Classic Fiction Does It For Me

You guys, I’m just going to come right out and say it. I love reading classic fiction more than anything else because it reminds me that human beings are not doomed. I’ve tried modern fiction, novels, thrillers, mysteries, romance. None of it lifts my heart like the classics.

In a way I’m so bummed that I’m not going to finish reading The Red and The Black today because that would have set a personal record for the most books read in one month. On the other hand, I had some serious fun this last week, so something had to give and it ended up being the extra hour of reading in the afternoon. You can’t do EVERYTHING, right?

What have I been up to? First off, obviously writing and posting here more often. I’m on a four-day streak! You know how I feel about that “streak” notification though. I can’t possibly post every day, but I hate losing a streak. Ugg. How do I turn that off?!

Second, I went hiking with a friend at Joshua Tree National Park which is where I live. I’m a lucky woman in so many ways! Spring is the best time to hike because around every turn or near every boulder, something is growing or stirring. It’s a treasure hunt.

I found these beauties snug against a warm south facing rock!

Third, I spent an afternoon laying around with my oldest son at his apartment, just chillin’ and talking life. The mom heart is full.

I’m also working on my first full-size quilt as much as possible, along with mastering breadmaking. My first attempt at sourdough is sitting on the kitchen counter rising as I type this.

There it is… will it taste good?!

And don’t forget the “regular chores.” Housekeeping still needs to be done, and now that it’s spring, I need to get my butt out in the garden and start cleaning up the winter mess.

Jeepers. It doesn’t FEEL like I’m that busy, but it sure reads like it. Retirement kicks ass. Just sayin’.

Like I said yesterday, I have still been reading in the mornings and I’m fully engrossed in Stendhal, wondering where THIS book has been all my life. There were a few mutters of, “Oh, Julien. What are you thinking?” and “This can’t end well” coming from the couch today, along with a few gasp moments. I’ll share with you a few more of my most favorite lines!

The way Stendhal steps out of the narrator role, again. It’s the most charming part of the book.

“I own that the weakness which Julien had been manifesting in this soliloquy gives me a poor opinion of him.”

As if he isn’t creating and writing down the character, but discovering him as he would any other human he met and associated with.

“A man, though of a naturally noble and generous disposition, who would have been your friend in the natural course of events, but who happens to live a hundred leagues off, judges you by the public opinion of your town which is made by fools who have chanced to be born noble, rich and conservative. Unhappy is the man who distinguishes himself.”

I can’t help but notice the similarities between his time and ours. Instead of just the people in your town and the next, technology allows us to observe and judge those we barely know and take into account the opinions of fools we have never met. It also brings to mind a book I have on my TBR shelf, Self Care by Leigh Stein.

“Since the time of Voltaire and two-chamber Government, which is at bottom simply distrust and personal self-examination, and gives the popular mind that bad habit of being suspicious, the Church of France seems to have realized that books are its real enemies. It is the submissive heart which counts for everything in its eyes. It suspects, and rightly so, any success in studies, even sacred ones. What is to prevent a superior man from crossing over to the opposite side like Sièyes or Gregory. The trembling Church clings on to the Pope as its one chance at safety. The Pope alone is in a position to attempt to paralyse all personal self-examination, and to make an impression by means of the pompous piety of his court ceremonial on the bored and morbid spirit of fashionable society.”

Let’s talk about books and self-examination for a moment, shall we? Replace church with government (and they are close cousins), we seem to be in a similar situation these days. In all honesty, I don’t think much ever changes but details. Self-government requires us to educate ourselves and make decisions based on our own discernment. That would be the complete opposite, politically, of an autocracy which had been the norm for hundreds of years. It’s also the opposite of most faith-based religions.

Here we are today, in the United States at least, with two parties standing before us, telling us that we need not look too deeply into what they are saying or doing. We should trust our representatives in government and let them do their jobs. Ours is simply to do what they say. AND, as a plebian, if you agree with or try to get along with the other side of any argument, you are a traitor, or a conspiracy theorist. Don’t educate yourself, don’t ask questions. Whatever you do, don’t make decisions based on your own reasoning or risk assessment. Trust us to know what’s best and leave it at that.

I love the sarcasm I sense in Stendhal’s assessment of his political and religious climate.

One more before I run off and enjoy the sunshine today!

“Chélan had acted as imprudently for Julien as he had for himself. He had given him the habit of reasoning correctly, and of not being put off by empty words, but he had neglected to tell him that this habit was a crime in the person of no importance, since every piece of logical reasoning is offensive.”

This reminds me of my children and our my homeschool career. Since we learned by doing, followed our hearts daily, and encouraged the kids to question the world around them, including us, they tended to get into trouble around traditional children’s activities like Little League and Scouts. As adults, they’ve run into similar issues and have learned to navigate them well.

I felt the same as our friend Chélan here. How do we educate our children to be reasoning adults in a world that shuns the mere hint of independent thought? We know we’re setting them up for trouble, but how can we do otherwise?

That’s what novels are. Right?

The quotes I’ve shared today are why I love reading classic books more than modern novels. They remind me that we are in no way a unique human situation. Even with the added technology, humans are basically the same animal they were two hundred years ago, and far beyond that. We will continue to survive, hopefully because some of us still try to think and take people with us, as Stendhal does in this book.

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