Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”

A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country,
and for making them beneficial to the publick (1729)

Jonathan Swift

It is a melancholy object to those, who walk through this great town, or travel in the country, when they see the streets, the roads and cabbin-doors crowded with beggars of the female sex, followed by three, four, or six children, all in rags, and importuning every passenger for an alms. These mothers instead of being able to work for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in stroling to beg sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn thieves for want of work, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Pretender in Spain, or sell themselves to the Barbadoes.

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of children in the arms, or on the backs, or at the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the kingdom, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these children sound and useful members of the common-wealth, would deserve would deserve so well of the publick, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the nation.

continue reading…Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal”.

Source of text: Project Gutenberg.

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REVIEW: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Audio CD, 12 disks (14.75 hours)
Published November 30th 2004 by Naxos Audiobooks (first published 1938)
ISBN: 9626343230 (ISBN13: 9789626343234)
original title: Rebecca

5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
“Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again.”
So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past the beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten…her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant — the sinister Mrs. Danvers — still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca…for the secrets of Manderley.

My Thoughts:
I absolutely loved this book. In my opinion, it is an absolutely perfectly crafted gothic novel. It is dark and mysterious, with an air of the supernatural surrounding Manderley and all that goes on there…as if the entire estate is infused with Rebecca’s presence. I love the insular, nearly claustrophobic nature of the book. Du Maurier does a superb job of making every element of the novel feel like it is cut off from the outside world – Manderley itself, the cove, the boat, Mrs. Danvers, even the relationship between Maxim & the second Mrs. de Winter. The occasional interactions with those outside of Manderley are exhausting and fraught with anxiety, and though Mrs. Danvers casts a pall over the second Mrs. de Winter’s existence at Manderley, she & Maxim both always seems relieved to recede back into their private life there.

That the second Mrs. de Winter’s name is never revealed is a very effective way of illustrating her second tier status with regard to everyone except Maxim himself. She allows herself to be pushed around and insulted by Mrs. Van Hopper, and feels it necessary to sneak around with Maxim de Winter to avoid Mrs. Van Hopper’s rude comments and judgmental attitude. When she arrives at Manderley, she is so intimidated by the illusion of Rebecca that she appears incapable of asserting herself and making Manderley hers. She endures Mrs. Danvers’ incivility and subtle evil to the point that I as the reader wanted to shake her until her bones rattled.

Although the entire novel is compelling, it is the second half that is full of the unexpected. The unraveling of the truth of Rebecca’s demise and the subsequent revelations related to that are done in a way that hold’s the reader in suspense until the very end. Du Maurier had an impeccable eye for the mysterious and inexplicable, and she created a dynamic story of unparalleled suspense that culminates in a hugely satisfying way because it is both characteristically plausible and yet completely unforeseen. Spectacular in every detail.

REVIEW: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

Audio CD, 5 disks (5 hours)

Published November 4th 2002 by BBC Audiobooks (first published June 1st 1999)
ISBN: 1855491893 (ISBN13: 9781855491892)
original title: Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson (Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, #1)
literary awards: Printz Honor (2001)
2 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
There are six things very wrong with my life:

1. I have one of those under-the-skin spots that will never come to a head but lurk in a red way for the next two years.

2. It is on my nose

3. I have a three-year-old sister who may have peed somewhere in my room.

4. In fourteen days the summer hols will be over and then it will be back to Stalag 14 and Oberfuhrer Frau Simpson and her bunch of sadistic teachers.

5. I am very ugly and need to go into an ugly home.

6. I went to a party dressed as a stuffed olive.

In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s “Fabbity fab fab!”

My Thoughts:
I had almost finished a relatively detailed review of this book, and I lost it, so here’s the short version:

WHAT I LIKED:
The book was funny enough…I laughed out loud in a few places.
The title is provocative and funny…definitely one of the more creative titles I’ve seen.
The audio narrator was brilliant!

WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE:
Georgia is a shallow, self-absorbed, snobby, selfish, disrespectful, mean, rude, boy-crazy girl with (virtually) no redeeming qualities.

Georgia’s parents are (apparently) oblivious, and she gets away with murder. She is disrespectful in words & deeds, and a competent parent would take her down a peg or two…quickly.

Georgia seems to believe the world should revolve around her, and is somewhat astonished when it doesn’t.

Georgia is way too sex-crazed at 14 years old.

Georgia is a terrible literary example for adolescent girls, and the things she says & does are grossly inappropriate for kids of that age, male or female.

THE AUTHOR is an adult and should have better judgment about what is appropriate for early teen girls.

As a reader, I am loathe to support any type of literary censorship except that which I do for myself. However, as an involved parent, I will draw the line on books like this for my adolescent kids. When they’re older and better able to maturely evaluate material like this, they can read it, but not at age 14. These are not the values I want to instill in my children, nor do I want the good values the do have to be undermined by this type of literature (and I use that word VERY loosely).

I am glad I read it. Why? Because I want to make decisions about YA lit out of a position of knowledge rather rather than having knee-jerk reactions borne out of ignorance.

REVIEW: Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier

Audio CD, 8 disks (10 hours)
Published August 24th 2009 by HarperCollins Publishers Ltd (first published 2009)
ISBN: 0007230451 (ISBN13: 9780007230457)
original title: Remarkable Creatures
setting:  Lyme Regis, 1820 (United Kingdom)
4.5 stars overall / 5 stars audio narration

Goodreads Synopsis:
In the early nineteenth century, a windswept beach along the English coast brims with fossils for those with the eye! From the moment she’s struck by lightning as a baby, it is clear Mary Anning is marked for greatness. When she uncovers unknown dinosaur fossils in the cliffs near her home, she sets the scientific world alight, challenging ideas about the world’s creation and stimulating debate over our origins. In an arena dominated by men, however, Mary is soon reduced to a serving role, facing prejudice from the academic community, vicious gossip from neighbours, and the heartbreak of forbidden love. Even nature is a threat, throwing bitter cold, storms, and landslips at her. Luckily Mary finds an unlikely champion in prickly, intelligent Elizabeth Philpot, a middle-class spinster who is also fossil-obsessed. Their relationship strikes a delicate balance between fierce loyalty and barely suppressed envy. Despite their differences in age and background, Mary and Elizabeth discover that, in struggling for recognition, friendship is their strongest weapon. Remarkable Creatures is Tracy Chevalier’s stunning new novel of how one woman’s gift transcends class and gender to lead to some of the most important discoveries of the nineteenth century. Above all, it is a revealing portrait of the intricate and resilient nature of female friendship.

My Thoughts:
This is a truly enthralling read. I have never read anything like it, and I’m astonished that a novel about (primarily) fossils could so capture my attention. I loved that Chevalier was able to not only accurately reflect the culture of the time, but also was able to write technically about the fossil discoveries that permeated the story.

My one (huge) quibble with the author has to do with her theology. She remarks a number of times throughout the book that the existence of fossils, and therefore the evidentiary proof of extinction, shows that God must not be either omniscient or omnipotent, because the changes in the earth were siuch that it was no longer able to maintain certain species. She posits that this is proof that he did not plan…or that he could not prevent extinction from happening…or even that these dinosaurs were early drafts of animals perfected at later times. To speak with such authority about the nature of God, and to assume to know more about God’s plan than he himself does (or did) is foolhardy and arrogantly presumptuous. There is no causal connection at all between extinct fossils and an I mperfect or poorly planned creation. It is conjecture, and perhaps this author’s way of explaining that which she does not fully understand.

This is not to say that I enjoyed the book less as a result, but it certainly had me shouting out loud in objection during those passages. Thankfully Chevalier was not didactic in her comments, and that allowed me as the reader to fully appreciate the story while disagreeing vehemently with her theological conclusion. I’d rather have a strong emotional reaction to what I read anyday than to feel unmoved and unchanged at the end, so bravo to Chevalier for writing a book that I connected to in this way.

My emotional connection was due not only to Chevalier’s beautiful writing, but also to a stellar listening experience. As in other books I have listened to, the main character (two in this case) were narrated by different people, which added exponentially to the authenticity of the regional (and class) differences. It was superbly done, and worth the time to enjoy the audio experience.

REVIEW: The Adrian Mole Diaries by Sue Townsend

Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 1st 1997 by Harper Perennial (first published 1986)

ISBN: 0380730448 (ISBN13: 9780380730445)
original title:
The Complete Adrian Mole Diaries: The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4 and The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole
3 stars (or maybe 2.5 stars) 
Goodreads Synopsis:

Adrian Mole faces the same agonies that life sets before most adolescents: trouble s with girls, school, parents, and an uncaring world. The difference, though, between young Master Mole and his peers is that this British lad keeps a diary—an earnest chronicle of longing and disaster that has charmed more than five million readers since its two-volume initial publication. From teenaged Adrian’s anguished adoration of a lovely, mercurial schoolmate to his view of his parents’ constantly creaking  relationship to his heartfelt but hilarious attempts at cathartic verse, here is an outrageous triumph of deadpan—and deadly accurate—satire. ABBA, Princess Di’s wedding, street punks, Monty Python, the Falklands campaign . . . all the cultural pageantry of a keenly observed era marches past the unique perspective of Sue Townsend’s brilliant comic creation: A . Mole, the unforgettable lad whose self-absorption only gets funnier as his life becomes more desperate.

 My Thoughts:
OK, I did enjoy this book. There were lots of hilarious things about it, but over all, I got tired of it. Mostly, I got tired of what a self-absorbed, selfish, ridiculously naive, snobby, hypochondriacal, pain in the ass that Adrian was. I mean, he was completely without any sense, although he fancied himself the most sensible of anyone…which in the context of his family, he probably was. The shtick got old after a while, perhaps because it seemed like between the ages of 13 3/4 and 16 he didn’t seem to really wise up at all. I thought I might read more of these, considering the comedic factor, but I think I’m finished.