Dewey’s Readathon April 2017

 

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Check back here for updates!

Go here to sign up.

My stack for this readathon! It is too ambitious as is tradition.

For this readathon, the Dewey’s Readathon organizers are supporting Room to Read, “a nonprofit focusing on literacy and girls’ education across Africa and Asia.:

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The Dewey’s Readathon campaign page is here.
To support the campaign and Room to Read, I will be donating 5 cents for each page I read. If you would like to match my donation, I will keep you updated on my progress here and on Twitter!

Silas Marner: Chapters 1-5

How is the reading going? I’m a little behind, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because every page/paragraph/sentence/phrase is so dense that it takes me a while to read and comprehend it all! I really like George Eliot’s ability to world-build and to pack so much in, but it can be a lot of work.

So chapter one! Here we are introduced to our guy, Silas Marner, and the village he currently lives in, Raveloe.  Silas is a linen-weaver, which isn’t the most respectable job, I guess because….well I’m not completely sure why. Because they don’t have shops or establishments of their own? They wander around and get jobs as they can and then deliver the finished product, and the wandering around seems to be frowned upon. Additionally, Silas is mistrusted because he knows how to use herbs, and people suspect him of being a witch. Raveloe is an old-fashioned place:  “And Raveloe was a village where many of the old echoes lingered, undrowned by new voices” (chapter one). There’s lots of superstition and references to “the Evil One” and “the devil” influencing people. I presume the “ravel” in the village’s name is a reference to Silas’ occupation, and possibly foreshadowing the plot – because this is that kind of novel that is obsessed with meaningful names.

We also get Silas’ backstory, how he fled the “narrow religious sect” he belonged to because he was falsely accused of stealing money. Again, picking up some foreshadowing here, especially based on what happens in later chapters. But I do feel for the guy – betrayal from a friend is always horrible.

In chapter two, Silas has to find a new purpose for his life now that he has lost all faith in his religion and his fellow humans: “Thought was arrested by utter bewilderment, now its old narrow pathway was closed, and affection seemed to have died under the bruise that had fallen on its keenest nerves” (chapter two). He moves to Raveloe and works at weaving, and reminds me of Arachne in his single-mindedness: “He seemed to weave, like the spider, without reflection” (chapter two).

Silas also falls in love with money. I’m guessing that’s going to turn out really well. He REALLY likes his money, thinks it’s beautiful, takes good care of it, counts it, makes sure it is as safe as possible.

He needs a friend, basically.

I like the bit where Silas helps someone with his knowledge of herbs – almost unthinkingly, as if it’s so basic to his nature, or to his knowledge maybe, that he just has to. But then he has huge regrets because everyone decides he is a witch and wants magic cures for everything.

Chapter three was a wild ride from start to finish, and we meet a handful of characters who may or may not turn out to be important. Squire Cass is the local rich guy, and his sons seem to be major losers so far. Godfrey is secretly married to a lower-class, drunken lady (named Molly because this book has zero naming chill), or so we are told. I’m thinking that if I married a guy and had to keep it secret, I’d drink too.

Dunstan (or Dunsey, and good grief why would you use that nickname????) is blackmailing his brother because he knows about the secret wife. Godfrey would like to be able to marry a nice local girl, Nancy Lammeter, who probably deserves better. I like the description of Godfrey as a physically strong man but mentally weak: “That big muscular frame of his held plenty of animal courage, but helped him to no decision when the dangers to be braved were such as could neither be knocked down or throttled.”

THIS FAMILY IS A MESS. So basically a lot of blackmail in this chapter. I’d like to “meet” Molly and Nancy officially.

PS Snuff the brown spaniel deserves better.

THIS JUST IN FROM CHAPTER FOUR: WILDFIRE THE HORSE DESERVED BETTER, RIP WILDFIRE. Geez! I hope Dunstan trips on something sharp and chokes slowly to death all alone.

This chapter is a bad time – Dunstan in the worst- he accidentally kills the horse – he steals all of Silas’ money….BUT I really appreciate how this chapter slowly develops the idea of Silas’ money in Dunstan’s mind. Like, he’s out for a ride, spots Silas’ house, and is like, “that dude hoards all his money and no one knows where it is,” and then as he rides around, goes on the hunt, loses the horse, etc he develops the idea of getting Godfrey to borrow Silas’ money, and fixates on it until it’s a sure thing in his mind that his brother will somehow get all of Silas’s money, AND THEN when he’s suddenly wandering on foot in the rain, all of this fixation germinates and blooms into the determination to just….STEAL the money. And he does. I don’t know, there was just so much psychological plot in this one chapter, and it was cool!

Chapter five has a couple of bits that I particularly liked, but the only “plot” in it really is that Silas returns home, realizes his money is gone, and runs off to report it. The first thing I love is his panic when he first looks in the hiding place and the money isn’t there – “The sight of the empty hole made his heart leap violently, but the belief that his gold was gone could not come at once — only terror, and the eager effort to put an end to the terror.” THIS IS SO REAL. When you lose something important, at first it’s just like pure disbelief – wait,surely I didn’t lose that, let me check everything and make sure, stay calm, stay calm AHHHHH. etc etc.

I also love the implicit contrast between Marner and Dunstan in this chapter: they both love money obsessively, but Dunstan is full to the brim with malicious intent, whereas Marner has none.

“Yet few men could be more really harmless than poor Marner. In his truthful and simple soul not even the growing greed and worship of gold could beget any vice directly injurious to others. The light of his faith quite put out, and his affections made desolate, he clung with all the force of his nature to his work and his money; and like all objects to which a man devotes himself, they had fashioned him into correspondence with themselves. His loom, as he wrought in it without ceasing, had its turn wrought on him, and confirmed more and more the monotonous craving for its monotonous response. His gold, as he hung over it and saw it grow, gathered his power of loving together into a hard isolation of its own.”

 

Join the conversation on Twitter: #Ravelong

Scripture Sunday (21)

Scripture Sunday is a weekly quote-post to highlight Bible passages I’ve read recently that I found particularly interesting. My translation is the New International Version.

From my reading this week:

In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
    and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
    and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
    their descendants will be established before you.”

-Psalms 102:25-28

 

Why I chose it:

God is awesome!

#Ravelong: George Eliot

Welcome to the Silas Marner readalong on Bahnreads!

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Source

Before I started this readalong I hadn’t read Silas Marner but I am a huge fan of the author, George Eliot. I’ve read her book Middle-March, which is maybe her most famous and one of the best English novels of all time, or so I’m told. I enjoyed it, anyway. I’ve also read her novella The Lifted Veil which is a pretty strange time but you all might find it interesting.

George Eliot isn’t the author’s real name. Mary Ann Evans chose to write under a pseudonym, like Charlotte Bronte,  because she wasn’t sure her work would be received fairly by readers and critics if they knew she was a woman.

You can read a very brief overview of her life here at the BBC, or here at the Victorian Web. She’s a bit notorious for having a lot of affairs, often with married men, such as Henry Lewes, whom she lived with for 25 years. She had a lot of cool literary friends and contemporaries, including my literary boyfriend Henry James; there’s a good list here at the Victorian Web.

George Eliot also wrote a few books, including Middle-March, The Mill on the Floss, Daniel Deronda, and Silas Marner.

Rebecca Mead, who has written a couple of books on George Eliot and on Middle-March, has a good article here on not treating George Eliot like an easy read, titled “George Eliot: What did she ever do for us?”

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Source

Myth Monday: Dionysus Gets Some Followers

A few weeks ago I began a series of posts on Dionysus, one of the twelve Olympians in Greek mythology. Today we’re going to be picking up where my last post left off. See that post also for sources and recs on this crazy guy.

So last time we saw Dionysus, his grandmother Rhea had cured him of his madness and taught him the classic arts of gardening and fermentation. Like any enterprising young man, he has no interest in living and gardening with his grandma for the rest of his life, so he sets off to make his fortune. Now, along with his impressive baggage which includes both mommy AND daddy issues, Dionysus has a few different things that make him very popular throughout the known world. If I were to pick his top three weapons for making friends and enemies, they would be: booze,  madness, and dramatic flair. When push came to shove, he could always resort to shape-shifting or strangulation.

But I’m getting distracted from the story.

According to the stories, Dionysus went as far as India, teaching humankind about how to grow plants (especially the grapevine) and how to make wine. As he went, he gathered many followers and created a few enemies. Usually he would come along to some town or other, make everyone completely crazy, and then lead them into the wilderness where they would have wild parties and chase down animals (or occasionally people) and tear them to pieces.

Sounds fun, right?

Additionally, most of his followers (who were called the Maenads or the Bacchae) were women. There was nothing Dionysus liked more than finding meek, obedient women working quietly in their homes and lead them out into the streets into drunken revelry or violent hunts. There’s a lot of talk about Dionysus wanting to compensate for his dead mother by surrounding himself with nursemaids at all times. There are a lot of weird dualities in Dionysus’ story; one of which is that the Maenads sometimes appear as nurturing and loving, for example when the nymphs find baby Dionysus and care for him; but other times, when they’re in Crazy Mode they tear apart their own children. There is also a contrast between the Maenads’ freedom/ecstasy and their brutality. Basically, if you’re going to go to one of Dionysus’ parties, maybe keep your kids and your wife and your husbands locked up in a cellar somewhere, for their own protection. Because of their tendency to go on rampages, the Maenads didn’t make temples for Dionysus – all of their worship was outside, in the wilderness or among the plants Dionysus made grow.

Of course, not everyone liked the guy – for obvious reasons. And it took a while for Dionysus to become well-known and established as a worthy god to be worshiped. It’s hard to say whether opposition or indifference angered him more.

At some point early on in his career of lunacy, Dionysus wound up captured by pirates.  It’s hard to say whether he goaded them into this or not. I mean, he was just walking along like the beach like a young rich helpless person, sooo…. The pirates capture him and of course there’s That One Guy who is like, Guys? Guys? “Why did you kidnap this random beautiful man stuck in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever read a myth? Or heard a myth? THIS WILL NOT END WELL.” And of course, no one listens to That One Guy because they’re all going to get rich by ransoming this kid.  The kid, Dionysus, doesn’t do anything at first but then weird things start happening to the boat. Vines start creeping over it. Wine starts running over the deck. At some point the pirates lose their minds and try to escape vine-strangulation by jumping into the sea. Dionysus turns them into dolphins.

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Source  (The pirates turning into dolphins)

I mean, people often accuse Dionysus of over-reacting, but at least the pirates were living dolphins and not dead from being struck by lightning.

Besides the pirates, there are a couple of kings who are particularly famous for trying to keep Dionysus out of their countries and failing spectacularly. King Lycurgus makes a good effort – at one point, Dionysus and his forces are repelled so thoroughly that Dionysus himself leaps into the sea to hide. However, in the end Lycurgus is captured by Dionysus and thrown into a cave to think about what he’s done. I’m not sure how long he has to think about it before admitting that fighting against a guy who can make everyone around you powerful enough to tear boars and stags into pieces is probably not a great career move.

Pentheus, king of Thebes, is the other king. He refuses to allow Dionysus’ worshippers to establish themselves in Thebes. Pentheus captures one of Dionysus’ followers and interrogates him. In one version, this is Dionysus in disguise. In another, this is That One Guy from the pirate story. In both versions, Pentheus interrogates and threatens the man, the man makes some extremely unsettling and confident threats, and then proceeds to escape from his bonds and disappear.

Meanwhile, guess who has converted to Dionysus’ cult? Pentheus’ mother and sisters. Dionysus stirs up his followers and sends them on a hunt after a “wild beast.” The women, not realizing that the beast is in fact Pentheus, tear him to pieces. They only realize what they’ve done afterwards, when the madness has faded.

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The Maenads tearing Pentheus up. Source

What a fun guy. There’s plenty more where this came from! To be continued on a future Myth Monday!

Scripture Sunday (20)

Scripture Sunday is a weekly quote-post to highlight Bible passages I’ve read recently that I found particularly interesting. My translation is the New International Version.

From my reading this week:

When David and his men reached Ziklag, they found it destroyed by fire and their wives and sons and daughters taken captive. So David and his men wept aloud until they had no strength left to weep. David’s two wives had been captured—Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

-1 Samuel 30:3-6

and

But I trust in you, O Lord;

I say, “You are my God.”

My times are in your hands;

deliver me from my enemies

and from those who pursue me.

-Psalm 31:14-15

Why I chose these:

My times= my personal life, local events, nation events, world events.

Most of the time I’m not going to face anything close to being stoned (with actual stones, not drugs, I mean). I need to trust God in spite of my circumstances because “my times” are in His hands.

March Reading Wrap-up

February Reading Wrap-up

 

Wow, my variety REALLY went down this month!

My favorite new discovery was the Astreiant series of fantasy/mystery novels by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett.

Nonfiction I read in March:

Dionysus: Myth and Cult by Walter Otto (3/5 stars)

Mythology by Edith Hamilton (5/5 stars)

 

Fiction I read in March:

Point of Hopes by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett (4/5 stars)

Point of Knives by Melissa Scott (3/5 stars)

Point of Dreams by Melissa Scott and Lisa Barnett (5/5 stars)

Fairs’ Point by Melissa Scott (4/5 stars)

Openly Straight by Bill Koninsberg (5/5 stars)

Honestly Ben by Bill Koninsberg (4/5 stars)

The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson (3/5 stars)

Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman (4/5 stars)

 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo (3/5 stars)

The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan (5/5 stars)

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (5/5 stars)