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Reading Slothfully

I was told in elementary school that I only could read at half the speed for success in college. Oh well, one benefit of slow reading is you get to live with the characters a longer period of time. I read in a vain attempt to better understand people. At my other homes, I'm known as a spouse, pop, guy in the choir, physical chemist, computer/web dilettante and child-care provider. In theory, I'm a published author, if you consider stuff like Quenching Cross Sections for Electronic Energy Transfer Reactions Between Metastable Argon Atoms and Noble Gases and Small Molecules to count as publications. I've strewn dozens of such fascinating things to the winds.

Currently reading

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens
The Way Some People Die
Ross Macdonald
Envy of Angels
Matt Wallace
The Fellowship of the Frog
Edgar Wallace
Code of Conduct (The Jani Kilian Chronicles Book 1)
Kristine Smith
A Good Death
Christopher R. Cox
The Black Cargo
John P. Marquand
A Highland Christmas
M.C. Beaton
Tales from Moominvalley
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton
Moominland Midwinter
Tove Jansson, Thomas Warburton

Cousin Betty

Cousin Betty - Honoré de Balzac I've always wondered about the part in The Music Man, when an imposing woman wanders through spouting "Balzac!" at various points when they're worrying about the degeneration that is likely to happen to young people who don't have proper diversions, like a community band as opposed to things bound to lead to trouble (which starts with 't', that rhymes with 'p' and stands for pool...or something like that—also Balzac starts with 'b' which rhymes with 'p' that....). Anyway, I had the vague feeling that reading Balzac must cause some kind of moral decay. So, a couple of years ago, I hunted up a Balzac book, Father Goriot, and it didn't seem all that racy to me. It was ok, if not first class.

Now that I'm reading Cousine Bette, I'm getting a better idea. People are ruining themselves financially so that they can have mistresses. I'm not much into mistresses myself. I guess I was brought up too much of a Puritan, or Calvinist or something, to understand the appeal.

So, I had problems with this book. It's basically a story of moral decay. Cousine Bette (my spouse, a French teacher, would kill me if I used the barbarous Americanization of her name that was used in the translation I read), is a poor relation. Her "better" relations choose to steal from her when it suits them and ignore her otherwise. She becomes eccentric. Eventually, she takes up with a starving artist type, being his mentor and benefactress (but not his lover). But when her more well-off relations steal the young man for Cousine Bette's niece, she vows retaliation. She begins a covert campaign to ruin the family by having the men all lose their fortunes, and then some, to a young "courtesan", i.e. a high-class 'ho', or mistress, if you will.

I dunno, the book was interestingly enough written, and I suppose one could view it as humorous. For some reason my older sister thought it was hilarious. I would have expected her to have been brought up as much of a Calvinist Puritan as I was.

One other problem I had with the book, which isn't really Balzac's fault, is that there were lots of cultural references—some to Greek and Roman classics, some to historical French culture—that I didn't really understand. So, I'm sure that had I been better educated, I'd have gotten more out of this book. As it is, I think I'm likely done with Balzac.