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Stories where characters make bad choices are legion. I am not sure I could read a book where the characters never go wrong. How boring would that be? How unlike my own life would that be? I generally sympathize with characters who step off the straight and narrow path because I was not perfect, either. I bond with the rebellious ones in some books. Often, it is the rebel who is right.
I often want to yell, “No, don’t do that? Bad choice! Beware the consequences!”
Or I watch the train wreck with eyes opened wide, horrified. Can the character get back on the right trail? Can he or she even understand they are on the wrong trail? Do they try and just can’t do it? Do they dig the hole deeper and deeper until you can’t bear to watch? Is it ambition? Innocence gone wrong? Fate? When brought to a crossroads of choice, what leads them astray?
Are they proud of doing wrong? Gloating? Insistent? Or profoundly sorry?
Or do they manage to make some kind of amends, change the course of their boat, have some kind of redemption in the end?
Sometimes the choice seems inevitable to the character…that all roads have led to this choice. Sometimes there is no time to think and the character has to act quickly without all the facts. Sometimes there is no good choice and the lesser of evil choices has to be taken.
Sometimes the character is in love. I have often disagreed with a character on the one they chose to love. For example, Nicholas of the House of Niccolo series by Dunnett.
The problem with the examples below is that people may disagree about it being a bad choice. Was Brutus right? Would Caesar have destroyed Rome?
Macbeth: Act 2, Scene 1Julius Caesar
33 Is this a dagger which I see before me,
34 The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee.
35 I have thee not, and yet I see thee still.
36 Art thou not, fatal vision, sensible
37 To feeling as to sight? or art thou but
38 A dagger of the mind, a false creation,
39 Proceeding from the heat-oppressed brain?
40 I see thee yet, in form as palpable
41 As this which now I draw.
42 Thou marshall'st me the way that I was going;
43 And such an instrument I was to use.
44 Mine eyes are made the fools o' the other senses,
45 Or else worth all the rest; I see thee still,
46 And on thy blade and dudgeon gouts of blood,
47 Which was not so before. There's no such thing:
48 It is the bloody business which informs
49 Thus to mine eyes. Now o'er the one half-world
50 Nature seems dead, and wicked dreams abuse
51 The curtain'd sleep; witchcraft celebrates
52 Pale Hecat's off'rings; and wither'd Murder,
53 Alarum'd by his sentinel, the wolf,
54 Whose howl's his watch, thus with his stealthy pace,
55 With Tarquin's ravishing strides, towards his design
56 Moves like a ghost. Thou sure and firm-set earth,
57 Hear not my steps, which way they walk, for fear
58 Thy very stones prate of my whereabout,
59 And take the present horror from the time,
60 Which now suits with it. Whiles I threat, he lives:
61 Words to the heat of deeds too cold breath gives.
ACT II SCENE I Rome. BRUTUS' orchard.The Judgment of Paris
It must be by his death: and for my part,
I know no personal cause to spurn at him,
But for the general. He would be crown'd:
How that might change his nature, there's the question.
It is the bright day that brings forth the adder;
And that craves wary walking. Crown him?--that;--
And then, I grant, we put a sting in him,
That at his will he may do danger with.
The abuse of greatness is, when it disjoins
Remorse from power: and, to speak truth of Caesar,
I have not known when his affections sway'd
More than his reason. But 'tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition's ladder,
Whereto the climber-upward turns his face;
But when he once attains the upmost round.
He then unto the ladder turns his back,
Looks in the clouds, scorning the base degrees
By which he did ascend. So Caesar may.
Then, lest he may, prevent. And, since the quarrel
Will bear no colour for the thing he is,
Fashion it thus; that what he is, augmented,
Would run to these and these extremities:
And therefore think him as a serpent's egg
Which, hatch'd, would, as his kind, grow mischievous,
And kill him in the shell.
Paris grew up unaware of his noble birth. In his late teens, he learned who his real parents were and went to Troy, where he was accepted into the house of his father, King Priam. However, prior to returning to his birth family, Paris had a fateful encounter with three beautiful goddesses. He was tending his sheep one day on Mt. Ida, when he was chosen to judge a beauty contest between the three goddesses (image), Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite. The three goddesses were in a bitter quarrel and Paris was drawn into this feline conflict as the unwitting pawn of the gods, which included Helen’s father, Zeus.The Aeneid, The Trojan Horse
The origin of this divine beauty contest traced back to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis. Eris, the goddess of discord, was furious because she was not invited to the wedding. True to her nature, Eris made trouble. She threw a golden apple into the wedding feast. Inscribed on the apple were the words “To the fairest.” Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite fought for the apple. Each believed she best fit the inscription on the apple. Eventually the three vain goddesses asked Zeus to decide which of them was “the fairest.” Zeus was reluctant to choose. So, he proposed that Paris be the judge. Thus, Paris was drafted to decide which goddess was the fairest of them all.
Back on Mt. Ida, each of the goddesses sought to bolster her chance of winning. Each tried to bribe Paris with a different promise in order to win his vote. Hera promised power and control of a great kingdom. Athena offered wisdom and battle prowess. However, Aphrodite won the apple. She promised Paris the most beautiful woman in the world: Helen.
The Aeneid of Virgil: Book IISamson
"By destiny compell'd, and in despair,
The Greeks grew weary of the tedious war,
And by Minerva's aid a fabric rear'd,
Which like a steed of monstrous height appear'd:
The sides were plank'd with pine; they feign'd it made
For their return, and this the vow they paid.
Thus they pretend, but in the hollow side
Selected numbers of their soldiers hide:
With inward arms the dire machine they load,
And iron bowels stuff the dark abode…
…Laocoon, follow'd by a num'rous crowd,
Ran from the fort, and cried, from far, aloud:
'O wretched countrymen! what fury reigns?
What more than madness has possess'd your brains?
Think you the Grecians from your coasts are gone?
And are Ulysses' arts no better known?
This hollow fabric either must inclose,
Within its blind recess, our secret foes;
Or 't is an engine rais'd above the town,
T' o'erlook the walls, and then to batter down.
Somewhat is sure design'd, by fraud or force:
Trust not their presents, nor admit the horse.'
Thus having said, against the steed he threw
His forceful spear, which, hissing as flew,
Pierc'd thro' the yielding planks of jointed wood,
And trembling in the hollow belly stood.
The sides, transpierc'd, return a rattling sound,
And groans of Greeks inclos'd come issuing thro' the wound
And, had not Heav'n the fall of Troy design'd,
Or had not men been fated to be blind,
Enough was said and done t'inspire a better mind…
Judges 16 (King James Version)The Devil and Daniel Webster by Stephen Vincent Benet
16 Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
2 And it was told the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed him in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him.
3 And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put them upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that is before Hebron.
4 And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
5 And the lords of the Philistines came up unto her, and said unto her, Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and we will give thee every one of us eleven hundred pieces of silver.
6 And Delilah said to Samson, Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee.
15 And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength lieth.
16 And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, so that his soul was vexed unto death;
17 That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother's womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man…
There was a man named Jabez Stone, lived at Cross Corners, NewSir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere: A Fragment
Hampshire. He wasn't a bad man to start with, but he was an unlucky
man. If he planted corn, he got borers; if he planted potatoes, he got
blight. He had good enough land, but it didn't prosper him; he had a
decent wife and children, but the more children he had, the less there
was to feed them. If stones cropped up in his neighbor's field,
boulders boiled up in his; if he had a horse with the spavins, he'd
trade it for one with the staggers and give something extra. There's
some folks bound to be like that, apparently. But one day Jabez Stone
got sick of the whole business.
He'd been plowing that morning and he'd just broke the plowshare on a
rock that he could have sworn hadn't been there yesterday. And, as he
stood looking at the plowshare, the off horse began to cough--that ropy
kind of cough that means sickness and horse doctors. There were two
children down with the measles, his wife was ailing, and he had a
whitlow on his thumb. It was about the last straw for Jabez Stone. "I
vow," he said, and he looked around him kind of desperate--"I vow it's
enough to make a man want to sell his soul to the devil And I would,
too, for two cents!"
Then he felt a kind of queerness come over him at having said what
he'd said; though, naturally, being a New Hampshireman, he wouldn't
take it back. But, all the same, when it got to be evening and, as far
as he could see, no notice had been taken, he felt relieved in his
mind, for he was a religious man. But notice is always taken, sooner
or later, just like the Good Book says. And, sure enough, next day,
about supper time, a soft-spoken, dark-dressed stranger drove up in a
handsome buggy and asked for Jabez Stone.
Well, Jabez told his family it was a lawyer, come to see him about a
legacy. But he knew who it was. He didn't like the looks of the
stranger, nor the way he smiled with his teeth.
They were white teeth, and plentiful--some say they were filed to a
point, but I wouldn't vouch for that. And he didn't like it when the
dog took one look at the stranger and ran away howling, with his tail
between his legs. But having passed his word, more or less, he stuck
to it, and they went out behind the barn and made their bargain. Jabez
Stone had to prick his finger to sign, and the stranger lent him a
silver pin. The wound healed clean, but it left a little white scar.
by: Alfred Lord Tennyson (Author)
from: Poems [by Alfred, Lord Tennyson-1842] (Pp. 206 - 208) 1842
…Then, in the boyhood of the year,Moby Dick by Herman Melville
Sir Launcelot and Queen Guinevere
Rode thro' the coverts of the deer,
With blissful treble ringing clear.
She seem'd a part of joyous Spring;
A gown of grass-green silk she wore,
Buckled with golden clasps before;
A light-green tuft of plumes she bore
Closed in a golden ring.
Now on some twisted ivy-net,
Now by some tinkling rivulet,
In mosses mixt with violet
Her cream-white mule his pastern set;
And fleeter now she skimm'd the plains
Than she whose elfin prancer springs
By night to eery warblings,
When all the glimmering moorland rings
With jingling bridle-reins.
As she fled fast thro' sun and shade,
The happy winds upon her play'd,
Blowing the ringlet from the braid.
She look'd so lovely, as she sway'd
The rein with dainty finger-tips,
A man had given all other bliss,
And all his worldly worth for this,
To waste his whole heart in one kiss
Upon her perfect lips.
CHAPTER 128. The Pequod Meets The Rachel.
… "My boy, my own boy is among them. For God's sake—I beg, I conjure"—here exclaimed the stranger Captain to Ahab, who thus far had but icily received his petition. "For eight-and-forty hours let me charter your ship—I will gladly pay for it, and roundly pay for it—if there be no other way—for eight-and-forty hours only—only that—you must, oh, you must, and you SHALL do this thing."
"His son!" cried Stubb, "oh, it's his son he's lost! I take back the coat and watch—what says Ahab? We must save that boy."
"He's drowned with the rest on 'em, last night," said the old Manx sailor standing behind them; "I heard; all of ye heard their spirits."
Now, as it shortly turned out, what made this incident of the Rachel's the more melancholy, was the circumstance, that not only was one of the Captain's sons among the number of the missing boat's crew; but among the number of the other boat's crews, at the same time, but on the other hand, separated from the ship during the dark vicissitudes of the chase, there had been still another son; as that for a time, the wretched father was plunged to the bottom of the cruelest perplexity; which was only solved for him by his chief mate's instinctively adopting the ordinary procedure of a whale-ship in such emergencies, that is, when placed between jeopardized but divided boats, always to pick up the majority first.
But the captain, for some unknown constitutional reason, had refrained from mentioning all this, and not till forced to it by Ahab's iciness did he allude to his one yet missing boy; a little lad, but twelve years old, whose father with the earnest but unmisgiving hardihood of a Nantucketer's paternal love, had thus early sought to initiate him in the perils and wonders of a vocation almost immemorially the destiny of all his race. Nor does it unfrequently occur, that Nantucket captains will send a son of such tender age away from them, for a protracted three or four years' voyage in some other ship than their own; so that their first knowledge of a whaleman's career shall be unenervated by any chance display of a father's natural but untimely partiality, or undue apprehensiveness and concern.
Meantime, now the stranger was still beseeching his poor boon of Ahab; and Ahab still stood like an anvil, receiving every shock, but without the least quivering of his own.
"I will not go," said the stranger, "till you say aye to me. Do to me as you would have me do to you in the like case. For YOU too have a boy, Captain Ahab—though but a child, and nestling safely at home now—a child of your old age too—Yes, yes, you relent; I see it—run, run, men, now, and stand by to square in the yards."
"Avast," cried Ahab—"touch not a rope-yarn"; then in a voice that prolongingly moulded every word—"Captain Gardiner, I will not do it. Even now I lose time. Good-bye, good-bye. God bless ye, man, and may I forgive myself, but I must go. Mr. Starbuck, look at the binnacle watch, and in three minutes from this present instant warn off all strangers: then brace forward again, and let the ship sail as before."
The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexandre Dumas, Pere
Danglars retreated a step or two. "I wished to inquire why you stopped at the Island of Elba?"Antony and Cleopatra
"I do not know, sir; it was to fulfil the last instructions of Captain Leclere, who, when dying, gave me a packet for Marshal Bertrand."
"Then did you see him, Edmond?"
Morrel looked around him, and then, drawing Dantes on one side, he said suddenly—"And how is the emperor?"
"Very well, as far as I could judge from the sight of him."
"You saw the emperor, then?"
"He entered the marshal's apartment while I was there."
"And you spoke to him?"
"Why, it was he who spoke to me, sir," said Dantes, with a smile.
"And what did he say to you?"
"Asked me questions about the vessel, the time she left Marseilles, the course she had taken, and what was her cargo. I believe, if she had not been laden, and I had been her master, he would have bought her. But I told him I was only mate, and that she belonged to the firm of Morrel & Son. 'Ah, yes,' he said, 'I know them. The Morrels have been shipowners from father to son; and there was a Morrel who served in the same regiment with me when I was in garrison at Valence.'"
"Pardieu, and that is true!" cried the owner, greatly delighted. "And that was Policar Morrel, my uncle, who was afterwards a captain. Dantes, you must tell my uncle that the emperor remembered him, and you will see it will bring tears into the old soldier's eyes. Come, come," continued he, patting Edmond's shoulder kindly, "you did very right, Dantes, to follow Captain Leclere's instructions, and touch at Elba, although if it were known that you had conveyed a packet to the marshal, and had conversed with the emperor, it might bring you into trouble."
"How could that bring me into trouble, sir?" asked Dantes; "for I did not even know of what I was the bearer; and the emperor merely made such inquiries as he would of the first comer.
"We are always in a hurry to be happy, M. Danglars; for when we have suffered a long time, we have great difficulty in believing in good fortune. But it is not selfishness alone that makes me thus in haste; I must go to Paris."
"Ah, really?—to Paris! and will it be the first time you have ever been there, Dantes?"
"Have you business there?"
"Not of my own; the last commission of poor Captain Leclere; you know to what I allude, Danglars—it is sacred. Besides, I shall only take the time to go and return."
"Yes, yes, I understand," said Danglars, and then in a low tone, he added, "To Paris, no doubt to deliver the letter which the grand marshal gave him. Ah, this letter gives me an idea—a capital idea! Ah; Dantes, my friend, you are not yet registered number one on board the good ship Pharaon;" then turning towards Edmond, who was walking away, "A pleasant journey," he cried.
"Thank you," said Edmond with a friendly nod, and the two lovers continued on their way, as calm and joyous as if they were the very elect of heaven.
Act 3 scene XI
EROS. Sir, the Queen.wiki says:
ANTONY. O, whither hast thou led me, Egypt? See
How I convey my shame out of thine eyes
By looking back what I have left behind
'Stroy'd in dishonour.
CLEOPATRA. O my lord, my lord,
Forgive my fearful sails! I little thought
You would have followed.
ANTONY. Egypt, thou knew'st too well
My heart was to thy rudder tied by th' strings,
And thou shouldst tow me after. O'er my spirit
Thy full supremacy thou knew'st, and that
Thy beck might from the bidding of the gods
CLEOPATRA. O, my pardon!
ANTONY. Now I must
To the young man send humble treaties, dodge
And palter in the shifts of lowness, who
With half the bulk o' th' world play'd as I pleas'd,
Making and marring fortunes. You did know
How much you were my conqueror, and that
My sword, made weak by my affection, would
Obey it on all cause.
CLEOPATRA. Pardon, pardon!
ANTONY. Fall not a tear, I say; one of them rates
All that is won and lost. Give me a kiss;
Even this repays me.
We sent our schoolmaster; is 'a come back?
Love, I am full of lead. Some wine,
Within there, and our viands! Fortune knows
We scorn her most when most she offers blows.
Relations within the Triumvirate were strained as the various members sought greater political power. Civil war between Antony and Octavian was averted in 40 BC when Antony married Octavian's sister Octavia Minor. Despite his marriage, Antony continued his love affair with Cleopatra, further straining political ties to Rome. With Lepidus expelled in 36 BC, the Triumvirate finally broke up in 33 BC as disagreements between Octavian and Antony erupted into civil war in 31 BC.Hamlet
The Roman Senate, at Octavian's direction, declared war on Cleopatra and proclaimed Antony a traitor. Antony was defeated by Octavian at the naval Battle of Actium the same year. Defeated, Antony fled with Cleopatra back to Egypt where he committed suicide.
With Antony dead, Octavian was left as the undisputed master of the Roman world. Octavian would assume the title Augustus and would reign as the first Roman Emperor.
Act 4 Scene VII. Elsinore. Another room in the Castle.
Laer. I am lost in it, my lord. But let him come!War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
It warms the very sickness in my heart
That I shall live and tell him to his teeth,
'Thus didest thou.'
King. If it be so, Laertes
(As how should it be so? how otherwise?),
Will you be rul'd by me?
Laer. Ay my lord,
So you will not o'errule me to a peace.
King. To thine own peace. If he be now return'd
As checking at his voyage, and that he means
No more to undertake it, I will work him
To exploit now ripe in my device,
Under the which he shall not choose but fall;
And for his death no wind
But even his mother shall uncharge the practice
And call it accident.
Laer. My lord, I will be rul'd;
The rather, if you could devise it so
That I might be the organ.
BOOK THREE: 1805
It seemed so natural to Pierre that everyone should like him, and it would have seemed so unnatural had anyone disliked him, that he could not but believe in the sincerity of those around him. Besides, he had no time to ask himself whether these people were sincere or not. He was always busy and always felt in a state of mild and cheerful intoxication. He felt as though he were the center of some important and general movement; that something was constantly expected of him, that if he did not do it he would grieve and disappoint many people, but if he did this and that, all would be well; and he did what was demanded of him, but still that happy result always remained in the future.
More than anyone else, Prince Vasili took possession of Pierre's affairs and of Pierre himself in those early days. From the death of Count Bezukhov he did not let go his hold of the lad.
Of his former bachelor acquaintances many were no longer in Petersburg. The Guards had gone to the front; Dolokhov had been reduced to the ranks; Anatole was in the army somewhere in the provinces; Prince Andrew was abroad; so Pierre had not the opportunity to spend his nights as he used to like to spend them, or to open his mind by intimate talks with a friend older than himself and whom he respected. His whole time was taken up with dinners and balls and was spent chiefly at Prince Vasili's house in the company of the stout princess, his wife, and his beautiful daughter Helene.
In the beginning of the winter of 1805-6 Pierre received one of Anna Pavlovna's usual pink notes with an invitation to which was added: "You will find the beautiful Helene here, whom it is always delightful to see."
When he read that sentence, Pierre felt for the first time that some link which other people recognized had grown up between himself and Helene, and that thought both alarmed him, as if some obligation were being imposed on him which he could not fulfill, and pleased him as an entertaining supposition.
The beauty went to the aunt, but Anna Pavlovna detained Pierre, looking as if she had to give some final necessary instructions.
"Isn't she exquisite?" she said to Pierre, pointing to the stately beauty as she glided away. "And how she carries herself! For so young a girl, such tact, such masterly perfection of manner! It comes from her heart. Happy the man who wins her! With her the least worldly of men would occupy a most brilliant position in society. Don't you think so? I only wanted to know your opinion," and Anna Pavlovna let Pierre go.
Pierre, in reply, sincerely agreed with her as to Helene's perfection of manner. If he ever thought of Helene, it was just of her beauty and her remarkable skill in appearing silently dignified in society.
He half rose, meaning to go round, but the aunt handed him the snuffbox, passing it across Helene's back. Helene stooped forward to make room, and looked round with a smile. She was, as always at evening parties, wearing a dress such as was then fashionable, cut very low at front and back. Her bust, which had always seemed like marble to Pierre, was so close to him that his shortsighted eyes could not but perceive the living charm of her neck and shoulders, so near to his lips that he need only have bent his head a little to have touched them. He was conscious of the warmth of her body, the scent of perfume, and the creaking of her corset as she moved. He did not see her marble beauty forming a complete whole with her dress, but all the charm of her body only covered by her garments. And having once seen this he could not help being aware of it, just as we cannot renew an illusion we have once seen through.
"So you have never noticed before how beautiful I am?" Helene seemed to say. "You had not noticed that I am a woman? Yes, I am a woman who may belong to anyone—to you too," said her glance. And at that moment Pierre felt that Helene not only could, but must, be his wife, and that it could not be otherwise.
He knew this at that moment as surely as if he had been standing at the altar with her. How and when this would be he did not know, he did not even know if it would be a good thing (he even felt, he knew not why, that it would be a bad thing), but he knew it would happen.
At length Zeus sent Hermes, his faithful messenger, to the lower world with a petition to Aïdes, urgently entreating him to restore Persephone to the arms of her disconsolate mother. When he arrived in the gloomy realms of Aïdes, Hermes found him seated on a throne with the beautiful Persephone beside him, sorrowfully bewailing her unhappy fate. On learning his errand, Aïdes consented to resign Persephone, who joyfully prepared to follow the messenger of the gods to the abode of life and light. Before taking leave of her husband, he presented to her a few seeds of pomegranate, which in her excitement she thoughtlessly swallowed…DÆDALUS and ICARUS
He therefore resolved to make his escape, and for this purpose ingeniously contrived wings for himself and his young son Icarus, whom he diligently trained how to use them. Having awaited a favourable opportunity, father and son commenced their flight, and were well on their way when Icarus, pleased with the novel sensation, forgot altogether his father's oft-repeated injunction not to approach too near the sun. The consequence was that the wax, by means of which his wings were attached, melted, and he fell into the sea and was drowned.Jason and the Golden Fleece
Argus explained to Jason all the difficulties of the superhuman task which lay before him, and pronounced it as his opinion that the only means by which success was possible was to enlist the assistance of the Princess Medea, who was a priestess of Hecate, and a great enchantress. His suggestion meeting with approval, he returned to the palace, and by the aid of his mother an interview was arranged between Jason and Medea, which took place, at an early hour next morning, in the temple of Hecate.Which characters have you wished you could warn about a choice that is coming? Would the character listen? How would the story be different if the character took a different path?
A confession of mutual attachment took place, and Medea, trembling for her lover's safety, presented him with a magic salve, which possessed the property of rendering any person anointed with it invulnerable for the space of one day against fire and steel, and invincible against any adversary however powerful.
With this salve she instructed him to anoint his spear and shield on the day of his great undertaking. She further added that when, after having ploughed the field and sown the teeth, armed men should arise from the furrows, he must on no account lose heart, but remember to throw among them a huge rock, over the possession of which they would fight among themselves, and their attention being thus diverted he would find it an easy task to destroy them. Overwhelmed with gratitude, Jason thanked her, in the most earnest manner, for her wise counsel and timely aid; at the same time he offered her his hand, and promised her he would not return to Greece without taking her with him as his wife…
Diaries of the Week:
Write On! Let the Games Begin
Hill Country Ride for AIDS amplified
NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early