Opening Sentence, The Charterhouse of Parma by Stendhal

Self has decided to juggle reading Evan Thomas’s First: Sandra Day O’Connor with Stendhal’s The Charterhouse of Parma.

She’s trying to finish writing two novels and they’re both political novels, so reading Stendhal should help.

Chapter One, The Charterhouse of Parma:

On May 15, 1796, General Bonaparte entered Milan at the head of that young army which had lately crossed the Lodi Bridge and taught the world that after so many centuries Caesar and Alexander had a successor.

W.O.W. From the foreword: This tale was written in the winter of 1830 and three hundred leagues from Paris . . .

The translation self is reading is by Richard Howard.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

 

The Shadow King, p. 73

Why is self reading so slowly these days? There was a time when she used to average 60 books/year. Anyhoo, she is absolutely enthralled by her current book, a novel by Maaza Mengiste. Set in  1930s (?) Ethiopia. It’s written in impressionistic style, so the dates don’t matter all that much. It feels very much like one flowing river of memory.

A young servant girl feels a strange connection between herself and the man of the house. The cook tries to set her straight. Meanwhile, her mistress rides across the countryside on a horse, dressed in jodhpurs like a man.

We all know that war destroys mankind, and in spite of their differences in race, creed, and religion, women all across the world despise war because the fruit is nothing but destruction.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

Currently Getting to Know

The enthralling voice of Maaza Mengiste

DSCN0093

Self’s copy is from the Redwood City Public Library.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Dan Gets Out of His Father-in-Law’s Mercedes: He Is Not a Happy Man

The Snakes (never mind the page, it’s somewhere near the end, that’s all self can give you).

Dan is clearly not a happy man. He even casts shade on what’s become of the old Battersea Power Station.

Battersea Power Station is, in self’s humble opinion, A GREAT RECYCLE OF INDUSTRIAL ARCHITECTURE. It’s now the Tate Modern. OK, maybe it’s a little grim. But that’s just the outside. The art inside is fabulous!

Of course it would go. Everything went. Like Battersea Power Station before it, a place like that was marked for destruction . . . He leaned against a wall and watched the people going by, and the girl cooking the curry in the wok . . . She’d been joined by a friend who had propped up a sign saying ‘vegan.’ She smiled at Dan. He didn’t like white girls with braids . . . He put his hands in his pockets and walked away, out into the noise of Rye Lane, towards the station . . . He was nearly crying when he got to the station, and he didn’t even know why.

Lighten up, Dan!

Self can’t WAIT to see how this novel ends. According to 80% of the people who left reviews on goodreads, it’s going to be terrible.

Self’s next read is an Elmore Leonard short story collection, and those stories will be as far from contemporary London as one can possibly imagine.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

 

Riding Through London in a Mercedes: Dan and His Father-in-Law

The Snakes, p. 321 (making great progress, hope to finish by tomorrow): SPOILER-FREE

“Where are we going?” asked Dan.

“Wait and see.”

It was quiet in the car, and Dan didn’t notice the traffic. They drove through Camden Town and past the British Museum, then crossed the river at Waterloo, Elephant and Castle, the Old Kent Road, and gradually, the streets became familiar.

 

Self has done this walk, on foot.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

Big Daddy (Griff) Quote of the Day: The Snakes, p. 112

Dad tells his daughter Bea, certified sjw, that he thinks her husband might leave her because he’s: a) mixed race and Bea is white; b) he’s very good-looking, and Bea, unlike her mother, isn’t.

  • “The human need for justice can be exploited so easily, and waves of passion sweep over whole populations — the true belief that they are right — and then they’re liberated to do terrible things. The collective can turn either way.”

After dinner, Bea gets up to wash the dishes but her mother and Alex get to the kitchen ahead of her.

“We’re fine. We don’t need any help,” Bea’s mother says, and closes the kitchen door in Bea’s face.

Priceless, Priceless Quote of the Day, Self Can’t Even

The Snakes, p. 107

Griff (Bea’s Dad): You’re meant to flatter your kids, tell girls they’re beautiful. Whatever. I don’t care. You were never going to stop traffic. Not like your mum. Fighting them off, she was — still is, for all I know.

How come English writers can do this so well? Nothing like English melodrama. And they say the English are cold!

Remember how John Le Carré, not satisfied with his MC, George Smiley, being a spy, also had to make him a cuckold? And readers never complained or wound up thinking: this is taking away from the main story. It’s such a distraction!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

Quote of the Day: The Snakes, p. 87

  • Griff: “I can’t stand rented cars. They’re always completely disgusting, and collecting them is a nightmare.”

Well hello there, Father of Bea.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

3rd Friday of July 2020: “It is time to check the snakes!”

Self hates snakes almost as much as she hates horror films involving dolls.

In Hard Target, Jean-Claude van Damme punches a snake and knocks it out. But she is not Jean-Claude van Damme.

Anyhoo, in this crucial crucial scene in The Snakes — a novel which self continues to love madly and beyond reason, despite a few questionable scenes (like the one in the barn) — we encounter ACTUAL SNAKES.

DEUS EX MACHINA, what?

Or Chekhov’s smoking gun?

Alex: “It’s time to check the snakes!”

(Self turns the page and begins Chapter 6)

Alex: “There are loads of snakes. But mostly they’re just grass snakes. They’re sort of company . . . They’ve got nice round eyes. It’s the vipers I don’t like. Asp vipers. Vipera aspis. They’re in the roof, and it pisses me off.”

Someone is going to be killed by a snake! Self is sure of it!

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

 

3rd Thursday in July 2020: “Money Is the Root of All Evil”

Not a quote from The Snakes but since her progress is so slow, she may well be reading this novel for who knows how long. There are spoilers on goodreads but she has so far been successful in not reading them.

In the meantime, she has enormous sympathy for the couple because, well, they’re obviously trying to do right by each other. (But there’s that thread on goodreads discussing the ending, and self thinks if the ending is problematic, then she’ll feel really stupid for taking so long to get there)

In the meantime, HEY HO DIGRESSION! She’s watching Underworld and Kate Beckinsale has a sidekick who reminds her so much of Steven Strait in The Expanse iteration. But of course it’s not Steven Strait, it’s Theo James. Self really likes Kate Beckinsale as a vampire. The Underworld series was so under-rated.

Back to The Snakes and the potentially problematic ending (as well as self’s possible death from COVID, which could happen at any time, you never know). The ending can only be problematic if one of the main characters dies.

Does Bea die? No, she can’t die because hers is the only point of view. It would sort of be like the ending of Looking for Mr. Goodbar which was the WORST. Was that novel meant to be a cautionary tale about hooking up with complete strangers in bars? Or falling in love with a detective who looks like Mark Ruffalo? Do not bar hop, young people! And avoid Mark Ruffalo look-alikes. Oh wait, no one is bar hopping anymore. Because VIRUS!!!

Does Dan die? Possibly. He’s the husband and this early in the novel (p. 55) he’s already so stressed: “We’ve got less than three grand now.” He was upset and scared. “Altogether. In the world. That’s all we’ve got, Bea. When we get back to London, I need to find work. We can’t fall behind. We could lose the flat.”

Oh, Dan, don’t be such a worrywart. You’re the last person who self would choose to go on a grand adventure with. Haven’t you heard of declaring bankruptcy? All you have to do is fill out the paperwork.

She wonders if the difference is that the couple is English? So it’s harder to apply for bankruptcy in England?

But maybe Dan is too obvious a choice. Maybe he’s a RED HERRING.

Maybe it’s Alex, the brother, who dies. But self would be okay with that happening, since Alex is lazy and, not only that, he’s a recovering alcoholic, so maybe he falls off the wagon, becomes deeply depressed, and dies. He obviously doesn’t know how to run a hotel, so maybe he could have an accident. Like fall down a well. But it would not be a great loss if Alex died. So that would not be the problematic ending discussed on goodreads.

Got to keep reading.

Stay safe, dear blog readers. Stay safe.

 

 

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