The rest of the spring -- needless to say, I haven't gotten to either Vargas or Berlioz.
Three short works by Novalis, the main founder of German Romanticism:
(a) Novalis, "Monolog"  2 pages, in German
The "Monolog" is just a short discussion of language and poetry; it's interesting for its analogy of poetry to mathematical equations.
(b) Novalis, Die Lehrlinge von Sais [1802, posth.] 33 pages, in German
Die Lehrlinge comprises two small fragments of an unfinished novel. The first chapter, "Der Lehrling", introduces us to the character of the "novice", recounts the fable of Hyazinth and Rosenblume, followed by a vision of stones in the temple talking about the mystical harmony of nature. The second, "Naure", begins with a historical sketch of ideas about Nature from antiquity on (couched in unclear allusions), has another vision of people discussing a war against Nature in allegorical terms, and ends with a conversation between three strangers who discuss Nature in a very obscure philosophical way, which is probably based in part on Fichte's system of Transcendental Idealist philosophy. The whole is very confused and difficult to understand; the only thing that is comprehensible at all is the fable, which was originally written separately. Apparently the point of the book was going to be a discussion of the different approaches to understanding "Nature", from the standpoint of naive experience, scientific nature study, practical exploitation, and "poetry" as a mystical experience. I can't really see this becoming a novel.
(c) Novalis, Die Christenheit, oder Europa  19 pages, in German
If Die Lehrlinge was unclear, this unpublished article for the Athenaum is all too clear, and shows how Romanticism at its beginnings in Germany (as at its beginnings in France with Chateaubriand) was an obscurantist religious reaction against the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, and the modern world. Novalis presents an idealized picture of a Middle Ages in which the Catholic Church and its invariably wise priesthood resolved all conflicts and maintained peace and unity of humanity, defending the poor against the rich and protecting faith against "premature" science. This utopia was destroyed by the Reformation, which (despite the heroic but unappreciated labors of the Jesuits) ushered in the modern era of atheistic selfishness and greed, leading up to the ungodly French Revolution. But all is not lost; both the remnants of the papacy and the Protestants will disappear; the Germans, as the intellectual leaders of Europe, will save the world with mystical religious poetry, and a new "Council" will re-establish a new Christendom which will attract all the countries of the world.
As Romanticism developed, it became a more diverse movement, and the later Romantics (e.g. Victor Hugo) were not all as reactionary as Novalis, but there always remained the kernel of mystical religion and the fascination with the (idealized) Middle Ages; which is why I have never particularly liked this style of literature.
Novalis, Heinrich von Ofterdingen [1802, unfinished] 370 pages, in German
This unfinished novel was a major influence on the Romantic movement in literature. I really can't understand why. Novalis was apparently planning to rewrite the whole thing when he died. As it stands, it is hardly well-written; the various episodes are not connected into a whole, and the allegories are not clear without additional information from his journals and letters. It reads more like a thesis about poetry than a work of literature; apart from the fable, there is no conflict, internal or external, and the many conversations are just monologues where the characters never disagree with one another. I admit I'm not the most objective judge, because I disagree with his entire outlook and have never been a fan of Romantic literature, but I at least expected a better presentation than this from such a famous and influential work.
Ludwig Tieck, "Novalis' Lebensumstände"  11 pages, in German
Curt Grützmacher, "Zum Verständnis der Werke" 26 pages, in German
A biographical sketch by his friend and fellow-Romantic Tieck, and an explanation of the works by the editor; these make the novel as nearly understandable as it could ever be for me.
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Bookshop  110 pages
The first book I've read by Fitzgerald. I was impressed by her writing. This is the story of a widow who tries to start a bookstore in a small town on the coast of Sussex, England. Basically a realistic fiction, there are possible supernatural aspects which are not overly emphasized, and social apects which are central but not too heavy-handed. I'm looking forward to reading more of her books.
I'm starting to winnow my books in preparation for moving into a smaller house; I decided to donate some of my older books to the library, including my Doctor Who collection, but thought I would read the ones I hadn't ever gotten to first. Kind of a nostalgia trip; I haven't looked at these for more than ten years, since my roommate at the time and I watched the show on PBS, about the one TV show I ever enjoyed (I've never had a television myself, or wanted one.) I came in on the fourth Doctor (Tom Baker), then the fifth (Peter Davidson), and then they went back to the third (Jon Pertwee). After that I moved and never saw any of the others. This is also a quick way to get caught up on my numerical goal for the year!
Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who: The Space Pirates  132 pages
The second Doctor (Patrick Troughton) whom I never saw on television, with Jamie and Zoe; this is from when the show was still oriented to an audience of younger children. Pure space opera. Terrance Dicks wrote the largest number of the novelizations, especially of the older shows; he's not a particularly good writer, but these aren't meant as great literature.
Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who: Meglos  126 pages
The fourth Doctor, with Romana. I vaguely remember seeing this one. Meglomaniac alien creature wanting to rule the Galaxy is foiled by the Doctor.
Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who: Four to Doomsday  128 pages
The fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan. I don't remember this one. Meglomaniac alien wanting to take over Earth is foiled by the Doctor.
Eric Saward, Doctor Who and the Visitation  121 pages
The fifth Doctor, Adric, Nyssa, and Tegan. This is one I saw. I'm not sure if it was before or after the previous show. (The books weren't published in order.) Megalomaniac aliens wanting to take over Earth are foiled by the Doctor.
Terence Dudley, Doctor Who: The King's Demons  153 pages
The fifth Doctor, Tegan and Turlough. Set in the reign of King John. Another one I remember vaguely having seen.
Terrance Dicks, Doctor Who: The Caves of Androzani  135 pages
The fifth Doctor, Peri. The last episode of the fifth Doctor, and the last one I actually saw. Somewhat interesting plot, big business and war. (It should be obvious that what I liked about the show wasn't the plotlines, but the humorous dialogues and the essentially humanist outlook so different from American television science fiction like Star Trek and its clones.)
Eric Saward, Doctor Who: Attack of the Cybermen  140 pages
The sixth Doctor (Colin Baker), Peri. The second episode of the sixth Doctor. Still fairly close to the show as I remember it. Aliens trying to take over the Earth are foiled by the Doctor.
Stephen Wyatt, Doctor Who: Paradise Towers  143 pages
The sixth Doctor, Mel. Another interesting idea, the Great Architect.
Ian Briggs, Doctor Who: Dragonfire  144 pages
The seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Mel (last appearance), Ace (first appearance). Near the beginning of the seventh Doctor (third episode).
Paul Cornell, Love and War  235 pages
The seventh Doctor, Ace, Bernice Summerfield (first introduced). This is one of the Virgin Books "New Doctor Who Adventures" which were published after the (original) show was cancelled, and which carry the story on from the last episode (so they are not actually episodes of the show.) Not being constrained by what can be (or at least was) actually shown on television, they are more sophisticated psychologically and more adult in the writing style; judging by this example, they are also less humorous, and seem to have a somewhat different idea of the Doctor's character (although since I never saw the last Doctor, this is just a guess).
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Gate of Angels  155 pages
My second book by Penelope Fitzgerald, this is basically a love story, set in Cambridge (the University in England) in 1912. The male protagonist is a Junior Fellow in Physics, whose father is a Rector (a kind of clergyman); the background is the early development of quantum theory and the positivist philosophy of Ernst Mach. The female protagonist is a poor girl from London trying to become a nurse, so there is some implied social criticism. The ending is ambiguous. Interesting and well-written; nothing too heavy, more of a long short story than a novel, but definitely worth reading.
Penelope Fitzgerald, The Blue Flower  204 pages
A biographical novel about the poet Friedrich (Fritz) von Hardenberg, better known as Novalis, covering essentially the period of his relationship with Sophie von Kühn. The period is well-described in minute but natural seeming detail (one of Fitzgerald's greatest strengths as a novelist), and the secondary characters are well-developed, especially (as in her other books) the female characters, although there seems to be too easy a dichotomy between "strong" and "weak" women (Sidonie and the Mandesloh vs. the two mothers). On the other hand, the character of Novalis himself didn't really come alive for me. I may be prejudiced because I don't particularly relate to his poetry or other writings, but often he seems to be out of focus, or just off-screen as it were, with the interest divided among the other characters. The book does show where he was coming from, especially his idea that a revolution in imagination should replace revolution in reality. Definitely a book worth reading, whether or not you are interested in Novalis or German Romanticism.
Gaston Bachelard, The Psychoanalysis of Fire [1938, tr. 1964] 115 pages
I discovered this fascinating little book more or less by accident.
Gaston Bachelard is somewhat of an anomaly; in the great schism of modern philosophy early in the twentieth century, the (Austro-)Anglo-American tradition took as its "portion" logic, language, and philosophy of science, while the Continental tradition largely took social philosophy and metaphysics, but Bachelard was a philosopher of science within the Continental tradition, almost the only one.
His philosophy of science is naturally very different from anything else I've read; while the A-A-A philosophers at the time were essentially concerned with normative issues of logic and epistemology, with how we "ought" to do science -- later with Kuhn and company it turned toward sociological and socio-political description -- Bachelard was concerned with psychological apects of scientific investigation, what he describes as "the psychoanalysis of objective knowledge."
His point is that the scientists' theorizing is influenced by pre-scientific "complexes" derived from the experience of "reverie", which must be subjected to a form of "psychoanalysis" to be able to free oneself from these complexes and observe phenomena objectively. In this book he focuses on the various ideas relating to fire, and identifies pre-scientific groups of ideas which he calls the "Prometheus complex", "Empedocles complex", "Novalis complex", and "Hoffman complex", and traces them in early modern physical and chemical theories of the nature of fire.
While I wouldn't want to evaluate his overall theory based on such a short book, his discussions of the various ways that people experience fire, and the use of fire in mythology and literature is quite interesting and full of insights.