Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Brona’s Salon: Zola’s “Money”

This is my second participation in Brona’s Salon. It’s a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'

So, here’s mine…

What are your currently reading?

Money by Émile Zola

How did you find out about this book?

I have become a hardcore fan of Zola right after reading Therese Raquin, back in 2011. Naturally I then searched for more of his books. And how delighted was I when being introduced to the Rougon-Maquart series with 20 books. 20, yay! Money is the 18th book of the series.

Why are you reading it now?

My first reading from Rougon-Maquart is L’Assommoir. I picked Oxford World Classics (OWC) edition, and was very satisfied with the translation. Plus OWC uses lovely paintings for its cover, and I love it! So, I decided to read the series from OWC edition in random order. Money is one of the latest being published, and I am also reading it for The Classic Club challenge.

 First impressions? 

It will be slightly boring because of its financial theme. But, knowing Zola and his story-telling talent, I still had hope.

Which character do you relate to so far?

Madame Caroline. She is a trusted friend and also mistress of Saccard (born Aristide Rougon—from The Kill). Madam Caroline is a sensible and self-esteemed woman. She admires Saccard’s ambition to “conquer financial world”, but does not let passion overcome her conscience. She seems to know what must be done, and although disagrees with Saccard, she keeps protecting him from scandals. Though she is broken-hearted over Saccard’s affair, she still befriends him.

Are you happy to continue?

Of course! It has been a pleasant reading, although I’m not very familiar with the stock exchange terms and system.  

Where do you think the story will go? 

I am only 100s pages left to end, so it’s quite obvious about how Saccard’s condition would be. But I am really curious about how Madam Caroline would react.

So, have you read this book?

Monday, November 14, 2016

The Classic Book-a-Month Club 2017 #CBAM2017

The end-of-year-excitement for book blogger started when bloggers begin to post their reading challenges or reading groups of the next year. Funny it is that you were super-excited when planning the reading, but felt under-pressured while executing the plan. Well, at least, for me.

For 2017, actually I have planned to “read with the flow”, opening unlimited reading choices according to my mood. But…. this one is too tempting to be ignored:

The Classic Book-a-Month Club 2017 (#CBAM2017) hosted by Adam

I will only join in about 4 or 5 months of it:

The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles
I have read Oedipus the King about 5 years ago; and loved it. Maybe now is the perfect time to revisit it in English version (I read Indonesian translation back then).

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
This is one of my most favorite books. Would love to rereading it once again (my last reading was in 2014).

Paradise Lost by John Milton
I might or might not pick this. I’m just curious. And I have been itching to read plays and poems again, so…. just maybe…

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
This would be my first Cather. But the theme is interesting, and it’s always exciting to read from an author for the first time.

The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
 Just because the book has been in my TBR for too long; time to tackle it!

Other than that, I have been longing to reread The Great Gatsby and The Iliad! And maybe one or two Shakespeare.

What about you, what classics are you excited to read or reread next year?

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Brona’s Salon: Going Back to Ancient Rome with Cicero

I am supposed to do a lot of reports (year ends suck! -_-), and I still have 7 books and 3 plays to complete for The Classics Club challenge. But, hey! A girl needs a break, doesn’t she? So, I think I will take mine by joining Brona’s Salon, though I’m 4 days late… Sorry Brona, I have just found about your salon today! :)

So, here it is…

What are your currently reading?

Defence Speeches by Marcus Tulius Cicero

How did you find out about this book?

For years I have a soft spot for Ancient Rome. Few years ago, after reading Robert Harris’ Cicero series (Imperium & Lustrum), I fell in love with Cicero, who is, probably, the greatest orator of all time. So I googled some of his works, and found this one.

Why are you reading it now?

Maybe US Presidential debates had something to do with it, LOL!... Anyway, I’m reading it for my Classics Club challenge.

 First impressions? 

It was quite intimidating, considering how long speeches usually take in Roman court (from books I’ve read). And I was rather disappointed in finding that Catiline’s case wasn’t covered in this book. But then I remembered, this is Cicero’s defense speeches, while in Catiline’s case he was the prosecutor.

Which character do you relate to so far?

Cicero, of course! :)

Are you happy to continue?

Sure, it turns out to be quite interesting! I am still in the first (of five cases), and I have been amazed by Cicero’s eloquent yet sharp oration.

Where do you think the story will go? 

This first case that I am in now is very simple. Now I am so looking forward to other cases that (hopefully) more complicated, and thus would highlight more of Cicero’s eloquence. Oh boy, this would be one really beautiful reading! *excited*

Friday, July 1, 2016

The Classics Club Project: Progress #2

So, this is the second month of my last attempt to complete The Classics Clubs Project by March 2017. Everything looks promising till now, hopefully it lasts till the end. Here is my June stats, along with mini review of each book I read:

June 2016:

Books read = 4 of 20 (I’m still on track! J )
Books currently on progress = 1

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust

This might be one of the toughest books I’ve ever tackled! Not only because of the long sentences, but Swann’s Way is very philosophical…in a confusing way! During my reading, I didn’t really get what it was all about, or where Proust was taking me. Two things I have managed to learn, however: a). The narrator had a troubled childhood—a sensitive boy who longed for (and didn’t get much of) his parents’ affection; b). Swann was an open minded man in the midst of hypocritical society, who was torn between his love and jealousy to his mistress. Both lost in their memories of their past, and I was not quite sure what awaited me in the end. Well, at least I know I won’t read any other from the series! And pssst! I skipped several pages towards the end… :D

The Belly of Paris by Émile Zola

And so, after one tedious reading above, The Belly of Paris felt like a relieving balm. Zola must have done many observations and data collections to create such a methodical list about food and dishes inside the story. And look how he composed the “orchestra” of cheeses, or made fruits to become parts of girl’s body parts….

Zola is just that genius and artistic writer, isn't he? And that makes me loving him even more!

The Belly of Paris also let us getting introduced to Claude Lantier, although this time he did not have important role to the story. Overall it’s nice, only sometimes Zola got intense in highlighted the gluttony of Paris, that it gets disgusting. Do not read this book before or while you’re eating!

For July, I have The Pickwick Papers and The Master and Margarita, and also one week holiday to devour them. Yeah… this will be fun! J

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Classics Club Project: Progress #1

Following up my last attempt to complete The Classics Clubs Project by March 2017, here is my first progress, together with mini reviews of what I have finished reading:

May 2016:

Books read = 2 of 20 (I’m on track! J )
Books currently on progress = 1

Tales of the Jazz Age by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I’m not quite a fan of short stories, but this one is just amazing. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is the champion, of course. It was much deeper and more tragic than its adaptation (Brad Pitt as BB). I also liked Head and Shoulders, The Cut-Glass Bowl, and The Lees of Happiness. The last one is actually rather sad and sweet.

Interestingly, the stories tasted a bit like Zola and a bit Dickens. Fitzgerald’s descriptive narration reminded me of Zola, while his sense of humor was to me, a little Dickenish. In short, it does not have any similarity to The Great Gatsby or Tender is the Night. Tales of the Jazz Age is light, flowing, sweet, funny, but also sad and sometimes shocking.


The Dreyfus Affair: J’Accuse & Other Writings by Émile Zola

Being a non-fiction and chronologically compiled letters, writings, and even speeches, I thought The Dreyfus Affair would bore me. Well, it was for the first half, for it was compilation of Zola’s plea in letters and publication, pointing out Dreyfus’ innocence. The repetition was almost unbearable, until the open letter was up: J’Accuse! (action time!); then it became interesting. The most powerful piece was Zola’s speech in his statement to the Jury about Dreyfus Affair. But his personal letters to his wife Alexandrine, his mistress Jeanne, and his friends were all really interesting; in that it reveals a bit of Zola’s personalities—his anxiety, his loneliness, and his ability to keep his focus in writing during the hard times. If you are Zola’s fan, or intrigued by his works, you are going to enjoy this book!


Right now I am reading Proust’s Swann’s Way, but my progress is very slowly…. It’s not really enjoyable, but I must admire Proust’s beautiful prose.

That’s all for now, see you next month! ;)

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Belle Époque Artists: Jean Béraud

Outside the Vaudeville Theatre, Paris

Jean Béraud (January 12, 1849 – October 4, 1935) was a French painter, noted for his paintings of Parisian life during the Belle Époque. He was born in Saint Petersburg. His father (also called Jean) was a sculptor and was likely working on the site of St. Isaac's Cathedral at the time of his son's birth. Béraud's mother was one Geneviève Eugénie Jacquin; following the death of Béraud's father, the family moved to Paris. Béraud was in the process of being educated as a lawyer until the occupation of Paris during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870.

Le Pont Neuf

Béraud became a student of Léon Bonnat, and exhibited his paintings at the Salon for the first time in 1872. However, he did not gain recognition until 1876, with his On the Way Back from the Funeral. He exhibited with the Society of French Watercolorists at the 1889 World's Fair in Paris. He painted many scenes of Parisian daily life during the Belle Époque in a style that stands somewhere between the academic art of the Salon and that of the Impressionists. He received the Légion d'honneur in 1894.

Children With a Toy Seller on the Quai du Louvre

Béraud's paintings often included truth-based humour and mockery of late 19th-century Parisian life, along with frequent appearances of biblical characters in then contemporary situations. Paintings such as Mary Magdalene in the House of the Pharisees aroused controversy when exhibited, because of these themes.

Cottage cyclists in the Bois de Boulogne (1900)

 Towards the end of the 19th century, Béraud dedicated less time to his own painting but worked on numerous exhibition committees, including the Salon de la Société Nationale.

I posted this for my Belle Époque Event 2016, You will find more artists along the year.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fighting to Complete My Classics Club Project by Next Year!

Okay, time flies, indeed, too fast! When I started The Classics Club Project in March 2012, five years seemed so far away, I believed this project would be quite an easy one. I was wrong! Yes, the first two years my progress was quite fast. Since then I have updated and added a lot of books to my original list of 100. But today I realized for the first time, that my deadline would be 8th March 2017—only 10 months from now! If I still want to complete this project, I must work out very diligently…starting today.

So, after reviewing my list, here’s the statistic: 

Books I have read so far (reviewed or not) = 105
- Novels =    79
- Plays =       21
- Non-fiction = 5

My current list is 165 (I know… I was too ambitious then!), which is impossible to complete all in 10 months. With my current speed, 2 books a month, I think, is the most realistic. So, I trimmed down my list to 125, which means I have 20 classics to read by March 2017. It would not be an easy conquest—not with my current activities, plus I am selling our old family house and buying a new apartment this year. No, it would be very tight, but I’m prepared to push myself to the limit. Then, let’s see what I can achieve by March next year!

And, as I would soon need a lot of money to furnish the new apartment, my trimmed-list consists only of books on my TBR pile. Here they are in random order:

  1. The Pickwick Paper, Dickens – currently reading, originally for o’s read along, but I decided not to follow the timeline, as I found it difficult to reconnect with the characters after leaving them for a month.
  2. Our Mutual Friend, Dickens
  3. The Age of Innocence, Wharton
  4. The Belly of Paris, Zola
  5. The Conquest of Plassans, Zola
  6. The Earth, Zola
  7. The War of the Worlds, Wells
  8. The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck
  9. Ben Hur, Wallace
  10. Defense Speeches, Cicero
  11. The Swann’s Way, Proust
  12. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Hardy
  13. The Hobbit, Tolkien
  14. Tales of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald
  15. On the Origin of Species, Darwin
  16. The Trial, Kafka

3 plays, each from Marlowe, Ibsen, and (perhaps) Wilde

  1. The Dreyfus Affair: J’Accuse & other Writtings, Zola – currently reading 

So, 20 classics in 10 months. Read read read! And minimize the social media! Wish me luck!...