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 “Writing”

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

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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!”

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.

 

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

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.

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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

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..
X
J

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