Tag Archives: Humor

Subtle Humor Wins Again

Classic Word of the Dayinvidious – adj.  likely to arouse resentment or anger

Classical Usage:  In Chapter I we meet “the old gentleman,” but before we learn his name we learn of his background and character.  It [his face] seemed to tell that he had been successful in life, yet it seemed to tell also that his success had not been exclusive and invidious, but had much the of the inoffensiveness of failure.

Classically Mad Usage:  It’s sentences like the above that make me enjoy Mr. James’ writing, which is good, because sometime the extreme lack of plot makes me a touch on the invidious side.


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


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A Classic Case of Tongue Twisters

Pyotr Petrovich perused Pride and Prejudice perhaps perturbing Porfiry who preferred Pilgrim’s Progress.

Dostoevsky, Vronsky, Oblonsky, and Shcherbatsky went for a brewski.

Inimical monomaniacal ignominy.


Friends, feel free to form fun phrases for a folio of fictional phonetic frolicking.


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Best in Class

In just four short novels (Ok, ok!  Anna Karenina is long.), we’ll be the top students.

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in The Red Badge of Courage


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Quick Dostoyevsky Humor

Boy, wasn’t this such a humorous novel?   I found myself just doubling over belly laughing in bed every night, causing my husband to wonder what in the world was so funny.  Dostoyevsky was just a comedian at heart.
Not so much.


But, hey, I did find a few funny lines here and there.   Did you?   Let me share a few of my favorites.   It won’t be long.  They are very quick.
1.  Amalia Ivanovna mentions that “young ladies must not novels at night read.”   (Part IV, Chapter 5)   This isn’t exactly funny in itself, but it made me chuckle because that is when I do most of MY reading, because there isn’t much other time during my day.   Later in the paragraph, Katerina Ivanovna, referring back to this says that “novel-reading was simply rudeness.”   Susan Wise Bauer, what say you?

2.  I LOVED when Porfiry Petrovich is conversing with Raskolnikov trying to subtly get him to confess, and he mentions that if by chance anything were to happen, if he might take a notion to “put an end to the business” in some way (suicide), “do leave a brief but precise note, only two lines, and mention the stone.”   Then he coolly bid Rascal goodnight.   The nerve!  It cracked me up.

3.   Then there was Svidrigailov and Rascal in the bar with Katia, who drank off her glass of wine, “as women do, without putting it down, in twenty gulps…”   What?   I do like my occasional glass of red, and I don’t think I’ve ever downed one in twenty gulps without putting it down.  Was this a historical characteristic of women imbibing?   It made me chuckle.


OK, so looking back on my list of “smiley faces” in the margins, they really aren’t all that funny.   Why did I find them so funny in the first place?  Perhaps because they were surrounded with psychological disorders, downtrodden souls, vanity, brutality and death?   I must have been driven to find SOMETHING I could at least smile at.    Any other humorous moments you picked up?  I’d love a few more smiles to go along with this one.



Posted by on August 28, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


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When it’s brown it’s cookin’ . . .

Little Known Madame Bovary Fact:  Like most of us, Flaubert had a very strong feeling about the proper preparation of s’mores.  He puts his opinion in the voice of an angered Homais,

Go ahead – go right ahead – don’t respect anything!  Smash!  Crash!  Let the leeches loose!  Burn the marshmallow!  Make pickles in the medicine jars!

I think it’s fair to say this man had some traumatic childhood camping experience.

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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in The Blog


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A Tale of Two Writers

Long before I knew Harri got a letter from Chaz I was thinking that the two should really strike up a dialog, I mean, they have so much in common.

First of all, both authors are writing to elicit social change.  Dickens is working to bring awareness of the dismal situation of the poor to his fellow Londoners, and Stowe is obviously working to abolish slavery.  They have chosen literature as their medium.

Both authors rely heavily on humor to carry their message.  I didn’t see this coming with HBS.  For some reason, I always assumed Uncle Tom’s Cabin was nothing more than a dark, sad tale, I didn’t expect to read hillarious scenes like the one with Sam and Andy leading Haley on a wild goose chase down a nonexistent road.  It reminded me a little bit of Fagin’s gang, but with a moralistically superior cause for raising a ruckus.

Both authors utilize sarcasm in their writing, as well.  The narrator’s voice in Dicken’s work drips with the stuff, while HBS is more apt to reserve her sarcasm for specific characters’ dialogs.  My favorite example of this sort of writing is, well, practically every single sentence St Clare speaks in response to his wife.  Even Stowe can’t help but let a little snarkiness out at Marie.  Here’s a bit where the Omnicient Royal We has just given us a full page of hope that the African people will become the highest and noblest kingdom as a result of God’s chastening, and then she turns her attention to the mistress of the house:

Was this what Marie St. Clare was thinking of, as she stood gorgeously dressed, on the verandah, on Sunday morning, clasping a diamond bracelet on her slender wrist?  Most likely it was.  Or, if it wasn’t that, it was something else; for Marie patronized good things, and she was going now, in full force – diamonds, silk, and lace, and jewels, and all, – to a fashionalbe church, to be very religious.  Marie always made a point to be very pious on Sundays.

All these little hints at similarities between the two writers were nothing compared to what I encountered in the last five chapters.  Granted, Stowe didn’t depict Tom’s murder with the gory detail that we encountered in Nancy’s death, but the remainder of the story was completed much like Oliver Twist.  Long lost relatives came out of the woodwork.  There was an end to all the misfortune and bad timing that had plagued the characters thus far.  No story was left hanging, and futures were hopeful on the horizon.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of happy endings, but both books tied up all the loose ends almost too perfectly.  Really, George’s sister just happened to be in the cabin next door?  Rose is Oliver’s aunt?  Quimbo and Sambo were both converted at Tom’s death?  Topsy becomes a missionary?  Oliver gets to live with Brownlow?

Stowe obviously admired Dicken’s work, and it shows in her own writing.  A bit of research on the connection between the two told me that she initiated their professional friendship by sending him a lavender copy of UTC.  She was an amazingly bold woman, wasn’t she?  Apparently their professional relationship continued for years, although he remained somewhat critical of the book.

Maybe she should have sent him a blue copy instead.


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The Scarlet Letter and the Funny Pages?

Did anyone else read the newspaper comics last week?  It’s been a little while since I’ve finished The Scarlet Letter, but I’m still thinking about it.

And it looks like I’m not the only one.  Take a look at this… and this.

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Posted by on April 3, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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See Ya in the Funny Papers

Even the Sunday Comics make me think of Oliver.


Posted by on December 11, 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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Oliver’s Sequel

I drug took my children to a resale shop after school last week.  I had seen that this particular store was having a 50% off sale on all books.  Now this DIY master’s degree that I’m working toward through the WEM program is cheap on tuition but costly on books.  Have I mentioned that I have to read over thirty novels?  Because of this I am always on the lookout for used classics.  In fact I carry a list of needed titles in my purse.  Truth be told, I even have lists for my co-bloggers as well.  What can I say?  We’re frugal gals.

Now let me paint the picture.  My three children are seated in the book section of the store.  They are occupied with swiveling office chairs (“Mom!  These chairs are for sale!”) and a few Christmas books that were set out on a table.  I am scanning titles as quickly as I can, wondering why no one parts with his copy of Moby Dick or Anna Karenina

As I was promising for the second time that I was almost done, my middle child interrupted,

“Mom!  Come look!  I found Oliver Stone.  I think that’s the sequel to Oliver Twist!”

Oh, buddy.  Ummm,  no.  But thanks for trying to help.  

I guess this sometimes happens when you expose your children to great works of literature.

PS.  I was able to score two copies of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and two copies of Hardy’s The Return of the Native for 50 cents each!

PPS.  Anyone out there need seven copies of The Scarlet Letter?  I know where you can find them.

PPPS.  I also found a children’s version of a classic we’ve already read.  I’ll share it with you tomorrow. 
         Any guesses as to what it is?


Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Oliver Twist, The Blog, Well-Educated Mind


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