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Showing posts from February, 2012

Greek Classics: February Wrap-Up

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Greetings everyone, have you been reading any ancient Greek literature lately? Grappling with issues as old as civilization? Or just laughing at Aristophanes' crude humor? (That probably pre -dates civilization...) This month I read Sopocles' three most famous plays, Antigone, Oedipus the King , and Oedipus at Colonus , all in the Fagles translation. I started reading Herodotus' Histories and am about a third of the way through the first book, which is all about the Persians. I'll be posting a little something about each book as I finish, since there are nine altogether and it will take a long time to read. As I'm writing this, I am very grateful for modern conveniences. Yesterday I took my girls down to Sutter's Fort for a day-long environmental living program, which means we spent the day trying to live like people in the 1840's (pre-Gold Rush!). We wore the clothes, we eschewed our cell phones, we made rope and bread and candles, we learned to

Out of My Mind

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Out Of My Mind , by Sharon M. Draper This has been on my wishlist for a long time! It's a novel for older children, maybe 10+. Melody remembers everything. She's highly intelligent--she's the smartest kid in school. And she has never been able to say anything; her body doesn't work very well and she is in a wheelchair. Only a few people realize that she has any intelligence, until she gets a computer that can help her communicate. Now that she has a voice, she can be heard, but not everyone wants to listen. Melody is going to tell her story anyway. It's a great story, hard to put down. Give it to your kid, but be sure to read it yourself too.

The Picture of Dorian Gray

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The Picture of Dorian Gray , by Oscar Wilde Everybody knows the story, so I'm not going to say much. I was not a fan this time around (I read it years ago in college). The character that was pretty interesting was Lord Henry, and you don't get to know him well at all. He never says anything that isn't a well-polished epigram, and he manipulates people as a hobby. He is truly, seriously evil behind his facade, and you'll never know him. Or maybe you do get to know him in the new uncensored edition, but I stuck with the copy I've had for 15 years, and that's OK for me. This is a re-read title for the November's Autumn Challenge. Maybe.

Oedipus at Colonus

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Oedipus at Colonus was Sophocles' last play, written shortly before his death and only staged posthumously. Oedipus is now an old man, and his daughter Antigone acts as his guide. When he arrives in the village of Colonus and is informed that he is trespassing on ground sacred to the Furies, he knows that he has reached his refuge and asks to meet Theseus, king of Athens. The chorus figures out who he is, and is horrified, but resolves to wait until Theseus arrives before doing anything. Oedipus has now spent years paying for his unwitting crimes and defends himself, saying that he committed them unknowingly and killed his father in self-defense. He wants fair treatment. Theseus welcomes Oedipus, earning his gratitude and an offer of a blessing. Oedipus knows that his burial-place will be a special spot, ensuring victory to the city that hosts his grave. Theseus is the deserving party, and Oedipus says he will never go back to Thebes, the city that threw him out so cruell

Henrietta Sees It Through

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Henrietta Sees It Through: More News From the Home Front, 1942-1945 , by Joyce Dennys It's another volume of Henrietta's village life and wartime trials! I was happy to get my hands on this volume after I enjoyed Henrietta's War so much. (Once again, I was deprived of the pretty candy-like cover of the new edition.) This one did not disappoint and is even a bit longer than the first one. The "Henrietta" letters are fictional and were written for Sketch magazine by Joyce Dennys as a humor column. The book's introduction says it nicely: "It is Joyce Dennys' great gift to have transformed the frustration and grief of those years into the most enchanting comedy." Of course not all of the weekly letters could be published in the book, so this is just a nice selection with explanatory footnotes when you've missed an event. All the same characters are still living in the little village on the Dover coast, but now there are evacuees in

Oedipus the King

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Yes, I am slow at getting these reviews out lately! Let's find out a little more about Sophocles, shall we? He was a much-younger contemporary of Aeschylus and sometimes beat him at the competitions. Sophocles wrote a staggering 123 plays, nearly all of which are lost; we have seven complete plays. He competed about 30 times, won 24 of them, and never got worse than second place. He took innovation another step further than Aeschylus had done, adding another character on the stage and putting more into character development. Aristotle says that he also invented painted scenery. Sophocles was a wealthy, educated man from the little rural town of Colonus near Athens. (Today it's a boring industrial suburb, which seems a pity.) He was born a few years before the Battle of Marathon, held some official offices, was very very famous for the plays, and had a very long life. His most famous Oedipal plays are not only not a trilogy, but were each written years apart as ele

Antigone

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Antigone, by Sophocles Antigone is one of Sophocles' early plays, and it's the first of the Theban plays that he wrote. Within the story of Oedipus, however, it takes place after the other two. I read it first because he wrote it first. I used the Fagles translation, and now I'm yet another fan; I liked his strong, somewhat plain style. Antigone's brother Polynices attacked the city, and now lies dead on the battlefield. His uncle Creon is now ruler of Thebes, and has ordered that the traitor go unburied. Greeks believed that without proper burial, the spirit could not go to its proper place and be at peace, so this is an awful order, but after all the man attacked his own city. Antigone cannot endure for her brother to go unburied, so she sneaks out and performs the proper rituals although she knows that the penalty is death. Once caught, she stubbornly defends herself, insisting that the gods would be displeased by the crime of leaving Polynices unburied.

Why Darwin Matters

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Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, by Michael Shermer In the Evolution vs. Creation discussions, Shermer is a welcome voice of moderation (to me anyway). As a former Baptist, he has a realistic idea of what faith is about, and he thinks that respectful dialogue and debate--as tedious as it may be, what with the everlasting repetition--is better than insults and scorn, which usually fails to convince. (It generally makes me stubborn when people do it to me.) I accept evolution as a valid scientific theory and I teach it to my kids, but as a religious person I dislike the generalized insults that come from prominent skeptics like Dawkins and P. Z. Myers. Because of that, I was looking forward to reading Why Darwin Matters . Shermer talks about the whole debate. He does not talk as much about evolution itself as I expected, though there is quite a bit of that. He spends at least as much time on why some folks do not accept evolution, why the creationist mo

The Romance of the Rose

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The Romance of the Rose, by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun I said I would finish this book if it killed me, and it almost did, but not quite! I'm very glad that my edition translated the whole thing into prose, or the nearly 22,000 lines of verse might have finished me off. Thank you, Charles Dahlberg. The first third of the romance was written by Guillame de Lorris in about 1230 and is quite enjoyable to read. It tells the story of a young man in love with a particular rose in a walled garden. The garden is populated by various allegorical characters like Fair Welcome, Jealousy, and Wealth, so the story is all about the lover's efforts to get the girl as he courts her. But when he gets close to the rose and importunately steals a kiss, rumors start to fly and the rose is sealed behind a castle built by Jealousy, Foul Mouth, and others who keep him from his goal. The first part of the poem ends there, and it's unclear whether Guillame meant it to end there or

Readathon Wrapup

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Today was full of stuff to do, but I still managed to read Oedipus at Colonus , a little of my School of Freedom book, and more than half of The Picture of Dorian Gray . I really hate that Lord Henry guy; I don't think he ever says one sentence that isn't a calculated paradoxical witticism. Thanks to Cassandra for hosting her "Hooray Term's Over" Readathon--it's been a lot of fun!

Poor Old Oedipus Rex

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Since I read Oedipus this weekend, I've had this classic song in my head quite a bit. If you've never heard it, you've missed out on a treat, but I'm here to help you out! Please enjoy Tom Lehrer's "Oedipus Rex" song, with words handily included.

End of Saturday

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I should have posted last night, but I didn't. I read Antigone and Oedipus the King , and then switched to a science book by Michael Shermer called Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design . I'm about halfway through that now. Since I'll be spending the morning at church--and I'm unexpectedly teaching a class--nothing more will happen on the reading front until lunchtime.

Update

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I finished The Romance of the Rose ! Yay! I picked up my Sophocles and am going to read Antigone . I was going to skip the introductory material, because that's what you're supposed to do, but I changed my mind. I read Antigone , once long ago in college, and remember liking it a lot, but not much else.

Weekend Readathon!

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Let the fun begin! I don't know how much I'll actually get read, but I've been looking forward to spending as much time as possible with my nose in a book this weekend. I'm going to finish The Romance of the Rose if it kills me (which it might). And I want to read at least one of Sophocles' Theban plays (finally!). Otherwise I'm not quite sure what I'll read; I have quite a pile to choose from, though.

Alloy of Law on Audio

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Hey everyone, I have a little treat for you! This is most of the first chapter of Brandon Sanderson's The Alloy of Law on audio . I listened to it, and I thought Michael Kramer had a good voice for the narration; to me, he evoked the feeling of the novel nicely. I would like to listen to more. I'm not really much of an audiobook person because I get impatient. I can read much faster than anyone can narrate. But my husband listens to a lot of audio on his long commute, and my daughter loves them (now I know why; it's hard work for her eyes to focus on small print for long). So I am learning to appreciate audiobooks. The clip does start rather suddenly, with no intro time, and since the story begins with dialogue it took me a short while to figure out where I was. Remember, like I said before, this is something of a Western, and it starts in the middle of a gunfight in a ghost town. Enjoy!

The Alloy of Law

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The Alloy of Law , by Brandon Sanderson Hello to everyone who stopped by because Eva mentioned my name! Nice to see you. It's been a while since I've read a nice Sanderson book for grown-ups ( Warbreaker is on my TBR pile!). I really enjoyed the Mistborn trilogy a lot, and it seems that he's planning a second and then a third trilogy, each set further on in time. This book is just a fun little interlude--a short story by Sanderson standards, since it's only 325 pages long instead of 1000--set over 300 years from the original story. It's a Western! There are lots of guns, and train robberies, and law-keepers, and of course Allomancy. (If you're not familiar with Brandon Sanderson, he likes to create worlds around very complex magic systems. The Mistborn books have three separate, but related, magic systems centered on metals. Magic users can access the properties in different metals. It's modern high fantasy at its finest.) There are some gr

My First Readathon

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I've never signed up for a read-a-thon, because I can't really see how I could get a whole day (or two!) to read in. But Cassandra over at Literary Stars says I can treat it as a pretty casual one, and I've always wanted to do it, so I'm signing up. Cassandra is celebrating the beginning of her school vacation on February 18-19, which is not at all when I get a school vacation, but who cares?

Grave Mistake

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Grave Mistake , by Ngaio Marsh It's been the kind of week where I read a lot of brain-candy mystery novels. My little girl has been having trouble with her eyes and started vision therapy today, so I've been very taken up with that. Wish her luck! I picked Grave Mistake out of my pile of old mysteries. I like Ngaio Marsh; her writing is really nice to read, though she does tend to focus on painting and the theater to the exclusion of all else. Most of her mysteries are set in England, but since she was really a Kiwi from New Zealand, she set a few stories there too (not this one), and those make a nice change. This story is mostly told from the point of view of the victim's neighbor and old friend. The charming, ultra-feminine, hypochondriac Sybil is killed at a nursing home during a vacation. Was it the unscrupulous doctor? The wastrel, semi-criminal stepson? Perhaps even the jealous nurse or the covetous neighbor?

They Found Him Dead

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They Found Him Dead, by Georgette Heyer I love Georgette Heyer's historical fiction, but until now her mysteries have left me cold. Now, finally, I have read a Heyer mystery that I liked! It's a good puzzle, the characters are memorable (and sometimes memorably hateable), and it was fun. Just what I needed!

Works and Days

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Works and Days , by Hesiod Works and Days was quite fun to read. The translation I have is by Richmond Lattimore, and it has little summary lines on the side to let the reader know what's going on. Unlike my copy of the Theogony , it has no footnotes at all, so while I may have missed some nuances, it was easier to stay focused. Works and Days is a more straightforward poem anyway. Evidently Hesiod had a wastrel brother named Perses, who squandered his half of the family property and then successfully sued the poet for some of his half. Hesiod responded with a sort of life instruction book. He starts off with the stories of Prometheus, Pandora, and the Five Ages of Man to explain why life is stern and life is earnest and you have to earn a living. Then he gives instructions on how to run a farm: when to plow, what kind of help to hire, how to make convenient clothes, how to choose a wife, all sorts of good advice. Other advice is included too; how to send out a merchant

Distant View of a Minaret

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Distant View of a Minaret , by Alifa Rifaat I only heard of this collection of stories recently, and now I can't remember where I got the title, but I was interested right away. Alifa Rifaat is a writer in Egypt with relatively little exposure to Western ideas--she speaks no English and wouldn't care about the West anyway--and so while her stories are considered to be feminist, they are feminist from a very different point of view, one that is orthodoxly Muslim. (Is orthodoxly a word? It should be.) Most of the stories are very short, and realistic, portraying pivotal moments in ordinary women's lives. I liked most of them and zipped through the book very quickly. Some of the time she looks at how men lose the right to respect when they treat women badly--but she would not say that men should not be in charge at all, I gather.

Great Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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Great Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, selected by John Dickson Carr Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about a squillion adventuresome short stories, and the best of them are collected together here. There are a couple of Sherlock Holmes tales, but the rest are stand-alones with the exception of one Professor Challenger story. Several are rather how I imagine Jules Verne stories must be, about fantastic adventures in the air or under the earth. Others are sporting stories about boxing and so on. I liked most of them. "The Final Problem" is not included in this collection, but I read it too. It is the single Sherlock Holmes story featuring Holmes' intellectual equal, Professor Moriarty. Unfortunately, since Doyle really only wrote it in order to kill Holmes off, it wasn't all that interesting. Holmes talks a lot about the Napoleon of crime, but all that really happens is that Moriarty follows him to Switzerland and they disappear. It's pretty disappointing, b

Doctor Thorne

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Doctor Thorne, by Anthony Trollope The Barsetshire Chronicles make me happy. They are just fun, pleasant books to read. Doctor Thorne is the third Barsetshire book, and it is really long and really nice. I have read a lot of Angela Thirkell novels (she lifted and used the Barsetshire setting) and it surprises me how familiar Trollope feels; Thirkell must have done a really good job of writing in the same vein. In Doctor Thorne , we get to know the doctor and his niece Mary, who is a lovely girl but unfortunately illegitimate. The young squire of the county, Frank Gresham, falls in love with Mary--but his mother is conscious of the duties of high breeding and noble blood, and his father has run the Greshamsbury estate deeply into debt, so that everyone assumes that Frank must marry money. Can the lovers ever be united? Only Doctor Thorne knows that Mary might be the solution to all of Lady Gresham's problems. I liked it. The next Barsetshire novel is Framley Parsonage

World War I Challenge

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I found another challenge to join! This one is hosted by War Through the Generations and is all about World War I. The information: War Through the Generation’s 2012 reading challenge will be World War I . The challenge will run from January 1, 2012, through December 31, 2012 . Rules: This year you have options when reading your fiction, nonfiction, graphic novels, etc. with the WWI as the primary or secondary theme. Books can take place before, during, or after the war, so long as the conflicts that led to the war or the war itself are important to the story. Books from other challenges count so long as they meet the above criteria. Dip: Read 1-3 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme. Wade: Read 4-10 books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme. Swim: Read 11 or more books in any genre with WWI as a primary or secondary theme. Additionally , we’ve decided that since there are so many great movies out there about WWI, you can sub

The New Road to Serfdom

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The New Road to Serfdom: a Letter of Warning to America , by Daniel Hannan Daniel Hannan is the Member of the European Parliament for South-East Britain, and he's an articulate conservative who is especially passionate about localism and decentralization of power. He shows up on TV cable news shows every so often, so you might have seen him. Hannan felt that many Americans might not be aware of how governance works in the UK and the EU, and wrote this book to show where the US might end up if we continue to consolidate power at the federal level. One of the first points he hits is how much British government is run by non-elected agencies now. I had no idea that UK citizens do not elect their local sheriffs or school board or much of anybody--apparently many local functions now operate through "quangos," which are state agencies run by appointment rather than election (this does explain something to me about why British home educators are so leery of their Local Aut