Sunday, June 15, 2014

Book-a-Day Challenge: Week 2 Recap

Here are my Book-a-Day Challenge responses for the week of June 8.

June 8. Have more than one copy: Clément Marot's OEUVRES COMPLETES. Marot was court poet to François I and penned the "Canticle to the Emperor" that figures in the welcoming pageant scene of my current manuscript. It's not surprising that I own several copies of Marot's works, as I wrote my dissertation about him. Here is the beautiful edition annotated by my dissertation advisor, renowned Renaissance scholar François Rigolot.

June 9. Film or movie tie-in: QUEEN MARGOT by Alexandre Dumas. Published by Dumas in 1845, the book follows the court intrigues of Marguerite de Valois, daughter of King Henri II of France and Catherine de Medici. In an attempt to calm religious turmoil, Catholic Marguerite wed the Protestant king Henri of Navarre; four days later, thousands of Protestants died in the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre. The 1994 film, directed by Pierre Chéreau and starring Isabelle Adjani and Daniel Auteuil, won five Césars and an Academy Award for Best Costume Design. Gripping novel/movie, if a bit creative with actual historical fact.

June 10. Reminds me of someone I love: KILLING LINCOLN by Bill O'Reilly. Two years ago this month, my father lay in a nursing home, extremely ill, his mind clouded by an aggressive form of dementia. Talking was difficult for him, and often he didn't recognize me. One day, desperate to find something to soothe him, I asked if he'd like me to read to him, and he eagerly responded yes. The only book at hand was KILLING LINCOLN, which one of my brothers had given him for Father's Day. Over the next two weeks, I read all 295 pages aloud to him. It amazed me how he followed the narrative and always remembered where we were and what had happened when I'd last stopped reading. When my father died, I asked my mom if I could have the book. It sits on my desk as a reminder of those special hours I spent with Dad. It consoles me to think that my reading aloud helped keep some of his pain and confusion at bay. My father always told me that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to. I am sad that he did not live to see my publish a book of my own, but I know he will be cheering me on from heaven when I do. Because I will, and it will be dedicated to him.

June 11. Secondhand bookshop gem: LES PETITES CARDINAL by Ludovic Halévy. Picked up this novel, published in Paris in 1899, at the library book sale for about $5. In the late 1870's Halévy, a French librettist and novelist, hosted a salon that welcomed the likes of Degas, Manet, Maupassant and Paul Bourget. He created the Cardinal family as a symbol of the pompous and pedantic petite bourgeoisie.

June 12. Pretend to have read: DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes. As a Renaissance scholar, I really ought to have read DON QUIXOTE by now, but I haven't. I remain suspiciously quiet whenever discussion veers towards this early novel, which even my husband the physicist has read. He assures me it is quite good and very funny. Maybe I'll tackle it this summer on the beach.

June 13. Makes me laugh: IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE BED by James Howe. This is the first volume of a spin-off from the classic children's story BUNNICULA. In this series, Howie, the younger of the original story's dogs, wants to become an author. Written from Howie's perspective, the books provide a hilarious meta-commentary on the writing life. If you're a writer who reads aloud to kids, try these books on 7 to 9 year old listeners. You'll be laughing out loud, even if the kids don't get the writing jokes.

June 14. An old favorite: GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell. I must have read this book five or six times during my teens and twenties. Our eighth grade English teacher assigned it for summer reading and instructed us to write a summary of the book. My chapter-by-chapter précis turned out to be almost as long as the novel itself. I doubt poor Sister Anne managed to get through it!

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