Only idiots think that ethics is a simple business, and Dominique de Saint-Mars is no idiot. In the latest Ainsi va la vie, the kids' teacher has deciOnly idiots think that ethics is a simple business, and Dominique de Saint-Mars is no idiot. In the latest Ainsi va la vie, the kids' teacher has decided to start a Good Deeds contest. And what a can of worms she's opened up!
The idea sounds straightforward for the first three seconds. All the members of the class are going to see who can do most good deeds over the course of the following week. But... hold on. How will you know what good deeds have been performed? By the time the parents have been issued with their Good Deed Books, the rules have already become a bit longer. Parents are obliged to enter deeds honestly and not use the competition to coerce their children into doing anything against their will. Well, so far it's not too bad.
But what is a good deed? As soon as the kids start discussing concrete issues, they discover that standards aren't as uniform as they'd imagined. "I hit Valentine!" says Marlène proudly. "She was making my friend feel bad by telling her she was poor." "Hitting someone can't qualify as a good deed," says teacher, appalled by what she's set in motion. "I apologised afterwards!" says Marlène, who clearly thinks this puts her on the right side of the line.
Things gets worse and worse. It turns out that no coercion is necessary: Lili and Max are both insanely competitive, and vie to perform as many household tasks as possible. "Let me clear the table!" says Lili. "If I can wash up!" counters Max. The parents, concerned over this unnatural behavior, ask if it's that damn competition again. "We're just naturally thoughtful!" says Lili smugly. But Mom's intuitions are correct. That evening, Lili sneaks out of bed after Max has gone to sleep, and adjusts his alarm clock. Next morning, Max wakes up to find that his sister has already made breakfast.
"You cheated!" he says furiously. "It was my turn! That's not nice!"
"What do you mean?" asks Lili innocently. "It's not nice to let your little brother get some extra sleep?" But Mom's not fooled. She docks Lili of the point she's just received and gives it to Max instead.
"I don't want it!" snarls Max. "I didn't earn it honestly!" But he calms down and gets back to work collecting more good deeds. Pretty soon he's on the point of catching Lili up again, and now the game gets really dirty.
"Let me tell you a secret," says Lili, doing a good job of looking like the wise older sibling. "Girls don't really appreciate boys who are too nice. They want someone who's tough and nasty. Someone who can defend their honor if they need to. Someone who can hit a guy who's getting fresh with them. Not some wimpy nice guy. Don't mess things up with Juliette, that would be silly."
It's a transparent play, but Max is only eight and he falls for it. Next day, they're on their way to school and another boy makes an innocent remark to Juliette. Max immediately pastes him one and tells him to lay off his girlfriend. "Get away from me, you psycho!" screams Juliette, completely freaked out. "I'm dumping you right now! We're over!"
When the week ends, Lili has just barely maintained her lead thanks to all her devious strategems. Teacher gives her first prize, but she breaks down and starts crying. "I don't deserve it!" she sobs. "I was so mean to Max! Really he should have won!" Other people join in with new revelations, and the whole scoring system is shown to be rotten to the core. But teacher, a natural diplomat, manages to engineer a solution with a shared prize which is deemed generally acceptable.
When Max and Lili come home, the parents ask if they're going to knock it off now that the event is over.
The plot of this rather fine coming-of-age SF novel is described well in several of the other reviews. Oddly enough, no one seems to mention that it iThe plot of this rather fine coming-of-age SF novel is described well in several of the other reviews. Oddly enough, no one seems to mention that it is constructed around Shakespeare's Sonnet 94, which appears on the last page.
Since the poem isn't nearly as well-known as it deserves to be, and it's one of my favorites, let me reproduce it here:
They that have power to hurt and will do none, That do not do the thing they most do show, Who, moving others, are themselves as stone, Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow, They rightly do inherit heaven's graces And husband nature's riches from expense; They are the lords and owners of their faces, Others but stewards of their excellence. The summer's flower is to the summer sweet, Though to itself it only live and die, But if that flower with base infection meet, The basest weed outbraves his dignity: For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
There's this memorable scene in Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor tells you why he does heroin. "Take the best orgasm you've ever had," he explains. "There's this memorable scene in Trainspotting where Ewan McGregor tells you why he does heroin. "Take the best orgasm you've ever had," he explains. "Multiply it by a thousand. Well, it's like that. We're not stupid you know." This book is similar, though aimed at a younger audience; like Trainspotting and Infinite Jest, it adopts the strategy of showing you both why the activity is so destructive and also why it's so enticing.
Max is about six and has become hooked on video games. At home, he does nothing but sit in front of the screen, controller in hand. His social circle no longer contains anyone except fellow game junkies. When he's forced to leave the house on his own, he takes his GameBoy with him and plays while walking. The cover illustration shows how insanely dangerous this is.
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Poil de Carotte ("Carrot Top"), the young hero of this book, reminds me of my son Jonathan. Jonathan is autistic spectrum and thinks a lot about the pPoil de Carotte ("Carrot Top"), the young hero of this book, reminds me of my son Jonathan. Jonathan is autistic spectrum and thinks a lot about the past, which he remembers in minute, Proustian detail. He dwells almost exclusively on unpleasant episodes, known generically to his family as "Bad Things That Happened A Long Time Ago". Thinking about the Bad Things can sometimes make Jonathan angry. I have often suggested to him that he should write down some of the Bad Things; it seems to me that this might, in another phrase he likes, Help Him Overcome His Anger. But Jonathan categorically refuses.
Jules Renard appears to have written down all his Bad Things: the book is a collection of little anecdotes, typically a page or two long, written in an elegantly simple late 19th century French. Many of them are quite horrifying. I think the one I was most shocked by was the following. Poil de Carotte, who lives out in the country, likes fishing for crayfish. Someone has told him that nothing beats cat innards as bait. The crayfish can't resist it. Poil de Carotte has a little hut in the garden where he likes to hang out. He takes a saucer of milk and a gun, and persuades an old cat to come into the hut with him.
The cat laps up the milk hungrily. Poil de Carotte feels sorry for it. "It's okay," he says, "I've changed my mind. You can go." But his hands have other ideas, and as he finishes his little speech they point the gun at the cat's head and pull the trigger. There is a deafening explosion. When he can see again, half the cat's head is missing, but it's still alive. It's jerking around feebly and looking at him out of its one remaining eye. Poil de Carotte knows he has to put it out of its misery. He clubs it with the rifle butt, kicks it, punches it, but the damn thing just won't die. Finally, he decides to strangle it. He grabs hold of its throat and squeezes as hard as he can. Somewhere in the middle of all this, he faints. His parents find him, pry his hands loose from the cat's throat, and carry him into the house. He has feverish nightmares about giant crayfish.
I wonder if writing down all these Bad Things helped the author overcome his anger? It's difficult to tell; I'm not sure, but I'm tempted to conclude that he was, if anything, even angrier when he'd finished. Maybe Jonathan's right. But it's interesting that someone tried the experiment. ...more
Inspired by Ramblefoot, a gritty, naturalistic, no-holds-barred depiction of the lives of wolves, I couldn't help wondering if similar treatments weInspired by Ramblefoot, a gritty, naturalistic, no-holds-barred depiction of the lives of wolves, I couldn't help wondering if similar treatments weren't possible for other classics. Here's an extract from my draft rabbit novel, provisionally entitled Nojacket:
Peter finished his breakfast, but the insipid, cloying taste of the dead dandelion leaves left him unsatisfied. The craving was starting to build up in him again. He needed to veg out. Suddenly, he started as a voice came from right behind him.
"We're looking for blackberries. You want to come, Peter?"
It was his half-sister Flopsy, a precociously formed doe. She was not yet one summer old, yet already her haunches had the rounded look of a mature female. She exuded an enticing, musky odor. As if by chance, she turned her head so that their whiskers brushed, and seductively twitched her nose. For a moment, Peter was tempted, but the other urge was too strong.
"Sorry, Flopsy. I've got... stuff to do."
With one bound, he had scooped up his blue jacket, the mark of the civilized young rabbit, and was out of the burrow before he could change his mind. He lolloped down the path as he had done many times before, then, looking both ways, he eased his trembling body under the hard wood of the gate. He was on McGregor territory.
He straightened up, all his senses maximally alert, but there were no warning signals yet. With the practiced ease of the professional thief, he took the short-cut through the gooseberry bushes and emerged directly in the vegetable garden. His eyes glistened with desire as he saw the huge, plump lettuces. No longer caring about safety, he immediately attacked the nearest one, slicing into it with his razor-sharp front teeth. Green juices ran down his chin as he gorged himself on the unresisting leaves. His eyes half-closed, he chewed, swallowed, bit again, forcing the food down his throat as fast as he could eat until he reached the tender heart. In less time than one could believe possible, the lettuce was no more than an eviscerated husk. Peter contemptuously tossed away the bitter stem and then started on the radishes. Their tart, peppery red flesh contrasted delightfully with the sweet lettuce, and he frenziedly ate one after another. His swollen stomach hurt, but the pleasure was still stronger.
The French edition was lying on the table in the doctor's waiting room, so I picked it up and started leafing through it. The Bounty Hunter, I learnedThe French edition was lying on the table in the doctor's waiting room, so I picked it up and started leafing through it. The Bounty Hunter, I learned, is the lowest of the low. They are the vultures of the Wild West, and you can spot them at an early age. We get some illustrative scenes featuring the young Elliot Belt.
"Who's chopped down my cherry tree??" shouts the irate father. No one answers. "A quarter to anyone who can tell me who did it!" he adds. And suddenly, there's Elliot with his hand out, saying "It was me!"
Later, at school, Elliot points out three of his classmates. "Him, him and him!" he says. "Thank you Elliot!" says his teacher. "That's two good conduct marks and a 10 in arithmetic!"
My favorite anecdote in Martin Amis's Experience is near the beginning and features his then five-year-old Spanish step-brother. They're having a partMy favorite anecdote in Martin Amis's Experience is near the beginning and features his then five-year-old Spanish step-brother. They're having a party, and, this being Spain, the kid is allowed to try a little wine. But only mixed with plenty of water.
"Agua no! Agua no!" says the budding alcoholic, as he tries to negotiate as strong a drink as possible. No one is really paying attention; Amis is fascinated by the speed with which the kid's metabolism works. Within twenty minutes, he's helplessly drunk. Another twenty, and he's got the most appalling hangover. They put him in a dark room and Mom asks if he'd like some water. "Agua sí! Agua sí!" begs José piteously, as he clutches his little head.
Max a une amoureuse is similar, but with love instead of wine. Max is sweet on Juliette, but she's ignoring him. Marie, however, passes him a note in class and then contrives to end up holding his hand when they go to the swimming pool. "Only for safety reasons," she explains, not fooling anyone. Max likes the attention so much that he tries to talk Jérôme out of bombing the girls.
"I get it!" grins Jérôme nastily.
"It's not like that..." says Max, shame-faced, but still holds Marie's hand on the way back. Jérôme, however, steps up the pressure and excludes Max from the football game. He's found Max's weak spot! When it comes down it, girls aren't as important as football. On the way home, Max studiously avoids Marie. She's furious and sends over her best friend.
"Do you love her or are you breaking up?" asks the friend bluntly.
"I love her but I'm breaking up..." says Max, but rapidly discovers that this isn't an available option. Marie runs off in tears.
From "Je t'aime" to "C'est fini" in six hours. No wonder small kids need a lot of sleep. ...more
When the line at the rue de Mont Blanc post office is too long, there's usually a book for small children I can read while I'm waiting. Today, it wasWhen the line at the rue de Mont Blanc post office is too long, there's usually a book for small children I can read while I'm waiting. Today, it was Théo et le pot, and if you have a small child who's interested in potties it's not at all bad.
The plot is straightforward. Théo, I think about two, has been given his first potty, but what's he going to do with it? Well, let's see... he could put it on his head like a hat... get Teddy to sit on it... use it as a drum? All valid options, and they hold Théo's attention until he gives up and wanders away.
But then... panic! Théo needs to faire pipi, and where's that potty?? He finds it just in time. His parents hear an unfamiliar sound, and think... wow!!!
That's pretty much the whole story. I was originally planning to compare it with The Odyssey, but in the end it seemed like too much of a stretch. Sorry.
Pooh was getting rather tired of everyone ganging up on him, and he wondered if there was some way he could grab just a couple more votes. He suddenly thought of his old friend Vikki Blows. Now if he inserted the picture here...
"Oh, help!" said Pooh, as a half-dozen angry comments appeared on his screen.
"If only I hadn't--" he said, as a dozen even more angry messages turned up in his inbox.
"You see, what I meant to do," he explained, as several people unliked his review, "what I meant to do--"
"Of course, it was rather--" he admitted, as they all simultaneously unfriended him.
"It all comes, I suppose," he decided, as the system administrators closed down his account, "it all comes of liking votes so much. Oh, help!"
"But who won?" asked Christopher Robin.
"Pooh did, of course!" I replied. "That silly old Heart of Darkness wasn't even in the story, so Pooh won by default."
"I thought so too," said Christopher Robin. "I just wanted to be sure." ...more
In which the animals go on a Second Expotition, and Pooh discovers that Not Everyone Likes Hums
There was a corner of the Hundred Acre Wood that the animals rarely visited. Even Eeyore found it too Sad and Gloomy, and it had more than its fair share of annoying insects. Owl, in his grand way, sometimes called it the Forest's Heart of Darkness, and that always made Piglet shiver and say, thank goodness, he wasn't going to go there soon, no thank you! So as you can imagine, not all the animals were pleased when Christopher Robin told them they would undertake a Second Expotition to find out what was in the Dark Patch.
"I'm not going there, no thank you!" said Piglet, trying to sound as firm as possible. "I'm very busy, any number of things to do, like, like..." But Christopher Robin just laughed.
"Don't worry, Piglet!" he said. "We'll all look after you. Just stay next to Pooh and you'll be quite safe." And before Piglet knew what had happened, they were all walking towards the Dark Patch in a long line, with Christopher Robin and Pooh and him at the front, Rabbit's Friends and Relations at the end, and the other animals in the middle.
The Dark Patch was even Darker and Gloomier than they remembered, and strange noises came from the trees. The further in they got, the worse it became. The ground turned wet and marshy, and one Friend and Relation had to be pulled out when he started to sink. Piglet clutched Pooh's hand as tightly as he could and tried not to look around.
"I'm scared, Pooh," he whispered. "You don't think there are Heffalumps here?"
"What I think," said Christoper Robin, who had overheard, "is that Pooh should give us one of his Hums." And Pooh, who had been thinking the very same thing but had been too shy to say so, cleared his throat and began:
On Monday, when the jungle's hot I wonder to myself a lot Now is it true or is it not That what is which or which is what?
Piglet released his grip on Pooh's hand a tiny fraction, so he continued.
On Tuesday, when there's gnats and fleas And pythons slither through the trees Then very readily one sees That these are whose - but whose are these?
"There aren't really any Pythons?" asked Piglet in a terrified voice.
"Well," said Pooh, "I only put them in because they Came To Me. I'm going to take them right out again." And he continued
But the animals never found out what happened on Wednesday, because at that moment a loud, groaning voice came from the forest right in front of them.
"The Hummer! The Hummer!" it said.
"Oh Pooh!" said Piglet. "It is a Python! Or a Heffalump! Oh, what shall we do!"
"I don't know," said Pooh. "Whatever it is, it Doesn't Like My Hums." He wondered if he should feel offended, but before he could decide they suddenly came out in a remarkably pleasant clearing. The sun was shining brightly, there was soft grass to sit on, butterflies were flitting between the flowers, and a charming little lake just seemed to call out to the animals to paddle their tired feet in it.
"What a lovely place!" said Kanga in surprise. "Who could have imagined it would be right in the middle of the Dark Patch?"
"I shall call it Pooh's Pond," said Christopher Robin firmly. "And now I think it's time for lunch."
So they all unpacked their food and had a perfectly wonderful picnic. And from that day on, no one was ever again scared of the Dark Part of the Forest. ...more
It was a most enjoyable picnic. Pooh was just finishing the last bit of honey and licking around the edge of the pot in a Contented Way, when he suddenly realised that he was sitting on something. Something damp and squishy. Something...
"Oh bother!!" said Pooh. "Drat and bother and double bother!!! I've sat on two of Rabbit's Friends and Relations! Oh, what will Christopher Robin say!"
Christopher Robin came over and examined the two former mice.
"Pooh," he said gravely, "these are not Friends and Relations. They are Deadly Killer Mice From Outer Space. You are the Best Bear In The World, and you have Saved The Hundred Acre Wood."
And Pooh had never felt so proud and happy in all his life. ...more
NARRATOR: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that an impecunious father with four unmarried daughters is in urgent need of a magic nanny. And so it came to pass that Miss Mary Poppins took up residence in the Bennet household...
[Breakfast at the Bennets. The four sisters are laughing, talking loudly, reaching after toast etc]
MARY POPPINS: Lydia, don't slouch! Slouching is generally regarded as unbecoming in a young woman. Kitty, elbows off the table. And Lizzie, Mr. Collins is here and would like to speak with you. Alone.
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There's a rather nice classic SF short by Peter Phillips called Dreams Are Sacred, which seems to be one of the first examples of the idea of literallThere's a rather nice classic SF short by Peter Phillips called Dreams Are Sacred, which seems to be one of the first examples of the idea of literally entering someone else's dreams - it may be a distant ancestor of Inception. The narrator starts by explaining that he'd suffered from nightmares when he was a kid. His father was a practical, no-nonsense kind of guy, and he had a practical, no-nonsense solution. He takes the kid out to the firing range and shows him his Colt 45.
"Here's Billy," says the father. "Let's see what he can do."
They try shooting bullets through targets and heavy bits of plank. It's a hell of a powerful weapon.
"Okay," says Mr. Practical No-Nonsense. "This evening, when you go to sleep, you'll have Billy with you in your dreams. Those monsters are going to think twice about tackling Billy." And indeed the hero sleeps much better.
In this book, Lili is also suffering from nightmares. They're awful. She wakes up screaming, and matters come to a head one night when she attacks Max in her sleep. He's really pissed off about it. Lili feels guilty and tired. She asks her two best friends, Clara and Marlène, for advice.
Lili's so lucky to have a friend like Marlène! She delivered the goods in Lili se trouve moche, and she's once again equal to the occasion. That afternoon, she and Clara arrive at Lili's dressed up as witches.
"WTF?" asks Max.
"Exorcists-R-Us!" says Marlène. "Hm, lady, looks like you've got a bad case of monster infestation here. But don't worry, we know how to deal with that. BY THE VIRTUE THAT IS IN ME, I HEREBY CONJURE YOU TO RETURN..."
They've been making a lot of noise, and Mom comes in. She also wants to know what's going on. Marlène explains.
"Hm, well, sounds like it could be useful!" she says politely. "But maybe we should talk about this more ser... ah... together!"
They all sit down over cookies and hot chocolate. "Come on, Lili!" says the astonishingly adaptable Marlène. "Tell Mom about your dreams. You know you haven't really done that."
Lili hasn't dared describe the worst ones, where she's killed and eaten while the parents look on unconcerned. Dad is shocked, but Mom seems to have done a couple of psychology courses. She tells Lili about how it's normal to have anxieties which can surface in your dreams. It's actually a good thing, even if it seems scary. Then they go out for a meal at their favourite Chinese restaurant.
That evening, the monsters are suddenly well-behaved and polite! They're just about to give Lili a tour of Monster Wonderland when she wakes up. She's disappointed she didn't get to see it, but maybe next time? The problem has miraculously disappeared.
Was it Mom's psychobabble or Marlène's practical, no-nonsense approach? You decide! ...more
I read the latest Ainsi va la vie while we were waiting in the line at the post office. Max, who as you will recall is Lili's kid brother, has just diI read the latest Ainsi va la vie while we were waiting in the line at the post office. Max, who as you will recall is Lili's kid brother, has just discovered Environmental Issues. He lectures the family interminably. Don't drive a car! Biodiversity! No GM food! (As usual, there are footnotes explaining what all the hard words mean). In particular, he wants to Save The Animals. Lili used to be into this kind of stuff, but that was when she was young and naive. She even started a club, "Verts de la Terre" (geddit?), but now she's older and more cynical. She looks on with a superior smile and asks all the obvious questions.
This annoys the hell out of Max. He gets up really early next morning and goes out with the mutt to do some Saving. It's harder than he thought. He thinks he's on to something when he sees a lady farmer spraying fruit trees with pesticide, and gives her a good lecture. However, the reader can see that the tank on her back is labelled "Completely Harmless Natural Products". She doesn't say anything, but when Max gets home he notices the bottle of Artisan-Produced Organic Apple Juice that's sitting on the breakfast table. Weird, the woman on the sticker looks just like the lady farmer! Then the penny drops. He's disgusted with himself.
No more talk! All you ever do is preach to the choir. Action! He hits the trail again... and this time, when he comes back, he's not just been lecturing people. He's found a baby hedgehog! It was sitting by the side of the road next to its dead mom. Max's little heart went out to it. Someone who's able to access Google gives him a bunch of useful tips (Tip #1: feed it using kitten milk. DO NOT use ordinary cow's milk). Max successfully nurses the baby until it's able to fend for itself.
Meanwhile, he's been out in the yard, transforming it into a mininature animal sanctuary. This hedgehog's going to have a nice place to live! And so will a bunch of birds, squirrels and frogs. Lili's half amused and half impressed. "Okay, Max!" she says. "You're the new president of Verts de la Terre!"
Like Lili, I can't quite decide what to think. Is the message that we should just do what we can, and every little helps? I would like to believe it was. But, unfortunately, I felt it was really the opposite. As David McKay says in his excellent Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air, if we all do a little, then we'll only get a little done. Saving baby hedgehogs feels good, but even a smart ten year old knows that it won't really make a difference. Lili's already given up and decided it's hopeless.
A scary and depressing message. But, at the end of the day, I think the author's being as responsible as ever. She's trying to get to us think seriously about the issues rather than make token gestures, and right now we're not doing that. Kudos, Mme. de Saint Mars. ...more
For people who don't already know: the hotel used in the movie actually exists. It's The Headlands Hotel, Newquay, England, and I've eaten there sever
For people who don't already know: the hotel used in the movie actually exists. It's The Headlands Hotel, Newquay, England, and I've eaten there several times.
The staff are friendly and well aware of the relevant history. If you ask, they'll show you the room where the witches had their big meeting and the spot where the baby carriage nearly gets pushed off the cliff. The food is good, and you get a fantastic view over the bay, where people surf in summer. Recommended!...more
My younger siblings were very fond of this book, and it is not without charm. In a complicated adventure, Orlando, Grace and the kittens get lost in oMy younger siblings were very fond of this book, and it is not without charm. In a complicated adventure, Orlando, Grace and the kittens get lost in outer space. Luckily, they're found by the Dog Star, a large Saint Bernard carrying a barrel of haddock's milk around his neck. The relevant passage was read out so often at bedtime that I believe I can still recall it verbatim:
Tinkle [the bad boy of the kittens] hated dogs.
"You've got a nugly nose!" he hissed. "It's like a boot!"
"No haddock's milk for you, Tinkle!" said Orlando sternly. "Treats don't come from boots!"
The other day, I thought of this little-known novel, which I read when I was about 10. The heroes, a string quartet, lose their way one evening near tThe other day, I thought of this little-known novel, which I read when I was about 10. The heroes, a string quartet, lose their way one evening near the waterfront. They can't figure out what odd part of town they've somehow wandered into! It turns out that a huge ship, in effect a mobile island, has made a brief stop and picked them up.
Please refrain from pointing out the logical problems: this is a Jules Verne story, and, as is often the case, a social satire. The inhabitants of the island are all multi-zillionaires and living lives of the most unbelievable luxury, but don't imagine that makes them happy. No, far from it; the two rival factions of the Starboardites and the Larboardites each spend their time frantically trying to take full control of the island, simultaneously denigrating their political opponents in the bitterest terms and claiming that they are going to destroy their society.
Unable to agree on anything, relations between the parties deteriorate further as the story progresses; in the end, each group picks an independent course, turning their propellers in opposite directions. The island breaks up under the strain and sinks. A few survivors, including the heroes, are picked up by passing boats.
The author, an eminent French scholar, has unearthed some curious, hitherto unknown poems. Their sense is obscure, but he does his best to provide helThe author, an eminent French scholar, has unearthed some curious, hitherto unknown poems. Their sense is obscure, but he does his best to provide helpful footnotes. Here's how the first one starts:
Un petit d'un petit (1) S'étonne aux Halles (2)
(1) The inevitable result of a child marriage.
(2) The hero, like many provincials, is astonished by his first glimpse of Paris's famous food market. _________________________________________
I found a cheap copy yesterday at the flea market and spent half an hour leafing through it. Now I have to see if I can do it too! It's harder than it looks, but here's my first attempt:
C'est s'il y a courbe-requin, mais art (1) Ours, chaque un mai confit-danse d'île Y (2) Ô c'est s'il y a amidon en ma nièce (3) Âme-béguine, jupe-plis, toque en homme (4)
(1) Co-founders of the short-lived "requiniste" school, Professors Simon and Garfunkel argued that population growth curves of sharks and related species could be regarded as works of art. Their one and only exhibition was not, however, a critical success.
(2) The tame bears, who perform their "preserve-dance" every May 1, are one of the main tourist attractions of the Isle of Y.
(3) It is unclear why this feels to the singer as though his niece contains starchy substances.
(4) His soul-mate, a female member of a semi-monastic community, affects a pleated skirt and a man's hat. ...more
The twist at the end is so ridiculous and implausible that it prompted Philip Jose Farmer to rewrite the story as an alien spy adventure. The detailsThe twist at the end is so ridiculous and implausible that it prompted Philip Jose Farmer to rewrite the story as an alien spy adventure. The details have mercifully been erased from my memory, but I believe Fogg and friends are late getting to the club because they've been engaged in an extended ray-gun battle with their nefarious enemies.
Sigh... once again, the cure turns out to be worse than the disease. ...more
Lotta, whom you may already have met in Barnen på Bråkmakargatan, has a foul temper and a total unwillingness to do as she's told. But she's an extrLotta, whom you may already have met in Barnen på Bråkmakargatan, has a foul temper and a total unwillingness to do as she's told. But she's an extremely resourceful five year old, and she's used to sorting out little family crises; just as well, since her father is utterly disorganized and often forgets essential items. Last Christmas, he arrived too late to get the last tree, but Lotta found one that, literally, fell off the back of a truck. Now it's Easter, and Lotta is not surprised at all when she overhears him telling Mom that there are no eggs for their Easter Egg hunt.
Lotta goes down to the candy store on the corner, and her luck is in again. Though the owner, nice Mr. Vassilis, isn't feeling so lucky. In fact, he's almost in tears. He's closing down his store and moving back to Greece. Lotta asks why.
"Damn Saturday candy," mutters Mr. Vassilis bitterly. (The tradition in Sweden is that kids only get candy on Saturday). "What's wrong with this country? How can a candy store survive if kids only get candy once a week?"
Lotta feels sorry for Mr. Vassilis, but she also guesses that there might be something in it for her. She asks about his Christmas assortment. Amazingly enough, Mr. Vassilis has already got his collection of chocolate angels and Santa Clauses. "You might as well have them," he says. "No way I'll sell them now." He gives Lotta the whole box.
Lotta has such a terrific secret! She drags the box home without anyone noticing her and goes out in the garden, where she strategically distributes the candy. Then she sneaks in. The bad news is now generally known, and everyone is blaming each other for not buying eggs in time.
"Why not check the garden anyway?" asks Lotta innocently. In the end, they go out to humor her.
WTF?? No one can figure out what's happened. There is candy, but from the wrong time of year! They beg Lotta for an explanation.
"I can do almost anything!" says Lotta proudly.
My kids loved this story when they were Lotta's age. ...more
A quick Google search doesn't produce any proof, but it's hard to believe that this classic Swedish coming-of-age story didn't partly inspire Bergman'A quick Google search doesn't produce any proof, but it's hard to believe that this classic Swedish coming-of-age story didn't partly inspire Bergman's Sommaren med Monica, generally acclaimed as one of the most brilliant films of his early period. There's no girl, but many other elements are the same. The three boys steal a yacht and sail out to spend the summer cruising the Stockholm archipelago; after a while, food stocks run low and things begin to fall apart.
If you're a fan of the movie, you may well want to check this one out. While I like Bergman's version better, Siwertz has his own take on the idea and there are some extremely good scenes. Just as with the Bergman, it simultaneously manages to be idyllic and very disquieting. _____________________________________
Well, we've now seen the 1987 movie version, and I'm afraid it's rather disappointing. Most of the key scenes are there; the story's soul, however, has disappeared. The result is a cute teen adventure rather than a glimpse of the abyss lying behind the world's sunny facade.
Oddly enough, Sommaren med Monica is more like the book than the movie which is supposed to represent it. I'm reminded of Brazil and 1984. ...more
Most books for six to eight year olds lack depth, since they can't be very long. But Dominique de Saint Mars has been working on Ainsi Va La Vie sinceMost books for six to eight year olds lack depth, since they can't be very long. But Dominique de Saint Mars has been working on Ainsi Va La Vie since 1990, and she's now written nearly a hundred of them. Even though each individual book is only forty pages, that adds up to about 4000 pages in total, and the series as a whole is as complex as many adult novels.
So, here, Lili has met up with cousin Léa, and she immediately sees that something is very wrong. (Max, with typical male emotional intelligence, doesn't notice a thing). They go out in the garden, and Léa tells Lili the whole dreadful story. Her father, Uncle Jeannot, is officially in China working as a trainer for the Chinese table-tennis team. But Léa has found out that this isn't true. He's had problems with alcohol for a long time. It looked like he'd got over them, and, in Emilie n'aime pas quand sa mère boit trop, he even helped Emilie's mom with her drinking problem and became her sponsor at AA. But a few months ago he started drinking again. He caused a serious accident, and he's been jailed for a year.
Léa is distraught, both that he could do such a bad thing and, even more, that he could then cold-bloodedly lie to her. "He doesn't care about me!" she says bitterly. Lili tells her she's seen this kind of thing before. In Le père de Max et Lili est au chômage, it was ages before her father would admit he'd lost his job. Sometimes, adults lie to protect you, or at least think they do. She tells Léa should should give her father a chance, but Léa's having none of it. "It's up to him to take the first step!" she snarls.
Lili passes on the news to Max that evening. Max is at first unwilling to believe it, but gradually admits it must be true. He's angry and then thoughtful. "How old do you need to be to get a helicopter pilot's license?" he asks. You can see his fantasies in the thought bubble. But Lili, who's as practical as ever, knows that what they really need is more information. The father of one of her classmates is a prison warden. She cleverly arranges for him to turn up next week to do a show-and-tell. Simultaneously, she contacts one of her other cousins. The resourceful Victor was able to get a mail to Santa Claus in Max et Lili fêtent Noël en famille. Probably he can find out which prison Uncle Jeannot is in?
Both of Lili's plans work out perfectly. The visit from the prison warden is very informative. It turns out that prisoners aren't kept chained and shackled. They're treated humanely and allowed to watch TV. They can even receive family visits! Some of the more right-wing kids think this is disgustingly soft treatment, but Lili, who's already internalised her parents' liberal values, points out that not all prisoners are bad people. Some of them may even be innocent - the justice system is not infallible. And it's important that they should be able to reintegrate into society when they're released. There's a handy footnote pointing you to the appendix, in case the terminology is too hard to follow.
Meanwhile, Victor's done his job and gives Lili the address she requested. That evening, a fake postcard from China arrives. "Oh, how nice!" says Lili's mom brightly. "Mail from Uncle Jeannot!" Lili and Max give her dark looks, and display a total lack of interest. Mom and Dad wonder if they haven't figured it out. "Maybe we should tell them the truth?" says Mom. "After all, honesty is usually the best policy." But Lili's three jumps ahead of her, and is already composing her letter. It's a tough one. "Your daughter Léa loves you very much," she concludes. "You ought to write to her and tell her what's really happening."
It all works out! The truth will indeed set you free, and once everyone can talk about it things do get better. Léa's family arrange to visit Jeannot in prison and take Max and Lili with them. The reunion scene is really good. Tears are shed all round, and I must admit I had to choke back a few myself. Léa, who's just been goofing off at school for the last few months, promises she'll try harder, and sounds like she means it.
"You fixed all this, didn't you?" she asks on the way out. Lili's worried she's gone too far - not everyone appreciates quite this level of interference in their private life, and she'd have preferred to have done good by stealth. But she admits it, and Léa, thank God, is grateful rather than furious. Lili goes home and brings Mom and Dad up to date.
"Right," she says, and looks them in the eye. "If you're ever put in prison, you're telling me immediately. Okay?"
Oh dear. I thought that Dominique de Saint Mars could do no wrong, but this book was a disappointment. Lili is going off to summer camp, and she's allOh dear. I thought that Dominique de Saint Mars could do no wrong, but this book was a disappointment. Lili is going off to summer camp, and she's all nervous and angsty about it - it's the first time she's gone anywhere on her own. However, we've already had one episode at summer camp, where Max has to confront his bed-wetting problem, and that was a while back. Lili's older than Max and terribly protective of her little brother, so how come he's gone before her? That doesn't make sense. Is it a flashback? I'd appreciate one of those informative footnotes she's usually so free with, but not a word of explanation.
Anyway, it doesn't seem like a flashback. The girls are old enough to be dressing provocatively in crop tops and spending most of their time thinking about boys, so that would suggest it's late in the chronology. One of Lili's two room-mates, in particular, is flirting with every boy in the camp and telling each guy how special he is. She's worried that her parents are about to get divorced. I suppose there's a link, but it isn't made very clear - quite unlike the usual treatment. The other room-mate is nasty and hypersensitive, but is won over by Lili's kindness. She also turns out to have problems at home, having been abandoned by her mother when she was a baby.
At the end of the week, the three girls are the best of friends. Lili even says she'll persuade Mom and Dad to adopt the sex-and-love addict if her parents really are splitting up. Luckily, she doesn't have to go through with this impulsive decision, which I feel would have been embarrassingly vetoed by the sensible Barbara. A narrow escape, but Lili's phenomenally lucky.
Well... presumably the moral is that, when people are aggressive or sexually promiscuous, they're often going through some personal crisis, so try to take that into consideration and be supportive. I totally approve, but somehow it didn't work. Pity. ...more
In a recent thread, some people stated their objections to literature which fails in its duty to be gender-balanced. I can absolutely see their point,In a recent thread, some people stated their objections to literature which fails in its duty to be gender-balanced. I can absolutely see their point, except that it is a little difficult to find books which pass the test. Almost everything I could think of did seem to have either more men than women, or more women than men. It's dreadful.
In fact, I was about to give up... when I suddenly remembered Here We Go! No doubt, sneering critics will carp at the daringly minimalist plot and character development, and signally fail to appreciate the understated faux-naive style. I've had too many arguments about this to want to do it again; there are those, alas, who cannot see true greatness, even when it's thrust under their noses. But say what you will, the book is gender-balanced. Janet, John, Mother and Father: exactly 50% of each sex. I rest my case. ...more
I read these classic morality tales enough times as a kid that I knew large chunks by heart. But, let's face it, back then they were seriously out ofI read these classic morality tales enough times as a kid that I knew large chunks by heart. But, let's face it, back then they were seriously out of date, and now they're so archaic that they aren't amusing even as kitsch. No wonder most children today haven't heard of them.
So why doesn't someone produce an updated edition? I'm sure it wouldn't be difficult. Here are some suggestions:
Scarlett, Who Read Glossy Women's Magazines And Died Of Anorexia
Keith, Who Didn't Believe In Climate Change And Was Drowned In A Flash Flood
Saffron, Who Ate Genetically Modified Food And Grew An Extra Head
James, Who Supported Liberal Healthcare Reform And Was Euthanased
Emily, Who Switched Off Her Family Filter And Was Raped By A Pedophile
Darren, Who Played Violent Video Games And Became A Serial Killer
Madison, Who Questioned The War On Terror And Was Exploded By An Islamicist
Feel free to add your own. And if anyone is inspired to actually go and do it, please just mention my name somewhere in the introduction... ...more
This classic French novel, which for the first 100 pages appears to combine the more nauseating aspects of The Blue Lagoon and Uncle Tom's Cabin, is t
This classic French novel, which for the first 100 pages appears to combine the more nauseating aspects of The Blue Lagoon and Uncle Tom's Cabin, is trickier than it looks and will leave you crying like a baby. ______________________________________
(view spoiler)[I must admit that I was completely fooled by this book. As you will see from my comments, during the first half I thought that the author believed in the dreadful system of morality he was apparently trying to sell me. Especially in the episode with the escaped slave, my indignation knew no bounds. The poor woman arrives at Paul and Virginie's door, nearly dead from the savage beatings she has received from her master. Kind-hearted little Virginie takes her in and gives her something to eat. Then she says that they must immediately go back to her plantation, where she will intercede for her.
They set off through the jungle. When they arrive, the master looks Virginie up and down. She's an attractive girl. He listens to her little speech, and, just managing not to smile, says that no harm will come to the slave. But as soon as the children have left, he claps the runaway in irons and torments her even more.
On the way home, the kids get lost. Darkness is falling, and they're scared. But some more escaped slaves are hiding in the forest, and have seen the whole drama. They take pity on the children and lead them home, singing songs in broken French about how the kind White girl helped the slave, so now the Blacks will be kind back.
Well, I didn't realise until later that he wanted my blood to boil: he was a friend of Rousseau, the book was written three years before the French Revolution broke out, and the later course of the book shows that the passage with the slave was foreshadowing. Paul and Virginie are blissfully happy in their island paradise of Mauritius, but they're poor. Virginie's mother comes from a good family, who disinherited her when she married against their wishes. One day, they get a letter from an evil, rich old aunt. She's fatally ill, and wants a companion for her last years. If Virginie comes back to France and stays with her, she'll inherit the aunt's substantial fortune.
Virginie, an obedient girl, feels it's duty to agree to the aunt's request. She sets sail for France, where she is utterly miserable. Paul, who has loved her all his life, is desolate. Cruel tongues spread rumors that Virginie has married a rich nobleman and forgotten him, but it's not true. All she wants to do is come home again.
Finally, the aunt, angry at Virginie's refusal to marry the man she's picked out for her, changes her mind and sends her back to Mauritius. She doesn't care that it's the beginning of the hurricane season and the wrong time to travel. Paul learns that Virginie is returning, and for a few days is beside himself with joy. But a storm blows up and the ship loses its way in the treacherous reefs. It sinks within sight of shore, and Virginie is drowned. Paul, who has unsuccessfully tried to save her, dies of grief not long afterwards.
The author's clear message is: if only they had followed their hearts and not the dictates of convention, this tragedy would never have happened. The first half of the book is ironic. It is merely parodying the moral texts popular at the time, which aimed to instill virtues of conformity and obedience. But I didn't realise that until I was fairly close to the end.
I wonder how many books I have abandoned halfway though, angry or bored, and never discovered that the author was messing with my head and was soon about to reveal the real point. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This much-loved story by Hans Christian Andersen a team of anonymous Disney screenwriters tells how a beautiful young mermaid falls in love with a hum
This much-loved story by Hans Christian Andersen a team of anonymous Disney screenwriters tells how a beautiful young mermaid falls in love with a human prince. One day, she saves his life when his boat sinks during a storm. The prince wakes up on the shore, but the mermaid has gone, and he never sees her; he only remembers the human girl who finds him shortly afterwards he only sees the mermaid briefly as she escapes back to the water, and does not guess her secret. He in turn falls in love with the girl he believes has rescued him.
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