The Epic of Sunjata (c. 13th Century), and one other thing.

Before I get into The Epic of Sunjata, a quick note: this week will be entirely mini reviews partly because I've got quite a backlog of reviews I want to write, and partly because I've injured my hand so it's tough to type (it's quite gruesome actually - I slipped on some water in the kitchen, put my hand out to stop myself falling, and landed on a tin full of pencils, one of which, a blunt one I might add, pierced my palm - it is grim and my hand and entire arm feels like its submerged in cold water). Bad timing - I've eight books, five Deal Me In titles, one music post, and two politics post I wanted to write. Music and politics can wait a little while, but I'm sure I can get some mini reviews out this week and catch up, starting with Sunjata.
Finished: 31st July 2019
Length: 160 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮
Sunjata, The Epic of Sunjata, or Sundiata Keita tells the story of Sundiata Keita (c. 1217 - c. 1255), the founder of the Mali Empire. It begins with the prophecy …

Vasari's Lives of the Artists Chapter XII: Piero della Francesca.

Born: 1420
Died: 1492
Based in: Borgo San Sepolcro
Famous Works:

Singer, Isaac Bashevis - The Magician of Lublin (1960)

Finished: 3rd August 2019
Length: 201 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✯✯

Yasha Mazur, the half-Jewish magician of Lublin (in Poland), travels Poland leaving his wife Esther behind to perform magic tricks. He gets embroiled in a number of rather complicated affairs, one of which ends in tragedy. It's a compelling though perhaps overly complex (I thought) study of the psychology of a man torn between an almost bohemian way of life and his faith. There is, despite my struggle with it, a certain beauty to it, though it's hard to find much sympathy with Yasha.

Deal Me In: Round 2

Here's another flitting catch up with my Deal Me In titles: this week titles 17 - 21:

17. The Spike by George Orwell.
18. Marrakech by George Orwell.
19. A Hanging by George Orwell.
20. Sredni Vashtar by Saki.
21. After the Ball by Leo Tolstoy.

Orwell, George - The Spike (1931)
From Essays by George Orwell (Published by Penguin Modern Classics, 1994)
Length: 8 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮

The Spike is one of Orwell's earlier essays that would later be re-written to form chapters 27 and 35 of his 1933 memoir Down and Out in Paris and London. In The Spike Orwell recalls spending the night in 'the spike' - a workhouse - during the period he spent living on the streets as part of research for Down and Out, writing on the fifth, degradation, and dehumanising conditions as well as the boredom of it very eloquently indeed. Here's an excerpt:  It was a disgusting sight, that bathroom. All the indecent secrets of our underwear were exposed; the grime, the rents and patches, the bits of …

Woolf, Virginia - The Diary of Virginia Woolf, Volume 5: 1936 - 1945

Finished: 10th July 2019
Length: 359 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮✮

I knew I left a lot of time between finishing the final volume of Virginia Woolf's Diaries and blogging about them, but I was shocked to see it had been nearly a whole month! I've been blogging as I read with each volume (see the posts on volumes I, II, III, and IV), and now after eight months of reading I have finally finished The Diary of Virginia Woolf. Not that this is a complete version - the Penguin editions, which totals about 1,968 pages, do miss out the years before her marriage and before the publication of her first novel The Voyage Out, but not to worry - these volumes are still very extensive.

So, the final volume. The saddest volume in fact: there is a sense of an ending as early as 1936 - by this stage some of Woolf's closest friends have died, and she loses more as the years pass. One of the best known periods of Woolf's life, the love affair with Vita Sackville West, is long over: Vita is hardly…

Sheridan, Richard Brinsley - The Rivals (1775)

Finished: 8th August 2019
From The School for Scandal and Other Plays by Richard Brinsley Sheridan (Penguin; 1988)
Length: 93 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮

The Rivals was Sheridan's first play and it's a fine start I'd say, not least for contributing a new word to the English language: malaprop or malapropism, defined as "The mistaken use of a word in place of a similar-sounding one, often with unintentionally amusing effect, as in, for example, “dance a flamingo” (instead of flamenco)", comes from Mrs. Malaprop, the guardian of Lydia who is one of the central characters. Here's an excellent example: Observe me, Sir Anthony. I would by no means wish a daughter of mine to be a progeny of learning; I don't think so much learning becomes a young woman; for instance, I would never let her meddle with Greek, or Hebrew, or algebra, or simony, or fluxions, or paradoxes, or such inflammatory branches of learning—neither would it be necessary for her to handle any of your ma…

Lord Chesterfield's Letters to His Son on the Art of Becoming a Man of the World and a Gentleman (1774)

Finished: 6th August 2019
Length: 480 pages
Rating: ✮✮✮✮

This is a brilliant book to read for two reasons - one for what is written, and the other for what is not. It's a collection of letters written by Philip Stanhope, 4th Earl of Chesterfield to, for the vast majority of the time, to his illegitimate son Philip Stanhope. They were written between 1728 to Lord Chesterfield's death in 1773, and the letters to Philip between 1739 when Philip was just seven years of age until his early death in 1768 (five years before his father; he was 36). 
On the face of it, the letters are fatherly advice on the themes of education, reading, travel, proper behaviour, women, character - in a small way they reminded me a little of Seneca's letters but with a strong edge of Jean de la Bruy√®re's Characters. That he was at pains to give his son advice and eager to guide him in the ways of the world was quite touching, but there was one part that set alarm bells ringing for me on the subj…