The lovely people over at The Broke and the Bookish clearly share my fascination with lists (seriously, I really like lists. I’m thinking of doing a ‘Why I Like Making Lists List’) because every week they run a feature called Top Ten Tuesday. There’s a new theme every time, and this week the theme is ‘Top Ten Popular Authors I’ve Never Read’. So I’ve decided to look at the ten popular (classics) authors that I have, for one reason or another, never got round to reading. Admittedly, not all of these authors could be classified as ‘popular’, but on the other hand, they’re the sort of thing people never stop talking about and always pretend they’ve read to impress their dates. So, here we go…
Top Ten Popular (Classics) Authors I’ve Never Read
James Joyce. (Probably for the same reason that a lot of people haven’t read him. The thought of reading Ulysses scares the pants off us.)
The isles of Greece, the isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
-Lord Byron, ‘The Isles of Greece’
Now that I’m back home and going through the depressing delightful process of sorting through the pictures from my trip, I have a feeling the last leg of my journey through Europe will take more than a few weeks to find its way onto the internet. Today I’d like to share just a few little bits and pieces from the country that gave the Western world so much in terms of culture: Greece.
Greek mythology is full of juicy stories and amusing anecdotes. Greek drama became the basis upon which Western civilisation crafted their own plays for hundreds of years. And then, of course, there’s the philosophers, statesmen, and poets that the ancient city of Athens produced. By all accounts, if you had to pick somewhere in the pre-Christian world, ancient Attica was the place to be. So a visit to modern-day Athens is necessarily steeped in centuries of history, not to mention the expectations of the thousands of tourists that flock there yearly. Continue reading →
If you’ve caught sight of my Goodreads to-read list at any time over the past few days (I know, it’s my go-to internet reading material too), you may have noticed a small flurry of new and unusual titles have appeared there over the course of a seemingly regular weekend. The books I’ve added recently might not be the sort of thing you’d expect there; they’re quite a departure from the slew of classical novels, philosophy how-to guides, and academic texts generally selected to make me seem clever and well-read in company. The authors of these newly discovered books don’t seem to have all that much in common. Their interests range from the history of maps and map-making (yes, there’s a book on that) to Australian Aboriginal myth and storytelling.
But there is, in fact, a linking factor; apart from the fact that all the authors I’ve discovered over the past weekend are interesting, well-spoken, and intelligent individuals, they were also all guests at the 2014 Perth Writers’ Festival (cue balloon drop and party poppers). Continue reading →
Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.
-Christopher Marlowe, Doctor Faustus.
I’ve studied both literature and classics for many years. I’ve always loved pottering around ancient ruins, unsuccessfully trying to imagine what they would have looked like in their heyday. So when we decided to go to Turkey, my sister and I agreed we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit a site that had captured our imaginations years before, while we were still wide-eyed first-years at university.
The ancient city of Troy (or Ilium) features in one of the oldest surviving texts in the world; Homer’s Iliad. It’s one of the best-known legends of all time, although Homer doesn’t actually mention the most famous part; the Greek soldiers, after ten years of unsuccessfully besieging the city of Troy, leave a giant wooden horse on the beach where their camp was and sail away. The Trojans, quick to believe that after ten years of a mentally and physically gruelling siege the Greeks simply gave up (my psychology professors would chuckle at this bit), wheel the giant horse into the city. Celebrations ensue. The Trojans get ridiculously drunk. Night falls on the city and everyone lies fast asleep. The Greek soldiers hidden in the horse creep out and open the city gates to let in the rest of the army. Massacres ensue. Troy falls. Continue reading →
A few months ago I read Orhan Pamuk’s Istanbul. I’d been meaning to read something of the Nobel laureate’s work for years, but I’d always expected to start with something like My Name is Red or Snow. I read Istanbul on a whim and was instantly fascinated by Pamuk’s description of a city coloured by the experience of hüzün, or ‘melancholy’.
Then, a few weeks ago my sister and I began planning our trip to Greece, and though neither of us had proposed it, somehow we found ourselves deciding to stop in Istanbul for a few days. Both of us being fans of preparedness when it comes to travel (i.e., paranoid) we spent days reading about the city and its environs. By the time we actually landed we were so full of travel articles urging caution for female travellers in Turkey that we were beginning to regret our impulsive decision to go at all. Pickpockets, harassment, avoiding the city at night; it’s probably not surprising that we scurried back to our hotel as soon as dusk fell on our first night there.
The next day we stepped cautiously outside and began our wanderings. The city was peaceful. The talkative salesmen and restaurant owners had yet to emerge from their respective establishments. Most of the tourists were still sleeping and the stray cats were almost the only company we had that first hour of the day. It only took a little while for us to relax. The tourist area was lovely; beautifully spaced out, you find yourself standing with the ancient Hagia Sophia on one side and the regal Blue Mosque on the other. We spent the morning visiting these main sights and, sufficiently confident by lunchtime that we would make it home alive, crossed the Galatea Bridge. Continue reading →
Now that we’re well into the second month of the new year, I thought I’d get started with my Classics Club list. I decided to start with something Greek-themed, since I was heading to Athens before I began reading. So I chose to tackle two titles: Aristotle’s Poetics (c. 330 BC) and Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (411 BC). The Poetics is on my Classics Club list; Lysistrata is on both my Classics Club list and my Back to the Classics list.
I’ll begin with the Poetics, and not just because I read it first. It is one of the first surviving texts which can be labelled as ‘literary criticism’. In it, Aristotle discusses the writing of poetry in ancient Greece. He defines the different types of poetry (Tragedy, Comedy, and Epic) and the elements which make a successful poem. The Poetics is fairly short, mostly because the second half (which scholars generally agree probably dealt with Comedy) has been lost. The Poetics was very influential in the ancient and medieval world. It’s definitely interesting to see the practice of literary criticism in its earliest incarnation, but if you’re not interested in ancient Greek drama and poetry it can be pretty hard going. Luckily the ideas themselves are expressed concisely, so quite a lot is covered in a short amount of time. Continue reading →
As promised in my last post, I’ve got some juicy tidbits to share from my recent trip to Turkey and Greece. But before I get ahead of myself, I need to finish up the British leg of my journey. I spent an amazing few days in London before Christmas. Of course, not everything I did there was literary-themed. So I’ve decided to write a little recap of my book-related activities, partly because I like to stick to themes and partly because at the rate I’m going now I wouldn’t be done recounting my entire trip until next Christmas. So, here goes:
London, Day 3: The British Library
The British Library isn’t a particularly pretty building from the outside. It’s certainly nothing to the imposing grandeur of, say, the British Museum. But much like one should never judge a book by its cover, the really important stuff is on the inside. The British Library apparently adds about three million titles to their shelves every year, as well as receiving a copy of every book printed in the UK and Ireland. Which is quite a sobering thought when I consider the full-to-bursting state of my Ikea bookshelf back home. Three million books makes my own space-related problems seem pea-sized in comparison. Continue reading →
It’s been a while since I updated here; I’ve been on a whirlwind tour of Istanbul and Athens (more on that later) so I’ve got plenty to tell, but first I thought I’d share the titles for the other challenge I’m attempting this year. The Back to the Classics challenge looks a little less daunting than Classics Club, so I’ve chosen seven categories to tackle, most of which are also on my Classics Club list. So, without further ado…
Back to the Classics Challenge
A 20th Century Classic – Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
A 19th Century Classic – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by Lord Byron
A Classic by a Woman Author – Castle Rackrent, by Maria Edgeworth
A Classic in Translation – Lysistrata, by AristophanesCompleted; review here.
A Classic About War – A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
A Classic by an Author Who Is New To You – A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence Sterne
A Classic That’s Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series - Mary Poppins, by P.L. Travers
Extra Fun Category: Write a Review of the Movie or TV Series adapted from Optional Category [Above] - Disney’s Mary Poppins.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve never seen Mary Poppins, so I thought I’d pick that title for the optional category so that I have an excuse to (finally) watch the movie. Strictly speaking, too, A Tale of Two Cities is not about war; but as the rules say that events like the French Revolution are acceptable for this category, I went ahead and selected Dickens.
I’ve already started on two titles on this list, so stay tuned for reviews!