romancingtheclassics

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 “April, 2012”

S is for satire and skullduggery

“News is what a chap who doesn’t care much about anything wants to read. And its only news until he’s read it. After that it’s dead.”

For a novel set in the 1930’s, Evelyn Waugh’s satire, Scoop, still has deadly aim when it comes to firing at the heart of the at times farsical, fraudulent and sensationalist nature of the newspaper industry and journalistic profession.

The entire time while I read the book, which is loosely based on Waugh’s stint as a war correspondent for the London Daily Mail, I couldn’t help but draw comparisons between it and the current situation the News of the World and News ltd has found itself in. The scheming, the sensationalism and the attempts to retrieve or drum up news at any cost has revealed just how fall the standards of journalism have fallen, prompting the current Leveson Inquiry into media ethics and journalism practices.

With Waugh’s Scoop, you can’t help but wonder if standards were already pretty low to begin with. He delves into the crumbling credibility of journalism , pulling out what really is at the core of a journalist’s world. Basically, the only concern of a journalists is to file a story that will meet with the approval of their bosses at the newspaper. Their goal is to keep one step ahead of the competition at any cost and will go to any length for a ‘scoop.’ He seems to poke fun at the profession of journalism, implying it is mainly characterised by a disinterested search for the truth. Truth is what they decide it is, not that which can be found.

Call me a cynic, but I used to be a journalist and if I didn’t know it was on the classic list, I would have assumed it was written recently. It is still relevant, entertaining and so thoroughly funny that you can’t help but laugh out loud at some of the situations with unknowing, inexperienced principal character, William Boot finds himself in.  His depiction of the characters are so accurate and deft that I challenge you not to come across them in any news room across the world today.

Waugh who has never revealed who Boot is based on, used his experiences covering the war between Abyssinia (now Ethiopia) and Italy  in 1935 as inspiration for the book, observing closely the activities of his fellow journalists and the length of skullduggery they would go to just to get a pat on the head from the editors, even it was at sacrifice of ethics, truth and welfare of the nation they were reporting from.

This is a book every newspaper reader/news watcher and aspiring writer/journalist should read. People now have more say over what should be in the news today, , Waugh makes us remember just because a headline screams it as news, it doesn’t always make it so.

x

J

The real beast: For those who are keen to read more, check out the interview between Tina Brown (Founder of the online news source, the Daily Beast, inspired by the fictional name sake in Scoop). She discusses  the influence of Scoop and the infamous John Boot in the Guardian .

Will the real John Boots please stand up: If you are keen to get insight into some of the real life models the characters were based on, read the below article on W. F. Deedes who has spent a career dogged by claims he is the real William Boot.

 

ask not what your book can do for you, but what you can do for your book

With it being Anzac day and all thoughts turning to the diggers lost and diggers serving, I thought it would be appropriate to include a few of my favourite quotes which reflect on war and it’s impact.

“And even if the wars didn’t keep coming like glaciers, there would still be plain old death.”Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five, Chapter 1

“The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave but one.”Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, Chapter 21

“Anger was washed away in the river along with any obligation.”Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, Chapter 32

“War is not won by victory.”Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, Chapter 9

“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” George Orwell

“Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.” George Orwell

“Patriotism is usually stronger than class hatred, and always stronger than internationalism.” George Orwell

I couldn’t resist including some of my other favourite quotes on the subject. Reminds you just how evocative and powerful the written word can be in any era.

“Wars teach us not to love our enemies, but to hate out allies.’ Ulysses S. Grant

“War may sometimes be a necessary evil. But no matter how necessary, it is always an evil, never a good. We will not learn how to live together in peace by killing each other’s children.’ Jimmy Carter.

“War is a cowardly escape from the problems of peace.’ Theodore Roosevelt

I think Albert Einstein puts it well when he says: “I know not with what weapons Word War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”

and say what you will about Agatha Christie, but I think she has got it in one with:

“One is left with the horrible feeling now that war settles nothing, that to win a war is as disastrous as to lose one.”

Fitting words to end this Anzac Day and my journey trying to finish a book about a journalist reporting on a foreign war in Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop.

x

J

There’s a classic app for that..

I’m one of the few people who is yet to enter the world of the kindle or e-reader or online book world.

I prefer pages. Books with covers and the more stained and creased the pages are, the better. It shows character. A well read book is a well-loved one.

So it’s with mixed emotions that I heard that a new app has re-worked Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein.

Anything which keeps the classics alive and well in the minds of others is always a good thing, but it does make you wonder about the future of literature. And the printed book in particular.

The new Frankenstein book changes the setting, adds additional anatomical images and has been developed to try to get classic lit more into the main stream.

But it makes you wonder, hasn’t classic literature books always been in the mainstream? It’s the foundation from which books such as Harry Potter, The Help and The Hunger Games all came from. Are we really at risk of forgetting them  altogether if they don’t go online?

It seems so.

 

I’m sure many literature purists back in the day revolted against the first film adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and other classics. Introducing a classic into a new medium is always fraught much emotion.

Somehow though, this time it feels different. It feels like some mediums are consuming others. The digital age appears each day to be swallowing up the much-loved printed word era, crumb by crumb. The thought of one day never having a personal library is enough to make a book nerd like myself break out into a cold sweat.

So while I’m all for the classics and making them groovy again, I think I’ll skip on that App all the same. After all, nothing feels as good as cradling a coffee and thumbing your way through the pages of a good book and I plan on holding on to this feeling for as long as possible

x

J

The Bennets are on You Tube…

What would happen if Elizabeth Bennet had a laptop instead of a pen and diary? Well, something a little bit like this – a literary mash up, classic style.

It follows a bit along the vein of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, in that it takes a literature story and mashes it up with a modern twist.

In this case, Lizzie has access to her own you tube channel where she bemoans her current situation and chronicles her ups and downs with a pushy mother determined to marry off her and her three sisters.

Found it via tubefilter and thought it would be worth sharing for a giggle.

Anything which keeps people talking about the classics is good in my book, no pun intended.

Looking forward to coming episodes 🙂
X
J

Who doesn’t like a teaspoon of irony with their coffee?

Enough Hemingway I’m now onto the sarcastic yet dulcet tones of Evelyn Waugh.

Namely her novel, Scoop. I’ve been a fan of her without actually knowing it. Some of her most known quotes are among my favourites, I just didn’t know they came from her.

So in the spirit of all things Scoop which satirizes the world of journalism I thought I’d share some.

“All this fuss about sleeping together for pleasure. I’d sooner go to my dentist any day. ” – Evelyn Waugh

“Punctuality is the virtue of the bored. .” – Evelyn Waugh

“I did not know it was possible to be so miserable and live. But I’m told it’s a common experience . ” – Evelyn Waugh

And my all time favorite:

“Your actions and actions alone determine your worth.”. ” – Evelyn Waugh

X
J

Which classic character gets you hot under the collar?

While pondering my shamless Hemingway groupie/crush fantasy I couldn’t help but think about some of the literary heart throbs which have crossed the pages I’ve read and that I’m about to read over the next couple of months.

If you could choose one literary heart throb to leap from the pages to save you, which one would it be?

a) Mr Darcy (Pride and Prejudice) – the moody one but still waters run deep

b) Mr Jay Gatsby (The Great Gatsby) – the rich one with emotional baggage and prone to loneliness

c) Mr George Knightley (Emma) – the male best friend secretly in love with the lead female and waiting in the wings

d) Hamlet (Hamlet) – the dark and troubled one with family issues

e) Heathcliffe (Wuthering Heights) – the bad boy who can bring out the worst in the lead character

f) Romeo (Romeo and Juliet) – the passionate lover who every girl family loves to hate

Personally when it comes to Authors, Hemingway is my man but when it comes to literature heart throbs I don’t think you can’t really go past Mr Darcy.

Be interested to hear what others think 🙂

x

J

Hemingway can I be your groupie?

Perhaps in search or inspiration or simply indulging in procrastination, I recently watched Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris. It seemed fitting considering  the film featured many of the writers whose work I have been reading recently.

.

Maybe because I’m a writer. Maybe because I’m sometimes I’m not sure I’m any good. Maybe because I too also dream of earlier times, namely the 30’s and 40’s when men were men and women were women. Or earlier still of the Tudor era. Either way I could really relate to Owen Wilson’s character.

Fear of success. Fear of failure. Fear to make a move in a game of chance with life. Paralysed by your own unknown potential.

It is the plague of writers and artists alike. But Hemingway was different and Woody completely captured it.  Or at least the way I imagine him to be. Everything was so certain. So clear. Including his own feelings on life and writing.

Did anyone else’s hearts beat faster when he came into frame? Mine certainly did. Forget being a groupie for One Direction or any flavour of the month band. I’d be Hemingway’s groupie any day.

When I saw him on-screen it made me think of one of his famous quotes and also one of my most cherished:

How could any modern-day Brad Pitt or equivalent heart-throb compare to Hemingway?

So once the DVD was returned to the rental store I thought to myself, what would Hemingway do?

Write. Of course. And so I did..

x

J

Running with bulls page by page..

Pamplona. Bull running. San Fermin festival. All through the eyes of Hemingway.

I couldn’t imagine anything better. Especially considering I have been to the very festival and places described in The Sun Also Rises.

It felt as though I was walking hand in hand with the man himself as he traversed the seedy underbelly of cafe life and jazz bars in Paris, the Pyrenees and then Pamplona with his affluent group of friends.

Whether its describing the bulls being unloaded from the corals, sparing with bull fighters, fly fishing in the Spanish countryside or drinking himself silly in Paris’s Montmartre quarter, Hemingway somehow makes everything sound autobiographical.

Of all the authors who I’ve come to meet on this epic literature journey, Hemingway has been the most honest. The most unashamedly real. Making his novels completely relatable.

Whether it’s matter of factly describing an anecdote or interchange between men and women, or probing into the lead characters own flaws, he somehow effortlessly makes you feel you are there in the room. As much a part of the story as the wine and gin they drink.

The simplicity of the prose is deceptive. This is a man who believes less is more and makes the smallest sentence deliver the biggest punch.

The story centers around Jake Barnes—a man whose war wound has made him impotent—and the promiscuous divorcée Lady Brett Ashley. Rather than choose a lead female who is either an old nag or an eligible young woman looking for marriage, Hemingway decides upon a vivacious divorcee who is experiencing sexual liberation and independence in post war Paris and not shy in making the most of it. She is not two-dimensional, but five or even six dimensional. Hemingway paints her in so many ways you aren’t sure at any one time if you like her, loathe or are inspired by her.

Yet again, like so many books in this top 100 list, the plot revolves around those with money and the misery they find themselves swimming in as they struggle to make their hopeless and vain existence meaningful.

Brett who even has a male name, embodies the modern woman, leaving broken men in her wake, including Jake who can never consummate his love with her. There is a sense of irony in this, that as one woman finally secures the freedom and power she craves and the men in her life become weaker.

In fact, Brett may be the first cougar to be put into writing. She captures the ardour of a 19-year-old spanish bull fighter in the middle of the festival and romances him into her bed. An impressive feat for any woman. But a divorcee in the 1920’s? I tip my hat to you dear lady..

In the end, what is left is a book with dominated by cougars, bullfighting, sangria, love triangles and debauchery. Could there be a more winning combination?

I doubt it, unless of course Hemingway was to read the story aloud to me himself. That will just have to be relegated to my day dreams. I girl can hope can’t she?

xx

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