Romance, Heroes, and a Re-Reading of Jane Eyre

janeeyrePlease note: there are spoilers in the following paragraphs! If you haven’t read Jane Eyre yet – hang on, why haven’t you read Jane Eyre yet?

Towards the end of last year a strange feeling came over me. With two weeks before my final university assignments were due, in the madness of that final rush to the finish line, in the midst of research, re-writes, and late-night drafting sessions – I felt the strangest desire to re-read Jane Eyre.

At the time, I thought it was odd. Given the amount of reading I had to do for class, it seemed bizarre to me that I would want to add yet another book to my immense reading pile; although, granted, Jane Eyre was somewhat lighter and more enjoyable than my class-related reading, namely Freud For Kiddies (published by the Department for the Elucidation of Freudian Theories of Psychosexual Development, at the University of YouveGottaBeKiddingMe Press, MA, 2011) and The Complete and Absolutely In No Way Abridged, Explicated, or Rationalised Works of Jacques Lacan (University of KillMeNow Press, forthcoming).*

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How to Pick a Classic; Or, Canons and Anti-Canons

contemporary classicsThis month The Classics Club asked us to consider which books, published since the year 2000, we think will become classics in the future.

I’m going to try and be a little bit provocative here (or maybe just plain annoying, take your pick), and say that I honestly don’t know which books will become classics fifty or one hundred years from now. And I’ll go even further and say that it’s probably pointless to try and speculate today what people in the future will value, enjoy, and celebrate. Because let’s face it – it’s impossible to tell. If you’d told our straight-laced Victorian forbears (or, well, your straight-laced Victorian forbears, if you happen to be English) that in one hundred and thirty years everybody would be reading a book about kinky sex (50 Shades of Grey), or that one of ‘the’ modernist novels is about a self-obsessed Hungarian-Jewish-Irishman who masturbates in public and thinks about food a lot (Ulysses), they probably would have quivered from their toes all the way to their big black hats.

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Top Ten Book-Related Problems


We all love books here, but even books are not without their problems. Delayed publication dates, e-reader mishaps, and pages ripped out of library books – I kind of feel like I’ve seen it all when it comes to book-related crimes.

This week, the folks behind The Broke and the Bookish asked us to list our top ten book-related problems, a topic that I can definitely get on board with.

So here goes….

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My Seriously Belated List of 2015 Reading Resolutions; Or, Why I Suck At Making Resolutions

BalloonHey everybody, did you know it’s February already? I certainly didn’t. Sadly, this is not because I spent the entire holiday season sitting on a beach somewhere with an incredibly attractive, shirtless young man, sipping tropical cocktails and wearing an appropriate level of sunblock.

No, once again a lethal combination of personal qualities – laziness, love of food, and a tendency to procrastination – combined with a number of other events – namely an existential crisis brought on by the realisation that I had no idea what to do with my life now that I had finished university – to create an atmosphere of relaxation punctuated by moments of blinding panic as the old year wound to a close and 2015 took over. Also, I really got into Battlestar Galactica. Continue reading

Mary Poppins (1934), by P.L. Travers

marypoppinsThis book is #99 on my Classics Club list and #4 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014.

Well, hello! I do hope that everyone had a lovely Christmas, filled with all sorts of pleasant things. I’m here with a review (finally) of the last book on my Back to the Classics list. After a year with a number of grim reads – All Quiet on the Western Front and Nineteen Eighty-Four, to name just a few – I was glad to finally reach this point. Mary Poppins seemed like the perfect book to end with, promising fun, laughs, and a little magic.

I’m sure that the character of Mary Poppins is familiar to many, thanks to fond childhood memories of Julie Andrews, magic umbrellas, and… dancing hippos? Or was it ostriches? I forget. My sole exposure to the Disney film was a trailer at the beginning of my video copy of The Lion King. At the time, Simba and Nala seemed to me to be infinitely more interesting companions than a singing nanny with a funny hat. Perhaps partly because I didn’t really know what a nanny was yet, and the animated African plains seemed much more interesting than London’s rooftops. Continue reading

Brideshead Revisited (1945), by Evelyn Waugh

Tbridesheadrevisitedhis book is #64 on my Classics Club list, and #1 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014. Please be warned that there are spoilers below, so please revisit Brideshead Revisited before reading my review!

A soldier reminiscing about his past. An ancestral home under threat. An undergrad with a teddy bear and a penchant for champagne. These are just some of the things that you can expect to find in Evelyn Waugh’s 1945 novel, Brideshead Revisited.

But it’s not all stuffed toys and bubbly at Brideshead. Because don’t get me wrong – this is a Depressing Book. Charles Ryder, an army officer in the middle of the Second World War, reminisces about an aristocratic family that he met in the 1920s, while he was an undergraduate at Oxford. At university he met and befriended the eccentric, but lovable, Sebastian Flyte, owner of aforementioned teddy bear and soon-to-be-alcoholic. His relationship with Sebastian introduced him to Brideshead, the country house owned by Sebastian’s family. The novel recounts Charles’ continued connection with the family over two decades, including his eventual relationship with Sebastian’s sister, Julia, and (possible) conversion to Catholicism, the family’s religion. It’s not a cheerful story, and although there are no maimings, scarcely any fist-fights, and very few deaths, reading Brideshead Revisited somehow left me feeling depressed, at times even empty. Continue reading

Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-1818), by George Gordon, Lord Byron

childeharoldThis book is #44 on my Classics Club list, and #2 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014.

Hands up everyone who, like me, thought that Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage was going to be about, oh, I don’t know, a young soon-to-be-knight tramping around Europe and going on grand adventures? I feel like there should be a big sign at the end of the book saying, ‘HA HA. Sucked in’.

Don’t get me wrong, Byron’s first major work is absolutely wonderful – just not in the way I was expecting. It’s been so long since I’ve read poetry that I had more or less forgotten the whole point of the Romantics was less about plot and more about Nature, the individual, the human mind with all its ingenious and imperceptible little nooks and crannies. So I went in expecting some sort of storyline, and found something completely different. Continue reading

All Quiet on the Western Front (1929), by Erich Maria Remarque

allquietonthewesternfrontWarning! There are some pretty big spoilers ahead, so please be careful if you haven’t read this story yet! I’ve tried to be as cryptic as possible, but I don’t know whether I’ve succeeded or not.

This book is #5 on my Back to the Classics list for 2014.

Today I’m deviating from my Austen-inspired posts of the past few months to try and finish the rest of the titles on my Back to the Classics list for this year. There’s less than a month to go before it finishes, so I thought I’d knuckle down and get the rest of my reading done.

I am frightened: I dare think this way no more. This way lies the abyss. It is not now the time but I will not lose these thoughts, I will keep them, shut them away until the war is ended. My heart beats fast: this is the aim, the great, the sole aim, that I have thought of in the trenches; that I have looked for as the only possibility of existence after this annihilation of all human feeling; this is a task that will make life afterward worthy of these hideous years.

(Chapter VIII)*

This quote captures something of the tone of Erich Maria Remarque’s well-known account of a soldier’s life during the First World War. Continue reading

Searching for Jane Austen (2004), by Emily Auerbach

searchingforjaneaustenWell, here it is at long last – the final book I read for this year’s Austen in August readathon. Let’s forget for a moment that it’s already December, shall we?

In the first chapter of Searching for Jane Austen, entitled ‘Dear Aunt Jane: Putting Her Down and Touching Her Up’, Emily Auerbach wonders:

Why … do readers of The Ancient Mariner, A Christmas Carol, and Moby-Dick give little thought to the marital status of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles Dickens, and Herman Melville (or should we call them Samuel, Charles, and Herman)? When we think of Milton’s Paradise Lost, do we wonder about John’s marriages (he had three)? Was there a Mrs Chaucer?
Rudyard Kipling (did he marry? do we care?) felt moved to write a verse tribute in 1926 called not “Austen’s Writing” but “Jane’s Marriage,” beginning with the writer ascending into heaven … Finally “Jane” finds every woman’s true reward: not immortality or pride in her own craft, but Mr. Right.

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Liebster Award

liebsterawardI’m ashamed to admit how long I’ve left this post, but here I am at last! Way back in August Dani from onlybooksandhorses nominated me for the Liebster Award. Thank you so much! I’d like to finally pass it on now, as soon as I get my head out of the sand where I’ve hid it in shame for being so slow.

The rules for the award are simple:

  1. Link and thank the blogger who nominated you
  2. Answer the 11 questions your nominator gives you
  3. Tag 11 other bloggers who have 200 followers or less
  4. Ask the 11 bloggers you nominated 11 questions and let them know you nominated them!

So, first off, the questions:

1. What was the last book that made you laugh?

I’m reading Terry Pratchett’s Unseen Academicals at the moment. It’s hilarious. Continue reading