Tag Archives: books

In Translation

POALI’m finding that Henry James talks quite a bit about books in The Portrait of a Lady: books, libraries, reading, learning.

There was this quote describing Ralph.

In chapter six we find out that Isabel Archer is a smartie and her friends know why….

“…for these excellent people never withheld their admiration from a reach of intellect of which they themselves were not conscious, and spoke of Isabel as a prodigy of learning, a creature reported to have read the classic authors–in translations.”

Does Hardy tag on the “in translations” to take away from Miss Archer’s achievements?
Maybe I’m just feeling sensitive after the Russian novels, but I felt a little jab.


Posted by on January 19, 2013 in The Portrait of a Lady


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My book fell apart just minutes before I finished.

If you’re not finished yet, I suggest you hurry.

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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Starting Jane

A copy of the novel, a clean page in my journal, and my favorite pen: I am ready to begin Jane Eyre. 

So Jane, like Oliver, is an orphan. I assume that she is meek and mild; a sweet child who is manipulated/oppressed/abused by others.  At first, that’s the I impression I have of Jane. 
Chapter 1 opens with Jane’s aunt and cousins snuggling on the couch.  Jane is not permitted to be part of the group because she’s not a happy enough child.  In my book’s margin I write, “Until she is happier, she may not join them–ha!  as if excluding her will make her happier?” 

Jane sneaks into the breakfast room where she hides in a window-seat with a book, curtains drawn around her to keep the cousins away.  In my journal I write that Jane likes books.  Hiding from the cousins doesn’t work for long.  Cousin John soon finds Jane and uses the opportunity to bully her.  Bronte gives a careful description of John; I write in my journal that he is a chubby, fourteen-year-old bully who has mama wrapped around his pudgy finger.  Jane’s reaction to Cousin John is more than strong.  I underline the following quote: “every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh on my bones shrank when he came near. ”  This is a family member to fear!

John forces Jane to stand before him.  He sticks his tongue out at her.  Her reminds her that she possesses nothing in the house and is worth nothing to the people of the house.  Then he uses her for target practice.  Her takes the book she was reading and throws it at her.  Even though Jane tries to move out-of-the-way, John hits her with the book which causes her to smack into the door, cutting her head open.

Assertive Jane appears.  I underline another quote:
“‘Wicked and cruel boy!’  I said. ‘You are like a murderer– you are like a slave-driver–you are like the Roman emperors!'”  Bronte then tells me that my protagonist has only ever thought these things before and had never spoken them aloud until now.  I make note of this.

Ah, so Jane has a voice.  And now she uses her voice to fight back against those who would attack her. 

There is a hair-pulling, pummeling scuffle.  Of course since the entire house is set against her,  Jane is punished by being locked in the red-room, and Cousin John is comforted.

The chapter ends.  Hmmmm… It appears that Jane Eyre is not as meek/naive/gullible as Oliver Twist.  I’m glad.  I’m ready for some spunk.


Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Jane Eyre


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Forward and Onward (and Backward)

Today I began our next novel, Jane Eyre.   If you are reading with us, you’ll have to wait until Chapter III to find out what 10-year-old Jane’s favorite book was.   Let’s just say, it’s a familiar one!    Any guesses?   Feel free to chime in.

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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Jane Eyre


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Good Grief! More Gulliver?

Look what I found.  No, it’s not the next title in the WEM list.  It’s a collection of classic stories Usborne has illustrated for children.  Check out the titles:

  • Robin Hood
  • Moonfleet
  • Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • The Canterville Ghost

and wait for it…

  • Gulliver’s Travels

See why I had to immediately put a library hold on this book?!

This version of Part 1 of Gulliver’s Travels was retold by Gill Harvey and illustrated by Peter Dennis. 

Although some adaptations have been made, I think the story truer to Swift’s original than the pop-up book.

Gulliver is transported on a wooden cart to the capital city.


Gulliver's pockets are inspected for dangerous items.


The nobles compete in the game of "Leaping and Creeping".

 There are pages devoted to egg debate.  Of course Gulliver steals the naval vessals from the people of Blefescu.  There’s even an illustration of the fire that Gulliver puts out.
This version has him throwing water over the palace to save it. I prefer the change.
This version has Gulliver throwing “water over the palace to save it.”  That’s a small change I prefer.  One detail the storyteller did not change is how the nobles want to kill Gulliver or at least blind him at the end of Part 1.  Don’t worry.  Just like in Swift’s version, Gulliver escapes in a boat and is rescued by people his own size.
I like the Usborne version of Gulliver’s Travels, and I can’t wait until the library informs me that my next hold is ready for pickup.

Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Gulliver's Travels


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A Romantic Twist

Having just finished Pride and Prejudice, our first romantic classic, I hardly expected to find anything in Oliver Twist that would rival the hearts and butterflies of the love stories told by Austen, but once again Dicken’s surprises me.

The beadle, Mr. Bumble, calls upon the matron of the workhouse, Mrs. Corney, with a spark of longing growing in his breast. Now, one might be unsure if the longing is for her, or for the position that he would acquire by becoming her espoused husband, but either way the love language between the two of them would send any heart a flutter.

Just listen to the way Mr. Bumble uses Mrs. Corney’s lovely feline companions to flatter her.

“You have a cat, ma’am, I see, ” said Mr. Bumble, glancing at one, . . ., “and kittens too, I declare!”
“I am so fond of them, Mr. Bumble, you can’t think,”  replied the matron. . . .
“Very nice animals, ma’am,” replied Mr. Bumble, approvingly; “so very domestic.”
“Oh yes!” rejoined the matron, with enthusiasm; “so fond of their home too, that it’s quite a pleasure, I’m sure.”
“Mrs. Corney, ma’am,”  said Mr. Bumble, slowly, and marking the time with his teaspoon, “I mean to say this, ma’am; that any cat, or kitten, that could live with you, ma’am, and not be fond of its home, must be a ass, ma’am.”
“Oh, Mr. Bumble!” remonstrated Mrs. Corney.

Wait.  He doesn’t stop there.

“It’s of no use disguising facts, ma’am,”  said Mr. Bumble, slowly flourishing the teaspoon with a kind of amorous dignity which made him doubly impressive; “I would drown it myself, with pleasure.”

Did he really just say that?  Meeee-ooooow!

That right, Kitty, tell Mr. Bumble what you think of him and his amorous spoon wielding threats.


Posted by on December 17, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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It’s Stupid Question Time Again!

Who is Monks?  Or is it the Monk?  or the Monks?

I’m confused.  And maybe it’s supposed to be that way.  He just pops out of nowhere in Chapter XXVI, and certainly intimidates Fagin.  And then he recognizes Oliver in Chapter XXXIII.  From where?  How?

Should I just be still and know that Dickens is in control and will answer my every question in good time?

Please answer.  Unless you’re not supposed to.  In which case, please answer that you’re not going to answer. Okay? (You can answer that.)

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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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Reader, heed thyself.

I’m finished with Oliver Twist.  Speedy, eh?  Not so much, I just like a story with a happy ending, and since I don’t really know how Dickens plans to end his tale (I know, I may be the only person in the universe who hasn’t seen the musical or movie) I’ve decided to quit reading in a place where life is peachy-keen for our main character.  So here’s how Chapter XXXII wraps up in my book:

It seemed like a good idea.  Oliver is happily residing with two lovely ladies, who care deeply for him.  There are no lies floating about, or dangers in the air.  Just mutual respect, gratitude, and love.  Dickens calls it “true felicity.”  I call it, The End.

But, I just hope that maybe some future reader will see my directive and heed the advice.  However, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  And sure enough, just a measly two chapters later Fagin and Monks are peaking in the window, spying on Oliver’s mid-study nap.

Which led to this book addition:

See, I told myself, so.


Posted by on December 13, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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Book Judging

In Chapter XIV Oliver visits Mr. Brownlow in his library.  Our workhouse orphan is amazed at the number of titles.  Mr. Brownlow assures Oliver that he will read them someday.

“You shall read them, if you behave well,” said the old gentleman kindly; “and you will like that better than looking at the outsides,–that is, in some cases; because there are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts.”

Backs and covers are the best parts?!  Thanks for the chuckle, Mr. Dickens.

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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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Bacon Bits of Writing Wisdom

Long before the Bacon Craze started on the Interwebs, Dickens seemed to know that peppering his writing with a good salty analogy would really draw in the readers.  So at the beginning of Chapter XVII he compares his own writing to nothing else, but that crispy cured pork goodness that we all love.

It is the custom on the stage: in all good, murderous melodramas: to present the tragic and the comic scenes, in as regular alternation, as the layers of red and white in a side of streaky, well-cured bacon.

I’d say that’s sort of how we run this blog.  Two parts good meat, one part fat.


Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Oliver Twist


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