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text 2020-06-17 01:57
BL-opoly, Pandemic Edition -- Ninth Roll
The Great Fortune - Olivia Manning,Harriet Walter

Well, it turns out the BL-opoly gods are insistent on re-bestowing on me the "cat" novelty card I just used for my last read, plus another "dog" card for good measure.  If things go on like that, I'll end up with a whole menagerie ...


I'm minded to stay in the region I just visited courtesy of part 2 of Patrick Leigh Fermor's exquisite memoir, and the lovely copy of Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy that BT gifted me -- thank you again! -- has been sitting on my shelves unread for way too long.  So, off to Bucharest we go at last!  (And since I can't resist the pull of Harriet Walter's narration, I'll do another audio + print book double dip ... )


The moves:



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review 2020-06-01 14:43
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame - Victor Hugo,Walter J. Cobb

by Victor Hugo


This Classic was originally written in French and I've found that the translation does make a difference. I have a paperback copy from Penguin, translated by John Sturrock and my first impression was that the writing was very poetic, but I got the free Kindle version from Gutenberg with a different translator because it's easier for me to read on Kindle and in this one, the first chapters felt overly wordy and dragged a little.


I persisted though. I've seen various film versions of this story and didn't recognise most of the names I was reading until we finally meet Quasimodo in chapter five, followed by Esmerelda, though Gringoire who falls foul of the Paris underworld does make an appearance in the old 1939 black and white Charles Laughton version. From Quasimodo's introduction the story digressed into the history of Notre Dame Cathedral.


This one takes a little patience because there are many digressions. Life in fifteenth century Paris under Louis the XI, individual character histories and other commentaries on the times all come together to form a very thorough picture of the circumstances surrounding the familiar story line, but they do break continuity.


The extent to which Quasimodo's story intertwines with Esmerelda's was never fully expressed in the movies. I found the connections very interesting indeed! And Frollo was given a bit of undeserved bad press, especially by Disney. Movies require a villain and a priest immersed in austerity isn't a sympathetic character, but his reasons for adopting Quasimodo were based in charity, not obligation.


Quasimodo's back story is revealed in reverse, first showing us his experience with the Feast of Fools, then later revealing how he came to be ward of Frollo, and after that his origins and how he came into Frollo's path. Then later we move forward.


While the book would never get commercial publication in today's publishing market due to the extent of the digressions, the story is well told as a whole and the Classic enthusiast is likely to enjoy the fullness of the description and depiction of the time and place and how it shapes the events of the plot. I'm glad to have read it now and will look on film repeats with a more detailed knowledge of the whole of the story.


A worthwhile Classic, for those who have the patience to assimilate a fair bit of history between story events.

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review 2020-05-17 04:43
Some Adventure and A Lot of Science
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - Walter James Miller (Translator), Frederick Paul Walter (Translator),Jules Verne

Twenty Thousand Leagues is science fiction in the sense that it is a work of fiction that is loaded with scientific details. Verne must have done a tremendous amount of research to prepare for this novel. He supplies so many classification details about sea life and underwater plant life and so many technical details about the oceans, seas, and currents that sometimes it starts to bog down the narrative. Verne was a great author of adventure stories, but if you want to read Twenty Thousand Leagues as an adventure you can read the first quarter of the novel and then skip to the last quarter. The middle section is a long scientific expedition, but when the action starts up again it is exciting.


The edition I read is an interesting one. Published in 1993 by the Naval Institute Press, the translator states that he restored a quarter of the 1870 French text that had been omitted from previous English translations. He says older editions emphasized the adventure aspects of the novel and edited out a lot of the scientific detail. As stated above, I have mixed feelings about the restoration. Rather than a hack translation, it may have represented some judicious editing of a text that kind of drags in the middle.

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text 2020-04-02 07:45
Being an Artist - Why It's Not About the Money
Steve Jobs - Walter Isaacson

What is an artist, the fine artist, artisan, and a craftsman?

Artist-is an individual who creates products for commercial businesses. Two examples are graphic designers and book illustrators.

Fine Artist-An inherited talent to create original, visual, and beautiful objects of art for aesthetic values. Examples include oil paintings and hand sculptures.

Artisan-independent craftsmen who create projects for both beauty and utility. Two examples are glass blowers or a carpet maker.

Craftsman-Replicates utilitarian objects as a tradesman or craftsman. Examples: carpenters build houses and tradesmen build furniture.

Often people use these words as they choose and not by definition. Misuse of these words cause confusion.

Most important for any artist or artisan is gainful employment. Fine artists have gainful employment during prosperous economies. Their creations are original or one-of-a-kind and the price will be high. People with disposable incomes purchase nonessential works of art.

Craftsman replicates utilitarian type art and work year-round regardless of the economy. People need houses, clothing, shoes, tools, vehicles, furniture, and more compared to owning original jewelry, a statue, or an oil painting.

Artists and artisans need to be entrepreneurs and function as solo business owners or contract employment. Craftsmen or tradesmen work for salaries in larger companies.

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text 2020-03-25 22:34
Benjamin Franklin by Walter Isaacson
Benjamin Franklin: An American Life - Walter Isaacson

My apologies to the unknown library patron whom I forced to return this book so that I could check it out, right before the libraries shut down indefinitely. If I'd known, you could have kept it.

First, this book is long and surprisingly dull for a popular biography. Second, as of page 92, where I finally decided to quit, there was remarkably little historical detail - it focuses in on the biographical aspects to the point that it's almost divorced from history, unusual for a biography of someone who lived more than 200 years ago. Third, it is chock-full of repetitive adoration of Franklin: barely a page passes without our being told that he was pragmatic and that whatever he's doing at the moment illustrates his pragmatic character. Or earnest, canny, frugal, etc. etc. This is especially jarring given that much of the behavior described isn't actually admirable: driving another newspaper editor out of business to clear the field to launch his own paper; writing anonymous letters to his own paper criticizing his competitors and praising himself, including for his restraint in not criticizing his competitors; allowing his wife to be openly nasty to his son, her stepson; and publishing a piece a few weeks after his marriage about how wives need to serve their husbands in everything and "deny yourself the trivial satisfaction of your own will," among many similarly unfortunate exhortations. Isaacson treats all this material uncritically, and I don't have much use for biographies that can't take an honest and balanced look at their subject, however widely loved that person might be. But Isaacson seems too enamored of Franklin's self-improvement schemes, all discussed in great detail, to do so.

At any rate, there are plenty of Franklin biographies out there and I can't say I have much use for this one. If only the library would take it back!

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