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Somewhat Off-Topic: What have you been reading lately?


misswonderly3
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On 7/22/2019 at 1:31 PM, Vautrin said:

It's been a while since I've read The Portrait of a Lady. It is one of the

easier to read novels of the master. Lots of discussions taking place on expansive, well

maintained English lawns.

... on properties with mansions with grand histories, visited by grand personages of the past no doubt. That's how the novel starts. You mean there's going to be more? Argh.

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Yep, get used to the sound of croquet balls being hit and servings of various beverages.

At least that's how I recall it, though I can't say for sure how many separate scenes there are

like this in the novel.

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On 7/22/2019 at 4:31 PM, Vautrin said:

It's been a while since I've read The Portrait of a Lady. It is one of the

easier to read novels of the master. Lots of discussions taking place on expansive, well

maintained English lawns. 

of those shopping trips definitely had echoes of the latter.

Wait...

as I recall, PORTRAIT IF A LADY takes place almost entirely in Italy...

ps- I’m leaving that last sentence fragment(As a result of my editing) in the quote, kind of makes it a lyric poem.

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1 hour ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

Wait...

as I recall, PORTRAIT IF A LADY takes place almost entirely in Italy...

ps- I’m leaving that last sentence fragment(As a result of my editing) in the quote, kind of makes it a lyric poem.

A large part of it takes place in Italy, though I don't know the ratio of Italian to English scenes.

Maybe I recall the English scenes better because they seem so stereotypically English. Parts of

the Italian plot remind me of the movie My Cousin Rachel. Yes, Isabel Archer is another of

those Americans to be introduced into the older, more manipulative European world.

 

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On 7/22/2019 at 8:50 AM, LornaHansonForbes said:

 

2. FORGIVE MY NEGATIVE NANCINESS here, but since you asked: I don't tend to focus on books that i dislike, I usually forget them or (in my old age) just either quit halfway through or skip to the end....but, if someone asked me to list some of my least favorite books ever, I would without hesitation cite PORTRAIT OF A LADY. I DESPISE that book...it is glacial, remote, pretentious, DULL, unrewarding and- most importantly- the author HATES the main character (and all women, it would seem)...it's kind of like reading TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES if it were 140 pages longer, near-plotless and called "THE B**** DESERVED IT."

 

Yes Yes Yes !  Oh my god, I hate Portrait of a Lady !  In fact, I hate Henry James. His writing is everything you say -

"glacial, remote, pretentious, dull, unrewarding..."  Plus, who wants to read a so-called paragraph that lasts for two pages? This is not untypical of Henry James. Plus, I like to think I am not entirely stupid, yet a lot of the time I cannot make head nor tail of what James is getting at.  Plus, he does not seem to have had any sense of humour - not that I can detect, anyway. Or his humour is so dry, it's dried up and floated away. He's just no fun !  He's dreary - yes, that's a word that comes to mind when thinking of Henry James' writing: dreary.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who dislikes - make that intensely dislikes - this celebrated American writer.

ps: Hope none of this has put you off your book group's next selection, Laffite. 😅

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9 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

Yes Yes Yes !  Oh my god, I hate Portrait of a Lady !  In fact, I hate Henry James.

My first thought whenever I meet or read anyone who professes to have 1. read in full and 2. liked any of the following: PORTRAIT OF A LADY, MOBY DICK, MIDDLEMARCH, 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE and ANYTHING BY THOMAS WOOLF- GOD FORGIVE ME, but my first thought is "you're lying to me."

I mean, you may be a good person- but you're lying to me about this, and nothing you say can convince me otherwise. I'm like the cops in the JonBenet case you are LYING about one or both of those things and MY MIND IS MADE UP.

It's like people wearing YOKO ONO TEE SHIRTS, like, you MUST be doing this ironically, I accept no other explanation.

 

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5 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

My first thought whenever I meet or read anyone who professes to have 1. read in full and 2. liked any of the following: PORTRAIT OF A LADY, MOBY DICK, MIDDLEMARCH, 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE and ANYTHING BY THOMAS WOOLF- GOD FORGIVE ME, but my first thought is "you're lying to me."

I read you here. (heh heh). Another classic but not American of course is Hugo's Hunchback which is similar to Moby Dick in its numerous digressions on architecture. I couldn't get through that nor Moby Dick, since I am not particularly interested in whaling or shipboard life, per se, and if I were I might want to get go elsewhere (or laboriously rifle through the pages to find those parts). An uninterrupted narrative might be kind of nice too, as I reminder that there is after all a story going on. I see what you mean about Middlemarch and in some ways it's like Portrait but the Eliot is much better written IMO. I have delved into it before but never finished, however. The writing is exponentially more interesting that Portrait but humorless (as I remember thinking at the time) and is characterized by instances of prolonged digressions where the author will leave the story and adopt the author point of view (even using the pronoun I), which are in a way virtuouso prose pieces but which are also show off-y, convoluted (at times) and disruptive. (NOTE: The BBC television production of Middlemarch, done in the late 90s I believe), is splendid.) Lorna. I think you should consider yourself fortunate indeed that you are not forced to go to my reading group, two of the four novels you mention above are the next two for discussion. I am having trouble with the one and the other does not bode well because magic realism is a little louche. If anyone chooses a Thomas Wolfe novel, I may just go ahead and jump off a bridge. I don't know him but I sense an affinity with your views on these things. 

15 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

that's a word that comes to mind when thinking of Henry James' writing: dreary.

I'm so glad I'm not the only one who dislikes - make that intensely dislikes - this celebrated American writer.

ps: Hope none of this has put you off your book group's next selection, Laffite. 😅

I have a lot of time on my hands and I like the group so I am going to try and get through it. I have read only a bit and I see what you and Lorna mean. The characters sound like pretentious middle class people who endeavor to impress by adopting a more elevated, elite, and high class mode of expression. That's how the narrator sounds too, hence the writing overall. I hope I can make it. The audio book takes 22 hours (Nostromo was 17, and Great Expectations was about the same. I am forced into at least partial listening due to some vision impairment. A blessing perhaps, at least I don't have to look at the words). I am new to the group and if you attend regularly and if I, or anyone of course, am at least somewhat active in the discussion (I excelled in participation though certainly not in brilliance for Nostromo) then I will be chosen to select a book for discussion. I have thought but partially rejected Anthony Trollope since I worry that he might be considered a little bland, but after Portrait I no longer feel that way. Trollope is fairly new to me and I am totally hooked on his writing but I fear other people might not think so. Not to get into Trollope because I am going to post about him later and I don't want to repeat myself. Just two things: First, the omniscient narrator relates at times with a bemused air that is immensely entertaining and will sometimes lapse into an observer mode where it is even more pronounced. "It was admitted by all her friends, and also by her enemies,—who were in truth the more numerous and active body of the two,—that Lizzie Greystock had done very well with herself. We will tell the story of Lizzie Greystock from the beginning, but we will not dwell over it at great length, as we might do if we loved her." The "we" is not another character in the novel, it's the omniscient narrator. Uh uh, poor Lizzie. Those were first words in the novel in question. Uh oh. And second, Alec Guinness is reported to have never left the house without a novel of Anthony Trollope under his arm. I GET THAT, I REALLY DO. When people do that, it means that they have a love for the very writing itself, I can see him browsing something that he has probably already read, but for the sheer pleasure of it. Since reading that about Alec, I claim an affinity with him. Kindred spirits, if you will.

//

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In re: MIDDLEMARCH

THE MILL ON THE FLOSS Is one of my favorite books of all time and I may be the only person alive who loved SILAS MARNER...I actually made it through DANIEL DERONDA and didn’t hate it, But it was not a fun read.

MIDDLEMARCH tho, WOW. Page 128 I think is as far as I’m ever able to get.

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At the prior meeting of the group (not this last one) the person who was to select the next book ventured a choice between The Portrait of a Lady and Daniel Deronda and it was more or less decided that it would be DD. But a couple of days later we are all informed via the message board that it would instead be POAL :( .

Silas Marner seems to have been a high school imperative no matter where one lived (so it seems) and for me no exception. I don't remember that particular reading except for one thing. I was amazed that this recluse would have the guts to run down to the town and bemoan the loss of the hoard in front of other people like that. Of course he was traumatized by the loss but my adolescent mind had apparently thought it unlikely that an already generally perceived miserly weirdo would make himself vulnerable like that. Probably a reflection of my own weirdo adolescence.

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SmartScarceBarebirdbat-size_restricted.g

I am the great and powerful Henry of James. Who are you? Leave my

presence or I will write a twenty-five page minute psychological analysis

of a supporting character. Just to hew to Jamesian exactitude, the title

of the novel is The Portrait of a Lady.

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I've read The Portrait of a Lady, 100 Years of Solitude, and Look Homeward, Angel and liked each,

though to differing degrees. I've also read Moby Dick and, I'm sorry to add, more than once. Even

if one has little interest in whales and whaling Melville's style is so unusual that it's one of the best

things in the book. Okay, I'll throw in Martin Chuzzlewit and The Life of Samuel Johnson just for the

heck of it. :)

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5 hours ago, Vautrin said:

SmartScarceBarebirdbat-size_restricted.g

I am the great and powerful Henry of James. Who are you? Leave my

presence or I will write a twenty-five page minute psychological analysis

of a supporting character. Just to hew to Jamesian exactitude, the title

of the novel is The Portrait of a Lady.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. He's much less lovable than the great and powerful Oz.

Anyway...so Vautrin, are you saying that we've all been discussing this famous Henry James novel and been naming the wrong title all along?  Is it just the lack of the definite article we're doing incorrectly? Ok, so it's "The Portrait of a Lady". Well, I say, Henry James couldn't even get his title right, because I think leaving out the "the" sounds better, sort of scans better.  And who's to say it's the portrait of Isabel Archer, there may be others. 

I actually think leaving out "the" at the beginning of a title, whether it's a book or a film, often sounds better.  I think "Asphalt Jungle" sounds better than "The Asphalt Jungle". However, that may be the only one,now that I think of it. Ok, I take it back as far as film titles go. But I still say "Portrait of a Lady" just resonates better than "The Portrait of a Lady".

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19 hours ago, laffite said:

At the prior meeting of the group (not this last one) the person who was to select the next book ventured a choice between The Portrait of a Lady and Daniel Deronda and it was more or less decided that it would be DD. But a couple of days later we are all informed via the message board that it would instead be POAL :( .

Silas Marner seems to have been a high school imperative no matter where one lived (so it seems) and for me no exception. I don't remember that particular reading except for one thing. I was amazed that this recluse would have the guts to run down to the town and bemoan the loss of the hoard in front of other people like that. Of course he was traumatized by the loss but my adolescent mind had apparently thought it unlikely that an already generally perceived miserly weirdo would make himself vulnerable like that. Probably a reflection of my own weirdo adolescence.

Ha ! You named almost all of George Eliot's novels except the only one I've actually read, which is "Adam Bede". I had to read this, along with "Portrait of a Lady" and the wretched "Pamela" (now mostly deservedly forgotten), along with a few other Victorian tomes, in one of my undergrad English courses. ("development of the English novel"or something - it was some time ago.)  I actually kind of liked "Adam Bede", I remember I got an "A" on my essay about it.  But that was probably because I actually read the whole damn thing, and actually worked hard on the paper, instead of going to parties and otherwise procrastinating. Ah, university days.

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5 hours ago, Vautrin said:

I am the great and powerful Henry of James. Who are you? Leave my

presence or I will write a twenty-five page minute psychological analysis

of a supporting character. Just to hew to Jamesian exactitude, the title

of the novel is The Portrait of a Lady.

Hey Henry, why didn't you just paint a picture?

:lol:

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2 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. He's much less lovable than the great and powerful Oz.

Anyway...so Vautrin, are you saying that we've all been discussing this famous Henry James novel and been naming the wrong title all along?  Is it just the lack of the definite article we're doing incorrectly? Ok, so it's "The Portrait of a Lady". Well, I say, Henry James couldn't even get his title right, because I think leaving out the "the" sounds better, sort of scans better.  And who's to say it's the portrait of Isabel Archer, there may be others. 

I actually think leaving out "the" at the beginning of a title, whether it's a book or a film, often sounds better.  I think "Asphalt Jungle" sounds better than "The Asphalt Jungle". However, that may be the only one,now that I think of it. Ok, I take it back as far as film titles go. But I still say "Portrait of a Lady" just resonates better than "The Portrait of a Lady".

Somehow I can't see Henry James as a barker at a Nebraska fair whose balloon

developed a mind of its own. Yes there is a the at the beginning of the title, as there

are in a number of James' novels, though that is not unusual. I'm not sure James

thought about the significance  of leaving the the off, but being such a meticulous

craftsman, perhaps he did. There would certainly be a difference between the and a,

the latter signifying this is one portrait among many possible ones, the former that it is

something of a definitive portrait. Since James invented the character I guess he has

some say in the matter. I agree that some titles without the at the beginning "sound"

better, though that's a matter of each person's individual taste. To me the song

Concrete Jungle sounds better than if it was called The Concrete Jungle. 

 

 

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15 hours ago, LornaHansonForbes said:

My first thought whenever I meet or read anyone who professes to have 1. read in full and 2. liked any of the following: PORTRAIT OF A LADY, MOBY DICK, MIDDLEMARCH, 100 YEARS OF SOLITUDE and ANYTHING BY THOMAS WOOLF- GOD FORGIVE ME, but my first thought is "you're lying to me."

I mean, you may be a good person- but you're lying to me about this, and nothing you say can convince me otherwise. I'm like the cops in the JonBenet case you are LYING about one or both of those things and MY MIND IS MADE UP.

It's like people wearing YOKO ONO TEE SHIRTS, like, you MUST be doing this ironically, I accept no other explanation.

 

I would add Tess of the d'Ubervilles and Vanity Fair to this list too.

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14 hours ago, misswonderly3 said:

Ha ! You named almost all of George Eliot's novels except the only one I've actually read, which is "Adam Bede". I had to read this, along with "Portrait of a Lady" and the wretched "Pamela" (now mostly deservedly forgotten), along with a few other Victorian tomes, in one of my undergrad English courses. ("development of the English novel"or something - it was some time ago.)  I actually kind of liked "Adam Bede", I remember I got an "A" on my essay about it.  But that was probably because I actually read the whole damn thing, and actually worked hard on the paper, instead of going to parties and otherwise procrastinating. Ah, university days.

durf! i totally forgot ADAM BEDE, which is a book a like a lot- but i think it needs a stronger ending. ADAM BEDE has a third act "surprise"- a dark turn if you will, that still shocks to this day and is very strong- but after revealing it, Eliot seems to lose enthusiasm for her heroine and she is pushed aside to the detriment of the novel.  it's a very rich novel that is topical in many ways to today, i'm surprised at some of the things i still remember about it, and I actually thought about writing a screenplay of ADAM BEDE that was set in 1950's North Carolina, but went with another idea instead. .

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11 hours ago, Gershwin fan said:

I would add Tess of the d'Ubervilles and Vanity Fair to this list too.

it's been 20 years, but I remember really NOT LOOKING FORWARD to TESS OF THE D'URBERVILLES in sophomore English in college ENTIRELY BECAUSE IT WAS A RECURRING PLOT POINT IN the "PEANUTS" comics THAT THE GANG WAS READING TESS OF THE DURBERVILLES AND THEY WERE ALWYaS SUPPOSED TO BE DOING AN ORAL REPORT ON IT. 

(oops, caps lock)

I ended up loving it, but recall its being HEAVY.

The THOMAS HARDY novel that I recommend with ALL MY HEART is THE WOODLANDERS.

NOTE- I TRIED TO FIND THE SPECIFIC COMIC ON BING BUT COULD NOT, FOUND THIS INSTEAD

Thomas+Hardy+-+Peanuts+Cartoon.jpg

 

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