Good Sportsmanship, Reading Calendar for August, & Literary Links

2016 Rio Olympics - Swimming - Final - Women's 200m Freestyle Final - Olympic Aquatics Stadium - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 09/08/2016. Katie Ledecky (USA) of USA and Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) of Sweden celebrate

Good sportsmanship:. Katie Ledecky (USA)  and Sarah Sjostrom (SWE) embrace.

“Go, go, go, go!”

Yes, we yell at the Olympics on TV.  We are Olympics-crazy!  And how could they win without our yelling?  After Katie Ledecky won the Gold Medal for  the 200-meter women’s freestyle tonight, we approved the sportsmanlike embrace between Ledecky and Swedish Silver Medalist Sarah Sjostrom.   Some athletes prefer one-upmanship to sportsmanship:  we saw clips of South Africa’s Chad le Clos’s repeatedly taunting Michael Phelps. Then  Phelps won his 20th Gold Medal for the Men’s 200-Meter Butterfly and Cahd le Clos came in second, so let’s hope that nonsense is over.


Summer is prime time for enjoyable online reading events, with many bloggers and readers coming together to read books in a designated category.

A Virago: it has the green spine!

First up:   All Virago/All August.  This was founded by the LibraryThing Virago Modern Classics group.  My choice?  A Virago I found in London:  American writer Alix Kates Shulman’s On the Stroll, a little-known novel about a pimp, a runaway, and a bag lady who has visions.   I loved Shulman’s Memoirs of an Ex-Prom Queen and her 1995 memoir Drinking the Rain, so I’ll give this a try.

Second up:  Women in Translation month.  Here is a link to an article at PEN America about the genesis and progress of Women in Translation Month.

In May 2014, blogger Meytal Radzinski, a student of biophysics in Israel and an avid and insightful reader, announced the first Women in Translation month, to be held that August. Her goals, she wrote, were simple:

1. Increase the dialogue and discussion about women writers in translation

2. Read more books by women in translation

And, by the way, I have already finished a book in translation,  Colette’s The Pure and the Impure, a  collection of essays about gender and sexuality, possibly shocking in her time, doubtless politically incorrect in our time.

the pure and the impure colette 89848LITERARY LINKS.

1. At The Guardian,  Alex Clark’s article on women’s friendship in fiction is worth reading.

2  At Salon, Dan Green complains about Little Free Libraries. Here is an excerpt:

Little Free Library has a seductive marketing slogan that’s carved into the top of every unit: “Take a Book; Return a Book.” Such a simple equation. And such wishful thinking. Take? Oh, absolutely. People are, in fact, really good at that part. For example there was the young mom who lifted her toddler up to the box, watching uncritically as he scooped up “Imaginary Homelands,” Salman Rushdie’s collection of criticism and essays. Which I’m sure he enjoyed.

When it comes to returning, people mean well. For example, I don’t doubt the sincerity of that young mom when she told her greedy little urchin, “We have to remember to come back soon and give them some books.” The problem is that, to borrow my favorite report card phrase, remembering, for most people, “remains an area of growth.” It’s not that I blame my (mooching) neighbors. Indeed, I, myself, seldom return books to the public library on time. And they fine you if you don’t. But since I don’t punish people (unless you count silent, withering judgment), I’ve got no leverage. The truth is laziness is just part of human nature. It’s what separates us from the beavers.

3  And at Literary Hub, Daisy Dunn, author of Catullus’ Bedspread, writes that her longest relationship is with the dead poet Catullus.

Catullus' Bedspread 61nE1tim0bL

Zombiefied by the Olympics

Michael Phelps wins 19th Gold Medal!

Michael Phelps wins 19th Gold Medal!

I am zombiefied by the Olympics so I cannot write about LITTERACHURE.  We sat with saucer eyes in front of synchronized diving, gymnastics, and Michael Phelps.  Hurrah, go Team USA, and Michael Phelps won his 19th gold medal, but IT IS TOO MUCH TV.

I had planned to write about Booth Tarkington’s  magnificent novel The Magnificent Ambersons, which won the Pulitzer in 1919. Did you know it is the great urban sprawl novel as well as the story of the decline of a wealthy family?

Well, I’ll write about it soon.

Here is a poem about watching the Olympics by J. Allyn Rosser (July 2012, The Smithsonian).  Enjoy!

Only five of us were arguing about the score
of a forward one-and-a-half triple twist
with absolutely rip entry, executed
by an unpronounceable stiff-stepping Russian,
because the sixth was busy in the kitchen.
I couldn’t help noticing how Jane had made
every surface sparkle, clutter-free, neat tray
of snacks, napkins fanned on the coffee table,
fresh daisies on the mantel and by the door.
The Russian’s entry was smooth, minimal splash,
but his come out had been a tiny bit clumsy.
So Jane’s future ex-husband said, anyway,
and when he called out that he wouldn’t mind
another beer as long as she was up,
and she called back that she’d just brought him one,
he had to say something.  Because there it stood,
still frosty, darkening the coaster at his elbow.
He said now that’s the sign of a good wife,
like a good waitress, you’re hardly even aware
when she’s there.  By now Jane had entered,
her arms crossed in a kind of tuck position.
Her approach was understated but forceful,
and the deftness of the look she sent him
when he finally looked up at her
was so pure and deep and swift, it left
hardly a ripple there in the room among us.

Only Notes: The Olympics, Tolstoy’s Resurrection, & Prostitutes in Literature

Yuna Kim, short program Olympics

Yuna Kim, Short Program Sochi Olympics

Before I write about Tolstoy’s Resurrection and prostitutes in Literature, here are some NOTES ON THE OLYMPICS.  Yes, I’m goofing around in front of the  TV tonight.  Loved the snowboarding, loved the Alpine skiing, adored the ice dancing.  I took a night off from the Olympics last night, and now I’m ba-a-a-a-a-ck!

Skip ahead if you don’t like the Olympics.

Women’s Bobsled:  We’re interested because of Lolo Jones, the track star/bobsled brakeman from Des Moines (Dead Moines, as it’s called in Iowa). Yes, we’re Midwesterners.  USA Teams 1 and 2 (not Lolo’s sled 3) won silver and bronze. Canada won gold, and I was impressed by their clean, perfect runs, but aren’t American silver and bronze as good?  USA, USA…

Alpine Skiing:  I muted it so I can blog.  Is Ted Ligety in medal position? Yes!  He’s in first place.  WHOOOOOO!  Ted just won the Gold Medal in the slalom.  The first U.S. Alpine skier to win two gold medals (or something something something). Feel like a drink?

Figure skating:  Yuna Kim, the defending gold medalist from South Korea, is more elegant and limber than anyone in her field .   She has speed and flow, and, as one narrator said, “She may be the greatest competitor I’ve ever witnessed.” Another said, “She totally owns the audience and that performance.”  American Gracie Gold had one wobble, the little Russian fell down, and the beautiful Italian is my favorite but still perhaps not as good as Kim.  More on this tomorrow.

On to Tolstoy:

If you’ve read this blog, you’ll know that Tolstoy is one of my favorite writers.  Last year I reread War and Peace  and Anna Karenina, and then immediately started rereading W&P again.

And now I’m returning to Tolstoy’s other work.  Rereading Tolstoy is like reliving your life.

resurrection briggsIn his beautifully-written novel, Resurrection, a prostitute, Katyusha Maslova, is accused, along with another woman and man, of theft and poisoning one of her clients.  She is innocent, having been told that the drink would make him sleep.

Then, unexpectedly, Prince Dmitri Ivanovich Nekhlyudov, a man in his prime who seduced Katyusha years ago at his aunts’ house, recognizes her.  He is on the jury.  His life is in control, he might marry a rich woman (though he doesn’t like her much), and what if anyone finds out he was connected to the accused? But when a mistake on the jury condemns her to hard labor, he is conscience-stricken.  He does everything he can to help her and other prisoners, many of whom have been unjustly locked up.  He decides he will give up his estate, marry Katyusha, and follow her to Siberia.

But what if the woman doesn’t feel like marrying the landowner?  Katyusha decidedly does not.  She is angry about what happened long ago. She lost her position with his aunts (they had brought her up almost as a niece and even educated her) because of pregnancy.  One night, in the early stages of her pregnancy, she walked through a rainstorm to see him at the train station–he had telegraphed his aunts that he would pass through but not have time to stop.  Arriving a little late, she tried in vain to get his attention, running along beside the train.

He didn’t see her.  She is desperate, furious, and pregnant.

And then she is like Anna Karenina.  The scene boldly refers  to Anna’s suicide..

He’s there in that carriage with the bright lights, sitting on his velvet chair, joking and drinking, and I’m down here in the dirt and the darkness, in the rain and the wind, standing here weeping,” she thought ,as she came to a stop, threw back her head, held it with both hands and howled….

“The next train–under the wheels–and it’s all over,” thought Katushya…

She does not commit suicide, and in fact Nekhlyudov does renew her life by making sure she is put with the political prisoners instead of the criminals.  She gets a sort of education from these radicals.

And for Nekhlyudov?  Does he find resurrection?

It’s a complicated novel about prison reform, Christianity, and judgment.

Nekhlyudov asks himself, What right does a Christian have to judge the poor and the ignorant?

And on the final page:

“Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all the rest will be added on to you.”

Nana by ZolaPROSTITUTION IN LITERATURE.  I’m in notes mode.  This is just a list of books with prostitutes, guys and gals.

1.  Tolstoy’s Resurrection

2.  Zola’s Nana

3.  Trollope’s The Vicar of Bullhampton

4.  Stephen Crane’s Maggie:  A Girl of the Streets

5.  Balzac’s A Harlot High and Low

6.  Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind

7.  Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders

8.  Dickens’ Oliver Twist

9.  Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

10. Louisa May Alcott’s Work

Any more prostitutes in literature?  Let me know!