Monday, December 22, 2014

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman, by Arthur Miller

Willy Loman is a traveling salesman, but he's getting older and more tired, and he's getting less stable--he keeps reliving memories instead of facing reality.  He's disappointed in his two sons, Biff and Happy, who were popular and successful in high school but have drifted ever since.  Willy expected them (and himself, too) to become successful businessmen, but that never materialized and he takes refuge in memories and lies about his life.  His wife loves him and is worried that he will commit suicide, but he tends to trample her.  During the play, we find out why Biff, the oldest son, went off the rails and just how far Willy will go to avoid reality.

I gather that the play is supposed to be about the failure of the American dream; at least, as Willy Loman sees it.  He wants to make deals and be loved, and for his sons to get rich.  He wants to believe that his sons are special--all-American athletes, popular, able to wheel and deal with the best and strike it rich without trouble.  The boys, more realistic, try to tell him that they are just ordinary men with ordinary lives.  That's not good enough for Willy, who can't face his own failures as a father (and husband), and whose dreamy expectations eventually kill him.


My Spin title was "The Crucible," and it came in a collection of five plays, so I read this one from my CC list as well.  It's yet another famous American piece that I'd never read before.  I had kind of a hard time with it, really.  Depressing mid-20th-century plays by Miller are not quite my thing, I guess. 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Classics Club December Meme

I haven't gotten around to answering the monthly Classics Club meme question lately, so I thought I'd try to jump back in.  December's question:
Let’s talk about children’s classics! Did you read any classic works as a child? What were your favorites? If not, have you or will you try any classic children’s literature in the future? (We’re aware children often read at an adult level. Please feel free to share adult OR children’s classics that you treasured in childhood OR children’s works that you’ve recently fallen for.)
Did I read any classic works as a child?  Well, yes.  My mother is a children's librarian and storyteller.  Our house was stuffed and overflowing with children's literature--a large percentage of them were library discards, so they were often pretty beat-up even before we got to them.  I was fairly resistant to reading anything that said CLASSIC on it, but I was also unaware that most of the books in the house probably counted in that category. 

I had 3 or 4 different editions of Black Beauty, and every other horse novel I could get (except The Black Stallion; for some reason I didn't take to those).  We had really nice hardback copies of E. Nesbit's most famous books, and I think we might have been the only kids who did in 1981 Bakersfield; Nesbit was not at all well-known then in the US.  We had ugly paperbacks of the Narnia books that we read to pieces, Tintin and Asterix comics, Wyeth illustrated editions of books like The Boy's King Arthur and The Black Arrow, and all sorts of odd things.

What we didn't have at home we could get at the library: I remember reading all of Andrew Lang's colored Fairy Books there.  Summers were very hot and hardly anyone had air conditioning, so in the mornings we would go to swimming lessons and then walk across an empty lot to the new library, which was nice and cool.  We spent a lot of time there.

The summer I was eight, I decided to read Howard Pyle's Robin Hood, which was a big heavy green hardback tome.  I remember not understanding very much of it, but the illustrations were great.  It took the whole dang summer to read that book.


My mom read The Hobbit aloud to us, but I've always been impatient with read-alouds, so I just took it and read it myself.  (I believe very strongly in reading aloud to children for a long time!  But I didn't like it once I could read faster than a narrator could speak.  I still don't like audiobooks for that reason.)

One time the next-door neighbor came over on behalf of her sister, who had a report due on King Arthur.  I ran through the house and collected at least seven King Arthur storybooks of various kinds, and she was dismayed at the pile!  It turned out that the report was due the next day.  (In my head, it was obvious that you would need ALL the King Arthur books in order to write a report on him. I mean, you wouldn't want to miss anything!)

Even the pictures on the walls were from children's literature.  I had a map of Narnia in my room, and my mom had a framed picture of Alice and the Cheshire Cat above her desk.

When it comes to books, I was a pretty lucky kid.

Tristram Shandy

The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, by Laurence Sterne

This is my final book for Adam's TBR Pile Challenge, woot!  I'd been looking forward to it for some time.  I've meant to read this since I read A Sentimental Journey in college, and the TA (who was a friend of mine too, and really cool) told us a bit about the bizarre book that is Tristram Shandy.  There's a black page, a marble page, a blank page.  There are doodles.  And there are diversions and digressions upon digressions, yea verily unto the nth degree.  What there isn't, is very much about the life of Tristram Shandy, gentleman.

We begin with his conception, and it takes fully half the book to get young master Tristram born.  Only four things, all unfortunate, happen to little Tristram and after that, never again does he appear in his own autobiography.  Too many interesting incidents, stories, interruptions, and histories get in the way!  There's always a new rabbit trail to follow.  Even the characters in the book can't tell a story straight; it takes them several tries to get started and we never do hear the promised tale, but something completely other.

The actual main people of the novel are Tristram Shandy's father, and the father's brother Toby who has lived with Mr. Shandy's family ever since he received his terrible wound--which is now probably long healed, but who can say.  The two brothers talk and argue and have lots of little domestic upsets.  Toby is obsessed with the science of fortification and spends all this time thinking about sieges, and there is a friendly widow, and naturally there are lots and lots of bawdy jokes and innuendoes.

It's a completely 18th century novel, and it's also very very modern.  If it weren't for the Georgian language, you'd think it was written in about 1962.

I knew that it was a digressive novel that never really gets anywhere, so I wasn't expecting it to have a plot as such.  That helped.  I quite enjoyed much of it.  But it's a good 600 pages long and about 150 before the end, I kind of ran out of steam.  It took me a while to get going again and mostly I just wanted to finish already.  But I feel very accomplished!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Morte D'Arthur Readalong, Final Wrapup

Hey, I do believe that my companions in Malory reading are about finished!  Comment on what you did and how you feel about it.  I sure appreciate a few people joining me on what turned out to be a fairly insane journey!


I got hold of a couple of short commentaries by C. S. Lewis about Malory, and I thought I'd quote a few things.  There is a very short piece in Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and a longer one in Image and Imagination.  Both comment on the Vinaver scholarship that was pretty big news back then--new material had been discovered!  The Malory I read is so old that it pre-dates that discovery, and I didn't find that out until afterwards.

I like this line:  "It must of course be admitted that there are in the text untransmuted lumps of barbarism, like Arthur's massacre of the children."  That's an understatement, hm?

Lewis looks at the historical Malory, who we know as a knight who spent time in prison, having been accused of all manner of awful things, and talks about them a little bit.  He points out that a lot of it can be explained as part of a local war or feud as described by an opposing lawyer; not that we would approve of any of it, but he may not have been as bad as the documents paint him--by the knightly standards of the time.   Lewis asks us to "imagine the life of Sir Tristram as it would be presented to us by King Mark's lawyer," which cracks me up, and is a really good point...but Tristram was the one I just couldn't stand, so it didn't actually help Malory's image much in my mind.

I did really appreciate this, on the question of whether the Morte can be described as a noble work:

It all depends on what is meant by nobility. The predominant ethical tone of Malory's work is certainly not the bourgeois, still less the proletarian, morality of our own day. And, on its own showing, it is not the Christian rule of life; all the chief characters end as penitents. It is aristocratic. It does not forbid homicide provided it is done in clean battle. It does not demand chastity, though it highly honours lifelong fidelity to the chosen mistress. Though it admires mercy it allows private war and the vendetta. And it has no respect at all for property or for laws as such..
 That is all so accurate, especially the last line there about property and law.  You'll never see a word about law in Malory, which surprised me given that medieval English people in general were quite legal-minded, from what I hear.  But in the story, Malory never reproaches a knight for simply grabbing whatever he wants, provided he can win the ensuing fight.  Perhaps it was this attitude that T. H. White spent half of The Once and Future King fulminating against--Malory is perfectly fine with "Might Makes Right" as long as the might comes with sufficient valor and nobility.  To continue the paragraph:
It is distinguished from heroic morality by its insistence on humility. It can be very accurately called nobility if the noble is defined as the opposite of the vulgar. It does not condemn all whom we would now call 'criminals'; its displeasure is primarily for the cad. It is magnificently summed up in Sir Ector's final lament, which, so far as we know, is Malory's own invention: 'Thou was the mekest man and the jentyllest that ever ete in halle emonge ladyes and thou were the sternest knyght to thy mortal foe that ever put spere in the rest.' There is the real, and indispensable, contribution of chivalry to ethics.
So, tell me what you think and thank you so much for joining me!



Friday, December 12, 2014

O Pioneers! and My Antonia

O Pioneers! and My Ántonia, by Willa Cather

I read these for the Willa Cather Reading Week event, and they were so good!  It's been a very long time since I read Cather, and I had only ever read My Ántonia long ago, so this was a nice opportunity to get to know her books a little better.  (Oddly, both books had the same foreword by Doris Grumbach.  Isn't that kind of weird?)

O Pioneers! is about Alexandra Bergson, oldest daughter of a Norwegian immigrant family.  When Mr. Bergson dies, she becomes the head of the family, determined to make good on the Nebraska prairie.  She is an excellent and foresighted manager, and becomes prosperous despite some desperately difficult times.  Her intelligence mostly earns her the resentment of her two brothers, who both owe her their prosperity, and the suspicion of neighbors who resent her different way of thinking.  Alexandra is a lovely person, honest, kind, and close to nature, but she is lonely, with very few friends.

I love the way Cather describes this little Nebraska settlement, filled with immigrants from all over Europe.  There are Norwegians, Swedes, French, Russians, and many Bohemians.  They're all wonderfully described as people, building a new American place with some good and some bad.

My Ántonia tells her story from the perspective of Jim, a friend and neighbor a few years younger.  Jim and Ántonia's family arrive in the tiny Nebraska settlement on the same day, but Ántonia's family has bought their land from a man who has cheated them by charging too much for everything.  They struggle terribly with their farm and Jim watches Ántonia grow up.  It's a lovely novel about human beings and friendship and the prairie land they live on.


I enjoyed these so much, and I will probably put Song of the Lark on my mental TBR list for sometime.  Maybe Death Comes for the Archbishop too?

Thanks so much to Heavenali for hosting a reading week!  Great idea.  I love this reading week thing, where everyone can just read one author and talk about it.  Freer than a readalong, still very fun.





2015 TBR Pile Challenge

Adam at Roof Beam Reader is back with his traditional TBR Pile Challenge.  The short version of the rules (go to the post to read it all):


The Goal: To finally read 12 books from your “to be read” pile (within 12 months).
Specifics:
1. Each of these 12 books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2014 or later (any book published in the year 2013 or earlier qualifies, as long as it has been on your TBR pile – I WILL be checking publication dates). Caveat: Two (2) alternates are allowed, just in case one or two of the books end up in the “can’t get through” pile....
[snip]*Note – You can read the books on your list in any order; they do not need to be read in the order you have them listed. As you complete a book – review it, and go back to your original list and turn that title into a link to the review - that will keep the comments section here from getting ridiculously cluttered. For an example of what I mean, Click Here.
Monthly Check-Ins: On the 15th of each month, I’m going to post a “TBR Pile Check-In.” This will allow participants to link-up their reviews from the past month and get some recognition for their progress. There will also be small mini-challenges and giveaways to go along with these posts (Such As: Read 6 books by the June Check-in and be entered to win a book of your choice!). I’m hoping this will help to keep us all on track and make the challenge a bit more engaging/interactive. I started these mini-challenges last year, and I think they were a great success, so I am continuing them this year!

I just said that I wasn't going to pick my books for challenges ahead of time, but that's the rule for this one, so it's my single exception.  I've picked out my 12 books (and two alternates) and here they are:
  1.  The White Goddess, by Robert Graves
  2. The Travels, by Marco Polo
  3. Roll, Jordan, Roll, by Eugene Genovese *
  4. Muhammad: Prophet of God, by Daniel Peterson (this is a secular biography)
  5. The Makioka Sisters, by Junichio Tanizaki *
  6. The Gulag Archipelago (abridged), by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn *
  7. The History of the Renaissance World, by Susan Wise Bauer
  8. Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens *
  9. The Secret History, by Procopius
  10. Eight Pieces of Empire, by Lawrence Scott Sheets
  11. The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky *
  12. Between the Woods and the Water, by Patrick Leigh Fermor
  1. Crotchet Castle, by Thomas Love Peacock
  2. Fairy Tale as Myth, by Jack Zipes

Asterisks indicate Classics Club titles.  About time I got to those! 

Back to the Classics Challenge 2015

I'm signing up for Karen's Back to the Classics Challenge again!  Here are (some of) the rules, which I have edited for brevity--follow the link to read everything and sign up yourself.


It's back!!  Once again, I'm hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge.  I'm hoping to encourage bloggers to read more classics.  By reading and posting about a minimum of six classic books, one lucky winner will receive a $30 gift from Amazon.com or The Book Depository!

This year I've made two changes to the format.  First of all, there are no required categories.  That's right!!  If there is a category you don't like (or more than one), you can just skip it, and still qualify for the drawing!


Secondly, I've increased the categories from eleven to twelve.  I had so much fun choosing categories, I couldn't decide, and so this year I've decided to make it an even dozen.  This results in a slight change to the way I'll calculate entries into the drawing.  Here's how it's going to work:
•    Complete six categories and you get one entry.
•    Complete nine categories, and you get two entries.
•    Complete all twelve categories, and your name is entered into the drawing three times!

 
So without further ado, here are the categories for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2015:
 

1.  A 19th Century Classic -- any book published between 1800 and 1899.
 

2.  A 20th Century Classic -- any book published between 1900 and 1965.  Just like last year, all books must have been published at least 50 years ago to qualify as a classic. 
 

3.  A Classic by a Woman Author.
 

4.  A Classic in Translation.
 

5.  A Very Long Classic Novel -- a single work of 500 pages or longer.  
 

6.  A Classic Novella -- any work shorter than 250 pages.
 

7.  A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title.  First name, last name, or both, it doesn't matter, but it must have the name of a character.  David Copperfield, The Brothers Karamazov, Don Quixote -- something like that. It's amazing how many books are named after people!
 

8.  A Humorous or Satirical Classic.
 

9.  A Forgotten Classic.  This could be a lesser-known work by a famous author, or a classic that nobody reads any more.
 

10.  A Nonfiction Classic.  A memoir, biography, essays, travel, this can be any nonfiction work that's considered a classic, or a nonfiction work by a classic author.
 

11.  A Classic Children's Book.
 

12.  A Classic Play. 

At this point, I have no inkling of a clue about what I will read for all of these categories.  Next year's reading is still very nebulous in my mind, except that I want to give myself a little bit more freedom to choose whatever I want, so I'm trying to cut back on challenges.  I think what I'm going to do is sign up for my favorite few, but mostly fit my reading into them instead of coming up with a list beforehand.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Riffle of Reviews

That's my new term of venery for several reviews at once.  The credit goes to my husband, but I think it's pretty good, yeah?  I have 9 books here in front of me and a couple more ebooks that I have read, and I will never catch up unless I just throw them all out at once, so here goes.

Two African Classics:  both of these are on my CC list and come from a list of the 12 best African books of the 20th century (as selected by a jury).

Sleepwalking Land, by Mia Couto -- As Mozambique is torn by civil war, a young boy and an old man take refuge in a burned-out bus.  They find a set of notebooks written by one of the passengers, and start reading them aloud.  For each chapter about the lost pair, there is a notebook, which narrates the surreal journey of a young man looking to become a naparama warrior.  I loved the set-up, but it got pretty crude at times and I wound up kind of disappointed.  I can think of several African novels I've read that I would put higher up a ranked list than this one.  (This novel is translated from Portuguese, and I learned that Mia Couto is not, as I had assumed, a black African woman, but a white Portuguese-African man.  So that was a surprise.)

The Collected Poetry, by Leopold Sedar Senghor -- Senghor was a Senegalese poet (and also president) who wrote in French, and this massive collection contains the original French and the English translations of a lifetime's output.  I have to admit that I did not read every single poem--poetry and I don't get along that well--but I gave it a darn good try and I read a good chunk out of every section.  I thought it was good poetry, too.  There are some amazing long, complex laments for various prominent figures, and all sorts.

Senghor was the first African to be elected to the French Academy, and he had a lot to say about the ability of French-speaking territories to add to and enrich the French language.  He liked to say "assimilate, but don't be assimilated" to express his belief that Europe and Africa could meet and enrich each other without loss of culture or identity.  It was interesting to read about him so soon after I read about Assia Djebar's ambivalent relationship with the French language.

Two Inklings:  friends who loved to read and critique each other, and sometimes to imitate.

Many Dimensions, by Charles Williams -- I am planning to read all of Williams' novels, just fairly slowly because they take some doing.  In Many Dimensions, an artifact comes to Britain.  It is said to be the crown of King Solomon (always referred to as Suleiman ben Daoud), containing a Stone with incredible powers--possibly the ultimate power of creation.  The Stone can make copies of itself, so it's not long before there are several.  It's a thriller, sort of, but in Williams' bizarre way where ultimate realities break through and make themselves known here at home, where we are ill-equipped to deal with them.  Great stuff.

That Hideous Strength, by C. S. Lewis -- This third part of the Space Trilogy is the strangest yet, and in fact it's Lewis' experiment in writing like Williams.  A newly-married couple, Jane and Mark, are both scholars at Edgestow University, Mark being a member of the faculty at Bracton College.  There are plans for a new scientific facility at the College, and Mark gets mixed up with it. (Mark's problem is that he desperately wants to be in the inner circle of any group, and will put up with anything in order to get there.) The ironically-named NICE is everything that can go wrong with scientific endeavor; it combines a massive superiority complex with disdain for law and absence of morality.  Jane, meanwhile, starts having terrifying prophetic dreams and is, most unwillingly, drawn into the company of Ransom (now almost a new King Arthur) and the people he has collected in expectation of a battle that will even bring the Oyéresu down from heaven.

My Spin Title: a play I read all in one sitting.

The Crucible, by Arthur Miller -- Miller depicts the Salem witch trials, desiring that we draw the parallel between the hysteria at Salem and the McCarthyite Red Scare.  (I don't think it's perfectly apt, since there were no witches at Salem and there were, in fact, Soviet-funded plants in the US.  However.)  It starts when some teenage girls get found out; they've been dancing in the forest and making a slave woman do folk-magic for them.  Since they live in an extremely strict and tiny society, they are in far more trouble than they want to be in, and they get out of it by pretending that they have been put under spells by witches.  They are taken so seriously that they can exert tremendous power, and before long people are being hanged.  John Proctor and his wife are the central characters, and I can't say I love how Miller draws them, but it's a riveting play.  Oddly, Miller keeps inserting short essays into the text, not only describing the characters but entering on philosophic flights right in the middle of the play's action.

I've got five of Miller's plays in one collection, so I plan to read Death of a Salesman too and knock two titles off my CC list.

Two Books I Can Put Together By Calling Them Both Faith-Based: a novel and a non-fiction book.

A City of Bells, by Elizabeth Goudge -- This was a re-read, but I realized that I'd forgotten nearly all of it.  Jocelyn Irvin, ex-soldier, comes to the cathedral town of Torminster to visit his grandparents.  He needs to find a new career, but he's at a loss to think of anything he wants to do.  Torminster is a lovely place, though, and it and the people there help him to heal and find his calling.  When he finds a half-finished manuscript poem left behind by a poet overcome with bitterness in life, he decides that it is his job to edit it for publication.  It's a lovely book and this time I'm going to ILL the sequel, as soon as I remember to look up its title.

The Crucible of Doubt: Reflections on the Quest for Faith, by Terryl and Fiona Givens -- It's sort of a collection of essay chapters on the many ways we can have difficulties with faith.  The Givens range all over, quoting poetry, literature, and works of faith from many places (Julian of Norwich is a favorite).  It's an unusual book, and one that I am not sure will have wide appeal--I'm not even sure it's designed for someone in the middle of a crisis of faith, more for general reading--but I loved it.  I stuck so many bookmarks in!  I particularly loved a chapter on the pain of seeing all the suffering in the world and the way some of us have difficulty finding joy amid that.  The Givens do not offer much in the way of answers to the issues they raise; it's more like they say "Here are some others who have had the same experiences, and kept going.  You can too."

One British Cultural Critic:  Grumpy but smart.

Not With a Bang But a Whimper, by Theodore Dalrymple

Dalrymple draws on his long experience as a doctor and generally knowledgeable person to comment on Britain today.  He is not pleased.  Essays cover topics from crime and the police to bureaucracy to the coarsening of entertainment, and there are several literary essays at the end, which were interesting to read.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A quick update

Hello, I'm alive, I'm reading...in fact I now have such a large pile of books to tell you about that I had better start planning some mini-reviews.  I've been doing a lot of yard work, buying books at work, and having a cold instead of blogging.  We are supposed to have a massive storm coming in tonight! 

I'm not terribly ready for Christmas yet, and haven't sewn a stitch (I'm starting to ponder giving people promises instead of actual items), but I did buy a lot of great books for various nieces and such.  I should be doing chocolates too, but I decided to pull back a little on that this year; I'm only doing a couple of things instead of over a dozen.  It's been quite fortuitous, since damp and warm weather, and then getting sick have prevented me from doing much.

Booky news: it's Willa Cather week!  I'm reading O Pioneers! and My Antonia.  I love Cather's people, and how her best characters embody this sort of ideal.

Karen at Books and Chocolate has announced her second year of hosting the Back to the Classics Challenge.  It's looking great and I will be signing up for sure.

Besides Willa Cather, I'm reading a book of Russian history that I'm determined to finish before the end of the year, Tristram Shandy (likewise, but I'm bogged down 100 pages from the end--ran out of energy for the moment), and Gandhi's autobiography.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Le Morte D'Arthur Readalong, Part IV

I have finished Malory!  Wow, what a long read.  If you haven't quite gotten to the end yet, that is just fine; there are two weeks left to go in which you can continue to read, and if that isn't long enough, well just keep going!  It's been a long trip.


Some things that caught my eye in this last quarter of the book:

Is it that he's closer to the end, or that there is more mysticism with the Grail quest and it's not his taste?  Malory seems to be moving more quickly through the material.  He isn't lingering.  Maybe because there are fewer battles, but even the battles seems shorter.  Sir Bors is going around battling random knights and choosing to save a maiden instead of saving his brother, and Malory could drag it out as much as he did with Tristan, but nope.

Poor Bors, he tries so hard to do the right thing and mostly he gets the hatred of his brother Lionel as a reward.  Lionel attacks him, and at this point God actually intervenes rather than allow Bors to win the battle and kill his brother (as he inevitably would, being Sir Bors and all).  Lionel finally sees sense and Bors goes off on the Grail quest.

Malory clearly had a copy of the same book I read earlier this year about the Grail, or something close to it.  All the same material about Lancelot's lineage, and King Solomon building this miraculous boat with wood from Eden trees and so on, is all here.  (I particularly love the line where Solomon and his wife are building the boat, and Malory suddenly breaks off to announce "Now shall ye hear a wonderful tale of King Solomon and his wife."  hee)

Well, the Grail quest is accomplished and only Bors returns to tell the tale.  Lancelot has repented of his worldly ways, but not for long--Guenevere won't accept his idea of being just friends, and sends him away from the court.  Lancelot is sad about this.  (Honestly, Lancelot, being just friends is a bad idea.  Just stay away.)  But pretty soon Guenevere needs him to get her out of a scrape, because she throws a dinner party and Sir Patrise is poisoned by an apple meant for Sir Gawaine.  Malory does not mince words here and lets us know that "suddenly he brast."  Which is pretty graphic!  Poor Sir Patrise gets the world's longest tombstone inscription, which includes the bit about bursting, and his cousin vows vengeance on Guenevere.  Only Lancelot can prove her innocence through combat!  (Well, and Nimue, who explains it all afterwards.)


Then we have the bit about the fair maid of Astolat and how Guenevere gets mad at him again, because he carries a favor in combat as a disguise.  And she takes a group of knights a-Maying, whereupon Meliagrance  kidnaps her!  And Lancelot has to save her again.  This time he leaves blood all over her bed so that Meliagrance accuses her of adultery, and Lancelot comes to her defence, swearing that he will prove in combat "that this night there lay none of these ten wounded knights with my lady..." So, just like Tristan and Iseut, they get around the accusation by choosing their words carefully.  They do it again after they are discovered and Gawain turns against Lancelot for good.  At the same time, Malory is weirdly coy about the whole thing; he keeps hinting that theirs is a true love and not like you are all thinking with your filthy minds, except for the part where they rip the kingdom apart and have a lot of repenting to do.  It's kind of strange to my mind. 

The last part is really sad.  Everyone takes sides, and the kingdom is destroyed.  Mordred is the only super-villain here.  He really goes in for evil, taking advantage of every opportunity.  Everyone else is either sadly resigned to their part in the drama, or angry over a betrayal.  Mordred is, however, the product of Arthur's sin in sleeping with his own (unrecognized but married) sister, which is worth thinking about.  And Mordred wouldn't have had his chance without the adultery between Lancelot and Guenevere.  Dress it up as romantically as you like; their affair is the betrayal of Arthur--who is perhaps too flawed to rule anyway--that destroys the ideal kingdom of Logris.  Logris falls because of two very similar sins.  Or maybe fallen human beings just can't sustain a happy society.

In fact, Malory takes a moment to blame Englishmen in general, saying, in effect, "we are never willing to be pleased with what we have, and we can't recognize a good king when we see one."

Malory sends the wounded Arthur off in a ship with wailing queens to be healed at Avalon, but he doesn't quite believe that Arthur was healed.  He makes Bedivere find Arthur's body buried in a chapel, but he does leave a little room for doubt and magic to creep in.  Maybe it wasn't Arthur's tomb Bedivere found, or maybe something else is going on, because "many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: Hic iacet Arthurus Rex, quondam Rexque futurus."


Have YOU finished and been sad about the loss of Logres?  Let me know!  If not, I'll post again in two weeks for a final wrap-up.  Thanks for sticking with me through this long book of jousting and brasting!