Posts filed under ‘Classics’
Bram Stoker’s Dracula follow-up The Jewel of the Seven Stars is best-billed as a supernatural Egyptomaniacal Victorian novel. It’s almost unbelievable the lengths to which Stoker went in his novel to make it fit, with blazing accuracy at all points, into all three of those categories. (more…)
What ho, Challengers and welcome to the non-Atwood branch of our current Classic Challenge cycle. We’ll be looking at Maria Edgeworth’s 1800 novel Belinda to start. Here are some questions and themes to consider whilst reading and we’ll reconvene to discuss on August 12 (plenty o’ time to get through this light read!).
1. Consider Edgeworth’s presentation of various female “types.” What do you think she is trying to tell her readers about ideal womanhood? Is she successful?
2. What is the role of Empire within the narrative? (more…)
This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s break-out novel, tells the transparently autobiographical story of one Amory Blaine (aka: Fitzgerald). Amory moves through adolescence, puberty, boarding school, university, and, lastly and most wanderingly, his twenties, all the while musing endlessly on a variety of topics mostly having to do with himself. The book catapulted an unknown Fitzgerald into the upper echelons of literary society at the time and was heralded as a work of genius.
This is all well and good, but what surprised me the most while reading it was its absolute timelessness. Despite some of the inherently historic aspects of the novel (most obviously the “interlude,” as Fitzgerald terms it, of World War I and then Prohibition), Amory’s post-university struggles with who he is, who he should be, and what to make of the world around him still rang wholly true and felt particularly pertinent for this twentysomething. I think the current post-university generation is often perceived as too “self” everything: self-aware, self-absorbed, self-indulgent, etc., but Paradise, if nothing else, vigorously proves that this attitude of self-introspection is hardly a new phenomenon for “the younger generation.” (more…)
Everyone knows they shouldn’t, but we all judge books by their covers. And maybe we should. In today’s publishing world, a good cover represents an investment in the sale of that particular book. If a book isn’t expected to sell well, why would a publisher shell out for a talented cover designer when they can have an intern cobble something together for barely nothing?
A bad cover might also be the sign of a bad publishing company, or a company that doesn’t really care about books in general. But there have been some absolutely stunning cover designs coming out on books from across the spectrum, from classics to popular fiction. (more…)
When I announced this cycle of the Challenge, I was hoping to discover some books that might be considered “contemporary classics.” To that end, I picked a selection of books that combined definite classics—like ones by E.M. Forster, Balzac, and Virginia Woolf—and some newer works that seemed like possible classics contenders—some A.S. Byatt, some Marquez, some Ishiguro. So the question at the end of this cycle, more than at the end of others, must be: what did I find? And was I successful?
Imagine the surprise of this nineteenth century enthusiast to discover that, largely, I actually enjoyed the “contemporary classics” more than the actual classics! (more…)
I’ve decided to try something new with the Classics Challenge this week! As per the schedule, the next two weeks are allotted to A.S. Byatt’s Book Prize-winning Possession. Since Possession is a book so rooted in pure bookishness, academic literary criticism, and intertextuality, I thought it would be nice to take a closer look at specific quotes from the book rather than me coming up with particular questions.
I’ve chosen two quotes from Possession that each bring out a particular issue of reading in general and I hope you will join me in sharing your thoughts about these quotes and issues! As an added bonus, those of you who don’t have time or inclination to join in reading the whole book can still participate by engaging with these quotes.
“I will read the most trivial things — once commenced — only out of a feverish greed to be able to swallow the ending — sweet or sour — and to be done with what I need never have embarked on. Are you in my case? Or are you a more discriminating reader? Do you lay aside the unprofitable?” (176)
“Then I was angry with her, for we do not talk of meanings in this pedantic nineteenth-century way, on the Black Nights, we simply tell and hear and believe…. I do not believe all these explanations. They diminish.” (354-55)
Related Question: Do you agree that reading too much into a text “diminishes” it? Or do you think does the opposite (i.e. adds valuable layers of meaning)? (more…)
It’s French literature time! Next week we’ll return to England (where presumably I will have more intelligent things to say, as I am often at a loss when it comes to France) with A.S. Byatt’s Booker Prize-winning Possession. But until then, we have Chéri by Colette to parse.
Remember that all participants in discussion will be entered in a drawing to win a Penguin Clothbound Classic and that these questions are merely starters. If there is something I failed to mention about the book that you are dying to bring up, definitely do so! I wasn’t terribly inspired by Chéri so undoubtedly there are more interesting things to be said about it.
With that sorry little introduction, away we go!
Obviously, the book deals heavily with issues of youth, beauty, love, and their relative importance in relation to each other. What does it say about the lifestyle of Léa (who personifies love) that Chéri (beauty) ultimately scorns her to be a good husband to Edmée (youth)?
I’m not entirely sure that Chéri was really judging Léa’s lifestyle when he chooses to leave her. In fact, I’m not sure of his motives at all and am quite puzzled. (more…)
And your random nineteenth-century lady-writer of the week is: Harriet Martineau! For me, Martineau has become one of those rare creatures who are able to transcend the experience of the classroom and remain interesting.
Biographically, she was a deaf, female political economist born in 1802 who is most famous for writing a series of “political illustrations” designed to make political economy more understandable to the common man. While these illustrations can be purposefully and painfully obvious in their attempts at education (the characters are extremely prone to have long-winded “conversations”/lectures on the nature and practicality of political economy), Martineau’s other writing, notably her travel narratives, are far less pedantic and thus more enjoyable.
Recently, I’ve been reading her Eastern Life: Past and Present which talks about her journey through Egypt and the Near East in the 1840s. I’ll be the first to admit I have a personal interest in the topic (dissertation!). But even without this interest, she still produced a book which is absolutely fascinating to read with a modern eye towards issues of the British imperialist action in Egypt, European attitudes towards the East more generally, and the writing of travel narratives by women, a fairly transgressive act at the time. (more…)
“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is one of those stories that I always feel like I should have read. It’s the story of a man (the titular Walter Mitty) with an imagination unimpeded by the world around him. Every mundane moment from dropping his wife at the hairdresser’s to picking up some puppy treats is an opportunity to pilot a submarine or perform a complicated surgery. Real-life Mitty is a brow-beaten married man, but the Mitty of his own imaginings can do anything and is always the hero. Not that he would ever brag. (more…)
Hey, Challengers! It’s time for our first Spring 2011 Classics Challenge Discussion Post! You can participate here or at your own blog (just remember to use the above badge if you do so!). Wherever you choose to discuss, all participants will be entered to win a completely beautiful Penguin Clothbound Classic. So definitely go for it!
Next week, we’ll be looking at Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day, which I thought would pair nicely with A Room with a View. As ever, the questions below are just starters, so if there is something you wanted to discuss related to Forster’s book but that I didn’t bring up, definitely comment below! Here we go:
How much “real” Italy to the British travelers really want or expect? How much of Britain intrudes upon their Italy experience? Upon arriving in Italy, Lucy and Charlotte are hugely annoyed that their pension is just like being in London. But later, when they go out for a drive and their Italian driver gets a bit handsy with his lady-friend, the Brits oust the girl for being improper and go off to have, basically, an English country picnic. Do they seem to desire authenticity or just the facade of it? (more…)