Diary of a Country Priest – Georges Bernanos

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In this classic Catholic novel, Bernanos movingly recounts the life of a young French country priest who grows to understand his provincial parish while learning spiritual humility himself. Awarded the Grand Prix for Literature by the Academie Francaise, The Diary of a Country Priest was adapted into an acclaimed film by Robert Bresson. “A book of the utmost sensitiveness and compassion…it is a work of deep, subtle and singularly encompassing art.” – New York Times Book Review (front page).

Pros
Serious subject matter handled seriously, not ironically. Clearly written sentences. Doesn’t insult your intelligence.

Cons
I had a hard time following it. Characters weren’t introduced. People just start having long abstract conversations. Never sure of what was going on exactly. This might have been due to the diary format of the book. In any case, I didn’t get much of a feel for what life was like for the main character, or for the time and place.

Try it for yourself: Amazon
Part of the Desultory Notes International Book Club

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich, Danilo Kiš

What is it? What’s it about?

A Tomb for Boris Davidovich is a collection of seven short stories by Danilo Kiš written in 1976 . The stories are based on historical events and deal with themes of political deception, betrayal, and murder in Eastern Europe during the first half of the 20th century (except for “Dogs and Books” which takes place in 14th century France). Several of the stories are written as fictional biographies wherein the main characters interact with historical figures.

wikipedia

davidovich (2)

Excerpt:

Like so many provincial children, the pharmacist’s son, Karl Taube, dreamed about that happy day when, through the thick lenses of his glasses, he would see his town from the bird’s-eye view of departure and for the last time, as one looks through a magnifying glass at dried out and absurd yellow butterflies from one’s school collection: with sadness and disgust.

In the autumn of 1920, at Budapest’s Eastern Station he boarded the first-class car of the Budapest-Vienna Express. The moment the train pulled out, the young Karl Taube waved once more to his father (who was disappearing like a dark blot in the distance, waving his silk handkerchief), then quickly carried his leather suitcase into the third-class car and sat down among the workers.

What did you think?
It had some poetic writing, but as far as storytelling it left me bored. It was hard to follow and it lacked continuity.

Note what wikipedia said: “Several of the stories are written as fictional biographies.” That technique was why it was hard to follow. Also, this is the second book in a row that I’ve read that did this fictional form thing. The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum was a fictional investigative report. Both of them leave out character introductions and make reference to things the reader is assumed to know.

Thumbs up or thumbs down?
Thumbs down from me dawg.

Desultory Notes International Book Club

The Lost Honour of Katharina Blum, Heinrich Boll

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What’s it about?

Four days after a Weiberfastnacht’s eve party (Wed. 20 February 1974), where Katharina Blum met a man named Ludwig Götten, she calls on Oberkommissar Moeding and confesses to killing a journalist for the newspaper Die Zeitung.

Katharina had met Götten at a friend’s party and spent the night with him before helping him to escape from the police. The next morning, the police break into her house, arrest her and question her. The story is sensationally covered by Die Zeitung, and in particular its journalist Tötges. Tötges investigates everything about her life, calling on Katharina’s friends and family, including her ex-husband and hospitalized mother, who dies the day after Tötges visits her. He paints a picture of Katharina as a fervent accomplice of Götten, and as a communist run amok in Germany.

Katharina arranges an interview with Tötges. According to Katharina, upon his arrival he suggests that they have sex, whereupon she shoots him dead. She then wanders the city for a few hours before driving to police headquarters and confessing to murder.

The book also details the effects of the case on Katharina’s employers and friends the Blornas; Mr Blorna is her lawyer, and Mrs Blorna one of the designers of the apartment block where Katharina resides. Their association with Katharina leads to their exclusion from society.

wikipedia

Excerpt, from page 19:

Meanwhile the occupants of the building had been questioned; most of them had little or nothing to tell about Katharina Blum. They had occasionally met in the elevator and passed the time of day, they knew that the red Volkswagen belonged to her, some had thought she was a private secretary, others that she was a buyer in a department store; she had always been smartly turned out, pleasant, although a bit on the reserved side. Among the occupants of the five other apartments on the eighth floor, where Katharina lived, there were only two who had more detailed information to give. One was the owner of a hairdressing salon, a Mrs. Schmill, the other a retired employee of the electricity works by the name of Ruhwiedel, and the startling thing was that both statements included the assertion that from time to time Katharina had received or brought home a gentleman visitor. Mrs. Schmill maintained that this visitor had come regularly, maybe every two or three weeks, an athletic-looking gentleman of about forty, from an “obviously superior” background, whereas Mr. Ruhwiedel described the visitor as a fairly young fellow who had sometimes entered Miss Blum’s apartment alone and sometimes accompanied by Miss Blum.

What did you think?
* It’s written like an investigative report.
* Much of the larger background/context is assumed.
* The timeline jumps around some.
If you can get into that, or get past it, you might enjoy it.

Part of the Desultory Notes International Book Club

Under Their Thumb.

… “He’s vit me!” And it worked. Before I knew it, I was onstage with the Rolling Stones.

Freddy led me to a cubbyhole, right next to the backup singers. It held a dozen or so people and was sort of like a baseball dugout. Jerry Hall was in there, and so was Keith’s dad. We were getting a slightly skewed view

For better or worse, I was seeing what the Stones see. And it helped me understand why rock stars get fucked up. Being in front of 60,000 screaming fans for two hours can be an overwhelming experience. There is no way to healthily match that intensity when the tour is over and you’re home in your slippers eating corn flakes.”
Under Their Thumb, Bill German

LEARNING REACT – Kirupa Chinnathambi

Pros –
Very readable -> clear and direct.
Short -> < 200 pages. To the point. Source code available.
Hands on/example driven – as opposed to theoretical and abstract.

Cons –
Mostly none. Price might be a concern.
Introductory text, maybe not for more experienced users.

Summary –
Highly recommended intro to React.