Tag Archives: reading

In the Face of Tragedy

Old Man in Sorrow Vincent van Gogh

I love a happy ending, but the value of tragedy is no longer lost on me.

Tragedy, he perceived, belonged to the ancient time, to a time when there were still privacy, love, and friendship, and when the members of a family stood by one another without needing to know the reason.

For Winston this realization comes with the recollection of his mother’s sacrifice for him.  Even though he cannot remember the reasons for that sacrifice, he does know that in his current condition such a selfless act could never occur.

Today there were fear, hatred, and pain, but no dignity of emotion, or deep or complex sorrows.

I’m not a fan of sorrow, even when it doesn’t manifest itself in complex and deep ways.  But I do put a pretty high value on privacy, love, friendship, and family.

So, if anyone asks how reading the WEM list has changed me, I think my answer will be colored by these passages.  For the dignity of emotion is a gift transferred from one generation to another through the arts, and exposure to their fear, hatred, and pain teaches us the value of our own safety, love, and freedom.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 27, 2013 in 1984


Tags: , , ,

Don’t Believe Us?

Why read 1984, you ask?  After all, that’s so twenty-nine years ago.  I could give you all my reasons, but instead I’m going to direct you over to this thought-provoking post by Edie Wadsworth from Life in Grace.

While she’s not tackling that specific question, what she says, encourages, and does herself are the very answers.


Posted by on October 23, 2013 in 1984


Tags: , , ,

Zzzzzzzzzzz . . .

You know you’re tired when you can’t stay awake long enough to get to the end of a chapter in Anna Karenina.


Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Anna Karenina


Tags: , , ,

Talk to the Hand

My husband and I started Crime and Punishment while on our trip to see my family this summer.  While there, my parents and sister graciously agreed to take our brood so he and I could have a night to ourselves – not for the purpose of reading Doestoevsky, that was just a by-product of our little Anniversary get-away.

Don’t worry, we didn’t waste beautiful Black Hills scenery, a secluded cabin, and honeymoon memories (did I mention that thanks to the generosity of our friends we got to stay in the same place that we inhabited after our wedding ten years ago?  Delightful.) on murder and mayhem.

We saved that for the car ride home.

Have you ever driven across South Dakota and northern Nebraska?  I love those two states, so I’ll refrain from using any negative terms to describe them, but, let’s just say that you won’t miss any breathtaking views if your happen to have your nose in a book for a mile or 100.

So we read, and we read, and we read, and drove and drove and drove.  And I got really good at pronouncing Russian names.  Then we got to Part I Chapter VII.  This shouldn’t come as a surprise, but there’s a murder.  Two, in fact.  They’re gruesome.  Gruesome, and disgusting, and repulsive, and sickening, and horrible, and terrible.

But I kept reading, And Jerry kept driving.  Although he might not have had both hands on the wheel.


Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Crime and Punishment


Tags: , , , ,

Head’s Up . . . or Down

We often converse about how soon we should let you know that we’ve finished a novel and will begin another.  Do you want more warning?  Less?  Have we hit the sweet spot in the past?  Or are we way off base?

Anyway, we’re all finished with Uncle Tom’s Cabin, but we haven’t had our wrap-up yet, and we probably have at least a week or two of posts to follow.

I just thought you might want to know.  Then again, maybe not.  Whatever.


Posted by on May 28, 2012 in The Blog, Uncle Tom's Cabin


Tags: ,

How to Read Depressing Literature

Susan Wise Bauer gives us all sorts of fabulous tips on how to read in The Well-Educated Mind.  She does not, however specifically address how to tackle Oliver Twist and it seems that some readers are struggling with drudgery, sarcasm, and dismal nature of this novel.  I, however, am eating it up.  While this probably speaks mostly to my disturbed personality I am channeling that dark enjoyment into a few handy tips.

Tip I
Ignore reality.  Pretend like the 19th century England that Dickens illustrates is as fictitious as Bromdingnag and Laputa.

Tip II
Imagine all characters as cartoons.  Add animated gags and tricks, including “Pow!” graphics, tweeting birds flying in circles around people’s heads, and characters that disappear when they turn sideways because they’re so underfed.

Concentrate on the writing, rather than the plot.  Dickens crafts some gorgeous sentences.  Much better than these.  With verbs and everything.  Admire the craft.

Tip IV
Think about all the good that was accomplished by this writing, about how this scathing exposition on society helped to reform and provide aid to those in need.  Warning:  This tip does not work in conjunction with Tip I, so use it judiciously, and only when you are already in a state of melancholy.

Tip V
Buy into the sarcasm.  Laugh at it.  Work it into your conversations.  Maybe even your blog post.  Of course, I would never do such a thing.


Posted by on November 26, 2011 in Oliver Twist


Tags: , , , ,

Mr. Collins would not approve…

We are in trouble now!


…of libraries, Susan Wise Bauer, or this very blog!   When he visits the Bennets, they are searching for evening entertainment and ask him to read aloud to the ladies:

“Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it, (for everything announced it to be from a circulating library,) he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels.   Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons…”

Sorry, Mr. Collins.  You don’t know what you are missing!    I’ve listened to some wonderful sermons in my day and have nothing against them, but I will also find a place for novels, the library, AND this blog.  So there!


Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Pride and Prejudice


Tags: , , ,

Speed Reading

We are very excited to hear that there are several people reading Pride and Prejudice along with us, and that many of you who have already loved and digested the novel are planning to revisit19th century rural England by means of our posts.  We look forward to lots of comments (hint, hint) and discussion.  And if you have a great idea for a guest post let us know, that’s one of the purposes of the handy-dandy “Contact Us” box to your right.

Since we’re all reading together, and yet not exactly ‘together’, I was recently asked about our reading goals and deadlines.  We don’t usually set a hard and fast deadline on our books, certainly not at first.  Typically, we all start reading, do a little chit-chatting once we’re a week or so into the book, and then figure out our average speed.  Following our progress we sometimes set a “It’d be nice if we could wrap this one up by so-and-so date” kind of deadline, but nothing hard and fast, and with no intermediate deadlines along the way.

We post as our schedules and reading allow.  If somebody proves to be super-speedilicious then they might post more, but stagger out the posts in order to prevent spoilers.

So, tell us:  Where are you in the book?  Have you already read it, but are planning to follow and comment along with us?  Do you think we’re all washed up and have no interest in reading or following along? (Wait, don’t answer that.)

I just finished Chapter 14.  I love these teensy little chapters.  They make me feel like I’ve accomplished so much by reading two or three a night.

Oh, and in case we haven’t mentioned it before, we’d love it if you would comment.  A lot.


Posted by on October 7, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress, The Blog


Tags: , , ,

No stories for you!

Jeannette taked about Lilliputian schools in a former post.  Something else in this chapter of GT caught my attention. 

One thing you will not find happening in female nurseries is story-telling.

And if it be found that these Nurses ever presume to entertain the Girls with frightful or foolish Stories, or the common Follies practised by Chamber-Maids among us, they are publicly whipped thrice about the City, imprisoned for a Year, and banished for Life to the most desolate Part of the Country.

Yowza.  I suppose storytime at the library is out of the question.

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Gulliver's Travels


Tags: , ,

You know you’ve been reading too much Pilgrim’s Progress when . . .

you wake up in the morning and say, “I had the weirdest allegory last night.”

1 Comment

Posted by on August 8, 2011 in The Blog


Tags: , ,