The Full Monte Read-Along Chapters 21-40: Half Baked

If you have trouble maneuvering your ship into port at Marseilles, steer yourself over to the master post.

NOTE: This post covers the chapters from The Island of Tiboulen to The Breakfast, inclusive. The numbering varies by edition, and I’m going by the Penguin Classics edition, which seems to match Project Gutenberg. If you have the Oxford World’s Classics or some other editions, you might need to read up to and including chapter 41.

This week is another mixed bag, but unlike last week, where I kind of knew what to expect (false accusations, jail, escape, yada yada yada), this section has got me like:

Image result for half baked gif wow

 

I have questions about 19th century French hashish, and French translations
Continue reading

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The Full Monte Read-Along Chapters 1-20: Edmond Dantès’ Right to Due Process

If you have trouble maneuvering your ship into port at Marseilles, steer yourself over to the master post.

The Count of Monte Cristo is best known as a story of revenge. But for the first 200ish pages, our boy Dantès doesn’t have a vengeful thought in his head. Or many other thoughts. He’s just a good-looking, lucky kid, on the cusp of gaining all the money, status, and love he could ever want.

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Dantès at his betrothal feast, about to learn an important lesson about the correlation between Money and Problems

This week, we read up to chapter 20, a totally arbitrary cut-off, but one that worked out wonderfully well. We follow golden boy Dantès until his arrest on trumped up charges, then we follow the conspirators, and the prosecutor who ensures he will stay in jail indefinitely, then we get back to Dantès in jail, and we stop right when it seems his escape is about to be foiled – though we know he must escape, because we still have 1,000 pages to go.

So far, Rick’s prediction that there may not be a lot to “discuss” seems apt. I don’t have an overarching theme to expound on, or a pop culture parallel to draw. So, here are my disjointed observations on this novella-length introduction to Edmond’s story. Continue reading

Who Wrote The Count of Monte Cristo?

Welcome, readers-along! As we start reading on this fine (Canadian) long weekend, let’s ponder what should be a very simple question: who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo?

Here’s the evolution of my answer:

Had you asked me a year ago, I would have said: Alexandre Dumas, dead white dude.

Had you asked me six months ago, I would have said: Alexandre Dumas, dead, but not white, dude. I found Alex on this list of classics by authors of colour, which lead me to choose it for my read along this year.*

Had you asked me a month ago, I would have said: Alexandre Dumas, père, and probably have tried to make a “Big Poppa” joke. I learned that Alexandre Dumas has a son of the same name, also a writer. He’s known as fils. The père designation stuck, though I think there should be some sort of statute of limitations on that, because who’s reading fils theses days?

big poppa

Given what I’ve learned about Dumas, you could probably find him in the back of the club sippin’ Moët too, tbh

Ask me now? I have no idea! Continue reading

Blogging by numbers

It’s time to dig deep, and peel back the layers on Reading in Bed. Yep, we’re looking at blog statistics*!

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When you check your blog stats and realize no one is reading your carefully crafted, 2,000 word review of an obscure backlist book

I recently hit a significant milestone over on YouTube. 500 subscribers. Halfway to an almost-medium-sized-Booktube-account, still absolutely nothing in the larger YouTube ecosystem.

YouTube is all about the “like and subscribe”, but bloggers don’t really talk about follower counts or number of likes. I can easily find out who the big Booktube accounts are (or try the new Booktuber Catalog on Discord, learn more here), but it’s difficult to get a read on book blogs (there’s this list, but it doesn’t differentiate between corporate entities – like, yeah, Book Riot is riddled with typos, but it’s not *actually* a blog).

So in the interest of opening up a dialogue, and because I’m nosy as hell and hope that some of you out there decide to share a bit, here’s a peek at where I’m at with ye olde bloge: Continue reading

The Full Monte Read-Along

I would have posted this much sooner, but I was struggling to find a good name for my momentous fifth summer read-along, in which we will tackle Alexandre Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

Count Along? Count Me In? No. Sometimes you must wait for the muse to show up.

The title is relevant too, because there are abridged versions out there. Do not be fooled. We are going FULL MONTE, people.

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Large and in charge

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Start Where You Are: How to get into new authors, feat. the Man Booker International Prize shortlist

I picked up Book Riot’s “Start Here: Read Your Way Into 25 Amazing Authors” as a free Kobo download a while back, and gave it a skim: each entry offers a short introduction to an author, and a suggested reading list to ease your way into their work. I thought this would be light and entertaining, but I found it all a bit depressing. Much like my experience with The Novel Cure, what’s meant to be a bit of fun comes across as too preachy and prescriptive for my liking. As I keep impressing on my kids: once you know how to read on your own, you can read anything you want and no one can stop you.

 

(Plus, how badly do you think Book Riot wishes it could take back the very first entry in Start Here volume one, on Sherman Alexie? These things don’t always age well.)

Anyway, I was reminded of this particular brand of reading guidance while reading the Man Booker International Prize shortlist. In particular, The World Goes On by László Krasznahorkai and Flights by Olga Tokarczuk are spoken of a bit dismissively – not their best work, not the best place to start. Continue reading

Frankenstein in Baghdad by Ahmed Saadawi: Man Booker International Prize Review

 

frankenstein

I picked up Frankenstein in Baghdad because it was the most accessible book on the longlist (in stock at Chapters!), not because I was excited to read about war. My last war book, Canada Reads contender American War, didn’t go so well, and right off the bat, I noticed similarities. Frankenstein opens with a leaked government document, a top secret report on the activities of the “Tracking and Pursuit Department” in Iraq. American War actually makes great use of leaked documents, transcripts, and newspaper clippings to frame its time-hopping narrative. The author is a former journalist, and probably got a feel for what government documents look like, so they feel really authentic. I didn’t buy it in Frankenstein, though. The language was too plain. Even the “Top Secret” stamp looked amateur.

Luckily, that’s the only such document in the book. The rest is a straight-up narrative set in contemporary Iraq. Frankenstein distinguishes itself from American War in one more important way: it leave room for the reader to think. Continue reading

The Stolen Bicycle by Wu Ming-Yi – #MBI2018 Review

If you have pivoted to video, check out my rambling on this book here.

The Stolen Bicycle

Those who have followed me for a long time know that I’m an ebook (and audio book) advocate. While I acknowledge that the brain processes words differently depending on the source, I maintain that it’s the words, not the format, that matter most when it comes to reading. (And yes, I’m familiar with “the medium is the message”.)

Arguments against reading on screens, and hand-wringing about whether ebooks or audio books “count” as reading, tend to come from a fairly out-of-touch, even ableist place. Also, I don’t like the smell of old books. There, I said it.

HOWEVER. Once in a while there comes a book that’s so attractive in print, that even I question my choices. I bought the ebook edition of The Stolen Bicycle because the print isn’t out in Canada till April 20 (see my previous post for more #MBI2018 options in Canada). Then, I saw what the print edition looks like: Continue reading

The Seventh Function of Language by Laurent Binet – #MBI2018 Review

seventhfunction

The Seventh Function of Language is often described as “The Da Vinci Code Meets _________” (fill in the blank with something higher brow than The Da Vinci Code). I have one too: The Seventh Function of Language is what would happen if David Foster Wallace wrote The Da Vinci Code. Google tells me that David Foster Wallace and Dan Brown attended the same creative writing class at Amherst college, so this collaboration isn’t even as far fetched as it sounds!

The Seventh Function of Language is a buddy cop-murder mystery-political thriller, but it’s also a satirical-but-loving look at French critical theory and post-structuralism in the 1980s. If put on the spot, I would not be able to give a satisfactory definition of either of those things, but one concept that’s relatively easy to grasp is Roland Barthes’ “death of the author”, introduced in his 1967 essay of the same name, that argues that the author’s intentions don’t matter as much as the reader’s. The book opens with the literal death of Barthes – he was run over by a laundry truck in 1980, just after he met with François Mitterrand, who went on to be President of France. In the real world, Barthes’ death was ruled an accident, but Binet asks us to imagine that it wasn’t, that instead it was an assassination, and that every prominent thinker, linguist, writer, and political figure of the time might be involved in a race to learn the secret “seventh function of language”, which would allow the practitioner to persuade anyone to do anything.

Car chases, bombings, poison umbrella stabbings, orgies, and dismemberment ensue. Continue reading

Canada Reads: Who should win, who could win

It’s that time of year again! No, not spring. This is Canada. It’s beautiful in Edmonton today, but the forecast for later this week includes a low of -18 (that’s about zero degrees for you Americans) and snow. No, friends, it is time for Canada Reads.

The drama! The bickering! The relatively-high production values! The distinctly early-aughts reality show vibe!

If you need a primer about what Canada Reads is all about, please visit my YouTube channel where I break it down (short version: Canada Reads = Survivor + Who Wants to be a Millionaire + books)

Here are my picks for who should and could win, based on my previous experience with this show, and this year’s theme: one book to open your eyes. Continue reading