“What came first – the music or the misery? Did I listen to the music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to the music? Do all those records turn you into a melancholy person?”
― Nick Hornby, High Fidelity
“The places where water comes together with other water. Those places stand out in my mind like holy places.”
― Raymond Carver, Where Water Comes Together with Other Water: Poems
“When lovers kiss on the cheeks, it is because they are searching, feeling for one another’s lips. Lovers are made by a kiss.”
― Émile Zola, The Fortune of the Rougons
I have never been a huge fan of book series. I haven’t read The Hunger Games, Twilight, or The Mortal Instruments. I did binge read Harry Potter, but I wish I hadn’t. But now I think I’m going to dive in to a much more ambitious string of tomes.
I think I’m going to read the whole Les Rougon-Macquart cycle by Émile Zola. We were talking about… something… at a writing group the other evening, and I remembered these books (though I have forgotten the subject we were discussing). The twenty books follow the two branches of the Rougon-Macquart family in France during the turbulent years of the Second French Empire.
I have read Zola before. A long time ago, maybe a quarter-century. This was before e-readers and the internet was in its glorious dial-up infancy. Half-Price books arranged their fiction by author and it was easy to find Zola at the very end.
I read four:
- La Bête Humaine
I knew that they were part of a series – people in each book were related to those in the others. But I wasn’t sure of the overall arc of books. You forget how hard it was to find information in the pre-internet days. For the curious, like myself, finding facts was scrabbling under rocks in a desert… rather than drinking from a fire hose as it is now. We are drowning in information.
I no longer have an excuse. Not only do I know of the series… all of the works are available for free on Project Gutenberg. The only problem is the English versions are old bowdlerized translations by the Vizetelly family – but I can soldier through and pick up a modern book when I can.
I will read the twenty novels in the recommended order:
- La Fortune des Rougon (1871) (The Fortune of the Rougons)
- Son Excellence Eugène Rougon (1876) (His Excellency Eugene Rougon/ His Excellency)
- La Curée (1871-2) (The Kill)
- L’Argent (1891) (Money)
- Le Rêve (1888) (The Dream)
- La Conquête de Plassans (1874) (The Conquest of Plassans/A Priest in the House)
- Pot-Bouille (1882) (Pot Luck/Restless House/Piping Hot)
- Au Bonheur des Dames (1883) (The Ladies’ Paradise/Shop Girls of Paris/Ladies’ Delight)
- La Faute de l’Abbé Mouret (1875) (The Sin of Father Mouret/Abbe Mouret’s Transgression)
- Une Page d’amour (1878) (A Lesson in Love/A Love Episode/A Page of Love/A Love Affair)
- Le Ventre de Paris (1873) (The Belly of Paris/The Fat and the Thin/Savage Paris/The Markets of Paris)
- La Joie de Vivre (1884) (The Joys of Living/Joy of Life/How Jolly Life Is/Zest for Life)
- L’Assommoir (1877) (The Dram Shop/The Gin Palace/Drink/Drunkard)
- L’Œuvre (1886) (The Masterpiece/A Masterpiece/His Masterpiece)
- La Bête Humaine (1890) (The Beast in the Man/The Human Beast/The Monomaniac)
- Germinal (1885)
- Nana (1880)
- La Terre (1887) (The Earth/The Soil)
- La Débâcle (1892) (The Downfall/The Smash-up/The Debacle)
- Le Docteur Pascal (1893) (Doctor Pascal)
I’m digging into the first one, La Fortune des Rougon on my KIndle, and enjoying it so far.
I have no idea how long this will take – 20 books (or 16 if I skip the ones I’ve already read) is a lot of pages. So little time, so many books.
“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it’s better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”
― Marilyn Monroe
We’ve had Isaak since February or so. He was named after this guy:
He was a rescue from Dallas Animal Services – we don’t know anything of his story except that he was not an owner abandon – I guess that means the dog catcher caught him. We picked him up on half-price day; that means he cost: fixed, shots, exams and such, only ten dollars.
The most common question that everyone has asked, of course, is, “What breed is he?” We had to answer, “We have no idea.” If I had to guess I would have said German Shepard (because of his ears and the black along his tail) and golden retriever mix.
So many people asked about his breed we decided to send his DNA swab off and find out for sure. The results just came in… and we were completely off.
So, that’s about as much of a mutt as you’re going to see.
I’m not sure how accurate these things are (they said their “sophisticated computer algorithm performed over 17 million calculations!“- if I had extra money I would have also sent in my own cheek swab just to screw with them) – but this actually seems about right. Long legs of a Boxer, a bit of a Pit Bull face shape, Retriever snout…. But Siberian Husky?
“The job is what you do when you are told what to do. The job is showing up at the factory, following instructions, meeting spec, and being managed.
Someone can always do your job a little better or faster or cheaper than you can.
The job might be difficult, it might require skill, but it’s a job.
Your art is what you do when no one can tell you exactly how to do it. Your art is the act of taking personal responsibility, challenging the status quo, and changing people.
I call the process of doing your art ‘the work.’ It’s possible to have a job and do the work, too. In fact, that’s how you become a linchpin.
The job is not the work.”
― Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
“These people were content with their environment, and felt no particular objection to an impersonal steel and concrete landscape, no qualms about the invasion of their privacy by government agencies and organizations, and if anything welcoming these intrusions, using them for their own purposes. These people were the first to master a new kind of 20th century life. They thrived on the rapid turnover of acquaintances, the lack of involvement with others, and the total self-sufficiency of lives which, needing nothing, were never disappointed. Alternatively, their real needs might emerge later.”
― J.G. Ballard, High-Rise
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha