Sunday, May 31, 2015

BW22: Judicious June

Josephine Walls Libra

Welcome to Judicious June and our theme of all things prudent, perceptive and perspicacious and our author flavor of the month - Alexandre Dumas.

We are taking a total 180 away from the cunning and conniving of Machiavellian works to concentrate on the sharp and savvy, the bright and brainy, the clever and the crafty. The door is wide open open for courtroom and legal thrillers, mystery and detective novels, as well as historical and classic novels.

Which leads us to Alexandre Dumas. He is a french historian, author and playwright who is best known for his stories - Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, and The Man in the Iron Mask as well as an assortment of other stories. Dumas was born on July 24, 1802, in Villers-Cotterêts, France, to Marie Louise Labouret and General Thomas-Alexandre Davy de la Pailleterie. His father was the first black general in Napoleon's army, nicknamed the 'black devil' by Bonaparte and his exploits are the basis for The Three Musketeers.

Join me in reading all things legal and thrilling and the works of Alexandre Dumas.


 History of the Medieval World 
 Chapter 25 Elected Kings pp 172 - 179 


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Sunday, May 24, 2015

BW21: G.K. Chesterton

Gilbert Keith Chesterton

Happy Birthday to G.K. Chesterton, an English writer who was born on May 29, 1874 and died at the age of 62 on June 14, 1936. He has written many essays on democracy, religion, philosophy and religion as well as writing.  Today I'll leave you with his essay "The Ideal Detective Story " originally printed in Illustrated London News October 25, 1930

There has been some renewal of debate on the problem of the problem story; sometimes called the police novel, because it now consists chiefly of rather unjust depreciation of the police. I see that Father Ronald Knox has written a most interesting introduction to a collection of tales of the kind; and Mrs. Carolyn Wells, the author of an admirable mystery called “Vicky Van, ” has reissued a study on the subject. There is one aspect of the detective story which is almost inevitably left out in considering the detective stories. 

That tales of this type are generally slight, sensational, and in some ways superficial, I know better than most people, for I have written them myself. If I say there is in the abstract something quite different, which may be called the Ideal Detective Story, I do not mean that I can write it. I call it the Ideal Detective Story because I cannot write it. Anyhow, I do think that such a story, while it must be sensational, need not be superficial. In theory, though not commonly in practice, it is possible to write a subtle and creative novel, of deep philosophy and delicate psychology, and yet cast it in the form of a sensational shocker.

The detective story differs from every other story in this: that the reader is only happy if he feels a fool. At the end of more philosophic works he may wish to feel a philosopher. But the former view of himself may be more wholesome – and more correct. The sharp transition from ignorance may be good for humility. It is very largely a matter of the order in which things are mentioned, rather than of the nature of the things themselves. 

The essence of a mystery tale is that we are suddenly confronted with a truth which we have never suspected and yet can see to be true. There is no reason, in logic, why this truth should not be a profound and convincing one as much as a shallow and conventional one. There is no reason why the hero who turns out to be a villain, or the villain who turns out to be a hero, should not be a study in the living subtleties and complexities of human character, on a level with the first figures in human fiction. 

It is only an accident of the actual origin of these police novels that the interest of the inconsistency commonly goes no further than that of a demure governess being a poisoner, or a dull and colourless clerk painting the town red by cutting throats. There are inconsistencies in human nature of a much higher and more mysterious order, and there is really no reason why they should not be presented in the particular way that causes the shock of a detective tale. There is electric light as well as electric shocks, and even the shock may be the bolt of Jove. 

It is, as I have said, very largely a matter of the mere order of events. The side of the character that cannot be connected with the crime has to be presented first; the crime has to be presented next as something in complete contrast with it; and the psychological reconciliation of the two must come after that, in the place where the common or garden detective explains that he was led to the truth by the stump of a cigar left on the lawn or the spot of red ink on the blotting-pad in the boudoir. But there is nothing in the nature of things to prevent the explanation, when it does come, being as convincing to a psychologist as the other is to a policeman.

For instance, there are several very great novels in which characters behave with what might well be called a monstrous and terrible inconsistency. I will merely take two of them at random. By the end of the book we are successfully convinced that so very sympathetic a woman as Tess of the D’Urbervilles has committed a murder. By the end of the book we are (more or less) convinced that so very sympathetic a woman as Diana of the Crossways has betrayed a political secret. I say more or less, because in this latter case I confess to finding it, so far as I am concerned, an example of less. 

I do not understand what Diana Merion was doing in the TIMES office I do not understand what Meredith meant her to be doing; but I suppose Meredith understood. Anyhow, we may be certain that his reason was, if anything, too subtle, and not, as in the common sensational story, too simple. In any case, broadly speaking, we follow the careers of Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Diana of the Crossways until we admit that those characters have committed those crimes. 

There is no sort of reason why the story should not be told in the reverse order; in an order in which those crimes should first appear utterly inconsistent with those characters, and be made consistent by a description that should come at the end like a revelation. Somebody else might first be suspected of betraying the secret or slaying the man. I suppose nothing would have turned Hardy aside from hounding Tess to the gallows, though it might have been some gloomy comfort to him to have hanged somebody who had not murdered anybody.

But many of Meredith’s characters might have betrayed a secret. Only it seems possible that they might have told the secret in such an ingenious style of wit that it remained a secret after all. I know that there has been of late a rather mysterious neglect of Meredith, to balance what seems to me (I dare to confess) the rather exaggerated cult of Hardy. But, anyhow, there are older and more obvious examples than either of these two novelists.

There is Shakespeare, for instance: he has created two or three extremely amiable and sympathetic murderers. Only we can watch their amiability slowly and gently merging into murder. Othello is an affectionate husband who assassinates his wife out of sheer affection, so to speak. But as we know the story from the first, we can see the connection and accept the contradiction. But suppose the story opened with Desdemona found dead, Iago or Cassio suspected, and Othello the very last person likely to be suspected. 

In that case, “Othello” would be a detective story. But it might be a true detective story; that is, one consistent with the true character of the hero when he finally tells the truth. Hamlet, again, is a most lovable and even peaceable person as a rule, and we pardon the nervous and slightly irritable gesture which happens to have the result of sticking an old fool like a pig behind a curtain. 

But suppose the curtain rises on the corpse of Polonius, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern discuss the suspicion that has immediately fallen on the First Player, an immoral actor accustomed to killing people on the stage; while Horatio or some shrewd character suspects another crime of Claudius or the reckless and unscrupulous Laertes. Then “Hamlet” would be a shocker, and the guilt of Hamlet would be a shock. But it might be a shock of truth, and it is not only sex novels that are shocking. 

These Shakespearean characters would be none the less coherent and all of a piece because we brought the opposite ends of the character together and tied them into a knot. The story of Othello might be published with a lurid wrapper as “The Pillow Murder Case.” But it might still be the same case; a serious case and a convincing case. The death of Polonius might appear on the bookstalls as “The Vanishing Rat Mystery,” and be in form like an ordinary detective story. Yet it might be The Ideal Detective Story.

Nor need there be anything vulgar in the violent and abrupt transition that is the essential of such a tale. The inconsistencies of human nature are indeed terrible and heart-shaking things, to be named with the same note of crisis as the hour of death and the Day of Judgment. They are not all fine shades, but some of them very fearful shadows, made by the primal contrast of darkness and light. Both the crimes and the confessions can be as catastrophic as lightning. Indeed, The Ideal Detective Story might do some good if it brought men back to understand that the world is not all curves, but that there are some things that are as jagged as the lightning-flash or as straight as the sword.

History of the Medieval World - Chapter 24 Resentment pp 165 - 171


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Sunday, May 17, 2015

BW20: Rabbit Trails

Josephine Wall's Ocean of Dreams

Josephine Wall's art always sends my imagination spiraling. Instead of doing the expected and highlighting all of Machiavelli's books such as The Prince or the Art of War, decided to follow a few rabbit trails this week.  His The Art of War leads to Sun Tzu who wrote The Art of War which leads to Forbes Sun Tzu's 31 Best Pieces of Leadership advice.  The Prince, of course, lead me to Antoine de Saint Exupery's The Little Prince.  I guess the story was supposed to be motivating but I found it extremely sad.  Has anyone read his other book Wind, Sand and Stars?   It's available for free for Kindle unlimited members.

This week we have  Honoré de Balzac and Sigurd Undset sharing the same birthday (may 20) as well as Dante and Alexander Pope (may 21).   Balzac honestly reminds of someone in The Princess Bride, I just can't put my finger on it.    Or maybe it was some other movie. Speaking of which, there are 17 films based on books hitting the big screen this year. The Moon and the Sun with Pierce Brosnan based on Vonda McIntyre's book which looks interesting as well as Victor Frankenstein from Igor's perspective and The Martian with Matt Damon based on Andy Weir's novel.  

You have to check out Project Vox which is working to revive or restore female voices which were left out of the 1700's philosophical canons.  They are highlighting Lady Masham, Margaret Cavendish and Anne Conway from England and Émilie Du Châtelet from France.

Have fun exploring rabbit trails! 


History of the Medieval World - Chapter 23 Aspirations pp 159 - 164 

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Sunday, May 10, 2015

BW19: Happy Mother's Day

Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman

Happy Mother's Day, dear hearts.  One of my favorite memories is reading to my son when he was so much younger, books by P.D. Eastman and Dr. Seuss to name a few.   Now we're reading things like Inside Hitler's Bunker and the Iliad.  *grin* 

I really can't remember what books I read with my mother when I was a child.  Probably Dr. Seuss since I have a picture of me at 7 reading one of his books to my little brother.  I think the 50's / 60's generation probably all grew up on Dr. Seuss.   

What was your favorite book growing up?

In honor of my mother and mother in law and to everyone whose mother has passed.

My Mother My Angel


Kathy Parentau

Once upon a time an angel held my hand,
She wiped away my tears and helped me understand.
Our time on earth is brief, there's lessons to be learned,
Each precious day God gives us another page is turned.
Every chapter full of memories, times of joy and tears,
Triumphs and defeats, through every passing year.
She loved us unconditionally, always by our side,
When no one else would listen, in her we could confide.
With gentle words of wisdom she led us on our way,
Down the paths of righteousness if ever we did stray.
She saw the light in everyone and gave with no regrets,
Always from her heart let's not forget.
Angels come in many forms, for me it is my mother,
With love I cannot say in words there'll never be another.
Every day I turn the page in my heart will ever remain,
Everything she taught me as I stroll down memory lane.
Thank you God for giving me the most priceless of all treasures,
Help my Lord to keep alive her memory here forever.
I pray that I can some day be everything she hoped I would,
That's she smiling down from heaven knowing she did good.
As we gather here today there's no ending to her story,
Another chapter has begun full of grace and glory.
God's called her to his heavenly home, part of his great plan,
Although it may be hard, we all must understand.
Faith is what is hoped for, things we cannot see,
Heaven is promised to all of us if only we believe.

Hugs, love and kisses and have a wonderful Mother's day.


History of the Medieval World - Chapter 22 Byzantium pp 150 - 158

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Sunday, May 3, 2015

BW18: Machiavellian May

Niccolo Machiavelli
Welcome to Machiavellian May and our theme of all things cunning, conniving and calculating and our author flavors of the month - Dante Alighieri and Marcel Proust.

Yes, I know it seems like an odd mix however we are honoring Niccolo Machiavelli's who was born 546 years ago today; the 750 anniversary of Dante's birthday on May 21st; plus Marcel Proust is included  because I'm doing a readalong of Swann's Way with writing friends so dragging you all along for the ride. *grin*  

Let's define Machiavellian: 

  • of, like, or befitting Machiavelli. 
  • being or acting in accordance with the principles of government analyzed in Machiavelli's The Prince, in which political expediency is placed above morality and the use of craft and deceit to maintain the authority and carry out the policies of a ruler is described.
  • characterized by subtle or unscrupulous cunning, deception, expediency, or dishonesty
According to the 48 Laws of Power and the Machiavellian personality on Psych Forums:
Machiavellianism derives from the views of Prince Machiavelli that a ruler is not bound by traditional ethical norms. A prince, therefore, should only be concerned with power and
be bound only by rules that would lead to success.
Which basically leaves the door wide open to how you interpret it and what you choose to read: Historical or political thrillers, Shakespearean morality plays, or mysteries to name a few. 

I read Dante's Inferno last year and will be delving into Purgatorio this month. Several gals over on the Well Trained Mind boards who didn't read Inferno last year will be jumping into the first book, so join us in reading Dante. 

Marcel Proust has become a curiosity for me and after taking a short story class about him, will be also diving into Swann's Way, the first volume in his epic In Search of Lost Time.  If you are thinking I may have the 'eyes are bigger than her stomach' syndrome, you may be right.  
 “Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer's work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader's recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book's truth.”  ― Marcel Proust, Time Regained

History of the Midieval World:  Part Three -  New Powers
Chapter 21: The Ostrogoths pp 143 - 149

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