The Quest, De Kleine Johannes

Remember my tangent from the other day about historical context, and how important it is to know the environment in which the book you are reading was written?

I just finished a horribly confusing book–until I googled. Sometimes, I just get so far in over my head that I have to look up what the book is about. And that’s ok. Reading these great works is about learning–if I don’t understand something from the book itself, I’m not above looking up the SparkNotes or Wiki!

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When I started reading Frederik van Eeden’s book, I thought it was going to be a book for children. Part I begins so sweetly, sort of an Alice in Wonderland meets The Hobbit type story. Johannes comes across a dragonfly that turns into a fairy-like creature, who shrinks him down to grass-size and takes him on an adventure. It’s a story that begs to be read chapter by chapter at night to a couple of tucked-in youngsters.

But then, the story kind of goes off a cliff and gets dark and darker. It twists and turns and becomes unrecognizable from where it begins, almost if the author descended into madness after he started. I quickly became confused, and probably should have given it up–but Part I was so delightful, I kept hoping it would go back to that.

It never did. The book becomes extremely evangelical, almost punishing in its sermons–at the same time it is full of crushing doubt. Like I said…it really felt like the narrator, if not the author himself, was not in control of his mind.

And then, in Part III, the book starts eluding to socialism and the Social Democratic Workers’ Party. It’s called a different name in the book, but it sounded so familiar that it clicked, and I knew the book was written in Holland just before WWI, so bam, that was it! Once I looked up that Party (<–Click there) it all made so much more sense. All the back and forth between religion and doubt, I THINK is a metaphor for the extremes in the party. There was so much that eluded to the battles between the branches. The Twelve Apostles fit in with that too. I could be way off, but it sure made the book come together for me.

This was a very difficult book to read, but it’s the first Dutch translation I’ve read, so I wanted to stick with it. If anyone has additional analysis on this, I’d love to hear it. I’m still very unsure about how I’ve interpreted it, but I had a hard time finding notes on this in English.

 

Also–I’ve been doing really great about getting a post up every day, but I’ve finally caught up with myself! Because I finished this book late in the day (and we have plans tonight) I am not sure I’ll be able to get one up tomorrow. We’ll see. If not, I’ll resume on Monday. Have a great weekend!

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WWW Wednesday 12/17/2014

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What are you currently reading?

The Iliad by Homer

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert

 

What did you just finish reading?

The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien

A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin

Backpacks and Brastraps with Savannah Grace

Before I Go  by Colleen Oakley

 

What do you think you’ll read next?

The Regulators by Richard Bachman

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor

Bel Canto by Ann Patchett

Teaser Tuesday 12/16/2014

 

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

 

“Far over the misty mountains cold

To dungeons deep and caverns old

We must away ere break of day

To seek the pale enchanted gold.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

 

Pardon this brief interruption of my regularly scheduled book reading. I could not resist the pull, with all the trailers and cosplay and everything else happening today. I am going to try and get through one more reading of this wonderful story before Husband and I go see the last movie tomorrow night. Can it be done? Oh, it must, it must!

 

Tolkien

I told my husband I was going to do nothing but read this weekend, and since I’ve finished 3 books in 2 days…I think I’m doing pretty well!

When I first started getting into fantasy, I tried to watch The Lord of the Rings movies, and every time I did, I would get as far as the cornfield scene, and fall asleep, or get bored, and inevitably give up. Over and over someone would say “Haley, you would LOVE this, watch it!” But I just couldn’t get into them. And the idea of reading three volumes of that was just…ugh….no thanks.

But I kept seeing the excitement and obsession everyone had for Tolkien’s trilogy, and I just didn’t understand the fascination. What was I missing? And so, when I unpacked R’s book collection at our first apartment, and saw that he had not just LOTR, but also The Hobbit, I set out to conquer them. I was sure I’d hate it, but I had to know.

And then I couldn’t stop. I think it took me about a week to finish the four. And we watched the movies, of course. We haven’t gotten our hands on The Hobbit ones, and I’m dying to–we must, before December. (MARTIN FREEMAN AHHH WHY HAVE I NOT SEEN THESE YET).

And then I started learning more about where the myths came from, and reading online more about Tolkien. What a genius! I have a bunch of biographies tagged to read about him that I haven’t picked up yet, but the other day NetGalley sent me an ARC offer from Devin Brown, so of course I jumped on it.

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At first, Tolkien is a little choppy. Or maybe I should say, “listy.” Here’s an event or a place, and here’s the connection Tolkien used for his books. And Brown does that over and over for the first few chapters. But then, the bio sort of finds the flow once he gets to school and it gets better after that.

The subtitle of the book is “How an Obscure Oxford Professor Wrote the Hobbit and Became the Most Beloved Author of the Century.” That really tells you what you are going to get here. There’s not a lot about his nature walks or how he came up with his maps here–which is a little of what I was hoping for, since I’ve read about some of that online. This is very much about his days at school and his professorship, and his development into languages. There is a bit into his relationship with CS Lewis and his marriage, but none of this book is supremely personal or detailed. It’s also not a very long book–I read it in about 3 hours, starting last night and finishing this morning.

Tolkien is a very good introduction to the author. I very much want to know more now about the pieces of his life that were described here, and I will be reading more about this incredibly intelligent man.

 

Disclaimer:  I was given an ecopy of this book for review by NetGalley.