• Books

    Classics Club September 2013 Meme

    Rereading a favourite classic at different stages of your life gives you different insights with each reading. Is there one classic you’ve read several times that also tells a story about you? CC

    Hmm, I’ve only recently started rereading things. When I was younger, I never reread books, but now I’ve hit my mid to late twenties, I’ve begun to rewatch my favourite childhood TV shows. I’ve reread the Harry Potter and the His Dark Materials books a couple of times, but not the classics yet. I plan on my rereading one of my favourite classics Anna Karenina maybe in another 5-10 years. I reread some of Austen’s works every few years too. I don’t know if they tell a story. I definitely appreciate it more and perhaps in different ways.

    I like to space the classic rereads out partly out of time, but also it is true that you need to read them at different ages in your life.

    If I were to delve into reading fantasy books, I like escapism, other worlds and nostalgia. I am also a romantic really.

    How about you?

  • Books

    The Classics Spin 3

    Classics ClubThe Third Classics Spin from the Classics Club. As with before, I must pick twenty books, then a random number will be selected and each of us must read the number listed at X number by October 1st 2013.

    These Spins are really useful because other challenges, reads, and activities have taken me away from the classics this year.

    I have mostly kept the same books as I did my earlier Spins, but added a couple due to new acquistions or already read works. My challenge is that I own almost every one of these books so I must read them to clear my TBR shelf.

  • Books

    Classics Club August 2013 Meme

    Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your enjoyment/understanding of the work? – Classics Club

    I rarely read forewords/notes before I read the book. I actually prefer to read classics and analysis after I read a work. It makes me appreciate the book more. That way, I can reread passages that the Foreword/Notes reference.

    I do not always read the Forewords though, but I am doing it more often with classics. They do make it more enjoyable.

  • Books,  Movies

    On the Road by Jack Kerouac

    This is one of those novels that seemed almost like nonfiction. It is based on Kerouac’s actual journeys across America so a lot of it was probably real. The inconsistency and wildness seemed too strange to be fiction at times. I don’t know what is fact and what is fiction.

    I liked Kerouac’s style early on. Sal the protagonist is observant, perceptive and largely optimistic about life. The novel is set in a time just right after the war and even with all the drug use, sex, and madness, there is a certain innocence of America in that time. It was before the Cold War became central, the 1960s, Vietnam and the turbulent decades for America’s loss of innocence.

    It took me longer than read this book. I was a bit stuck one third and half way through the book because while many things do happen in the book, there isn’t a formal plot per se. It meanders with vignettes which did not make me likely to pick it up.

    The use of stream of consciousness increased in the book as well. There were times when I felt things were getting worse as the book wore on. There were the same adventures over and over. Sometimes, it felt sadder by the chapter.

    The end with Mexico was interesting though, and in general, I liked Kerouac’s writing. I would read his works again.

    Read June 23-30 2013.

    On the Road (2012)

  • Books

    William – an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton

    Is a book a classic when no one has heard of it? I looked on Goodreads and reportedly only about 55 people have rated/read it on that website. A classic should not defined by notoriety, but by its relevance over time. Does this book warrant that title?

    I added this book to my Classics Club selection and my Spin List. I had bought it at least four or five years ago at a used book fair. It was only $1 and it was a well made little book that came with a dust jacket. The book was originally published in 1919, authored by someone I had never heard of, but I really bought because the binding was so lovely. It didn’t look like anyone had read more than once if at all.

  • Books

    The Classics Spin 2

    Classics Club

    The Second Classics Spin from the Classics Club. As with before, I must pick twenty books, then a random number will be selected and each of us must read the number listed at X number by July 1st 2013.

    These Spins are really useful because other challenges, reads, and activities have taken me away from the classics this year.

    I have mostly kept the same books as I did my first Classics Spin. My challenge is that I own almost every one of these books so I must read them to clear my TBR shelf. I removed Walden since that was what I read last time, and took out Wives and Daughters if only because I really want to read North & South before that. I added Cannery Row by John Steinbeck and Lois the Witch by Gaskell instead. I think I own the latter; I can’t remember because I’m at work at the moment.

  • Books

    Walden by Henry David Thoreau


    I have mixed feelings about this book.

    On the one hand, I think Walden’s ethos and philosophy is largely positive and relatable for me. His views on the appreciation of nature, solitude, and civil life are good and important. I think more people should do the things he recommends.

    On the other hand, this book was hard to read. Much harder than I thought it would be. I realized that not many people I know offline and online have read Thoreau’s work. Yes, he is often cited for his subversive views, but how many people today actually do read Walden? I’m sure some people gave up, and I almost did a couple of times.

    I liked the content, but I was bored by the style and delivery.

    I read this for the Classics Spin and it took me ages. I put it away for nearly a month because it did not engage me. Philosophy in general can be hard to read, but he is sometimes less forthright cut about it than Plato or the Enlightenment philosophers. I think this book would have been improved if there was a plot or more concrete examples. It was as if I was reading a long diary entry in Thoreau’s life. He meanders and his style changed.

    Most of this book is not actually about civil disobedience or vegetarianism, it’s largely about nature. Long, overwrought passages on nature. I actually don’t think Thoreau is a bad writer, but there was something incredibly dull about most of this book. Too much waxing poetic. I remember many a number of pages on lakes and ponds and rivers.

    In the beginning of the book, I did find Thoreau was erudite, intelligent and true, but at the same time, I found him florid, pretentious and bourgeois. This was the first 10% of the book, the rest he just talk about nature, solitude, and his neighbors. I am not sure if it was the time frame, but that should not be a problem since I have read so many nineteenth century books, but not necessarily philosophy. There was sometimes a feeling of insincerity in his words or slight arrogance about his knowledge of the world. He was only about 30 when he wrote this and I can see that his relatively young age can have contributed. He had not travelled very much and it shows in this book. I also suspect he was sarcastic at times.

    Should other people read it? I think parts of the book and certain quotations make provocative reading such as the last section of Civil Disobedience. I think it is also a good book about history and the setting in which he wrote it because Thoreau is clearly intelligent. In terms of reading this for fun, I really do not know many people who should actually enjoy this book.

    Or maybe I am blind to how good his prose was, but for me, this was not the most memorable reading experience even though I did agree with Thoreau at times.

    Read on Kindle from February 27th to April 12th 2013.

  • Books

    The Classics Club Monthly Meme – March 2013

    Do you love Jane Austen or want to “dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone”? (Phrase borrowed from Mark Twain).

    Why? (for either answer)?
    Favorite and/or least favorite Austen novel? – Classics Club March Meme

    I love Jane Austen. Here are a few reasons:

    1. Characters and character development. Most of her lead characters well rounded, flawed, and engaging. Furthermore, they learn things and grow with the progression of the novel.
    2. Her subtle social commentary especially in regards to gender and societal norms as it applies to Regency England. Even now, I can relate to some of the things she wrote two hundred years ago. Austen understands women and writes about women in an intelligent manner.
    3. Following up on that, her proto-feminist and strong female protagonists. Elizabeth Bennet rejects two marriage proposals, Elinor Dashwood has sense and is realistic about money, and while Anne Elliot falls prey to other people’s influence at first, she develops her own sense of worth by the end of the novel. Quora has an answer on Austen’s heroines with feminist ideals.
    4. As a result of her strong female leads, the romances in her books are believable, touching and intelligent. All the couples have realistic conflicts such as timing and misunderstanding, but they overcome them in the end and are better people for it. Emma and Anne both knew their partners when the novel began, but neither would have would have become entangled if they didn’t learn a thing or two in the process.
    5. Austen’s writing style is witty, humorous, and perceptive. She is immensely rereadable and clever without being heavy. She was a one of the first to use first indirect discourse which is discussed on another Quora answer about what makes her a great author (love Quora).

    As for favourites, I’ve enjoyed all of her novels, but Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion are the ones I read first and have reread most, followed by Sense and Sensibility, Emma, and Northanger Abbey. I wouldn’t be against rereading Mansfield Park, but I’m not itching for it; I just read it last year. I do think her characters in that lacked the character development that I liked so much in the other novels.

    I understand Austen is not everyone’s cup of tea for many a reason, but the above summarizes why I like her. I definitely don’t force her on anyone, but reading her books have been rewarding for me.

    Happy March, everyone!

  • Books

    The Classics Spin!

    Classics Club

    There is a new challenge at the Classics Club where you pick twenty books, then a random number will be selected and each of us must read the number listed at X number by April 1st 2013.

    Of course, the book selection must challenge you. My challenge is that I own almost every one of these books so I must read them to clear my TBR shelf. I have been having problems controlling the propagation of my book shelves. I need to read more books before I buy more.

    I’ll update this post next Monday to announce which book I will read.

    1. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
    2. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
    3. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
    4. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
    5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
    6. William-an Englishman by Cicely Hamilton
    7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell
    8. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
    9. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
    10. Don Quixote by Cervantes
    11. Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
    12. Nicholas Nickelby by Charles Dickens
    13. A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    14. Walden by Henry David Thoreau
    15. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
    16. Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
    17. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
    18. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
    19. The Complete Poems by T. S. Eliot
    20. The Return of the the Native by Thomas Hardy

    What’s on your spin list?

  • Books

    Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant

    Bel-Ami by Guy de Maupassant

    I started reading this book in original French while living in France in the summer of 2010. I managed one chapter and then I had to return to the local library. I try to read one French book a year, but it’s more like I read one French every three years. This was the last French book I tried to start and I tried reading it over two years ago! With the Classics Club, I thought I would revisit this classic of French literature.

    French is not necessarily an easy language to read and an even harder language to write. I have been lucky that my comprehension in French has always been good since I took immersion as a teenager, but even then, I am not completely fluent in reading in it.

    People were telling me that the best way to read in another language is to read books translated into said language, but there are not many books that I want to read in French since many of them are in English or in the older, original French. One of my favourite French authors is Dumas, but I have largely read his books in English though I have reread some of the Count of Monte Cristo in French.

    I read much slower in French than in English. I can’t quantify how much slower, but this book in English would have taken me one weekend day. I read the chapters in French then skimmed Project Gutenberg’s translation to verify.

    This is a novel about Paris social life in the 19th century. Paris has and always will be an all-consuming place. The protagonist is very poor at the start of the story. Georges Duroy is apparently extremely good looking, charismatic, ambitious, but he also seems to be stupid and easily becomes conceited even at the beginning. It is funny to read in the beginning how transparent the characters and their motivations are. It is very much a critique of Paris life and a political satire. While the story is unique to the setting, a lot of the themes of social climbing, intrigue, and sex are still happening in political circles across the world.

  • Books

    The Classics Club – November 2012 Meme

    The Classics Club November 2012 Meme Question:

    What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

    Since I grew up with classics, they are not really intimidating to me. I think it was a bit daunting when I first started in my adolescence with the serious reads, but since then, it’s been natural to read the classics.

    I think the classic I am closest to being intimidated with is Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I don’t really get scared by long reads, but this is the longest novel in literature with 1.5 million words. Secondly, I rarely hear of other people actually reading this work. People will go on about how long Ulysses and War and Peace are, but rarely do I read about people willing to read Proust’s magnum opus. It makes me a bit a curious to read it for the challenge. Also, since it’s in French, I’d also be tempted to read at least part of it in the native language to since from all I can gather, Proust was a great writer. The novel doesn’t seem particularly exciting though, but I do like some modernist works so there is a good chance that I’d like at least one volume of it.

    How about you? What’s an intimidating classic for you?

  • Books

    Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

    This book was epic. Once again, I was conflicted about giving it a 4 or a 5 on Good Reads. As with before, the deciding factor was if I would reread it again. I wouldn’t be against reading it, but then again, I’m not planning on it. It was frustrating and very long at times, but there is no doubt that this is a well written book in many ways and a classic.

    I started reading this book September 20th, but I really didn’t read much of it until the last weekend of September wherein I read 70% of the book from Saturday to Tuesday October 2nd.

    The Beginning: Not that bad, easy going, lots of exposition, lots of idyllic life of the antebellum South.

    The Middle: Gripping, dark, and compelling. This was when I started to really hit my next page button.

    The End: Scarlett gets more and more cruel, ridiculous and unbearable. Book just ends a bit abruptly.