Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Salon

Earlier This Week

Two Daisy books reviewed! R. K. Narayan's The Painter of Signs and Penelope Fitzgerald's The Gate of Angels.

I also reviewed Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw from my Classics Club list.

Top of the Stack

I declared for Fanda's Zoladdiction2019 with the idea I'd read Nana, which I own and haven't read.

The rest of the books are #1965Club candidates, hosted by Simon and Kaggsy, at the end of the month. That pile is rather aspirational (and still not all of the 1965 books around here...) and in particular I suspect Miss MacIntosh, My Darling will fall by the wayside. Certainly not both that and The Magus. Though if not now, when?

Which of these look good to you?

Discussion: Computers While Reading

These days I'm always hearing about how computers are distracting--and they can be!--but it's also worth mentioning they can be useful. I wonder even if they change the nature of reading.

Earlier this week when I was reading The Gate of Angels, there was a scene where Fred Fairly was defending the existence of the soul, even though he himself was a non-believer. That's the nature of the (fictional) Disobliger's Society in the book: a question is proposed and the two people who argue the different sides are compelled to argue the side they would not normally favor.

In his presentation, Fred says, (it's in quotes in the book) "we should have spoken earlier, prayed for another world absolutely" and I wondered if that was a real quote, and I had a tablet sitting next to me, so I typed it in to Google and yes, it is. It's from William James' Varieties of Religious Experience. Now that's fascinating: it's believable that Fred knew this book and it tells us something about Fred. James' book was new at the time the novel was supposed to take place; it was originally a lecture series James gave at the University of Edinburgh. James, like Fred, was raised by a religious father but lost his faith; Varieties of Religious Experience is James' attempt to scientifically investigate the ecstatic religious experience without taking sides on whether God exists. It fits the theme of Fitzgerald's novel (in which a miracle may have occurred, but we don't know).

Now Varieties of Religious Experience is a book I've read. Years ago, in a more serious mindset. (Though if you're a list reader it's right up there near the top of that Modern Library best non-fiction list and I recall it as a fascinating read.) But I didn't recognize the quote, which comes from a footnote, and I doubt very many of Penelope Fitzgerald's original readers would. And in 1990, before Project Gutenberg, Wikipedia, and the digitization of books by Google, you would have to be a very special kind of reader to do so, I think. It's a strange sort of Easter Egg Penelope Fitzgerald buried in her book, but a fun one.

Anyway, I don't quite know what to make of it, or what her intentions were, but I throw it out there for discussion... ;-)

Where I Am

A sloppy snowy day, but that didn't stop these intrepid drummers from their March for Music Therapy. March is going out like a lion, even if a wet, bedraggled one. But I think it came in like a lion, too. I've been cheated!

How is it where you are?

Check out the other Sunday Salon posts (and add yours!) at DebNance's home for Sunday Salon.


  1. I heartily agree with you about the delights of reading with computers. I just finished North and South, listening to some of it in audiobook format and reading some of it in ebook format. As I was writing up my review, I remembered a quote I loved, but I couldn't remember exactly where it was. I did an ebook search for it, and I was astonished to actually find it and be able to quote it in my review.

    It's interesting to imagine how the quote made its way into Penelope Fitzgerald's book. Perhaps she kept a commonplace book.

    Now you have me thinking....

  2. i never imagined myself using an ebook but now i have 4 of them... so i've come to see that increasing reading methodologies is a good thing. kudos for reading James; although i've been a devoted reader for 70 years more or less, i've never been able to handle his sentence-ology...

    1. Me, too, though I still prefer paper. A friend swears by them, especially for things in a foreign language, because the dictionary is right there.

      As for James, ah, well, that was then. I don't know that I could read it now. But William's sentences do strike me as less impossible than his brother's, especially as Henry got older...

  3. I agree that having a the internet or an ebook to quickly look things up is fantastic. I do remember using encyclopedias in the "old days" and buying fat reference books (on opera, on psychology, etc.) when possible.

    I am going to read The Magus for sure for the 1965 club (even if the edition I have is actually the 1977 revised edition...shhhh).

    1. Mine is the 1977 edition as well...we'll keep it under our hats...

      I still have most of those fat references books, but we did (finally) get rid the encyclopedia. But you can't have my OED!