Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fighting to Complete My Classics Club Project by Next Year!

Okay, time flies, indeed, too fast! When I started The Classics Club Project in May 2012, five years seemed so far away, I believed this project would be quite an easy one. I was wrong! Yes, the first two years my progress was quite fast. Since then I have updated and added a lot of books to my original list of 100. But today I realized for the first time, that my deadline would be 8th March 2017—only 10 months from now! If I still want to complete this project, I must work out very diligently…starting today.

So, after reviewing my list, here’s the statistic: 

Books I have read so far (reviewed or not) = 105
- Novels =    79
- Plays =       21
- Non-fiction = 5

My current list is 165 (I know… I was too ambitious then!), which is impossible to complete all in 10 months. With my current speed, 2 books a month, I think, is the most realistic. So, I trimmed down my list to 125, which means I have 20 classics to read by March 2017. It would not be an easy conquest—not with my current activities, plus I am selling our old family house and buy a new apartment this year. No, it would be very tight, but I’m prepared to push myself to the limit. Then, let’s see what I can achieve by March next year!

And, as I would soon need a lot of money to furnish the new apartment, my trimmed-list consists only of books on my TBR pile. Here they are in random order:

Novels:
  1. The Pickwick Paper, Dickens – currently reading, originally for o’s read along, but I decided not to follow the timeline, as I found it difficult to reconnect with the characters after leaving them for a month.
  2. Our Mutual Friend, Dickens
  3. The Age of Innocence, Wharton
  4. The Belly of Paris, Zola
  5. The Conquest of Plassans, Zola
  6. The Earth, Zola
  7. The War of the Worlds, Wells
  8. The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck
  9. Ben Hur, Wallace
  10. Defense Speeches, Cicero
  11. The Swann’s Way, Proust
  12. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Hardy
  13. The Hobbit, Tolkien
  14. Tales of the Jazz Age, Fitzgerald
  15. On the Origin of Species, Darwin
  16. The Trial, Kafka

Plays:
3 plays, each from Marlowe, Ibsen, and (perhaps) Wilde

Non-Fiction:
  1. The Dreyfus Affair: J’Accuse & other Writtings, Zola – currently reading 

So, 20 classics in 10 months. Read read read! And minimize the social media! Wish me luck!...


Friday, April 15, 2016

Belle Époque Artists: Victor Gabriel Gilbert

Victor Gabriel Gilbert (1847-1935) was a French painter of genre scenes. Gilbert was born in Paris on 13th February 1847. His natural ability for drawing was acknowledged at an early age but due to financial circumstances he was required to work as an artisan. He received his formal training from L. Em. Adan, Levasseur and Ch. Busson.

In 1873 he had his debut at the Paris Salon and continued to be a faithful exhibitor at the Salon des Artist Francais where he obtained a silver medal in 1889, received the Bonnet Prize in 1926 and the Knight of the Legion of Honour in 1897. He was highly respected for his fine detailed work and was considered an inspiration to many artists. His views of the colourful Parisian life, the boulevards, cafés and flower stalls became well known. At the same time he turned his effect on the portrayal of adorable children, accomplishing a sensibility and great harmony towards his subject.


The Square in front of Les Halles, 1880

Any Zola's fans must have remembered that this paintings was used by Oxford World's Classics as The Belly of Paris' cover. Such a nice idea too to pick a painting from one of Belle Epoque's artists. I imagined... maybe Gilbert was one of Zola's Impressionist friends...

The Fish Hall at the Central Market, 1881


Flower Seller in front of the Madeleine Church

It was during the mid 1870s that Gilbert became a close friend to Pierre Martin, one of the principal supporters of the impressionist movement and Victor Gilbert’s paintings secured a place amongst his collection of Impressionists like Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne and Gauguin. Victor Gilbert’s paintings were not only well sought after in France, he also exhibited in 1883 in Munich, 1894 in Vienna and he was a great success in London in 1908. Today his work can be viewed in the Museums of Bayeux, Besançon, Bordeaux, Dieppe, le Havre, Lille, Liége, Nice and Strassbourg.


The Children's Dance Recital

Place dAnvers Et Le Sacre Coeur

I posted this for my Belle Époque Event 2016, You will find more artists along the year; the next one will be up (hopefully) very soon!



Thursday, February 25, 2016

If I were Old Bourras in The Ladies’ Paradise

Le Bon Marche by Felix Valloton
Parisian store which inspired Ladies' Paradise
Reading Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise gives me certain excitement which I have never encountered before from Rougon-Macquart series that I have read so far—it is the business aspect. The growing expansion of Octave Mouret’s first modern department store in Paris has awakened my own business instinct which has grown from my more-than-twenty-years of working in trading business.

This is not a proper review of the book (for I am still half through it at the moment), but I was intrigued to give my personal advice to one of the shop owners whose business is threaten to be ruined by the Ladies’ Paradise.

Old Bourras owns an umbrella shop. He used to have employees worked for him, and his specialty is carving the handle-knob with artistic subjects, which, I believe, gives his umbrellas a personal touch. But then Ladies’ Paradise opened its umbrella and sunshade department, selling umbrellas in much cheaper prices, and stealing Bourras’ loyal customers away. It gave old Bourras a terrible blow, but, does it really have to end that way? I personally do not think so.

If I were in Bourras’ place—instead of spending my passion and energy by condemning the department store, or by wasting my capital to compete with it—I would offer an attractive scheme of partnership to Mouret. I would persuade Mouret to sell my umbrellas IN his department store. Oh, Mouret would certainly laugh at me:

Mouret: “What? Buying umbrellas from you, while I could buy from other manufacturers in larger quantity and with much cheaper price? How do you think your umbrellas could compete with ours?”

But I would calmly smile to him, and say: “Of course not, sir. I know I won’t be able to compete with your big store, if I sell the SAME umbrellas as yours.”

Mouret (still chuckles): “What do you mean? Umbrella is umbrella; people buy it to shade them from sunlight or rain. If they could get ours cheaper, why on earth would they pick yours?”

Me: “But what I am offering you now, sir, is not the same product that you are selling in one of your departments.”

Mouret (his business instinct being awaken): “Go on...”

Me: “You see, sir, I am more an artist than a businessman. You might say that I sell umbrellas, but for me, these umbrellas are my artworks. I love carving, and it gives me utmost happiness to sit in my quiet shop, carving the handles with beautiful subjects: flowers, animals, fruits, etc. I’m happy to see that my customers love them, and it gives them satisfaction, knowing that their umbrellas were carved specially for them. And, of course, in the end it gives me money to buy my bread and lodging.”

Mouret: “So, you were saying that…”

Me: “Yes. I am offering you a new concept of umbrella. It’s not just means of shading one from sun and rain. Umbrella can be a fashionable item. Just imagine a luxury umbrella with finely carved ivory handle and elegant design, in the hand of a charming lady on a rainy day outside The Opera. The lady’s friends would have adored it, and the lady would answer proudly: ‘Oh, I have ordered it at The Ladies’ Paradise the other day. They allow us to choose our own design, you know, and pick our own subject to be carved on the handle!’ And soon enough, these ladies will queue up to order such elegant personalized umbrellas at your store, sir!”

Mouret (now quite bought up by the idea): “But how can I be sure that you won’t sell it with cheaper price to other stores, or even worse, directly to my customers?”

Me: “I am ready to grant you an exclusive right to sell my umbrellas at whatever price you believe is most profitable, if you consent to appoint me as your sole supplier, and buy my products at reasonable price. I put my trust on your lawyer, sir, to issue the contract which I would be proud to sign to bind our partnership.”

Mouret (amazed and curious): “Do you realize, M. Bourras, that if we had this partnership as your idea, your income will not significantly improve? Because producing personalized goods is different from mass production. In the end, your business will not profit much more than it is now. It would certainly profit me, but what will it do for you?”

Me: “Dear M. Mouret, I have told you earlier, that I am no businessman. With this partnership, I will earn enough money for my business to keep going, and a humble living for myself. But mostly I will have pleasures from making beautiful umbrellas. It’s all what I need in this world.

So…. do we have a deal?”

-----------

In a new turbulence era, we better face the changes with open mind. It is good to keep our principles, but do not let it bar our judgment. Creativity is the key, and always find a win-win solution! When a huge power dominates our society (in this case capitalism), don’t fight back! Or else it will crush you mercilessly. Open mind and creativity will give us better bargaining position.

If only I can get into the story, and give my advice to old Bourras! But then…. It will alter the story. And considering what Zola wanted to say with his Rougon-Macquart series, I think I’d better return to my book and enjoy it. Sorry Monsieur Zola, for indulging my imagination for a moment in this post! J


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

It’s a Very Outdated Post!

I know it’s very-very outdated. 2015 was already far away… but I won’t ever forgive myself if I don’t, somehow, wrap up my last year Literary Movement Reading Challenge. You know, of course, that I failed my own challenge, but there are others who took efforts to read all, or at least most of, the movements. In the middle of my spare time during office hours—yayy… J--Ihave managed to count all participant’s posts (though I’m really sorry if I couldn’t read nor comment them one by one). From 22 who signed up, just a few managed to ‘survive’ to the last. And from the few, only ONE person completed the whole challenge, by reading at least one book for all movements; and I’m proud to announce that the winner of this challenge is…..


Congratz to Ruth—a very good job! I’m proud of you and your dedication for this challenge. I will contact you soon to arrange the prize.

And now…. Allow me to retreat to my quiet corner of bookish life again. I’ll keep posting every now and then, especially for Belle Époque Event, but I’ll dedicate most of my limited spare time with… reading, of course! ;)

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Belle Époque Artists: Gustave Caillebotte

Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877


Gustave Caillebotte (19 August 1848 – 21 February 1894) was a French painter, member and patron of the group of artists known as Impressionists, though he painted in a much more realistic manner than many other artists in the group. Caillebotte was noted for his early interest in photography as an art form. Caillebotte's style belongs to the School of Realism but was strongly influenced by his Impressionist associates.

Caillebotte is best known for his paintings of urban Paris, such as The Europe Bridge (Le Pont de l'Europe) (1876), and Paris Street; Rainy Day (Rue de Paris; temps de pluie, also known as La Place de l'Europe, temps de pluie) (1877). The latter is almost unique among his works for its particularly flat colors and photo-realistic effect which gives the painting its distinctive and modern look, almost akin to American Realists. Showing little allegiance to any one style, many of Caillebotte's other urban paintings produced in the same period, such as The Place Saint-Augustin (1877), are considerably more impressionistic.


Le Pont de l'Europe, 1876

My Note:
Gustave Caillebotte's paintings are not new to me... well, several of them, at least. Apparently, Oxford World's Classics used at least three of them as covers for Emile Zola's books. The "Paris Street, Rainy Day" was used for The Kill's cover, while "Le Pont de l'Europe" was actually picked by OWC as the cover of La Bête Humaine. And if you own the latest edition of The Money from OWC, you will not  be surprised to see that its cover was borrowed from Caillebotte's "Man on a Balcony". To me it's really nice of OWC to pick French Impressionist's paintings as Zola's book cover. Zola was one of the supporters of Impressionism on his era anyway.


Man on a Balcony, Boulevard Haussmann, 1880

A Balcony, Boulevard Haussmann, 1880

I posted this for my Belle Époque Event 2016, You will find more artists along the year; the next one will be up in March!



Monday, January 4, 2016

Belle Époque Artists: Édouard-Denis Baldus


Hotel de Ville et Pont d'Arcole, Paris
Édouard-Denis Baldus (June 5, 1813, Grünebach, Prussia – 1889, Paris) was a French landscape, architectural and railway photographer. Baldus was originally trained as a painter and had also worked as a draughtsman and lithographer before switching to photography in 1849. In 1851, he was commissioned for the Missions Héliographiques by the Historic Monuments Commission of France to photograph historic buildings, bridges and monuments, many of which were being razed to make way for the grand boulevards of Paris, being carried out under the direction of Napoleon III's prefect Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann.


Reconstruction of Hotel de Ville de Paris, 1880

The high quality of his work won him government support for a project entitled Les Villes de France Photographiées, an extended series of architectural views in Paris and the provinces designed to feed a resurgent interest in the nation's Roman and medieval past.

In 1855, Baron James de Rothschild, President of Chemin de Fer du Nord, commissioned Baldus to do a series of photographs to be used as part of an album that was to be a gift to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a souvenir of their visit to France that year. The lavishly bound album is still among the treasures of the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

In 1856, Baldus set out on a brief assignment to photograph the destruction caused by torrential rains and overflowing rivers in Lyon, Avignon, and Tarascon. He created a moving record of the flood without explicitly depicting the human suffering left in its wake.

He was extremely well known throughout France for his efforts in photography. One of his greatest assignments was to document the construction of the Louvre museum.

La Grande Galerie, Paris, 1870

Baldus used wet and dry paper negatives as large as 10x14 inches in size. From these negatives, he made contact prints. In order to create a larger image, he put contact prints side by side to create a panoramic effect.

Baldus was renowned for the sheer size of his pictures, which ranged up to eight feet long for one panorama from around 1855, made from several negatives.

View of the Seine, Paris

Despite the documentary nature of many of his assignments, Baldus was no purist when it came to technique. He often retouched his negatives to blank out buildings and trees, or to put clouds in white skies; in one print from 1851, he pieced together fragments of 10 different negatives to create a composite print of the medieval cloister of St. Trophime, in Arles.


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I will post more French artists in this blog for this event: