July Miscellany – Books + Life

It seems the theme of my life in 2019 is “life gets tougher, books get better.”  Well, some books anyway.  I have to say, I haven’t been reading as much as I would like, but in spite of that, am pretty pleased overall with the books I have read so far.

I’ve also highly enjoyed reading other’s blogs this year and found many new ones to follow.  I’ve been thinking about doing a post series sharing links to blogs I follow, if that would interest anyone (?).

Ok, let’s talk about some books.

Another one bites the dust…

Here’s one of those “not so great” reads of the year.  I had every intention of posting a review on The Scapegoat, by Daphne du Maurier.  But after reaching a glorious 44%, I came to a screeching stop.  The plodding repetition of the plot was one thing… the narrator’s nauseating “aha!” moment was the cherry on top.  I thought I’d take one for the team, finish the book, and present you with a scathing review, but sanity won, and I had to shelve it.  So alas, no review of The Scapegoat.

Jonah, revisited

I may have mentioned it before, but over the past year, my family and I have been watching a YouTube series on the Bible by a preacher named David Pawson.  While I don’t agree with all of his views, the series is nonetheless thought-provoking, as he goes in-depth on the historical and geographical context of each book.  The last episode we watched was Jonah, which, coupled with the upcoming Moby-Dick readalong in August, prompted me to re-read it.

Jonah has always been one of my favorite Old Testament books.  At just four chapters, it is incredibly short, but there’s much to unpack – judgment, mercy, high-seas drama, miracles, and even humor (maybe it’s just me, but I always thought the worm eating the vine was hilarious).  Pawson observes the references to Sheol (the grave), as well as the succeeding lines in chapter 2, suggest that Jonah may have actually died and was resurrected, as a precursor to Jesus.

I grew up with the 1956 Moby-Dick film, starring Orson Welles as Father Mapple.  The sermon on Jonah is one of the most memorable scenes.  I just recently noticed how the camerawork cuts to Starbuck during the line, “preach truth to the face of falsehood,” as a foreshadowing of his moral dilemma to come.

The Professor, and writing what you know

Cleo mentioned she’d be reading The Professor by Charlotte Bronte this month, so I picked up where I’d left off (not very far).  Why oh why is this book such a struggle for me to read?  Here’s some theories:

  • Male narrator – Bronte is not bad at it, but you get the sense of her holding something back.  It just doesn’t sound entirely natural, compared with Jane Eyre and Villette.
  • Plot – The plot, thus far, is like a much more boring version of Villette – English teacher moves to French-speaking country.  However, while our narrator has some unfortunate circumstances, it is nothing compared to the heart-wrenching, excruciatingly depressing life of Lucy Snowe, which grabs you immediately.  To be fair, The Professor feels much more realistic, more akin to naturalism than the other novels.  It is more like Anne’s novel Agnes Grey, though even there, Agnes’s conflict is more pronounced.

While The Professor was indeed based on Bronte’s own experiences, so far I would say she did not perfect that story until Villette.  I think the lesson for us writers is…go all in.

Anyways, I will be finishing this one, so maybe it will get better later on.  🙂

Iwan Iwanowitsch Schischkin 003

Other stuff

I am considering trying to pare-down my 700+ list of books to-be-read.  It disturbs me.  On the other hand, it may be a waste of time trying.  I already cheat right now with a bookmarks folder of “Books” that I haven’t added to Goodreads, out of the sheer number of them (some of them are links to other people’s lists) and/or embarrassment.  But I’m genuinely concerned that the list will grow (has grown??) so large, it will cease to be useful.

I would also like to publicly confess that, thanks to the election season beginning, I’ve become slightly addicted to YouTube, particularly binge-watching political commentary.  This is part of what is taking time away from my reading.  Not sure if it’s time well spent (though I am learning things).  Hopefully I will eventually get sick of it.

Overall I would, as usual, like to take a more simplistic approach to life.  I am a very organized person, but unfortunately I am not a minimalist.  I get bored way too easily and am interested in a wide range of things, which is a dangerous combination.  See, I’ve always had escapism in my life, but it used to be books almost exclusively.  Now the internet has taken over that role, and it’s endless rabbit-hole of genuinely useful information.  Still, I probably need to change some habits, because there is still something important about reading a book, a whole composition, that the internet can’t give you.

15 thoughts on “July Miscellany – Books + Life

  1. The books that you have taken on are very interesting. I have only read Jane Eyre and Villette. I find that with early novels sometimes authors are still developing ideas that they will use to better effect later. I am a political junkie so I am very much immersed in election season myself. I wish that I had time to indulge all my interests. If I kept a to – be – read list on Goodreads I think that it would exceed a thousand books.

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  2. commiserations on finding books for blogs… the same thing happens to me; but it's not my fault (haha) that some authors change paddles in mid-stream… i don't have a tbr list: i've never able to attain that level of organization. serendipity rules my life; i'm amazed that i've been able to find a book to post on… most weeks anyway… i do have a journal i write down the ones i read, but it's not alphabetically arranged so i can never find anything i want to look up… such is life… sigh…

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  3. Yes, I think it would be a great idea to share your new finds. I hear you about that overwhelming TBR pile. You are not alone. What I have done, too, is revisit my TBR and start cutting loose those titles that I may have once been emotionally excited to add at the time, but now I can say for sure that I'll never, ever look for it, let alone read it. It feels good to downsize.

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  4. We have opposite reactions to the political season, heh. I was so repulsed by the fracas in 2016 I abandoned most political reading! I do like listening to Tom Woods' post-debate reviews, though. Absolutely sympathize with the TBR problem. I have to stop myself from cruising Amazon and Goodreads because there's SO MANY BOOKS I want to read. I have an entire wishlist just on geopolitics, most of it stuff released with in the past year.

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  5. Oh my goodness, I was lulled into senselessness by Rebecca and haven't read a du Maurier since.I am really struggling with the complete judgemental tone of The Professor. I'm almost embarrassed for Charlotte and I'm not usually as sensitive as most over things like that. Yikes! The story was very good until he arrived in Belgium. Someone said reading her novels is like listening to someone complain for an hour and I concur except for Jane Eyre which I love. I don't understand how she could have written Jane Eyre and then written such sub-standard work with the rest of her novels although I must admit I haven't read Shirley yet. I don't get bored easily but I do have a wide range of interests that can be troublesome. It brings me in mind of the saying a jack of all trades and a master of none. I would like to change that, but I think it's just me.In any case, another enjoyable post to read! Thanks!

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  6. It's the same for me – I like a level of spontaneity and variety, especially in books! So perhaps having a list is working against me. I think I'll at least try to whittle it down.

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  7. That's a good way to approach it. I'm also thinking, maybe I should start with the oldest books on my list in terms of when I added them. If it's been 5 years and I still haven't read it, then maybe it's time for it to go.

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  8. It's the podcasts that get me. I went from casually watching a few 10-minute videos to now full 20-minute analyses (and, horrors, 1-2 hour Andrew Yang interviews, because they're just so interesting). I will look up Tom Woods. :)Yeah, it gets harder when the books you want to read have come out recently. Especially with technology; cutting-edge stuff will only be \”new and cool\” for so long…

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  9. It is unfortunate some of Bronte's protagonists are so anti-Catholic, and I think that was not an uncommon sentiment in Britain at the time. Shirley is really good (or so I thought when I read it); it's very different than the other novels though.

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  10. I really enjoyed your concise, yet informative reviews. And I cannot tell you how happy I am that you have 700 plus books to read. I don't feel so guilty about my Mount TBR.I'm trying to remember if I read the Professor. I read Villette and it does sound very similar. Iread a biography of the Bronte sisters. Apparently Charlotte Bronte had some sort of unrequited crush on her Belgian professor.Jonah is also my favorite book. The last chapter is so powerful. I can hardly keep from crying when God says:10 Then the Lord said, “You had compassion on the plant for which you did not work and which you did not cause to grow, which [h]came up overnight and perished [i]overnight. 11 Should I not have compassion on Nineveh, the great city in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know the difference between their right and left hand, as well as many animals?”And as for bing-watching youtube. At least you're watching political commentaries. I'm addicted to What's My Line.

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  11. What's My Line is a good one! My sister was really into that show for a while (till she basically had watched all the episodes :D)).I hacked away at my TBR list yesterday and managed to get it down to about 600. After that, I couldn't bring myself to delete anymore…

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  12. I read & enjoyed some of Du Maurier's better known books with Rebecca being by far the best. Then I read one I picked up somewhere – I think it was Rule Britannia, but I could be wrong. Whatever the title, it as really forgettable & I haven't read anything by her since.

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