Tags: les miserables | mortimer adler | reading

How to Really Read a Book — Including 'Les Miserables'

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Wednesday, 07 Feb 2018 11:32 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Victor Hugo broke the 1260 pages of Les Misérables into 365 chapters, an inviting breakdown that has drawn one reader (me) into reading one chapter each morning starting January 1, 2018, aiming to go right through ‘til December 31 of this same year.

So far it’s been a breeze. One chapter was less than a page. By February 5, I had plowed through 125 pages and finished Part IV of Book Three of Fantine.

It is at its best with a cup of coffee, a bottle of Badoit, and a baguette. (I had thought to begin the reading by stealing a loaf of bread from Whole Foods, but the prospect of 19 years in Riker’s Island proved a deterrent.)

Naturally this daily dip is very different from reading a massive work over several days or even weeks.

I look up words I would have skipped over if merely perusing or Evelyn Wooding my way through a classic.

I looked up “grisette,” for example, and found it was both a mushroom and a working woman. The translator, Charles E. Wilbour, left it untranslated for reasons that must have something to do with a desire to further my learning and get me into the habit of looking up words I don’t know.

I had, of course, read the novel before. Dozens of times, in fact, and each reading in a wonderfully illustrated Classic Comics version I bought for 15 cents in the 1950s.

After each morning exercise with the novel, I report the findings in a posting on The Facebook.

This one, early on:

Chapter II contains the immortal line of the Bishop to the head of the hospital as the clergyman welcomes the doctor to his oversized sumptuous rectory: "There is a mistake I tell you. You have my house and I have yours. Restore mine to me; you are at home." And the palace of the Bishop became the hospital and the hovel that was the hospital became the Bishop's home.

And this somewhat later:

Chapter XXVI. The great scene of the First Book of Les Miserables: Valjean is captured by the gendarmes and brought back to the Bishop's house with the stolen silver where the Bishop tells the police he has given Jean Valjean the plates and the Bishop says that Jean forgot to take the silver candlesticks. The Bishop says to Valjean before he goes off that he has bought his soul for God and that "you belong no longer to evil."

Many years ago I read a book by Mortimer Adler titled “How to Read A Book.” I got it and read it because I saw that Doctor Adler felt the audience he wanted to reach was not the professors but the ordinary Joes or as he then put it, “the Joe Dokeses of the world.”

As it happened, I was sitting one morning in the lobby of The Beverly Hills Hotel reading that very book when Doctor Adler happened across my path.

An apparition, I thought.

I got up from my little couch and went over to him with his book prominently in hand.

“Good morning, Doctor Adler” I said, “Joe Doakes here. Nice to meet ya.”

Tom Messner worked forever in advertising. In politics, he avoided the predictable negative bent and did positive ads for Reagan in ’84 and for Bush in ’88 along with Bush’s convention film. The agency he co-founded created NASDAQ’s first branding, Volvo’s comeback, and Fox News’s “We report. You Decide.” Then learning from the pols he partnered with (Roger Ailes in particular), they brought attack ads to such formerly benign areas such as telecom (MCI). At 73, he’s doing two things he never did before: Blogging here on wildly unconnected subjects coming on the heels of last year’s adventure: the writing of his first play, a musical “Dogs” destined now for either Broadway or The Pound. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.

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TomMessner
Victor Hugo broke the 1260 pages of Les Misérables into 365 chapters, an inviting breakdown that has drawn one reader (me) into reading one chapter each morning starting January 1, 2018, aiming to go right through ‘til December 31 of this same year.
les miserables, mortimer adler, reading
656
2018-32-07
Wednesday, 07 Feb 2018 11:32 AM
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