Walk through the Rainforest…

I received the new Stephen King last night and I started reading it immediately…until 1:30am. I picked it up as soon as I woke up but got interrupted by my better half who wanted to have a walk and get some sun. Reluctantly I followed him…for once he was right.

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Trip to the Library #1

I just came back from my monthly trip to the local library. I took more books than I can read in three weeks but I always do that. I like to have the choice. So, in my magic (and heavy) book bag this month are :

  • Mansfield Park, Jane Austen
  • Emma, Jane Austen
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen

I told you that I fell in love with Pride and Prejudice so I HAVE to read more Jane Austen. It is required.

  • Middlemarch, George Elliot
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë
  • Villette, Charlotte Brontë
  • The Moon is Down, John Steinbeck
  • Clock without Hands, Carson McCullers
  • Secret Windows : Essays and fiction on the craft on writing, collective.

See, too much books ! I’ll try and read all of them and I will let you know 🙂

Armchair BEA Genre Topic : The Classics

Genre Topic 1: The Classics

The Questions:

  • Today, tell us all the reasons why you love classic literature.

Hmmm, that is a good question. Why do I love classics. First of all, the definition of a classic is quite large and vague… A book which by its timelessness and universalism is capable of touching everybody at any time being. A book in which any human being can find something to nourish their brain or full up their heart. I love classics because they are still relevant hundreds years after they had been written. I love them because our civilisation is based on those pieces of art. How many books, movies, paintings, songs have been inspired by Dante’s Inferno ? How come, more than 50 years after it had been published, The Grapes of Wrath is still relevant ? (plus holding a classic in a public place makes you look smarter :p )

  • What are your favorite classics?

Cornelian choice here… I’d say Grapes Of Wrath by Steinbeck, The Aventures Of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen and The Great Gatsby by F.S. Fitzgerald…oh and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo ! and so many many many many more.

  • If you could give a list of classics to someone who claims to hate them to make them change their mind, what would be on it ?

I’ve met many young (and not so young) people you claimed they didn’t like classics. When asked why, all of them told me that it was because those were old long books, written in a dated and obsolete language. So I’d give those people The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Catcher In The Rye by J. D. Salinger (even if it’s a very controversial classic) and maybe Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson…just to prove them how wrong they are and how fun a classic can be !

  • How would you convince them to give classics a try?

I’d suggest to maybe watch the movie first, if there’s any good adaptations out there, or to try a abridged and /or modernised version. Or maybe to read in group, so they can share their difficulties.

  • And why do you keep coming back to those old favorites?

Because I don’t have any other choice…that’s how true love works.

My first Armchair BEA Day 1 (a little late but still)

Hello everybody,

This is my first Armchair BEA. I’m not sure what this is all about or what I’m supposed to do but we’ll see… If I understood correctly, I was supposed to introduce myself yesterday.. I’ll just do it today and pretend I’m not late (that’s something I often do). Here we go…self-interviewing myself :

1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

I’m Maud. I used to be a French and Literature teacher in France until I met a giant Australian dude who took me over there, down under. While waiting to get all my papers in order before I start working again, I’m visiting the countryside, catching up on my readings and started a blog a couple of months ago. I started this blog because I had to find a way to force myself to write in English on a regular basis plus I wanted something a little more permanent than a notebook to keep my thoughts about the books I’ve read on.

2. Where in the world are you blogging from? Tell a random fact or something special about your current location. Feel free to share pictures.

I’m currently living in Port Macquarie, east coast of Australia. From the beach, which is about 2 minutes from our appartment, we often observe hunchback whales and dolphins…sounds like paradise doesn’t it ?

3. Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event?

I’ve never participated in Armchair BEA, I’m not even sure what this is all about but the perspective of talking about books and meeting fellow bloggers and book lovers seemed fun enough.

4. What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2013?

I’m currently reading Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Anna Karenina by Tolstoy. My favorite 2013 books so far are Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson and Live by Night by Dennis Lehane.

5. Name your favorite blog(s) and explain why they are your favorite(s).

I’d say Paperback Castles for the quality of the pictures. http://paperbackcastles.blogspot.dk/

6. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why?

I’d have dinner with Dennis Lehane and make him talk endlessly about Boston.

There, first part 1 done ! See you very soon for the rest of the Armchair BEA fellow bloggers and book lovers 🙂

Are our children self confident enough ?

I just read an article stating that our children’s lack of self esteem and self confidence was alarming. The author was also suggesting that self esteem should be taught in school. I might sound reactionary but I think a 8 years old who NEEDS a TV in his bedroom or a 13 years who NEEDS a 40$ cellphone plan are self confident enough. We’ve raised a generation of children who think they are the best gift God ever gave to Earth, that their needs (more wants really) should be fulfilled no matter what. I remember students who received a bad grade for a bad paper who were shocked because after all they gave it almost on time ! They should have a good grade just because they gave their paper, not for the quality of it. Someone also told me about his sister who is a teacher and who was called by the police one night because a father wanted to sue her for the only reason that she had the nerves of confiscating his daughter’s cellphone for a because she was using it in the classroom (and therefore enforcing the school policy). Children think it’s normal for them to get what they ask for. We’ve been giving our children the wrong start when assuring them that just by being born they accomplished some kind of miracle that makes them the centre of the universe and therefore entitled to everything. Less and less kids understand that you are supposed to work to get something. Why should they after all, mummy or daddy will buy it for them. Self esteem isn’t the real problem nowadays. The problem isn’t the kids who lack of self esteem because they are bullied. The problem is the kids who think that bullying someone else, rejecting them because they don’t have the right clothes, shoes, cellphones, ipods, is a normal behaviour  No one finds it unacceptable that a kid would have trouble making friends because they don’t have a cellphone. That was one of the arguments my daughter and my better half gave me to make me accept to give her a cellphone for her next birthday. “If she doesn’t have a cellphone, she won’t have any friends. It’s how the society is now. She needs a cellphone.” I think us, parents of today, remember our own childhood…I do recall that we survived without a cellphone. I actually don’t see why a cellphone is required when you’re 13, when you see all your friends at school all day long and when your parents own a landline that you can use while at home. I think, somewhere, we lost the plot. We forgot the real values we want our kids to live by.

Claude Gueux by Victor Hugo, 1834

My daughter is home schooled for now. She has to read Claude Gueux by Victor Hugo and I realised, to my very big shame, that I’ve never read it myself. So I jumped on the internet and downloaded it (Thank you Oh big Internet God for the free classics ebooks). Anyway, it was a really short but a really good Victor Hugo fix. I remember reading The Hunchback of Notre Dame, many many years ago, when I was 14 and loving it…. The Miserables were a much bigger piece but so very good.

For those who are unfamiliar with the personage, Victor Hugo was a French poet, novelist and dramatist of the 19th century. Some classify his works as belonging to the Romanticism, some as belonging to the Realism movements. He wrote many volumes of poetry such as Les Contemplations but he’s better known for his two major novels Le Bossu de Notre-Dame (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831) and Les Misérables (The Miserables, 1862). Hugo was also a political figure. He believed in and fought for the reinstatement of the Republic and democracy in France which had for consequence that he was sent in exile by Napoléon III. 

Claude Gueux was written in 1834. Claude Gueux, the eponymous character, is a craftsman from Troyes. He lives with wife and daughter peacefully until the lack of work, of money push him to steal. He’s sent to prison. Since Claude Gueux is a very good and decent men, he rapidly gains the sympathy of his fellow prisoners and the hate of the director of the prison. Claude is also a big eater and the food rations are not enough to calm his hunger. One day, Albin, another prisoner, offers to Claude half of his food because it’s too much for him. Claude and Albin become inseparable. Seeing this friendship, the director sends Albin to another part of the prison. Everyday Claude begs for the return of his friend. Claude gives the director an ultimatum. He decided that if his friend wasn’t given back to him, the director should die. On the last day of the ultimatum, Claude informs his fellow prisoners of his plan. After giving the director one last chance to make everything right, Claude kills him. During the trial, Claude makes an eloquent speech in which he explains why he killed the director. He’s found guilty and sentenced to death. He is then executed. In the epilogue, Hugo criticizes the gap between punishment and education. He considers that  with more education, society wouldn’t need as much punishment.

Hugo offers a profound reflection about the fairness of the justice system. He wrote this short story with the French justice system of the 19th century in mind but is it really different from any justice system nowadays  In my opinion, this short story and the reflection that accompanies it are still accurate, unfortunately. I read recently an article about a 16 years old girl, excellent student in a Florida High School. She did some scientific experiments with standard cleaning products on the school ground. An explosion occurred, no one was hurt, nothing was damaged. The Headmaster recognizes that that it was all a sad and unfortunate incident. Anyhow, the young lady has been expelled from the school and she will be prosecuted as an adult with felony charges. That young lady obviously did something stupid but does it means her whole life has to be ruined because of scientific curiosity ?