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 category “literature”

Home james….

Oh henry james, I just want to go home.. The Wings of The Dove is tortuous.. I’m still going but came across some really well put literature quotes I thought I’d share.

“Literature is a textually transmitted disease, normally contracted in childhood.”
Jane Yolen, Touch Magic
 
“Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts.”
Charles Dickens
 
“The man who does not read books has no advantage over the man who can not read them.”
Mark Twain (1835-1910) U.S. humorist, writer, and lecturer.
 
“Books are the carriers of civilisation. Without books, history is silent, literature dumb, science crippled, thought and speculation at a standstill.”
– Barbara W. Tuchman
 
oh and how I can relate to this one. Hemingway I’ll always be your groupie.
 
“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse, and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was.”
Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961) American Writer.
 
x
J
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a literary lol

A friend of mine, knowing my literature quest sent me some of these and I thought I’d share. Gave me a giggle amid all the seriousness that comes with the being nose deep in the classics.

There really is no escape…

So earlier in the week I went to visit friends in the city and forgot my trusty classic book at home.

Temptation was everywhere. At every petrol station. Every newsagent. Every book store. Fifty Shades of Grey was calling my name, so were many others. But I stayed strong.

I figured a couple of days off wouldn’t do me any harm. But it turns out there is no escape from the classics. Even when your head isn’t burrowed in the pages and immersed in the dramas of another time, another era, another place, it can still get you.

I didn’t realise I wasn’t being stalked until the morning of my departure. I was in blissful ignorance after staying the night at a friend’s house who had just moved in with her boyfriend.

It was only after spending a night with them out to dinner and in front of the tv did I realise, while we might be in a different era, I was looking at a couple of characters straight out of the classics.

One of my all time Jane Austen favourites in fact. How I never saw it before I still don’t know. But now looking back at descriptions of the characters from the book itself, it’s impossible not to draw similarities between them.

Who did I stay with that night? Well none other than Jane Bennet and Mr Charles Bingley.

Anyone who knows who I am talking about, will know just how much this description of Jane (aka Kate) fits her in every way – Austen describes her “as the eldest and most beautifully natured of the Bennets. She is an amiable, naïve, and extremely optimistic young lady whom sees no evil or illness in others.”

Jane is extraordinarily kind-hearted, loves and is loved by young children and thinks no harm of anyone in the world. In Elizabeth’s words, Jane is the kind of person who “likes people in general and people who equally like and love back”

 “You never see a fault in any body. All the world are good and agreeable in your eyes. I never heard you speak ill of a human being in my life,” cried Elizabeth, when her elder sister was praising Mr. Bingley’s amiable and good-humored personality, even though she has just met him once. However, Jane’s excessive optimism blinds her from seeing those obvious illnesses in people: “Jane united with great strength of feeling, a composure of temper and a uniform cheerfulness of manner, which would guard her from the suspicions of the impertinent.” This overly positive attitude towards general human beings made Jane innocent, but at the same time a bit  naïve.

In Charles Bingley, Jane finds an equally matched partner who prides himself on being light, carefree and good-humoured in every situation that life throws at him. He is sunny and friendly to all and rarely meets someone who ruffles his feathers. Unlike Darcy who takes an instant dislike to most. Bingley is his polar opposite, genuinely social by nature and most happiest when those around him are happy and smiling.  And the best part, the most ironic part? Both Charles and Jane meet on the dance floor.

If this doesn’t sum up Kate and her beau then I will eat the very pages from the book I’m currently reading. Sorry for outing the pair of you, but the similarities were just too noticeable to ignore!

This has now left me wondering  what other classic characters are here right under my nose.

So as I sip my coffee and read The Wings of the Dove, I’ll make sure to keep my eyes up and open for any another characters who happen to walk through the door…

x

J

Once a cad, always a cad

So ‘To the Lighthouse’ will sit on the bedside table for a while. I feel I need to lock myself up in a quiet room to read it. Virginia’s prose requires complete and utter concentration. I just don’t have that right now. It’s timing. I promise to come back to it.

So with Virginia on hold indefinitely I decided to give Henry James another attempt to woo me. He did so did so badly with Portrait of  a Lady, I thought I’d give him a chance for redemption. I’m a sucker like that.

I’ ve tried to read Cold Mountain by Charles Fraizer 15 times. Every time I would get stuck just a third  of the way in. I simply lose the will to the turn the page. I’m a bit like that with men. Every cad has his chance with me and sadly Henry is turning into one of them with his offering Wings of the Dove.

Look at those eyes, they feel as though they could look right inside your soul. Almost creepy. Shame his writing isn’t doing that. In fact I’m finding I’m Just Not Into Him.

Sorry Henry. I tried. I’ll keep reading because it’s only fair but rest assured this time it’s definitely you, not me.

x

J

Who’s afraid of virginia woolfe?

To be honest, I am.

I’m trying to appreciate, understand and read To The Lighthouse and instead I find myself getting so annoyed by her. I find myself intimidated by her style. Her prose. Her tendency to jump from one topic to another.

I’m dazed and confused.

I’m not quite ready to concede defeat but fear it may be around the corner. So in a bid to improve my enthusiasm I’ve added some of her quotes that I have always liked. I so would like to come across them soon buried in her prose to inspire me to keep on reading..

The first below is one of my absolute favourites – namely because it is so very true. So much of me and what I’ve seen, felt and known are in my work:

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind is written large in his works.”
“As a woman I have no country. As a woman my country is the whole world.”
 
“For most of history, Anonymous was a woman. “
Sigh…Such great lines from such a great woman, now if only I can learn to love her book..
x

J

catch the drift

It’s been a few days since I put down Catcher In the Rye and I’m still thinking about it.

It’s an addictive read told in the voice of a sometimes angry and nearly always  lost and lazy teenager Holden Caulfield. He is full of purpose yet hopeless at the same time. At every sentence you feel you are on the edge of finding out what he has been driven to do and then it evades you once again.

The every day hum drum detail is told differently through his judgemental and critical eyes. After reading clockwork orange it feels as though I am almost regressing back to what it felt like to be teenager, dying for freedom but having no idea what to do with it.

 I finished it hoping there would be some kind of a sequel, books that end without a conclusion drive me crazy. I always wonder about what happens after and which path the character heads down next.

I’d literally just finished the last page and was looking for some space when I went and got out a film from the DVD store. A movie version of a book I had read a while ago by Lionel Shriver. The film, We Need To Talk About Kevin, featured Tilda Swinton and was about a mother and her paranoid fear that her son was capable of something terrible. And he does. He goes on to commit an inconceivable atrocity.  The film weaves chaotically between past and present, delving into the pain and suffering the mother goes through as before and after,  making it a gripping and heart breaking movie.

I had just put down The Catcher in the Rye only to once again be thrown back in the sea of teen angst and to see just what some teenagers who are lost and destructive are capable of. No wonder Clockwork Orange and Catcher in the Rye are on the top 100 list. They deal with themes that even as adults we still struggle with.

How to find your niche in the world and the cost which comes at losing and gaining parts of yourself along the way. Sometimes it leads to madness, sometimes to success, but all of it can be dictated by one turn or fork in the road.

x

Jess

the view from within..

It’s been far too long between posts and I hang my head in shame. However, excuses aside,I have still been working my way through the classics.

The latest to come my way is E.M. Forster’s A Room With a View, the tale of  Lucy Honeychurch, a young english woman’s travels through Italy. It marks her  passage from an awkward girl, to a woman with a mind of her own.

 But even in her most expressive thoughts and words as she meets two men who represent two very different things to her, there is an overwhelming feeling of repression throughout the book. Restraint of heart, restraint of sentiment and above all repressed sexuality. There is so little done between Lucy and these men that it almost drives you mad. It is about all that is unsaid and left hanging in the air.

Her Italian trip is was meant to be about her coming of age, but instead she is whisked to and fro by her chaperone and barely able to consider her own mind, leading her to an engagement with an insufferable man.

It took me a long time to finish this book, mainly because it makes you feel so very sad. Sad that this girl’s escape and growth, must only be achieved through engagement and marriage. Not through her own personal journey.

It is Edwardian england after all, but a modern girl can still hope that even a character in that time would have the gumption to stay true to her own happiness instead of what she envisions is expected of her.

The book finally blossoms when she returns home and is sent a curve ball by fate. It rewards the reader with why such a book is on the top 100 list. Lucy’s decisions, dreams and thoughts are all turned on its head as she considers her future with a man she once thought would be ideal.

Her alternative paramour, George Emerson puts it perfectly when he declares this about her fiance:

“He’s the sort who can’t know anyone intimately, least of all a woman. He doesn’t know what a woman is. He wants you for a possession, something to look at, like a painting or an ivory box. Something to own and to display. He doesn’t want you to be real, and to think and to live. He doesn’t love you. But I love you. I want you to have your own thoughts and ideas and feelings, even when I hold you in my arms. “

George’s declaration in A Room With a View is enough to make any girl blush and weak at the knees in fact, he makes Darcy from Pride and Prejudice look like a bit of a buffoon.

I swooned and was swept up by the novel as it galloped to its climax which even to the very last pages leaves you unsure as to  how this girl will ever get her happiness or her man for that fact.

I was glad I preserved with it, as some of the prose was among the most romantic and poetic I have read in a long time. The yearning and repression such added fuel to the fire and is enough to catch any reader’s imagination.

With a title like ‘A Room With a View’ most can be forgiven for thinking it’s all about the outside and how it counts. But really it’s about the view from within.

As George says so eloquently:

 “I don’t care what I see outside. My vision is within! Here is where the birds sing! Here is where the sky is blue!”

italian vistas & prose perfection

No sooner have I finished the last, before I’m on to the next…

I must admit I have attempted E.M. Forster’s Room with a View before, but never finished it. This time I’ve jumped in with a renewed appreciation for differing narrative styles. So far I’m really enjoying the way he is conveying Lucy’s naiveté and innocence.

Thought I’d share a quote from him I found in the opening page.  Humble to a fault and I think he puts it well  when it comes to the core of why writers write.

x

J

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

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