Saturday, September 29, 2018

Classic Lit in Song - NOVA this Week

Observations from my weekly wanderingsusually in Northern Virginia (NOVA).

I don’t do a lot of “tags” or “memes” (not even exactly clear on the difference), I participate in a few challenges, hosted one (wasn’t a huge success), my site isn’t monetized, and I don’t do a lot of that stuff.

This blog is mostly just journaling my reading journey. But I do have a little thingy calling for your interaction today; I’m calling it a question.(Catchy huh? Gonna be the next big thing.)

Mostly for the Classics crowd – but everyone is welcome to join in.

What books do you know of that have been made the subject of song?

A few rules: (more what we’ll call guidelines than actual rules).
  1. I’m thinking mostly novels, and mostly classic novels – but whatevs
  2. Don’t google it – just songs that serendipity led you to
  3. The song has to be at least a little bit true to the book. Best explained by example. A few years ago, a singer/songwriter who sang/wrote “you were Romeo, I was your scarlet letter” But the song is not about Shakespeare’s play, or Hawthorne’s novel. Don’t list that song. I will block you.
  4. Not movie soundtracks – unless a song in the soundtrack sort of tells the story.
  5. Comment below, and I’ll do a new post next week with the results.
  6. Comments welcome, even if you don't have a song

I’ll start. And in accordance with the rules, there are only three that come to mind:

Seems like there must be one by Al Stewart, but I can’t think of it.

Your turn – or did I take all the good ones?


Monday, September 24, 2018

Counting Christmas - Guest Book Review by my Granddaughter Lydia

This is the first guest book review by my granddaughter Lydia, with some help from older sister Alathea and older Brother Andrew.

Lydia enjoyed Counting Christmas by Karen Katz for the colorful pictures and of course the Christmas Theme. She doesn’t remember her first Christmas, but she is aware of a certain nervous excitement in her brother and sister for the approaching season - and senses it is sort of a big deal. More importantly, she HAS heard the story of Baby Jesus, and she is excited to celebrate his birthday.

Lydia understands vaguely that the book is intended to teach children basic counting skills, but she finds that subject rather academic and of no use to her yet. Her sister Alathea, as you might surmise from the picture, likes to multi-task and was perusing another counting book, Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons, by Eric Litwin, illustrated by James Dean.

Alathea likes both these books, but like her Grandfather, she prefers the classics, and for counting books the Gold Standard is really My First Counting Book by Lillian Moore, illustrated by Garth Williams, but she won’t ask Grandpa to read that one, because he thinks it is the saddest book ever written.

And finally, Andrew wanted to poke his head in too, and remind everyone that this whole Grandchild Book Review trope started with his review of Because a Little Bug went Ka-CHOO!

But this is Lydia’s review, and she gives Counting Christmas 4 Stars (Alathea is incredulous).

Click HERE for more book reviews by my Grandsons and Granddaughters.


Sunday, September 16, 2018

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare

Hamlet by William Shakespeare 

What a piece of work is man ~ Hamlet

Hamlet, apart from Romeo and Juliet, is probably William Shakespeare’s best known play.  It is a tragedy, written very late 16thor very early 17thcentury, taking place in Denmark. It is also one of Shakespeare’s longest plays.

You probably know, that Shakespeare wrote: comedies and tragedies. Now comedies are not precisely what we may think of as comedies today – but goodness is Hamlet a tragedy.

There is almost nothing to feel good about at the end of this. The innocent die, the guilty die, the virtuous driven mad die, the sort of middlin die.

But it is, powerful. It is the story of the villainous king of Denmark – Hamlet’s uncle – who murders his brother, usurps the throne, and marries his brother’s wife.

Fortunately, the victim king, Hamlet’s father, returns in spirit form to charge Hamlet with vengeance. Hamlet of course complies, but well, it is pretty tragic.

          Hamlet – Now mother, what’s the matter
          Queen – Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
          Hamlet – Mother, you have my father much offended.
          Queen – Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
          Hamlet – Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.

I’ve seen Hamlet, as Shakespeare is intended, portrayed as a play, so I was not in suspense as to the outcome, but still I was captivated from the beginning. It is not surprising this is one of Shakespeare’s best known plays. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Excerpts and Shakespearean phrases now part of English vernacular

Frailty, thy name is woman ~ Hamlet to his mother

I shall not look upon his like again ~ Hamlet regarding his father

Angels and ministers of grace defend us ~ Hamlet

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. ~ Marcellus

There are more things in heaven and earth Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy ~ Hamlet

Though this be madness, yet there be method in’t ~ Polonius

What a piece of work is man ~ Hamlet

…the devil hath power to assume a pleasing shape ~ Hamlet

…the play’s the thing – Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king ~ Hamlet

To be, or not to be, – that is the question ~ Hamlet

Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind ~ Ophelia

The lady protests too much, methinks. ~ The queen, Hamlet’s mother

The cat will mew, and dog will have his day ~ Hamlet


Saturday, September 8, 2018

The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens (novel #109)

…it is not on earth that Heaven’s justice ends.

Well Mr. Dickens – you surprised me. This being the seventh Dickens novel I’ve read, I considered myself quite the expert and was rather smug; I recognized this motif.

Sweet, innocent, pure-hearted child victimized by a cruel injustice or heart-breaking misfortune – only in this case it was both – visited upon two different youths: one suffering injustice the other misfortune – so much the better – the poetic justice in the end would be twice as satisfying. The only drama was how the Inimitable author would set everything right.

The Dickens’ trademarks were there: the villainous caricatures, the aptronyms, the kindly poor, the powerful benefactors, a touch of humor.

But then…it seems I have yet more to learn of Dickens

The old curiosity shop is the business establishment of the aged Mr. Trent, who lives there with his adored and angelic granddaughter Nell. In the employ of Mr. Trent is young Kit, the honest and dutiful son of a widowed mother. I’ll spare the spoilers but you might infer whom the two aforementioned innocent youths might be.

Besides the surprising plot twist that I did not anticipate, there was another surprise. Another character, young Mr. Richard Swiveller, was early thought to be quite a wastrel and a cad, but he turns out to be a shining knight.

I have to admit I was not entirely satisfied with Dickens’ ending. But, the tale was riveting, and I have to give the author high marks for unpredictability. At any rate, I took the ending better than Oscar Wilde did. Have you read The Old Curiosity Shop? What did you think?

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel satisfies – Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 – Category: a 19thCentury classic.

Other excerpts:

But Nature often enshrines gallant and noble hearts in weak bosoms…

Oh! It is hard to take to heart the lesson that such deaths will teach, but let no man reject it, for it is one that all must learn, and is a mighty universal Truth. When Death strikes down the innocent and young, for every fragile form from which he lets the panting spirit free, a hundred virtues rise, in shapes of mercy, charity, and love, to walk the world and bless it. Of every tear that sorrowing mortals shed on such green graves, some good is born, some gentler nature comes. In the Destroyer’s steps there spring up bright creations that defy his power, and his dark path becomes a way of light to Heaven.

…for your popular rumour, unlike the rolling stone of the proverb, is one which gathers a deal of moss in its wanderings up and down…

With failing strength and heightening resolution, there had sprung up a purified and altered mind; there had grown in her bosom blessed thoughts and hopes, which are the portion of few but the weak and drooping.

…it is not on earth that Heaven’s justice ends.

Such are the changes which a few years bring about, and so do things pass away, like a tale that is told!

And something I always enjoy finding – a reference to other classic literature: Nell Reads from Pilgrim’s Progress


Saturday, September 1, 2018

The Reigate Squires - a Sherlock Holmes short story

The Reigate Squires by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle                                                   A Sherlock Holmes short story

The Reigate Squires is part of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes collection. It is Holmes eighth case chronologically. Doyle ranked this as his twelfth favorite Sherlock Holmes adventure. Me? Not so much.

As usual, Holmes’ keen observation and powers of deduction solve the case, but it lacked something for me. There was little comic relief, which usually comes in the form of Holmes awkward social graces, collegial banter between Holmes and Watson, or Holmes’ contempt and subtle disparaging innuendos directed at the inspectors of Scotland Yard, particularly Inspector Lestrade. 

However, there were two elements I liked in this murder mystery. First, that Watson had taken Holmes to a country estate of an Army colleague, in order for Holmes to rest and recuperate after a strenuous case and illness. But of course, even on medical holiday Holmes is confronted with a mystery to solve. And although I liked this, it is perhaps also what disappointed me. I think there was great opportunity here for comic banter between Holmes and Watson, but there was almost none. 

Secondly, I liked that Holmes was much more professionally courteous with the country constable in charge of the case. I suppose Holmes didn’t feel he needed taking down quite so badly as the typical Scotland Yard inspectors. Whatever his reasons, I was glad to read Holmes treating the constable with respect. 

Other than that, just another case in the chronicles of Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes wrestling with the murderers…Dr. Watson to the rescue. Illustration by Sidney Paget