What is Stephen Harper Reading Challenge
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I liked Bcteagirl and arcona's ideas of a Challenge based on Yann Martel's blog. This thread can be a space where we can discover new picks and discuss Martel's choices.
Here's the website: http://www.whatisstephenharperreading.ca/
I know there are a few books on this list that are on my TBR. Looking forward to your input!
Wohoo! Once I finish the book I am currently reading I will be reading The Cellist of Sarajevo which is on the list. I am now curious to see which book was sent to him first, and how many I own... be right back!
Yea! Thanks for starting this . . .
I've read 16 from the list:
2. Animal Farm
3. Murder of Roger Ackroyd
13. Kill a Mockingbird
14. Le Petit Prince
15. Oranges are Not the Only Fruit
27. To the Lighthouse
37. A Modest Proposal
39. Mr. Pip
49. The Old Man and the Sea
50. Jane Austen: a Life
56. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
61. Wild Things and In the Night Kitchen
79. Charlotte's Web
I'm also very impressed that he included the play The Rez Sisters. Although I haven't read it, I am familiar with it and have read the same author's Kiss of the Fur Queen, which was awesome.
Anyway, I liked most of these and think they are worth reading (except Le Petit Prince, which I just don't have the right combination of brain cells to appreciate).
Ok, for this challenge I am first going to work my way through the books I own that were sent to Stephen Harper..
Book 2: Animal Farm: Read in 2009, so I am on my way!
Book 21: The Cellist of Sarajevo - Owned and read maybe 2 pages so far?
Hmmm... I must own more than that, will have to peruse my shelves later tonight :P I might need more books! When are we expecting the next book to be posted?
Bcteagirl - I loved the Cellist of Sarajevo and look forward to hearing your thoughts on the book!
I can only admit to single digits of the books (8 in total) that I have read from the list:
Charlotte's Web by E. B. White
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Stephen Galloway
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Candide by Voltaire
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf is on my TBR pile and I hope to get to it sometime this month.
The trick is going to be to see if I can incorporate any of the books listed into my 1010 Challenge, which I think is going to consume the bulk of my reading this year.
I'm so disappointed to discover I've only read seven of them:
3. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
14. The Little Prince (in English and French)
21. The Cellist of Sarajevo
43. The Uncommon Reader
51. Julius Caesar
56. Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde
77. King Leary
and two of them (#s 3 and 51) were so long ago I can't remember them! I can see my TBR pile needs some additions.
I love this thread. Happy reading to all of us.
All right, I am in. I have read 10 so far so I have a long to go. But, it sounds interesting!
I read Charlotte's Web in elementary school but barely remember it, so will re-read it :P
I've read all of them that interest me. I'm trying to read more of what I already own this year, so won't be buying or borrowing any more from this list.
I'm trying to read more of what I already own this year
That's what I'm trying to stick with too!
If I read the list correctly I have read 39 of them, but then again I am a book nut!!
#16 . . . or maybe . . . you're Yann Martel, disguised as Barton, hanging out at LT!
Just got Ivan Ilych from the library to start reading the books I haven't read. This was #1 on the list so thought I'd start with it, especially as I've not read any Tolstoy before.
Well, I read Ivan Ilych yesterday - not too onerous a task as it's a short story only 60 pages long. Other than the confusing Russian names, it was good and easily read. It looked at death from the point of view of the dying person, as well as the point of view of those around him. It also gave a perspective, looking back, on how a person's life was lived and how it looked different from what it looked like while life was being lived. A worthwhile read.
Now on to #2 Animal Farm.
arcona - Between your comments and Martel's letter to SH - is it wrong to refer to the PM as SH? it is so much simpler - I think I need to track down a copy of Ivan Ilych and give it a perusal.
I bought one from the list, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson. It will be added to mount TBR! And, one day, I'll read it.........
I've finished What is Stephen Harper Reading and as much I would like not to add to my list, I will have to come back to it. I'm not hooked on all of Martel's choices, but he does make a very compelling argument for most. I also liked his personal and political comments.
So far, here is what I've read, and I've just started The Cellist of Sarajevo (a coincidence since it was a friend's lend).
3. The Murder of Roger Ackryod
6. Bonjour Tristesse
13. To Kill a Mockingbird
14. Le Petit Prince
24. Waiting for Godot
27. To the Lighthouse
31. Their Eyes Were Watching God
34. The Bluest Eye
37. The Uncommon Reader
49. The Old Man and the Sea
60. The Tin Flute
61. Where the Wild Things Are and In the Night Kitchen
66. What is Stephen Harper Reading
79. Charlotte's Web
I didn't realize there was a book called What is Stephen Harper Reading until I read your list. Somehow when I read the list, I missed seeing that title. Is it just a compilation of the letters he wrote to Stephen Harper?
Yes, it is - it's actually his blog in paper form - for us old fashioned people!
Ivan Ilych is indeed rather depressive but not long to read. I am not YM he is too talented for me to copy. However his latest work has been getting tepid reviews but I don't always trust reviews.
Just borrowed The Death of Ivan Ilych (#1)from the university library and started it last night. I am only about halfway through the book. I was also lucky enough to get a copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd (#3) though bookmooch.
Since I have read #2 Animal Farm that will take me up to Book #4 I Sat Down and Wept. Our university does not have a copy but I will try to find one somewhere.
Ps- Started using a What is Stephen Harper Reading tag on some books:
No one else seems to be using it yet, would be fun if it caught on :P
Fabulous idea. I've tagged the ones I've read--however, I put a ? at the end of my tags so that it matches the website. I've also added What is Stephen Harper Reading? to the awards and honors section of the Common Knowledge area for each of my books. If others do this too, than everyone will be able to easily find the list, and also identify which books in their library are on the list.
Add the tag to the awards on honors section of my books, I see you beat me to one of them :P
I've been using YM for Yann Martel as a shorter tag, but if everyone else is using the longer one, I will too.
Arcona- There are no rules and no librarything police here, so do what works best for you. Personally, I use my tags for sorting and analyzing my reading, so I don't worry about them matching anyone else's. Your mileage may vary.
I am using the longer one just so I can follow the tags of others in this challenge, so it depends if the tag is for your own use or for looking at what others are reading as well. The longer tag will hopefully make it easier for others to find books associated with the challenge. Sometimes I wind up using more than one tag.
This is interesting - I would be surprised to know that Harper is actually reading all these. I do not know how he could, in an open and understanding way, and still do some of the things he does. Anyway, it seems I have read only 17 of them - many more have been on my wishlist forever. I certainly think Yann Martel has included some excellent books, an eclectic list that would benefit anyone who took the time to tackle it. I don't know how to easily list the books on the list that I've read - can anyone help with that? I love this site, just don't get on it enough to learn all the ins and outs. Will try to keep up more now!
Anyone on here from the Maritimes? We should have a more local group, I think - but I didn't see any? Should we start one? I want to see some interest from others first - let me know!
I think most people just typed them out, with on either side to automatically make the touchstones. I was surprised there were not more Canadian books on that list, anything by Mowat for example.
That's an interesting point, Bcteagirl. It is indeed an eclectic list, as Marel has pointed out. But, hmmm, yes, some Canadian content would be a good thing. I think Martel is a new Canadian, so maybe he hasn't prioritized that, perhaps?
There are at least 4 Canadian books on the list (including the newest one), but not as many as I would have thought :P
I just finished reading The death of Ivan Ilych (Book #1). I agree that it is a depressing tale, about one mans revelations near death. The book starts by describing the apparently mundane day to day life of Ivan and how his life declined and lost meaning. Although the last few chapters were somewhat difficult to read, I am glad that I read this work.
I have read Animal Farm in the past. It is actually one of my favourite books, so was glad to see that it is one of Martel's as well. I am also happy to find so many of the books I need for this challenge at the library and university library :)
I managed to snag a copy of Book Number 3: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie on bookmooch. I read a couple of chapters off and on today, will see how it goes. Seems like a lot of death-themed books to start off with :P
How is everyone else doing with the challenge?
I'm reading through the list in order. I just received #2 Animal Farm from the library and hope to start it today or tomorrow as soon as I finish up a couple of other books. Although I read #3 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd so many years ago I that I can't remember, I have it on order at the library to reread.
I'm not actively reading through this challenge, but I'm checking off books as I read them for other reasons. I'll also refer to this list when I'm looking for ideas for new books to read (although I'm sitting on a TBR pile that will take about four years to read through, I really shouldn't look for any new books for a while).
-42- Glad I am not the only one trying to read through 'in order' :P The only book I have not been able to locate a used or library copy of so far is Book Number 6: Bonjour Tristesse, by Françoise Sagan. Since I am only on book 3 will not worry much about it yet :P
Thanks Lynn! I will keep that in mind if I can't find it here in town before I get to it. That is great to know :)
I just finished reading The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, book 3 by Agatha Christie. I hadn't read one of her books before and I don't know that I would have thought to pick one up if not for this challenge. It was a fun summer read.
I don't know what others in this challenge are doing, but I am trying to read the letters he wrote after I read the work itself. For The Death of Ivan Illych it did make me think more about the subject and what Tolstoy was saying.
The letter about the Agatha Christie book on the other hand made me jealous of the library photographed:
I want a library like that! :P
I had to go back to page 38 to find "On page 38 I have highlighted a line on George Eliot that I liked." I believe this is the quote:
"The pen that George Elliot wrote The Mill on the Floss with- that sort of thing - well it's only just a pen after all. If you're really keen on George Elliot, why not get The Mill on the Floss in a cheap edition and read it?"
If anybody else reading through this challenge wants my copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd just let me know and I can post and reserve it for you on bookmooch.
The next book is Book #4 By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. I am going to wait until the weekend to trek across town to the main library for that one.. I have a few books on the go I should try to make more progress on in the meantime.
There is also a new book up today, Book Number 83: Caligula, by Albert Camus, sent by René-Daniel Dubois. I have yet to read this one either :P Hopefully I will catch up slowly but surely.
I just finished Animal Farm and found it quite enojoyable. At first I found the phrasing rather hackneyed until I realized that this is where those phrases come from, such as "all animals are equal, except that some are more equal than others". Quite an enjoyable read as I tried to figure out if I would be the donkey, negative but inactive, or a pig, trying to run things (I might have been a pig in my youth trying to run things, but I know I'm too lazy now in my old age to initiate change, and I've never been greedy enough to take from others). I've heard so often about this book but never read it, so "Yeah" to Yann Martel for suggesting it. This is a great challenge.
Animal Farm is one of my very favourite books :)
Edit: We would be one the animals that could read? ;)
I'd love your copy of The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Bcteagirl! I am bucketyell on BM as well :)
Reserved it for you Bucketyell, and sent you a reservation notice with condition notes! :) Going to be posting a bunch of books tonight or tomorrow in the BM section, so watch for that :)
Thanks Bcteagirl! I mooched two and then got motivated to list some more of my own. If you want to check out my newbies, I will look out for yours (sounds a little dirty doesn't it?) :)
Put in a request at the local library for book 4: At Central Station I sat Down and Wept.
I was somewhat surprised that someone else had 'my' book out... :P However it will give me another week to work through the tomes I am currently reading.
How are you doing?
I'm just starting #3 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. I have a substantial pile of TBRs that I have to make a dent in, so I'm only ordering the next Stephen Harper after I have completed the previous one, giving myself a little breathing room to get other books read in between. As well, my copy of Roger Ackroyd was an omnibus with three other Agathas so it may take a while as I don't think I can return it to the library without reading all the stories! I had read nearly all the Agatha Christie mysteries in the 1960/70s and hardly remember them at all.
Next book is up!
Book Number 84: Nikolski, by Nicolas Dickner, sent to you by Émile Martel!
I was lucky enough to snag a copy on Bookmooch a week back, so one should be winging its way to me shortly :)
The letter accompanying Charlotte's Web is beautiful.
I like to imagine the entire PMO enjoying a discussion about this book.
57 - I have a copy of Nikolski too so we should compare notes afterwards. I have heard good things so hopefully it can live up to the hype.
Just finished #3 The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and was surprised that I remembered how it turned out after reading it about 30 years ago. I've not read this anywhere, but it seems to have been the inspiration for the game Clue. I kept wanting to say, "Colonel Mustard in the Library with a Knife"!
Next up will be #4 - By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept - I hope it's in the library.
Heeheee... you are absolutely right now that I think of it... it really is something like right out of the Clue game. I hadn't read it before so was not sure up until the end.
Checked out #5, Bhagavad Gita, from the library and thank goodness it was an illustrated version. Really, this is a book to study, not to read. Ended up just scanning it and looking at the pictures. What was Yann Martel thinking of, suggesting this for reading? A primary text in Hindu, this would be a textbook in a course of comparative religions. It's the first Yann Martel recommended book I've been disappointed in.
Next up is #7, Candide by Voltaire
(Editted for a spelling mistake)
After reposting, re- edited for misspelling "edited"!
Good to know.. the university library has it here, I will be checking it out when I get that far. I noticed they did have more than one at the library, will have to see if one is the illustrated version or not.
After a brief hiatus where the book went missing somewhere in the library system I now have a copy of By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept so that I can read it and move forward with this challenge! :)
How I live Now by Rosoff is the newest book sent out. I have heard mixed reviews about this book, but the topic (dystopian) interests me so I will be on the lookout for a copy. Has anyone else read this book?
Just finished #7, Candide, by Voltaire. I'm not sure how to rate it - he was a philosopher and that's not my favourite subject. It's a classic and quite highly rated by other LT people, but I wasn't that fond of it. It's a small book that I should have been able to read quite quickly, but it took me nearly a week as I kept putting it down every few chapters as the satire was so repetitive. I wanted to like it, but perhaps I'm not as intellectual as I'd like to be! I'll be interested to hear other people's take on it.
#66 - Don't feel bad... I never liked it and I rather like philosophy! For me ultimately, the notion that it is up to us to cultivate our garden, although perhaps wise, is rather cynical, nonconstructive and counterproductive in this day and age. I can't think of the horrors that would continue today in the world if we all just cultivated our gardens! I didn't particularly care for the storyline either!
I quite enjoyed Candide when I had to read it for university. It took me by surprise--I was expecting something boring and didactic, but it was a romp.
Ok, I have a bit of catching up to do, but I am one more book down. Last night I finished By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (Book #4). Given the reviews of this book, I expected to like it. I really did. Although there were parts that were quite beautiful, overall it read as though it was written by an adolescent with a good vocabulary. Woeeeeee is mee..... No one else has ever felt like this, no one else ever will... everyone is Against me... love is the ooonnnly thing and Ooonnly he will do....Woooeee... complete with occasional random Capitalizations to Highlight certain Words. I can see that parts of the book were quite beautiful, but overall I found this book extremely grating.
I picked up a copy of book 5 The Bhagavad gītā at the university library... ours does not have an illustrated version, so I just picked up the thinnest volume of the lot. Will see how that goes.
I just picked up my copy of By Grand Central Station and I'm so afraid I'm going to have the same opinion of it that you did. I'm starting to doubt the value of Yann Martel's choices. So far I've really only enjoyed Ivan Ilych, Animal Farm and Roger Ackroyd of his early choices.
I have really enjoyed all but Central Station and am curious to look at the Gita.. even if I don't read the whole thing it will be interesting seeing it. One thing about Central Station is that it does get marginally better as the book goes on.
Considering the title, perhaps P.M. Uber-leader Harper is reading the complete encyclopediac history of the the Census of the Dominion of Canada as well as the complete census of Her Majesty's territories and dominions combined within her realm falling within the territories of Thirsk, Ulster and the Scilly Isles excluding those oF Hanover, Normandie and Usher and as well as all those territories not mentioned forwith.
Just finished reading a library copy of The Bhagavad gītā. It was not as long as I thought it would be, and an interesting read. It is formed in a conversation between a Deity and a mortal, so that he can understand the path to righteousness. Some parts made sense, but they put a higher stress on non-attachment than I thought they would. An interesting read.
I have a copy of 6 (Bonjour Tristesse) that I was lucky enough to get from a friend. :)
I just finished #4: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept. I have to admit the writing was beautiful, and I envy Smart's ability to express herself so well. That being said, I found it depressing that someone who had that kind of talent wasted it writing about loving a man who was an adulterer and philanderer and who had 15 children by several different women. I would have enjoyed her expressions of love more if had they hadn't been about an almost adolescent obsession for an unavailable married man.
Next up: #6: Bonjour Tristesse
since my last thread, I've read:
75. Nadirs by Herta Müller
whereas I can see the poetry and the interest, this book just wasn't for me: stark, deconstructed and stream of conscientiousness - a hit for Virginia Woolf fans...
84. Nikolski by Nicolas Dickner
I liked the whimsical out-of-timeliness aspect of it. The characters are lost but looking for meaning, and whereas I would have liked to see a more definitive and neat ending, I can appreciate that lives can simply collide without necessarily meeting.
Thank you for those reviews!
Bokb 87 is up, another Canadian book. Sweet Home Chicago by Ashton Grey, which he picked up at the literary festival in Moose Jaw this summer. Looks like it might be a harder one to get my hands on, but I will see what I can do when the time comes.
We seem to be at the same place Arcona.. I have a copy of Bonjour Tristesse that I will be starting shortly. I just want to finish at least one of the books I have going first :P
Finished #6 Bonjour Tristesse last night. Very short book and easily read. I'm not a big fan of "coming of age" novels as doing it once in real life was hard enough. It was written in the 50s and would have been considered quite racy for the times, especially when written by someone in their late teens. An interesting read but one I wouldn't bother recommending to anyone as it seems rather pointless and depressing at the end.
Taking a short break from Yann Martel. Books are piling up and I have a busy fall. Next, when winter comes, will be #8: Short and Sweet: 101 Very Short Poems.
This thread is getting very long. Perhaps in September we might start a What is Stephen Harper Reading? Part II. Any thoughts?
Sounds good! I think the next thread should be for books 8 and up.. that way discussion of similar books will be together. I have 2 that I will be taking with me on my travels next week Bonjour Tristesse and Candide. This means 101 Very Short Poems will be waiting until at least September. Whoever manages to snag that book first can start a new thread?
That sounds like a great idea.
Candide, I think, is a matter of taste. If you like broad farce and satire, it might be fine. Bonjour Tristesse is not bad but I found the ending a bit melodramatic.
I've gotten the first seven read now. Really enjoyed #s 1,2, and 3. #s 4 and 6 were okay, and I didn't enjoy #s 5 and 7 at all.
I really enjoyed Bonjour Tristesse (maybe because I share a name with the heroine??). The movie with David Niven and Deborah Kerr is terrific.
I also enjoyed Bonjour Tristesse as a fun light read.. I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I had read it in high school. :) It was however nice to have a book that did not take me weeks to finish :P I can see how it would have been considered racy for its time... now I could see them turning it into some sort of daytime sitcom.. I kept picturing one of those cartoons where people are chasing each other through multiple doors in a hallway :P Anyway, great fun for a beach read, or if you want a lighter quick read :)
I packed Candide to read on the plane. I was worried that it since it was a 'classic' it might be a bit heavy reading for the plane. I need not have worried. I can see why Martel put the two books together.. they were both quite risque for the time, and they both were action packed enough that they had me picturing the cartoon hallway with multiple doors mentioned in the previous post. I am glad I read it, and despite it being quite dark I found parts quite funny. I am actually quite surprised Voltaire got away with writing what he did. I am glad it softened up a little at the end. I am glad this was part of the challenge as it was different for me, and I don't think I would have necessarily picked it out left to my own devices.
I am officially on the WISHRC bandwagon and just finished The Death of Ivan Ilych by Tolstoy. I will try to read them in order but reserve the right to cheat a little if I acquire books out of order :)
I enjoy your insights. I agree that Candide and Bonjour Tristesse would be considered risque for their times and that is really their value. I tend to be a lazy reader and just take them at face value, rather than thinking critically. Probably I should have taken more literature in school, rather than organizational behaviour and management practices. It might have served me better in my reading habits. However, I just enjoy reading books, and especially reading other people's comments here on Library Thing. I really enjoy this thread.
I have been lurking and enjoying the postings so far. I haven't managed to find time yet to actually do any of the readings - the 1010 challenge has all but completely consumed me for this year - but I have created a category for my 11 in 11 challenge for next year with this thread specifically in mind. I look forward to joining everyone here, or on the active thread for discussions, in the coming months!
Well, I am not really reading them in order but trying to get as close as possible. Would you believe that my library doesn't have Elizabeth Smart? The horror!
Finished Candide this morning and liked it. It can pretty much be summed up with this:
"You're a bitter man," said Candide.
"That's because I've lived," said Martin.
Now, now kids :)
And just because everyone said above how well they went together, I also read Bonjour Tristesse by Sagan. I kind of liked it despite the fact that I hated all the characters. Very weird.
I am reading Animal Farm. Such a simple tale, but very easy to follow the rise and fall of Communism from an enthusiastic political ideal to a dreadful, corrupt regime. It makes me sad... if the animals can't make it, we had no chance! I find that I really care for the characters too, despite the fact that they are animals.
Animal farm is one of my favourite books. I admit, it is not an uplifting tale, but it does make one think. And it goes down a bit easier when it is animal I think :P
Okay, I now know why my library didn't have By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept by Smart. What a horrible, horrible little book! I agree with whomever posted above that it sounded like it was written by an adolescent girl. To me, it sounded like someone sat down with the world's most cliched thesaurus, wrote out an ordinary sentence and then tried to tart it up with a whole bunch of flowery crap that made no absolutely no sense.
It is rare that I take such a dislike to a book... I am just mad that I paid $5 for it!
Now on to Bhagavad Gita.
#97 - Okay, so Bucketyell, why do you think it was included in the list for Stephan Harper? Maybe that's a more interesting exercise. I like to read books from 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, and while I can see why most of them were included, sometimes I come across one that makes me say "What the ??!". Eventually I can usually find some reason why it has value. (although not to the exclusion of other wonderful books, of course).
Anyway, do you think Martel is saying something to Harper about having an adolescent mentality, or something?
>95 I remember reading Animal Farm in roughly grade 7 and thinking how terribly clever I was, in being able to draw the connection between the events of the story and the events following the Russioan Revolution, now I can think of another word for this.
(Edited for typos)
#95 - you mean "an intelligent 7th grader?" I know adults who have no clue what the Russian Revolution even was.
Anyway, do you think Martel is saying something to Harper about having an adolescent mentality, or something?
Snerk! Thanks for that laugh... I really needed that after my crappy week!
But seriously (can't stop laughing so not sure how serious this will be), that is an interesting question Nickelini. I just realised that I haven't actually gone to the site to read the letters sent by Martel after each book. I checked this one and it seems to be all about the language for him. Martel praises Smart for her lyrical prose.
In particular, he states: By Grand Central Station is a masterly—or, better, mistressly—evocation of love. A life untouched by Elizabeth Smart’s kind of passion is a life not fully lived. About that, we can take her word.
Who would have thought that language could do so much? Who would have thought that grunts would so recall the miracle of the world? ?
He sees passion while I see someone who can't just say what she means in normal language. I get that she is a poet but I don't think that she needed all the flowery crap to tell the story.
Now to be fair, I have a cold so perhaps reading something that made me get out my secret decoder ring to interpret it is not a great idea. At least it was short (but they all seem to be short don't they?)
I went back and read the letter as well.. and he does stress the language. He also mentions a character out of Book 1 (The Death of Ivan Illch) which to me was about pretences, and to some extent the meaninglessness of life. Despite everything, he died.
Here I see the same sort of thing (If I was mocking the work, which I kind of am). The book (I love the idea of a world's most cliched thesaurus, I think I would buy one lol) is quite pretentious, hiding small and normal ideas about everlasting love behind.. well... teenagereese. Reminds me of the ornament of some sort that was so cheap it was bent in Ivan Illych. Seemed fancy at the time, but was a poor substitute.
On a less mocking note, they do share the common theme of the meaninglessness of life.. they are both struggling for meaning, and in the end find none (He dies alone, she looses her love).
Hopefully this makes sense, I am about a glass and a half into some BC strawberry wine. Good stuff for a Friday night ;) Fun discussion! :)
Heh.. enjoy that wine! I am sucking back cold pills like candy just so I can breathe. I think I probably have the same high that you got with wine but am jealous that you got yours in a much more enjoyable way!
I totally couldn't get past the flowery crap to make much sense of the actual story and I think that is what frustrated me the most. I like straight-forward novels. I don't mind doing a little bit of work, digging down a little deeper to find some interesting nuggets but this book was way over the top. I could spent days digging away at it but sadly, I really don't think it's worth the effort.
Now The Bhagavad Gita on the other hand was wonderful. I read a newer translation by George Thompson and he really tried to find a balance between simplifying it enough for the lay-reader while retaining the original flow of the work. This is definitely something I will come back too. My first reading was enough to give me an overview but for me, this one is worth the effort of digging down deeper.
I agree.. I liked the Bhagavad Gita. I am seeing a trend of 'the meaning of life' kind of books, if you also take Candide, and Bonjour Tristesse into account. Many speak to the futility of the meaning of life however... not sure if he is talking about Harper's career or his frustrations with the arts and literacy in Canada ;)
On the plus side, as a positive side effect of this reading challenge, when people mention these books I now know what they are talking about :P
I finally got my copy of this book from the library. I like Martel's tone; you can tell he just loves books. (And he suspects Harper doesn't, hee.)
These are the ones I've read:
2) Animal Farm
4) By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept (which I had to read for school, so I both resented it and blew through it too quickly. I should reread it!)
7) Candide (read in French)
12) Maus (part 1 only)
13) To Kill a Mockingbird
14) Le Petit Prince (read in French)
24) Waiting for Godot
37) A Modest Proposal
40) Clockwork Orange
43) The Uncommon Reader
It sounds like you are well on your way studio1! Welcome :)
I am not sure I could stand to read through #4 more than once, but that is just me :P
Well, it was a long time ago so I thought maybe my bitterness towards it was because of school. But maybe it's totally justified. ;)
And there's more books on the website, I just noticed! I've read Runaway, Charlotte's Web, and Where the Wild Things Are. (It was giving me John Grisham for the Runaway touchstone. Weird.)
I want to know Harper's response though! Does he know about the book? You'd think This Hour has 22 Minutes would do a mock-interview with him about it or something. ;)
So far as I am aware, one of his support staff have responded on a few occasions, but never Harper himself.. It seems unlikely at this late a date that he will start responding now, but it would be interesting :p
I think you are correct, this would be a great news story for 22 minutes to tackle :P
*bump* If you are looking for a new reading challenge in 2011 we would love to have you! I am always happy to discuss previous books :)
I read book #5 - Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan earlier in January. Completely forgot to post my thoughts on the book until now - Thanks Janice for the gentle reminder!
This slim story, first published in 1954, is a poignant, nostalgic coming of age story set against the backdrop of the beauty of the French Riviera in summer. The narrator is 17 year old Cécile, who leaves Paris to spend her summer in a rented villa with her father Raymond and his 'mistress of the moment', Elsa. A summer of idle decadence is enjoyed by all until one day Raymond informs his daughter that he has invited an old family friend, Anne, to come stay at the villa. Cécile sums up this new development succinctly: "All the elements of a drama were to hand: a libertine, a demimondaine, and a strong-minded woman."
Overall, I was impressed with the maturity of the writing. Françoise Sagan wrote this story while she was still a teenager - she was only 18 years old when Bonjour Tristesse was first published. IMO Sagan does a good job here conveying the 'Joie de vivre' of her characters and Cécile's turbulent thoughts. I did have a problem with the book as some of the descriptions were sparse, making it difficult for me to visualize in my mind the story as I read it. Apparently, the book was made into a movie back in 1958 so I am going to see if I can get my hands on the movie.... although I am having a little difficulty trying to picture David Niven as Cécile's youngish, affectionate rogue of a father.
The reason Martel sent a copy of this book to Stephen Harper:
Bonjour Tristesse was the 6th book Martel sent to the Canadian Prime Minister. He sent it as an example of how a book can capture the time and spirit of an era as something that a group can either strongly identify with or against the message it conveys. I really like the following statement from his letter to the PM: "Such a brash, proudly indolent attitude, coming with an open contempt for conventional values, landed like a bomb among the bourgeoisie. Françoise Sagan earned herself a papal denunciation, which she must have relished." The complete letter sent by Martel to Harper can be viewed here.
My Rating for the book: 3.5 Stars
I did enjoy Bonjour Tristesse, to me it seemed to have a 'crazy, fun, so many things happening at once' vibe... I know that the plot is not 'crazy fun' but somehow it read like that to me. When you read Candide you will get a sense of what I mean.
I was also surprised at just how young the author was when she wrote this book. Given the part you hilighted in Italics I was expecting even more 'sinful' type of behaviour. It was not so much the behaviour that sticks with me from this story as the attitude of Cecile. I think the level it is written at is near perfect.. you get the newer at the time ideas of morality, without what some would call 'utter depravity' turning them off the book entirely. I am glad you liked it.
Janice (Bcteagirl) found my 11 in 11 Challenge readings and reminded me of this thread. I will copy my reviews here as I think this is the correct thread for the 1-7 books.
Book #1 - The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Leo Tolstoy
Taken from the book: On learning of Ivan Ilyich's sudden demise and death, his former colleagues begin vying for promotion; it seems neither in life nor in death has Ivan Ilyich made any lasting impression. And, as Tolstoy takes us back to Ivan Ilyich's early days, it is a life of futility, of emptiness and primarily of spiritual barrenness that is revealed.
It has been ages since I have read any Tolstoy so I had forgotten how his stories are written in such beautiful rich textured prose. Tolstoy makes it easy to visualize the setting, the characters, the emotion and the compassion of the story. It is hard to believe that this story would contain compassion, but Ivan Ilyich's examination of his life as he is dying is a compelling read of self examination, humanity and dare I say, unselfish love? The dawning realization that Ivan Ilyich experiences - that maybe he didn't live life as he should have - is an unsettling thought for Ilyich, and Tolstoy holds up his character as an example of how the knowledge of death can lead an individual, through self examination, to a attain a higher level of humanity and may be characterized by the discovery of a capacity for unselfish love.
The reason Martel sent a copy of this book to Stephen Harper:
The Death of Ivan Ilyich is the very first book Martel sent to the Canadian Prime Minister. He sent it as an example of the power and depth of great literature which he felt was so convincingly captured in this slim novella. To quote Martel, 'That is the greatness of literature, and its paradox, that in reading about fictional others we end up reading about ourselves." The complete letter sent by Martel to Harper can be viewed here.
The copy of The Death of Ivan Ilyich that I picked up also contained another Tolstoy novella, The Devil. The Devil is another fine example of Tolstoy's main character, this time Evgeny Irtenyev, facing an internal struggle. The internal struggle here is the continued obsession Evgeny feels for a peasant women he had 'casual' relations with prior to his engagement and marriage to his wife Liza. The copy also provided an alternative ending to The Devil. I preferred the original ending and found the alternate ending darker, harsher tone to it. The alternative ending also left me with a feeling that Tolstoy was trying to convey that there is no true justice in the world. Interesting to be able to compare the two ending.
Both stories are well written and convey Tolstoy's skill at creating realistic characters grappling with their own internal demons. As an aside, it was interesting to see Tolstoy's portrayal of the medical profession of his time period. My favorite example, is found in The Devil:
"The doctor arrived towards dinnertime, and said, of course, that although recurring phenomena might well elicit apprehension, nonetheless there was, strictly speaking, no positive indication, yet since neither was there any contraindication, it might, on the one hand, be supposed, but on the other hand it might also be supposed. And it was therefore necessary to stay in bed, and although I don't like prescribing, nevertheless take this and stay in bed. In addition the doctor gave Varvara Alexeyevna a lecture on the female anatomy as well, during which Vavara Alexeyevna nodded her head meaningfully. Taking his fee, as normal, in to the very bottom part of his palm, the doctor left, and the patient began her week in bed.
Yup, I get the impression Tolstoy did not place the medical profession in very high regard. ;-)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Just realized the other book I have read so far is Book #9 so will post that one on the other Stephen Harper reading thread. ;-)
Heheh.. it does not appear so does it? I want to re-read Anna Karenina at some point, so am going to try to make a point to notice how doctors are portrayed there as well :P
I used to follow these when they were only on Yann Martel's website, but I've never tracked down the book. I'm looking forward to it, and I can see why you're having so much fun with this challenge. I might be tempted to add a few of these to my TBR list too once I've started reading the letters all in a go...
Just realized I forgot about this thread when I read Candide last month. Below is what I posted over on the 11 in 11 Challenge:
Candide, Voltaire's masterpiece, according to the inside cover of the Modern Library edition I read, is a brilliant satire of the theory that our world is "the best of all possible worlds." The book traces the picaresque adventures of the Guileless Candide, who is forced into the army, flogged, shipwrecked, betrayed, robbed, separated from his beloved Cunegonde, tortured by the Inquisition, et cetera, all without losing his resilience and will to live and pursue a happy life.
As fables go, this was a fun, quick adventure down a rabbit hole of metaphysics, philosophy and the examination of human nature. The best way to approach this story is to treat it as the fable it is - a lesson with the hopes of educating the reader that facile optimism has its downfalls. The edition I read, Random House's seventy-fifth anniversary illustrated edition added to my reading pleasure. It was obvious reading this that Voltaire was not afraid to express his opinions through his writing and knew how to express displeasure through well delivered punchlines. This was my first time reading Candide and had to remind myself 'its a fable' when characters would 're-appear' in the story at the unlikeliest of times and places.
The reason Martel sent a copy of this book to Stephen Harper:
Candide is the 7th book Martel sent to the Canadian Prime Minister. After taking the scenic journey to comment on the six degrees of separation between Martel and Harper, and referencing Voltaire's dismissing of Canada as "a few acres of snow", Martel does explain the Lisbon Earthquake of November 1, 1755, the ensuing tsunami and the fires that combined killed over sixty thousand people. Martel explains that Voltaire wrote Candide in part as a reaction to this cataclysmic event as defying the reasoning of philosopher Gottfried Leibniz that our world "is the best of all possible worlds" as God is good and all powerful. If God is good and all-powerful, how could such a catastrophe as the Lisbon Earthquake occur in a city piously Catholic and on All Saints' Day, of all days? Martel presents the position that Voltaire wrote Candide with the view that to be eternally optimistic in the face of great evil and suffering was not only insensitive to its victims, but morally and intellectually untenable. Interesting food for thought and one of Martel's better letters to the Prime Minister that I have read so far. The letter Martel sent to Harper along with this book can be viewed here.
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Great review! Lowell Blair certainly did pack a lot into this short story, and does not pull any punches. Things just kept getting worse and worse for him. As I understand it he also wrote many scathing pamphlets that caused quite a stir at the time, but I have yet to come across a source for them :P
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