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Reward for Madame

The madame in the title is me.  I need a reward, a carrot, to keep me reading this book.  I’m still in part one, but to quote Jeannette,

“Madame Emma Bovary is getting on my nerves.”

I totally agree with you, Jeannette.

I did some searching, looking for a movie version of Flaubert’s work.  See, I didn’t watch Moby-Dick and the only Uncle Tom’s Cabin I plan on watching is the clip from “The King and I” that includes a horribly botched rendition of the story. (That musical is waiting for me at the library.)  It’s time to see how another novel was translated to the big screen.

I’m looking for a movie reward: something that I can watch while eating croissants and pretending that I remember even a little of the French I took in high school.

Oh, the choices!

This is the BBC’s version.This one was made as a tv miniseries.I even found a trailer for this one.  If you’d like a sneak peek into the story, click on the image.

I spied additional adaptations as well.  This could be almost as much fun as when I watched Jane Eyre.  Now if I could just finish the book.

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2012 in Madame Bovary

 

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One Final Dip Into Gulliver

Who are you calling Cheesy?

Who are you calling Cheesy?

To bring Gulliver’s Travels to a close we discussed the book over Lilliputian foods dipped in fondue.  And while the main course was cheesy, and basic, and bite-sized the conversation was not.  In fact, most of the time I felt a lot like the banana that clumsily fell off my fork and into the melted chocolate – completely drowning in rich, delectable goodness, while I myself was a mushy mess.

Those ladies I read with know their chocolate and their literary discussions.  I only know chocolate.

But here is what I did retain from the conversation:  Perception.  Or was with Perspective?  Or was it Power?  Or Poo?  Or maybe Pride?  Actually, it was all of those P words.  Maybe it’s not a coincidence that Gulliver is sandwiched between Pilgrim’s Progress and Pride and Prejudice.

One of the tasks that we face after each book is determining how the author uses the beginning and ending to convey his message.  In addition to offering crockpots full of cheesy and chocolately gooeyness Jeannette also pointed out that Swift ends his work with a lengthy diatribe against pride.  Here’s the final sentence of the book:

I dwell the longer upon this Subject (pride) from the Desire I have to make the Society of an English Yahoo by any Means not insupportable; and therefore I here intreat those who have any Tincture of this absurd Vice, that they will not presume to appear in my Sight.

Here he seems to single out pride as the quality that he most opposes in human nature.  Yet there are so many things that disgust him.  It wasn’t until we started exploring them one by one that it was obvious that pride was at the root of many of these features.  Like Power.

Jeannette also led us in a dizzying, yet delightful, discussion about Perception and Perspective.  Gulliver began his travels in the land of the Lilliputians where his perception was one of greatness, both in size and importance, but in Brobdingnag he becomes the minuscule know-nothing.  The difference in perception and perspective are again contrasted in his third and fourth voyages.  Now, the definitions alone of perception and perspective are enough to make my head spin, so if you want to hear more about this enlightening subject you’ll need to badger Jeannette or Christine to write a post.  Or two.  I think there’s more than enough there.

Christine brought donuts, croissants, and apples to the table, as well as foreign languages, clothing, and a topic that is usually banned at most dinners and this blog. But in the name of Intellectual Pursuit I have lifted my Public Forum Ban to bring you this very important literary motif.  Excrement.  Certainly you’ve noticed it in this post, and this one, and this one.  And get this, we even spared you a few of Swift’s more graphic depictions.

But first, to the foreign languages and clothes.  Gulliver picks up the languages of the natives with great ease.  In no time at all he is whispering in Lilliputian, shouting to the Brobdingnags, flapping the Laputians to get them to listen, and even whinnying like a Houyhnhnm.  What does it all mean?  Possibly that Swift just needed a tool to let us know what was happening at each location, or maybe it was a satirical attempt at showing us that understanding another culture takes more than the mastery of words and phrases.

Gladly, Gulliver remains clothed through most of the book.  His clothes become a method of describing the differences between English culture and the new cultures in which he participates.  They also act as a way of distancing himself from the Yahoo race.

As for the scatological motif, let it be enough to simply say, “Everybody poops.”

So, are you wondering what what I added to our lovely evening?  I brought a hearty appetite, some banana chunks and insightful observations like, “Did you ever notice that Gulliver gets in ships and travels on the water a lot?”

Yeah, deep.  I know.

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

 

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Now that we’ve crossed the river…

We’ve already had one PP viewing, but here’s another way that Classic Case of Maddness could celebrate the end of the book.  With a novel like this one, sometimes you need to celebrate being finished twice.

I did a little research in the film department.  Here’s what I found:
Made in 1979, this film features Peter Thomas, Maurice
O’Callaghan, and Liam Neeson.  It received rather mixed reviews, but then we gave PP rather mixed reviews.  Now I’m not familiar with Thomas or O’Callaghan, but Neeson!  I like him.  He plays the Evangelist.  Amazon‘s review says 

“Journey with Pilgrim, as John Bunyan’s famous allegory leaps from its pages to a movie. You’ll experience the Slough of Despond, Hill of Difficulty, Vanity Fair, Meet Pliable, Mr Obstinate, Worldly Wiseman, Evangelist, Mr Interpreter, and Pilgrim’s constant foe, Apollyon. Follow Pilgrim to the cross, and ultimately to the Celestial City. A powerful visualization of the Christian life.”

If we like this movie version of PP, there’s a sequel!  Some of the same actors return for Part 2.  Neeson’s role is that of Great Heart this time around.  Here’s Amazon’s review of Christiana’s story:

“The second chapter in the Pilgrim’s Progress story. John Bunyan’s immortal classic is completed with Christiana, Part 2 of the world-famous book, Pilgrim’s Progress. Christiana, who had earlier scoffed at her husband for leaving his family in the City of Destruction, truly repents of her sins. She is rewarded with a glowing faith and leads her daughter, Credence, and sons, Avail and Avow, plus her doubting neighbor, Mercy, towards the Celestial City. With the help of Greatheart, Christiana sets a wonderful example of a loving, but concerned mother who guards and guides her children through numerous dangerous adventures. At Doubting Castle, Mercy at last takes firm grip upon the promises of God’s Word and is rewarded with deep faith. Then, at Pilgrim’s Rest, the entire group discovers the meaning of the verse, “For me to live is Christ and to die is to gain.”

Ummm, I’m sensing some variation from the original text.  But maybe we’ll like the screenwriters take on Part 2 even more than we like Bunyan’s.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress

 

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Fire and CGI Brimstone

When we left off yesterday we had just finished our end-of-book discussion of Pilgrim’s Progress and were on our way to reap the rewards.

We couldn’t make it all the way to the English coffee house adorned with stained glass scenes from Pilgrim’s Progress where Jeannette’s sister-in-law worked (did I dream that, or is it true?  I always meant to ask more questions about that cool fact.)  Instead, we settled on watching the 2008 movie version of “Pilgrim’s Progess.” Upon careful investigation we came to the possibly erroneous conclusion that this version was produced by a group of Baptist churches in Lynchburg, Virginia.

Now, I hate to poke fun at these obviously devout Christians trying to put a classic piece of literature into a medium accessible to today’s audience, but . . . well . . . um . . . it was bad.  Cheesy with a side of American.  We came up with several interesting movie-watching games, like “Spot the Youth Pastor,” and “Who Can Count the Most Props Provided by Hobby Lobby” and “How Many Different Computer Animation Tricks Does the DCE Know” and “Guess Who’s Smokin’ Hot Wife Got to Play Mrs. Wanton.”

Then there was the competition for Worst Costume.  Did it belong to the man from the Mariachi Band, or the girl in her old teal prom dress who tied a matching piece of fabric around her head, or the man in the bowler hat, mustache and cane?  Wait, Mr. Help’s orange work vest and yellow hard hat were pretty laughable, and the bulk order on khakis and colored oxfords was also to be noted.

Okay, fine, I will say something nice about the movie.  The scenery was gorgeous.  If that’s what it looks like in Lynchburg, Virginia then sign me up for the next vacation give-away (because I’m pretty sure the Valley of the Shadow of Death scene wasn’t filmed there.)  And the actors seemed like they were probably really, really nice people.  See, I can say kind things, too.

Here’s the trailer.  Hope you enjoy.

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress

 

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The Reward at the End of the Journey

You know we love a good reward, so after we’d all made it to the Celestial City (twice) we got together for a nice discussion of the grammar, logic and rhetoric questions that Susan Wise Bauer spells out for us in WEM.  Here’s a smattering of the discussion (all answers are paraphrased by me, any mistakes, lack of clarity, or general wrongness are surely mine and not those of the intelligent people who originally provided them):

SWB:  What does the central character want?  What is standing in his (or her) way?  And what strategy does he (or she) pursue in order to overcome this block?
Christian, and later Christiana, want to reach the Celestial City but burdens, temptations and sin arise along the way.  Christian sometimes tries to achieve his goal by following the easy path, but in order to succeed he always has to abide by the Word of God and submit to its rule over his life.

SWB:  Do you sympathize with the characters?  Which ones, and why?
Christine:
 NO!  (Okay, it came out that emphatically, but her reasoning is spot on:  Bunyan didn’t provide us with three-dimensional characters that we grew to know and love, instead his characters were simply tools he used to provide extended catechesis.  Christine, you had me at “NO!”)

SWB:  Does the writer’s technique give you a clue as to his “argument” . . . ?
This answer was pre-submitted by my beloved who read the “Family Edition”:
 Bunyan uses a dream to reveal his story with nearly identical language to that of John in the beginning and ending of his Revelation.  He also uses dreams within the dream to reveal truths to the characters.  In this way he is putting his own works on par with those of God’s Word.

Jeannette (that’s right, she had her own list of questions to ask, and they were good, like this one):  What is the meaning of sleep within the Pilgrim’s journey?
Sleep is nearly always viewed negatively along the path.  Christian falls asleep and forgets his certificate and must return to get it.  Christian and Hopeful are warned by the Shepherds not to fall asleep in the Enchanted Ground.  Heedless and Too-Bold fell into a sleep from which they could not be awakened.  In instances where the pilgrims failed to move forward in their journey it proved dangerous to their faith.  Apply to your own life as applicable.

So, I bet you’re wondering where the reward is.  What?!?  The discussion is it’s own reward, right?  Nah.  We like our down-time just as much as the next overly-exhausted mother facing the beginning of the school year. So, pop up some corn, melt some butter (because that is certainly what Jeannette did – YUM) and get ready to read about our reward . . . tomorrow.

Don’t worry, it’ll be worth the wait.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2011 in Pilgrim's Progress

 

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The Final Sally

We’ve all finished Don Quixote so we got together for one last book discussion on the tome.  Our reward for reaching the end of DQ?  Why, a little DQ, of course.

We only wish that our local Dairy Queen would have been located on Barataria Boulevard, like this one coming soon to Marrero, Louisiana.

Jeannette played the role of Susan Wise Bauer and led us through a series of logic and rhetoric questions.  We discussed the characters, Cervantes’ style, DQ’s self-revelation, and the major argument(s) of the book.  My reading partners are intelligent and insightful thinkers who had meaningful things to say.  I’ll let them write thorough blog posts about the greater truths in Don Quixote. For the time being, I may be even more ignorant than before this adventure began.  But, I’m not discouraged.  This undertaking is designed to help us learn to think.  There’s much to learn.  Much.

In the mean time I’m going to read some Sparknotes and see if I can make some sense of our mad-man and his mad-antics.  But I’m already disheartened, they don’t mention anything about the color green.

 
 

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Getting Sentimental Over DQ

Well, Book One is in the books.  For those of you keeping score at home Cervantes wrote the first book of Don Quixote in 1605 and then tenish years later came out with the second book.  Those Spaniards should have seen it coming though, after all he did end the first book by mentioning that there was no history that he could find of Don Quixote’s third sally.  Then again, we’re used to this sort of sequel hint-dropping, maybe this is yet another case where Cervantes was a pioneer.

I’ve taken some time to reflect on the first book this afternoon.  I went back and read my journal entries for each chapter.  I pondered the questions scribbled under the sometimes vague and other times wordy summaries.  I wondered if I will ever make it out of the grammar stage of reading DQ and be able to address deeper issues like

Both the overread DQ and the illiterate SP are following the same foolish path.  Education doesn’t determine sanity or reasonableness.  What does?

or

How does pervasive Christianity effect the novel, or does it simply speak to the times?

or

How does DQ take comfort in his own dilusions?

For the time being I am pleased to just make it through.  This education process, it’s a slow one, right?  I shouldn’t expect results overnight, right?  It’s okay if it takes me a couple centuries of literature to be able to answer the questions I ask, right?  Just being able to ask questions is a sign of improvement, right?  At some point I’ll stop looking for others to validate my assumptions, right?  Right?  I said, right?!?!?!?!

Also, I took some quiet moments to just look at the title page for the second book.  It’s so clean, so empty, so full of opportunity.  I can’t bear to turn the page.  That’s what made me realize the parallel between this and something in the knitting world called “Second Sock Syndrome.”  It occurs when you have completed the first sock and are proud of your somewhat adventurous and enjoyable journey through the pattern, but are then faced with the prospect of doing it all again.  Daunting.  And yet if you don’t jump in you are left with something only good for an all wool puppet show.  And even though it’s often more of the same there is something to be learned from that second sock.  So, DQ, you and I have a date, but lets hold off until after the weekend.

And I’ll end with one last anecdote and idea from my day of reflection.  Amy, of Crazy College Girls Who Read Seriously Heavy Literature With Unnaturally Short Deadlines fame, was over this afternoon and commented on what an amazing feat it will be to have completed this gargantuan novel (I’m paraphrasing a tad – in my memory, everyone talks like me.  Weird.)  And that led me to what might just be the best incentive to date.  You know how marathon runners sport their little 26.2 stickers on their hybrid SUV’s?  When we finish this mammoth undertaking I think we deserve similar stickers for our minivans that read DQ.  Now, if we can only figure out how to convince people we don’t just have an ice cream addiction.

 
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Posted by on May 27, 2011 in Don Quixote, Well-Educated Mind

 

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