Check out the Pride Celebration Treasure Hunt!
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
  • LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

BooksOnTrial: Musings of a Mute Reader (2010)

Club Read 2010

Join LibraryThing to post.

This topic is currently marked as "dormant"—the last message is more than 90 days old. You can revive it by posting a reply.

Edited: Aug 28, 2010, 12:26pm Top

Why Mute?

If you've seen the movie "Amadeus" (if not, I highly recommend it), you might remember a scene where Salieri, who was jealous of Mozart's genius, questioned a priest why God gave him the desire to make music but denied him the talent and made him mute.

I know what it is like to be "mute", because although I enjoy reading, I'm terrible with words, having no talent for writing whatsoever. It's frustrating not being able to express oneself adequately and share with others what one has read and enjoyed.

Needless to say, I'm quite jealous of people who are fluent with words. That's the majority of you in this group. :) I'm hoping that by joining and reading your posts, I might learn something and improve my own writing skills. Hopefully, with time and effort, I'll be able to produce some good reviews too.

If you have any tips or suggestions on reviewing, I'd very much appreciate it. :)

Mar 26, 2010, 6:34am Top

Based on your post above, I think you should keep doing what you have just done. It was well written, clear and direct. I like that!

Mar 26, 2010, 4:48pm Top

I agree with timjones! I think you will do just fine. Welcome!

Mar 26, 2010, 7:04pm Top

Agreed - and since reading is among the best ways to improve writing, just keep on doing that too!

Mar 26, 2010, 9:03pm Top

Hear! hear! -- writing breeds writing. I almost didn't become an English major in college because I hated to write. I still find writing a chore, but writing makes me think in a cogent manner. It's really how I learn and retain knowledge most effectively.

Mar 27, 2010, 5:46pm Top

Thanks to all for your encouragement. :)

timjones and janeajones, I'm really curious to know how you took up writing and became authors.

>2 timjones:: timjones,

Short, "clear and direct" posts, almost like bullet point presentations, are the best I can come up with. :) I simply can't write long, elaborate ones.

>4 cocoafiend:: cocoafiend

I certainly hope reading can improve writing though I have my doubts. As a music lover, I listened to plenty of music, but can't compose one note.

>5 janeajones:: janeajones

Agreed. Writing is the best way to digest and crystallize what we've learned. It is so hard for a mind of mush to think in a cogent manner.

Edited: Mar 28, 2010, 3:25pm Top

1. Confessions by Saint Augustine

A combination of autobiography, Christian philosophical and theological treatise, and confession of love for God. One of the, if not the, best I’ve ever read. A book that stimulates the mind, warms the heart and uplifts the spirit.

I've been struggling for a week and still cannot finish a review that's not akin to childish scrawlings over a masterpiece. So it's better for a mute to simply point you to the masterpiece itself.

(See my unsuccessful attempt at a review here: http://booksontrial.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/confessions-by-saint-augustine/)

Mar 29, 2010, 8:09am Top

Hi booksontrial! I enjoyed your review of Confessions. I haven't read it yet, but I'm in the middle of Augustine's City of God. Really good, thick stuff. I love how so much of what he is writing is still pertinent today.

I know what you mean about your review feeling like a failure in light of the masterpiece it's trying to judge. That's all right. As long as it points people to the book itself, it has achieved its aim. At least that's what I tell myself! :)

Mar 29, 2010, 3:57pm Top

hi booksontrial! thanks for reminding me of excursions into Augustine. It's been a while since I read his Confessions. I remember my interest at the time was with how the form of confession uses a sin or crime as the starting point for a story of conversion - in this case, a religious conversion. Unfortunately, I think my focus on this rather academic idea (for one of my candidacy exams on the confessional form) detracted from my appreciation of the work as a whole.

Have you by chance read any Julian of Norwich? She was a fourteenth-century mystic and anchoress at Norwich. Her "shewings" are interesting as explorations of quite a gentle and optimistic faith for the time (she de-emphasized the concepts of sin and evil), and for her view of Christ as a mother.

Mar 29, 2010, 5:26pm Top

I quite enjoyed Confessions when I read it in college. I agree about the accessibility – both language and theology – a lot of the loving message of religion and less of the later fire and brimstone kind.

Mar 30, 2010, 2:54am Top

8: wisewoman,

Thank you for the wise words. :) Which edition of City of God are you reading?

I just started the book and found myself laughing out loud quite a few times. Augustine's humor and wit are delicious! One almost pity his opponents in the debate.

Mar 30, 2010, 3:22am Top

>9 cocoafiend:: cocoafiend,

I'm curious. Did you study psychology in grad school? What were your findings on confessional form?

Just added Julian of Norwich to my To Read list. What do you think of her "shewings"?

>10 janemarieprice:: janepriceestrada,

I wish I had read Confessions (and many other great books) in college. Now I'm trying to make up for lost time. sigh

Mar 30, 2010, 6:22am Top

booksontrial, I too enjoyed your review of Confessions, though I have not read it.

>6 booksontrial:: I read a lot of science fiction in my teens and twenties and decided to turn my hand to it, then later broadened out to write literary fiction (or, at least, non-science fiction) as well; and, separately, started writing poetry at high school, got some good reactions, and have kept on doing so - intermittently - ever since. I write as much as time, my other commitments, and my own laziness permit.

Mar 30, 2010, 8:42am Top

I'm reading the Penguin edition edited by Henry Bettenson and David Knowles. I'm really liking Augustine, but the footnotes seem almost antagonistic toward him, and sometimes they flat-out contradict him. Apparently some of Augustine's etymology is questionable (at least, by our knowledge of the language today), and when the editors do agree with his etymology, they say it is correct, "for once." And there are other instances like that. I'm not a big fan of that. If you don't like Augustine and disagree heartily with his arguments, then write your own book about it. I don't mind mistakes being pointed out respectfully, but it's tacky and out of place to display animosity in footnotes.

Apr 1, 2010, 4:20pm Top

>14 atimco:: wisewoman,

I'm reading the Penguin edition too (current on Book IV), and have enjoyed it so far. But, I agree with you, those translator's footnotes on etymology are completely out of place. They add nothing to readers' understanding of the text, but, like flies buzzing around a beautiful flower, they distract people from enjoying the flow of the original.

This footnote in particular bothered me: "An absurd etymology, but the true derivation is uncertain". How can he call others absurd when he doesn't have the fact? One would think that Augustine, who was a master of Latin, would know more about the origin of the word than someone who lived 1600 years later. It made me wonder whether this translator would be presumptuous enough to alter the meaning of the original text just to fit his own criteria of reasonableness.

Apr 1, 2010, 4:44pm Top

>13 timjones:: timjones,

When you write a poem or a novel, where does the idea come from? Where do you start? I remember watching Harold Pinter's Nobel Speech in which he talked about how he got the ideas for his plays. Sometimes it's ab image in his mind, sometimes a sentence like "What did you do with the scissors?" I'm sure you have your own source of inspiration, so I'm just curious...

Apr 1, 2010, 4:47pm Top

Thank you! Boy, do I feel vindicated right now! :D

"An absurd etymology, but the true derivation is uncertain". How can he call others absurd when he doesn't have the fact?

Yes, that's a perfect example. Tossing around words like "absurd" isn't cool if you're just the guy writing the footnotes :-P

Apr 2, 2010, 6:10am Top

>16 booksontrial: booksontrial,

The truest and least useful answer to that question is that they just pop into my head from time to time. But I can qualify that a little by saying:

* I am most likely to get an idea, especially an idea for a poem, when I am out walking in the woods behind our house, or walking to or from my paid job.

(I have an essay about walking in these woods at http://bit.ly/3GDmIL)

* Poems, especially, often start from a phrase or sentence that arrives in my mind

* Stories often come from rubbing two seemingly unrelated ideas together and seeing whether sparks result

* Occasionally, an idea comes along that brings with it enough of a tangle of related ideas and possible plot developments that it might make a novel

* My initial thoughts for a story usually involve setting or plot. Characters come along later. I know that, for many other writers, characters come first.

* On the other hand, my most recent two story ideas have each started with a character.

It's not an easy question to answer, but I hope this helps.

Apr 3, 2010, 2:55am Top

>18 timjones:: timjones,

Thanks for the bullet point answers. They are very helpful.

I enjoyed reading your essay, especially the bit about the filming sites of LOTR in your neck of the woods. Ever since I watched the trilogy, I've wanted to visit there. Such a beautiful place! Has anyone ever mapped the whole Middle Earth to New Zealand based on the films?

When you start with a plot instead of a character, does the plot evolve over time or is it set at the very beginning and later you flush out the details?

Apr 3, 2010, 10:00pm Top

>19 booksontrial:, booksontrial: I usually think about the poem/story/novel I'm working on, rather than the process I use to work on it, so it has been interesting to think about the process at a more abstracted level.

Re LoTR: I don't know of a link to such a map, but there is an interactive map of all the filming locations here: http://www.filmnz.com/middleearth/locations/index.html

Re plot and characters: I probably gave the wrong impression when I said I start with a plot - at that stage, it isn't fully formed, so it's just the barest outline of a plot. I usually flesh it out to some extent before I begin writing, and considerably more after I begin writing - which does lead to some false starts and rework along the way.

Apr 7, 2010, 7:13am Top

***warning: The following post contains religious content, reader discretion is strongly advised***

2. City of God by St. Augustine

For some reason, part I of this book reminded me of a TV play that I watched two years ago, "God on Trial", a tale of a group of Jewish prisoners in Auschwitz during World War II, who put God on trial for breaking his covenant with the Jewish people and allowing the genocide of the Jews by the Nazis. It was a well-written and superbly acted play, both thought-provoking and emotionally charging. All the different views on religion were represented in court, the humanist, the atheist, the rationalist, the opportunist and the religious. The question was not so much whether God exists but whether He is good and just in His dealings with men. Why would a just God allow the Holocaust? Even the Nazis claimed, "Gott mit uns" (God with us). Which side was He on, the Jews or the Germans? If the Jews were His chosen people, where was He when they were herded into the gas chambers?

It's one thing to suffer for a cause, quite another to suffer without reason and without hope.

In a way, City of God is the "sequel" to that movie, though it was written more than 1500 years earlier.

(To be continued...)

P.S. I highly recommend the movie:

"God On Trial" from YouTube: part 1|part 2|part 3|part 4|part 5|part 6|part 7|part 8|part 9

Apr 10, 2010, 6:36pm Top

(Recommended by dk_phoenix to complement "God on Trial")

Night by Elie Wiesel

A Chinese writer, Lu Xun, once defined tragedy as the witness of the destruction of good. This book is the ultimate tragedy, a witness of the utter destruction of many innocent lives. The destruction not only of the body but also of the soul, as human beings are reduced to mere beasts surviving on instincts and brute force, without reason, without faith, without any kind of human affections, without love and without hope. If evil is the departure from and absence of good, as I tend to believe, this is the ultimate evil.

Before he and his family were "transported" to the concentration camp, Elie Wiesel was a 16-year-old Orthodox Jewish boy who had faith in God. In Auschwitz, he witnessed the burning of infants, countless acts of atrocities, and finally the excruciating death of his own father (from a distance due to fear of punishment). He didn't weep for he was out of tears. He lost his faith in God, but survived, "a corpse".

To know and understand fully what Wiesel went through is almost impossible for people like me, who have lived a rather sheltered life in comparison. However, none of us are immune to suffering and evil, even death itself (the ultimate evil, if one considers life as the ultimate good), therefore we can understand and empathize with Wiesel according to our capacity as a human being. Where does good come from? Is the good in us strong enough to overcome the kind of evil that has manifested itself in Auschwitz?

Edited: Apr 23, 2010, 2:24pm Top

2. City of God by St. Augustine

A masterpiece of Christian Apologetics. St. Augustine started the book to address a pressing crisis and the practical problem of suffering, and then gradually rose to the height of Christian philosophy and theology that has rarely, if ever, been surpassed since. See full review here.

4. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

One-third of the way through the unabridged audio book.

I was intrigued by the very first sentence in the preface. "... So long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.", and hooked by the time I got to this gem, "M. Myriel had to submit to the fate of every new-comer in a small town, where there are many tongues to talk, and but few heads to think."

What a sharp and persuasive tongue Hugo had! Within the space of two hours, I experienced the whole gamut of sentiments, admiration, adoration, pity, contempt, disgust, even hatred toward the characters, all because of the way he described them. He almost convinced me that being 70 years old and blind could be paradise.

(To be continued...)

Apr 30, 2010, 4:11am Top

5. Timaeus and Critias by Plato

In “Republic”, Plato constructed an ideal State; in “Timaeus”, he designed an ideal Universe. In “City of God”, St. Augustine compared Plato’s conception with the Christian belief.

Plato’s universe is built with proportion, order, beauty, symmetry and cycles according to the pattern of the Eternal Being. Both universe and man are governed by the same principles, such as “like to like”, which are inductive to harmony and stability; Both are composed of mortal body and immortal soul; Both are made of four elements, fire, air, water and earth, all of which are constituted by “triangles” (possible equivalents of “elementary particles”).

Living in large part is discerning between being and becoming, sameness and difference. For instance, our five senses discern between sameness and difference in the objects we perceive, and our immune systems have to distinguish foreign objects from own body cells. Things that are drastically different from us can cause disorders and diseases, which is the reason why Plato advised against using drugs, for fear that it might disrupt the natural course of recovery.

“Critias” tells a tale of a lost civilization, Atlantis. Like the ideal state in “Republic”, Atlantis was the pinnacle of civilization, but degenerated over time as men forsook the divine and pursued the material. History is like memory, and like lost memory, many ancient civilizations are forgotten by succeeding generations.

Apr 30, 2010, 7:58am Top

I've just been catching up with your reviews; I enjoyed reading them, especially those of the two books by St Augustine. Thanks for posting them!

Apr 30, 2010, 4:19pm Top

Hi there.

I agree with Tim - your reviews are really good. And what a list of heavy hitters you are reading. Really impressive stuff.

Apr 30, 2010, 4:36pm Top

I too have been enjoying your reviews, booksontrial! I'm around page 700 in City of God. Only 500 more to go... I can do it!

And Les Misérables is among my top five fiction books of all time. My first time reading it was like a baptism. The story was more real to me than my real life; for two weeks I read it in the evenings and woke up every morning thinking about it. And my two rereads have been fantastic too. Love it!

May 5, 2010, 9:32pm Top

Relativity: The Special and the General Theory by Albert Einstein

The Beauty of Logic
I first came across an exposition of the theory of relativity in The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene, and A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking. Without those two books, I don’t know whether I would be able to understand and appreciate this book as much as I do now. With that said, however, the exposition in this book is far better than the other two, in terms of beauty of logic and clarity. Einstein leads the readers step by step, in a most logical and concise manner, through a fascinating and liberating thought process, to the theory of special and general relativity.
(See full review here)

Einstein and Feynman

The only other popular physics book I've read that is comparable to this is, IMO, QED: The Strange Theory of Light and Matter by Richard Feynman. Both authors explained the complex concepts so clearly that I was twice reminded of a line from Sherlock Holmes, “Every problem is absurdly simple when it is explained to you”. Of course, without the two geniuses pointing the way, we would still be lost in the dense fog.

As a side note, I couldn't resist comparing the lives of these two scientists. Both believed that there should be a comprehensive, unifying theory in physics underneath all the complex phenomena; Both were Jewish and yet they took a completely opposite stance with regard to their ethnicity. Einstein was persecuted as a Jew, Feynman was not (judging by his autobiography); Einstein identified strongly with the Jewish cause and Israel, whereas Feynman chose to view his own race as no different from any other races.

May 6, 2010, 9:34pm Top

>25 timjones:: timjones,

Glad you enjoyed the reviews. The two books by St. Augustine are a tough act to follow though. Have you read any books that are similar to those and you also enjoy?

BTW, what ideas popped into your head lately?

May 6, 2010, 9:47pm Top

>26 zenomax:: zenomax,

Thanks for dropping by. These books are not really "heavy-hitters" because I enjoy reading them, but, I have a feeling that the next book on my list will be, Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

May 6, 2010, 9:52pm Top

>27 atimco:: wisewoman,

I'm looking forward to your review of City of God. Don't stop now! :)

What do you like most about Les Miserables? Who are you favorite characters? Favorite quotes?

May 7, 2010, 8:07am Top

I will keep plugging away, never fear! I'm enjoying it, but it's a different enjoyment than fiction.

Les Miserables is just... amazing. I put down some thoughts in my review here, and typed out a bunch of my favorite quotes the last time I reread it (December). Here they are:


"Men, make as many laws as you please, but keep them for yourselves. The tribute to Caesar is never more than the remnant of the tribute to God. A prince is nothing in presence of a principle."
Cosette:VIII:V, p. 478

"When these poor creatures are men, the millstone of our social system almost always comes in contact with them, and grinds them, but while they are children they escape because they are little. The smallest hole saves them."
Marius:I:XIII, p. 518

"For there are many great deeds done in the small struggles of life. There is a determined though unseen bravery, which defends itself foot to foot in the darkness against the fatal invasions of necessity and of baseness. Noble and mysterious triumphs which no eye sees, which no renown rewards, which no flourish of triumph salutes. Life, misfortunes, isolation, abandonment, poverty, are battlefields which have their heroes; obscure heroes, sometimes greater than the illustrious ones."
Marius:V:I, p. 588

"...those are rare who fall without becoming degraded; there is a point, moreover, at which the unfortunate and the infamous are associated and confounded in a single word, a fatal word, Les Misérables; whose fault is it? And then, is it not when the fall is lowest that charity ought to be greatest?"
Marius:VIII:V, p. 643

"The right, when it triumphs, has no need to be violent."
Saint Denis:I:II, p. 715

"God makes visible to men his will in events, an obscure text written in a mysterious language. Men make their translations of it forthwith; hasty translations, incorrect, full of faults, omissions, and misreadings. Very few minds comprehend the divine tongue."
Saint Denis:I:IV, p. 725

"Thought is the labour of the intellect, reverie its pleasure. To replace thought by reverie is to confound poison withh nourishment."
Saint Denis:II:I, p. 745

"The soul which loves and which suffers is in the sublime state."
Saint Denis:II:I, p. 746

"Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees."
Saint Denis:III:IV, p. 807

"Love. A sombre starry transfiguration is mingled with this crucifixion. There is ecstasy in the agony."
Saint Denis:III:IV, p. 809

"Are you what is called a fortunate man? Well, you are sad every day. Each day has its great grief or its little care... One cloud is dissipated, another appears. Hardly one day in a hundred of unbroken joy and of unbroken sunshine. And you are of that small number who are fortunate! As to other men, stagnant night is upon them.
Reflecting minds make little use of this expression: the happy and the unhappy. In this world, the vestibule of another evidently, there is none happy.
The true division of humanity is this: the luminous and the dark."
Saint Denis:VII:I, p. 854

"Great perils have this beauty, that they bring to light to fraternity of strangers."
Saint Denis:XII:IV, p. 955

"Civil war? What does this mean? Is there any foreign war? Is not every war between men, war between brothers? War is modified only by its aim. There is neither foreign war, nor civil war; there is only unjust war and just war."
Saint Denis:XIII:III, p. 975

"There are interior subsoilings. The penetration of a torturing certainty into man does not occur without breaking up and pulverizing certain deep elements which are sometimes the man himself. Grief, when it reaches this stage, is a panic of all the forces of the soul. These are fatal crises. Few among us come through them without change, and firm in duty."
Saint Denis:XV:I, p. 1000

"The abundance of light was inexpressibly comforting. Life, sap, warmth, odour, overflowed; you felt beneath creation the enormity of its source; in all these breezes saturated with love, in this coming and going of reflections and reverberations, in this prodigious expenditure of rays, in this indefinite outlay of fluid gold, you felt the prodigality of the inexhaustible; and behind this splendour, as behind a curtain of flame, you caught a glimpse of God, the millionaire of stars."
Jean Valjean:I:XVI, p. 1057

"The ideal is nothing more nor less than the culminating point of logic, even as the beautiful is nothing more nor less than the summit of the true."
Jean Valjean:I:XX, p. 1072

"The pupil dilates in the night, and at last finds day in it, even as the soul dilates in misfortune, and at last finds God in it."
Jean Valjean:III:I, p. 1104

"To love or be loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life. To love is a consummation."
Jean Valjean:VI:II, p. 1191

"It is not enough to be happy, we must be satisfied with ourselves."
Jean Valjean:VII:I, p. 1204

"God has his instruments. He uses what tool he pleases. He is not responsible to man."
Jean Valjean:VII:II, p. 1216

"'Because things are unpleasant,' said Jean Valjean, 'that is no reason for being unjust towards God.'"
Jean Valjean:IX:V, p. 1256


*sigh of happiness*

May 7, 2010, 8:25am Top

>29 booksontrial:: I have read very little theology, but those reviews made me want to read the books!

Ideas: I never like to say very much about stories that don't actually exist yet. I'm revising a novel and a poetry collection currently, so it's no surprise that I'm having short story ideas at the moment. They seem to fall into two categories: stories about music and musicians, and stories about islands. No musicians-on-an-island stories yet!

May 7, 2010, 8:29am Top

I didn't think it could be done, but you make me want to read Les Miserables. I've saved that posting.

May 8, 2010, 6:59pm Top

>32 atimco:: wisewoman

Your love for Les Miserables is very infectious! There is obviously a reason why you've read the 1500-page book three times and counting. :) What other books do you think are comparable to it?

It amazes me how often Hugo makes an astute observation or a profound statement in such a seemingly off-hand fashion. The quotables alone from his book would fill another volume.

Les Miserables, to me, is not so much a novel as an immense commentary of the world, of society, human nature, religion, history, revolution and progress, the Infinite and the minute, the beautiful and the ugly, the wise and the stupid, the noble and the base, sufferings and triumphs.

May 8, 2010, 7:22pm Top

>33 timjones:: timjones,

How about music on a mysterious island?

By coincidence, yesterday I got this YouTube video from a friend who called it "Star Trek meets Sergei". Give it a listen and let me know what you think. :)

May 11, 2010, 3:20am Top

Interesting thread.

How and where did you come across the Lu Xun quote in >22 booksontrial:?

I'm looking forward to your review of Godel Escher Bach. I have not read it, but I have read Hofstadter's translation of Eugene Onegin. It was terrible.

Edited: May 13, 2010, 2:29pm Top

I am always happy to share my love for Les Mis! RidgewayGirl, if/when you decide to read it, I'd love to hear your thoughts. If you don't like it I'll do my best not to be mortally offended :-P

Books that are comparable to Les Mis? Oh, hard question. The Count of Monte Cristo is an inversion of the same basic premise — or rather, Edmond Dantes is an inversion of Jean Valjean. I explore this idea a little further in my review for The Count of Monte Cristo. Both stories are full of adventure, but the Count's adventures are external while Valjean's are mostly inner turmoil. Though Hugo was no mean hand at pacing and dramatic tension either.

There are also some similarities between Les Mis and Thomas Hardy's The Mayor of Casterbridge (my review here).

I guess Dickens is probably the closest author to Hugo that I know of. Hmm.

May 13, 2010, 10:03pm Top

>38 atimco:: wisewoman,

You remind me of what a lady translator wrote in her introduction to Les Miserables, "Translation is like marriage".

Will you be mortally offended if someone tells you that Hugo was "vain, arrogrant, pompous, selfish, cold and stingy"? I couldn't believe what I was reading in the introduction of the Everyman's Library edition of Les Miserables, in the very first sentence no less! And a few passages later the person asked, "How did a monster come to write the masterpiece that is Les Miserables?"

If that doesn't make people want to read the book, I don't know what will. If Hugo had read that part of the introduction, he would perhaps have laughed out loud, just like a gamin would.

May 13, 2010, 11:17pm Top

BoT - Very interesting thread, and entertaining reviews. I love your warning in post 21.

Tim - Thanks so much for sharing about where your ideas come from, really that's great stuff. I find it quite interesting that you get a lot of ideas while walking. If I could write while driving...

May 14, 2010, 3:16am Top

>40 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

Nice to "see" you again :) I remember, from last year, that you like "science-ish" stuff.

Tim is not the only one who gets a lot of ideas while walking. Henry David Thoreau wrote an interesting essay on "Walking", in which he correlated the creativity of the people to the grandeur and beauty of the landscape. So you might want to consider taking a scenery route when you drive. :)

May 14, 2010, 3:24am Top

>37 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

The Lu Xun quote is a paraphrased translation from memory. He was one of my favorite writers growing up.

May 14, 2010, 8:26am Top

>36 booksontrial:, booksontrial: I like that video - you can't beat a good theremin! (Indeed, I am very fond of a number of the "pre-synthesiser" electronic instruments, such as the ondes Martenot, as frequently employed by Olivier Messiaen and played by Yvonne Loriod, and, in rock music, the Mellotron.) Thanks!

May 14, 2010, 12:03pm Top

>42 booksontrial: So where did you grow up? (curiosity killed the cat.....) I'm asking coz Lu Xun is not widely known in the West.

May 15, 2010, 5:11am Top

>44 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

Right across the ocean from where you are. :)

Edited: May 20, 2010, 3:04am Top

Ideas and Opinions by Albert Einstein

The more I read Einstein, the more I’m convinced that he was a Platonist. One might say that the Principle of General Relativity, that all laws of nature should behave the same to all observers regardless of their state of motion, is a philosophical principle rather than a physics theory. He believed that one can grasp the unifying, comprehensive law of physics by logic and intuition alone (Symposium), and that the world should be governed by a world government, a body consisting of intelligent and moral men (Republic).
(See full review here)

May 15, 2010, 8:03am Top

>40 dchaikin: Dan, I get ideas on longer drives but only in silence or while listening to music, not audiobooks or podcasts or kids :) There's a theory that correlates boredom with creativity ... which makes me worry about the future of creativity.

and >18 timjones: Tim, your characterization of a novel as a tangle of related ideas is the most helpful I've come across.

May 20, 2010, 3:04am Top

Einstein: His Life and Universe

A well-balanced, comprehensive account of Einstein’s personal life, scientific visions and achievements, as well as his political beliefs and activism.

The most thought-provoking aspects, to me, are the problem of continuity and causality, the practicality of pacifism, and the various interpretations and ramifications of quantum mechanics.

May 21, 2010, 4:16pm Top

#48 your last sentence raises some interesting points.

Do you have any particular views on these?

Continuity and causality..... now that sounds like a particularly intertesting area to reflect on.....

Edited: May 21, 2010, 11:05pm Top

>49 zenomax:: zenomax,

Good question. :) I haven't formed any views yet, but I'd be happy to discuss them.

The case against continuity:

According to Heraclitus, "You cannot step twice into the same river"; not even once, according to Cratylus.

When I thought about "continuity", the first thing that came to mind was a story in The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat. There's a man with severe memory loss, who can't remember things for more than a minute. If you talk to him for an hour and step out for a minute, when you return he doesn't recognize you any more. Everyday when he wakes up, he has no memory of what happened the day before.

At the subatomic level, particles exist in discrete states without any continuous transition in between; similarly, he lives in discrete states from moment to moment, day to day.

Edited: Jun 2, 2010, 6:51am Top

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo

In What is Art, Tolstoy gives few "examples of the highest art". Les Miserables is one of them.

"Les Miserables" is not so much a novel as an immense commentary of the world, of society, human nature, religion, history, revolution and progress, the Infinite and the minute, the beautiful and the ugly, the wise and the stupid, the noble and the base, sufferings and triumphs, love and sacrifice.

In a book full of the names, words and deeds of the great men in history, Caesar, Cicero, Dante, Danton, Napoleon, the hero is a condemned convict named Jean Valjean; In a book intended to be a manifesto of social progress, of the enlightenment of the people by art, science and literature, the real progress is the journey of the convict, through many internal battles, trials, dangers and snares, from darkness to light, from death to life.

This book gave me so much joy and hope, that I want to shout over and over: "Vive le Peuple!"

(See full review here)

May 31, 2010, 12:13am Top

Curses! Why couldn't I like that book???

May 31, 2010, 10:27am Top

Maybe in a couple years you will read it again and fall in love. Then you will have a great "testimony" to share with other reluctant Les Misers! :)

May 31, 2010, 9:40pm Top

>52 ChocolateMuse:: ChocolateMuse,

What didn't you like about the book?

>53 atimco:: wisewoman,

What's your favorite book by Dickens?

I watched movie productions of "Our Mutual Friend", "David Copperfield", "Great Expectations", and "A Tale of Two Cities" many years ago, but wasn't impressed at all, so didn't bother with the books.

If I had watched "Les Miserables" (1998) starring Liam Neeson (Nothing against Neeson who is a good actor, but the script is just terrible), I probably wouldn't read the book either. What a loss that would be!

May 31, 2010, 9:49pm Top

Excuse the strong language, but I thought Les Mis was sentimental, saccharine, opinionated and prejudiced.

It was ME, not the book that was wrong. But I still hate the thought of making the commitment to try again.

Edited: Jun 1, 2010, 12:20pm Top

54: Oh, let's see. I really, really loved Bleak House and Pickwick Papers. I think those would have to be my top two. I've really enjoyed everything I've read by Dickens (with the exception perhaps of Hard Times, which left me tepid).

The older BBC productions of Dickens' books do leave something to be desired in their innate stagey-ness. But the newer stuff is really excellent. The 2009 BBC production of Little Dorrit is one of the best miniseries I've ever seen. The casting, sets, cinematography, script, and music were all top-notch. I had one or two minor quibbles (like how they made Tattycoram black), but those were small in light of the whole. My husband and I enjoyed every minute of it.

We're currently watching the newest BBC production of Bleak House (2007, I think). It's very good, but we aren't loving it so much as we did Little Dorrit. But we have about six more hours to go, so there's plenty of time yet!

Anyhow, don't judge the books by their movies! Dickens is well worth revisiting.

I do have to confess a liking for the Neeson Les Mis though. I know it rushes and misses so many things from the book, but for a two-hour film I thought it managed to catch something of the book's spirit. Basil Poledouris' breathtaking score doesn't hurt it either!

Edit: Here is a youtube clip of the music and characters from Little Dorrit. It makes me want to watch it all over again! {Beware of spoilers if you don't know the story!}


Edited: Jun 2, 2010, 8:55pm Top

>56 atimco:: wisewoman,

Thanks for the link. Nice sets, cinematography and music indeed. I'm still not ready to revisit Dickens though. :) For some reason, I just didn't find his characters inspiring or fascinating enough for me to dig into the books.

With Les Miserables, the bishop was the hook that caught me. I still remember how awed I was more than 20 years ago watching him give the silver candles to Jean Valjean. That the goodness of one man alone, without any sort of violence, can overcome evil and transform another's life! Unfortunately, the screenplay writer of the Neeson movie seems to have a penchant for violence, which totally destroys the spirit of the book, imo.

Edit: What do you like about Bleak House? I looked for your review on LT, but couldn't find it.

Jun 2, 2010, 8:26am Top

#55: ChocolateMuse - it wasn't just you.

Jun 3, 2010, 2:29am Top

>58 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

If Hugo's eloquence didn't move you, my clumsy words certainly won't do any good. But I just want to discuss one point you raised in your review, if you don't mind.

"The 1st 100 pages develop a character and then drop him." The bishop was indeed a fascinating character. As I see it, he was not dropped but rather perfected. The meeting between him and Jean Valjean was the finishing touch. It was the battle between good and evil, and the bishop won by giving up the most precious item in his house. It's like the torch relay in the Olympic Games. Jean Valjean caught fire from him and carried on the "candle". In the end, he would also give up the most precious in his own life, Cosette. The character was complete, and the curtain dropped.

Jun 3, 2010, 12:54pm Top

I'm flattered you read my review so carefully. It was an attack of sorts, but by that comment I did not mean that to say the Bishop's section was a bad thing. It was one example of Hugo's diversions - and I argue these diversions are symptoms of an inflated writer's ego. :) Some of the diversions I thought were really nicely done, and some hit me as excessive.

I think Hugo saw the Bishop as perfected and the passing of the candlesticks is symbolic. In a sense the Bishop grounds the soul of the book and then passes the torch on to Valjean - and that is beautiful. If I found the Bishop something different then perfect, or the section on him too long, I still liked him quite a bit.

Jun 3, 2010, 10:16pm Top

>60 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

About the diversions, how do you judge between nicely done and excessive?

Jun 3, 2010, 10:46pm Top

Good question, I'm not sure. I think just whether I like it or not.

Jun 5, 2010, 2:23pm Top

>62 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

Fair enough. I guess if I ask how you judge between an "inflated" ego and a "normal" one, your answer would be the same. :)

For my part, Hugo expanded my horizon and opened my eyes to quite a few things. If that's an inflated ego, keep'em coming! I liked his explorations of Argot and the sewer, and would argue that they are highly relevant to the central theme. But the mute strikes again, sigh.

Edited: Jun 8, 2010, 12:27am Top

Ninety-Three by Victor Hugo

If you've read Les Miserables, you would notice a year mentioned throughout the book (although in the background), "93". It was the year of Terror during the French Revolution, when "many times freshly severed heads, borne aloft on the tops of pikes, sprinkled their blood-drops" over the table of the Assembly. It's also the central point of the debate between the bishop and a "conventionist": Is bloodshed inevitable in social progress?

(See full review here)

Jun 8, 2010, 10:12am Top

#63 I do have actual reasons for calling his ego "inflated"; and they're in my review. Of course, the fact that it often bothered me instead of working for me is entirely subjective and personal. Enjoyed your review of '93.

Jun 9, 2010, 8:33am Top

Congrats on your review of Ninety-Three going hot! :)

Jun 9, 2010, 11:26am Top

>65 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

If I understood your review of Les Misrables correctly, you would find the characters in Ninety-Three much more to your liking. I'm itching to find out if that's true. :)

As for "inflated" ego, I just think that there're no objective criteria or reference that can be used for comparison or judgment.

Jun 9, 2010, 11:29am Top

>66 atimco:: wisewoman,

Thanks. It just shows that not all hot reviews are good. :)

What exactly do you like about "Bleak House"?

Jun 11, 2010, 11:24pm Top

Hi booksontrial,

You mentioned Lu Xun earlier in your thread. I thought this article might interest you.


Jun 13, 2010, 1:44am Top

Murr, it certainly interested me! Thanks.

Jun 13, 2010, 10:04am Top

I didn't know anything about Lu Xun -- now I must find something by him to read. Thanks, Murr.

Jun 13, 2010, 2:50pm Top

>69 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

Thank you for the link. It brings back some good memories.

I didn't know that Lu Xun was influenced by Nikolai Gogol, until I read his Wiki page. No wonder he struck your fancy. :) Perhaps I should read Gogol first before delving into Dostoevsky. Which book would you recommend?

Jun 13, 2010, 9:01pm Top

Well, Lu Xun's famous story is called Dairy of a Madman, which is also the title of a short story by Gogol. So you could start with that.

Jun 14, 2010, 1:45pm Top

Dairy of a Madman? I thought it's called The Lectern. ;)

Jun 14, 2010, 10:10pm Top


Jun 15, 2010, 10:18pm Top

Sounds milky.

Jun 15, 2010, 11:44pm Top

typo. Damn. Well spotted Choco.

Jun 24, 2010, 5:04am Top

The Nature of the Gods by Cicero (reviewed here)

This is the first book by Cicero I've ever read, and I'm continuing on to read his On the Ideal Orator and The Republic and The Laws. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors.

Jun 26, 2010, 2:33pm Top

Yesterday, while I was crossing the street, someone behind me called out, "Brutus!" I looked around, and a black retriever ran past me, carrying a red shopping bag in his jaw. I stared at him with wonder and amusement, wondering what has become of the Roman hero/assassin.

Jun 26, 2010, 5:40pm Top

Was he ever really a Roman hero? I mean in hindsight most certianly. But I bet most Romans would find it fitting to name a dog Brutus.

Jun 27, 2010, 2:42am Top

>80 stretch:: stretch,

I for one never thought of him as a hero. The assassination of Caesar was misguided at best and cowardly at worst. But, Brutus as a personal shopping assistant? The lady dog owner must know something about him that I don't...

Jun 27, 2010, 11:42pm Top

I had a car I named Brutus. It was like this one below, only it was red, and my dad had put a BMW 5 series spoiler on the back, and some black stripes on the bonnet (I think you people say 'hood'?). The name is a sample of my unfortunate sense of humour, which few people get. (I don't blame them.)

Brutus-the-car didn't actually assassinate anyone, but it gave up the ghost by the highway in a lonely spot just on dusk one day when I was driving alone. I had to get it towed to the next town and spend the night in a motel, and go the rest of the way by train next day. After that I never saw Brutus again - he went to the wreckers and got squashed.

(sorry to hijack your thread)

Jun 28, 2010, 2:32am Top

>82 ChocolateMuse:: ChocolateMuse,

What were you doing driving alone on the highway, young lady?

Jun 28, 2010, 9:42pm Top

Cicero: Letters to Atticus Volume IV by Cicero

"vivit tyrannis, tyrannus occidit! eius interfecti morte laetamur cuius facta defendimus!"

"The tyranny lives on, the tyrant is dead! We rejoice at his slaughter and defend his acts!"

While I was reading those lines, the word "Iraq" crossed my mind in large letters. Those words uttered by Cicero more than two thousand years ago, resounding through history, still ring true today. What more is there to say?

Jun 29, 2010, 2:01am Top

>83 booksontrial:, well, I didn't think I would break down, did I? :-)

Silly of me.

>84 booksontrial:, there is nothing new under the sun.

Jul 10, 2010, 6:19pm Top

>85 ChocolateMuse:: ChocolateMuse,

I wasn't blaming you at all. :) I had a similar experience with my first car, though a bit more dramatic. It had an end worthy of a Jedi, i.e., burial with fire.

Jul 10, 2010, 6:30pm Top

The Toilers of The Sea by Victor Hugo

I don't know if Hugo and Nietzsche were familiar with each other's works or they had something in common in their personality. For some reason, reading this book gave me the desire to read Nietzsche. As if by coincidence, Thus Spoke Zarathustra just became available from our library.

Unfortunately, I have no inspirations nor words these days to write a review that would do this book justice.

Jul 11, 2010, 10:55pm Top

>86 booksontrial:: I sounded defensive, but wasn't. :) Yours sounds exceedingly dramatic - I hope the fire part wasn't accidental.

(or arsen, come to think of it...)

Jul 13, 2010, 5:59pm Top

87 -

Unfortunate you have now words to write a review. That is my next Hugo to read on this list and was looking forward to a review to reignite my fuel. Till then I'm reading a Stendhal in the meantime.

Jul 14, 2010, 10:45am Top

>89 lilisin:: lilisin,

Here is my review of Toilers. I finished it yesterday, just for you.:) Can't promise any fuel power though. :)

Jul 14, 2010, 11:38am Top

Oh no need to worry about the fuel power. I tend to create my own. ;)

But lovely lovely review. A style I haven't seen before but quite interesting. It suits those that haven't read it yet but I can definitely see how it is most likely even better having read the book. I'll have to remember to return when I do get to the book.

Thank you though.

And looking at my last message, how incoherent was that one?

Jul 15, 2010, 4:25pm Top

I am so glad you wrote a review of Toilers of the Sea. It is wonderful! I have the book on my shelf, and now I can't wait to read it.

Jul 15, 2010, 4:39pm Top

Congrats on your Toilers review going Hot. It's a good one! :)

Jul 15, 2010, 10:53pm Top

>91 lilisin:: lilisin,

I'm continuing my "Hugo binge". Just read your review of "The Last Day of a Condemned Man", and had a good laugh! You captured Hugo's humor very well! I'll get a copy today.

Jul 15, 2010, 10:58pm Top

>92 arubabookwoman:: arubabookwoman,

Glad you enjoyed the review. I have an agenda to promote Hugo's less well-known books, so I may be biased. :) When you've read it yourself, could you post your review too?

Jul 15, 2010, 11:01pm Top

>93 atimco:: wisewoman,

Thanks for the compliment! I was hard pressed into writing it. :)

Jul 16, 2010, 12:28am Top

Thanks booksontrial!

I had a lot of fun writing that review! It was the most inspired I've every been and it turned out fun I think. And you'll definitely get it when you read the book. I'll keep tabs on you until you read that one. And like you I love Hugo so have been reading all his "lesser-known" works. My mom has been wanting me to read Bug-Jargal for the longest time. I'll get to it soon. Only one Hugo per year. Must make them last!

Jul 17, 2010, 11:45am Top

Your Hugo binge has been fascinating. Excellent review of Toilers!

Jul 17, 2010, 2:30pm Top

>98 marise:: marise,

Welcome to this thread and thanks for your kind words!

Edited: Jul 17, 2010, 2:51pm Top

I was reading the "Biographical Note" at the back of The Last Day of a Condemned Man.

Hugo's wife Adele Foucher had an affair with another man (a novelist and critic), and he started a relationship with Juliette Drouet, his faithful mistress, until she died two years before Hugo. This sheds some new light on the ending of Toilers, and his comment on woman. I suspect Drouet joined him in exile on the island after he had written the book.

Jul 18, 2010, 3:21am Top

I must go on a Hugo hejira too. There seems to be much I have missed. I had never heard of The Last Day of a Condemned Man, so I will be anxious to see what you think of it.

Does anyone know of a good biography of Victor Hugo? I would be interested in learning more of the man himself.

Edited: Jul 24, 2010, 1:04pm Top

>101 alcottacre:: alcottacre,

Victor Hugo: A Biography by Graham Robb might be a good one. I have not read it yet, but based on the introduction he wrote to The Toilers of the Sea, Robb has a pretty good grasp of the life and works of Hugo. The book won the 1997 Whitbread Book Award for best biography (according to Wikipedia).

Edited: Jul 24, 2010, 4:11pm Top

Finished The Last Day of a Condemned Man. (Posted review here)

It's not an enjoyable read, not in the usual sense of the word. In fact, it caused me mental and physical discomfort, if not downright pain. The only other book that had a similar effect is Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich. These two books capture the last agonies of two men condemned to death, one by a terminal disease, the other by the death penalty, a social disease.

Jul 24, 2010, 3:50pm Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

Jul 24, 2010, 8:56pm Top

bookontrial -
Well that was a quick turnaround but it is a quick read indeed.
Glad to hear you "enjoyed" it.

Edited: Jul 25, 2010, 1:31pm Top

>105 lilisin:: lilisin,

Did you read the book in French? I wish I could do that.

I read the Hesperus Classics edition translated by Geoff Woollen. It's quite fluid and readable, but the sense of humor is a bit lost in translation, or at least different. I didn't realize it until near the end.

The following sentence made me laugh out loud, but then I thought, "That's not Hugo speaking!"

Since when did a decapitated head stand up on the rim of the basket and shout to the people, "I didn't feel a thing"?

I looked up the original French text, translated it on the web, and compared it with Christopher Moncrieff's translation. This is perhaps closer to the original:

Has anyone heard of a severed head covered in blood that got up on the edge of the basket and shouted to the crowd, “That didn’t hurt”?

Also, as you mentioned in your review, a man cries "who needs a spot?" to which our condemned man reflects "who wants mine?". In Woollen's translation, it's "Take mine!"

Jul 25, 2010, 3:33pm Top

Yes, I'm a native French speaker so I read primarily in French. So yeah, the translations on my review are my translations from the original. A bit unfortunate to know that the humor is a bit lost in the translation. But this is very traditional French humor which is all in the way you express what you're saying and that can indeed be difficult to translate.

I like my "who wants mine?" translation because I feel "take mine!" sounds too desperate and unlike the character. Especially considering the sequence.

"A rage formed in me against the people. I wanted to scream at them: 'who wants mine?'".

It just shows the absurdity of the mob.

Jul 25, 2010, 4:07pm Top

>107 lilisin:: lilisin,

I like your translation too, and am glad to have a native speaker to compare notes with. Merci beaucoup :)

Edited: Jul 25, 2010, 8:02pm Top

Any time any time. And now I need to get back to my Stendhal. :)

Jul 26, 2010, 2:45am Top

#102: I will look for that one. Thanks!

Edited: Jul 26, 2010, 3:22am Top

>109 lilisin:: lilisin,

It's Hugo's year for me. :) I'm still reading Notre-Dame de Paris. The Man who Laughs is next. Come to think of it, I should plan a trip to Paris too, if only to see the cathedral with the book still fresh in my mind.

>110 alcottacre:: alcottacre,

Let me know what you think when you get to it.

Jul 26, 2010, 7:49am Top

>111 booksontrial:: I'm not sure I could read a series of Hugo's books back to back. I've read only two (Hunchback and Les Miserables)—I enjoyed both but was also glad to sit back and try something lighter after each one.

Jul 26, 2010, 11:36am Top

Notre-Dame de Paris is a wonderful book because of the two principal characters: Frollo and the cathedral. If you read my review for that one you'll see how annoyed I get with the misnomer that is the title for the English translation (The Hunchback of Notre-Dame) because Quasimodo is most certainly not the main character. If you were to actually visit Paris and the cathedral you'll see how his descriptions are magnificent.

L'homme qui rit, eh? Hmm, maybe I should read that next so we can compare notes on that one.

Jul 26, 2010, 4:00pm Top

>112 TadAD:: TadAD,

I felt the same way after finishing War and Peace last year. It was like a delicious feast that made everything else seem unpalatable. But still, when I find a writer that I enjoy, I want to read most, if not all, of his/her works.

BTW, I really like the Claude Monet painting in your profile. You have great taste. :)

Jul 26, 2010, 4:17pm Top

>113 lilisin:: lilisin,

What's a Parisian doing in Colorado? :)

Not that Paris needs any advertisement for tourists, but I've never wanted to visit Paris so much as when I read Hugo's "Ecce Paris, Ecce Homo" in Les Miserables. His love for the city is quite apparent and contagious.

Forget Stendhal, let's read Hugo together! :) Toilers and The Man Who Laughs were recommended to me by two LTers. I also enjoyed Ninety-Three and would recommend that as well.

Jul 26, 2010, 8:26pm Top

>114 booksontrial:: Thank you. :-)

I also read War and Peace earlier this year and I remember sitting back and saying, "Wow!"

Jul 26, 2010, 9:29pm Top

way back to post 90 - great review of Toilers of the Sea, that was fun to read.

Jul 27, 2010, 12:36am Top

Parisian born and raised in the States. Just how the cookie crumbled.

I have Toilers with me, and Bug-Jurgal. Don't have the others. Might need my parents to bring those back from France so I can read them.

Jul 27, 2010, 2:44am Top

>118 lilisin:: lilisin,

In that case, I think you might appreciate Toilers more, because you can relate to Hugo as a Parisian living in a English-speaking country. You could tell from the book that he was quite homesick.

Jul 27, 2010, 3:02am Top

>117 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

Have you finished "Swann's Way"? I'd be very interested in reading your review.

Jul 27, 2010, 10:41am Top

#121 - I did finish Swann's Way, but review will be a bit in coming...well, it won't be a "review", that's beyond me, just some commentary. I am anxious to get my thoughts down (before I forget them), but it's one of six books I haven't covered yet.

Jul 27, 2010, 11:45am Top

>121 dchaikin:: dchaikin,

Well, if you need a little push, could I put in a priority request for a commentary of Combray (or whichever your favorite is)? Once you sort one out, the rest will hopefully fall into place.

Jul 27, 2010, 1:17pm Top

I've kind of a mental structure in place on these - at the moment - that is resisting any push...this is strange, I know.

Edited: Jul 29, 2010, 11:09pm Top

To commemorate Bach's death


and the best way to enjoy his music


Edited: Jul 30, 2010, 1:56am Top

#124: Thanks for posting the Gould videos. I love Bach.

Aug 2, 2010, 10:48am Top

>125 alcottacre:: alcottacre,

Do share if you know of any good CDs or videos of Bach. I'd be very grateful. :)

Edited: Aug 2, 2010, 12:11pm Top

Finished On the Nature of Things by Lucretius. (posted review here)

Highly recommended for its epic scope, clarity of thought, beauty of narrative, richness of humor and compassion.

Aug 5, 2010, 6:10pm Top

#126: I have a terrific set of DVDs of the Brandenburg Concertos recorded by a group out of Germany, Freiburg Baroque Orchestra. They use period instruments for their DVDs. I ordered mine directly from their website rather than through Amazon. The DVDs were actually cheaper coming from Germany, although that was a couple of years ago so it may no longer be the case. Their website is here: http://www.barockorchester.de/englisch/e_orchest.htm if you are interested.

Aug 6, 2010, 7:58am Top

>126 booksontrial:: Angela Hewitt's recordings of the English Suites and the French Suites are quite good.

Aug 7, 2010, 3:16am Top

>129 TadAD:: TadAD,

Thanks for the recommendation. I'm downloading her English Suites album as I type. I have Glenn Gould's Edition already, but it's interesting to listen to a different interpretation. How do you like her recordings of Well-Tempered Clavier?

Aug 7, 2010, 3:39am Top

>128 alcottacre:: alcottacre,

How did you learn about the group? I couldn't find their DVD in iTune Store, and they don't accept credit card purchase. How did you pay for it?

Edited: Aug 8, 2010, 9:30pm Top

They don't accept credit card purchase? How retarded.

Books, what do you think of the Collegium Vocale with Herreweghe's recordings of the two passions?

Also, are you familiar with Andreas Schiff's performances of Bach's 24 preludes and fugues. To my mind they beat GG's.

Edited: Aug 9, 2010, 10:07pm Top

>132 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

Which Collegium Vocale recordings are you referring to? They have more than one with different soloists. I like some but not the others. As a whole, the two Passions are beyond my depth at this point.

I'm not familiar with Schiff, though I've heard a few of his performances. Could you send me a link? Thanks.

Aug 9, 2010, 10:08pm Top

Finished Notre-Dame de Paris yesterday. Let's see how long it would take for me to write a decent review this time.

Aug 10, 2010, 12:07am Top


This is the recording of Schiff I have. He is more graceful and legere than Gould, who is a bit of a hammer artist, I feel.

The recordings of the passion I have are these:



What do you mean beyond your depth? start listening! These are Bach's masterpieces: it will take your whole life to get to grips with them. Start NOW!:)

Btw, the Mathew Passion recording in the link above comes with an excellent and interesting CDROm explaining the cultural and musical contexts and structure of the work. fascinating.

Aug 10, 2010, 2:27am Top

>135 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

Some of Gould's interpretations don't make sense to me. I don't think it's fair to judge him by those alone though. What I enjoy most about his performances is how he recreates the magnificent architecture in Bach's music.

Gould is NOT a hammer artist, if only by virtue of his playing technique. I used to think Vladimir Horowitz fit that title, because he butchered one of my favorite piece (can't remember which). But, many people enjoy his performances and would vehemently disagree with me. Each one to his own.

Thanks for the link. I have those recordings of the Passions already. I'll download Schiff as well, and compare his interpretations with Gould's.

Edited: Aug 10, 2010, 12:30pm Top

Back from vacation... I wouldn't do double-posting either!! Glad to have note of your other 'home' and I'll be back. While I read the rest of hte 75 thread, I must admit I just jumped to the end of this one, but will continue from here. Thx for the recs for my dad. I'll mention them to him.

ETA I did just glance up... oooh piano :) Last year we had a "what you're playing" thread. I was reading through some Schubert, but just found a book in my library I don't even recognize... one of those "best of" compilations with a mess of classics. THink I'll move it down to the piano and give them a whirl :)

Aug 10, 2010, 2:44pm Top

#131: I discovered the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra on Youtube. I cannot remember how I bought the DVDs - I think it was through Paypal?

Aug 11, 2010, 8:03pm Top

Just found out today that there're actually 6 stanzas in "Amazing Grace". I only know how to sing 4 of them.

Amazing Grace

John Newton (1725-1807)

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T'was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we've been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun.

Aug 11, 2010, 8:09pm Top

I know all but the fifth stanza. Neat. Where did you hear this version?

Aug 14, 2010, 2:15pm Top

>140 atimco:: wisewoman,

I haven't heard or sung this song for a long time, but that day during lunch hour -- I was having lunch at a public square with pitched glass roof--the song came to me as if it was hovering in the air just under the glass roof. How beautiful and majestic it is! After that, I couldn't get it out of my mind for three days.

Aug 16, 2010, 8:50am Top

It took me seven days, but I finally finished my review of Notre-Dame de Paris (posted here) Going kaput. Wretched mute that I am...

Aug 16, 2010, 11:46am Top

An interesting review but admittedly not my favorite by you. I liked the format again and I feel like you touched on some good ideas but I didn't really hearyour opinion. I can tell you enjoyed it but to what degree? Also are you like me on disliking the translation of the title to English? I still wish it shared the same title.

Aug 16, 2010, 1:24pm Top

>143 lilisin:: lilisin,

I very much like the way you give instant feedback. How is that for an opinion? :) I would write a better review if only I knew how.

I completely agree with you on the title. The main character is not the hunchback but the cathedral and the archdeacon

Does a 4.5/5 rating tell you nothing about how much I like it? :) I deducted 0.5 point only because the theme of a single mother with her child became a bit repetitive to me. (I've seen it twice already, i.e., in Les Miserables and Ninety-Three)


Aug 16, 2010, 11:15pm Top

Ha. I'm pretty much on LT all day as I tend to browse as a break from things or I'll be on my iPod touch and browse on that. I'm on a bit of a break from posting so this is actually only my third post in August. But I've been making sure to keep track of your thread. And yes the rating says much. And it reminds me that I reminded myself to check it but I guess I ended up forgetting. :)

Edited: Aug 17, 2010, 7:40am Top

>130 booksontrial:: Hi, sorry for the delay; I was away on a trip.

Anyway—I don't own Hewitt's Well-Tempered Clavier. I've got Richter's and Gould's versions so far. Neither of them evoke that "this is just how it should be played!" feeling in me. I occasionally enjoy the Richter, though it's a far way toward the Romantic in interpretation. The Gould evokes an intellectual appreciation but not an emotional one. I fear that's my reaction to much of Gould's playing...I can appreciate what he's doing without it grabbing me up.

Aug 17, 2010, 9:08pm Top

Candide by Voltaire

How to Write a Good Piece (of Tragedy)

“To be new without being odd, often sublime and always natural, to know the human heart and to make it speak; to be a great poet without allowing any person in the piece to appear to be a poet; to know language perfectly–to speak it with purity, with continuous harmony and without rhythm ever taking anything from sense.”

Aug 18, 2010, 8:25am Top

That's a tall order!

Aug 18, 2010, 9:08pm Top

>148 atimco:: wisewoman,

Wait till you see Voltaire's unflattering criticism of Paradise Lost! He almost snuffed out my desire to read the classic. But then he didn't spare Homer, Horace, Virgil and Cicero either. So at least Milton was in good company.

Edited: Aug 18, 2010, 9:42pm Top

>146 TadAD:: TadAD,

Whose performance of Bach (on an instrument) do you find most gripping?

Edited: Aug 20, 2010, 9:51am Top

>150 booksontrial::

Wow! That's a tough one. I'm not sure I could pick just one because I listen to different types of Bach in different situations. For example, I like the Brandenburg Concertos while working, but I like solo instrument stuff when just sitting and listening.

I love Marriner/Academy of St. Martin in the Fields doing the Brandenburg Concertos.

Grumiaux's version of the violin Sonatas and Partitas.

Feltsman doing the Well Tempered Clavier. I don't have many recordings of these, but I prefer this one to the Richter and marginally to the Tureck.

Peter Serkin doing the Two Part Inventions. Since none of my other Peter Serkin recordings amaze me (some of his father's do!), I often wonder whether I love these simply because he plays them with the speed and tone I most enjoy. Someone like Sebestyen does an amazing job, but he plays them too fast for my taste. I love the inventions and want time to appreciate what's going on instead of someone proving to me how technically proficient they are.

Having just read Siblin's The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece, I picked up both the Casals' and the Yo Yo Ma recordings. I'm slowly but surely getting into these pieces and think I prefer the Casals of those two (haven't heard the Rostropovich or Starker versions, yet), though the recording is really no so hot by today's standards.

Aug 20, 2010, 2:29pm Top

>151 TadAD:: TadAD,

Thanks for the detailed post. There is so much of Bach I haven't explored yet! :) Sir. Neville Marriner and Academy of St. Martin in the Fields' recordings are of good quality in general, imo.

I read Casals' Joys and Sorrows (recommended) after listening to his CD recording of the cello suites. I compared Yo Yo Ma, Casals, Rostropovich, Pierre Fournier and some others, and like Casals and Fournier's interpretations best. Casals is the more lively and expressive of the two; the overall sound quality of Fournier's recording is a bit better.

Edited: Aug 24, 2010, 9:25pm Top

Another week passed. Made some final revisions to my review of Notre-Dame de Paris, and post it on the book page. Sorry, Mr. Hugo, I tried my best. Unfortunately, my writing skills are not proportional to the degree I like your works.

Aug 26, 2010, 5:22am Top

#153: Very nice review. Thanks for that.

Aug 30, 2010, 4:51pm Top

I find I prefer hearing Bach when I know who's playing it well (and they're playing well). And, sad to say, after a) falling asleep when my album was playing one of the Brandenburg and played it over and over and b) having the middle orchestra trying to play one while I was doing student teaching pretty much burnt me out on the Brandenburg concerti.

I prefer playing the inventions :)

Edited: Sep 1, 2010, 2:35pm Top

>155 suslyn:: suslyn,

Can't remember when was the last time I listened to Brandenburg. Maybe I'll revisit it someday.

I used to play a couple of Bach's CDs when I went on long drives. I could play them over and over again without ever getting bored or sleepy. Can't say the same for most other composers or musicians.

Edited: Sep 2, 2010, 3:37am Top

On Christian Teaching by Saint Augustine

If you're a Christian and like How to Win Friends & Influence People, read this book.

(Review posted on my blog.)

Sep 2, 2010, 11:35am Top

I listen to the Brandenburgs over and over all the time, especially in the early morning. They really pep me up at the start of the day. I love Richter's old recordings: they're kind of gutsy.

I have real problems with most French recordings of Bach. I feel they don't capture the Lutheran, hearty spirit that underlies all of Bach's music. They tend to overarticulate and fuss over things. But that's just me.

I'm on a hunt for the serkin you mentioned above, TaDad.

Books, I read something Dosotevsky wrote about the Journal d'un Condamne the other day, and I thought, oh I must show this to Books. I will dig around and find it and post it up for you as sooon as I can.

Sep 2, 2010, 7:16pm Top

>158 tomcatMurr:: This is the one I have, TCM.

Sep 2, 2010, 8:59pm Top

>159 TadAD:: TadAD,

Thanks, I'll check out Serkin too.

>158 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

I'm looking forward to reading Dosotevsky's notes.

Sep 4, 2010, 2:12pm Top

#157 I still haven't read any of my Augustine but you are prompting me to bump it nearer the top of the huge TBR mound. Maybe I will get to one of them before the year is out!

Edited: Sep 4, 2010, 2:22pm Top

>161 souloftherose:: souloftherose,

What a coincidence! I just posted my review of Augustine's On Christian Teaching on the book page.

What do I have to do to make it sit on top of your TBR? :)

Sep 4, 2010, 4:46pm Top

Every time I see new posts on your thread I think "Come on, not done already with the Hugo!". I just reached part two today. I don't have the time right now to read everyday but I have been reading sizeable chunks when I can. What part are you on?

Sep 4, 2010, 4:55pm Top

>163 lilisin:: lilisin,

LOL, I was going to ask you the same question. I didn't read any Hugo this past week, so I thought you must have passed me, and you did!

I was sidetracked into reading Thus Spoke Zarathustra by Nietzsche, strange to say by Hugo himself, The Toilers. Hopefully I'll finish that this weekend and catch up on Hugo.

Sep 5, 2010, 1:16am Top

Photo of the Day

Can you guess what the two birds below were doing just before the photo was taken?

I would not have believed it had I not seen it myself.

Sep 5, 2010, 3:31am Top

#162 I've moved Confessions to the top of the book pile on my bedside table!

Sep 6, 2010, 5:33pm Top

>165 booksontrial: -- what? LOL

Augustine -- good stuff :)

Edited: Sep 6, 2010, 9:36pm Top

Story of the Day

Re: Message 165

I was walking on the beach yesterday, and met these two birds. Their "strange" behavior stopped me in my tracks.

They were walking side by side, back and forth. The black bird was constantly touching the white one's breast with his beak while making a screeching sound. I don't know bird speech, but I could immediately grasp the situation. It's like a child asking his mother for food or a friend begging for a favor. I was a bit puzzled because they apparently weren't related, what could the black one possibly be asking for?

The white bird, meanwhile, remained silent and tried to turn away from the black one. The black one kept begging, until suddenly, the white bird let out a cry, as if to say "Okay! Enough!" Voila! She regurgitated some food out of her mouth and dropped it on the ground. The black bird fed on it happily and stopped screeching.

Sep 6, 2010, 9:14pm Top

Utterly amazing.

Sep 7, 2010, 2:35pm Top

wonder if it was the child?

Sep 9, 2010, 1:14am Top

164 -

I just flew back to the States from France so the nice long international flight has brought me just short of Part 2, Book 3! Some interesting characters have been introduced including one with some Frollo-like qualities. You need to catch up so we can discuss.

Plus I have a few more international flights coming up this month so I should be really going through this book quickly.

Edited: Sep 16, 2010, 3:06am Top

Sep 15, 2010, 3:31pm Top

Raison d'être of This Thread

Vote: Do you find this thread helpful / enjoyable?

Current tally: Yes 12, No 2, Undecided 2

Sep 15, 2010, 8:15pm Top

Books, if anyone didn't, they probably wouldn't be in here :)

Sep 15, 2010, 9:22pm Top

>174 ChocolateMuse:: ChocolateMuse,

Glad you're here. Now you know what caused the "dramatic" end of my first car. :)

Sep 15, 2010, 9:48pm Top

Yes indeed! I want to know the full story. How deep was the abyss? How did you escape the fire? Seems pretty traumatic to me - Brutus being squashed was mild in comparison.

Sep 19, 2010, 11:25pm Top

>176 ChocolateMuse:: ChocolateMuse,

In due time. The story should fit in the theme of the reviews.

Sep 19, 2010, 11:30pm Top

>171 lilisin:: lilisin,

I finished The Man Who Laughs today. The pace in the second half of the novel is fast, like a roller coaster. It might take me some time to come up with a review, though.

Sep 20, 2010, 7:28pm Top

The pressure is on! Ick!

Edited: Sep 25, 2010, 2:11am Top

If you're feeling under pressure, or simply a bit depressed, this video should cheer you up! :)

Richard Feynman playing bongos

I gotta have my orange juice!!!

Edited: Oct 5, 2010, 12:57am Top

Finished Saint Augustine: Select Letters and Letters of Saint Augustine.

The following is excerpted from a letter written by Augustine a year before his death at age 75. Judge for yourself whether his books and letters are worth reading. (More quotes posted here)

On Praise

For when good men are praised, the praise confers a benefit on those who bestow it, not on those who receive it. For as far as concerns the good, the fact that they are good is sufficient, but the others, whose interest it is to imitate the good, are to be congratulated when they bestow praise on the good, since by doing so they show that they are pleased by those whom they praise in sincerity. ... Why should I not therefore find pleasure in being praised by you, when you are (unless I am mistaken in you) a good man and bestow your praise upon the things which you admire and which it is profitable and wholesome for you to admire, even if they be lacking in me? This benefits not only you, but me too, for if they are lacking in me, it is wholesome for me to be shamed and inflamed with desire to acquire them. And so the qualities I recognize in your praises as my own I rejoice in possessing and in having you love them and me for their sake; those on the other hand that I fail to recognize as mine I yearn to acquire, not only in order to possess them for myself, but also to keep those who have a genuine love for me from being deluded when they praise me.

On His Confessions

Take them, my son, take, excellent Sir, Christian that you are not on the surface only, but with Christian love--take, I repeat, those books of my Confessions that you asked for; in them behold me, so that you praise me not beyond what I am; in them give your belief to me, not to others who speak of me; in them observe me and see what I was of myself, by myself, and if anything in me gives you pleasure, join me in praising for it Him Whom I desired to have praise from me, and not myself; for "He hath made us and not we ourselves" --indeed we had destroyed ourselves, but He Who made us, re-made us. And when in them you find me, pray for me that I may not suffer defeat, but may be made complete; pray my son, pray.

Oct 5, 2010, 8:40am Top

...but the others, whose interest it is to imitate the good, are to be congratulated when they bestow praise on the good, since by doing so they show that they are pleased by those whom they praise in sincerity.

He is so right. Admiration of the good makes the admirer imitate the person praised. I see this all the time in my own life with the people I look up to.

Oct 6, 2010, 12:06am Top

Just finished L'Homme qui Rit. Very much enjoyed it. Liked the ending as well.

Oct 6, 2010, 12:14am Top

I simply don't understand the North America obsession with St Augustine. I find most of the extracts given above boring, fatuous and banal. Most of ST Augustine is deeply repellent in its utter hypocrisy, I mean to trumpet on and on about love when really it's incredibly obvious that he was filled with hatred, especially towards the body. He has done more than anyone else to poison Western man's (and women's) relationship to the body than anyone else.

Vile. Vile. Vile.

Oct 6, 2010, 1:13am Top

>184 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

If it isn't obvious to you, St. Augustine is one of my favorite authors. I regard him as a wise and compassionate man and my friend; I find your accusations groundless and your rantings wearisome.

"When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man,
The foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.
Men of bloodshed hate the blameless,
But the upright are concerned for his life.
A fool always loses his temper,
But a wise man holds it back. "

Oct 6, 2010, 1:19am Top

>183 lilisin:: lilisin,

Glad you enjoyed it. I see that you gave it a 4.5 rating, where is that half point? I'm still in a rut, and can't write up a decent review. Maybe reading yours would give me some inspiration. :)

Oct 6, 2010, 1:30am Top

wow, books, that's real friendly of you.

Is that platitudinous nonsense you quoted also by your fwend st Augustine?

'Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the kings horses and all the kings men
Couldn't put Humpty together again.'

Oct 6, 2010, 1:45am Top

>187 tomcatMurr:: tomcatMurr,

No, it's from the Proverbs. It crossed my mind when I started responding to your post. I considered you a friend too, and certainly didn't mean to insult or hurt you.

Oct 6, 2010, 8:35am Top

185: So wise. I love Proverbs. The truths are so simple, but profoundly hard to follow.

Oct 6, 2010, 10:09am Top

My review is quite lackluster and not really a review so I don't know how much you'll get from it. But you can find it under my Club Read thread.

I realized last night that I've been rating all my books really high this year. Don't really know if they should all be up there but they are. The half star comes from the fact that I missed some of Hugo's humor which he had in his other works. And when I read a lot of books by one author I tend to start ranking books within that author's body of work. So compared to The Condemned Man this book didn't strike me as much. But I still really enjoyed it.

I felt the same way as you though in that writing a real review seemed difficult. Hence my blurb.

Oct 11, 2010, 2:43am Top

Happy Belated Birthday, John Lennon.

Obla Di Obla Da


Edited: Oct 11, 2010, 2:52pm Top

Finally, a review of The Man who Laughs, after three weeks!

Posted on the book page and on my blog

Maybe I should quit writing reviews and return to digests. That would be a lot easier.

Oct 11, 2010, 4:20pm Top

So you liked it. Good. :)

Oct 11, 2010, 4:26pm Top

>193 lilisin:: lilisin,

Did you get that from my review or my rating? :)

I think it's one of the best Hugo's novels I've read, but just couldn't do it justice in my review.

Oct 11, 2010, 6:48pm Top

Yeah for some reason that was a tough one to review. Don't know what it is exactly that made it so difficult. In any case, I enjoyed reading the Hugo with you. We'll have to do it again sometime. :)

Oct 11, 2010, 8:25pm Top

I think Hugo is just hard to review, period.

...we still make the choices which alone ultimately shape our destiny.

I appreciate how this viewpoint shoulders responsibility for one's choices. But at the same time I can't agree with it wholeheartedly; my strongly theist position holds that God's choices override man's. His will is not subject to ours.

Barkilphedro? Even the name is shudder-worthy!

Oct 12, 2010, 1:46am Top

>195 lilisin:: lilisin,

It's nice to read and discuss a book together, like a online bookclub. I like your Author Theme Read idea, and just joined your group.

I'm planning to read two more books by / on Hugo this year: "Memoirs of Victor Hugo" and Victor Hugo: A Biography by Graham Robb, if I can get a copy of either. But for the remaining of 2010, I'll focus on Greco-Roman classics.

Oct 12, 2010, 2:05am Top

>196 atimco:: wisewoman,

I was only recapitulating Hugo's position as I understood it without arguing for or against it. :)

Hugo studied etymology. I wouldn't be surprised if "Barkilphedro" was derived from some reptilian creature.

Oct 12, 2010, 8:06am Top

198: And I was just stating why I don't agree with what Hugo appears to be saying, not what you said :). We're good my friend!

Oct 12, 2010, 1:48pm Top

I owe much of my understanding of Free Will to St. Augustine. This is what I think:

God does not override our choice in the sense that He limits our free choice, on the contrary, He enables us to make truly free choices.

A person can make free choices only to the extent that he himself is free. A slave can choose to disobey his master, but if he does that often, he won't survive long. "True democracy is the ability to say NO to your boss without having to worry about where your next meal comes from".

We are all bound by necessities. Only God is not bound by necessities. He alone is Free. Accordingly, our free choice of will is truly free only when it's in unity with God's will. "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" "Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Oct 12, 2010, 2:32pm Top

Reached 200 posts. Time for a new thread.

It's only fitting that this thread started with St. Augustine and ends with him too. :)

Part II thread

Group: Club Read 2010

105 members

12,680 messages


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.




About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 135,495,362 books! | Top bar: Always visible