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Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo

The Count of Monte Cristo and I began our journey together on January 4, 2016. By the end of the month, I was 48% through. February hit me like a whirlwind and I hardly touched any books and I began March at 63%. On March 30, I turned the final page and shut the cover.

To a happy man, a prayer is a monotonous composition, void of meaning, until the day when suffering deciphers the sublime language through which the poor victim addresses God.

pg 132, Robin Buss translation

During the course of the journey, I made comments on Goodreads like “Oh boy. I made it to Chateau d’If. So far I am surviving my fear of this book.” “Oh, Faria! ::sob::” “In other news, this book isn’t so bad.” “99 pages to go. It is so hard to put down my book.”

countofmontecristo

What’s wrong is that this human being who is about to die is furious because his fellow creature is not dying with him and, if he were allowed to do so, he would tear him apart with his nails and his teeth rather than leave him to enjoy the life of which he himself is about to be deprived.

pg 393, Robin Buss translation

When I began, I was afraid. Would it be hard to follow? Were there going to be graphically unpleasant scenes? Would it drag? There’s so many pages. Was I up to this?

On the whole, they have one great shortcoming, which is that they have not yet had time to become old masters.

pg 535, Robin Buss translation

Is this one of my favorites? Hmm, perhaps not. Did I find value in it? Definitely. Will I read it again? One day.

‘So he must have spoken?’

‘He did better than that: he made himself understood.’

pg 669, Robin Buss translation

I led a discussion in my in-person book club about The Count of Monte Cristo. A few of us read the unabridged version, a few read the abridged, a few watched a movie version, and some had no exposure to it. I knew leading this discussion would be tricky because of that so I prepared questions like:

  • Is it revenge if you let someone hang by their own rope?
  • Did the Count stop when he did because of the death of an innocent or because everything was in motion and nearly finished?
  • Why did the Count test Morrell instead of telling him Valentine was alive?
  • Should the Count and Mercedes tried to rekindle their love?

These questions all led to application in our lives and everyone was able to participate.

I devoted three years of my life to reading and re-reading one hundred and fifty volumes, so that when I was arrested I knew them more or less by heart.

pg 156, Robin Buss translation

Our discussion ended with this quote and the merits of re-reading. Many people don’t see the value in re-reading and I think that could be due to the quality of literature they are consuming. They are all about reading all the things rather than reading the best things. Others re-read a few favorites. Some re-read for the same reason they read: to learn.

C.S. Lewis said that you shouldn’t  read a new book until you have read an old one in between. Abbe Faria (Count of Monte Cristo), Helene Hanff (84, Charing Cross Rd), and the San Ireneo community (The Awakening of Miss Prim) are all very inspiring and make a good case for re-reading. I’m not at 50/50 but I am aiming for a 75/25 this year. My reading used to have 4-8 books in play at any moment. I loved it! Now I am more like 4-5 books at a time (audio, religious, non-fiction, fiction). I love it this way too.

There are two ways of seeing: with the body and with the soul. The body’s sight can sometimes forget, but the soul remembers for ever.

pg 850, Robin Buss translation

On a long drive with Jared, Kaelyn, and my mother, I was tasked with talking. The topic Jared came up with was the last book I read which was, at the time, this book. My mom said she hadn’t read it before and didn’t really know the story. I summed it up for her. It only took 1 1/2 hours!

The friends whom we have lost do not rest in the earth, they are buried in our hearts, and that is how God wanted it, so that we should always be in their company.

pg 1187, Robin Buss translation

My thoughts of The Count of Monte Cristo haven’t ended. I find connections. I feel bits stick to my soul. I look at the book with a bit of fondness. I read that. I understood that. I learned from that.

Tell the angel who will watch over your life, Morrel, to pray sometimes for a man who, like Satan, momentarily thought himself the equal of God and who, with all the humility of a Christian, came to realize that in God’s hands alone reside supreme power and infinite wisdom.

pg 1242, Robin Buss translation

Until the day when God deigns to unveil the future to mankind, all human wisdom is contained in these two words: ‘wait’ and ‘hope’!

pg 1243, Robin Buss translation

When Charles Dickens Became Important

“Mom, can we read more Charles Dickens books?”

Oh boy. That’s when it starts. When your child expresses interest. Then the dance begins between fanning the ember but not dousing the flame. We want a burning hot fire!

Continuing in a family tradition of mine, Jared and I have read The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens almost every Christmas season since we’ve been married. Kaelyn has heard it probably 4 times now. She watched A Dickens Christmas by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and John Rhys-Davies with me and the combination got Dickens in her head.

On a trip to the library, she was perusing in the children’s non-fiction section and looked at all the Dickens biographies. We ended up with “Charles Dickens: A Man who had Great Expectations” and… she loved it.

That leads us back to her question. “Mom, can we read more Charles Dickens books?”

I’ve spent a long time not reading Charles Dickens. It isn’t that he wasn’t important. His books haven’t become classics for no reason. I just hadn’t made him a priority in my reading yet (and we have loads of read alouds going on right now). I know enough to know that I’m not going to pick up Great Expectations or A Tale of Two Cities to read with my 6 year old. I’ve received a few suggestions for Dickens for young ones but I’d be happy to hear your vote!

The only response I could give is “yes, of course”. Have we done it yet? Nope. It’s been a mere month. Learning is for our whole lifetime.

New Tripod!!

I’m super excited! I got a nice tripod in the mail today for a new venture I’m taking on.

Good news: I can use it to take pictures of my apartment! Bad lighting pretty much requires a tripod to get nice pictures.

Bad news: I have to clean first. Haha! So it may take a while…

Good news: I can take pictures of projects I’ve finished!

Bad news: There’s really only one project I can think of… and technically it’s not complete until I go to the store to get some more yarn.

Aristophane: Clouds, Lysistrata

Welcome to my introduction of Greek plays. There’s depth here, I’m sure, but the first reading isn’t when you’ll uncover it (unless, of course, your mind is much more used to depth than mine is).

Reading 3: The Clouds

Guy doesn’t want to pay the debts his son has acquired and decides to learn logic to get out of it. There’s a conversation about flea wax, gnat farts, and lizard poop. Decides logic isn’t for him and sends his son instead. The Chorus of Clouds goes on and on and on and on. Son uses his logic to beat up his dad and wants to beat his mom. Guy figures out he made a mistake and goes and sets fire to the university.

I know, right?

Reading 4: The Lysistrata

The women go on a sex-strike to force the men to stop war.

And it works. And just a hint but the Spartans made way more sense in a Scottish accent. Pretty sure this was meant as a comedy. One I didn’t need in my life.

Back to Plato! This time to The Republic. Now, the 10-year reading plan has books I-II in year 1 and VI-VII in year 4. And that’s it. I’m pretty sure I will just read the entirety of The Republic now even though that pushes my yearly reading plan out. No big deal. I have the rest of my lifetime.

Plato: Apology, Crito

Last year I was gifted by a wonderful, generous, loving soul my very own set of The Great Books of the Western World. I read The Great Conversation (vol 1) and the introduction to the Syntopican (vol 2) and decided to follow the 10-year plan outlined in the back of volume 1 despite knowing that it wouldn’t not take me through all the works contained in my set. That is okay. The 10-year plan is built chronologically within each year’s reading as well as increasing in difficulty from year to year. Perfect for this extreme beginning to the great works.

Reading 1: Plato’s Apology

I hadn’t read Plato before and was surprised by how very easy he is to read. I do assume that not all his works are as readable but it felt like such a gentle start that it helped me get over my anxiety and increased my confidence.

I am reading Paul’s epistles in the New Testament as well and Plato and Paul sound very alike.

Passage that made me laugh:

When I began to talk with him, I could not help thinking that he was not really wise, although he was thought wise by many, and still wiser by himself; and thereupon I tried to explain to him that he thought himself wise, but was not really wise; and the consequence was that he hated me, and his enmity was shared by several who were present, and heard me.

Passage that gives me hope:

[It is] not by wisdom do poets write poetry, but by a sort of genius and inspiration; they are like diviners or soothsayers who also say many fine things, but do not understand the meaning of them.

Passages I enjoyed:

Happy indeed would be the condition of youth if they had one corrupter only, and all the rest of the world were their improvers.

A man who is good for anything ought not to calculate the chance of living or dying; he ought only to consider whether in doing anything he is doing right or wrong–acting the part of a good man or of a bad.

If you think that by killing men you can prevent some one from censuring your evil lives, you are mistaken. […] the easiest and noblest way is not to be disabling others, but to be improving yourselves.

 

Reading 2: Plato’s Crito

I have often heard the phrase “Socratic questions” and figured out what it meant. Between a section in Apology and all of Crito, I’m really beginning to understand what Socratic questioning entails.

I’m happy as punch that I followed the logic of Socrates. I’m equally pleased that I was not Crito because my eyes would have gone huge and I would have shrunk into a corner. I don’t do well on the spot like that.

A favorite passage:

You, Socrates, are breaking the covenants and agreements which you made with us at your leisure, not in any haste or under any compulsion or deception.

He who is a corrupter of the laws is more than likely to be a corrupter of the young and foolish portion of mankind.

Leave me then, Crito, to fulfil the will of God, and to follow whither he leads.