Category Archives: Books

page 132 of 253 of Justine

So much illness everywhere in the novel, the people are sick, memories are ill, the city itself seems afflicted with a malady undetermined. Yet it is all so beautiful, such as how Clea paints the various lesions of the doctor’s patients. In fact you have to wonder how these sick people felt having this kindly woman deftly paint and pay attention to them and their ailments. Who wouldn’t want this attention at death?

page 202 of 768 of Demons

Now some of this is making some sense, if in a convoluted way. The poor Marya thought she was married to Nikolai, and he even paid her an allowance, but this was stolen by her drunkard brother who beat her. I now wonder how much of her story of having a baby is true? She seemed to think it might be, but she also might have imagined it. Poor woman.

page 56 of 344 of Walden: With an Introduction and Annotations by Bill McKibben

He spends so much time working that he has no time to pursue reading or any other artistic endeavors, just like most hard working people.

He is proud that he knows the cost of his home and has built every meter of it, and he bemoans ornament and over decoration, but most people are willing to pay a convenience to not be bothered with more labor than they can bear. Better to pay rent and have company than be isolated

He is very skeptical of all the “great” things humanity has built. He sees monuments as a waste of time, especially the Great Pyramids, and I suppose that’s one way to look at it, especially considering how much suffering and misery were laid upon the backs of the humans who actually lifted those stones. Yet as a species is it not remarkable that we are inclined to erect such structures purely on faith? Yes, hammering stone into ornament may be a waste from a practical point of view, but do all things have to be practical? How incredible is it that our ideas, our imaginations can exist as stone and monument?

And he frees the ox and horse from labor and carries the timber with his own muscles, but he has become only a laborer with no dream. What is the point of living if all one should do is lift a heavy load, dig a cellar, grow the potato, and shovel the snow? Is a person no better than the ox? Is the mind of a human filled with no more than what is in the mind of a fish?

He believes the student would be better mining the ore that makes up his pen knife than studying metallurgy with a professor, and he is right that this sort of first-hand knowledge would prevent the student from cutting his finger, but is the mind to only be filled with the things that the hand can touch and by put to use? Are not the moons of Neptune as wondrous as the slushy water upon a half frozen lake in New England?

Thoreau’s vision is very narrow and he sees only what is right in front of him. He lacks a certain imagination, he is insensitive to the desire of people who want to look good simply because to wear a fine suit feels good. Not all people who dress up or get a good education do so at the expense of someone who can’t or won’t; life isn’t always about other people.

page 112 of 253 of Justine

The scene when the furrier – Melissa’s old lover – dying in the hospital is heartbreaking. Imagine being the kind of man he is (was), someone who did terrible things, and then on your deathbed have the lover of your lover come in and talk with you as you die. The amount of disappointment, of realizing how bad you fucked up in life, and how futile it all will be for is overwhelming.

page 171 of 768 of Demons

Someone once told me that Dostoevsky would have been a very good playwright and I agree with that. He’s all about dialogue (though everyone talks in long speeches) and it always seems as if every scene takes place in a stuffy, dusty, airless room in which everyone is poor and miserable, except for one character who has money but is even more miserable (at least morally).

I still have no idea what’s going on, however.

There a wonderful comment on Goodreads from someone also reading this novel that says simply, ” Voy a paso de tortuga”. Me too, Natalia. Me too.

page 91 of 253 of Justine

End of part 1

“I feel as if heaven lay close upon the earth and I between them both, breathing through the eye of a needle.” He was alive but no longer existed: this is the dream state, the strange ether the book takes place in, a fever city of fumbling passion and crime and filth and people looking for love but having no idea what that even is and so they refuse to fall in love. 

And now he an Justine have had sex

page 75 of 253 of Justine

The book by Jacob which describes Justine, but is renamed for the book (yet he still reads as Justine), is fascinating because we are reading a book about an author remembering his time with Justine and then comes upon a book written by someone else who also knew her and so we get a mirror-world of a man looking at his life though someone else’s words. It has the effect of understanding her distance from them both.

page 63 of 253 of Justine

The description of Justine’s childhood from her diary and the neighborhood she grew up in are extraordinary. The children’s hand prints on the walls (to keep the evil spirits away), the killing of the exhausted camel, “A house with an earthen floor alive with rats, dim with wicks floating upon oil”, “and everywhere the the veils, the screaming, the mad giggle under the pepper-trees, the insanity and the lepers.”

page 42 of 253 of Justine

I did not plan on reading this on top of everything else, but this book (in fact the whole tetralogy) was recommended to me by Irwin at the bookstore. And I’m surprised how absorbed I am by it because I normally don’t go in for this sort of thing, but my goodness it’s beautifully written and he can create such fascinating characters with just a few words, such as the poor old furrier who lost Melissa.

page 141 of 768 of Demons

While everyone is somewhat mean and cruel to each other, I never get the impression that Dostoevsky is mean or cruel to them, he’s only showing us how these people live, and it’s about what you’d expect if you looked in on a lot of people’s lives: bickering, petty intrigue, half-baked ideas, affairs, generalizations about politics and society. But the point is that he wants us to care about these people.

page 37 of 344 of Walden: With an Introduction and Annotations by Bill McKibben

I’m starting over because I want to deal with this book at a deeper, more philosophical level and make sure I’m giving it a fair shake.

I still stand by my position that he is very privileged to be able to “get away” from society. That might seem an odd sort of privilege since he was living in abject poverty, but think about how difficult that would be for us to give up our responsibilities and go live in the woods? Much is made of the parable that Jesus taught about the man who gives up everything to follow him – many people think that that is fundamentally an easy thing to do, but it is very, very hard to just give up our lives, even if they are good lives and go with God.

He is not wrong to show how a simple life can be more fulfilling – I agree with him – but his disdain for society, a disdain that he hints at stemming from his townspeople not accepting him as part of their inner circle, is a little too harsh. Is man really so much the worse to live in a house he does not own made from materials that come from a factory? Are man’s activities that take place in the home so far from the “natural good man” that he is worse off than the “savage”? Thoreau may live closer to God in nature, but his use of the word savage betrays his sense of kinship with his fellow man. He seems to see savages everywhere, not just in the American Indian, but especially there he does not possess the empathetic spirit that comes from people who have spent many hours in their homes thinking about how their action might negatively affect others. A man who has to get his meat on the hunt will have no time to worry if he is hurting anyone’s feelings, yet the man who lives in comfort is well aware how lucky he is and (should) attempt to extend that privilege to everyone.

In this he lacks a portion of empathy for his fellow individual man while at the same time he does love humanity writ large.

page 117 of 768 of Demons

Kirillov’s philosophy that man is only free once he no longer fears death is interesting and threatening. He sounds like someone who wants to not have anything left to lose in order to make some sort of grand statement (though he probably doesn’t know what). Either way he seems very dissatisfied and I like how it’s pointed out to him that his desire to blow everything up will cost him his job of building a bridge.

page 87 of 768 of Demons

When he talks about writers whose ideas have run out and younger generations have all forgotten I wonder who he had in mind when he wrote that. 

I’m still having a hard time wondering what the point of all this is, and to be honest I probably would have stopped reading were it written by nearly anyone else. Basically there ins’t really a plot driving anything forward, it’s all domestic squabbling which is depressing

page 70 of 768 of Demons

I’m still a little unclear what is going on, but it seems Varvara wants to marry off Darya to Stepan because she thinks something was going on with Darya and her own son, Nikolai. It’s all vague and I’m honestly having a hard time trying to find a reason to care about these characters, but there is something unseemly about these people that is sort of fascinating to watch.

page 62 of 768 of Demons

I like the odd relationship between Stepan and Varvara; their bickering is funny to listen to. It’s odd to think that these people have the means to not have to work because they don’t act like they have much class – they’re almost low class in their scheming and behavior, yet they have land and money and leisure to act – well I wouldn’t say horribly, but they aren’t the sort of people I’d want to spend time with.

Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1: Read from March 1 to June 10, 2019

Of all the novels I have read, this one comes the closest to reading poetry. And I’m not just saying that because the language is beautiful, but rather because each line – sometimes extending for nearly an entire paragraph or even the whole page – is far denser than the line in a typical novel. Here the mere mention of a sip of tea at the end of the novel recalls entire passages of memory from earlier i the novel, each image and expression carries far more weight and does far more work than normal prose. And I also get the impression that I missed a lot as I read and that were I to go back and reread the novel I would discover whole oceans of thought that I failed to explore the first time around. In short this is a remarkable novel, but it’s also a remarkable experiment in modernism in that the author is trying to convey a way of thinking and feeling by playing with how language can communicate to us. I was not expecting a novel that deals so often with nostalgia for a lost time to be so radically modern.

Proust also explores something even more radical in this experiment, though perhaps without even realizing it. Years later the ideas of Saussure would create the foundation for structuralism, specifically the ideas of the signified and signifier. Proust seems to have intuited this concept and his image of the cup of tea causing a flood of memories to come flowing back into his mind is a perfect example of what Saussure was trying to explain. Yet Proust takes it even further (in the sort of direction the philosopher Bergson would be familiar with) by vitalizing the connection between signified and signifier as the essence of human experience which gives the real meaning to things. True, signifiers (mere words) are arbitrary and basically meaningless on their own, but it is we who give them their meaning, even if each of us has a different definition for what, say, a cup of tea might mean. We are, after all, creatures of language and the whole of our existence is a construct of language, so wouldn’t it be true that such a reality is only real because of how each of us experiences the universe, even if we’re all doing it differently?

There are multiple instances in the novel when Proust describes a person’s glance and then describes an observer interpreting what that glance means. Proust devotes pages and pages to just Odette moving her eyes a few millimeters, and Odette may have meant absolutely nothing by the way she moved her eyes, but for Swann (and us), there is more meaning in such a glance than could be contained by the Library of Alexandria. Meaning – meaningful meaning – is created by each of us in our own way, and often, as with Swann, can go too far, but it is the essence and vitality of our lives which we are creating every moment. Every glance, every word contains multitudes (Whitman) and our reality consists of parsing these meanings into something we can understand – or when it goes wrong we wind up like King Leontes in The Winter’s Tale who have lost our common social connection with other people and thus go mad. 

And like Bergson debating with Einstein about the nature of time, time for Proust is like an erosion that alters the past, and seems to work deeper the more time that passes. Events that were as clear to us as our playmates when we were children are almost unrecognizable when we are older. How did time do this? Why does time alter our memory? Why are we never fixed in any place or time, like Proust not wanting to ever leave Paris? Are we always trapped in that separation between Saussure’s signified and the signifier? Is the human experience a necessary part of the universe (as Bergson believed) or do our experiences remain forever relative and without “True” meaning (as Eisenstein believed)? 

Proust seems very much in the camp of favoring the human experience, and so do I.

Looking back on some of my favorite books it seems I really enjoy stories about people who long for a time that will never return, such as Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, Alain-Fournier’s Le Grand Meaulnes, Elspeth Huxley’s The Flame Trees of Thika, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, and now this. Maybe it’s because the older I get the more I can relate to characters whose interior life consists more and more of memory than it does of ambition for the future or because as time goes on each of us becomes more and more painfully aware of how much the world doesn’t actually make any sense at all unlike when we were young and everything seemed so simple.

page 58 of 768 of Demons

It’s been awhile since I’ve read Dostoevsky, which is a problem because it always takes awhile to get into gear with his novels. The only other author I feel this way about is Shakespeare because whenever I start one of his plays I always feel lost until about Act 3 or 4. This novel is starting off the same way with a huge list of (unusual) characters but with no plot to attach them to. But I’m sure I’ll love this.

page 435 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

It’s heartbreaking to be left out of a social situation, especially when you really have nobody else to blame but yourself. Still, even though I don’t really fault Odette, she is quite well aware that she is still in good graces while he is not and she is enjoying maintaining her position. I’m sure she also knows how much pain Swann is in. But by the end he believes he’s moved on … I don’t believe him.

page 352 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

Would I be revealing too much about myself when I say that I identify with Swann just a little too much? When he’s talking himself into tapping on her window or oscillating between love and then is just as quickly thrown into anger and resentment when he can’t get what he wants I admitted to having these feelings myself – and it’s uncomfortable to experience it. Maybe everyone has felt like this but nobody admits it?

page 272 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

Odette only goes as far as Swann is willing to go, she never forces the issue. He pushes the flower in and she lets him.

I like his diver, Remi; he’s the only one being sensible.

You can feel Swann going out of control as he searches for Odette. He doesn’t have to do this, it’s just one night he didn’t see her, but he’s obsessed and he seems to actually enjoy the experience of putting himself through this pain.

page 247 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

I’m trying to wrap my brain around Swann. He’s got red hair and green eyes so his looks probably cause him to stand out a little. He’s idle, but he’s always holding back and I get the feeling everyone else senses there is more to him then he lets on and this adds to his charm. Madame Verdurin is interesting as ring leader, but for some reason I feel sort of sad for her. Cottard is funny, but would be a bore to know.

page 214 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

This concludes the Combray section. The final image of his room going out (or coming into) focus, his recalling Hawthorns when running into a friend, his longing to be kissed by his mother and his despondency at not being kissed: his foundation of memory, a language individual to the mind. I love how he mistakes the brass curtain rod for daylight and how we remember the invalid at the start who longs for company.

page 173 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

He has an almost sexual reaction to the hawthorn flowers in the church and then again when he’s in Swann’s park when he sees Gilberte who is holding a spade. Is this a death image? Is there a Freudian meaning here? At least now I know why it’s called Swann’s Way because of which door they exit when they go on a walk all together while Francoise is probably killing another chicken “filthy creature”.

page 136 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

I love how the deeper I get into the novel the more it feels I am living with this family. I look forward to his grandmother’s walks in the rain, his Aunt’s disappointment with having too many visitors at once, or knowing how a scene is repeated as when he didn’t look at his uncle, an event which was never reconciled, to when his father thinks he ignored on the street by someone he knew and we feel the pain of it.

page 114 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

Sometimes we know we’re reading a great book when the author says something we’ve always intuited but were never able to put into words. Often this happens once, maybe twice in a really great novel. When it happens more than twice, such as in War and Peace or Ulysses or reading Emily Dickinson or George Oppen, we know we’re inside the realm of pure genius. But when it happens page after page, it’s almost terrifying.

page 54 of 512 of Swann’s Way: In Search of Lost Time, Volume 1

I was thinking about how when you’re a child the days last forever – time is so much more stretched out and rich when everything is new. Proust recreates that sensation, he luxuriates in the smallest details, and all the details connect: a leaf in the moonlight, the smell of the varnish, the sound of the bells, and the taste of cake dipped in tea. This feels like what Bergson was trying to say to Einstein about time.

page 30 of 1327 of The Riverside Chaucer

The doctor is satirized because he isn’t actually doing any real healing, he’s a scam unlike good Arab doctors. He’s also in cahoots with the apothecary because he can just prescribe some drug concoction (cordial) and get a kickback of that sale from the apothecary. Just like today with how drug companies pay (influence) doctors to prescribe expensive drugs and pain killers. Things never change.

page 28 of 1327 of The Riverside Chaucer

The commons: people like Chaucer. Chaucer would have had a lot of contact with merchants like the one here. This merchant is just like a salesman of today who while they might be broke, they sure look the part so as to gain your trust (get credit).

The sergeant of the law is a lawyer who abuses the system by having foreknowledge of how a case will go and so can make a profit on someone else losing their estate.

page 27 of 1327 of The Riverside Chaucer

The Friar has married off all those girls because he got them pregnant. Unlike the aristocratic monk, the friar is of the people (taverns). He hangs with the lower classes and they could hear confession and get a tip for doing so. What’s interesting is that even if a friar was lenient (and just wanted money) the act of confessing was strong enough as to still “count” even if the penance was paid off.

page 26 of 1327 of The Riverside Chaucer

Clerical satire is basically the same as estates satire which focus on the vices, not virtues, of the church.

Though St. Francis was against it, monks could make some good money. Chaucer is showing the monk here as being materialistic and uneducated – he’s probably a second son and just wants to hunt. Hunting = Ven (capture) > venery = Veneral (Venus, sex) & Venare (hunting). This monk hunts women.

page 25 of 1327 of The Riverside Chaucer

The squire is framed against his higher ranking father. The Knight is introduced as the ideal knight, whereas the squire is introduces via his looks.

The knight is already existing in a period of technical decline with the advent of cannons and the Welsh longbow. He’s also a mercenary so his ideal of truth and loyalty goes about as far as who is paying him, unlike, say Galahad and the grail.

page 23 of 1327 of The Riverside Chaucer

Chaucer isn’t just the author, he’s also a pilgrim in the story who is telling the story – and once we get to each tale we are getting that character’s story told through Chaucer the pilgrim written by Chaucer the author.

Estates satire is the model genre here for the knight/squire/yeoman. The vices (not virtues) of their trade is the subject of each occupation.

The Consolation of Philosophy: Read from September 5 to September 10, 2018

I have been reading this as part of a course on Chaucer as we explore his inspirations and attempt to gain some insight into why Chaucer wrote what he did. This book in particular was a huge influence on Chaucer, as well as medieval thinking in general, but it’s remarkable in just how modern and personal it still feels.

At the heart of any great work of prison literature is the observation of how humanity behaves (wickedly) while the prisoner (innocent) suffers. Boethius’ motivation is even stronger because he knows he will be executed and so we’re witnessing a person come to terms with their life in an attempt to find some sort of meaning to their own existence. In some ways he’s lucky because how many hundreds of millions of people never got the chance to assess their lives before meeting a tragic end, but he has left behind a document that can do some of the heavy lifting for us.

As with most cases of a person being accused he begins his story at the mercy of the emotional muses. How many people have been convicted – even just by a court of public opinion – because of public emotion rather than sound logic? Philosophy then appears to drive those “sluts” away and attempts to use the gift of humanity, reason, to help him make sense of life, specifically why the innocent suffer and the wicked prosper.

The most compelling argument I found in the entire book was Philosophy’s explanation about punishment. Philosophy tells Boethius that punishment is actually a form of goodness and so when a wicked person is not punished then they are not open to the goodness that punishment offers. This reminded me of the argument about hell and how eternal damnation is actually a form of mercy since to cease to exist would be the ultimate act of indifference. Even in hell the sinners are at least able to be punished for their crimes and sins.

However, Boethius is also concerned about what he believes to be false punishment. He believes he is innocent and that any punishment he is currently enduring is unjust, but this brought up an interesting point in that Philosophy tells him that we can never really know who is innocent or not. We may see someone who we think absolutely deserves to be punished for being wicked, but are we the ultimate arbitrators of justice? Do we know what really rests in the hearts and souls of every person?

Philosophy reminds Boethius about Providence and that while it may seem random and that there might not even be free will, it is only because he lacks the intelligence of the ultimate good (God) that he assumes what happens to him and to wicked men is random, but when in fact it is not. Ultimately the whole discussion boils down to faith, and while this final section of the book makes the most obtuse and obscure argument in the book, perhaps because Boethius was quite soon to be executed, it does reflect the difficulty of having faith, truly having faith, in something greater than ourselves.

We so want for our lives to have meaning and yet so often we feel as if life, the universe, and everything is totally random and indifferent, and perhaps it even is, yet what is remarkable is that this document exists, that a man on the eve of his execution was able to meet the end of his life with dignity and lay out a reasonable argument that could perhaps give comfort to even the most slandered innocent person. And he does so without growing overly religious because he constantly frames his arguments by talking about the good – the ultimate goodness of life, that form we all strive for no matter what we might call us. He is, in effect, showing us how there is goodness even in the darkest of places.

page 137 of 192 of The Consolation of Philosophy

Boethius is ultimately asking if this impending execution was inevitable. Does he have any free will? He’s having a genuinely human reaction to his situation.

This final book does feel rushed, perhaps he had only a very short time left to live before finishing this work, and so the argument philosophy makes is much more obscure and hard to follow – perhaps reflecting how faith in Providence is so difficult?

page 116 of 192 of The Consolation of Philosophy

He’s still asking why evil is allowed to prevail. The best answer in all of this section is that she explains how a punishment is actually a form of good and so if a person is full of evil then they contain no good, therefore no punishment – at least nit right now. Hell then would be a form of mercy and good since hell is a punishment – truly being unmerciful would be to allow the wicked to cease to exist.

page 84 of 192 of The Consolation of Philosophy

Here we get the neoPlatonic view of God as the good, the happiness, the omnipotent. Philosophy argues how all things tend towards goodness then shows how what is good is God, and not in a divided sort of way but that good, happiness, unity are all one in the same. Men fail by reaching for just a portion of goodness and therefore fail to grasp anything, Also, God can’t do evil because God is all and not nothing.

page 46 of 192 of The Consolation of Philosophy

Philosophy gives a lesson on why courting Fortune is a terrible idea. I was surprised one of her arguments was the Pale Blue Dot argument in how insignificant Fame is compared to the size of the universe.

But I also wonder how virtuous Boethius was. He claims to have entered politics only for the good of man, but doesn’t everyone say that? Herodotus says what is best for one man isn’t for another so it’s relative

page 21 of 192 of The Consolation of Philosophy

This is a beautifully written book – I was expecting neoPlatonic levels of difficulty, not poetry and narrative and dream-like imagery.

So Boethius has been wrongly imprisoned and while the muses attend to him, lady Philosophy comes to him, banishes the “slut” muses, and proceeds to remind him of the importance of logic and reason over emotion and sophistry. She’s also pretty beat up.

Frankenstein: Read from August 24 to September 1, 2018

The Onion’s Book of Known Knowledge says of Frankenstein: “You are probably looking for Frankenstein’s monster, you idiot.” While this is always a “fun fact” for that know-it-all friend we all have (certainly that’s not us, right) to trot out in an effort to make everyone around them feel inferior for not having actually read the book, I think there is something deeper going on here than just confusing the monster for its maker. The fact that even after having read the book – and I’m only discussing the original 1818 version, not the later revised edition – I still want to call the monster Frankenstein speaks to what I think Shelley was really going for at the heart of this novel.

A common misconception about this novel is the idea that she was writing about science gone amok. True, her revised edition 1831 edition contains far more musings that touch on this point, but her original intention, her original creation was about something far more interesting: relationships. When we first open the book we a reading the letters of Walton, a captain of an Arctic Research vessel who laments that he does not have a friend in which he can share ideas with and help him be a better man. Walton is smart enough to know that even at our best, we are always better when a friend can challenge us, bounce ideas off of us, and flat-out remind us when we’re being foolish. And so enters Victor Frankenstein and by the end of the novel when Walton’s crew seems near the verge of mutiny, Walton decides against pressing the adventure on and bravely turns the ship around. Walton, unlike Victor literally changes course rather than pursuing a course that could kill his crew and himself.

And this is what I believe is at the core of what Shelley wanted to explore: isolation breeds inhumanity. Think about how when Victor creates the monster he does so all alone and at the expense of all his relations. Later, when he first submits to create the monster a mate, he does so on an isolated island while his vacation partner and best friend, Clerval, is left behind. Or from the monster’s point of view, he is at his most humane when he is surrounded by the family he spends a year observing in secret. The monster gains insight into the best traits of humanity, but once he is shunned, he reverts into an actual monster that places no value on human life.

Shelley is not so much interested in “the dangers of science”, she’s interested in the dangers of isolation from humanity. She is telling a story about how we are at our best when we have companionship, when we have people around us who challenge and love us but when we turn from humanity, for whatever reason, we lose our humanity because our humanity is defined by the people around us.

Shelley spends a lot of ink in the novel describing how beautiful the landscapes are and how when Victor experiences nature with his friends and family he’s at his best, or at least not nearly as depressed, yet when he confronts the monster and then later chases after him the scenery is a blank ice sheet, a wasted void of nothing and devoid of all life and humanity. Victor keeps turning away from companionship and instead chases after his inner obsession. And by inner obsession I mean that the idea of the monster started out as just an idea that he was able to actually manifest physically – his inner thought literally were made manifest and were given their own agency. The monster is an avatar of his obsession to plumb the absolute depths of his intellectual abilities by isolating himself from all distractions until he was successful.

And perhaps this is why upon seeing the monster come to life he immediately turned away from it because what had been a beautiful idea in his mind (and he had thought he was creating something beautiful) he saw just how ugly the inside of his own mind was, just how ugly that absolute obsession turned out to be. The monster was a product of Victor’s sick, isolated mind and, like Gogol’s Nose, the two had to reunited, only here it wound up being tragic.

And so when we think of the monster as an unnatural abomination, what we are really reacting to is that the monster represents the inhumanity of isolation from humanity. It represents the dangers of shunning humanity while we pursue our obsessions. The monster does not, however represent the dangers of pursing forbidden knowledge since what Victor was initially attempting to do was not at all against nature. Victor wanted to cure death, Victor wanted to understand how life worked which are not unreasonable goals. Victor was applying good scientific principles to his pursuit by taking what he knew and actually applying it via real demonstration.

This is how science has always worked and the fact that what Victor created turned out horribly isn’t an indictment of science, it’s an indictment of pursuing something to such an isolated extreme that the result is perverted because the process didn’t take place as part of a community. Scientists work together when exploring the secrets of nature and the universe, they bounce ideas off of each other, they learn from scientists who came before them, and they allow independent scientists to verify (or falsify) their findings. The process does not happen in isolation and the results are always tempered with collaboration.

Victor’s failing was to think he could do this all on his own, that creating a human could be done without the help of other humans. When humans have children (biologically) it takes at least two people to create a child, and even in cases where someone can’t have children then there are doctors and adoption specialists and surrogates who make up the community of parenting. Victor failed to take into account the neighborhood of man, a line Shelley uses again and again in the novel, and when he tried to create a human being like himself, all he did was create a manifestation of his ugly obsession.

99% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch7: Walton was right to listen to his crew. What good is it to go to the ends of the earth when all there is is death? Pursuing some fantastic discovery will still lead to death, so why not enjoy the company of the living instead of chasing after the inevitability of death? Is it cowardly to choose life? Better to choose life than revenge, anyway. Better to pursue fellowship than hatred and bitterness.

89% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch6: And there we have it: total, inevitable destruction. And now as he does confess to his part, not only is he not believed but he can’t get anyone to join him. He’s utterly alone with only his demon to pursue him (and pursue). Society is abandoned for both of them, they are like 2 evil planets orbiting only each other. And as much as Victor created the monster, the monster has created this Victor.

86% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch5: This is sort of like being in a car when you know you are about to be in an accident but you can’t do anything about it. Tragedy must be coming and neither Victor or monster will find peace or happiness. The monster, though miserable, is still responsible for murder, especially of Clerval since that we premeditated. But Victor is just as responsible in not taking responsibility for his role. The end is near.

81% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch4: “He may be innocent of the murder, but he has certainly a guilty conscience.” And Victor is carrying his prison around with him everywhere. And not just death, but his friendships and relations have been suffering this entire time. He’s been withdrawing since he first read those books on alchemy and false science. His desire to be God has cursed him and everyone around him.

76% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch3: No good can come for Victor by not obeying his monster. Tearing up the bride will only probably cause his own fiancee to be destroyed one way or another. And now he is the villain, he is looked at with accusing eyes, he is outcast and murder follows him everywhere. Death has come from the life he created. But then didn’t the same thing happen to God? We could have lived in Eden but we became monsters instead

72% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch2: What if she rejects the monster? You can’t force love. Victor is now an island unto himself, alone, terrified, living in squalor just like the monster. He has the whole world possible for him, yet he wastes it and allows his demons to pursue him. Is it no wonder that his marriage and the monster wanting a mate line up so perfectly? He’s barely human at this point.

68% done with Frankenstein

V3, Ch1: The marriage to his cousin has come up but he needs 2 more years to comply with the monster. This whole story feels like the monster is not actually real but is some manifestation of Victor’s dual human nature, his depression, his isolation, his inability to connect with human beings. Both characters are outcasts but the monster deserves a real life more than Victor does.

58% done with Frankenstein

V2, Ch7: Is man so detestable that everything he creates in his image is a horror-show? We are capable of such great art and refined thought but when we apply that to something that might resemble us we are a little terrified of it, like those Boston Dynamics robots that seem just a little too real. We can express our essence, but we can’t reliably duplicate it at will – that’s still totally random.

51% done with Frankenstein

V2, Ch5: The Arabian is a convenient character that just so happens to also need a primary education. But what he’s also learning is about the duality of man. Here, hidden away watching this humble, loving family, he is experiencing both the best and the worst of humanity at the same time – he is happy and miserable. But he is especially sensitive to the cruelty.

47% done with Frankenstein

V2, Ch4: This is very touching and very sad, but also a little creepy. Here is this poor family struggling to survive with an alien living among them. He sees everything, knows everything, they have no privacy, no secrets – he is like a god and a demon watching, learning, judging. Yet he means no harm and gains an understanding of the best of humanity through the virtuous poor people (isn’t that trope played out?). And as soon as spring begins to bloom, so does he.

45% done with Frankenstein

V2, Ch3: Structurally, we have a story being told 1) to us by the captain, 2) to the captain by Victor, and 3) to Victor by the monster. It’s all second-hand, just as the evidence against Justine was second-hand, circumstantial evidence (though isn’t nearly all evidence circumstantial?).

The monster lives initially in a sort of impoverished Eden where the knowledge of good and evil – and everything else are foreign.

39% done with Frankenstein

V2, Ch1: VIctor, though overcome with grief, has not confessed his part in all this. It’s very Poe-like. There is no hiding from what he has created, however, it is following him everywhere so much that the monster is not just a physical creation, but an emotional part of him made manifest. All of his inability to understand and empathize is now a burden which chases after him.

36% done with Frankenstein

V1, Ch7: Justine is accused of the murder, but even though she is innocent, the priest bullies her into thinking she is a monster and just wants to be at ease (she’s already grieving). Victor’s lack of action to remedy this – so far – is the true hell and all this suffering and anguish is his creations. And all this fear and confusion mirrors what the monster must be going through.

32% done with Frankenstein

V1, Ch6: The hens have come home to roost and Victor is responsible for creating that which has now taken a life, a life he was intimately connected to. We could almost read this as his seclusion into his experiments as being made manifest in how that is destroying his relationships. He may have not done the strangling, but he created the opportunity and means for a life and relationship to be destroyed.

28% done with Frankenstein

V1, Ch5: He’s drawn back to the living thru his relationships with his friends and family but there is a cloud hanging over all this within the story of Justine and how her mother abandoned her and how that led to tragedy. This further reinforces the theme of relationships Shelley is interested in and how losing those relationships could be seen as a loss of humanity.

25% done with Frankenstein

V1, Ch4: He is disgusted by his creation immediately upon it coming to life, it’s sort of a post-coital, postpartum depression. It’s also as if he poured part of his own essence into the monster which has sapped him of part of his own life. I’m reminded, in part, of Gogol’s Nose wandering about, detached from whom it belongs to, but here it’s not funny and the monster wants to be united.

14% done with Frankenstein

V1, Ch1: More emphasis on friendship and the desire for true companionship. Our captain seems intent on keeping his new friend far from the crew whom we previously learned were, seemingly, good people. Our hero is obsessed with forbidden knowledge, that Faustian desire for godlike powers, for fame not from money but for controlling the energy of the universe. His mother’s desire to see him and Emily married is odd.

page 249 of 960 of Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte Darthur: The Definitive Original Text Edition

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Lady warns him not to blow the ivory horn until noon, otherwise the knight’s strength (Rede Knight of the Rede Laundes) will be 7 times stronger that of a normal man. He doesn’t listen. This is similar to the enchantment that Gawayne has from 9-12 everyday where he is nearly invincible.

page 243 of 960 of Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte Darthur: The Definitive Original Text Edition

243:

Gareth wins. He defers mercy to the damesell again, She agrees again. Persaunte offers service of his 100 knights to Gareth. All these knights thus far have been brothers: Rede, Green, Black, Inde – Gareth has basically built an army by fighting and defeating these knights. Persaunte also gives Gareth his 18 year old daughter for the night.