One girl's journey to read the top 100 literature classics of all time in the space of 365 days, a quest for only the most foolhardy and brave

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

that is not a fish, this is a fish…

Call me a speed reader but as soon as I dropped lord of the flies I picked up Mr Hemingway’s ‘Old Man and the Sea’.

It must be said I’m a Hemingway groupie from way back. He makes me swoon the way most girls experience facial paralysis and loss of body control when they perve on Channing Tatum in ‘The Vow.’

He, Hemingway that is not Channing, creates prose that is like literary porn for book nerds such as myself. In the words of Depeche Mode, I just can’t get enough.

The old man and the sea has always been a perennial favourite of mine so it was like taking a bath in chocolate to read it again. Every line reminds me of childhood fishing adventures. Casting a line, the rocking of the ocean, the silence, the beauty of just becoming part of the landscape.

While small, it is an epic book. One man and his enduring battle. Against the sea, against odds, against himself and against a magnificent fish.

With every page you can practically hear the lapping of the ocean against his boat, feel the film of salt against your skin, the sting of the line cutting into your palms and the sense of apprehension and excitement that comes when a line screams off the bow.

Every man, woman and child whether they are a fisher or not should read this book.

Has there ever been an author like Hemingway? I’m not sure, it could be why five of his books are on the top 100 list.

So with Easter around the bend, rather than indulge in a chocolate binge I’m going on a Hemingway gorge fest. Next up is The Sun Also Rises.

Let the overdose begin!


Castaway for kids…

Think of the film Castaway only instead of Tom hanks, it’s the group of bullies out of Stephen King’s Carrie novel who are stuck on an island, they are pint sized, meaner and crazier.

That basically sums up Golding’s ‘Lord of the flies’. Of course not all of the boys are bullies but it’s what happens while watching them try to govern themselves that is what is most intriguing.

They become afraid and when fear strikes they start to become primal and more prone to manipulation by the powerful members of the group.

Golding has a flawless childlike imagination which makes you feel he is one of them and you can feel the suffocating paranoia as all semblance of civility breaks down.

The use of fear and violence in the fight for control is something that is echoed over and over again in the world today. It’s sobering to see young boys tragically play this out, acting the way adults have done for years in international and domestic conflict.

It’s a challenging read but a rewarding one. It takes a talented writer to not only tell a story but have the reader live the story at the same time. I would normally never pick up a book like this but found myself loving it and finishing it in two sittings.

This book was written more than 58 years ago and it is still relevant and long may to continue to be. It’s kind of success every author dreams of.

I can’t imagine anything more satisfying or fulfilling than having your writing be relevant and meaningful to others..

Wishful thinking…

I wish I was reading the new Jane Green book…

I wish I was reading the Hunger Games series…

Instead I’m reading…

Recipe for a classic with a twist…

Take one mixing bowl and add:

– A scrawny, guileless and gutless American soldier/optometrist, an alien abduction and World War II

– Add a sprinkle of time travel and stir until well combined

– Fold in a loveless marriage, a fatalistic attitude and a life-long nemesis and knead until a soft consistency

– Cook in an oven on medium heat for 2 hours and then leave to cool

– Season to taste and sample the final result in one sitting – Kurt Vonnegut’s, Slaughterhouse Five

I suppose I should have known when I first bought it that it was going to be an unusual read. I only had to mention the title before the shop assistant became incredibly animated. He literally jumped on the spot and rattled off a raft of sci-fi authors and other works by Vonnegut. In between his breathless enthusiasm he got out that Slaughterhouse was one of his favourites and what did I think of it? Was I re-reading it?

When I told him that I’d never read any of his work before and that I was just re-educating myself on the classics he dropped me like a hot plate. I read his face instantly. ‘She’s not one of my people.’

I practically had to force him to take my money for the book. I knew then, that this book wasn’t going to be any old classic book to tick off the list.

It was better.

Think The Time Traveller’s Wife┬áset in WW2 with an alien abduction thrown in along the way. It’s beyond strange but completely enjoyable. The Time Traveller’s Wife simply pales in comparison.

Told from the view of a timid, often gutless and cowardly man, the book keeps coming back to the idea that life does not end with death, instead its about the living of moments. So as the plot develops it jumps back and forth, as Billy, the main character keeps reliving his time and time again.

It’s a fascinating read and I have deliberately not picked up another book since I finished it last Friday. I just wanted to savour the taste it left in my mouth. The thoughts and questions it probed at the reader really made me think about the past, present and future and all that intertwines.

How Vonnegut came up with the idea and flow of the book baffles me entirely. I’m struggling just with one linear story and plot. A jumble of experiences which flit back and forth in time would be overwhelming to try to capture and put into words.

It was one of the few books I’ve read that is written and told exactly the way life actually is. A jumble of experiences, moments and thoughts. All happening at once, with memories of the past interfering with the present and future.

It makes you think about everything that has led to the makings of who you are, small as well as dramatic moments and experiences. It made me think about what has turned me into the aspiring writer I am today and that the only thing stopping me from becoming not only an author but a successful one, is me.


The damned and the vain…

I have to admire F.Scott Fitzgerald for a couple of things:

1) For being able to write a book where every character is despicable

2) for shining the spotlight on the very class from which he is from, showing them as nothing more than frivolous and soulless

3) For pointing out that when youth is fading, money is little consolation

Ordinarily I wouldn’t have picked ‘the beautiful and the damned’ off the shelf. Sure the heading is interesting but one quick skim of the blurb is enough to put me off.

It goes: a pretty rich girl partners up with a rich man. By rich, meaning he’s never had to work a day in his life and doesn’t intend to. He plans to be a man of leisure. Partying and decadence are their daily routine until the money starts to dry up and their marriage crumbles along with their youth.

It’s interesting watching their lives implode but what is disturbing is in all this turmoil not a single redeemable feature comes to the fore.

They drown in self-pity, vanity, shallowness and weakness.

They weren’t built to survive hard times only the good times.

While it’s set in the 20’s I can’t help but think how it’s still relevant today. How many young people who get married, often do so with the intention of enjoying the good times but when the tough or bad times arrive they cut and run.

They might not be rich, but somehow they still have the weakness in character and the vanity to go along with it.

There is one point in the book where the vain, silly stupid wife, Gloria, drives herself mad with her obsession with her looks –

“there was nothing she had said she wanted except to be young and beautiful for a long time and to have money”. Pg 244

” oh my pretty face, I don’t want to live without my pretty face! Oh what’s happened?”. Pg 354

Her obsession with beauty is enough to make you feel ill, but times haven’t changed much have they?

Perhaps the biggest coupe de grace is that both Gloria and Anthony nearly drive themselves mad in the battle for his $10million inheritance, but it’s only when he actually wins that Anthony goes clinically insane.

An ironic touch by Fitzgerald. If there is one thing he is good at, it is in peeling back the layers or lack of in characters and showing what they are really made of.

In this case they are made of nothing more than flour and egg, dashed away when the rains arrive.

When u read a book like this it makes u look at your own life to take your own measure. And I’m pleased to say the only egg and flour you’ll find on me is if I’ve been baking


Next one – slaughterhouse five by Kurt Vonnegut

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