Posts Tagged ‘Marcel Proust’

Back to Nature–Books Whirlybinge

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My last post was in September.  I had just started graduate school, and since then, it’s been a “mad coupla months”!  Reading and writing for every book, for quizzes and tests. Abstracts, research papers, annotations. I love it!  Writing for school is kinda chill.  It satisfies a hunger that can’t be fed by anything material.  All the reading and writing works like Slick50 in my brain.  New words and ideas are firing sparks, making new connections – synapses snapping all day long in a jazzy funk rhythm that knows no time and no boundaries.  My mind is so active and firing on all pistons…

But it’s Christmas holidays now – what some people call “winter” break.  Qoi?  Brutha, pleez!  Down in South Texas, the kindest thing I can say is that it’s NOT 100 degrees F. 

So what’s my point? Where, even?  Well, I was writing an informal essay for every novel, interpreting Middle English, analyzing, synthesizing, assessing – the whole Bloom’s.  Writing for the blog seemed redundant.  Also, I wondered whether writing about the same book here and for class might create a conflict.  I knew in my heart, there would be a significant slip differential between how the work was represented for academic purposes and how I felt about it personally.  Case in point: PATTERN RECOGNITION by William Gibson.  The protagonist Cayce is ridiculously hip and cool in her anti-logo fetish, but the novel itself is well-boring. Snail’s pace. Grim, gray other-world that’s a cross between Graham Greene and Ray Bradbury, except not interesting.  But through academic eyes, it’s a disturbingly visionary story.  Cayce talks about people she doesn’t ever see, chats online with people she never sees but once or twice. Her life has almost nothing to do with human interaction and a lot to do with cyber-communication.  Are we headed there or are we already there?  Geddit?

So I let the blog go for the time-being.  But now that it’s the hols, let the variety begin!


Saturnalia, Volume I: Books 1-2 (Loeb Classical Library)[1] Lucian, Vol. 7: Dialogues of the Dead / Dialogues of the Sea-Gods / Dialogues of the Gods / Dialogues of the Courtesans (Loeb Classical Library, No. 4[2] Genealogy of the Pagan Gods, Volume 1: Books I-V (I Tatti Renaissance Library)[3]
Juvenal and Persius (Loeb Classical Library)[4] Boccaccio, Beauvau and Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde : Four Perspectives on Influence[5] Days of Reading (Penguin Great Ideas)[6]
One Continuous Mistake : Four Noble Truths for Writers[7] How to Give Effective Feedback to Your Students[8] The Consolation of Philosophy (Norton Critical Editions)[9]


[1]  I really enjoyed Somnium Scipionis which led me to pick up this SATURNALIA of Macrobius.   LINK to good online overview of this work.  I also have this Loeb by Cicero – De Officiis (Walter Miller, trans.).  LINK to online overview.

[2]  Effing Cool, Irresistible titles!

Product Details[3]  Again – Effing Cool Title. It’s early days but it’s sounding like a crosMs between Bullfinch’sMythology and Ovid’s Metamorpheses.  Loving it! (LINK to online version)  (Who the hell needs Effing SparkNotes for Bullfinch’s Mythology???)


[4]  My Medieval Lit prof talked about these satires and I had a Pavlovian reaction to the word “satire”.  That being, ears perk up, blood flows a little faster, I start thinking of clever wordplay, double-entendres, taking the piss, etc.  I shan’t rule out a touch of salivating. (UofMichigan Collection)  I finished reading the six Juvenal satires and, while there was a strong odor of whingeing, the translation was accomplished with a good ear for standup comedy.  Very Lewis Black in nature.

image[5]  4 Perspectives on Troilus and Criseyde.  Pure intellectual spelunking. Highbrow fun.  It reads like the author’s doctoral dissertation, though. What a wonderful advantage to be able to do research in more than one language.  For all that English is wonderfully comprehensive, I now feel incomplete that I can’t read German or Italian well enough (yet) to do more thorough research in Medieval literature. (LINK to online version) My favorite version of T&C is George Phillip Krapp’s rendition in verse.  It’s out of print, but I managed to find a copy through

[6]   Ahhh, Proust. You most nerdy of nerds. Is there a French word for “nerd”?  Do the French even need one?  You might think not, but then again, Franck Ribery.  C’est une tare’.  Une grosse dinde. 

Product Details[7]  I actually ordered this book in 2009 on the recommendation of my student teacher that semester.  I lent it to a friend because I started reading the other book that ordered with it.  Haven’t seen it since but it’s cool.  That’s a good sign, I think. Beautiful cover design. Very easy to read. It’s kind of like A Writing Life by Annie Dillard.  It just has that kind of “become one with the pencil” kind of vibe.  It’s actually a great apologia for writing, as is Dillard’s book.

[8]  Not here yet

[9] Not here yet.


A Writing Life (Annie Dillard)

One Continuous Mistake

Satires of Juvenal and Persius

Navarro’s Promise  (Lora Leigh)

Geneology of The Pagan Gods

Pattern Recognition (William Gibson)

“Simulacra and Simulations” by Jean Baudrillard (Chapter 7 of Baudrillard’s Selected Writings, Mark Poster, ed.)

Dara Joy/MoD: Knight of A Trillion Stars


Knight of a Trillion Stars (Matrix of Destiny)Readers tend to mark time by the books they read.  They divide their lives into “the year I explored science fiction” or “The year I discovered Cormac McCarthy”, or even “the month I spent vainly trying to get through one Proust”.  And like that.  For me, the 1990s were when I discovered sci-fi romance, and these publishers – LoveSpell/Leisure, Pinnacle, and St. Martin’s – put out some of the definitive books of their subgenre.  Put out!  Oooh, naughty!  Nyah-Nyah 

Now that I have time to re-re-re-read Dara Joy’s trilogy, I’m wondering if this trend was the harbinger of many of the books put…er…published by Ellora’s Cave and St. Martin’s.  Joy’s weren’t the only sci-fi romance books.  Johanna Lindsey wrote one or two sci-fi softcore stories, and Kathleen A. Morgan (not to be confused with the writer of Christian romances – please!) wrote really sexxie stories.  Linsey’s were straight futuristic whereas Morgan’s included shape-shifters and half-and-halfs.  This one, Heart’s Lair, was one of the Product Detailsbest of its kind along with the MoD series.  That’s Fabioon the cover, by the way.  This book was way HAWT!  It’s out of print, but you can probably pick one up for a song from a used book seller on or  You probably won’t find KoATS or Heart’s in a used bookstore, but you will find a ton of Joy’s non-MoD books like Ritual of Proof, High Energy, and High Intensity.  I’m not going to hyperlink them because they massively suck!  And blow!  It’s a shame because HI and HI have likable characters.  Seriously, don’t both with RoP.  It’s a RoP-OFF.  On second thought…

I started thinking about Mills and Gregor and I could not deny any reader access to that fabulous “almost couple”.

So to sum up, it’s an avenue worth exploring because I believe they lead us to where are are – today with Lora Leigh’s Breed stories, Sherrilyn Kenyon’s Weres and the hardcore love scenes that have become de rigeur for at least one brand by every romance publisher – for example, Harlequin  Blaze.

Getting back to KoATS, the cover models are gorgeous.  If you have ever seen the 2003 WB “Tarzan” with Travis Fimmel and Sarah Wayne Callies, the cover models remind me so much of them!  It’s weird.

Here’s a video from “Tarzan” since Lorgin and Deana spent a lot of time in baths.

Divine, innit!  It was surreal to see them and then pick up the book and see models who could pass for them.

My fav part of the novel was when they were at Traed’s house.  Traed is a cousin to Lorgin and strongly resembles Gregor  from HE and HI.  I’ve been using Paul Telfer to picture Traed.  Another thing that’s so cool is that Lorgin lives in a tree house – well, a tree MANSION!  I totally want one! 

The novel is a bit long-winded, but since everything is new, I can forgive and be patient. One thing that should have been planned out better was Joy’s rationalization of everything the characters do.  After every quirk, she inserts a few lines of exposition explaining why they do that voodoo that they do so wellThe pattern gets annoying after a while.  Lorgin does something interesting.  “Oh, well, Lorgin does this and that because his Charl whatever never…always…prefers to…It is their way to…”   See? Annoying. I think the reason it annoys me NOW is because I’ve read the book so many times.  I already “know” him. 

Lorgin is also completely UN-PC!  I’m not even exaggerating.  He’s all “why doesn’t she understand? Why doesn’t she just do what  I say?”  EX-Squeeze ME?  Dude, you NEVER explained anything to her.  You never ask questions. You demand she do something, then when she argues with you, you demand to know why she argues with you? Try asking some questions sometimes.  Jeezie Kreezie!  Confused smile

Deana is cool.  She’s from Boston.  She’s a sci-fi fan.  She’s a working girl – not a career woman, though.  She has a great sense of humor – wisecracky, schticky.  However…having one and showing one are two different things. Several of her remarks which are meant to be schticky or even snide, fall short of real humor.  They – as I have stated about other characters in the same situation – approximate urban humor.  So you get the sense that she’s a wiseacre, but her comebacks don’t kill.  Oddly, you see it done more successfully in the second book, Rejar.  The hammock scene – LOL!

The love scenes? Lovely. They range from warm to HAWT!!  And really human – that is, just ‘cuz you’re having “hot pig sex” doesn’t mean you have to describe it that way. 

To sum up, you TOTALLY should read this book.  It’s available on Kindle© even.  Read the books in order: KoATS, Rejar, MTT. 

Swetergrl’s Theory of Condensed Matter



The Believer Book of Writers Talking to Writers

Teutoburg Forest AD 9: The destruction of Varus and his legions (Campaign)

Fragments (Penguin Classics) (English and Greek Edition)

Teach Yourself VISUALLY Access 2010 (Teach Yourself VISUALLY (Tech))

English Words

Guys Read: Funny Business

I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets: Six-Word Memoirs by Teens Famous & Obscure




Prometheus Bound/ Loeb Classic LIB/Aeschylus


McSweeney’s Book of Poets Picking Poets  

Sol Stein on Writing

Remembrance of Things Past

King Arthur and His Knights of The Round Table (Puffin Classics edition)



Anyone who’s ever been to college could recognize a Norton from twenty paces.  Books four and five inches thick with onion skin paper and teeny-weeny eyestrain-o-vision print set wall to wall with text.  Anything written by T. S. Eliot or using images from Greek mythology was bloated with annotation (Percy Shelley).  Those symbolist poet bastards!  Ezra Pound? Three lines of poetry and the rest of the page is annotation.  Those were the ones to avoid if you could. Me? I used to get a kick out of finding those pages where tiny fairy print was 7/8 of the page. I don’t know why that tickled me so much. Then as you go farther into the modern writers, the annotations decrease exponentially.  Is it because they have ceased drawing from Classical sources? Is the imagery too obvious? Does our shared history make annotation unnecessary?


The problem with Norton is that one volume is not enough.  They should probably go to three volumes and make students take three semesters of English Lit, three of American and three of World.  In a pinch, let them chose between English and World. World is more depressing, though.  Rilke, Camus, Kafka, Chekov, Proust.  Oy!  English Lit is downright chirpy compared to Proust and Kafka.  Kafka probably thinks Proust is an optimist. 


On the subject of English Lit, I am distressed as a human being and as a teacher that my students have no knowledge of Robin Hood and King Arthur.  No thing! Nada.  Zero.  Zilch.  Keiner.  The foundational characters of our language, going back even before Chaucer.  As far as I know, they are no longer taught.  So I’ve done my de rigeur Morte by Malory, but now I’m reading Roger Lancelyn Green’s kiddie version from Puffin Classics.  I also have a Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version of, I think, Malory’s.  The PC version moves fairly swiftly from story to story.  The thing is, lots of connective tissue is excised in order to keep the story moving.   Merlin tells King Arthur that if he marries Guinevere, he will hasten the end of his reign and the end of Britain as he knows it. War will be fought over her honor.  People – good and faithful knights – are going to die because marriage to her will set them both up to be shamed.  Okay. Something to think about. Yet, in this version, Arthur’s response is, essentially, “Yeah, but she’s hot.  I love her.”  Ooooooooh, weeeeeeeeellllllll aaaaaaaaaaallllrighty then! 


Seriously though, Robin Hood and King Arthur should be taught still.  What they represent is still important.  National unity, justice, honor, high ideals, doing for others, striving.  Do we not need them now?  Are not our children’s spirits starved for these high ideas whose words do not even appear in their vocabularies?  Do they mention honor and justice in the Harry Potter books?  Do they mention them in the Twilight books?  In Goosebumps?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  Any honor to be found in a vampire is strictly deus ex machina. If they are not to be taught anymore, do we have something better?


What led me to the Norton was my LOEB Aeschylus.  I picked up Prometheus Bound  on a lark because my classes are reading the pantheon stories.  Most of them are reading these stories for the first time – at 13-14 years old. Sad.  Sad.  Sad.  So I’m reading it and liking it more and more as I go along.  It’s a fantastic, fantastical story.  Pro talks about geography and history.  When he was talking about Io and her life as a heifer, he beautifully describes her journey across what is now eastern Europe and northern Asia and how her journeys influenced the development of those areas.  For example, Io crossed a river that eventually became the Bosphorous.  Is that why we call cows “Bossie”?  Just thinking aloud.  Hold your tomatoes.


So PB led me to Prometheus Unbound.  It seemed the obvious thing to do.  Percy Shelley’s long poem is a re-telling of PB in the form of a drama written as a poem.  Stylistically, Percy lays it on with a trowel. 


Misery, O misery to me,

That Jove at length should vanquish thee.

Wail, howl, aloud, Land and Sea.

The Earth’s rent heart shall answer ye.


Shelley is a poet’s poet.  He knows what he do.  If you can get past the bombast and the treacly text, it’s actually quite easy to understand, which is great because PU covers a lot of territory in history, geography, mythology, politics, and philosophy.


In the poetry vein, the McSweeney’s book is a sweet book of poetry.  It’s a bit oversized for a vade mecum but it’s good reading when you’re waiting in line somewhere.  It’s chains of poetry linked by the whims of the contributors.  First, McSweeney chooses a poet and poem.  Then the chosen one chooses another one of their own and a poem by another poet.  The “another” choses one of their own, and one by another “another”.  I’m not sure I have the math right, but it ends up being a chain of five poets per group.  Anyway, it explains it the “About This Book” on page iii.  It’s almost like Grammar B poetry.  Rhyme is kind of scarce.  But there is rhythm and concrete imagery and symbolism.  Most of the poems are moody yet energetic, clever yet plain.  Most of the titles are boring, but who reads poems for titles.


Sol Stein on Writing.  Awesome! Get it!  Don’t be a writer without it.


Remembrance of Things Past.  Oh my freaking Gawd! I’m on page 114 and every sentence but 3 are like 70, 80, 90 words long. WTF!  If you’re looking for a reason to hate the French, this one will do nicely.  Labyrinthine sentences that snake across the page word after word slithering through your right brain as your left brain stands to one side making sure every word is accounted for entangle you in the life of a young boy who, sadly, spent waaaaaaay to much time alone in the same way that the lady in “The Yellow Wallpaper” spent too much time alone and ended up trying to insinuate herself into said wallpaper, instead of going outside to play because he was smothered by concern and reverse hypochondria wherein his parents always thought he was sickly.  So, yeah. Like that.  Page after page after page of diarrheic introspection.  The diary from hell!


I Can’t Keep My Own Secrets:  No surprise there you whinging, melodramatic, gadget-fixated, anti-intellectual namby-pamby cry-baby.  Get a job or get an education. Make yourself useful then maybe you’ll be able to keep secrets instead of crying into your Red Bull and vodka that life is not fair and that you’re expected to contribute to this planet instead of bitching about how nothing is free. 


Conquest:  So much promise before you open the book. So much suckage after.  So many jumping off points that went nowhere.  The Khan-Gor legend which has now claimed two brides from the house of Q’an Tal. Stories of characters left untold.  It has – if you’ll pardon the expression – petered out. This collection sucks like a Hoover on crack.  The stories and characters were flaccid. (Ooooh, naughty!)



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