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Trivia Quiz for “The Discomfort of Evening” by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

Trivia Quiz for The Discomfort of Evening by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld

(winner of the International Booker Prize, 2020)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 11/20/22

(answers below)

A. Memoirs of a Child

1. Motivation. Multiple reasons lie behind the choice to write these (fictional) memoirs, yet none are explicitly stated by the narrator (who shares some features of the author’s own life). Which one of the following does not seem likely as a reason to write this book?

a. a great affection for family and desire to share funny and sweet stories

b. a victim’s effort to seek justice—divine or societal—for the suffering she’s endured

c. a novelist’s desire to shock city folk by exploiting brutal and grotesque aspects of rural life

d. a one-time believer’s want to expose harsh views promulgated by the Dutch Reformed Church.

2. Duration. How much time is covered in the narration?

a. Nine years: she is 12 years old at the beginning and 21 at the end.

b. One month: she is 10 at beginning and end, and the time goes only from December to January.

c. One night: it all happens on the terrible night her brother drowned, when she was 10.

d. Two years: she grows from age 10 to age 12.

B. A Strange Worldview

3. Maxims. The Discomfort of Evening includes numerous judgments and lessons on life by the young narrator. Which one of the following does she not say (or think)?

a. “Anger has hinges that need oiling.”

b. “There’s nothing here to smile about.”

c. “For our generation, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.”

d. “Everything that requires secrecy here is accepted in silence.”

4. Home sweet home? Which one of the following does not describe the narrator’s home?

a. They have only three TV channels: Nederlands 1, 2, and 3.

b. They live on a farm, with various animals including cows, rabbits, and chickens.

c. They consider stewed cow’s udder with mustard to be a special treat.

d. They are hiding Jews in their basement, the narrator thinks, because her mom stores food there.

e. Their home is beloved far and wide for the music, friendship, and joy one finds there.

C. People and Their Problems

5. Strained relations abound. Which one of the following is not in this book?

a. A brother sexually abuses his sister.

b. A boy sexually abuses a neighbor girl.

c. A girl masturbates with a stuffed animal.

d. A mother becomes grief-stricken, then numb, then suicidal, faced with her life’s challenges.

e. A father kills his son, to teach him a lesson.

f. A girl suffers from long-term constipation and her father tries to “cure” her.

g. A boy forces a girl to kill an animal as a sacrifice.

6. A difficult world surrounds them. Which of the following maxims is not cited?

a. “Crows in a farmyard are an omen of death.”

b. “You don’t take rotten mandarins back to the greengrocer’s.”

c. “Mum doesn’t like made-up things, because stories in your imagination often leave out suffering and Mum thinks it should be part of things.”

d. “I promise to make you feel wanted, loved and cherished every single day.”

e. “Sometimes it’s good to frighten them a bit.”

7. Death is the central theme and end of this book. Which of the following is not from The Discomfort of Evening?

a. “You die fast or slowly and both things have their advantages and disadvantages.”

b. “Since death is inevitable, it’s best to forget about it. Carpe diem!”

c. “Death never just happens to you, there is always something that causes it. This time it was you. You can kill too.”

d. “I asked God if He please couldn’t take my brother Matthies instead of my rabbit.”

8. Marieke Lucas Rijneveld is also a poet and some lines are poignant or remarkable. Which of the following is not from The Discomfort of Evening?

a. “I only saw her lips moving and my mother’s pursed shut, like mating slugs.”

b. “What more can a bear want?” [the mother asks]. “Love, I think to myself, like the warmth in the cowshed of all those breathing cattle with a common goal—survival.”

c. A maid screams: “There was no reflection of him in the mirror!”

d. “There’s a drowned butterfly inside me.”

e. “Their hands were always searching for something and if you were no longer able to hold an animal or a person tenderly, it was better to let go and turn your attention to other useful things instead.”

9. Striking symbols. Which of the following is not a symbolic presence in this book?

a. a pet hamster is drowned in a glass of water, while three children watch

b. a child is forced to break open her piggy bank (in the form of a cow), with a hammer

c. an IUD (or “coil” birth control device) is found in a baby book

d. a painting becomes uglier and uglier, while the person in the painting becomes mean and cruel

e. a sign says: “LOOK OUT! TOADS CROSSING,” beside a road littered with crushed bodies

10. The message? Which of the following is not a quote from this book, on family and religion?

a. “It must have been most irksome to find himself bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child he could not love. “

b. “I’m beginning to have more and more doubts about whether I find God nice enough to want to go and talk to Him.”

c.  “It might sound crazy, but I miss my parents even though I see them every day.”

d. “One day I’d like to go to myself.”

Open question: Some might ask whether such a brutal, depressing story should be considered as “art,” let alone win the prestigious International Booker prize. As Alice Walker wrote: “If art doesn’t make us better, then what on earth is it for?”

ANSWERS

1. a.

2. d.

3. c. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

4. e

5. e.

6. d. (That quote is from a website of loving quotations [https://www.ftd.com/blog/celebrate/love-words], certainly not from this book.)

7. b. (That quote is a platitude of my own invention.)

8. c. (That quote is from Dracula.)

9. d. (That plot is from The Picture of Dorian Gray.)

10. a. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)

P.S. The open question remains open; we questioned what it means to be “better,” among other things…

**********

Join us next month, on Sunday December 11 at 3pm, when we will discuss two classic stories that have been adapted into movies. You are invited to view the films and compare them to the stories (if time permits).

The books to read are:

1. Arthur Schnitzler, Dream Story. Also known as Rhapsody: A Dream Novel, it is a 1926 novella by the Austrian writer Schnitzler (128 pages). It was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick called Eyes Wide Shut (1999), starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise.

2. James Joyce, “The Dead.” First published in 1924, this story is the last one in the Irish writer Joyce’s collection of short stories, Dubliners. It is about 50 pages.  A film version of The Dead exists as well: it is the 1987 drama directed by John Huston, written by his son Tony Huston, and starring his daughter Anjelica Huston. 

Happy reading and viewing; hope to see you in December!

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English literature memory retirement wisdom

Trivia quiz for Iris Murdoch, “The Sea, The Sea”

                         Trivia Quiz for The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch (1978)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 10/30/22

With answers below

1. Why leave? Why go there? Many reasons lie behind the choice to leave London for a retreat, at the book’s beginning. Which one of the following is not cited by narrator Charles Arrowby?

a. “To repent a life of egoism”                      

b. “It is time to think about myself at last”

c. “It affords me a curious pleasure to … watch the violent forces which the churning waves, advancing or retreating, generate inside the confined space of the rocky hole.”

d. “I looked with timorous joy towards a stately house; I saw a blackened ruin.”

e. “(There is only one bed; I am not expecting visitors!)”

2. The Sea: a landscape of the mind. Charles reveals his changing feelings by reflecting on the sea. Which one of the following is not from Murdoch’s novel?

a. “Although the sea was fairly calm I had the same irritating difficulty getting out of it…. Swallowed a lot of water and cut my foot.”

b. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”

c. “The early dawn light hung over the rocks .. with an awful intent gripping silence, as if it had seized these faintly visible shapes and were very slowly drawing them out of a darkness in which they wanted to remain.”

d. “The sea was joyful and the taste of salt water was the taste of hope and joy. … Meeting my sea-dervish companion I shouted, ‘Now aren’t you glad you came to me?’”

3-6. Uneasy truths. The Sea, The Sea includes numerous lessons on life: some are of dubious value, others are heard then forgotten. Match the saying to the source. Characters include: a. Charles ; b. James; c. Rosina  d. local folks at the Black Lion inn

3. “A man would drown there in a second.”

4. “Every meal should be a treat and one ought to bless every day which brings with it a good digestion and the precious gift of hunger.”

5. “It’s so easy to frighten people.”

6. “People lie so, even we old men do. Though in a way, if there is art enough it doesn’t matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art.”

7. Marriage and desire: painful illusions. Which of the following quips is not from The Sea, The Sea?

a. “Our marriages have become a mere farce.”

b. “One of the horrors of marriage is that the partners are supposed to tell each other everything.”

c. “A marriage is so hideously private. Whoever illicitly draws back that curtain may well be stricken … by an avenging deity.”

d. “A long marriage is very unifying, even if it’s not ideal, and those old structures must be respected.”

8. The wisdom and mystery of James. As Charles mulls over his past, the reader gleans curious insights into his relationship with his cousin James. Which one of the following does not apply to James?

a. After Charles plunges into the sea, James rescues him in a miraculous way.

b. His London home is full of gold Buddhas, fetishes, and other oddities from the Orient

c. He was a Nazi sympathizer whose secrets, when revealed, caused a public disgrace.                       

d. As a boy, he was fond of custard cream biscuits, and he offers some to Charles during a visit.

e. He warns Charles to avoid myth-making, and to stay away from Hartley.

f. When reminiscing with Charles, James says, “What larks we had.”

g. At the end, Charles inherits James’s London house and moves there.

9. Titus: a Long-lost family member? Or a weird coincidence? Which one of the following phrases is not spoken by Titus Fitch to the narrator Charles?

a. “Are you my father?”

b “I want to go home.”

c. “Oh, the sea, the sea—it’s so wonderful. … A swim? Oh—yes.

d. “I’m against forcing people, I think they should be free.”

e. “We’ll get to know each other one day. There’s time.”

10. Happy ending? A chance encounter with some animals seems to put a happy ending on Charles’s retreat. What animals show up?

a. dolphins

b. sea turtles

c.  seals

d. rabbits

11. Yet one foe may persist: the mind. Which of the following is not a description of Charles’s thoughts toward the end of the book?

a. “My thoughts still had to be kept on a leash, and there were long dark passages down which they were straining to run.”

b. “My responsibility for Titus’s death, which now so largely occupied my mind, amounted to this: I had never warned him about the sea.”

c. “But suppose nothing happened .. and nothing happened…?”

d. “Time, like the sea, unties all knots.”

e. “Last night someone on a BBC quiz show did not know who I was.”

f.  “I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express.”

ANSWERS

1. d. (That quote is from Jane Eyre.)

2. b. (That quote is from The Remains of the Day.)

3. d.

4. a.

5. c.

6. b.

7. a.  (That quote is from Père Goriot.)

8. c. (That reference applies to the employer of Stevens, in The Remains of the Day.)

9. b.

10. c.

11. f. (That is the ending of Jane Eyre.)

******

COME BACK NEXT MONTH, for our quiz on Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, The Discomfort of Evening (winner of the International Man Booker Prize, 2020).

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death dogs English literature loss retirement wisdom

can one be sad “better”?

Hi, Feeling a bit sad this morning, about the inevitability of decline. Three reasons why : 1)First there are the enormous vet bills that have been pouring in for our beloved Honey Girl who, at 13, is a less mobile, less aware dog whose ahem, unhygienic habits are starting to make my life exhausting as well as breaking the bank. 2) Then there’s husband about to turn 70. 3) Finally, there is all that mail I suddenly started receiving about Medicare. Wow, we must all three of us be getting old!

So this morning I turned to audiobooks for help, and I’m now listening to Helen Russell, How to Be Sad. It’s pretty good. (Despite the annoying subtitle: Everything I’ve Learned About Getting Happier by Being Sad, Better. Why can’t they just let the sadness be?)

I’m still sad.

Sad is ok, just kind of quiet…

Hope you are ok too.

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a zinger about ambition, from Seneca (ca. 4 BC-AD 65)

Reading Seneca this morning, I had the feeling of being with a shrewd friend who was laughing at me! And I had to laugh along, because there was a lot of truth in what he said.

“We commonly give the impression that the reasons for our having gone into political retirement are our disgust with public life and our dissatisfaction with some uncongenial and unrewarding post. Yet every now and then ambition rears its head again in the retreat into which we were really driven by our apprehensions and our waning interest; for our ambition did not cease because it had been rooted out, but merely because it had tired–or become piqued, perhaps, at its lack of success.” Letter LVI, p. 111-112, in Seneca, Letters from a Stoic, ed. Robin Campbell (Penguin ed., 1969.

HA! just see all those books on my bibliography about Buddhism, alternative economies, compassion, and “letting go” etc., as contrasted with the exuberant posting when I made a sale on Etsy! We are all the same.

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English literature memory work

          Trivia Quiz for “The Remains of the Day” by Kazuo Ishiguro

Trivia Quiz for The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 9/25/22

With answers below

A. The Journey

1. Duration and Motivation. Multiple reasons lie behind the trip undertaken by Stevens. Which one of the following is not cited as a reason by Stevens in his narration?

a. employer’s offer to pay for gas                  

b. visit to interview potential employee                    

c. no one to serve at Darlington Hall     

d. potential romance              

e. only 5-6 days

2. Landscapes of the Mind. Stevens reveals much of his psychology in reflections on the English countryside. Which one of the following is not from Ishiguro’s novel?

a. “I would say that it is the very lack of obvious drama or spectacle that sets the beauty of our land apart.”

b.  There were “long stones that stood on end, balancing themselves in a queer, miraculous way.”

c. “What is pertinent is the calmness… its sense of restraint.”

d. “While speeding along between large open fields … or else steering carefully through marvelous little villages … I found myself yet again turning over certain recollections from the past.”

B. The Memories that Reveal the Self

3. Maxims. The Remains of the Day includes numerous judgments and lessons on life. Which one of the following is not spoken by Stevens?

a. “By the very nature of a witticism, one is given very little time to assess its various possible repercussions before one is called to give voice to it, and one gravely risks uttering all manner of unsuitable things if one has not first acquired the necessary skill and experience.”

b. “The sad fact is that long-continued, pleasant normality becomes a bore.”

c. “For our generation, professional prestige lay most significantly in the moral worth of one’s employer.”

d. “There is one situation and one situation only in which a butler … may feel free to unburden himself… when he is entirely alone.”

4. A lofty, yet limited vocabulary: a sign of moral rectitude or rote thinking? Certain key words recur in Stevens’s narration. Which one does not run through The Remains of the Day?

a. dignity        

b. professional                       

c. restraint                  

d. error           

e. banter

f. loyalty                    

g. love            

h. role             

i. distinguished          

j. triumph

C. The Enigma of Other People

5. What one crucial moment captures the dynamic between Stevens and Miss Kenton?

a. The day she interviewed Winston Churchill in the library, contrary to the wishes of Stevens.

b. The morning they shared cocoa together in the quiet kitchen, while plotting a joke on the cook.

c. The night her aunt died, when he stood listening outside her room in the hall, but did not knock to offer condolences.

d. Their final decision to run away together to start a new life in South America!

6. Lord Darlington’s infamous career. As Stevens mulls over his past, the reader gleans increasingly unpleasant details of Lord D’s fall from favor. Which one of the following does not apply to Lord Darlington?

a. he used his home to conduct secret events that aided Hitler’s rise

b. he was a womanizer with several children he refused to acknowledge or help

c. he was a Nazi sympathizer                        

d. he forced Stevens to fire Jewish employees

7. Stevens, Sr.: the Archetypal Suffering Father? Readers of Balzac may see similarities between this father and Père Goriot. Which one of the traits does not appear in Ishiguro’s story?

a. a series of embarrassing humiliations       

b. an anonymous burial in a pauper’s cemetery

c. a bare garret room              

d. an absent wife        

e. a deathbed scene with little emotion                     

f. a cerebral hemorrhage                                

g. stilted relations with family

8. Tragi-comic asides. Stevens is enlisted to undertake the sexual education of a young man, Mr. Cardinal, at one point. What one phrase does Lord D. not proffer, to request this service?

a. “You are familiar, I take it, with the facts of life.”

b. “Sir David has been attempting to tell his son the facts of life for the last five years.”

c. “Be sure to remind him about consent, and treating women with respect.”

d. “Sir David finds the task rather daunting.”

e. “I’m terribly busy.”

f. “Be an awful lot off my mind.”

g. “Just convey the basic facts and be done with it.”

9. A chance encounter with Harry Smith challenges Stevens’s view of dignity and citizenship. What one phrase does Harry Smith not say in support of his views?

a. “There’s no dignity to be had in being a slave.”

b. “We owe it to the lads.”

c.  “The likes of you and I will never be in a position to comprehend the great affairs of today’s world.”

10. When Stevens is asked by a smalltown doctor, “You aren’t a manservant of some sort, are you?” his reaction is (choose one):

a. embarrassment                  

b. relief                      

c. shame                     

d. indignation

ANSWERS

1. d.

2. b. (That quote is from Daphne Dumaurier, Jamaica Inn.)

3. b. (That quote is from Sōseki Natsume, I Am a Cat.)

4. g. (“Love” is rarely mentioned in this work).

5. c.

6. b.

7. b.

8. c.  (That quote does not appear in Ishiguro’s novel; it was invented for the quiz.)

9. c. (Stevens voices that opinion, not Harry Smith.)

10. b.

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what success looks like

to me

with enthusiasm,

J

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Trivia Quiz for “I Am a Cat” by Sōseki Natsume (1906)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 8/28/22, with answers below

A. Connections to European Literature

1. On Names. Like many English novelists, Sōseki Natsume chose funny and sometimes allegorical names for his fiction. Which one of the following is not a character in I Am a Cat?

a. Mr. Sneaze             

b. Baby-dear              

c. Daft Bamboo         

d. Utter Aimlessness

e. Opula Goldfield                 

f. Lancelot Yore

2. Social Commentary. Similar to Jonathan Swift and other satirists, Sōseki’s feline narrator casts a sardonic eye on his world. Which one of the following is not a target?

a. poets           

b. businessmen          

c. women       

d. academics (grad students and professors)

e. the queen                            

f. Zen Buddhists                    

g. baseball players

3. Genre and structure. Sōseki’s knowledge of the early English novel allowed him a wealth of options for form, even if his work does not correspond to what is now the dominant paradigm (i.e. nineteenth-century works by Dickens, Tolstoy or Balzac). Which one of the following literary devices is not adopted in I Am a Cat?

a. a tight, chronological sequence of events from birth to adulthood

b. a loose, meandering sequence of observations on topical issues

c. an ironic first-person narrator who recounts dialogues overheard, apparently verbatim

d. a voyeuristic narrator who sees (and tells) things that others overlook or ignore

e. All of the above are used in I Am a Cat.

4. Maxims. As in many other works we’ve read, I Am a Cat is peppered with pithy quotes on life. Which one of the following is not from Sōseki’s novel?

a. “By the infinite flexibility of interpretation one can get away with anything.”

b. “The sad fact is that long-continued, pleasant normality becomes a bore.”

c. “A child needs an English nurse more than a mother.”

d. “One tends only to discover at the very last moment hidden defects in unexpected places.”

B. Japanese Particulars in I Am a Cat

5. Architecture and space. One of the most interesting insights for Western readers is how the traditional Japanese home would have been like to live in. Which one of the following does not characterize the master’s home in I Am a Cat?

a. thin, even translucent rice-paper walls                  

b. close proximity to neighboring homes

c. elaborate carving in the stone masonry     

d. sliding doors          

e. includes a little garden

6. Lost in Translation? Some of the humor of I Am a Cat is due to the feline narrator’s mastery of language, but some bits may strike us as odd! Which one of the following is not in I Am a Cat?

a. hecklers insult a person by calling him a “terra cotta badger”

b. a teacher is ridiculed for calling a beverage “Savage Tea”

c. a man is criticized for being “as light and flossy as goldfish food floating around on a pond”

d. an author is praised because he “also wrote importantly upon the seasoning of turnips”

e. All of the above are in I Am a Cat.

7. Food. Which one of the following products or dishes is not mentioned as a delicious treat?

a. snake rice               

b. dried bonito                       

c. goulash                   

d. vermicelli noodles

C. The Feline Perspective

8. What does purring really mean, according to I Am a Cat?

a. the cat is laughing              

b. the cat is anxious               

c. the cat is seeking warmth

9. Wisdom to ponder. That cat espouses a Zen attitude which feels refreshing, all the while dishing out acerbic criticisms of men. Which one of these two quotes is spoken by the cat?

a. “Just as cowards grow aggressive under the spur of grog, so may students emboldened by mere numbers into stirring up a riot be regarded as having lost their senses by becoming intoxicated with people.”

b. “Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel.”

10. What is the cat’s name?

a. Fluffy                     

b. Fishy                      

c. Freddy                    

d. He has no name.

ANSWERS

1. d. (In the Buddhist tale of the big stone Jizō, pp. 505—510 in the Tuttle edition, the fool named Daft Bamboo walks with “utter aimlessness”—a manner, not a person!)

2. e.

3. a. or e.

4. c.  (That quote is from Karolina Pavlova, A Double Life.)

5. c.

6. e.

7. c. (Goulash is described as a culinary favorite in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.)

8. a. When he’s purring, the cat is laughing (possibly at us).

9. a. (That quote, dear reader, is from Jane Eyre.)

10. d.

Come back next month for our quiz on The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro (1989).

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English literature

Trivia Quiz for “Jane Eyre”

Trivia Quiz for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë (1847)

For WSEA “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 7/31/22

(With answers below)

1. Five Homes, Prisons, or Way Stations toward an Unknown Fate?  Jane lives at five places with evocative names during her young life. Which is not one of them?

  1. Thornfield                               b. Ferndean                 c. Moor House            d. Cheesewring               e. Gateshead              f. Lowood

2. Portraits of Bullying and Vengeance.  Jane encounters numerous instances of people acting badly, especially in their anger over what she does or does not do or say. Which of the following is not guilty of physically attacking, berating, bullying, insulting, or trying to coerce Jane Eyre?

a. John Reed                                                   b. Mrs. Reed                           c. Mr. Brocklehurst d. Miss Temple                                               e. Mr. Rochester                     f. Blanche Ingram

3. Portraits of Resistance. Amid the chaos of adults acting rashly, there are vignettes of younger people who resist attack in wise forbearance, including which one of the following?

a. Helen Burns                                    b. Adèle Varens         

c. Georgiana Reed                                         

d. Miss Scratcherd                                          e. Blanche Ingram

4. Fury, Rage, and Passion! Jane Eyre shocked readers in the 1840s for the detailed descriptions of people in the throes of hatred, desire, and vengeance. Which of the following is not from Jane Eyre?

a. “My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; …. I uttered a wild, involuntary cry; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in desperate effort.”

b. “He crossed the floor and seized my arm and grasped my waist. He seemed to devour me with his flaming glance… powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace.”

c. “She sucked the blood: she said she’d drain my heart.”

d.  “I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did—so bent up to a purpose, so grimly resolute: or who, under such steadfast brows, ever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes.”

e. All of the above are found in Jane Eyre.

5. Autobiographical style. With its retrospective first-person narrative, Brontë’s book provides readers with a feeling of listening to the heroine’s most secret and changeable thoughts. Which one of the following thoughts does not occur to the heroine?

a. “I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety.”

b. “We can’t behave like people in novels, though, can we?”

c. “Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally, but women feel just as men feel.”

d. “My help had been needed and claimed; I had given it; I was pleased to have done something.”   

6. Self-talk. Alongside the occasional kind words from others, Jane tortures herself and tries to encourage herself, by her own internal monologue. Which of the following is not from Jane Eyre?

a. “You, a favorite of Mr. Rochester? Go! Your folly sickens me. … Poor stupid dupe!”

b. “The afternoon advanced, while I thus wandered about like a lost and starving dog.”

c. “In what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question—why I thus suffered.”

d. “One Christmas was so much like another, in those years…”

7. Night fears. Which of the following scary moments is not from Jane Eyre?

a. “There was a demoniac laugh—low, suppressed, and deep—uttered, as it seemed, at the very keyhole of my chamber door.”

b. A maid screams: “There was no reflection of him in the mirror!”

c. “I started awake on hearing a vague murmur, peculiar and lugubrious, which sounded, I thought, just above me.”

d. “This door was open; a light shone out of the room within: I heard thence a snarling, snatching sound, almost like a dog quarreling.”

8. Money, Transactions, and Debt. Which of the following does not happen in Jane Eyre?

a. Mr. Rochester hires Jane as a governess, for 30 pounds a year.

b. Jane saves Mr. Rochester’s life during a fire, and tells him “There is no debt, benefit, burden, obligation, in the case.”

c. Jane inherits 20,000 pounds from a long-lost uncle.

d. Jane follows the advice of St John, and gives her fortune to Christian missionaries in India.

9.—10. Love and Forgiveness. Jane’s tolerance of Rochester’s foul temper, moodiness, and emotional outbursts is exemplary. What two (choose 2) reasons does she offer for it?

a.  “He made me feel what severe punishment a good yet stern, a conscientious yet implacable man can inflict on one who has offended him.”

b. “It must have been most irksome to find himself bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to a strange child he could not love. “

c. “Harsh caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage. … I felt interested to see how he would go on.”

d. “His changes of mood did not offend me, because I saw that I had nothing to do with their alternation; the ebb and flow depended on causes quite disconnected to me.”

ANSWERS

1. d. Cheesewring is a location in Cornwall, England (encountered in Daphne Dumaurier’s Jamaica Inn)

2. d. Miss Temple

3. a. Helen Burns

4. e. All of the above are in Jane Eyre.

5. b. (That quote is from The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton.)

6. d. (That quote is from Dylan Thomas, A Child’s Christmas in Wales.)

7. b. (That quote is from Bram Stoker, Dracula.)

8. d. Jane does not follow the advice of St John; she keeps her own counsel.

9. c.

10. d.

Categories
American literature art children creativity French literature humor music nature quilts

Only a real idiot can have this much fun! (homage to Julio Cortázar)

Reading Julio Cortázar’s essay, “Only a Real Idiot” yesterday, I felt such a joyfully liberating surge of life energy, for he captured how I feel, on seeing a hummingbird scratch his neck with his tiny foot like a dog, or a cornflower in glorious blue abandon alongside gritty Rainier Avenue, or José González in concert. Or my classmates doing Aikido at sunset, a Chinese busker twanging strange melodies at Hing Hay Park, or Toots and the Maytalls when they were here, so long ago in the pre-pandemic past…

“I am entertained, deeply moved; the dialogues or the dancers’ motions seem like supernatural visions to me. I applaud wildly, and sometimes the tears well up in my eyes or I laugh until I have to pee; in any event, I am glad to be alive and to have had this opportunity to go to the theater or to the movies or to an exhibition, anywhere extraordinary people make or show things never before imagined, where they invent a place of revelation or communication, something that washes away the moments when nothing is happening, nothing but what always happens.” (“Only a Real Idiot” in Around the Day in Eighty Worlds, p. 62)

It’s all about enthusiasm.

My latest creation–to be unveiled next week at West Seattle’s Summerfest!–is the Luxury Troll Boudoir. (If ever there were a folly, this is it!)

Luxury Troll Boudoirs in progress, HGBG workshop, West Seattle (7/5/22)

— Set in a picturesque cigar box, each features a troll doll with its own quilt, snuggled into a little bed made of vintage satin
— Comes with a booklet, Beautiful Thoughts for the Boudoir, with quotes and portraits by five inspiring French and American women writers
— Suitable for children or nostalgia lovers of any age

Coming soon to the HGBG shop on etsy!

Author portrait courtesy of https://aldianews.com/en/culture/books-and-authors/cortazar-movies

Categories
French literature humor wisdom

Trivia Quiz for “Père Goriot” (1835) by Honoré de Balzac

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 6/26/22

With answers below

A. The Complicated Unfolding: Characters and Relationships.

1. Secrets revealed. People’s secrets come to light in many ways—gradual and abrupt—in the pages of Père Goriot. Which of the following is not a secret revealed?

a. Anastasie, Comtesse de Restaud, is actually Goriot’s eldest daughter.

b. Delphine, Baronne de Nucingen, is actually Goriot’s second daughter.

c. Monsieur Vautrin is actually a famous criminal nicknamed Trompe-la-mort or Death Dodger.

d. Mme Vauquer’s generosity actually does help the people of Borrioboola-Gha.

2. Mysteries remain. Despite the many dénouements in the second half, significant doubts nag at the reader. Which of the following enigmas is resolved?

a. Will Eugène de Rastignac remain loyal to his lady-love, Delphine de Nucingen?

b. Will Mme Vauquer find new boarders for her rooming house?

c. Will Vautrin escape from prison with the help of his confederates?

d. Will the Vicomtesse de Beauséant ever be seen in Paris again?

e. All of the above remain tinged by mystery, in one way or another.

B. Irony, heavy at times.  The Balzacian narrator, and the novel’s characters, do not hesitate to pass judgment on people, often with funny/cringe-inducing results. Match the comment to the person being described. The characters:  a. Père Goriot; b. Eugène de Rastignac ; c. Mme Vauquer ; d. Mlle Victorine Taillefer  

3. “As happens with great souls, he wanted nothing he had not deserved.”

4.  “Like all narrow-minded people, X habitually looked no farther than the sequence taken by events, without analyzing their causes. She liked to blame others for her own mistakes.”

5. “X blended in with the general atmosphere of wretchedness… She resembled a shrub whose leaves have yellowed from being freshly planted in the wrong sort of soil.”

6. “There was no more room for doubt. X was an old rake … the disgusting color of his hair was the result of his excesses and the drugs he took in order to continue them.”

C. 7. Education. Père Goriot, like David Copperfield, is considered a Bildungsroman or novel of education. Which one of the following precepts does the hero Eugène not learn in the course of his time in Paris?

a. “Believe me, young man, practice shooting. … It’s no good being honest.”

b. “Strike without pity and people will fear you.”

c. “Take care how you cut yourself. It is more dangerous than you think in this country.”

d. “If you want to succeed, start by not showing your feelings so plainly.”

e. “There are only two options open: dumb obedience or revolt.”

8. Which one of the following attributes is not mentioned to explain Eugène’s popularity among ladies?

a. his expressions of undying loyalty

b. his studiousness and work ethic

c. his southern impetuosity

d. his good looks

9. Marriage in Paris: a special kind of hell. Circle the quote that is not by Balzac.

a. “Poor old thing, I suppose she likes him, but, I must say, if he was one’s dog one would have him put down.”

b. “Young men from the provinces know nothing of the pleasures of a triangular relationship.”

c. “Our marriages have become a mere farce.”

d. “Chains of gold are the heaviest to bear.”

10. Money worries. There is one place in Père Goriot where several people go in secret, to solve worries about money. What place is called “that depressing and discreet friend of the young”?

a. a gambling den

b. a pawn shop

c. a brothel

11. Although Père Goriot seems to act in mysterious ways to his fellow boarders, Vautrin is the ultimate mystery in their midst. Which of the following does not designate his character?

a. “Let me tell you a secret: he doesn’t like women.”

b. “The very fact of his conviction brought him the most enormous honor among his own sort.”

c. “He has been fortunate enough to escape with his life from all the extremely risky exploits he has carried out.”

d. “that great lump of an Alsatian? / He is quite capable of absconding with all the capital and leaving us behind, the scoundrel!”

ANSWERS

  1. d.
  2. e.
  3. b.
  4. c.
  5. d.
  6. a.
  7. c. (That quote is from Bram Stoker, Dracula.)
  8. b.
  9. a. (That quote is from The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford.)
  10. b.
  11. d. (That quote describes the Baron de Nucingen, Delphine’s husband.)

Fantastic movie poster; love the symbols of greed and sorrow, rage and lust. That about sums up this cynical masterpiece… which can evoke tears or great merriment, depending on your mood when you read it.

P.S. For our next meeting, July 31, we’re going to read Jane Eyre!