October 2020 books read

  • On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong, 2019 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Night Boat to Tangier – Kevin Barry, 2019 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate – Robert D. Kaplan, 2012 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • The Waves – Virginia Woolf, 1931 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • The Anodyne Necklace – Martha Grimes, 1983. Jonathan’s been reading these and thought I might enjoy the colorful characters like Melrose Plant. But as it turns out this book (early, third in the series) doesn’t give much of that flavor. It was just OK; I did like the bossy little girl (Emily Louise Perk) who prefers horses to people, and was perversely fascinated by the Cripps family, recurring characters whom Jonathan memorably compared to the Python “Most Awful Family in Britain” runners-up.
  • When Death Becomes Life: Notes from a Transplant Surgeon – Joshua Mezrich, 2019. In the acknowledgments Mezrich says he was inspired by The Emperor of All Maladies and My Age of Anxiety, and he succeeds in combining a fascinating history of organ transplant – it’s such an incredibly recent innovation! – with his personal experience in medicine. A million thanks to his editors who apparently convinced him to keep most of his jokes out of this book (he threatens to write a sequel called The Cutting Room Floor). Warning that the surgery scenes are very graphic.
  • Heritage of the Star – Sylvia Louise Engdahl, 1973. Many many times re-read – this was my very favorite book when I was a pre-teen and I still very much love it. The writing is good, but the premise/plot twist is genius and holds up to this day.
  • Dune Messiah – Frank Herbert, 1969. I re-read Dune last month and kept on because I want to get to the scene where a character surrounds himself with the “little makers” like a skin and gets superpowers, which must be in the third volume. I remember these getting worse and worse, but that may be primarily with the fourth; this one wasn’t bad (and it’s refreshingly short!) but not great or memorable.

The Lie that Tells a Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction – John Dufresne, 2003

Books about how to write are a sub-genre of self-help for me, in the sense that I rarely do the exercises or whatever the author recommends, and typically the content immediately falls out of my head – but reading one gives me some short-lived motivation to do better. Take-aways – specific tips, ideas or techniques – would be gravy. This one was particularly enjoyable not for its overall structure (it’s a bit of a grab-bag) but because Dufresne uses a lot of great quotes. I did record a few tips as well, and I was led to it in the first place by the Wikipedia article on eye dialect (Dufresne’s arguments on why to avoid it are very cogent).

Excellent-sounding quotes (which Jonathan is helping me verify – any unsourced quotation should be viewed with suspicion, even in the world of print – see Nice Guys Finish Seventh) kick right off with the epigraph!

  • Lao Tzu: “A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.” confirmed from Verse 27 of the Tao Te Ching, Stephen Mitchell translation
  • Willa Cather: “There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened.” confirmed from O Pioneers!, part II section IV
  • “Eudora Welty tells us about learning as a child that books were written by people and being disappointed that they were not natural wonders like trees or dogs.” Actual quote is “It had been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.” confirmed from One Writer’s Beginnings
  • “Stanislavski said that without truth, clichés will fill up every spot in a character (and in ourselves) that is not already solid with living feeling.” confirmed from An Actor Prepares, chapter 2 section 3
  • Garry Winogrand: “Nothing is quite so mysterious as a thing well-described.” Wow, Jonathan reached out to the Quote Investigator, who researched it and wrote it up – the actual phrasing is “There is nothing as mysterious as a fact clearly described,” which is less compelling to me at least… Thank you so much, Garson!

That last one segues into the good writing advice gleaned from others. He mentions Making Shapely Fiction by Jerome Stern, quoting Stern’s warning about the “Weird Harold” story, “focused on a character who is strange and different” – I hadn’t heard of the book, which has excellent reviews, so I’ve requested it through my library. They have a great feature where you can set a hold to activate after a certain date. I put in for January so as to spread out the reading-a-writing-book juice.

Even the jacket blurb led to something else. Steve Yarbrough, quoted praising this book, compared it to Richard Hugo’s The Triggering Town – I read the title essay linked here, and although I don’t really follow the argument on a first read, it’s intriguing. The public library system doesn’t hold that book but the academic one does; on the post-pandemic reading list it goes.

More great advice, from Elizabeth Bowen on dialogue: “It should be brief; it should add to the reader’s present knowledge; it should eliminate the routine exchanges of ordinary conversation; it should convey a sense of spontaneity but eliminate the repetitiveness of real talk…” and “All good dialogue deals with something unprecedented.”

His own dialogue advice is also great, and in fact I used this bit just now: “Beginning a line of dialogue with one word or two, then a comma before the content, though it is the way we talk, does not work well in dialogue. (I first heard this advice from George Garrett at a writers’ conference, and it’s the best single bit of wisdom I know of for improving dialogue.)”

That was an easy sell, but I am having a hard time with “Don’t tag an adverbial clause depicting action to a line of dialogue” because I do it all the time. “If it’s important, it should not be subordinated to a line of speech. If it’s not important, it gets cut.” Characters do not have to “earn the write [sic] to speak by behaving as well.” Hmm… I will think on that. I should certainly edit a bunch of them out, now that I recognize it as a tic.

The other writing bits I noted are his use of synapses as a metaphor for gaps between scenes: “Like the gap in a spark plug. No gap, no fire, no ignition, no motion.”

You can learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Checkhov’s ‘Heartache’ than you can in a semester of Creative Writing 101. If you read like a writer, that is, which means you have to read everything twice, at least.

A more general observation: “When you have seen something beautiful, you have looked at it beautifully. When you look closely at things, you see what is unique about them, what is surprising and deserving of your attention.”

Finally, I learned about:

  • William Carlos Williams’ flower study poems (Daisy, Primrose, Queen Anne’s Lace, Great Mullein) – I don’t think they are as carefully observed as he does but I enjoyed reading them.
  • Dufrese says the Jale people (who are more typically called Dani) have no word for green – Wikipedia says only two color terms, mili for cool/dark and mola for warm/light shades, but it’s complicated and very interesting!
  • GIQ – giant imperial quart, Worcester slang for a large beer
  • Newfoundland was its own country (a dominion of the British Crown) from 1907 until 1933
  • Finally, from his delightful ode to reference books in general and cookbooks in particular I learned about mannish water, stamp and go, ackee, and swamp cabbage!

September 2020 books read

  • The Day Gone By: An Autobiography – Richard Adams, 1990. I’ve been on an Adams kick and finally got a hold of this. I really enjoyed it but wouldn’t say it has a ton of appeal outside Adams fans and those who are interested in the natural history of Britain or English education (it makes perfect sense that his public school, Bradfield College, has an ampitheatre with a tradition of putting on Greek plays).
  • Watership Down – Richard Adams, 1972. One of the books I re-read the most frequently. Having just finished the autobiography, knowing the real-world inspiration for Hazel and Bigwig deepened my appreciation for them as characters.
  • Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future – Bill McKibben, 2007 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland – Patrick Radden Keefe, 2018 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Grass – Sherri Tepper, 1989. An SF classic I’ve always meant to read; glad I did, but boy is it weird in its pacing and atmosphere (I loved the descriptions of the grass landscape, which seemed to completely stop after the scene had been set).
  • Beowulf: An Illustrated Edition – translated by Seamus Heaney, illustrations edited and with an afterword by John D. Niles, 2008 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Grendel – John Gardner, 1971 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • “Un Autre Monde” – J.-H. Rosny aîné, 1895. I’ve already forgotten what led me to this fascinating tale of a mutant human who can see invisible species sharing our world. Great early SF; I think I read other works by him when I was a kid.
  • Dune – Frank Herbert, 1965. Re-read prompted by the new Villeneuve movie trailer. I encountered the Dune series in my teens and persuaded my dad to read at least the first one; his major quibble with the sand worms (the friction!) has stuck in my mind all these years, but this time around it also sunk in that the scale of the worms makes the whole notion of hooking and riding them pretty ridiculous. The technique of epigraphs from future histories is brilliant – did Herbert pioneer that? – and it’s amazing how evocative a few well-chosen unfamiliar-yet-evocative terms and proper names (melange, Mentat, Bene Gesserit, etc.) can be.

August 2020 books read

  • Crazy Rich Asians – Kevin Kwan, 2013. I like the trailer for the movie but still haven’t watched it, and I wasn’t planning on picking this up until I read an interview with Kwan. His description of the “fun and name-droppy” writing voice (“nothing like what he thought of as his ‘real’ writing voice”) coming first and making the novel possible intrigued me. I enjoyed the read but the extravagance got a little much and I wouldn’t go on to the sequels when the world is so full of things to read. (But if I were stuck in a B&B and that’s all there was… I would!)
  • Most Secret – Nevil Shute, written 1942 but published 1945. Shute is one of the authors I love so much that I read and re-read everything of theirs, but this is one of his darkest novels and this may only be the third time I’ve read it. My favorite bit is the rabbit Geoffrey.
  • In the Pleasure Groove: Love, Death, and Duran Duran. John Taylor, 2012. Very enjoyable! I was a DD fan early on and saw them at the Peppermint Lounge in July 1982 – it’s still one of the tightest live performances I remember. Taylor wishes he had stuck with his birth name, Nigel. Nice depiction of both youthful raw ambition and long-lasting friendships. Funny bits: his wife Gela, not interested or impressed by musicians, getting their names wrong – I wish I’d written down all the malapropisms (Bruce Springfield, Three Blind Mice for Third Eye Blind).
  • Miss Hargreaves – Frank Baker, 1940. Recommended by Jonathan; it was so much fun to talk to him about this completely bizarre, often-delightful book. And then we got to enjoy the TV adaptation, which is completely different but also bizarrely good in its own way. The closest analogue to MH is probably The Brontës Went to Woolworths; no wonder Bloomsbury Publishing re-issued them both as part of The Bloomsbury Group (a misleading name!)
  • The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths, and Everyone In-Between – Abigail Marsh, 2017. Absolutely fascinating book about psychopaths and altruistic kidney donors, who are according to Marsh represent the ends of the spectrum of under-and-overactive amygdalas/ability to recognize fear in others. Her TED talk is great; the book is even better!
  • The Life of the Fly; With Which are Interspersed Some Chapters of Autobiography – Jean-Henri Fabre (translated by Alexander Teixeira de Mattos), 1913 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Rasselas, Prince of Abissinia – Samuel Johnson, 1759 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • The Quare Fellow (1954) & An Giall (The Hostage) (1958) – Brendan Behan – quotes pulled, tbd
  • How to Be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi, 2019. Interesting and in-depth exploration of various kinds of racist ideas and their intersections, many of which Kendi shows himself believing and then rejecting; the autobiographical element was compelling and tied the whole thing together.
  • Crystal Singer – Anne McCaffrey, 1982. Comfort re-read of an old favorite. The food descriptions are mostly great but get lazy; it’s a common mediocre SF fault (other genres as well?) to introduce something like Yarran beer, and then no matter who is speaking or what planet you’re on, everyone can only drink/request/talk about Yarran beer. Steakbean, pepper fruit, Alderbaran paste with Forellan biscuits, and milsi stalks all sound interesting – there’s not enough description to find a real-world cognate, but the names are evocative.

July 2020 books read

  • White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism – Robin DiAngelo, 2018. I read this with an Amherst College group and got more out of the conversations than I did from the book. It is a useful book in many ways but critiques of how DiAngelo ends up centering whiteness aren’t wrong, plus most of her anecdotes end with “…and [person exhibiting racist behavior] left in a huff” which isn’t very helpful.
  • A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers – Henry David Thoreau, 1849 – Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann, 2009. Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy, 1886. Quotes pulled, TBD.
  • Maia – Richard Adams, 1984. Umpteenth comfort re-read. The mythology of Bekla is thoroughly a part of my inner landscape. This set me off on another Adams kick – more to come – and re-awakened an idea of writing an essay about how half his books are my favorites ever that I never get tired of (Watership Down, Maia, The Girl in a Swing) and the other half I could barely get through once (Shardik, The Plague Dogs, Traveller).
  • Middlemarch – George Eliot, 1871. Re-read; quotes pulled, TBD.
  • Flesh of Her Flesh: In Search of Goodness – Slavenka Drakulić, 2006. Drakulić got a kidney from a non-directed/”Good Samaritan” donor and went on a quest to interview such donors. Not a great book but an interesting one – she’s from Croatia and theorizes that people in socialist countries are less likely to do altruistic acts for strangers because that’s the role of the state.

June 2020 books read

  • The Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris, 1988. Wow, I absolutely loved this, and then had to go back and re-watch the movie – which is great also but not as much of a masterpiece. I started Hannibal but haven’t finished as of late July.
  • On the Origin of Species (1st ed.) – Charles Darwin, 1959 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • The Way of All Flesh – Samuel Butler, 1903 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • The Burning of Bridget Cleary – Angela Bourke, 1999 – quotes pulled, TBD
  • A Reader’s Delight – Noel Perrin, 1988. I read the sequel about children’s books last month; this is the first collection of Perrin’s Washington Post reviews of neglected books, and I very much enjoyed it also. Unlike the other, most of these books I haven’t read, read long ago and don’t remember much about them (Period Piece by Gwen Raverat, A Fine and Private Place by Peter Beagle), or didn’t finish them (The Silver Stallion by James Branch Cabell, Islandia by August Tappan Wright – love the idea of it and have attempted it several times but never made it past the middle, The Three Royal Monkeys by Walter de la Mare). I’d love to read them all and started with All Hallow’s Eve (next in this list).
  • All Hallow’s Eve – Charles Williams, 1945. A weird “spiritual thriller” set during the Blitz with some interesting characters and peculiar but vivid descriptions of art (painting) and its power.
  • Watchmen – Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, 1987. Re-read as I started to watch the HBO series which was streaming for free on Juneteenth (I only got through the first four episodes before it went back to subscription, but it’s wonderful and I’ll borrow the DVDs to finish it). I loved this when I first read it (in the 90s? early 2000s?) but mostly remembered Dr. Manhattan; I got a lot more of it now. I hadn’t remembered the twist at the end about the smiley face! Coincidentally, the iconic original was created by Harvey Ball in Worcester, quite close to here.

May 2020 books read

  • Something That May Shock and Discredit You – Daniel Lavery (as Daniel Mallory Ortberg), 2020. Kind of a weird mish-mosh – I enjoyed parts of it very much but wished there was more straight-ahead memoir. But what sticks in my mind the most is the analysis of “transmasc energy” as originally exemplified by William Shatner’s Kirk – partly because I’m re-watching the original Star Trek, but also because I love windows into subcultures I’m not part of.
  • Cost Price – Dornford Yates, 1949. Sequel to Safe Custody with a lot more detail about the carved jewels, but burdened with tiresome late-Yates tropes, especially “woman who’s lower than hero’s social level but he magnanimously treats her well and so she’s head over heels for him.” The earlier book wasn’t in the Richard Chandos series, but this one features him and he drags that trope along – as well as too much focus on how ridiculously strong and naive he is. Ugh.
  • The Brontës Went to Woolworths – Rachel Ferguson, 1931. Jonathan borrowed this through ILL and it sounded so bonkers that I read it as well before returning. What a strange, sometimes-delightful, sometimes infuriating book – it takes a long time to figure out what the heck is going on with this crazy family, and then once I did, actual ghosts turned up and broke the genre I thought it was in. Plus the protagonist ends up being quite mean. But it was fascinating and if I had a copy I might read it again – I think its strangeness would be a bracing shock all over again in a few years. I’ve certainly never read anything at all like it.
  • Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen, 1811
  • My First Summer in the Sierra – John Muir, 1911 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Hungry Hill: A Memoir – Carol O’Malley Gaunt, 2007 – Irish Writers book group selection, but I didn’t pull any quotes. I hadn’t finished it when we discussed it in April, and I went back to it out of sheer stubbornness, but I regret it. One of the worst books I’ve ever read and not even in an interesting way – sentence by sentence the writing is competent, and the topic could have been fascinating, but there’s no there there.
  • A Child’s Delight – Noel Perrin, 1997. I’m a fan of Perrin, of books-about-books, and of children’s literature, so naturally I loved it. I’ve added a few titles to my to-read-someday list (The Planet of Junior Brown, I Go By Sea I Go By Land, Dogsbody, the stories of Laurence Housman) and loved all the essays about my already-favorites. My only minor disagreement is about the Magic Schoolbus books, which I think were over-hyped – but maybe I should give them another chance.
  • Juno and the Paycock (1924) and The Plough and the Stars (1926) – Sean O’Casey, for Irish Writers book group. Not enough quotes to do a separate post; J&P was amusing, P&S hard to follow, but we agreed we’d really need to see them performed to get them. I knew these plays by title but didn’t know they were about the Irish revolution – I thought J&P was related to Leda and the swan… Words learned: “fistic” (related to boxing); “glad neck” blouse (deep V collar); “Shan Van Vok” – reference to “The Sean-Bhean bhocht,” a traditional song which also personifies Ireland.
  • The Shining – Stephen King, 1977. Not my favorite King but I was drawn back to it by thinking about Jack Torrance’s writing. The description of his play sounds pretty terrible, and the idea that it’s going to make him his fortune seems rather quaint even in the 70s… Might not read this one again ever – in fact, I’m 55 (1/2!) and that’s probably a good resolution to start making about books I’m not compelled by. Unless there’s some essay or idea I want to work out!
  • Magic, Inc. – Robert Heinlein, 1940. I was remembering the delightful Heinlein short about the dust devil (“Our Fair City”) and revisited this novella. It’s a weird mixture of small-business story in a world where magic can be harnessed for capitalism, which segues into an interminable watching-the-sausage-get-made political yarn. (The very detailed Wikipedia summary deals with the politics in one sentence, but it feels like a third of the book). There’s lovely chemistry between the narrator, Archie Fraser, and the old witch Mrs. Jennings, one of my favorite ultra-calm-and-competent Heinlein women.
  • Doctor Sleep – Stephen King, 2013. The sequel to The Shining which I thought I had never read until I started it again and I totally did try it already, presumably in 2013 or 2014. To my taste quite a bit better than the first, but a couple of plot holes: a not-very-sensical measles-immunity McGuffin, and a miniature train which goes on infrequent excursions to distant points up big grades (granted, there is at least one very long miniature railway – thank you King for making me research this – but nonetheless there is something so weird about the way this Look Park scale thing is described and then they’re heading off to like, Mount Sugarloaf for picnics – who maintains the track? how does this make sense logistically?) I might try the movie at some point.
  • The Practicing Mind: Bringing Discipline and Focus Into Your Life – Thomas M. Sterner, 2005 (early self-published edition). I thought this would be a fairly easy purge/low-hanging fruit from the shelves of self-help books I’m trying to purge – I’m a sucker for them! – but it’s actually quite good. Apparently Sterner went on to found a self-help empire, critiqued for promising the moon and the stars, but this original version is modest in its aims, and reaches them.
  • Red Dragon – Thomas Harris, 1981. I kept hearing how great this series was and finally checked it out. People are not exaggerating. I loved the sequel even more, but this first Hannibal book is remarkable – compelling, readable, and thought-provoking too. Thriller is not my favorite genre but yeah, this was a great read.

Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen, 1811

We read this for the Great Books group – moved up a few months because public domain books are easiest while Forbes is closed. Unlike many, I didn’t get into Austen until I was at least in my 30s, and this may only be the third or so time I’ve read it. Immediately after finishing it I had to go re-watch the Emma Thompson movie, which is one of the few screenplays I think really improves on the original book (the other one that leaps to mind is To Kill a Mockingbird).

I keep forgetting this was her first novel – no wonder it’s not the best! It’s amusing, but the pacing is a little choppy. I think early Austen is more prone to the tendency, showcased here, for the protagonists to be essentially perfect (with some room for improvement, but basically born good, full of virtue and refined taste) and everyone else to be on a spectrum between foolish and bad. We’re told of Elinor at the very beginning that “her feelings were strong; but she knew how to govern them: it was a knowledge which her mother had yet to learn.” Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne are both silly, and though Elinor’s sense will learn to share her feelings a little more, Marianne’s sensibility (sensitiveness verging on romantic sentimentality) will need to change dramatically.

Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne enjoy being miserable: “The agony of grief which overpowered them at first, was voluntarily renewed, was sought for, was created again and again.” Marianne “was without any power, because she was without any desire of command over herself.” They are foolishly optimistic: “with them, to wish was to hope, and to hope was to expect.” Mrs. Dashwood plans improvements to the cottage “from the savings of an income of five hundred a year by a woman who never saved in her life.” When she rewrites history about Colonel Brandon, “Elinor perceived … the natural embellishments of her mother’s active fancy, which fashioned every thing delightful to her as it chose;” and then

“There was always a something,—if you remember,—in Willoughby’s eyes at times, which I did not like.”

Elinor could not remember it

Marianne, with excellent abilities and an excellent disposition, was neither reasonable nor candid. She expected from other people the same opinions and feelings as her own, and she judged of their motives by the immediate effect of their actions on herself.

Of course we get delightful observations of the silliest people:

Sir John was loud in his admiration at the end of every song, and as loud in his conversation with the others while every song lasted. Lady Middleton frequently called him to order, wondered how any one’s attention could be diverted from music for a moment, and asked Marianne to sing a particular song which Marianne had just finished.

Having to spend so much time with such annoying people – and because Marianne won’t bother to be polite, Elinor bears the brunt of the social niceties – makes the socializing feel vividly oppressive. Marianne quips: “The rent of this cottage is said to be low; but we have it on very hard terms, if we are to dine at the park whenever any one is staying either with them, or with us.”

Marriage usually seems fairly tedious if not unhappy; no wonder that in Austen’s narratives we get to the altar and stop there! But marriage is the be-all and end-all. The women walk a knife-edge between “virtue” and complete disaster (Moll Flanders was such a bracing alternative!) – Willoughby can say flatly that even though his aunt would have forgiven him if he married Eliza, “That could not be.”

A few more delightfully snarky yet realistic passages:

The whole of Lucy’s behaviour in the affair, and the prosperity which crowned it, therefore, may be held forth as a most encouraging instance of what an earnest, an unceasing attention to self-interest, however its progress may be apparently obstructed, will do in securing every advantage of fortune, with no other sacrifice than that of time and conscience.

But that [Willoughby] was for ever inconsolable, that he fled from society, or contracted an habitual gloom of temper, or died of a broken heart, must not be depended on—for he did neither. He lived to exert, and frequently to enjoy himself. His wife was not always out of humour, nor his home always uncomfortable; and in his breed of horses and dogs, and in sporting of every kind, he found no inconsiderable degree of domestic felicity.

We talked about Austen’s eternal appeal for adaptation: partly the human love of gossip; partly how cuttingly funny she is; partly how tidy and neat the narrative is, with a small cast of characters, a few locations, and happy endings tied up in bows; partly the conflict between a particularly repressed/restrained milieu and the full range of human nature (since it’s the Regency, Austen’s characters don’t yet pretend to ignore sex and death, unlike typical Victorians).

Somewhere I have the Emma Thompson book of the screenplay and her shooting diaries, which I’ll re-read when I find it. The screenplay’s pacing, the character development (especially little sister Margaret, who’s a cipher here but in the movie gives both Edward and Brandon opportunities to show their caring and goodness), the brilliant mix of textual dialogue and new lines, the wise character pruning (I don’t miss Lady Middleton, but Anne Steele has some good bits) – it’s an amazing adaptation. And then the movie piles on top-notch casting (the big names of course, but also Hugh Laurie as Mr. Palmer! Harriet Walter as Fanny!), superb acting, and Ang Lee as director. I’m finishing this post about two weeks after the discussion, and I’m ready to watch it again.

Shorter quotes:

  • “a fond mother, though, in pursuit of praise for her children, the most rapacious of human beings, is likewise the most credulous; her demands are exorbitant; but she will swallow any thing”
  • Willoughby “hardly ever falls in love with anybody”
  • “Mrs. Jennings’s endeavours to cure a disappointment in love, by a variety of sweetmeats and olives, and a good fire”
  • Mrs. Ferrars “was not a woman of many words; for, unlike people in general, she proportioned them to the number of her ideas.”
  • “no poverty of any kind, except of conversation”
  • Poor Elinor has “to be the comforter of others in her own distresses, no less than in theirs”
  • John Dashwood “never wished to offend anybody, especially anybody of good fortune”
  • “Marianne Dashwood was born to an extraordinary fate … to overcome an affection formed so late in life as at seventeen.”

In this book I learned:

Reading Project Gutenberg books on various devices

During the pandemic, the two Forbes Library book groups that I coordinate (Great Books, and Nature and Environment) are reading books in the public domain so that we can get them online without waiting lists. I wanted to compile some directions to send to group members but haven’t found a good one-stop resource, so I’m attempting one here. Please add a comment if you have better resources or if any of this is incorrect.

I will send out links to the main download location for the book, which is in pattern gutenberg.org/ebooks/[book number]. Here we use Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh, http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2084. Note that if you do an Internet search for a title, the result you’ll often get will be the link directly to the HTML version (“Read this book online”): https://www.gutenberg.org/files/2084/2084-h/2084-h.htm. That’s great for reading in a web browser, but if you have an e-reader or tablet you can download a file that you can read more easily.

Click the link to download the EPUB file for Android (Google Play Books) or Mac (iBooks or Apple Books). Use the Kindle link for Kindle. You can choose the Box, Google Drive, or OneDrive icons to download directly into those cloud services rather than onto your hard drive.

  • On an Android phone or tablet, or on a Chromebook, use the Google Play Books app. The simplest way is to visit https://play.google.com/books on a computer first and click Upload Files. You can upload from the local computer or from Google Drive. After you select the file (epub in this case, but you can also upload PDFs), it will take a minute to process. Once complete, the book is in your Play Books library under Uploads and can be accessed from any device which has the Play Books app installed.
  • On a Mac or iPad, use the iBooks or Apple Books app. Click File/Add to Library and browse to the file you downloaded (epub in this case, but you can also upload PDFs). [I don’t have an iPad to test on; you should be able to import there as well or visit the mobile version of Project Gutenberg, https://m.gutenberg.org/ebooks/2084.mobile]
  • For Kindle, plug the device into your computer and drag-and-drop the downloaded .mobi file into the Documents file on your Kindle. Or you can send it to your Kindle via email.

April 2020 books read

  • The Moon Moth” – Jack Vance, 1961. Just a short story, but such a favorite that I’m listing it. It successfully combines Vance’s mystery genre side (he wrote a bunch as John Holbrook Vance as well as some “Ellery Queen” novels) with his primary skill at anthropological science fiction, culminating in a delightfully-satisfying twist ending.
  • Water in Plain Sight: Hope for a Thirsty World – Judith D. Schwartz, 2016 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Angle of Repose – Wallace Stegner, 1971 – quotes pulled, tbd
  • Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy (tr. Constance Garnett), 1878 (1901) – quotes pulled, tbd
  • The House that Berry Built – Dornford Yates, 1945. My father, who sparked my love of Yates through this book specifically, died this month, and I picked this up to re-read for the umpteenth time in memory of him…
  • An Eye for a Tooth – Dornford Yates, 1943. …and then I was off on a Yates kick, but a restrained one. This time I just went back to a few of the thrillers – this is one that I acquired late and so didn’t remember that well. I might only have read it once or twice, imagine that! Not bad but a little past his prime in this genre.
  • Safe Custody – Dornford Yates, 1932. I moved on to the series that deal with one of my favorite McGuffins ever, a set of 127 carved jewels commissioned by Pope Alexander VI. They’re so well-described that I wish they really existed; I see that they were probably inspired by the Pope Paul II collection of 827 such gems.