Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (novel #103)

The proof of the little prince’s existence is that he was delightful, that he laughed, and that he wanted a sheep.

(update: June 20, 2018)


Such a charming little book. What follows is my review from March of 2016.

I still give it 5 stars

(the following is my review from March 2016)

This is the third time (fourth now) I’ve read The Little Prince. It is the first-person narrative of pilot Saint-Exupéry after he makes an emergency landing in the Sahara desert many miles from help or civilization. Saint-Exupéry encounters the peculiar and other-worldly little prince. The two spend days together and many hours of conversation while Saint-Exupéry works on his aircraft. The book is a novella, and indeed a very short novella, and I think you could call it magical realism. The illustrations on the cover and inside were done by Saint-Exupéry. This novella is not part of my 100 Greatest Novels Quest.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I first read The Little Prince when I was eleven. My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Banks, whom I will always love, introduced me to a wonderful book called The Hobbit. I loved it, and quickly consumed the sequel The Lord of the Rings. Mrs. Banks then recommended The Little Prince. I trusted her judgement, so I obtained a copy and anticipated another thrilling epic.

I was terribly disappointed. I thought it was the dumbest thing I’d ever read.

I was eleven.

Fast forward 30+ years, a friend whose judgement I also trusted, recommended The Little Prince. I was puzzled. My memory of the book didn’t reconcile to my worthy friend’s opinion.

So, I gave it another try. I was stunned by the power, the poetry, the poignant wisdom – thank you Mary Ann!

I won’t try to synopsize the tale, nor venture much into its meaning – except this – The Little Prince is about what we value, and how what we value when we grow up, grow mature, grow wise – is often less worthy than the things we valued when young.

That might sound like Peter Pan – refuse to grow up, but that isn’t the message. I have no problem with J.M. Barrie’s magical fantasy, but refusing to grow up – well – it can’t be done and if you try, you look rather absurd. The Little Prince is not about not growing up or non-conformity. It’s about value.

It’s really no wonder I didn’t appreciate it when I was eleven. This isn’t really a children’s book, though some children will like it. It has talking flowers, and foxes, and snakes, and space travel, and few adults, but it isn’t a children’s book. You can read about Saint-Exupéry and his extraordinary life and it should become obvious that The Little Prince was a very personal tale and certain characters are undoubtedly mapped to persons in the author’s life. For me, it is simply a poetic tale, and I would mar its beauty should I attempt to be any more analytical than that.


He couldn’t say another word. All of a sudden he burst out sobbing. Night had fallen. I dropped my tools. What did I care about my hammer, about my bolt, about thirst and death? There was, on one star, on one planet, on mine, the Earth, a little prince to be consoled! I took him in my arms. I rocked him. I told him, “The flower you love is not in danger…I’ll draw you a muzzle for your sheep…I’ll draw you a fence for your flower…I…” I didn’t know what to say. How clumsy I felt! I didn’t know how to reach him, where to find him…It’s so mysterious, the land of tears.

One sees clearly only with the heart. Anything essential is invisible to the eyes. ~ The Fox

You risk tears if you let yourself be tamed. ~ Saint-Exupéry


Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Happy Anniversary to The Classics Club

In honor of The Classics Club 4th Anniversary, I've decided to retake and update The CC Club 50 Question survey.

1. My blog: The Once Lost Wanderer
2. Joined May 2014 – I’ve completed 42 of 50 of my Classics Club challenge
--May 2017 update: Finished, now on book 5 of my second list (75 books this time)
3. Currently reading: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
--May 2017 update: Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
4. Last finished: Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
--May 2017 update: Appointment in Samarra by John O'Hara
5. Next up: War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
--May 2017 update: The Golden Bowl by Henry James
6. Best book with the Classics Club: Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, close second David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
--May 2017 update: I'll not add The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
7. Most Anticipated (remaining): Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
--May 2017 update: The Chronicles of Narnia
8. Avoiding: None really, but a tad intimidated by War and Peace
--May 2017 update: W&P was fairly easy to read...and excellent.
9. First Classic ever read: The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
10. Classic that inspired me: The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky
--May 2017 update: Les Mis
11. Longest classic: Don Quixote so far, but soon to be War and Peace
--May 2017 update: Now War and Peace
12. Longest classic left: and then…The Count of Monte Cristo
--May 2017 update: A Remembrance of Things Past
13. Oldest classic I’ve Read: The Book of Job
14. Oldest classic left: Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne 1759
15. Favorite biography about a classic author: Mark Twain
--May 2017 update: A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War by Joseph LaConte about C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien
16. Classic everyone should read: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
17. Favorite edition of a classic you own? The Lord of the Rings – Barbara Remington covers, the editions I first read

18. Favorite movie adaption of a classic: The Lord of the Rings, close second To Kill a Mockingbird
19: Classic which hasn’t been adapted and should be: The Catcher in the Rye, close second Invisible Man
20. Least favorite classic: Ulysses, presumably because I’m a simpleton.
21. Five authors I haven’t read, but cannot wait to read (remaining): Ayn Rand, Ford Madox Ford, Henry James, Graham Greene, Stendhal
--May 2017 update: Yet to get to Stendhal, now adding: Marcel Proust, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Heinlein, and oh I don't know - Balzac.
22. Title by one of the five most excites me: Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
--May 2017 Update: The Charterhouse of Parma
23. Classic I disliked first read, but liked better second time: The Catcher inthe Rye
24. Classic character I can’t get out of my head: Scarlett O’Hara
25. Classic character most reminds me of myself: Tom Sawyer
26. Classic character I wish I was like: Atticus Finch
27. Classic character reminds me of my best friend: Ralph from Lord of theFlies
28. Classic I’d like to read 500 more pages of: The Brothers Karamazov
29. Favorite children’s classic: The Little Prince
30. Who recommended your first classic? My fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Banks recommended The Hobbit. I will always love her.
31. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature: No one that I always take, but the one I esteem most is my second oldest son. His older brother and younger sister get high marks too.
32. Favorite memory with a classic: When Scout will not lead Boo Radley home, but rather sees to it that he escorts her. (To Kill a Mockingbird)
33. Classic author I’ve read the most works by: Charles Dickens
34. Classic author who has the most works on your club list: Henry James
35. Classic author you own the most books by: J.R.R. Tolkien
36. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it on my list, but I wish did: Tom Sawyer, Of Mice and Men, A Tale of Two Cities
37. Author whose career I’d like to explore from beginning to end: J.R.R. Tolkien
38. How many rereads are on my list: 20
--May 2017 update: on my second Classic Club iteration: 8
39. Title I simply could not finish: none, but Ulysses was close
40. Title I expected to dislike, but loved: Anna Karenina
41. Five things I’m looking forward to next year: A Handfull of Dust by Evely Waugh, The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust, The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal
--May 2017 update: Actually, these all still apply
42. Classic I will definitely read next year: Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
--May 2017 update: A Handful of Dust (just came in the mail yesterday btw)
43. Classic I will NOT read next year: A Tale of Two Cities
--May 2017 update: but I'll get to it later: The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
44. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club? Oh, the true answer is so narcissistic. I want to say, reading others views…all that. But truly, the favorite thing….is just more page views and comments on my blog.
45. Five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent: So many…the guilt would kill me of listing only five
46. Favorite post by a fellow clubber: Again so many…but I am going to name one. Not a single post, but I do love the passion that Jillian at History Is Not Was has for her favorite author Margaret Mitchell
47. Read along experience: Just started a 20 month read along of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
--May 2017 update: Still going on Pickwick
48. Classic title for a readalong: Ummm…The Pickwick Papers
49. How long have I been reading classics: age 10 (that means 45 years)
--May 2017 update: 46 now
50. Share up to five posts: Oh, I think I’ve already abused the spirit of this very fun survey, to shamelessly self-promote with enough links to my reviews. So, I’ll only share two. I am very pleased with how I came up with my list, and then the list itself…and I love feedback:
--May 2017 update: I thought this post was rather fun. Ten Authors Walk into a Bar
Bonus. Question you wish was on this questionnaire: If you could sit in a pub and share a pint (or make it in the parlor and tea if you prefer), with any TWO classic authors at the same time, who would you choose? My answer: I said Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut last time, and they’re drunk now, so I’ll say Tolkien and Lewis.
Thanks to our mods for this very fun survey!!!!

Friday, March 25, 2016

The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens, chapters 1-2

This is installment 1 of 20, in The Pickwick Papers 180th anniversary readalong, hosted by Behold the Stars, and commencing in March, just as Dicken’s first installment was published.

Chapter 1: Opens on a meeting of the Pickwick Club, London, May 12, 1827, in which a subordinate group to be known as The Corresponding Society of the Pickwick Club, is established for the imprecise purpose of….hmmm….how could I describe it. At this early point, I can only infer that the purpose is to pursue adventure and discovery and to record said adventures for posterity. The society will be headed by the Honorable Mr. Samuel Pickwick a man with a “gigantic brain”, apparent scientific passion, philosophic inclinations, and according to his own description “an observer of human nature”. Pickwick is to be accompanied by three friends: Mr. Tracy Tupman, Mr. Augustus Snodgrass, and Mr. Nathaniel Winkle. Each is known for one particular passion which is their unique distinction: Tupman for an admiration for the fair sex, Snodgrass as a poet, and Winkle as a sportsman. These four receive hearty approval and commission from their fellow Pickwickians, and appear set to head off for – well we don’t quite know where just yet, but certainly for the greater glory of The Pickwick Club.

The adventures begin predictably in chapter 2, which seems to indicate they will be comic adventures. The coachmen, conveying Pickwick to the appointed embarkation point, misconstrues Pickwick’s propensity of making notes of trivial observations, as recording the coachman’s number, presumably to inform on some misconduct. The coachmen starts a fight with Pickwick and his companions, which is broken up by a good natured stranger. The stranger becomes a ready companion, and the five proceed together to the next stop. The Stranger, not yet named, appears to be quick witted, worldly wise, and perhaps a bit of a rogue. He is able to quickly discern each of the traveler’s particular distinction. He makes use of this knowledge to entice Tupman’s amorous appetite and attend a ball that promises a fair selection of worthy ladies. The results are an insulted military officer, a challenge to a duel, and an absurd case of mistaken identity.

At the end of chapter 2, I’m left wondering the stranger’s name, wondering why none of the Pickwickians have asked for it, and wondering if the stranger will accompany them further, or if his advent will be a brief one.

So far, it’s quite entertaining, rather silly, great fun.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Quotation - Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone...

Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had. ~ Advice from Nick Carraway's father. Excerpt from The Great Gatsby

(It’s a quotation, not a quote)

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding (67 down 33 to go)

There is in true beauty something which vulgar souls cannot admire

This is the first time I’ve read The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling or Henry Fielding. The novel, often referred to simply as Tom Jones, is from the Enlightenment period and is considered a comic novel, a picaresque novel, and a bildungsroman. It is the third-person narrative telling the tale of Tom Jones, who is abandoned at the estate of a wealthy squire in early to mid 18th century England. 

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Elsewhere I have described Tom Jones as being rather Dickensian, but this is a bit unfair to Henry Fielding as he preceded Charles Dickens by a full century. It would be more appropriate to describe Dickens’ writings as Fieldingesque. Dickens was certainly influenced by Fielding, claiming to have read Tom Jones as a child. Dickens’ own alter-ego, David Copperfield, reads Tom Jones in Dickens’ novel and Oliver Twist is particularly reminiscent of Tom Jones. Perhaps the greatest proof of Dickens’ admiration for Fielding though, is that Dickens named one of his children Henry Fielding Dickens.

It is not surprising then that I enjoyed Tom Jones, as I am a fan of Dickens.

The tale begins with the introduction of Squire Allworthy, an aptronym if ever there was one. The squire, a wealthy country nobleman and widower, is the embodiment of grace and virtue and is admired by peers, servants, and people of every class. He has no children and shares his home in Somerset with his sister.

Enter Tom Jones. Upon returning home from a London business trip, the squire discovers the abandoned child in his own bed. Given what I’ve already told you of Squire Allworthy, you can probably guess what follows: the squire takes custody of the child, names him Tom Jones using the surname of the suspected mother, and raises him as his own. He grows to love and be loved by young Tom.

The Squire’s sister marries and has a child, who becomes the squire’s presumed heir. Although the squire loves Tom, it is clear he does not intend to supplant his true blood relation, though he does intend to make generous provision for Tom.

There is also a love story. Tom develops a passionate, but hopeless infatuation with Sophia, the beautiful and virtuous heiress of a neighboring nobleman. Tom’s lack of title and legitimate parentage, make a match virtually impossible even though Sophy returns Tom’s affection.

From what I’ve told you about the Dickensian feel of this novel, you might guess that Tom becomes the victim of ambition and jealously. He is unjustly, but convincingly defamed to his benefactor and is cast into the world with little means and less hope. His ruined condition dashes the already slim chances he had of winning Sophy.

Tom encounters Partridge, a man whose own fate is similarly ruined and intricately intertwined with his own. In fact, the squire and others suspect Partridge to be Tom’s father. However, Tom is not aware of this suspicion. Partridge becomes Tom’s companion and one true, though sometimes troublesome, friend. The two have numerous adventures and are a bit reminiscent of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza. From time to time there is a glimmer of hope that all is not lost, but each time, things turn out worse than before. Tom is often his own worst enemy. He is by all accounts a very handsome young man, and he commits several peccadillos with older women. Sophy learns of these infidelities, further dashing Tom’s hopes. Eventually Tom is arrested, falsely accused of the murder of a jealous husband.

All seems truly lost.

But, if Dickens learned from Fielding, perhaps Fielding learned from Shakespeare – the truth will out.

Slowly the tide begins to turn for Tom. The jealous husband unexpectedly lives and asserts Tom’s innocence. Other long concealed secrets come to light, some known to the reader, others quite startling. After several unexpected twists Tom is exonerated, villains are exposed, and other victims besides Tom are restored. Justice is finally served, but there is still little hope for Tom and Sophy. I’ll spare the spoiler, though it shouldn’t be hard to guess.

I only have two minor complaints with this novel. First, it is very wordy. That’s not a very precise criticism and it would be difficult to explain without being wordy myself. Fielding often says in a full paragraph, or two, what could be said in a single sentence. I think this is at least in part, characteristic of 18th and 19th century English prose. I might make the same observation of Dickens or Austen, but while I enjoy the elegant dialogue in their novels, the narrative tends to be a bit more to the point. Whereas even Fielding’s narrative is very elaborate, formal, and intricate. It certainly contributes to the great length of this novel, which in my opinion is longer than necessary.

My second complaint is partially related to the first. Fielding uses this wordiness, and the first 1000 pages to get Jones into trouble – and then barely 100 pages to get him out. To be honest Jones’ vindication came too quickly, too easily, too completely.

But I’ll overlook both these points, in favor of one rather brilliant achievement. Tom Jones is described as a picaresque novel – an engagingly roguish hero. That’s certainly apt. The first time Tom jumped into bed with another woman, after he had professed an exalted love for Sophy that was unequaled in the annals of romance, I was pretty disgusted with him. He was fickle and cavalier, and utterly unworthy of Sophy’s love. Fielding, in his role as the narrator, warns the reader that very good people at times commit great blunders, and they should not be judged in the whole by an action that is but a part.

Yeah right. Well, yeah, that is right but I was not prepared to forgive Tom.

But in the subsequent wordy chapters, Fielding gradually convinced me of Tom’s worth. I could easily believe he could make Tom likeable, but I would have doubted he could ever make him admirable.

And yet, he did. And you, reading this – are probably not convinced. Read this wonderful, wordy, novel and decide for yourself.


There is in true beauty something which vulgar souls cannot admire

…for we never choose to assign motives to the actions of men, when there is any possibility of being mistaken. ~ narrative

True it is, that philosophy makes us wiser, but Christianity makes us better men. Philosophy elevates and steels the mind, Christianity softens and sweetens it. The Former makes us the objects of human admiration, the latter of Divine love. That insures us a temporal, but this an eternal happiness. ~ narrative

The author who will make me weep, says Horace, must first weep himself.

His smiles at folly were indeed such as we may suppose the angels bestow on the absurdities of mankind. ~ Narrative regarding Squire Allworthy

The narrator, and characters, make references to numerous works of literature or authors including:  Homer, Virgil, Cervantes, Jonathan Swift, Shakespeare, Don Quixote, and Robinson Crusoe.

Film Adaptation: I watched two versions: 1997 A&E / BBC 5 hour television mini-series was pretty good, but I expected to prefer the 1962 film with Albert Finney as Tom and Susannah York as Sophie. It won the Academy Award for best picture after all and four other Oscars, and five more nominations including Best Actor for Finney. I am apparently no film critic, but I thought it was rather awful. As usual in my experience, BBC does a better job with Fielding, Austen, Dickens.