Month: August 2009

Help for The Elegance of the Hedgehog –On Grammar Section

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pedagogical: of a child’s tutor

asthenic: weak

salvoes: a round of fire given as a salute

banlieue: The territory without the walls, but within the legal limits, of a town or city.

erudite: characterized by great knowledge; learned or scholarly

Sharia: law, seen as deriving from the Koran

ephemeral: lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory

rebus: a representation of a word or phrase by pictures, symbols, etc., that suggest that word or phrase or its syllables: Two gates and a head is a rebus for Gateshead

erudition: knowledge acquired by study, research, etc.; learning; scholarship

The Pillars of the Earth!

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I have finished thoroughly skimming The Pillars of the Earth. It was a wonderful story — exactly what it promises to be — an epic tale. I liked the characters, I liked all of the different storylines blending in and blending back out. (Who would have thought that they would have brought back Peter?) Around Page 900 I did grow tired of things never working out for long. It seemed as though William and Waleran always had something at their disposal to fling at their enemies, and I just wanted Right to prevail once and for all.

Throughout the book there was a great deal of violence, but I have thought about it a great deal and I am not sure how Ken Follett could have written a tale about a time when everyone raped and pilaged without having his characters, well, rape and pillage.

Here are some review questions for book club discussions from the author’s website:

Ken Follett has said: “When I started to look at cathedrals, I wondered: Who built them, and why?
The book is my answer to that question.” Why do you think the great medieval cathedrals were built?
Some things to think about:
How does the building of the cathedral satisfy the ambitions of the main characters – Tom Builder, Prior Philip, Aliena and Jack? How does it affect the lives of other important characters in the story?

Read the first scene in Chapter 10 and think about the prose style. Why do you think the author writes this way? Compare the last scene of the same chapter.
Some things to think about:
The number of words of one syllable; the length of sentences; the length of paragraphs; the adjectives used. What is different about the author’s purpose in these two scenes?

Although ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ is fiction, it includes some real-life characters and incidents from history, such as King Stephen at the battle of Lincoln, and the murder of Thomas Becket. Why does the author mix fact and fiction like this?
Some things to think about:
Are the factual scenes told from the point of view of the real-life characters, or the fictional ones? Are the fictional characters major or minor players in the big historical events of the time?

Women were second-class citizens in medieval society and the church. Is this accurately reflected in ‘The Pillars of the Earth’?
Some things to think about:
What attitudes to women are shown by Prior Philip and William Hamleigh? How do Agnes, Ellen and Aliena respond to society’s expectations?

Some readers have said that they look at medieval churches with new eyes after reading ‘The Pillars of the Earth’. Do you think you will do the same?
Some things to think about:
In the book, churches are usually viewed through the eyes of a builder. How does this affect your understanding of the architecture?

Ken Follett has said: “I’m not a very spiritual person. I’m more interested in the material problems of building a cathedral.” Is ‘The Pillars of the Earth’ a spiritual book?
Some things to think about:
What motivates Prior Philip? What does Tom say at the beginning of Chapter 5, when Philip asks him why he wants to be master builder? In Chapter 16, why does Philip ask Remigius to come back to the priory?

Caught Skimming

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For the month of September our bookclub is reading The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. This book is very good, but very LONG! I have a paperback copy with littler print and my copy of the book is nearly a 1000 pages.

I like the epic story, I like drama and the suspense and all of the storylines. But, I have to admit, I was getting a little overwhelmed by it all near page 600. I just wanted to know: did Ellen’s curse really work? did Tom get to finish his cathedral? does Aliena find love? does William die a horrible and painful death? did Richard regain his Earldom?

So, I gave up. I started skimming and answered many of my questions. And now I wonder, do I have to go back and read the other 400 pages?

Help For The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Camellias Section

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totem: a natural object or an animate being, as an animal or bird, assumed as the emblem of a clan, family, or group

Balzac: French novelist

Flaubert: French novelist

Etruscan: pertaining to Etruria, its inhabitants, civilization, art, or language

autodidacts:  a person who has learned a subject without the benefit of a teacher or formal education; a self-taught person.

rillettes: an appetizer made usually of pork or goose meat that is diced, seasoned, cooked, and then pounded or ground to the consistency of a spread

Cartesian: of or pertaining to Descartes, his mathematical methods, or his philosophy, esp. with regard to its emphasis on logical analysis and its mechanistic interpretation of physical nature.

Phenomenology: the system of Husserl and his followers stressing the description of phenomena

mise en abyme: The term is originally from the French and means, “placing into infinity” or “placing into the abyss”. The commonplace usage of this phrase is describing the visual experience of standing between two mirrors, seeing an infinite reproduction of one’s image.

qua:  as; as being; in the character or capacity of:

noematic: Of or pertaining to the understanding

ontological: the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such

pustular:  characterized by or covered with pustules.

opprobrium: the disgrace or the reproach incurred by conduct considered outrageously shameful; infamy

antebellum: before the war

proletarian: belonging to the lowest or poorest class of the people.

purloin: to put off, remove

Roget: English physician and author of a thesaurus.

syncretism:  the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion

lexical: of or pertaining to the words or vocabulary of a language, esp. as distinguished from its grammatical and syntactical aspects

Epicurean: fond of or adapted to luxury or indulgence in sensual pleasures; having luxurious tastes or habits, esp. in eating and drinking

obsolescence: the state, process, or condition of being or becoming obsolete

aperture: an opening, as a hole, slit, crack, gap, etc

vacuousness: without contents; empty:

ephemeral: lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory

fondant: a thick, creamy sugar paste, the basis of many candies

Le Corbusier: Swiss architect in France.

mangas: a Japanese graphic novel, typically intended for adults, characterized by highly stylized art

bergamot: a small citrus tree, Citrus aurantium bergamia, having fruit with a rind that yields a fragrant essential oil

despot: any tyrant or oppressor

phantasms: an apparition or specter

conatus: an effort or striving

Exeunt: go offstage (used formerly as a stage direction

appanages: land or some other source of revenue assigned for the maintenance of a member of the family of a ruling house.

elucidate: to make lucid or clear; throw light upon; explain

ineffable: incapable of being expressed or described in words; inexpressible: ineffable joy.

ephemeral: lasting a very short time; short-lived; transitory: the ephemeral joys of childhood

Proust: French writer whose seven-part novel Remembrance of Things Past (1913-1927) is among the great works of modern literature

loge: any small enclosure

abnegation: to refuse or deny oneself (some rights, conveniences, etc.); reject; renounce.

vellum: calfskin, lambskin, kidskin, etc., treated for use as a writing surface

trenchancy: incisive or keen, as language or a person; caustic; cutting: trenchant wit.

ontology: the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence or being as such

pustule: any pimplelike or blisterlike swelling or elevation

hemorrhagic: a profuse discharge of blood, as from a ruptured blood vessel; bleeding

frisson: a sudden, passing sensation of excitement; a shudder of emotion; thrill: The movie offers the viewer the occasional frisson of seeing a character in mortal danger

spatiotemporal: of or pertaining to both space and time

etiologies: the study of the causes of diseases

obdurate: unmoved by persuasion, pity, or tender feelings; stubborn; unyielding

demiurges: a supernatural being imagined as creating or fashioning the world in subordination to the Supreme Being, and sometimes regarded as the originator of evil.

bijou:  a jewel. 






something small, delicate, and exquisitely wrought

Gulag: the system of forced-labor camps in the Soviet Union

Help For The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Chapter Two!

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Here are some words for Chapter Two:

pot-au-feu: a dish of boiled meat and vegetables, the broth of which is usually served separately.

cassoulet: a white-bean stew of French origin, often containing pork, mutton, garlic sausage, and preserved goose or duck

plebeian: belonging or pertaining to the common people

proclivities:natural or habitual inclination or tendency; propensity; predisposition

vacuousness: expressing or characterized by a lack of ideas or intelligence; inane; stupid

Help For The Elegance of the Hedgehog — Chapter One

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I am not too proud to admit that the vocabulary in The Elegance of the Hedgehog is kicking my butt.  So, I have started circling words that I do not know, and I will post them and hopefully help fellow readers and book club members through this book.

Chapter One

Feuerbach: A German Philosopher and Anthrpologist.  Feuerbach thought religion was principally a matter of feeling in its unrestricted subjectivity. So the feeling breaks through all the limits of understanding and manifests itself in several religious beliefs. But, beyond the feeling, is the fancy, the true maker of projections of “gods” and of the sacred in general.

Bourgeoisie: the class that, in contrast to the proletariat or wage-earning class, is primarily concerned with property values.  Historically, the bourgeoisie comes from the middle or merchant classes of the Middle Ages, whose status or power came from employment, education, and wealth, as distinguished from those whose power came from being born into an aristocratic family of land owners. In modern times, it is the class owning the means for producing wealth.  The term bourgeoisie is widely used in many non-English-speaking countries as an approximate equivalent of upper class under capitalism

Long Lost: My Review

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Harlan Coben is my favorite author, and I returned to this author again and again because I liked his main character: Myron Bolitar. Myron was in Coben’s early works and then he went away for awhile as Coben explored other characters in great books such as Tell No One and No Second Chance.

Myron Bolitar came back a few years ago and returns once again in Coben’s newest book, Long Lost, released April of 2009.

In the beginning of Myron’s adventures the bad guys were corrupt police officers or competing sports agents, doing bad things to gain the business of new clients, or even the neighborhood New Jersey mafia.

Ah, the good old days.

In this book, Myron faces what we hear about everyday in the news: terrorists. Due to a ldesperate phone call from a long lost love interest, Terese Collins, Myron flies to Paris and get heavily involved in bringing down a nightmarish terrorist cell.

I still love the main character, Myron. I love the relationship that he has with his best friends and his parents. I love the humor and the wit throughout the dialogue.

But, I hated how heavy the subject material was in this book. I hated what happens, and I hated the last chapter. Nothing here gets tied up in a pretty little bow. There’s no hope, just more problems.

But I’m a Myron addict. When the next book rolls out (I hope another book rolls out) I’ll read it. And hope for a return of a dirty sports agent or even just the mafia.