THE SOIL, GROWTH OF AND OTHERWISE

When I was a teenager, my mother plied me with books. Some were entertaining. Then, there was Knut Hamsun.

Knut wasn’t a fun sort of author. In “Growth of the Soil” he wrote about the grim, hardscrabble life of the desperately poor farmers trying to survive in places where obviously no humans were supposed to be living. I’m not sure why my mother felt I should read these books, but I know I found them depressing. Not like my regular life was such a bundle of yuks that I needed something earthier to keep me from flying off into the world of the rich and giggly.

I was not rich and nor was I giggly.

I slogged my way through Growth of the Soil and I felt really bad for those sad people. This book was followed up by one of my mother’s favorites, “Jean-Cristophe,” This is  the novel in 10 volumes by Romain Rolland for which he received the Prix Femina in 1905 and the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1915. It is actually a fictionalized story of the life of Ludwig Von Beethoven. And although it is certainly interesting on many levels, it is also really, really, really long. About 1800 pages in small print.

I read it. All of it. But I was not yet finished with Romain Rolland. There were a few more — and they were also long, though nothing (except “Lord of the Rings”) was ever longer than “Jean-Cristophe.” Actually, I’m not sure how long “Lord of the Rings” is since it depended on the printing, font size, and so on … so let’s call them even. But “Lord of the Rings” was far more fun. We had eating and drinking parties while dressed in appropriate Middle-Earthen costumes.

Hobbits were also fond of the soil. They lived in houses dug into the earth. I hope it didn’t rain as much in Hobbiton as it does around here. A house in mud doesn’t seem as much fun as a warm, cozy hobbit hole.

I’m pretty sure that this early exposure to painful books about grinding, desperate poverty may have skewed my reading interests into lighter weight subject matter. Lighter weight everything. Between learning everything I might ever need to know about the Holocaust and my mother’s policy of serious reading, nothing made me happier than the discovery of historical romance and science fiction. Maybe that was really the idea?

SOIL | DAILY POST

THE PASSING OF ANNE GOLON – AUTHOR – ANGELIQUE (MARQUISE DES ANGES)

I just read that Anne Golon passed away on Friday at the age of 95. She was writing until the end. She inspired me as a girl and instilled the belief I could do anything a man could do. She was a wind behind my back for a lifetime.

If you read French, there is an article in Figaro located here.

“Nounou,” inquired Angelique, “Why did Giles de Retz kill so many children?”

With these words, one of the world’s greatest series of historical fiction begins. It is a translation from the French. I have been told by many people who’ve read the series in French, that much was lost in a not-very-good translation.

angelique book cover

Nothing will change the way I feel about these books. Most were written long years ago. I read the first of them when I was 13. I still have the book, though the binding is broken and the pages are beginning to turn to dust. I have since bought a newer version and I have most of the follow ups in paperback.

The first book was published in 1957 and I read it in 1960. In those days, I lived in books. I didn’t have friends. I was too different. I’ve always been out of step. Sometimes, a lot, occasionally almost catching up with my peers. But back then … I was downright weird.

Then I met Angelique.

Fifth child of an impoverished country nobleman, Angélique de Sancé grows up in the Poitou marshlands, a region known as the “Green Venice”, halfway between the ocean and the forests. She is a free child, as one with the forest and the marshes, discovering nature’s healing secrets with the help of the witch Mélusine. Her logical destiny would be to marry a poor country nobleman, have children and spend her life fighting for a meager subsistence.

Destiny has other plans in store for her. At 17, when she returns from the convent where she has been getting an education, she finds herself betrothed to the wealthy count of Toulouse, Joffrey de Peyrac. He is 12 years her senior, lame, scarred and rumored to be a wizard.

from the review by Harvey Adkins

Angélique’s life and adventures inspired me and gave me courage.

angelique pages book

Thus the story begins. In subsequent volumes, they will take you through most of the world of Louis XIV. Joffrey becomes the love of Angélique’s life. After he is burned at the stake for heresy and for being too powerful for the comfort of his enemies, Angélique finds herself in the underworld of Paris — homeless, penniless, with babies to protect. Yet she rises up from the gutters back to the glittering court of Louis XIV. Confronts him on the murder of her husband, rebels against him, leads a group of Huguenots to the New World. Builds a colony, fights emissaries of the church and King to retain her freedom. Along the way, she has children — from a variety of fathers, including one resulting from rape — and one of which is murdered.

With all the power of Crown and Church arrayed against her, Angélique finds a way through and emerges victorious. Bowed, but never beaten, her defeats are setbacks. Her triumphs change the world.

She is deathlessly beautiful. If you are a women taking on the world, it’s never bad to have golden hair and hypnotic green eyes. But Angélique doesn’t win the day using sex. When she leads, she carries a gun and a sword. She will kill in defense of her own — and she does. She will fight for her family, her home, her beliefs.

She became much more than a fictional character to me. At a time when female role models were few and far between, Angélique was a super hero from the past. Unstoppable. Tough. Smart. She suffered the worst that life could dish out. She faced down unspeakable horrors and impossible challenges. Along the way, there were more than a few casualties.

Back in the real world, author Anne Golan was fighting her publisher for the rights to her books.

Anne Golon was born 17 December 1921 as Simone Changeux in Toulon, France. She published her first novel at 18 as Joëlle Danterne. During World War II, she traveled by bicycle through France and Spain writing under various pen-names. She helped create France Magazine. Was sent to Africa as a journalist, where she met Vsevolod Sergeïvich Goloubinoff, her husband, Serge Golon.


She passed away Friday, July 14, 2017 in Versailles, Paris, France.

angelique french edition


They collaborated on Angélique. Anne wrote. Serge did the considerable research required by these surprisingly accurate books. The first book in the series was an astounding success. The books were credited to Serge and Anne Golon, (Sergeanne Golon), the names having been merged by publishers who were reluctant to print books written by women.

In 1972, Anne and Serge Golon went to Canada to continue research. Anne wrote Angélique and the Ghosts. Serge died.

Anne continued writing and raising her 4 children. Between 1972 and 1985, she wrote four more books. While battling Hachette for unpaid royalties and rights, Anne Golon lived in extreme poverty. She finally won, leaving her sole owner of the works.

These are the books which were translated into English:

Angélique, The Marquise of the Angels
Angélique: The Road to Versailles (US and the UK with the 1st volume, Angélique)
Angélique and the King
Angélique and the Sultan (aka, Angélique in Barbary)
Angélique in Revolt
Angélique in Love
The Countess Angélique
The Temptation of Angélique (In Canada as: The Temptation of Angélique 1: The Jesuit Trap, The Temptation of Angélique 2: The Downfall of Goldbeard)
Angélique and the Demon
Angélique and the Ghosts.

The English translation of this series stopped abruptly with Angélique and the Ghosts. Anne Golon’s fans — like their fictional heroine — wanted to know what had happened to the author. She was located in Paris, alive, well, and still writing.

As of August, 2009 — there were three yet-to-be-translated books already in the series:

Angélique à Quebec
Angélique: Route de L’Espoir
Victoire d’Angélique

To date, they remain untranslated, but I live in hope that they may be. Soon, I hope. I’m not getting any younger. English-language readers — like me — have waited more than 40 years. An entire lifetime during which I have gone from adolescent to a senior citizen.

Anne-Golon

I’ve read thousands of books during these long years, but never lost hope for translations of the newer Angélique books.

You can still find information at Angélique Books. It’s not easy to find intact copies of the books, but if you are interested, don’t give up. Amazon has some, off and on. ABE Books sometimes has copies. And of course, there’s eBay. Marquise Des Anges (the original name of the book in France) was made into a movie in 2013, but it has never been released to the American market and I have never been able to find a copy of the movie that will play on my DVD player. I can hope this will happen someday.

Maybe there will be new English-language copies eventually. I hope to see them republished. Soon would be good. They are available in German and of course, in French.

Fare thee well, Anne Golon. You changed my world.

BOOKS WE PRETENDED TO READ

We are watching a show called “Shetland” which to no ones surprise, is set in the Shetland Islands. A cop show, but great scenery and an accent I can only sometimes follow. One of the characters is staring into a book. It’s “Finnegan’s Wake.” James Joyce. His daughter calls and he tells her he’s reading a book.

“What book?” she asks.

Finnegan’s Wake,” he says.

“Dad,” she says. “No one reads Finnegan’s Wake. We all pretend we read it.”

Garry nods. I nod. This is a big one on the long list of books we say we read, but didn’t. Some of us are still lying about it. I never trust anyone who says they read Ulysses, much less Finnegan’s Wake. Liar, liar, pants on fire!

Who needs Homer?

These books were part of a course. College, usually, but some were part of high school. We had to read them. It was compulsory.  We couldn’t do it. We tried but got stuck a few pages in. If we couldn’t get the gist of it from “Classic Comics,” there were Cliff notes. The one for Ulysses was more than 300 pages long. That was the moment when I really missed Classic comics because they also had pictures. Some of my deepest reads were Classic Comics.

I read it in French. So there.

It begins in school when they give you lists of books to read over the summer. I was always a reader. Most of the time, I’d already finished the books on my list. The remaining few were not a big deal. Reading a book, no matter how thick, was rarely a problem for me. After all, I love books.

Literature courses inevitably included books that I would never read voluntarily and in some cases, at all. Maybe these were books that no one would voluntarily read. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that’s the entire point of literature courses — to force you to read books no one likes and possibly no one ever liked. How about Silas Marner? When was the last time someone read that because it sounded like a fun read?Despite current trendiness, Jane Austin was nobody’s favorite author in high school. I read it, but I didn’t have to like it. You may lob your stones this way. Pride and Prejudice was the only book I ever threw in a lake. These days, I feel guilty about the fish.

There, I’ve admitted it. I do not like Jane Austin. Not then, not now. Neither does Garry. We also don’t like the movies made from the books.

Dickens. Another author I couldn’t wrap my head around

By the time I got to college, among the many books I did not read was James Joyce’s Ulysses. I followed it up by not reading Finnegan’s Wake. Not only didn’t I read it, I barely got through the Cliff Notes. But I got an A on the paper for my “unique understanding of the characters and motivation.” Good Cliff Notes, eh? I did read Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and thought it wasn’t half bad. At least I could discern a plot and everyone in it wasn’t a prig — as they were in Austen’s novels.

I slogged my way through all of Dostoevsky’s books. Voluntarily, but I couldn’t tell you why. To prove I could? I was young and they were deep. The angst of the characters appealed to me. Teenagehood was angst-ridden. I read Les Miserables. The whole thing. In French. I think I even liked it. I also read Camus in French. I must have understood the language a  lot better back then than I do today.

This is the book, without the music

I read all 1800 pages of Romaine Rolland’s Jean Christophe because my mother loved the book. She also had me read Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun’s depressing tale of grinding poverty and despair in the Norwegian highlands. I barely made it through Madame Bovary. War and Peace was a non-starter.

Growth of the SoilI never made it through anything by Thomas Hardy. Or Lawrence Durrell. I loved Larry’s brother Gerald Durrell. He was hilarious and wrote about my favorite subjects, animals. I slogged my way through Lady Chatterley’s Lover only because everyone told me it was hot. I thought it was dull. My brother had some books stuffed under his bed that were a lot dirtier and more fun. And they had pictures.

I never owned up to not reading those important, literary masterpieces. When the subject came up — which it did when we were students and even for a few years after that — I would try to look intelligent. I’d grunt at the appropriate moments, nod appreciatively.

So yesterday, I was looking at a review I wrote about Dahlgren and realized I was lying about literature. Again. I hated the book. I didn’t merely dislike it. I found it boring and pretentious. It had no plot, no action, and as far as I could tell, no point. I mealy-mouthed around my real feelings because it’s a classic. Everyone says so.

So my question is, who really read it? Who loved it? Did everyone pretend because they heard it was a great book? How many people lie about reading great books when in fact, they never make it past the preface? Or the book flap?

I’m betting it isn’t just me.

GEORGE R. STEWART’S WHOLE EARTH VISION REALIZED

To See: George R. Stewart’s Whole Earth Vision Realized

George R. Stewart was an “inventor” of the Whole Earth Vision – the recent realization that Earth, in an immense universe, is one small, blue, life-bearing place, only fully understood if it’s explored from two perspectives – that of the ecologist, who studies it from ground level, and that of the astronaut, who examines Earth from space.

Stewart used that vision for the first time in Ordeal By Hunger.  He begins the book by asking the reader to “imagine yourself poised in space” in what we would now call LEO or Low Earth Orbit, about 200 miles up.  In the book’s Foreword he describes northern Nevada precisely, as photos taken from the International Space Station reveal.  (Stewart used the techniques of fiction to make the history dramatic and engaging, and did that so well that some readers still think they’re reading a novel.  They’re not; they’re reading history.)

The book then moves into the ecologist’s point of view, ground level, as Stewart makes the case that the Donner Party’s tragedy was the result of the party’s ignorance of the ecosystems it passed through.  At the book’s end, he writes, “It should be obvious…I consider the land a character in the work.”  The land, of course, is the ecosystem.

Today, most of us can wander our ecosystems easily.  So far, the perspective of the astronaut is restricted to a lucky few.  But – would Stewart not love this? – we can watch Earth from LEO on a continuous feed, here.

NASA Strategic Planner Jesco von Puttkamer suggested we are now living in the “New Enlightenment of Spaceflight.”    That Enlightenment began with Stewart’s Whole Earth Vision.  The New Enlightenment expanded its reach exponentially with the first photos of the Whole Earth from space, most dramatically “Earthrise” from Apollo 8. von Puttkamer’s slogan for the age, borrowed by Star Trek for the series’ first movie, is

Space:  The Human Adventure is Just Beginning

Today, we know Stewart’s pioneering Whole Earth vision from both perspectives – of the land, and from LEO.  We have joined von Puttkamer’s New Enlightenment of Spaceflight, and gained Stewart’s Whole Earth vision and have a greater understanding of and love for our home planet.

We have become enlightened.

earth_and_limb_m1199291564l_color_2stretch_mask_0

Image Credit: NASA/Goddard/Arizona State University\

SOURCE: TO SEE: GEORGE R. STEWART’S WHOLE EARTH REALIZED

THE DIALOGUE: JUST PICK ONE!

HER: “We always watch the stuff you want to watch. How come we never watch my movies?

HIM: “That’s not fair. I try to find things I think you’ll like.The other night I recorded ‘The Wind and the Lion.’”

HER: “You like that one. You always have.”

HIM: “That’s besides the point.”

HER: “No it isn’t. There a pile of DVDs I’ve bought during the past year. Most of them, I bought for you and most of them have at least been opened. None of mine have even had the cellophane removed. We never watch anything you don’t like.”

HIM: “Well, let’s make tonight different. {pause} You’re still sulking. I can tell by your face.”

HER: “You don’t mean it. As soon as one of those movies goes on, you’re going to start to make faces, or fall asleep. Instantly. You only do that to prove how boring my taste is.”

monty python British comedy movies

HIM: “I promise, I’ll watch. If I really hate it, I’ll tell you.”

HER: {Long Pause} “Okay, but you better mean it. Or …”

HIM: “Just pick a movie.”

HER: {Unwrapping} “It’s ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail.’ I don’t want to hear how you ‘don’t get’ British humor.”

HIM: “Do they have closed captions? Comedy is hard when you don’t get the words.”

HER: “Lemme see. Well, they have Full Script, English, French, Spanish, German, and Hard of Hearing.”

HIM: “Let’s try ‘Hard of Hearing.’ ”

HER: “It’s probably a goof.”

HIM: “I’m curious.”

HER: “Okay.”

Movie comes on. Someone is shouting loudly over the film. Cute.

HIM: “Okay. English, please.”

A year later, we did the exact same maneuver, only this time, the movie was “Going Postal,” one of the mini series they made in England from Terry Pratchett’s novels. For anyone interested, there are three of them, but I’ve only seen two –“Going Postal” and “Hogfather.” Garry actually seemed to like “Hogfather”! Could this be a trend?

There is one more movie — “The Colour of Magic,” but now, there are a pile of movies Garry needs to watch. Maybe we’ll get there. At this rate (one to two per year)? Who knows?

Some things never change.

LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND FINDING YOUR WAY HOME – BY TOM CURLEY

Marilyn just wrote a blog about National Towel Day. It’s the day fans celebrate the works of the late great Douglas Adams.

I’m not a fan, I’m a zealot. I’ve read all his books. Listened to all the BBC radio series. And watched both movies of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.”  The first one done in the 80’s with the original BBC radio cast, was actually a TV series. It was done on a budget of … maybe 25 bucks, but it was great.

The Disney movie was okay. Mostly, because Douglas Adams was the producer. Unfortunately, he died before it was finished. Even if you didn’t like the movie, it was worth watching just for the opening musical number “So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish”.

While Hitchhiker is my favorite Adams work, I also loved the Dirk Gently series.

One of the things in the book always stuck with me. Whenever Dirk was lost he would simply follow someone who looked like they knew where they were going. He found that he never got to where he was going but he always ended up where he needed to be.

I used that concept once. I was driving home from work one night and I was on the local road that leads to my house. I came upon a police barricade. The road was closed.

There were no detour signs. I only knew that one road. So, I did what Dirk did. I saw a car in front of me turn off the road. He/she seemed to know where he/she was going. So I followed him/her. For the next 20 minutes to a half hour we wound our way through twisty back roads in the bowels of Southern Connecticut. I had no idea where I was.

Suddenly, the car in front of me turns on to the main road again. Past the barricade. I couldn’t believe it! It actually worked! But here’s where it got weird. The car in front of me turned off the main road and on to the road I live on. OK, I thought. Makes sense. There are a lot of houses on my street. This person was obviously going home too. But then the car turned into my driveway! That’s when I realized it was my daughter. I should have recognized the car, but I didn’t put two and two together.

The really funny part was that my daughter had just spent the last 20 minutes or so completely freaking out because this mysterious black car had been following her, turn for turn and then followed her to her house! True story.

I know Douglas Adams was smiling.

FINALLY WHAT?

When I saw “final” as the word of the day, I got a chill. In the past two weeks, I have lost at least three friends with more on the way. Not to mention that my email is full of warnings of: “This is the final hour! Send $3 now!”

Courtesy of Evil Squirrel, here’s the song that rocks it.

I fondly hope this isn’t the final hour for all of us, but it has recently been the final hour for more than a few friends and loved ones.  I don’t know how many more are on the special waiting line. I’m hoping that Death is like the guy in Terry Pratchett’s books. Pragmatic, friendly and most of the time, there to give you a hand to find your right place.

It is a strange feeling watching your friends grow smaller. My mother told me a long time ago that “You know you are officially old when you start to lose your friends.” I thought it was the creepiest thing she ever said. Later, I read versions of the same concept in various books. Mostly memoirs by “famous people.” Which is when I thought “There is nothing to prevent that final loss. No money, power, or fame can change it in any way.” It’s not that I thought money, power, or fame would stop the progression of life toward its ending, but I hadn’t given it much thought. That’s probably why I wonder how come the very richest people in the world are so obsessed with getting more and more money. What are they going to do with it anyway?

Many of these super rich folks already have more money than they could ever spend in a lifetime. Two or three lifetimes. So why is accumulating endless more so urgent that they will rob the poorest? I do not understand it and I hope I never will.

After all these years, I still don’t know how I feel about this ongoing march to a final hour, whether the end of the world or the end of me, but it is the way the world rolls. From opening day to final curtain, the play goes on.

Are we looking at the final days of the earth? Final years of democracy? Final end to everything in which I believed? Or just the inevitable shearing off of living people whose time is done?

If this is final, what does that mean? The final what?