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 “reading”

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.
 
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J
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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

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

Orange is the new black…

Every book is relevant. Say what you will about the author, the character or even the topic but you can’t deny it has its place. But every now and again you pick up one which is like reading a diary. Either your own or someone you know’s, their words, thoughts and expressions in print for everyone to read.

Something so relevant you would swear it had been written for your time, right then and there. Most people feel this way about 1983 or Animal Farm. I discovered I felt this way when I first picked up A Clockwork Orange late last week.

I read it in three days. I felt I was there walking with Alex most of the way. That was my friend who was on the train that he and his gang messed with and took her money, my flatmate was the guy who had his face and library book ruined and destroyed by their gang on the way home. I was the girl who was so terrified of them robbing the house that she didn’t even open her door to them when they asked for help.

For anyone who hasn’t read it, all I can say is read it. Once read, it stays with you for days. Perhaps because I lived in London for three years and saw and heard these gangs every day on the tube and in the street, perhaps because I saw and experienced gang violence once or twice in that time or perhaps because I knew some of these kids in school, or for whatever reason I became hooked on this book.

Written in a hybrid of english teen/Russian slang it’s almost impossible to decipher when you read the first few lines. But before long you’re swimming in their gutter language and relishing this unforgiving, brutal glimpse into their lives.

It’s like watching a car crash in slow motion and there is nothing you can do to stop it. I couldn’t tear myself away from reading when Alex and his droogs ruled the streets with their brutality, or when Alex was being transformed and shaped into a model citizen by the government and or even when the final result caused more chaos then good. I. just. could. not. put. it. down.

It’s a read which is heartbreakingly real, almost tender in some parts and in others, downright stomach turning. It is about lives on the precipice and the big question is if they’ll jump or if someone else will be the ones to push them over. How the author came up with the title is a bit of a mystery to me but what is clear to me is, firstly, orange is the new black and secondly its a book for every generation.

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J

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!”

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

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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

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