well put it, Wilson was ‘accustomed to getting his information, not from people, but out of books: documents, letters—the written word’ and consequently ‘underestimated the value of …human contacts.’ ” p. 18.

“He [Wilson] fell into the pit which is dug for every idealist. Having failed to embody his ideal in fact, he distorted the fact. He pictured the world to himself and to others, not as it was, but as he wished it to be…. The story of the Conference which he told to the American people when he returned home was a very beautiful romance of good men and true laboring without thought of selfish advantage for the welfare of humanity.” p. 20. ………. Harding: “America’s present need is not heroics but healing; not nostrums but normalcy; not revolution but restoration…; not surgery but serenity.” p. 30. ………. Of Calvin Coolidge: The Governor of Massachusetts was an inconspicuous, sour-faced man with a reputation for saying as little as possible….” p. 37.

The KKK: “…the preposterous vocabulary of its ritual could be made the vehicle for all that infantile love of hocus pocus and mummery, that lust for secret adventure, which survives in the adult whose lot is cast in drab places.” p. 46. ………. “And every other man you met on the street buttonholed you to tell you how he had sat up until two o’clock the night before, with earphones clamped to his head and had actually heard Havana!” p. 55. ……….. “The tabloids, indeed, were booming—and not without effect…. They presented American life not as a political and economic struggle, but as a three-ring circus of sport, crime and sex, and in varying degrees the other papers followed their lead under the pressure of competition.” p. 57. ………. “The division of public opinion on the [Sacco-Venzetti] case was largely a division between those who thought radicals ought to be strung up on general principles and those who thought that the test of a country’s civilization lay in the scrupulousness with which it protected the rights of minorities.” p. 60.

“Meanwhile a new sort of freedom was being made possible by the enormous increase in the use of the automobile, and particularly of the closed car…. The automobile offered an almost universally available means of escaping temporarily from the supervision of parents or chaperones, or from the influence of neighborhood opinion….” p. 70.

“Each of these diverse influences—the post-war disillusion, the new status of women, the Freudian gospel, the automobile, Prohibition, the sex and confession magazines, and the movies—had its part in bringing about the revolution. Each of them, as an influence, was played upon by all the others; none of them could alone have changed to any great degree the folkways of America; together, their force was irresistible.” p. 72.

“Of far greater social significance, however, was the fact that men and women were drinking together. Among well-to-do people the serving of cocktails before dinner became almost socially obligatory…. The late afternoon cocktail party became a new American institution.” p. 77.

“The prestige of science was colossal. The man in the street and the woman in the kitchen, confronted on every hand with new machines and devices which they owed to the laboratory, were ready to believe that science could accomplish almost anything.” p. 140. .......... “To preface a statement with ‘science teaches us’ was enough to silence argument.” p. 141.

“Soon the mists of distance would soften the outlines of the nineteen-twenties and men and women, looking over the pages of a book such as this, would smile at the memory of those charming, crazy days when the radio was a thrilling novelty, and girls wore bobbed hair and knee-length skirts, and a transatlantic flier became a god overnight [Lindbergh], and common stocks were about to bring us all to lavish utopia…. They would talk about the good old days.”

Comment: If you want to immerse yourself in nostalgia, read Only Yesterday. You will find yourself re-living the days of the 1920s as if you were there. And you will be amazed at how much of today’s (2009) activities were initiated ninety years ago. The pattern of American life then is remarkably like the pattern of American life today, a time when a second Great Depression is almost upon us. RayS.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Coming fury (3). Bruce Catton

The Centennial History of the Civil War. Vol. One. The Coming Fury (3). Bruce Catton. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.


10-second review: People did not think the Civil War would come, but North and South kept drifting into it, the motives not always explicable, even though slavery was obsolete because the nation, as a whole, was becoming industrialized—the real reason that the North won the war.

Lincoln: “The power confided to me, will be used to hold, occupy and possess the property, and places belonging to the government, and to collect the duties and imposts.” p. 265. ………. “One of the fantastic things about Fort Sumter was that about 4000 shells were fired altogether, without killing anyone on either side.” p. 324. ………. Winfield Scott: The war would be won by the North, but the country’s troubles would not be ended. “For a long time to come it would require the exercise of all the powers of government to restrain the fury of the noncombatants.’ ”

“…from Lincoln the bitter cry…that he could not claim to have controlled events but must admit rather, that events had controlled him.” p. 339. ………. “Significantly, everyone [in the South] seemed to feel that this government represented a malignant fraction rather than the Northern people as a whole.” A delusion. p. 359. ………. Western Virginia and Eastern Tennessee remained strongly loyal to the Union. p. 365. ………. Kentucky: emotionally, part of the South; geographically, part of the Middle West. Native state of Jefferson Davis who was founding a new nation and of Lincoln who was trying to destroy that new nation. p. 366.

The move of the Confederate capital from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, made Virginia the focus of the war, leaving the importance diminished of the West, the Mississippi Valley, Missouri, Kentucky and Tennessee inevitably. p. 389. ………. Douglas, who might have been a bridge between the sides in the future, died, ‘broken, financially, physically and emotionally.” p. 392. ………. “Legally, the United States government did not recognize secession; legally, therefore, the laws of the United States still applied, including the one which said that runaway slaves must be returned to the people who owned them.” p. 396.

With Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy, so close to Washington, the North thought they could easily take the capital and thereby end the Confederacy. p. 399. ………. McClellan: too much preparation, not enough action. p. 409. ………. “Lincoln still had things to learn. He restated his old belief that the Confederacy somehow spoke for a minority.” p. 419. ………. Andrew Johnson, an East Tennessean: “…the war had been forced upon the country by Southern disunionists and that the Federal government was fighting neither to subjugate Southern states nor to interfere with slavery but simply to maintain the Constitution and uphold the Union.” p. 421.

Congress had voted to put all its resources into the war and the Confederacy could not match them. It had suggested that the war would swallow both secession and slavery—and would not follow the Constitution when it came to deal with slavery. p. 424. ……….Belief that the South should sell all its cotton and purchase munitions, etc. But would require a strong central government which the South did not believe in. They believed in States’ Rights. p. 433. ………. “The political hostilities of a generation were now free to face off with weapons instead of words.” p. 448.

Battle of Bull Run. Union troops. Between 450 and 500 killed. 1100 men wounded. Between 1500 and 1800 missing in action. p. 467. ………. “Some of these things could be done at once, and some of them could not be done for a long time, but at least the President was blocking out a program for action.” p. 470. ………. “Bull Run gave the North a reawakening, but it gave the South overconfidence.” p. 471. ………. When the people of Richmond saw the wounded and dead troops coming back, they began to realize the cost of victory at Bull run. p, 472.

Comment: A vivid re-telling of the events and characters that made the Civil War. I look forward to reading Volumes Two and Three. RayS.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Coming Fury (2). Bruce Catton.

The Centennial History of the Civil War. Vol. One. The Coming Fury (2). Bruce Catton. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.


10-second review: People did not think the Civil War would come, but North and South kept drifting into war, the motives not always clear, even though slavery was obsolete because the nation, as a whole, was becoming industrialized—the real reason that the North won the war.

“But although [Alexander] Stephens hoped the Union might be preserved, he would go where Georgia went, bowing to the will of the people: ‘Their cause is my cause, and their destiny is my destiny.’ ” p. 113. ………. The Election of 1860 did not solve anything but people were tired of talking about slavery; they wanted something done, but no one specified what it was that should be done. p. 118. ………. Buchanan: Long cabinet meetings brought only indecision. p. 128. ……….

Buchanan did not believe in preserving the Union by coercion. “Our Union rests upon public opinion and can never be cemented by the blood of its citizens shed in a civil war. If it cannot live in the affections of its people it must one day perish.” p. 128.

People in 1860 wanted peace, but kept drifting toward war. p. 130. ………. “…600,000 young men who otherwise might have lived were going to die, but it seemed that there was no help for it.” p. 130. ………. “…and that the union now subsisting between South Carolina and other States, under the name of ‘The United States of America,’ is hereby dissolved.” p. 133. ………. “Outright war could be averted now only if somebody backed down.” p. 165.

Buchanan to Alexander Stephens: “You think slavery is right and ought to be extended; we think it is wrong and ought to be restricted…. For this, neither [side] has any just occasion to be angry with the other.” p. 168. ………. Lincoln thought there was a strong vein of loyalty to the Union across the South if it could be tapped. But when secession occurred, the people of the South supported their states.” p. 188. ………. “They [the Republicans] had campaigned on the notion that there should be no extension of slavery in the territories and on that point they would not yield an inch. p. 201. ” ………. Once secession had occurred, there was little room for negotiation. p. 201.

Robt. E. Lee: “If the bond of the Union can only be maintained by the sword and bayonet, instead of brotherly love and friendship, and if strife and Civil War are to take the place of mutual aid and commerce, its [the Union’s] existence will lose all interest with me.” p. 203. ………. “…that secession was wholly legal, that this new nation was of entire and unstained legitimacy, and in short that this revolution was really no revolution but was simply the quiet assertion of undeniable rights by men who had suffered much with great forbearance.” p. 206. ………. “…the desperate attempt to preserve a pastoral society intact in a land being transformed by the Industrial Revolution….” p. 215.

Lincoln saw in the Declaration of Independence not just hope for the U.S. but for all mankind. p. 221. ………. Lincoln wanted strong cabinet members, antagonistic Republicans, whom he thought he could control. p. 245. ………. “For better or worse, Davis had not tried the experiment Lincoln was trying, of bringing in the most forceful leaders the nation’s politics had to offer.” p. 275.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Coming Fury. Bruce Catton. (1)

The Centennial History of the Civil War. Vol. One. The Coming Fury (1). Bruce Catton. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Company, Inc.1961.

Why read it? Although the official Washington line was that preserving the Union was the chief goal of the Civil War, the emotional reason was the issue of slavery. Oddly, and many people of the South knew it, slavery was obsolete because the country was becoming industrialized. There was no way that the South could win because it had remained a rural section of the country while the North had the advantage of industrialized resources. But the South had heart, as revealed in the following quote by Robert E. Lee: “I prefer annihilation to submission. They may destroy but I trust will never conquer us.” p. 472.

When South Carolina seceded and the rest of the Southern states followed, all chance for settlement by negotiation was ended. When the Southern capital was moved from Montgomery, Alabama, to Richmond, Virginia, only 100 miles from Washington, the North thought it would win easily. Take Richmond, and the heart of the South would collapse. The Battle of Bull Run, witnessed by picnickers, and concluded with a disorderly rout of Union troops, ended the North’s belief in their superiority and began the entire nation’s understanding of the meaning of war.

An interesting note is the composition of the Northern and Southern presidential Cabinets. Lincoln chose the most forceful leaders, even though he knew they would disagree with him. Davis chose his Cabinet looking for decision by consensus.

Sample quotes and Ideas:

Slavery was the issue. On both sides of the issue men were not trying to persuade so much as giving vent to emotion. p. 17. ………. Owen Lovejoy: “Slavery…was the sum of all villainies, worse than robbery, worse than piracy, worse than polygamy: ‘It has the violence of robbery, the blood and cruelty of piracy, it has the offensive and brutal lusts of polygamy, all combined, and concentrated in itself.’ ” p. 23. ………. Most did not think that war would occur. p. 24.

“At Charleston and at Baltimore the South had taken its stand. It would remain the South, separate and unalterable. He who could not subscribe to that fact would be an enemy.” p. 78. ………. “Men’s motives…are mixed and obscure, and none of the many separate decisions which brought war to America in 1861 is wholly explicable.” p. 79.

“The long voyage across the sea to America lies embedded in the subconscious memory of every American. It was a hard trip even under the best of conditions, and many people died trying to achieve it, but it was made more tolerable by the unvoiced promise that lay at the end. After it was made, its hardships and dangers faded slowly out of sight, because those who came were volunteers led on by hope, and there was something in the New World to justify that hope after the trip had ended.” p. 81. ………. “But for the Negro it had been different. The trip itself was worse—fearfully, unspeakably worse—and what came after it was very little better than the trip itself. The institution of slavery had become comparatively benign, to be sure, but it was still slavery: a vast system of forced labor that sustained the economy of half a continent, offering to those who labored no prospect whatever for a better life. To the Negro, hope was denied. There was only survival bought at the price of surrendering human dignity. The Negro had to remain what he was, his mere presence a mocking denial of the nation’s basic belief in freedom and the advancement of the human spirit. He was the one man in America who could not be allowed a share in America’s meaning.” p. 81.

Slavery was obsolete because the country was becoming industrialized. p. 83. ………. The Presidential campaign of 1860 did not help solve the problem of slavery, it only intensified the problem. p. 87. ………. Douglas who would have been a friend to the South was rejected by the South as a candidate. p. 89. ..........“Parades and loud noises were taking the place of reasoned discussion.” p. 97. ………. “The showdown [over slavery] might have shattering impact, but it would have to come.” p. 99.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys....

Tanglewood Tales for Girls and Boys: being a Second Wonder Book. Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1853. New York: Literary Classics of the United states, Inc. 1982.

Why read it? You’ll experience the storyteller’s art. You’ll hear, even though you read, once more the stories of ancient myths. You’ll be a child again at the knee of a gifted story teller. You’ll learn hundreds of details that you might never before have known about these well-known myths. You’ll re-experience the wonder and fascination of ancient times and stories. Hawthorne has created unforgettable story-telling moments. You’ll wish that your mother had told you these stories or that you had discovered Hawthorne’s version when you were young.

Sample quotes:

“Children are now the only representatives of the men and women of that happy era; and therefore it is that we must raise the intellect and fancy to the level of childhood, in order to re-create the original myths.” p. 1310. ……….

“The Minotaur”

“She [Theseus’s mother, Aethra] could not help being sorrowful at finding him already so impatient to begin his adventures in the world.” p. 1314. ………. “Aethra [Theseus’s mother]: “When he went to be king of Athens, he [Aegeus] bade me treat you [Theseus] as a child, until you should prove yourself a man by lifting this heavy stone; that task being accomplished, you are to put on his sandals, in order to follow in your father’s footsteps, and to gird on his sword, so that you may fight giants and dragons, as King Aegeus did in his youth.” p. 1316.

“Theseus, however, was much too brave and active a young man to be willing to spend all his time in relating things which had already happened.” p. 1323. ………. “…a Minotaur, which was shaped partly like a man and partly like a bull, and was altogether such a hideous sort of creature that it is really disagreeable to think of him.” p. 1324. ………. “No peace [between Athens and Crete] could they [the Athenians] obtain, however, except on condition that they should send seven young men and seven maidens, every year to be devoured by the pet-monster of the cruel King Minos.” p. 1324.

“…and the youths and damsels dreaded lest they themselves might be destined to glut the cavernous maw of that detestable man-brute.” p. 1325. ………. “There seemed nothing else to be expected, but that, the next moment, he [the brass giant] would fetch his great club down, slam-bang, and smash the vessel into a thousand pieces, without heeding how many innocent people he might destroy; for there is seldom any mercy in a giant….” p. 1328. ………. “Minos was a stern and pitiless king…cared only to examine whether they were plump enough to satisfy the Minotaur’s appetite.” p. 1329.

Theseus: “Sitting there on thy golden throne, and in thy robes of majesty, I tell thee to thy face, King Minos, thou art a more hideous monster than the Minotaur himself.” p. 1329. ………. “Let this free-spoken youth be the Minotaur’s first morsel.” p. 1329. ………. “That Daedalus was a very cunning workman; but of all his artful contrivances, this labyrinth is the most wondrous; were we to take but a few steps from the doorway, we might wander about, all our lifetime, and never find it again.” p. 1331.

Comment: Will Theseus be eaten by the Minotaur? How will Theseus thread the labyrinth? You’ll have to read Hawthorne’s Second Wonder Book to find out.

Hawthorne goes on in the Second Wonder Book to tell the stories of “The Pygmies,” “The Dragon’s Teeth,” “Circe’s Palace,” “The Pomegranate-Seeds” and “The Golden Fleece.” RayS.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Time Present, Time Past. Bill Bradley.

New York: Alfred a. Knopf. 1996.

Why read it? Bradley, a Democrat, made a run at the 2000 presidential election. Of course, he never made it into the final two. George W. Bush and Al Gore did. But Bradley’s comments on the state of America are still interesting. What he failed to realize, however, is that his attempt to get his message out through books was doomed. Americans do not read books anymore. And, as a speaker, Bradley was a complete dud, boring, lifeless, monotoned and lacking in any charisma with his audiences. Still, he was a bright young man with interesting things to say, and I enjoyed this book, one of several that he published to get his message across to the American public.

Sample quotes:

“Though there are still extraordinary individuals in communities across America, too many of us are losing a conception of the whole, and of our connectedness to one another. p. xiii. ………. “What is life worth if we don’t strive to build something that is bigger than we are and lasts longer than we do?” ………. “Achieving personal excellence and extending a helping hand are indispensable elements of an American future that works….” p. 23. ………. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of bad people, but for the silence of good people.” p. 24.

“For over seventeen years, my most memorable moments have come from the people I have met.” p. 37. ………. “It’s through the stories of people’s lives that I am moved and that I gain a hesitancy about universal solutions.” p. 37. ………. “Above all, Democrats must give a ringing endorsement to the conviction that America’s best days lie ahead of it.” p. 58. ………. “I chose to become a workhorse, a senator who worked hard every day in his assigned committees and sought the respect of his colleagues rather than a show horse, a senator who defined success by the number of times his name appeared in print.” p. 60.

“When I hear from individual Americans, I ask myself what is the big-picture issue behind their stories.” p. 100. ………. “A key to our world leadership as a pluralistic democracy with a growing economy is our knowledge of other cultures.” p. 144. ………. “Different languages challenge; different customs enrich; different political ideas broaden; different attitudes about the world surprise; different perceptions of American reality enlighten.” p. 144. ………. “If we can absorb these new influences that make us a world society, even as we take note of the perspectives they offer about who we are as Americans, we can truly show the world the future.” p. 144.

“To make an enemy of the media is fatal for a public figure. Not because the press will print lies, but because so much depends on where reporters want to put the emphasis, or on how they want to see events that are often subject to several interpretations.” p. 153. ………. “Write a thoughtful analysis of the American predicament and it will be reduced to thirty seconds, if it makes the TV news at all. p. 159. ………. “…television’s attitude toward violence yields panel discussions and public-service ads decryig it followed by programs full of violent acts.” p. 160. ………. “America isn’t as bad as it looks on the television news.” p. 161.

“Unlike senators or Supreme Court Justices, presidents rarely change while they are in office. A president doesn’t have the time.” p. 204. ……….. On being a president: “No more smells and sights and sounds that come from being physically in a new place, with time to absorb it…almost no opportunity for relaxed reflection.” p. 204. ……… “Though political defeat can be overcome by another victory or by developing a new perspective or by going on to another profession, the character assaults and personal injuries of politics too often leave permanent scars.” p. 207.

I’ll conclude with Bradley’s comment on the effects of a failed presidential bid before he knew that he would fail: “Those who have failed in their presidential runs may have lost a chance to lead their country, but what they have retained is the possibility to define themselves apart from others, to continue to grow intellectually and spiritually and to have time for their families. What they have gained is a chance for a normal life.” p. 204.

Comment: Someone should write a book about the ideas of failed presidential candidates. RayS.

Monday, May 18, 2009

This Side of Paradise (Novel). F. Scott Fitzgerald.

New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons. 1920 (1948).

Why read it? The story of Amory Blaine who lives a superficial life at Princeton, flirts, falls in love, loses the love of his life to someone more wealthy than he. Fights in WWI and returns war-weary, cynical and regretful before he is thirty years old. Story of the “Lost Generation.” One of Fitzgerald’s themes is true love blighted by the lust for money. You’ll find it again in The Great Gatsby. This Side of Paradise is an early look at the “Jazz Age.”

Sample quotes:

“Experience is the name so many people give to their mistakes.” Oscar Wilde. ………. “…he was a slave to his own moods.” p. 25. ………. “…New England, the land of schools.” p. 29. ………. “The slickers of that year had adopted tortoise-shell spectacles as badges of their slickerhood.” p. 39. ………. “Why…I suppose the sign of it [slickerdom] is when a fellow slicks his hair back with water.” p. 39. ………. “The slicker was good looking or clean-looking, he had brains, social brains, that is, and he used all means on the broad path of honesty to get ahead, be popular, admired, and never in trouble.” p. 39.

“ ‘I’ve got an adjective that just fits you’ …one of his favorite starts—he seldom had a word in mind, but it was a curiosity provoker, and he could always produce something complimentary if he got in a tight corner.” p. 66. ………. “I’m in a muddle about a lot of things—I’ve just discovered that I’ve a mind, and I’m starting to read.” p. 116. ………. “I can never judge a man while he’s talking.” p. 133.

“Thousands of old emotions and a platitude for each.” p. 142. ………. “American life is so damned dumb and stupid and healthy.” p. 151. ………. “I’m restless as the devil and have a horror of getting fat or falling in love and growing domestic.” p. 152. ………. “She is one of those girls who need never make the slightest effort to have men fall in love with them.” p. 158.

“The education of all beautiful women is the knowledge of men.” p. 158. ………. “But all criticism of Rosalind ends in her beauty.” p. 159. ………. “When I meet a man that doesn’t bore me to death after two weeks, perhaps it’ll be different.” p. 161. ………. Rosalind: “You’ve made me talk about myself…that’s against the rules.” p. 161.

“Please don’t fall in love with my mouth—hair, eyes, shoulder, slippers—but not my mouth.” p. 163. ………. Rosalind: “Men aged forty-five: …they know life and are so adorably tired looking.” p. 165. ………. “Clever men are usually so homely.” p. 170. ………. “It may be an insane love affair…but it’s not inane.” p. 171.

“Probably more than any concrete vice or failing Amory despised his own personality—he loathed knowing that tomorrow and the thousand days after he would swell pompously at a compliment and sulk at an ill word….” p. 236. ………. “He began for the first time in his life to have a strong distrust of all generalities and epigrams.” p. 240. ………. “He found something that he wanted…not to be admired…not to be loved…but to be necessary to people, to be indispensable….” p. 241.

“Very few things matter and nothing matters very much.” p241. ………. “The chief characteristic of the big man seemed to be a great confidence in himself set off against a tremendous boredom with everything around him.” p. 242. ………. “Those quarter-educated, stale-minded men…who think they think….” p. 250. ………. “Good luck to you and bad luck to your theories.” p. 253. ………. “…a new generation dedicated more than the last to the fear of poverty and the worship of success.” p. 255.

Comment: How it feels to be young and happy and completely unconcerned about everyone else. And the contrast after having faced life’s disappointments and tragedy. Don’t trust anyone over thirty? That’s because everyone over thirty is cynical. RayS.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pride and Prejudice. Jane Austen. Novel.

New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1813.

Why read it? My favorite novel. I’ve read it five times and am in the process of reading it again, this time in an edition with detailed footnotes about everything in the novel and its times. The battle between Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet is classic, perhaps the story of all our loves. It’s Austen’s masterpiece. I think. Emma is a close second. However, I wouldn’t read Emma as often as I have read Pride and Prejudice. And the movie with Greer Garson and Lawrence Olivier is an enjoyable adaptation of the novel. It is so good because it uses Jane Austen’s language from the book.

Sample quotes:

“It is a truth universally acknowledge, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” p. 3. ………. “The business of her [Mrs. Bennet’s ] life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.” p. 5. ………. “Mr. Darcy soon drew the attention of the room by his fine, tall person, handsome features, noble mien; and the report which was in general circulation within five minutes after his entrance, of his having ten thousand a year.” p. 10.

Elizabeth: “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.” p. 20. ………. “Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.” p. 20. ………. “When she is secure of him, there will be leisure for falling in love as much as she chooses.” p. 22.

Darcy: “A lady’s imagination is very rapid; it jumps from admiration to love, from love to matrimony in a moment.” p. 27. ………. “[An accomplished woman] must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions…. Yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.” p. 39. ………. Elizabeth: “I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women; I rather wonder now at your knowing any.” p. 39.

“I wonder who first discovered the efficacy of poetry in driving away love.” p. 44. ………. Elizabeth: “…for you are really proud of your defects in writing, because you consider them as proceeding from a rapidity of thought and carelessness of execution, which if not estimable, you think at least highly interesting.” p. 49 .......... . Elizabeth: “…because he [Darcy] does not write with ease. He studies too much for words of four syllables.” p. 49. ………. Elizabeth: “The power of doing anything with quickness is always much prized by the possessor….” p. 49. ………. Elizabeth: “I am perfectly convinced…that Mr. Darcy has no defect. He owns it himself without disguise.” o. 57.

Comment: Well, you get the idea. A delightful novel. Jane Austen is a gem. Right up there with Shakespeare, except, as Virginia Woolf says, without his experience—because he is a man. What would Jane Austen have been like if she had had the experiences afforded to men? We’ll never know. RayS.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Persuasion. Jane Austen. Novel.

New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1818.

Why read it? Anne Elliott and her lover Captain Wentworth had been engaged for eight years before they broke it off in deference to Anne’s family and friends. The novel is about how they became re-engaged and marry after their separation. Just a good story with Austen’s usual excellent characterizations.

Sample quotes:

“A few years before, Anne Elliott had been very pretty, but her bloom had vanished early….” p. 6. ………. “How quick come the reasons for approving what we like.” p. 15. ………. “…another lesson in the art of knowing our own nothingness beyond our own circle….” p. 42. ………. “One of the least agreeable circumstances of her residence there, was her being treated with too much confidence by all parties, and being too much in the secret of the complaints of each house…. She could do little more than listen patiently, soften every grievance, and excuse each to the other….” p. 44.

“No; the years which had destroyed her youth and bloom had only given him a more glowing, manly, open look, in no respect lessening his personal advantages. p. 61. ……….”She had given him up to oblige others…the effect of over-persuasion…weakness and timidity.” p. 61. ………. “Anne’s object was not to be in the way of anybody….” p. 84.

“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn….” p. 84. ………. “The sweet scenes of autumn were for a while put by—unless some tender sonnet, fraught with the apt analogy of the declining year, with declining happiness and the images of youth and hope, and spring, all gone together….” p. 85. ………. “He had a pleasing face and a melancholy air, just as he ought to have, and drew back from conversation.” p. 97.

[How’s the following to describe a male chauvinist pig? RayS. ] “Sir Walter…hoped she might make some amends for the many very plain faces he was continually passing in the streets. The worst of Bath was the number of its plain women. He did not mean to say that there were no pretty women, but the number of the plain was out of all proportion. He had frequently observed, as he walked, that one handsome face would be followed by thirty, or five and thirty frights; and once, as he had stood in a shop in Bond Street, he had counted eighty-seven women go by, one after another, without there being a tolerable face among them.” p. 141.

[Definition of a gentleman. RayS.]

“He was quite as good-looking as he had appeared at Lyme, his countenance improved by speaking, and his manners were so exactly what they ought to be, so polished, so easy, so particularly agreeable….” p. 143. ………. Admiral Croft: “I wonder where that boat was built. I would not venture over a horse pond in it.” p. 169. ………. “Benwick…is a clever man, a reading man….” p. 182.

“We [females] certainly do not forget you [males], so soon as you forget us…perhaps our fate rather than our merit…cannot help ourselves…live at home, quiet, confined and our feelings prey upon us [while] you are forced on exertion…have always a profession, pursuits, business of some sort or other, to take you back into the world immediately and continual occupation and change soon weaken impressions.” p. 232.

“She was deep in the happiness of such misery, or the misery of such happiness….” p. 229. ………. “…as they slowly paced the gradual ascent, heedless of every group around them, seeing neither sauntering politicians, bustling house-keepers, flirting girls, nor nursery-maids and children, they could indulge in those retrospections and acknowledgments, and especially in those explanations of what had directly preceded the present moment, which were so poignant and so ceaseless in interest.” p. 241. ………. “That evening seemed to be made up of exquisite moments.” p. 244.

Comment: And so, we leave Anne Elliott and her lover Captain Wentworth together again to live happily ever after in a state of blissful matrimony. It is ironic that Austen depicts the real strains of real marriages, usually mismatches, but still expects her heroines to find perfect happiness in marriage. RayS.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen. Novel.

New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1818.

Why read it? A satire based on Ann Radcliffe’s novel Mysteries of Udopho. Mistaken as wealthy, Catherine Morland is invited to Northanger Abbey by the dictatorial father of Henry Tilman, a young clergyman. Dismissed from the Abbey by the same dictatorial father when he learns that Catherine is not wealthy, Catherine is followed by Henry who asks her to marry him. In between she has seen Northanger Abbey as the nightmarish experience she has imagined from reading Radcliffe’s novel.

Sample quotes:

“…in her own hearing, two gentlemen pronounced her to be a pretty girl and such words had their due effect; she immediately thought the evening pleasanter than she had found it before—her humble vanity was contented—she felt more obliged to the two young men for this simple praise than a true quality heroine would have been for fifteen sonnets in celebration of her charms.” p. 24.

“Not keep a journal! How are your absent cousins to understand the tenor of your life without one; how are the civilities and compliments of every day to be related as they ought to be, unless noted down every evening in a journal; how are your various dresses to be remembered, and the particular state of your complexion, and curl of your hair to be described in all their diversities, without having constant resource to a journal. It is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated; everybody allows that the talent of writing agreeable letters is peculiarly female; nature may have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.” p. 27.

“…for a fine Sunday in Bath empties every house of its inhabitant, and all the world appears on such an occasion to walk about and tell their acquaintance what a charming day it is.” p. 35. ………. “But the merit of the curricle did not all belong to the horses; Henry drove so well, so quietly, without making any disturbance, without parading to her, or swearing at them and then his hat sat so well, and the innumerable capes of his greatcoat looked so becomingly important. To be driven by him, next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.” p. 157.

“The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt to somebody to enter.” p. 171.

Comment: And thus Catherine Morland imagines everything that can happen to a poor, defenseless girl when living in a Gothic mansion in a Gothic novel. Once again, you will see how well Austen can describe vividly the character of the people around her. This novel is a lot of fun. RayS.