Flashdance!

T*b*rn*k ! Ma maison est pas une discothèque! Ou alors le service d’Hydro-Québec est possédé du démon! Hier soir, les lumières clignotaient tellement chez moi (mais juste d’un côté de la maison!) que je les ai toutes éteinte pour regarder la télé histoire de pas me taper une crise d’épilepsie. Hé, Hydro vous faites quoi? Je paie pour de la bonne électricité! Imaginez-vous donc que si votre service est pas fiable, mon paiement ne le sera peut être pas lui non plus… Ça fait une coupe de semaines que ça dure (ce matin encore…) et il est temps que ça arrête ou je vas devenir fou!

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Ross Poldark

RossPoldark-cov“Returning home from a grim war in America, Ross Poldark is reunited with his beloved Cornwall and family. But the joyful homecoming he had anticipated turns sour; his father is dead, his estate in derelict,  and the girl he loves has become engaged to his cousin. However, his sympathy for the destitute miners and farmers of the district leads him to rescue a half-starved urchin girl from a fairground brawl and take her home — an act that will change the entire course of his life.”

“Ross Poldark is the first novel in Winston Graham’s sweeping saga of Cornish life in the eighteenth century. First published in 1945, the Poldark series has enthralled readers for over seventy years.”

I first discovered this story through the TV series (the 2015 BBC adaptation with Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson, not the previous 1975 adaptation with Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees) which aired on PBS as part of the Masterpiece show. It is an excellent and beautiful historical drama, very well written and with great actors. It really shows all the aspects of the Georgian era’s society in Cornwall (the westernmost county of England): mostly the sentimental struggle of the main characters, of course, but how they manage to survive at a time when the local mining industry is starting to fail, and how the living conditions of the common people (miners, farmers, fishermen) could be so starkly contrasted with those of the nobility. It also subtlety talks about the political, moral or religious issues of the era. It was all fascinating and I couldn’t resist wanting to see what the books looked like (or at least the first volume).

The book series was written by Winston Graham, who based the story on many aspects of his own life. He was born in Manchester in 1908 but lived in Perranporth, Cornwall, for thirty years (1925-1960). He first met his wife when she was thirteen year-old and the character of Demelza is partly based on her. The series includes twelve volumes which were written in two periods. The first four volumes (Vol. 1: Ross Poldark, Vol. 2: Demelza, Vol. 3: Jeremy Poldark, Vol. 4: Warleggan) were written between 1945 and 1953. In 1973, after a long hiatus, he resumed the series and wrote eight more volumes (Vol. 5: Black Moon, Vol. 6: The Four Swan, Vol. 7: The Angry Tide, Vol. 8: The Stranger From The Sea, Vol. 9: The Miller’s Dance, Vol. 10: The Loving Cup, Vol. 11: The Twisted Sword, Vol. 12: Bella Poldark), the last one being published in 2002, just a year before his death. The first seven volumes are set in the eighteenth century (1783-1799) and depict the life of Ross and Demelza, while the last five volumes, set in the nineteenth century (1810-1820), are centred around their children.

[ WARNING: The following MAY contain traces of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot’s elements before seeing/reading the story themselves are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further. ]

The first volume starts as Ross Poldark (a young British army officer, member of the low and rural English nobility) comes back from fighting on the losing side of the American War of Independence. He has been wounded in the leg and his face is scarred. Unfortunately, he quickly learn that, during his two years absence, his dissolute father has died, their mine has been closed, his two lazy domestic have let his house and domain (Nampara, located near Truro) go into disrepair, and — worse of all — his young fiancé, Elizabeth, believing he had been killed, is now engaged with his cousin Francis! However, he has a strong character and doesn’t despair: he simply roll-up his sleeves, repair the house, plow the land and makes plans to get financing in order to re-open the mine. He is certainly not perfect and has a quick temper but he is a good man, and, seeing the plight of the local villagers, will do his best to help them and always fight for justice. His exceptional social position (privileged but still a gentleman farmer) allows him the move around flawlessly between the social classes, in both the peasantry, the mine workers on one side and the nobility on the other. 

Ross struggles to forget Elizabeth, his first love, and avoids meeting her. He helps his cousin, Verity, in her amorous affair with the captain Andrew Blamey, but it puts him at odds with his family, and deepen the rift with Francis. After the birth of their child, Geoffrey Charles, Francis is gambling too much at the instigation of George Warleggan and Elizabeth is seeking Ross’ help. The family more or less reconciles on Christmas 1787. His choice of Pascoe’s Bank to finance his business (and eventually some personnal enmities) will put Ross on a collision course with George Warleggan, the son of a blacksmith who became a banker and industrialist.

However, the most life-changing event will occur when Ross saves a thirteen year-old girl from a fairground brawl (started over the abuse of her puppy dog, Garrick). He takes her into his household as a kitchen maid and she grows up admiring Ross. But, at seventeen year-old, fearing that Ross could send her back to her abusive father, she seduces him. They will soon after marry despite all the gossips. Ross will slowly learn to love her. She is a coarse young woman but beautiful and, with the help of Verity, will quickly learn the manners of the nobility. She will always see Elizabeth as a rival, but, despite their tumultuous relationship, Ross will somehow be happy. This is as much her story as his.

Winston Graham’s writing is beautiful and easy to read. The story is not only captivating because of its drama, but also because of its description the Georgian society. However, there are substantial differences between the book and the TV series. For examples: Demelza has black hair and not a beautiful red mane like on TV; she boldly seduces Ross in the book while they simply “fall in love” in the adaptation. The book tend to be more realistic in its description, showing more violence and grit, while the TV series is more reserved. But that’s to be expected. On the other side, the TV adaptation shows more easily the beauty of the Cornish countryside. 

I greatly enjoyed reading this first volume (even if I already knew the story), but I am not ready to engaged in the long commitment required by such a large series. However, I strongly recommend it. Also, take note that I read the edition from the superb MacMillan Collector’s Library but there is another edition, the Pan Macmillan media tie-in edition [ Amazon / Goodreads ], which is probably more widely available.

Ross Poldark – A Novel of Cornwall, 1783-1787, by Winston Graham. London: Pan MacMillan (MacMillan Collector’s Library), 2016. 460 pg. £9.99 / $10.00 US. ISBN 978-1-909621-51-0. For readers fourteen year-old and above. stars-3-5

To learn more about this title you can consult the following web sites:

[ AmazonBiblioGoodreadsGoggleWikipediaWorldCat ]

© Winston Graham 1945.

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Nous rêvions de robots

NousRevionsDeRobots-cov“De la terre fertile et tangible d’une enfance agricole ardue, rêveuse et sensuelle, à l’enfermement d’un futur dématérialisé à la suite de la Grande Captation numérique, une femme raconte ses transformations physiques et amoureuses, la persistance de sa nature humaine. Comment conserver la mémoire de l’être et des sensations sur le chemin de la post-humanité ? Comment résister à l’entreprise totalisante à l’œuvre derrière les machines ? Avec Nous rêvions de robots, quelque part entre Asimov et Volodine, Isabelle Gaudet-Labine propose un récit de science-fiction décliné en poèmes, duquel n’est conservé que le plus précieux, le frisson, la beauté et le secret, pour affirmer l’humain.

À l’envers de toi / Philéa-2 zéro-2 / je suis / ce que je ne sais pas…”

[Texte du site de l’éditeur et du rabat intérieur]

Un collègue avait suggéré hier de profiter de l’heure gagnée par le retour à l’heure normale pour lire un court roman. Je me suis dit que ce serait l’occasion idéale pour m’attaquer à ce court recueil de poésie dont j’appréhendais la lecture depuis l’été…

D’emblée je dois avouer que je préfère écrire de la poésie qu’en lire. Toutefois, lorsque j’en lis, je l’approche un peu comme j’approche l’art : je préfère de beaucoup l’art figuratif à l’art abstrait. J’aime comprendre ce que je vois/lis sans devoir constamment l’analyser comme un puzzle. Je préfère donc des poètes lyrique comme Beaudelaire ou Nelligan, dont la lecture évoque des sentiments, des impressions, des souvenirs, des rythmes, auxquels je peux facilement m’identifier, sans nécessairement avoir une trame narrative. Il s’agit d’évoquer des sentiments par allégorie, bien sûr, mais ce que l’auteur veux exprimer demeure tout de même relativement clair même si l’expérience personnelle de l’auteur qui génère ce sentiment ne l’est pas toujours. 

De nos jours, chez les poètes modernes, cette clarté est rarement présente, ce qui fait que j’évite d’en lire. Toutefois, la promesse d’une poésie de science-fiction était irrésistible pour moi et, envahit par la curiosité (et ayant rencontré l’auteure à Boréal l’été dernier), j’ai décidé de tenter l’aventure avec Nous rêvions de robots, par Isabelle Gaudet-Labine.

Malheureusement, malgré tout mes efforts, cette lecture fut ressenti comme une corvée. Les mots n’évoquaient pas de sentiments, et les images ne se formaient dans mon esprit qu’avec difficulté. Mais que veut-elle donc exprimer?

Le recueil est divisé en trois parties. J’ai réussi à apprécier un peu la première, où l’auteure relate son passé agricole, car je pouvais assez bien suivre ce qu’elle tentait d’exprimer. Le présent, envahit par l’informatique, était lui beaucoup plus difficile à déchiffrer et la lecture en était donc dépourvue de plaisir. Le futur robotisé quant à lui était plutôt amusant puisque l’auteure ici tente, non pas d’exprimer des sentiments, mais plutôt de raconter une histoire fictive, à l’aide de ses strophes et de ses rythmes brisées. “Qu’une fiction m’efface / de la Grande Capture / Je deviens fée / dans la forêt des machines

Je ne regrette pas d’avoir assouvie ma curiosité même si l’expérience n’a pas été aussi agréable que j’aurais voulu. Ce ne fut pas une heure perdue mais cela a confirmé ma méfiance envers la poésie moderne. Toutefois si, contrairement à moi, vous savez l’apprécier je suis sûr que vous passerez de bons moments avec Nous rêvions de robots

Nous rêvions de robots, par Isabelle Gaudet-Labine. Chicoutimi: Éditions La Peuplade, septembre 2017. 108 pg. $19.95. ISBN 978-2-924519-57-8. Pour lectorat jeune adulte (16+). stars-2-0

Pour en apprendre plus sur ce titre vous pouvez consulter les sites suivants:

[ AmazonBAnQBiblioGoodreadsGoggleWorldCat ]

© 2017 Isabelle Gaudet-Labine • Éditions La Peuplade.

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C Comme Cthulhu

C_Comme_Cthulhu-covVous tenez entre vos mains C comme Cthulhu, un abécédaire inspiré de l’oeuvre d’Howard Philips Lovecraft. Si ces créations sont indicibles, cet ouvrage est la preuve qu’on peut en revanche les dessiner avec autre chose que de la bave de shoggoth. Les parents peuvent enfin partager leur passion avec leurs larves… euh… leurs enfants, et apprendre en jouant à se faire peur. Sans risquer de devenir fous. Peut-être chèvre (aux mille chevreaux) sur les bords, mais pas fou.” [Texte de la couverture arrière]

J’ai découvert cet album tout-carton en lisant le commentaire de Karine sur Mon Coin Lecture. Un album pour tout-petits basé sur la mythologie lovecraftienne! C’était trop intriguant: il fallait que je vois ça de moi-même. Alors je me le suis réservé sur le site des bibliothèques de la Ville de Montréal. Et voilà! Je vous le commente donc pour l’Halloween

Comme vous le savez tous, un abécédaire est un livre illustré servant à apprendre l’alphabet aux enfants en se servant d’associations mnémoniques entre une lettre, un mot qui commence par celle-ci et un dessin qui représente ce mot. Pour rendre la chose amusante les éditeurs de livres et les éducateurs font souvent preuve de beaucoup d’imagination et, dans le cas de ce livre-ci, parfois à l’excès!

C_Comme_Cthulhu-D-E

Avec C Comme Cthulhu, l’alphabet se décline selon l’univers de H.P. Lovecraft: Alhazred (l’auteur fou du Kitab al-Azif, a.k.a. Necronomicon), Bêêêêê (le cri présumé de Shub-Niggurath, la chèvre noire aux mille chevreaux), Cthulhu (l’inconcevable prêtre des Grands Anciens), Dagon (un autre Grands Anciens, dieu poisson), Écritures Ponapes (texte mythique de R’lyeh), Frissons, Goules, Hastur (un autre Grand Ancien tentaculaire), Innsmouth (ville du Massachusetts où se déroule les cauchemars), John Raymond Legrasse (un inspecteur dans L’Appel de Cthulhu), K’n-yan (territoire sous-terrain en Oklahoma), Lovecraft (Dâ!), Miskatonic (rivière maudite qui donne son nom à l’Université d’Arkham), Necronomicon (le livre occulte qui rend fou), Olmstead (Robert Olmstead, le narrateur dans Le Cauchemar d’Innsmouth), Providence (ville natale de Lovecraft), Q’yth-Az (l’Intellect Crystalloïde, un autre Grand Ancien), R’Lyeh (la cité engloutie), Shoggoth (monstres gélatineux créés par les Anciens), Tiare de Dagon, Ulthar (Contrées du Rêve, peuplée de chats), Vigilant, West (Herbert West, le réanimateur original), Xiurhn (serviteur des Outer Gods), Yog-Sothoth (le Gardien d’entre les Mondes), et finalement Zombies (eh, y-a pas de zombies dans la mythologie de Lovecraft!). Wow!

C_Comme_Cthulhu-N-O

C’est amusant et les illustrations sont “cute” mais est-ce vraiment un album pour tout-petits? A quel public ce livre s’adresse-t-il? J’ai compris quand j’ai vu que le livre est publié par Bragelonne, un éditeur français dédié aux littératures de l’imaginaire (SF, Fantastique, Fantasy). Mais c’est une traduction, publié à l’origine en anglais par ComixTribe en décembre 2014. Il semble que C Is for Cthulhu soit un phénomène en soi, puisqu’il y toute une entreprise créant toutes sortes de produits sur le thème de Lovecraft (livres, t-shirts, toutous, etc). C’est donc un livre à l’intension de geeks, ou plutôt à l’intension des enfants de geeks! Qui ne veut pas apprendre à lire à ses enfants en les introduisants très jeunes à la mythologie de Lovecraft! 

C Comme Cthulhu n’est vraiment pas pour tout le monde. Mais moi j’ai adoré. Cela reste toutefois une curiosité. 

C comme Cthulhu : l’abécédaire Lovecraft, écrit par Jason Ciaramella et illustré par Greg Murphy (traduit par Alain Névant). Paris: Bragelonne, novembre 2016. 26 pp. 14.90 € / $24.95. ISBN: 979-10-281-0152-7. Pour lectorat de 4 ans et plus (!). stars-3-0

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Books of Ours

MBAMOn October 16th, after a lengthy trek in the Mount Royal Park to admire the autumn foliage, we went to the Museum of Fine Arts to have a look at a small exhibition about books of hours. Titled “Resplendent Illuminations” the exhibit displays Books of Hours from the medieval and Renaissance eras (13th to the 16th Century) but the interesting part is that they are all from Quebec (seven private and public collections). The exhibit, born from in-depth academic research, offers more than 50 artifacts (leaves, complete manuscripts, prints) and is held at the MMFA (pavillon Jean-Noël Desmarais – niveau S2) from September 5, 2018 to January 6, 2019.

Created for the Christian faithfuls (not for men of the cloth but for lay people), Books of Hours offered a collection of calendar of holy and religious feasts as well as passages from the gospels and prayers. They were used for devotion but also to learn reading. What’s characterize them however is that they were personalized with family information (births and weddings) and illuminated with miniature paintings (illuminations) illustrating the life of Christ, the saints or the Virgin Mary. Very minute and beautiful art.

It is really amazing that the faithfuls of New France would bring such beautiful manuscripts with them (or order them abroad) to express their devotion and that those books ended up being so well preserved. Unfortunately, to satisfy the thirst of modern collectors, such beautiful manuscripts were often cut open and sold by the pages (to maximize profits). That’s why many of the artifacts displayed are simple folio. I am quite surprise to see that most Books of Hours are so small, usually in duodecimo book format (each folio has been folded four times to make twelve leaves or twenty-four pages). A detail that I didn’t know: some books of hours were produced AFTER the invention of the printing press (c1450)… The exhibit display seven of those, where wood- and metal cuts replaced illuminations.

Catalogue_raisonné_des_livres_dHeuresThe catalog of this magnificent exhibit (and more) has been published (in French): Catalogue raisonné des livres d’Heures conservés au Québec, edited by Brenda Dunn-Lardeau. Québec, Presses de l’Université du Québec, 2018. 468 pages. $48 (softcover)/$55 (hardcover), ISBN 978-2-7605-4975-3. [ Amazon / BAnQ / Biblio / WorldCat ]

It is a small exhibit (only two rooms) but it is quite enlightening and well-worth seeing for all (ancient) books lovers. You really should take the time to go see it.

Here are some pictures that I took as a memento:

First room

Second room

More pictures are available on my Flickr album. View the legends for all pictures after the jump

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Today’s bounty

Today I took a day off at the library to go… visit another library! This afternoon, my wife and I went to the Atwater Library and Computer Center. Founded in 1828 as the Montreal Mechanics’ Institution (the first in continental British North America) to “educate workers for the emerging industries”, it is now registered as charity and acts as a community library, digital learning centre and meeting place. It is a private library but it is opened to everyone (for an annual membership fee of $35 — and, as they say, “[u]nlike municipal libraries, we don’t ask people to show ID documents or proof of their address”). Like all anglophone cultural institutions it relies mostly on donations and volunteer service. It receives over 100,000 visitors annually as it offers “courses and workshops to help young and old master technology in the digital age, (…) literary and educational events, financial literacy sessions, exhibitions on literature and history, (…) and much more.” The library is housed in a heritage building (built between 1818 and 1820) located in Westmount (1200 Atwater Ave., corner of Tupper St.). It is a beautiful place. The floor of the mezzanine is made of glass panels. It has a respectable collections of books and audio-visual documents (nearly 40,000 titles).

Our main reason to visit the library was its Annual Fall Books sale. The donations of documents that doesn’t make it to the library’s collection are sold to help raise funds. There’s a wide selection of new and used books, CDs, DVDs available at very reasonable prices (between $0.50 for paperbacks and $1 for hard covers, to a range of $5 to $20 for larger art books). There was a lot of interesting books, but I had to limit myself because most of them were rather voluminous. I found quite a bounty.

Today's Bounty

It purchased only two books but they were quite a find. First, I got The Complete Cartoons of the New Yorker ($15, a huge book of 11.25 x 13.25 inches, 2 inches thick and weighting about six pounds!) which presents a collection of the editorial and comical illustrations published in the famous magazine since its founding in 1925 up to 2004 (date of publication of the book). I really love those cartoons and can’t wait to read that (although it’s quite heavy to manipulate)! [ Amazon / Biblio / Goodreads / WorldCat ]

Since I am currently writing about Books of Hours, it is quite serendipitous that the second book I purchased was The Belles Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry ($5). It offers colour reproductions (with commentary) of every folio of the beautiful devotional illuminated manuscript (now hosted in The Cloisters Collection of the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art). It was commissioned around 1409 by Jean, duc de Berry to the Limbourg brothers just a few years before they also illustrated the more famous Très Riches Heures for the same patron. It is a very beautiful and amazing book. It will probably take me a while before going through it.  [ Amazon / Biblio / Goodreads / Wikipedia / WorldCat ]

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Pictorial chronicle