Brona’s Salon


  1. Books help people connect.
  2. Since 2012 I have ‘connected’ with Brona’s Books….on the other side of the world.
  3. She helps me get through a dreary winter  Christmas in Winter Challenge.
  4. She helps me learn more about Australia  AusReading Month.
  5. She helps me  with The Nobels  and The Pulitzers.
  6. Now it is time to join  Brona’s Salon.
  7. This will give me a monthly opportunity to talk
  8. . ….about my current book.
  9. I read just about everything:
  10. ….fiction, non-fiction, classics, children’s classics and books in French.
  11. This is my sign-up post and
  12. …if you want to take part you can do that at   Brona’s Salon.

What are your currently reading?

This month I am trying to finish: Le Garçon  by Marcus Malte.


How did you find out about this book?

  1. The list of French books Rentrée littéraire 2016
  2. 560 book were published this…all in time for the season of literary prizes.
  3. I have ordered a few French books to read
  4. but found  Le Garçon via Emma.
  5. Here is her blogpost on Book Around the Corner.
  6. The book was recommended to her by
  7. …her local bookstore in  France….so they should know!

Why are you reading it now?

  1. I have been bogged down in English books for many months.
  2. It was time to start a French book….to keep up my reading skills.

First impressions?

  1. Marcus Malte has an extraordinary vocabulary….on everything! (nature, fauna, flora, celestial heavens, animals…)
  2. Tipping point: At a certain stage in my reading (20% book) I reach a tipping point: the book become a joy to read instead of a problem to tackle.
  3. I have to get used to the writer’s style and vocabulary.
  4. Strange:  I’d rather read French books published 2016
  5. …instead of English books publishe in the same period.
  6. I tend to let the books in my own language simmer
  7. …see how the public reacts to them.
  8. French books on the other hand…I just dive into them, blind dates.
  9. Reading French: the best way to learn words of ‘things’ is to look it up on Google images….the picture – word association  is more effective than just looking the word up in the dictionary.
  10. Reading part 1  (20% of the book)
  11. ……and it took me 4 days to get through it
  12. ….taking into account I had to do other things than read all day!
  13. Chapters 1-5 (LOC 54-365 on e-book) were difficult to grasp.
  14. Malte is very poetic.
  15. The reader has no idea  who? where? why?
  16. The reader only knows when: 1908.
  17. It took a lot of  mental energy to translate and decipher the clues
  18. …descriptions in the story.
  19. This felt discouraging …were all the chapters going to be like this?

Which character do you relate to so far?

  1. The main character….no name just ‘Le Garcon’.

Are you happy to continue?

  1. Every morning I perk up a pot of coffee, arrange the IPAD to my left,
  2. online French dictionary on the laptop and start to read.
  3. I use color highlights in the E-book to help me make notes.
  4. Reading speed is increasing… but I still have a long way to go.

Where do you think the story will go?

  1. The table of contents shows me that I’ll probably be reading about WW I soon.
  2. 1908 – 1909   boy is 14 yrs   19% of book
  3. 1909 – 1910   boy is 16 yrs  21% 0f book
  4. 1910 – 1914 boy is 20 yrs  17 % of book
  5. 1914 – 1915  boy is 21 yrs  26 % of book  WW I ?
  6. 1916 – 1938  boy is 34 yrs   17 % of book



Posted by on September 25, 2016 in Uncategorized




  • Author:   Patrick White   (1912 – 1990)
  • Title:   Voss  
  • Published: 1957
  • Trivia: In 1973 White accepted the Nobel Prize
  • “for an epic and psychological narrative art…
  • which has introduced a new continent into literature”.
  • Trivia:  Nobel Challenge : read 12 books in 2016  = completed


1. Explain the title. In what way is it suitable to the story?
The name of the main character: Johan Ulrich Voss

2. What is the predominant element in the story?
Character: We see how Voss and Laura  will change in the book.

3. Who is the single main character about. whom the story centers?
Johan Voss:  Laura is also seen as a main character.

4. How does the author handle characterization?

White lets the other characters describe Voss:

  • Le Mesurier: ‘greedy looking pig, German swine (ch 2)
  • Topp (represents White’s mentor Roy de Maitre):
  • great men are exempt from trivial duties… […]
  • if the German was not great, Topp would have liked him to be” (ch 2)
  • Brother Muller: “Mr Voss, you have a contempt for God
  • …because He is not in your own image.” (ch 2)
  • Narrator: ‘Voss and Laura, they shared some guilty secret of personality.
  • Only, nobody noticed.”  (makes the reader very curious….) (ch 3)
  • Mrs. Sanderson – Voss is troubled in some way “…needs to be saved” (ch 6)

The expedition reveals the characters of the the men involved.

  • A group of people whose characters and
  • …relationships are fixed are placed in new circumstances
  • The men are forced to adjust.
  • Some thrive and survive (Judd) …others are destroyed and  never return.
  • The way the characters either grow and change or
  • ….deepen reveal elements of themselves.
  • Team: Harry Robarts, Mr. Turner, Frank Le Mesurier,
  • …Ralph Angus, Judd, Mr Palfreyman and Voss.

5. What sort of conflict confronts the leading character or characters?
a. External – Voss has contempt for God. He even feels he is better than God.
b. Internal – Voss must be humbled. He must learn he is not God…only then will he be nearest to becoming so.

6.  How is the conflict resolved?

  • There must be a sacrifice so that sins can be forgiven, redemption.
  • Laura knows either she or Voss must die.
  • She is prepared to do it when she becomes ill (ch 13).
  • She will lose her daughter and Voss forever.
  • Through the ‘mystical telepathy’ that Voss and Laura share…she knows he has been killed.
  • She regains her strength….and lives, but Voss is always with her.

7. Who tells the story?
3rd person narrator

8. What is the general theme of the story?

  • Self-discovery — suffering — mystical experience — redemption
  • “ develops ‘out of the suffering of the humble.”
  • “…true knowledge only comes ‘of death by torture in the country of the mind.”

9. Where does the primary action take place?

  • Sydney
  • journey to Newcastle by ship
  • Rhine Towers  (Mr. Sanderson’s home; represents the romantic Germany)
  • ...into the desert country….into hell.

10. What is the timeline?
The book begins when Laura is 20 and  ends when she is 45 yrs. ( 25 yrs)

11. How does the story get started,  initial incident?

  • Johann Ulrich Voss, a German immigrant, calls on Edmund Bonner,
  • …the major financial backer of the expedition.
  • Voss meets Bonner’s niece Laura Trevelyen.
  • The development of their ensuing relationship  parallels the fate of the expedition.

12. Briefly describe the rising action:

  • Laura and Voss meet in a garden.
  • There they experience a ‘mystical’ moment  when their souls bonded.
  • Laura sees Voss’s pride as a dangerous thing.
  • She will pray for him even is she has to teach herself to pray.
  • ” Then he was touching her, his hand was upon her shoulderblades,
  • …and they realized they had returned into their bodies.” (ch 4)

13. What is the high point, or climax, of the story?

  • Voss sees himself as a god-like figure.
  • White uses many words in the narrative to emphasize this:
  • eminence, sovereign, superior “he stares imperiously over the heads of men” (ch 6)
  • Irony: the aboriginals  see him NOT as a god but as an alien (foreigner)
  • ….that must be destroyed.

14. Discuss the falling action or close of the story.

  • Chapter 16 is the best section.
  • Laura is now a schoolmistress and her adopted daughter Mercy still with her.
  • Judd, a member of expedition presumed lost, has appeared.
  • Colonel Hebden, who is determined to find the
  • remains of the expedition wants to talk with Laura.
  • She is reluctant...but finally reveals new insights.

15. Does this story create any special mood?

  • The mood is mystical with all the extensive religious symbolism.
  • Voss is compared repeatedly to God, Christ and the Devil.
  • Like Christ Voss  goes into the desert.

16. Is this story realistic or true to life?

  • It is based upon the life of the 19th C Prussian explorer / naturalist Ludwig Leichhardt.
  • He disappeared while on an expedition into the Australian outback 1848.

17. What is the structure of the book?
Ch 1-4        introduction to characters with back round information
Ch 5 – 11:   expedition with alternating chapters taking the reader back to Laura on Sydney
Ch 12 – 13: parallel each other – last days of Voss in desert – sudden sickness of Laura in Sydney
Ch 14-16:   25 years after the  Voss’s expedition

18. Did you identify with any of the characters?

  • Laura: in chapter1 she looks inward.
  • She was absorbed in the depths of her own predicament.
  • In chapter 6 she is a humble, kind woman who loves outcasts:
  • the ‘strange man’ (Voss) and the adopted daughter (Mercy) (ch 9)
  • …for whom she cared for after the child’s mother had  died.
  • She now looks outward …to others.
  • She will not be brushed to the sidelines
  • because others think her plain, ugly a little freakish in her black dresses.
  • ” No, I will not go. I am here. I will stay. Thus she made her covenant”. (ch 16)
  • …her divine promise establishing God’s relationship to humanity.

19. Can you find any examples of figurative language? (ch 8)

  • White can go overboard with the ‘poetic style’…example:
  • Valley = bride;  sun = bridegroom;  joined in = liquid gold of complete union
  • White can be so so original…example:
  • – pelicans, making off on wings of creaking basket-work
  • – creases in his black trousers appeared to have been sculpted for eternity
  • White can be a word virtuoso…example:
  • “Blank faces (members team) like so many paper kites
  • dangling a vertebral tail, could prevent him (Voss) soaring
  • towards the apotheosis (god-like state) for which he was reserved.”

20. Does this story contain any of the following elements?


  • Voss hopes to be absorbed by the land ( conversation at the Sanderson’s home)
  • This is a terrible foreshadowing.
  • …but the reader has no idea what it relates to.
  • The ‘ah-ha’ moment will come at the end of the story. (ch 2)


  1. Mirror  =  reflects the true self
  2. Laura gazes in the mirror to see her deformities
  3. Voss gazes in the mirror to see his importance (god-like figure,) (ch 4)
  1. Desert = represents Voss
  2. Laura describes Voss  ‘vast and ugly‘; ‘with rocks of prejudice’; a person ‘isolated’
  3. She is fascinated by him: “You are my desert.” (ch 4)

Biblical allusion:

  • Voss asks Judd to kill a lamb for the Christmas celebration in the camp
  • Foreshadowing: sacrifice of a lamb in the OT was a symbol to
  • …the complete and perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
  • (Hebrews 9:22) “…without shedding of blood there will be no forgiveness (redemption).
  • This is symbolic because Voss, who sees himself as a Christ-figure,
  • will at the end submit to the aboriginals, be humbled and also sacrificed.
  • His blood will be absorbed by the earth.
  • He will be finally redeemed. (ch 8)

Names of characters: (clever…)

  1. Mr Plumpton  – was thin, scrawny and always hungry
  2. Mrs. Child –  was…’the midwife’
  3. Mr. Palfreyman – member of expedition, name reminds one of medieval quests


  1. Brendan Boyle… was like the big, rude, red potatoes, the shapely ones,
  2. but hard with the fine red dust coating them” (ch 8)

Metaphor:  (…strange…)

  • Voss’s expedition is compared to
  • “like being worm…butting my head at whatsoever darkness of the earth” (ch 2)


  • The farther Voss and Laura are separated from each other physically ( Sydney – the desert)
  • …the closer they become spiritually.
  • “…(I) include my love, since distance has united us thus closely.” (ch 8)

21. Does the story contain a single effect or impression for the reader?

  • The book left me with one effect….exhaustion.
  • Patrick White is very poetic, verbose (descriptions) and
  • ….allusions representing complex ideas and emotions.
  • At times it was hard to keep up with…his genius.
  • In chapters 10-13 White mingles Voss’s thoughts
  • ….about Laura with the narrative without warning.
  • Voss sees her with him ….there in the desert.
  • This was at times very confusing.

22: What were the sentences that impressed you the most?

Laura: quotations (ch 4)

  • Laura’s  realization that she is beset by dark helplessness
  • …that might become obsessions:
  • ” If I am lost, than who can be saved…”
  • Laura told Voss what she thought about him:
  • ” Everyone is offended by the truth and you will not be an exception”. (ouch!)

Voss:  quotation (ch 8)

  • ” Life starts fresh with every new journey…even into the dust.” 
  • After I finished the book I realized the foreshadowing implied.
  • Voss’s blood will be absorbed  by the dust (execution).
  • The beginning of his new journey will start….his redemption.


  1. I could not put this book down.
  2. It cast a spell
  3. …but not always in the good way.
  4. The chapters paralleling the relationship between Laura and Voss
  5. with the fate of the  expedition were very good.
  6. The descriptions of secondary characters,
  7. The Bonners, Belle,  maid Rose, The Pringles was Dickensian.
  8. We read details of houses, interiors, ball gowns, parties and picnics.
  9. White paints a picture of jollity and conviviality
  10. ..that are a stark contrast to the chapters describing the expedition.
  11. These sections were at times gruesome.
  12. I read a summary of the book before reading.
  13. I was afraid Patrick White would otherwise overwhelm me.
  14. He is an author that can be intimidating.
  15. Pre-warned about the eventual fate of Voss,
  16. …I was able to identify many moments of ‘foreshadowing’.
  17. Last thoughts:
  18. Warning: Ch 10 ends with Voss finally reading Frank Le Mesurier’s  secret journal.
  19. The journal contains poems.
  20. Remember all these strange poems  =  the voice of Patrick White!
  21. Beyond strange…
  22. I am impressed by Patrick White’s  writing.
  23. He deservedly received the Nobel Prize 1973.


Patrick White: (1912 – 1990)



Posted by on September 19, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Fall of the House of Usher


  • Author: Edgar Allan Poe
  • Title: The Fall of the House of Usher
  • Published: 1839
  • Trivia: Read for  R.I.P  Challenge


  1. Edgar Allan Poe is a ‘hard nut to crack’.
  2. I’m reading a SHORT  story...but spending LONG hours trying to understand it!
  3. I used to read the short story
  4. The paragraphs are divided into  numbers  64 – 81.

Paragraph 64:

Understand the title:  The Fall of the House of Usher

  1. Usually I would just read over the title
  2. ….but now have learned to  ‘study it word for word’
  1. Fall:
  2. to drop wounded or dead
  3. Roderick falls to the ground dead when his sister falls heavily inward upon him
  4. to break down; collapse
  5. house ‘cracks’ in two (fissure widens) and silenty and sullenly falls and sinks into the tarn
  6. sudden decline in strength or number or importance – 
  7. fall of the family bloodline of the House of Usher (family)  death of Roderick and  the lady Madeline marks the end of the  ancient race of the Ushers.
  1. House of Usher:  Usher is the name of the family, the mansion and the estate

First sentence:

  1. “During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country; and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.”
  1. The first sentence  must establish the ‘unified effect‘ Poe mentions
  2. …in his essay Review Twice Told Tales by N Hawthorne.
  3. In Fall of the House of Usher  the effect is  gloom, passion, madness and terror.
  4. “Without the unity of impression‘  as Poe reveals, “the deepest effects cannot be brought about’.


  1. autumn of the year – passing alone on horseback – shades of evening dew drew on
  2. indicates the season; a time before the invention of automobile…19th C; time of day is dusk


  1. the sense of gloom piles up: “dull dark, opressively low, singularly dreary,
  2. melancholy, bleak, decayed, iciness, sickening of heart, dreariness,
  3. shadowy, sorrowful, black and lurid, shudder, ghastly, vacant and so on.
  4. the sense of mystery begins with the words of the narrator: “I know not how it was…”


  1. Poe makes an unexpected comparison that I don’t really understand.
  2. This jolts me out of the flow of reading.
  3. He compares the ‘depression of soul’  to
  4. the after-dream of the reveler upon opium — the bitter lapse into every-day life — the hideous dropping off of the veil
  5. My interpretation: look for opposites in comparison:  happiness (revelry) –  gloom (bitter lapse)
  6. Poe describes the depression as an  after-dream (nightmare, hangover) after reveling in a swoon of opium.
  7. Now he is back to normal, gloomy  (bitter lapse)  every-day life.

Paragraph 65:


  1. Narrator cannot understand why the scene of
  2. …the mansion gives him a ‘sickening of the heart’
  3. …’what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?
  4. Does the house have human features?
  5. house contemplates him as he contemplates the house!
  6. Strange.


  1. He has sent a letter to narrator. He desires to see him.
  2. The narrator is a childhood friend not seen in many years who lives in a distant part of the country.
  3. Roderick has a  ‘nervous agitation’, ‘acute bodily illness—of a mental disorder which oppressed him’.


  1. Mansion has ‘vacant and eye-like windows’
  2. …that the narrator see in a glimpse and in the reflection in the lake.
  3. This is another example of human like features of the house
  4. Strange…again.


  1. He as decided to visit Roderick ‘ I now proposed myself a sojourn of some weeks.
  2. The narrator uses very strong words that imply that he is unable to refuse Roderick’s invitation.
  3. The narrator admits ‘he knew little of my friend’  yet says…
  4. ‘I accordingly obeyed forthwith what I still considered a very singular summons. (more than a request…)
  5. Why does narrator feel that way? 
  6. Again Poe incorporates another part of the puzzle into the story
  7. I am now very curious!


  1. Narrator describes his attempt to make a
  2. …’different arrangement of the particulars of the scene’
  3. gazing in the ‘black and lurid tarn’.
  4. But the narrator is more terrified of the reflection
  5. …than he is of  the actual house standing before him. Why?
  6. This must be a foreshadowing of the catastrophe that is yet to come.
  7. QUESTION:  how can a black liquid surface  give off a reflection?

Paragraph 66:

Usher race:

  1. “It was this deficiency […] in the long lapse of centuries, —it was this deficiency…”
  2. Twice Poe call the Usher race a ‘deficiency.
  3. This is probably an inbred family which could explain the ‘madness’.
  4. It is possible Ushers only married Ushers
  5. “…undeviating transmission, from sire to son…”
  6. …and the only Usher left available for Roderick might be his sister.

Reflection in tarn (lake):

  1. Poe describes the feelings of terror
  2. …increasing in  the narrator as he gazes at the reflection.
  3. The narrator was more frightened
  4. ….by the reflection than the house “deepen the first singular impression’.
  5. His fear increased, he did not have it under control.



  1. Poe points out ‘paradoxial law of all sentiments having terror as a basis.’
  2. The more the narrator is aware of his feelings (terror)
  3. …the more powerful they grow.
  4. Reminds me of the  Imp of the Perverse: the more  you shouldn’t think about something
  5. …the more you must think about it.

Paragraph 67:


  1. Decay is evident (fungi, crumbling of a few stones)
  2. …but it is the internal decay that will bring the house down. (incest?)
  3. The house ‘gave little token of instability’ only a
  4. crack from roof ‘down the wall […] lost in sullen waters of the tarn (lake).

Comparison Roderick vs house:

  1. House:
  2. vacant eye-like windows
  3. fungi overspread the whole exterior,
  4. …hanging in a fine, tangled web-work from the eaves
  5. fissure, which, extending from the
  6. …roof of the building in front, made its way down the wall
  7. ‘physique’ (human like) ‘the gray walls and turrets’
  1. Roderick:
  2. the luminousness of his eye had utterly gone out
  3. The silken hair […]  wild gossamer texture,
  4. ….it floated rather than fell about the face
  5. split personality – “His action was alternately vivacious and sullen”
  6. cadaverousness of complexion ghastly pallor of the skin

Paragraph 70:


  1. “I dread the events of the future, not in themselves, but in their results
  2. …the grim phantasm, Fear.”
  3. He fears a mental state he cannot escape.
  4. For Usher the fear of death is far worse than death itself!


  1. The twins Roderick and Madeline have a close relationship.
  2. tenderly beloved sister; his sole companion;  last and only relative on earth.
  3. Roderick’s gloom is due to his sister’s ‘severe and long-continued illness.
  4. Ironically he says: “Her decease, he said with bitterness, which I can never forget
  5. would leave him  the last of the ancient race of Ushers.
  6. Why bitterness? 
  7. If his sister means so much to him
  8. ….why not feel sad is she dies?
  9. Strange.

Paragraph 71:


  1. On the evening of the narrator’s arrival Lady Madeline dies.
  2. For several days Roderick and the narrator talk.
  3. They try to alleviate the feeling of melancholy.

Paragraph 72:

  1. Painting:  Art becomes more and more intertwined into the story.
  2. The narrator is looking at  unfinished works  by Usher.
  3. He is struck by the resemblence he sees to paintings of Henry Fuseli (1741 – 1825)
  4. Poe probably had in ‘The Nightmare”  in mind when he wrote this tale.
  5. In paragraph 77 we will read a direct reference to the
  6. ‘incubus‘ (a demon alleged to lie upon people in their sleep) we see in this picture!
  7. “An irrepressible tremor gradually pervaded my frame;
  8. … there sat upon my very heart an incubus of utterly causeless alarm.


Paragraph 73-74:

Poem  The Haunted Palace   (written April 1839 and added to this tale  September 1839)

  1. Allegory about a king who is afraid of evil forces that threaten him and his palace.
  2. I had to research this poem via Wikipedia.
  3. The poem compares the palace with a human head; windows = eyes; door mouth.
  4. The exterior of the palace represents physical features.
  5. The interior of the palace represents the mind engaged in imaginative thought.
  6. Poe said:
  7. “I mean to imply a mind haunted by phatoms…” refering to Roderick Usher.
  8. Roderick has an obsessive fear his is threatened….as does the king in the poem.

Paragraph: 76 – 79

  1. Roderick and the narrator place Madeline in a coffin.
  2. ‘ We replaced and screwed down the lid…”
  3. Roderick’s behavior changes, he is restless and the narrator can’t sleep.
  4. The narrator grabs a book ‘Mad Trist’ of Sir Launcelot Canning’ and starts to read to Roderick.
  5. He wants to calm him down.


  1. The book Mad Trist’ of Sir Launcelot Canning is invented by Poe for this tale.
  2. Now we have  Poe telling us the story of the narrator...
  3. who is reading a story invented by Poe.
  4. Poe is writing about a man who is quoting Poe!
  5. Can you still follow me?

Paragraph: 81    Crime

  1. The crime against Madeline is that she is prematurely entombed.
  2. While Roderick has been considered responsible…
  3. …but the fact remains he could not have put her in the coffin without help.
  4. The narrator realizes he is part of the crime!
  5. “We have put her living in the tomb!”

Paragraph 82:  Final act

  1. Roderick finally admits hearing sounds.
  2. Suddenly  “…without those doors there DID stand the
  3. lofty and enshrouded figure of the lady Madeline of Usher.”
  4. Madeline and Roderick reunite only to die in each other’s arms.
  5. The narrator flees the chamber….the house!


  1. “The fissure (crack) ‘rapidly widend, there came a fierce breath of the whirlwind.”
  2. The narrator sees ‘the mighty walls rushing ausunder’.


  1. Not skin crawling terror but still a fascinating story.
  2. Strong pointcomparisons between house, Roderick and his sister.
  3. The twins are fulfilling their  dark fate.
  4. The house sinks into the lake (tarn).
  5. The House of Usher (bloodline) has finally surrendered to the worst
  6. the most fascinating  thing:  fear.
  1. Last Thoughts:
  2. I’m absolutely exhausted….after 2 days dissecting word for word
  3. “The Fall of the House of Usher”
  4. Ghosts and mice in my house!
  5. Every night I hear creaks on the staircase, scratching behind the walls,
  6. …or am I reading too much Edgar Allan Poe?


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Posted by on September 14, 2016 in Uncategorized


The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus


  • Playwright: Aeschylus
  • Title:  The Libation Bearers ( Oresteia triology   #2)
  • Date: 458 BC


  1. Orestes speech at Agamemnon tomb
  2. There are just 9 lines in the prologue in which
  3. Orestes (incognito) speaks before he sees his sister Electra and  the chorus approach

Parados:  entrance choral song: group of captive slave women

  1. They are called libation bearers b/c they are carrying  liquid offerings
  2. …(wine, olive oil, milk etc…) to pour on the grave of Agamemnon.
  3. They reveal the miseries of slavery.
  4. The chorus advises Electra to pray at Agamemnon’s tomb for vengeance and Orestes’s return.


  1. He comes out of hiding, tells Electra who he is and they rejoice and lament together.
  2. They pray for their father’s help for vengeance against his murderers.
  3. Orestes  has a plan.
  4. He will gain entrance to the palace by masquerading
  5. …as a messenger bringing news of Orestes’s death.
  6. He guesses that news is something Clytemnestra will be happy to hear.
  7.  …no avenging son on the loose!.
  8. Orestes will then kill his mother and her lover Aegisthus.


  1. She receives the word of her sons’ death with a mild expression of…regret.
  2. She welcomes the messenger (Orestes) and his friend (Pylades)
  3. …into the palace as guests. Aegisthus  is immediately killed by Orestes.
  4. Cryptic words:  Servants tells Clytemnestra: “The dead are killing the living!”
  5. Clytemnestra demands a man killing axe, she is going to kill the stranger,
  6. …her son Orestes. Suddenly Orestes his mother.
  7. She begs  her son to take pity on her….she is his mother!

Pylades: (crucial 3 lines at a important  point in the play…)

He is acting as a silent character….but suddenly says on 3 lines in the entire play:

“What then becomes of what Apollo said,
what he foretold at Delphi? We made an oath.
Make all men your enemies but not the gods.”


  1. She tires to talk her way out of the ‘inevitable’  death scene.
  2. She tells Orestes she had a dream in which she nursed a snake at her breast.
  3. Now she knows Orestes is the snake.
  4. Orestes agrees he is the snake and leads his mother into the house to kill her.
  5. Orestes  does not claim he is right to kill her……
  6. but that she was wrong and now she must suffer wrong.

Parallel image:  Agamemnon  vs  The Libation Bearers

  1. Just as Clytemnestra displayed the
  2. …bodies of Agamemnon and Cassandra to the chorus and audience…
  3. …so does Orestes display
  4. the bodies of Clytemnestra and Aegisthus.
  5. Orestes’s confidence seems to dwindle.
  6. He finally claims he was ‘right to kill these two people’.
  7. He is afraid he is going mad.
  8. He feels like a charioteer who has gone off the track.

Parallel image:  Agamemnon  vs  The Libation Bearers

  1. Orestes wants to make clear while he still can speak rationally
  2. …he killed his mother not with some right.
  3. I killed my mother not without just cause.
    She was guilty of my father’s murder,
    a woman gods despised…”
  4. Clearly it is difficult to answer this question.
  5. Orestes…was he right? was he wrong?
  6. Chorus:  answers  this is difficult to judge.
  7. The chorus admits that she has a point. There is wrong on both sides.

Furies and Apollo:  – Orestes seeks god’s protection

  1. Orestes says he will go directly to Apollo and ask for his protection.
  2. Why does he need protection?
  3. Orestes sees the ‘invisible’ Furies…spirits of blood vengeance.
  4. Furies are goddesses who punish family members who kill other family members.

Oracle of Apollo:

  1. The oracle TOLD Orestes to kill Clytemnestra.
  2. Orestes told  his sister Electra earlier in the play that Apollo threatened him
  3. “It ordered me
    to murder them the way they murdered him,
    insisting they could not pay the penalty
    with their possessions. The oracle declared,
    If not, you’ll pay the debt with your own life,
          a life of troubles.”

Theme:  parallel with Agamemnon


  • Agamemnon caught between 2 moral duties:
  • Head of family must  go to Troy and bring Helen back
  • Father: must protect his child.
  • No: consequences mentioned if Agamemnon fails…


  1. Orestes caught between 2 moral duties:
  2. Apollo will punish Orestes if he does NOT kill his mother
  3. Furies will punish Orestes if he DOES kill his mother
  4. Damned if I do, damned if I  don’t!
  5. Yes: consequences mentioned if Orestes fails…

End of play:  Orestes rushes away pursued by the invisible Furies

Exodos: final chorus song –  when will  the cure of the house of Atreus ever end?

“When will all this cease? When will murder,
its fury spent, rest at last in sleep?”


  1. Second play in the trilogy is done.
  2. Plays are surprisingly easy to read and understand.
  3. Clytemnestra was drenched in her husband’s blood (Agamemnon)
  4. Clytemnestra is  drenched in her own blood (The Libation Bearers)
  5. I’m afraid we are not rid of her yet…
  6. …next up: the ghost of Clytemnestra!

How was a play staged in ancient Dionysus Greece?


  1. This picture  (above) is a Roman remodeling of the theatre (1-3rd C AD).
  2. We have very little trace of the 5th C theater of Dionysus.
  3. This picture (under) is probably how theater  REALLY looked in the 5th C (Thorikos)




Posted by on September 12, 2016 in Uncategorized



TANGIER 140316-ChefChaouen-133-P-M

  • Author: Edward Said
  • Title:  Orientalism
  • Published: 1978

Edward Said:

  1. Born in 1935 to a Lebanese mother and Palestinian father who had American citizenship.
  2. He was raised in Palestine, Egypt and Lebanon.
  3. Said has always lived with a divided identity.
  4. He realized that his first name was British,
  5. …his last name was Arabic and his nationality was American.
  6. He  moved to the U.S. in 1951 to attend Princeton
  7. …and begin what was to become a distinguished career as an academic.
  8. Said  was Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.
  9. He died in September 2003.


  1. The name of Edward Said will forever be associated mostly with his famous masterpiece, “Orientalism”.
  2. Said studied many historical and literary texts of the 18th and 19th century
  3. …to criticize the imperialist background of the field of ‘Oriental studies’.
  4. “Orientalism” is a difficult read, confusing.


  1. Preface is powerful….sharp criticism of neocons (and co) Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney their …experts Fouad Ajami and Bernard Lewis about their decision to invade Iraq. From Napoleon to Iraq Said blasts the West for its military coups, insurgency, war and brutality against ‘the latest bunch of natives’.  Ouch!
  2. Said continues to explain his humanistic outlook with the emphasis on human beings (individuals and collectively) who prefer in critical thinking and evidence over orthodoxy and dogma.
  3. I wonder what his ‘new preface’  would have been is he was still alive.  A lot has happened in the Middle East since 2003!


  1. 28 pages filled with scholarly and  intense personal thoughts about Orientalism.
  2. It is not an airy European fantasy influenced by authoritative ‘western style domination.
  3. Said intends to make the Orient speak, describe the Orient and
  4. …render its mysteries plain for all to read.
  5. Orientalism has survived because of its richness.

Part 1. Scope of the Orient  – Knowing the Orient

  1. There are westerners and there are orientals. The former dominate; the latter must be dominated.
  2. Evelyn Baring (Lord Cromer)  1e controller general in Egypt 1878-1879.
  3. Baring’s programs lead to limited economic development in Egypt..
  4. His policies are considered to be
  5. …representative of colonial “white man’s burden” attitudes.
  6. European expansionism (1815-1914)
  7. direct colonial domination  expanded from 35% to 85 % of the earth’s surface.
  8. Every continent was effected, none more than Asia and Africa.
  9. The British and French encountered each other in the ‘Orient’.
  10. They had 3 possibilities – renounce, monopolize or share.
  11. They decided to share.
  12. Orientalism was a library of ideas that gave its people a mentality and atmosphere.
  13. Orientalism  is the distinction between Western superiority and Oriental inferiority.

Geography and its representations

  1. Orientalism is:
  2. academic disipline It is the Western’s approach to the East.
  3. collection of dreams, images vocabulary…of what lies East of the dividing line.
  4. Orientalism carries within it a stamp of problematic European attitude towards Islam.
  5. It is a field of study in an enclosed space, theatrical stage affixed to Europe.
  6. The orient is constructed by the West as a stage
  7. …where certain truths of cultural identity can be preformed.
  8. Often the performers are Westerners who enact the East as the West understands is.
  9. Think of Benjamin Disraeli and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia)
  10. …political actors masquerading as orientalists.

Projects (history, literature) 

  1. Napoleon decides to harass the British’s oriental empire.
  2. His  invasions of Egypt and Syria have had the greater consequence
  3. …for the modern history of orientalism.
  4. July 1798  lands at Alexandria
  5. Syria campaign March-May 1799
  6. August 1799  Bonaparte leaves Cairo
  7. Before Napoleon Anquetil-Duperrron (1731-1805)  and
  8. William Jones (1746-1794)  (master scholar of Arabic, Hebrew and Persian)
  9. had invaded the Orient
  10. Europe a glimpse of the Orient in texts, languages and civilizations.


  1. We think of Orientalism as a kind of Westren projection
  2. …and the wlll to govern over the Orient.
  3. The ideas about the Orient can be put to political use.
  4. I read pages and pages….but never discovered HOW
  5. ..ideas about the Orient can be put to political use.
  6. That is just one example of the lack of structure in the book!
  7. Said starts with a interesting statement….and then I’m lost.

Part 2.  Orientalist Structures and restructures

  1. Frontiers, issues, religion
  2. Silvestre de Sacy (Orientalist)
  3. Long discussion….
  4. He was the  first teacher of Arabic at the Ecole publique de langues orientales.
  5. De Stacy became the teacher of nearly every major Orientalist.
  6. De Sacy  was the first Frenchman to attempt to read the Rosetta stone
  1.  Ernest Renan (Orientalist) 
  2. one of the first historians to introduce new insights
  3. …about the origin of the Jews through philology.
  4. Edward Said is trying to make the point that
  5. the gap between historians  NOW and their antique idols
  6. the addition of philology to the historical dimension.
  7. Philology: Ancient Rome and empire spoke through the words surviving from it
  8. NEW: Philology enabled moderns to recover historical reality
  9. …behind the words!
  1. Oriental scholarship – difference between Orientalism as literature and a science
  2. Pilgrims, pilgrimages – what was the  Orient for the 19th C traveler?
  3. British pilgrim vs French pilgrim
  4. Every pilgirm see things his own way.
  5. British:  sense of imperialism, colonial domination
  6. The Orient was India, a possession and must pass through the Near East
  7. …en route to a major colony.
  8. French: a sense of loss, evicted out of Egypt by the British
  9. …the French sought the exotic Biblical past, the Cursades, Dead Sea Scrolls
  10. Flaubert….sought exotic inspiration, sensuality for his novels’ female characters!

Orientalism Now


  1. My comment on Good Reads  ….half way through the book:
  2. Orientalism feels very depressing.
  3. Other books I’ve read showed me the wonder and beauty that is the Orient.
  4. Edward Said shows me the stereotyped version
  5. ….of a ‘hostile other world beyond the seas’.
  6. It is sad to read the ‘mindset’ of people like Lord Cromer
  7. (Controller General of Egypt 1878-1879)
  8. describing orientals as depraved,
  9. childlike and inveterate liars.
  10. I hope to find some positives in this book….soon!


  1. The book is interesting….but not dazzling.
  2. Edward Said is a great scholar, but very verbose.
  3. After chapter 3  changed my reading tactics.
  4. If you read the first sentence of each paragraph...
  5. have the essential idea Said wants to clarify.
  6. This saved me many hours of reading elaborate descriptions.
  7. I expected the book to be less a ‘charming lecture’ and
  8. …more  to-the-point explanations about orientalism.
  9. The book felt like a jumble of profound ideas, facts and
  10. innumerable series of french quotations.
  1. Last thoughts:
  2. The only chapter I really enjoyed was Part 2 ch 4
  3. Pilgrims and Pilgrimages…including insights of writers
  4. …who were drawn to  Orientalism
  5. ..(Flaubert, Gide, Wilde, Conrad and Maugham).
  6. If I add the preface and introduction (enjoyed reading these sections)
  7. …my total enjoyment is just 21% of the book!
  8. #LowReturnOnInvestment
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Posted by on September 11, 2016 in Uncategorized


Agamemnon by Aeschylus


  • Playwright: Aeschylus
  • Title: Agamemnon ( Oresteia triology   #1)
  • Date: 458 BC


  1. Main theme: (Agamemnon) man caught between 2 moral duties:
  2. Head of family must  go to Troy and bring Helen back
  3. Father: must protect his child.
  4. ” my fate is angry if I disobey
  5. but angry  if I slaughter this child beauty of my house
  6. with maiden bloodshed
  7. staining these father’s hands beside the altar…”

Prologue:   Watchman: 

  1. He is waiting for a signal. (relay beacon fires): Watchman is on roof for one reason.
  2. He must inform  Clytemnestra  when he sees the fire to announce that Troy has fallen.
  3. The watchmen sets the scene, the timeline and key theme. 
  4. Watchman’s first words  set the somber mood.
  5. There is a sense that something  is amiss in the palace, in the house (oikos).
  6. After this scene we never hear or see the watchman again.

Parados: (entrance choral song)

  1. The chorus enters the orchestra and tells us that they are
  2. citizens of Argos who were too old to fight 10 years ago.
  3. The elders  narrate essential back round information
  4. …that happened right before Agamemnon sailed for Troy.
  5. Agamemnon and Menelaus are ordered by Zeus  to sail to Troy. 
  6. Aeschylus makes clear Agamemnon is blameless ….but 
  7. …the fact that he is forced into this dillemma  (see main theme)
  8. ….does not free him from the moral  consequences.

Chorus: (very important part of  the play)

  1. Reveals that Agamemnon and Menelaus saw an omen.
  2. Two  eagles swept down from the sky, killed a pregnant rabbit and her unborn young.
  3. The pregnant rabbit represents the walled city of Troy.
  4. Unborn rabbits represent the innocents, women and children within the Troy.
  5. The eagles represent Agamemnon and Menelaus.
  6. Describes Agamemnon’s hesitation and horror once he makes his decision to kill daughter.
  7. Reveals Agamemnon is changed after he kills his daughter.
  8. “…And from the heart the breath came bitter and
  9. sacrilegious to warp a will now to be stopped at nothing.”
  10. Describes the horrific scene as daughter cries out to her father.


  1. Comes into the play at line 810 (halfway).
  2. He has captive Cassandra behind him in his chariot.
  3. She has been awarded to him as a prize for his valor.
  4. Aga reminds us in his victory speech  what he had to do.
  5. Aga speaks of healing the corruption within the state.
  6. We know he is not going to succeed.

Carpet scene

  1. Scene is crucial: gives insight into the character of Agamemnon
  2. Wife comes forward to great him. She showers him with loving words
  3. She orders her servants to lay down embroidered clothes for Agamemnon to walk upon.
  4. Aga says it is only fit for the gods and not humans
  5. ….but walks on them anyway.
  6. Just before Agamemnon walks on carpet he calls Cassandra an ‘exquisite flower’.

Characteristics Agamemnon revealed:

  1. visual representation of Aga’s haughtiness, pride.
  2. reveals what Aga does…destroys lovely things.
  3. his daughter, Iphigenia
  4. and is in the processes of destroying Cassandra
  5. (…but he does not know that yet….)

Cassandra :

  1. She had been silent in the chariot but finally brings out
  2. …a  howling lamentation, a cry of sorrow.
  3. She broke an engagement to Apollo and he cursed her.
  4. He gave her the gift of prophesy but made it now that no one would believe her.
  5. She KNOWS the truth, she PROPHESIES the future but NO ONE can believe her.
  6. She tells the chorus you will see Agamemnon  dead
  7. ….but they respond with ‘ hush don’t say such things”.

Clytemnestra:  climatic scene after murder of her husband and Cassandra

  1. She appears over the bodies. She feels no shame.
  2. Chorus thinks she has gone mad.
  3. Clytemnestra reminds them of Iphigenia,
  4. …why didn’t you object when Aga slaughtered my child?
  5. The chorus admits that she has a point. There is wrong on both sides.

Characteristics  Clytemnestra:

  1. Masculine: she governs during Agamemnon’s  absence
  2. she conceals her true feelings with persuasive rhetoric
  3. She was the hunter and he was the prey.
  4. She killed him in the bath tub, fully clothed and armed.
  5. Agamemnon is naked ans supine. (feminine)

Chorus is in shock!

  1. Chorus: says your are insane! you have taken poison.
  2. She enjoyed Aga’s blood splashing on her like flowers enjoy the rain in springtime.
  3. Here rain  fertilizing the earth is a metaphor for intercourse.
  4. She seems to be saying she got a sexual enjoyment out of killing her husband

End of play:

  1. Clytemnestra asks for the chorus to let matters stand (no exodos),
  2. …begging for peace hope that Orestes can bring order to the house.


  1. Really powerful play….I am deeply impressed!
  2. It has taken me many years to finally  read a Greek tragedy.
  3. My advice?  don’t wait like I did
  4. …..Aeschylus’s Agamemnon is
  5. #MustRead!


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Posted by on September 10, 2016 in Uncategorized


R.I.P. Challenge


  1. There is no other writer that fascinates me more than Edgar Allan Poe.
  2. A drug addict, maniac depressive and like many of his characters
  3. ….driven to the brink of madness.
  4. Thanks to Tracy at Bitter Sweet and Mystery…
  5. I heard of a challenge hosted by Stainless Steel Droppings.
  6. I decided this would be a perfect opportunity to read more of Poe’s works….
  7. Poe wrote just about everything.
  8. horror
  9. satires
  10. humor
  11. tales 
  12. hoaxes
  13. literary theory in essays and criticisms
  14. detective fiction
  15. poems
  16. short stories
  17. book reviews
  18. …and 1 complete novel: The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)
  1. I’ve read   The Raven,
  2. The Imp of the Perverse,
  3. but there are so many more tales and short stories to enjoy.

Challenge R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XI

  1. If you are interested in joining the challenge here is some information:
  2. Challenge literature:
  3. Mystery — Suspense — Thriller — Gothic — Horror — Dark Fantasy
  4. Challenge dates:  September 1st, 2016 through October 31st, 2016.
  5. Challlenge goals: Have fun reading — share that fun with others.
  6. Challenge reviews:  are optional…but there is also  a  Review Site,
  7. …where participants share links to any reviews related to this event.
  8. See Carl’s explanatory post if you have interest in participating in this event.



  1. The Afterlife of Edgar Allan Poe – Peeples, S.  (READ as reference, no review)
  2. The Fall of the House of Usher






Posted by on September 8, 2016 in Uncategorized

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