I haven’t written about Dickens very often on this blog; in fact, I feel like I’ve downright neglected him. And because this week’s Classic Remarks prompt was about life-changing classics, I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about one of my earliest encounters with classics, and finally give poor Charlie a bit of facetime on this blog.
Jillian tagged me for the Classics Book Tag – thanks, Jillian! So, let’s get on with it. Also, please enjoy this completely unrelated but extremely pretty stock photo I’ve included, mostly because I’ve pretty much tapped out Unsplash’s supply of book-related stock images.
1. An over-hyped classic you really didn’t like?
Le Mort d’Arthur. It’s basically 400+ pages of dudes in chain main slicing one another’s bodily appendages off as if they were made of butter. Pass.
This book is #65 on my Classics Club list.
Right. I didn’t have a whole lot to say about Howards End, so I decided to go away and read some reviews to see what other people are saying about the book. And it seems like all the reviews, positive or negative, seem to more or less agree on a few main points:
1. The novel is about class. Some other stuff too, but people mostly seem to agree that it’s about class. Because there’s three families, and two of them are rich enough and marry one another, and one is not. This is all very sad and tragic and allows Forster to make some profound comments on the way that class works in the twentieth century. Don’t ask me what they are, I just know they’re profound.
This year, the world is going Shakespeare-mad. Or, at least, that’s what British tourism companies and theatre troupes the world over are hoping as we mark four hundred years since the Bard shuffled off this mortal coil, and about four hundred and fifteen years since he wrote the phrase “shuffled off this moral coil”. Last Saturday, the 23rd of April, was the official date, which by all accounts was met with the kind of enthusiasm usually reserved for football matches or the final episode of The Great British Bake-Off.
In Stratford-upon-Avon, the Royal Shakespeare Company held a two-hour event to celebrate the work of Britain’s best-known playwright. As I settled in to watch a show which featured British theatre royalty (and, indeed, some actual royalty too), I began thinking about the way that Shakespeare has settled into our collective understanding of literature, culture, and art.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been ten years since the world was first introduced to angsty love triangles, whiny heroines, and vampires that sparkle in the sunlight. It’s hard to believe that Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight is into the double-digits. It seems like only yesterday that nobody had ever heard of the amusingly named town of Forks, Washington, and the mention of a shirtless Robert Pattinson didn’t fill us all with dread and horror.
So why did I decide to re-read the Twilight series? Couldn’t I have found a more constructive use for my time, like making paper aeroplanes, or teaching myself to draw cartoon iguanas, or learning how to make my own hummus? (Seriously, am I the only person who just cannot seem to get it together on the homemade hummus front?)
The ten-year anniversary of Twilight caught me by surprise. After all, I remember when it came out. I remember reading it. There’s nothing like a little anniversary to make you wonder where the decades go. Still, nostalgia wasn’t the reason I revisited Meyer’s hit book. I wanted to know why people talked about (and still talk about, but less loudly and with a lot less violent gesticulating) these books. More than that, I wanted to know why I – oh boy, here comes the shameful confession – why I loved the book when I first read it, if only for a little while.
Is anybody else’s mind simply blown by the realisation that is is August again, already? Mine certainly is. But August means Austen in August, the super-fun reading event that celebrates everything Jane Austen.
I’ve got a much shorter to-read list this time around, mostly because I don’t know how much time I’ll get to read this month. So I’ve only got a few choice selections:
Emma – this will be my Austen re-read for the month, as 2015 marks two hundred years since its publication (I know, Miss Woodhouse looks simply amazing for two hundred – how does she do it?)Completed (finally); review here. Jane Austen Cover To Cover by Margaret C. SullivanCompleted; review here. Why Jane Austen? by Rachel BrownsteinCompleted; review here. Everybody’s Jane by Juliette WellsCompleted; review here.
As you can see, this year I’m continuing my theme of reading books dedicated to dissecting the Jane Austen phenomenon.
Are you participating in this month’s event? What will you be reading?
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.
Every week the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish prompt bloggers to compose a Top Ten list based on a weekly theme. This week’s theme is ‘Top Ten Favourite Classic Books’. Since I don’t think I’ve actually shared a list of my favourite books yet, I thought today would be as good a chance as any to share some of them with my lovely readers. :)
So here they are, just for you…
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 WaughCompleted; review here. A 19th Century Classic – Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, by Lord ByronCompleted; review here. A Classic by a Woman Author – Castle Rackrent, by Maria EdgeworthCompleted; review here. A Classic in Translation – Lysistrata, by AristophanesCompleted; review here. A Classic About War – A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles DickensSwapped for All Quiet on the Western Front, by Erich Maria Remarque.Completed; review here. A Classic by an Author Who Is New To You – A Sentimental Journey, by Laurence SterneCompleted; review here.
A Classic That’s Been Adapted Into a Movie or TV Series – Mary Poppins, by P.L. TraversCompleted; review here.
- 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!
EDIT 10/12/2014: I’ve decided to swap my ‘Classic About War’. Instead of Dickens, I’ll be reading Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front, which is a little more appropriate, I think, for the anniversary of World War I.
A new year has dawned. The time has come for writing resolutions, starting diets, and vowing to drink less. Since this coming year promises to be more than a little challenging on the university front (among other things I have to write an 18 000 word dissertation on a yet-to-be-decided (and has-to-be-chosen-by-the-end-of-February) topic) I’ve decided I won’t be writing resolutions for 2014. Instead of promising to lose weight, take up yoga, or learn a new language (all things at which I do not excel) I’m going to start one teeny, tiny little reading challenge. I’m taking up the Classics Club challenge, where members elect to read at least fifty classics over the course of no more than five years (see, I told you it was tiny). Since you’re invited to set your own goal, I’ve decided to aim to read one hundred classics by the beginning of 2019. This means that even if I fall behind this year I’ll still have time to make it up in the years to come.
I’m hoping that doing this will mean that come the end of January I won’t find myself in a bookshop, offensively colourful new yoga mat in one hand and celery stick in the other, wearily trying to decide between Do-it-Yourself-Italian and Learn-by-Sound-Spanish, either of which will inevitably end up, one month later, covered in dust and shoved under my bed so it doesn’t clutter up the bookshelf. Instead, I will be reading books that have been on my shelves for years, that I have downloaded for free off the internet, or that I have borrowed from the library (which is a wonderful way of saving shelf-space, though if I’m entirely honest there’s been more than one library book that’s ended up in the dark space under my bed – but only by accident, never by design, I swear).
I can’t promise the results will be pretty, but if you want to follow along with the challenge, here are some links: