Monday, December 31, 2012

Barchester Towers: 60% Complete

Well, folks, I hope you all had a good holiday season and are looking forward to a prosperous and happy 2013.  I know I am! I also start school again on Wednesday, so I'll be getting back on track with my reading too!
Today's vocabulary word is "dissimulate" which means "to conceal or disguise one's feelings, thoughts or character."  I also ran across another gentleman with an unusual name, the doctor, Sir Omicron Pie.  I'm not sure what the significance of these letter in his name are, but omicron is fifteenth letter of the Greek alphabet and pi is the sixteenth.
Often in this book Trollope has expressed his opinion on the place or proper decorum of women in society, and I find those opinions fascinating, even if I don't always agree with them.  So I have three quotes for you that relate to this subject.
First, Trollope's opinion on angry women:
"As a general rule, it is highly desirable that ladies should keep their temper; a woman when she storms always makes herself ugly, and usually ridiculous also."
In this next passage, a women feels she has been wronged by a man, but he doesn't feel he did anything wrong.  As it turns out, he didn't, she just heard the story wrong, so they are both of them in the right.  Trollope writes,
"As she spoke she with difficulty restrained her tears--but she did restrain them.  Had she given way and sobbed aloud, as in such cases a women should do, he would have melted at once, implored her pardon, perhaps knelt at her feet and declared his love."
And lastly, a truth:
"Few men do understand the nature of a woman's heart, till years have robbed such understanding of its value."
Happy New Year!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Barchester Towers: 56% Complete

First of all, I want to wish you and yours a very merry Christmas! I hope you're getting to eat lots of good food, share memories of Christmases past and spend time with those you love.  May your days be merry and bright and may all your Christmases be white!
I'm still plugging along on Barchester Towers even though it's been slow going over the holidays.  I'm hoping for more productivity in 2013!
Today's vocabulary word is thrall  which means "the state of being in someones power or having great power over someone" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
I just have a little short quote for you all today, one which is spoken in the book by Mr. Slope.  It reads:
"There is no happiness in love, except at the end of an English novel."
Of course, as Barchester Towers is an English novel, I'm assuming there will be happiness in love at the end of it!
Happy Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Barchester Towers: 48% Complete

I have a confession to make.  I have done very little reading over the last week (as you can see).  Its positively shameful.  It's a combination of having a million other things to do and just not being horribly motivated to read.  But I have read a little, a few pages here and there, and the good news is, I'm already way ahead of schedule so I'm not too worried and you shouldn't be either!
I noticed, now that I'm halfway through the book, that Trollope has given several of his characters rather clever names, so in lieu of a vocabulary word, I thought I'd share a few of them with you today.  There's the slimy Mr. Slope, whose father, Trollope tells us, added the 'e' to his name to make it sound better, so of course his name would have been Mr. Slop before.  Then there's the slightly arrogant Bishop and Mrs. Proudie, and the minor character Farmer Subsoil.  And last but not least, there's Mr. and Mrs. Quiverful with their fourteen children (in case you're not familiar withe the Bible, Psalm 127:4-5 says, "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, are the sons of one's youth.  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them.")
And finally, a funny quote for you today.  In this passage the archdeacon and Mr. Thorne, who farms, are having lunch.  Trollope writes:
"The archdeacon made a very good lunch, and talked to his host about turnip-drillers and new machines for reaping, while the host, thinking it only polite to attend to a stranger, and fearing that perhaps he might not care about turnip crops on a Sunday, mooted all manner of ecclesiastical subjects."

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Barchester Towers: 46% Complete

First of all, I want to express my deepest condolences to the families and friends of those affected by the tragedy in Connecticut.  Words cannot express the depth of my sorrow and shock at the events that have transpired.  May you all find a peace that surpasses explanation this holiday season as you come to grips with your loss.
As you can see I've fallen behind a bit on reading.  Strangely enough it seems like now that I'm out of school I actually have less time for reading and more things to distract me than I did before!  But I have read some, so I'm still making progress.
The vocabulary word I have for you today is "polemic" which means "a strong verbal or written attack on someone or something" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
The quote for today is one that I found very true and insightful as well as funny.  Trollope writes:
"It is hardly too much to say that we all of us occasionally speak of our dearest friends in a manner in which those dearest friends would very little like to hear themselves mentioned, and that we nevertheless expect that our dearest friends shall invariably speak of us as though they were blind to our faults, but keenly alive to every shade of our virtues."
Sorry for the short entry.  I will try to have a little more for you next time!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Barchester Towers: 44% Complete

Well, as of about a half-hour ago, my finals for fall quarter are over and I'm on Christmas vacation until after the new year! Thank you all for your well-wishes and cheers for my finals; they went very well.
I'm plugging along with Barchester Towers, as you can see.  I'm still enjoying it a lot, although this time of year seems to have so many distractions wrapped up in it!
The vocabulary word for today is "suffuse" which means to "gradually spread through or over" as in "her cheeks were suffused with color" (definition and example from The New Oxford American Dictionary).
One of the things I'm enjoying about this book is all the cultural and literary references that Trollope has included.  Being the sort of person I am, I have to go online and look them all up, so I'm learning a lot about other books and things in the process.  One such quote is the one I've included below.  Because of this quote I ended up reading the Wikipedia pages on William Whewell and David Brewster (both nineteenth century philosophers and scientists, in fact, Whewell coined the word "scientist" himself).  The quote reads:
"'Are you a Whewellite or a Brewsterite, or a t'othermanite, Mrs. Bold?' said Charlotte, who knew a little about everything, and had read about a third of each of the books to which she alluded."
Like Charlotte, I have a tendency towards knowing a little bit about everything!  Also I liked the made-up word "t'othermanite."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Barchester Towers: 31% Complete

Well, I haven't gotten much writing done this week, a product of studying for finals.  But by Wednesday at ten I will be done with school until after the new year, so I'll get back on track quickly.  (unless, of course, the world ends on 12/21/12, in which case this will all be in vain...)
Today's vocabulary word is "equanimity" which means "mental calmness, composure and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation" (definition from The New Oxford American Dictionary).  I liked this word because it comes from the same Latin root as "equal" which gives it a sense that mental calmness requires balance.
I have a rather long passage for you today in lieu of a quote.  In my "spare time" when I'm not trying to get into nursing school or reading copious amounts of literature, I am a as-yet-unpublished novel writer and this section deals with Trollope's philosophy on character revelations which I liked.  I also found it amusing that he put this right into the middle of his book.
"But let the gentle-hearted reader be under no apprehension whatsoever.  It is not destined that Eleanor shall marry Mr. Slope or Bertie Stanhope.  And here perhaps it may be allowed to the novelist to explain his views on a very important point in the art of telling tales.  He ventures to reprobate that system which goes so far to violate all proper confidence between the author and his readers by maintaining nearly to the end of the third volume a mystery as to the fate of their favourite personage.  Nay, more, and worse than this, is too frequently done.  Have not often the profoundest efforts of genius been used to baffle the aspirations of the reader, to raise false hopes and false fears, and to give rise to expectations which are never to be realized? Are not promises all but made of delightful horrors, in lieu of which the writer produces nothing but the most commonplace realities in this final chapter?  And is there not a species of deceit in this to which the honesty of the present age should lend no countenance?  And what can be the worth of that solicitude which a peep into the third volume can utterly dissipate?  What the value of those literary charms which are absolutely destroyed by their enjoyment?  When we have once learnt what was that picture before which was hung Mrs. Ratcliffe's curtain, we feel no further interest about either the frame or the veil.  They are to us merely a receptacle for old bones, an inappropriate coffin, which we would wish to have decently buried out of our sight. [this is a reference to the novel: The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe] And then how grievous a thing it is to have the pleasure of your novel destroyed by the ill-considered triumph of a previous reader. 'Oh, you needn't be alarmed for Augusta; of course she accepts Gustavus in the end'  'How very ill-natured you are, Susan,' says Kitty with tears in her eyes: 'I don't care a bit about it now.' Dear Kitty, if you will read my book, you may defy the ill-nature of your sister.  There shall be no secret that she can tell you.  Nay, take the third volume if you please--learn from the last pages the results of our troubled story, and the story shall have lost none of its interest, if indeed there by any interest in it to lose".

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Barchester Towers: 26% Complete

This is my last week of classes and then I have finals next week, so things have been a little hectic.  As a result, I've only gotten a little reading done in the last couple of days.  But I'm over a quarter of the way done with Barchester Towers so that's good.
Again I have two vocabulary words for you today.  The first is "amenable" which means "open and responsive to suggestion; easily persuaded or controlled." The second is "euphony" which means "the quality of being pleasing to the ears, especially through a harmonious combination of words" (definitions from The New Oxford American Dictionary). I especially liked the second word, because the sounds of words and the way they sound together is something I'm always very aware of in reading and in writing.  If I have two words that don't sound nice together, or start with the same letter, or if I repeat the same word (especially an adjective) within a couple of sentences, I'll often try to change it.
I have a couple of funny quotes for you, which I chose because they illustrate well Trollope's style of humor.  In the first, he is talking about the newly-instated bishop of Barchester.
"Most active clergymen have their hobby, and Sunday observances are his.  Sunday, however, is a word which never pollutes his mouth--it is always 'the Sabbath.' The 'desecration of the Sabbath,' as he delights to call it, is to him meat and drink: he thrives upon that as policemen do on the general evil habits of the community.  It is the loved subject of all his evening discourses, the source of all his eloquence, the secret of all his power over the female heart.  To him the revelation of God appears only in that one law given for Jewish observance."
In the second, Bertie Stanhope (who is notoriously lazy and unfocused) and his sister are talking.  His sister speaks first:
"'To tell you the truth, Bertie, you'll never make a penny by any profession.'
'That is what I often think myself,' said he, not in the least offended. 'Some men have a great gift of making money, but they can't spend it.  Others can't put two shillings together, but they have a great talent for all sorts of outlay.  I begin to think that my genius is wholly in the latter line.'"
And for this last quote, you have to understand one or two things.  First of all, in 1814 Robert Southey composed an epic poem called "Roderick, the Last of the [Visi]goths" and you're probably already familiar with the book by James Fenimore Cooper: The Last of the Mohicans.  In this passage, a dramatically-inclined woman is talking with the bishop about her daughter, who she claims is descended from the Roman emperors.
"'The blood of Tiberius,' said the signora in all but a whisper; 'the blood of Tiberius flows in her veins.  She is the last of the Neros!' The bishop had heard of the last of the Visigoths, and had floating in his brain some indistinct idea of the last of the Mohicans, but to have the last of the Neros thus brought before him for a blessing was very staggering."

Monday, December 3, 2012

Barchester Towers: 19% Complete

So far I'm really enjoying Barchester Towers.  It's a little strange reading a book "blind," i.e. with no idea what the story is about when you start reading it.  I'm not sure I've ever done that before; usually I have had at least a blurb on the back or something to go off of.  But this one I just dove right into.

This book is different in many ways from other nineteenth century literature (Dickens and Austen specifically) that I have read.  First of all, Trollope's vocabulary is enormous: I find myself looking up words on almost every page.  Secondly, it's very humorous and tongue-in-cheek, which I'm enjoying as well.  For those of you who have read Pride and Prejudice, the characters in this book would get along well with Mr. Collins and his ridiculous ideas about how a clergyman fits into society.

Because there are so many vocabulary words in this book, today you get two. The first word is "abeyance" which is "a state of temporary disuse or suspension."  The second is "anathematize", a word Trollope uses a lot actually, which means to curse or condemn (both definitions from The New Oxford American Dictionary).

There are a couple things I particularly like about this book.  The first is the poetry of it.  Trollope is a very poetic writer and his story is filled with vivid imagery which I'm enjoying.  Here is a quote I liked which illustrates this point.  In this passage he is talking about a young woman in Barchester who was widowed young.  He writes:

"Hers was one of those feminine hearts which cling to a husband, not with idolatry, for worship can admit of no defect in its idol, but with the perfect tenacity of ivy.  As the parasite plant will follow even the defects of the trunk which it embraces, so did Eleanor cling to and love the very faults of her husband."

Another thing I enjoy is how Trollope breaks down the "fourth wall": the wall between the writer and the audience. He often speaks directly to the audience and talks about himself in the first person, which is a little unusual in fiction writing.  Here he writes:

"This narrative is supposed to commence immediately after the installation of Dr. Proudie [as the new bishop of Barchester]. I will not describe the ceremony, as I do not precisely understand its nature.  I am ignorant whether a bishop be chaired like a member of Parliament, or carried in a gilt coach like a lord mayor, or sworn like a justice of peace, or introduced like a peer to the upper house, or led between two brethren like a knight of the garter; but I do know that everything was properly done, and that nothing fit or becoming to a young bishop was omitted on the occasion."