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Sophronisba

Sophronisba

Joined October 2016

More about my reading at https://www.sophronisba.com
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Sophronisba
Barchester Towers | Trollope Anthony
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#SundaySentence

There is, perhaps, no greater hardship at present inflicted on mankind in civilized and free countries than the necessity of listening to sermons. No one but a preaching clergyman has, in these realms, the power of compelling an audience to sit silent and be tormented. . . .

Sophronisba . . . No one but a preaching clergyman can revel in platitudes, truisms, and untruisms, and yet receive, as his undisputed privilege, the same respectful demeanour as though words of impassioned eloquence, or persuasive logic, fell from his lips.
2w
11 likes1 comment
review
Sophronisba
Alice Adams | BOOTH TARKINGTON
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Pickpick

So, Alice Adams. It is, yes, dated and offensive -- and yet I sort of enjoyed it? Viewed as a time capsule, a little tragedy of manners, it is fascinating. I don't think that Tarkington understands his main character at all, and yet his eye for her quirks and eccentricities is sharp. I can't recommend it, exactly, but if you think of it as a window into a very specific time and place, it might be worth your time; it was for me.

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On Saturday afternoon, in a place that feels, just then, like the brightly pulsing center of the universe, a group of women gathers to talk about the world, and their place in it.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

ShyBookOwl Love it! 2w
17 likes1 comment
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Cover reveal for Rebecca Makkai's newest, due in February. I adored Great Believers so I am really excited to read this one!

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Trust | Hernan Diaz
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It's a crying shame that half of this list is American -- the Booker never should have let the Yanks in. That said, Trust is a great book and all of you should read it.

https://publishingperspectives.com/2022/07/the-uks-booker-prize-for-fiction-name...

jlhammar Ha! Yes, very US heavy this year. Good to know about Trust. I loved the Keegan, Strout and Everett. I own The Colony and Booth so going to tackle those next. 2w
Cathythoughts I did get a Trust after your review 👍🏻♥️ 2w
Sophronisba @Cathythoughts I hope you love it! 2w
Hazel2019 Finished The Trees and starting Trust today! And I agree, why so many from US? We Need Variety! Wouldn‘t it be something if none of the US ones made it to the short list 🤔 2w
15 likes1 stack add4 comments
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Enchanted April | Elizabeth Von Arnim
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“There had been wonderful stars the evening before, and she had gone out into the top garden after dinner, leaving Mrs Fisher alone over her nuts and wine, and, sitting on the wall at the place where the lilies crowded their ghost heads, she had looked out into the gulf of the night, and it had suddenly seemed as if her life had been a noise all about nothing.“

#SundaySentence #192025

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This passage makes me so sad for a woman who died nearly half a millennium ago:

“She had been her father's ambassador, her husband's adviser, and her country's regent at the time when England won its greatest victory over the Scots. She was the figurehead of worship, a role model of piety, an archetype of beauty, . . . Catherine was all this. Yet she is remembered today for the one thing she did not do: bear a son that survived to adulthood.“

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The Enchanted April | Elizabeth Von Arnim
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#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays #192025

“It began in a woman‘s club in London on a February afternoon – an uncomfortable club, and a miserable afternoon – when Mrs Wilkins, who had come down from Hampstead to shop and had lunched at her club, took up The Times from the table in the smoking room, and running her listless eye down the agony column saw this:

“To Those Who Appreciate Wisteria and Sunshine. Small medieval Italian castle. . . .“

BarbaraBB Such a lovely and uplifting book! 3w
18 likes1 comment
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Sophronisba
Alice Adams | BOOTH TARKINGTON
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I've read before that if you really want to know how people thought and spoke in the past, the best way is to read fiction that was written in that era -- and I do think that is true of Alice Adams, which feels so alien to the way that we think and speak in 2022 it might as well be set on Mars.

#192025

Sophronisba I would like to contrast it with a novel written by a woman of the same era, though; I'm not sure Booth Tarkington understands women any more than Dickens did. (Which is to say, not much at all.) 3w
Sophronisba One of the oddest things about Alice Adams is that it feels as though it was written with an eye toward a screenplay, it feels absolutely destined to be filmed -- but it was written in 1921! 3w
EvieBee I love the film! Will have to check out the book. 3w
14 likes1 stack add3 comments
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Dark Earth | Rebecca Stott
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I know nothing about this book but this essay has me intrigued:

“The incoming Saxons were different from us. Of course they were. They believed in strange gods. They sacrificed things. They cooked over open fires. But they couldn‘t be that different from us. A few of them must have been curious enough to brave the dangers of the ghost city . . . just to see the wonder of it for themselves.“

https://bit.ly/3ofiuOG

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Alice Adams | BOOTH TARKINGTON
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In which Alice Adams (the book, but probably also the character) is racist & classist but also weirdly contemporary:

“You paid a cook double what you had paid one a few years before; & the cook knew half as much of cookery, & had no gratitude. The more you gave these people, it seemed, the worse they behaved—a condition not to be remedied by simply giving them less, because you couldn‘t even get the worst unless you paid her what she demanded.“

Sophronisba (The picture has nothing to do with the quote other than being from the film version of the book, I am just inordinately fond of Katharine Hepburn.) 4w
Sparklemn The quote is icky but the pic is great! I love Katharine Hepburn, too. :) 3w
10 likes2 comments
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Alice Adams | BOOTH TARKINGTON
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She had seen in several magazines pictures of ladies with canes, and on that account she had bought this one, never questioning that fashion is recognized, even in the provinces, as soon as beheld. On the contrary, these staring women obviously failed to realize that what they were being shown was not an eccentric outburst, but the bright harbinger of an illustrious mode.

-- Booth Tarkington, _Alice Adams_

#SundaySentence #192025

15 likes1 stack add
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How to Read Now: Essays | Elaine Castillo
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It's Chanukah in July! The Millions has published its preview for the second half of the year:

https://themillions.com/2022/07/most-anticipated-the-great-second-half-2022-book...

So much here to be excited about.

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Four Treasures of the Sky | Jenny Tinghui Zhang
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“When I am kidnapped, it does not happen in an alleyway. It does not happen in the middle of the night. It does not happen when I am alone.

“When I am kidnapped, I am thirteen and standing in the middle of the Zhifu fish market on Beach Road, watching a fleshy woman assemble whitefish the shape of spades into a pile.“

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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(Sorry, this is going to be long, Litsy does not give me enough room!)

I was struck by this passage -- which made me think of both my high school alma mater and my ancestor Asa Ladd, who was executed by the Yankees:

“. . . when they are asked to reckon with the fact that their ancestors fought a war to keep my ancestors enslaved, there is resistance to facts that have been documented by primary sources and contemporaneous evidence. . . .

Sophronisba They are forced to confront the lies they have upheld. They are forced to confront the flaws of their ancestors. As Greg Stewart, a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, told the _New York Times_ in the aftermath of the 2015 Charleston massacre, 'You're asking me to agree that my great-grandparents and great-great-grandparents were monsters.' . . . 1mo
Sophronisba Accepting such a reality would, for them, mean the deterioration of a narrative that has long been a part of their lineage, and the disintegration of so much of who they believed themselves to be in the world.“

I don't know if I would call Great-Great-Great-Grandpa Asa a monster, exactly, but I have long reconciled myself to the idea that he is not a person I would want to hang out with. . . .
1mo
Sophronisba (Nor do I think he would enjoy my company, for that matter.) I confess it is puzzling to me that people are so desperate to believe in the goodness of ancestors they never met. I don't feel that Asa Ladd's behavior, or the behavior of anyone I never met, reflects upon me at all.

(Smith's book is just as brilliant as I expected it to be: highly recommended.)
1mo
13 likes3 comments
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You hear a lot about modern-day “bridezillas,“ but TIL that in 1500 Henry VII asked the Queen of Spain to make sure that her daughter Catherine of Aragon's Spanish ladies were beautiful (or at least, “none of them should be ugly“), so as not to spoil her wedding to his heir Arthur.

Knowing how this would all turn out, it's hard not to feel that Catherine and her mother should have seen this as a warning. Run, Catherine! Run like the wind!

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Wallis Simpson managing to be unlikable even when the victim of a robbery:

“When asked what jewellery she had been wearing that night, Wallis replied, as if perfectly obvious, ‘A fool would know that with tweeds or other daytime clothes one wears gold, and that with evening clothes one wears platinum.'“

#SundaySentence

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On Friday 11 December 1936, the final vote on the Abdication Bill was passed in Parliament and Edward VIII ceased to be king. He had reigned for 326 days. His father‘s premonition that within twelve months of his death his son would ‘ruin himself‘ had come true.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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Too many books, not enough time! So much good stuff here. But the book I'm most excited about on this list is Maggie O'Farrell's take on Renaissance Italy.

https://lithub.com/lit-hubs-most-anticipated-books-of-2022-part-two

Cathythoughts I‘m very excited about this one too 😍 1mo
10 likes1 comment
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Cloud Cuckoo Land | Anthony Doerr
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Of all the mad things we humans do . . . there might be nothing more humbling, or more noble, than trying to translate the dead languages. We don't know how the old Greeks sounded when they spoke; we can scarcely map their words onto ours; from the very start, we're doomed to fail. But . . . , in trying to drag something across the river from the murk of history into our time, into our language: that was . . . the best kind of fool's errand.

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July 4th reading. Totally coincidental (I've been waiting for this hold to come in for months) but feels appropriate.

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This Side of Paradise | F Scott Fitzgerald
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She had once been a Catholic, but discovering that priests were infinitely more attentive when she was in process of losing or regaining faith in Mother Church, she maintained an enchantingly wavering attitude.

#SundaySentence #192025 (1920 entry)

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This Common Secret: My Journey as an Abortion Doctor | Susan Wicklund, Alan S. Kesselheim
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The Stacks podcast put together a great reading list organized around reproductive rights: https://bookshop.org/lists/books-on-abortion.

I read _This Common Secret_ a few years ago and learned a lot from it. Not on this particular list, but highly recommended if you can find it: Rickie Solinger's _Wake Up Little Susie: Single Pregnancy and Race Before Roe v. Wade_.

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Tae-woo stood on the ledge behind the Dora Observatory's row of binoculars. No one paid him any mind since he was long dead.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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This is a fun list, but my least favorite victim -- Heather Babcock in The Mirror Crack'd -- doesn't make the cut. Possibly because knowing why she's so awful gives away the plot.

https://crimereads.com/agatha-christies-most-memorable-unlikeable-characters/

Ruthiella Did you know this is inspired by a true story about the actress Gene Tierney? 1mo
13 likes1 comment
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I am enjoying Cultish, but the author just described Great Expectations as a “rags-to-riches“ story and -- has she read the book? Because that is not remotely the point of the book. Dickens was many things, but Horatio Alger was not one of them.

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“Why We Did It is a book about the people who submitted to every whim of a comically unfit and detestable man who crapped all over them and took over the party they had given their life to. It‘s about the army of consultants, politicians, and media figures who stood back and stood by as everything they ever fought for was degraded and devalued. . . .

Sophronisba . . . The people who privately admitted they recognized all the risks but still climbed aboard for a ride on the SS Trump Hellship that they knew would assuredly sink.“ 1mo
12 likes1 comment
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It would be irresponsible, I think, not to mention the oratorical similarities between Trump and Jim Jones, who shared the same love of coining zingy, incendiary nicknames for their opponents. (“Fake News“ and “Crooked Hillary“ were Trump's analogs to Jones's “Hidden Rules“ and “Sky God.“) Even when their statements didn't contain any rational substance, the catch phrases and zealous delivery were enough to win over an audience.

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Love Marriage | Monica Ali
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Lucy's father was a window cleaner working on high-rise buildings in the City, and Lucy was only six months old when Tony's harness broke. She never knew him, but even so she carried a photo of him around in her purse. The way Arif told the story made it sound like Tony was the ideal sort of father, an icon to watch over you, a pocket-size talisman.

#SundaySentence

(Photo by Matt Moloney on Unsplash)

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Love Marriage | Monica Ali
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In the Ghorami household sex was never mentioned. If the television was on & a kissing-with-tongues scene threatened the chaste & cardamom-scented home, it was swiftly terminated. . . . When Yasmin began her first period her mother had slipped her a pack of . . . pads & murmured instructions not to touch the Quran. This was confusing because Yasmin never touched the Quran anyway, except at the behest of her mother.

#FridayReads #FirstlineFridays

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Harriet the Spy | Louise Fitzhugh
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This is a really interesting lit, but Harriet the Spy is still my favorite book on it:

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/06/22/t-magazine/new-york-city-novels-books.html

EvieBee I love it too! 2mo
10 likes1 comment
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WHAT A SENTENCE:

“Margaret had formerly expressed her disapproval and concern at her granddaughter being married too young, but as the Queen of Scots was approaching her fourteenth birthday—generally considered to be a more acceptable age for consummation—there is no evidence that she was unhappy at the king‘s decision to send his daughter north at this time.“

(That's the granddaughter in the image, roughly 13 at the time of the portrait.)

Sophronisba I guess when your first marriage is at seven, your almost-fourteen-year-old granddaughter seems positively geriatric. 2mo
10 likes1 comment
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A Closed and Common Orbit | Becky Chambers
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As a software developer, it is very hard to read this book without longing to learn Lattice (the language that power AIs in Chambers's universe).

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In today's installment of the adventures of Margaret Beaufort, her son becomes king and she promptly has herself declared “femme sole“ and later takes a vow of chastity and sets up her own household, all while still being married to her fourth husband. She also starts signing her name “Margaret R,“ which supposedly stands for “Richmond“ but could be interpreted as “Regina.“

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Halfway through this biography of Margaret Beaufort, she is 29 years old and has just married her fourth husband. Granted, she was seven at her first wedding, so it's taken her longer to get to husband number four than it seems like it should have.

Suet624 Damn! 2mo
EvieBee Wow! 2mo
11 likes2 comments
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A Closed and Common Orbit | Becky Chambers
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#SundaySentence

‘So, tattooing . . . you‘ve got a picture in your mind, then you put it on your body. You make a hazy imagining into a tangible part of you. Or, to flip it around, you want a reminder of something, so you put it on your body, where it‘s a real, touchable thing. You see the thing on your body, you remember it in your mind, then you touch it on your body, you remember why you got it, what you were feeling then, & so on, and so on.

Sophronisba . . . It‘s a re-enforcing circle. You‘re reminded that all these separate pieces are part of the whole that comprises you.‘

Photo by JJ Jordan on Unsplash
2mo
13 likes1 comment
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Juneteenth: A Novel | Ralph Ellison
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In this country men can be born and live well and die without ever having to feel much of what makes their ease possible, just because so much is buried under all of this black and white mess that in their ignorance some folks accept it as a natural condition. . . .

Sophronisba . . . But then again, maybe they just feel that the whole earth would blow up if even a handful of folks got to digging into it. It would even seem a shame to expose it, to have it known that so much has been built on top of such a shaky foundation. 2mo
12 likes1 comment
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A Closed and Common Orbit | Becky Chambers
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I have a million holds in from the library -- of books I really want to read! -- but zero self-control, so tonight's book is a reread of a book I already own.

Ruthiella The heart wants what the heart wants. ❤️ 2mo
13 likes1 comment
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I never asked myself about the meaning of freedom until the day I hugged Stalin.

#FirstLineFridays #FridayReads

jlhammar Such a great memoir. Enjoy! You may be interested in this Penguin Books UK video with the author if you haven't watched it yet:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7rfK4HY_Qk
2mo
12 likes1 comment
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Five Seasons: A Novel | A. B. Yehoshua
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He had never imagined that Death could be so damp, and when her breathing stopped, he rearranged the blankets and kissed her lightly on the forehead, imbibing her scent. “You're free now,“ he whispered, switching off the little twenty-four-hour night-light and opening the window, though he did not believe in such freedom at all, only in nothingness. . . . A car sped along the highway by the coast. Soon he too, would be free.

9 likes1 stack add1 comment
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This morning's reading about the reign of Henry VIII was periodically interrupted so I could listen to the Six soundtrack.

LiteraryinLawrence Nice pairing! 2mo
11 likes1 comment
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About 1/3 into this book and not sure what to think. I adored The Death of Vivek Oji but I am not a romance reader (OK, when the pandemic started I did binge five-and-a-half Bridgerton books but I'm _usually_ not a romance reader). My issue, though, is that I can't warm up to the characters -- they don't feel real to me. Alim, in particular, feels like someone is writing fan fiction about Top Chef.

@Cathythoughts

Cathythoughts I found Alim a bit strange 🤔 (edited) 2mo
18 likes1 comment
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Cloud Cuckoo Land | Anthony Doerr
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Anna & her older sister, Maria, sleep in a 1-window cell barely large enough for a horsehair pallet. Between them they own 4 copper coins, 3 ivory buttons, a patched wool blanket, & an icon of Saint Koralia that may or may not have belonged to their mother. Anna has never tasted sweet cream, never eaten an orange, & never set foot outside the city walls. Before she turns 14, every person she knows will be either enslaved or dead.

#SundaySentence

Sophronisba More like a paragraph this week.

I didn't love All the Light We Cannot See as much as a lot of people did, but 40 pages into this book I think I might become obsessed with it.
2mo
Cathythoughts Interesting, I bailed on On The Light.. I must look into this one 👍🏻❤️ 2mo
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Strindberg: A Life | Sue Prideaux
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This made me laugh:

“Strindberg would pick up his guitar which he kept deliberately un-tuned to illustrate the importance of chance in the creative process.“

Give him a flannel shirt and a pair of Birkenstocks, he'd fit right into the 1990s coffeehouse scene.

(Photo by Ahmed Rizkhaan on Unsplash)

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I wasn't looking for Harrison Post when I opened the drawer, but I found him. There he was in a framed studio portrait, glowering, arms crossed, dark hair slicked back, shades of Rudolph Valentino. I assumed he was a forgotten movie star.

#FridayReads #FirstLineFridays

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Strindberg: A Life | Sue Prideaux
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[H]e rummages through the great world of ideas and develops a thought that will tear at him and cause him great confusion in the coming months: the idea that any man-made art is infinitely inferior to the naturally created. By implication the very poem he is writing and we are reading has itself no value, nor can any of his work have value, and yet writing is all he knows, his only means to mend the broken society he surveys.

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Strindberg: A Life | Sue Prideaux
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The more things change, the more they stay the same:

“King Gustav IV of Sweden was personally convinced that Napoleon was the Beast of the Apocalypse described in the Book of Revelations. This being the case, it was obviously his sacred duty to vanquish him.“

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I read this a few years ago but started reading it on a whim as a palate cleanser after Trust, and it is just an absolute delight. I can't believe how much I'm enjoying it.

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This is fascinating to me. I had no idea that this kind of detail would be discoverable from a skeleton:

“The archaeologists who studied Richard‘s femur and ribs and discovered a marked alteration in Richard‘s diet around the time he became king – evidence of ‘consumption of high trophic level, terrestrial foods, such as freshwater fish and wildfowl . . .

Sophronisba [which] corresponds to an increase in these “luxury foods” in the last 2–5 years of his life‘ – may have uncovered material remains of a lifestyle change that began as a conscious effort to appear more regal.“ 2mo
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