Classics Spin 9

Question Mark - cover place holder

It’s been a long while since I participated in a Classics Club spin, and I’d been thinking recently that it would be nice if they hosted another one–let someone else decide what I’m reading! As I’ve done in the past, I used a random number generator to make my picks, which led to quite an interesting–and intimidating!–list, I think. Good thing I only have to read one of these. (Fingers crossed it’s not one of the really long ones!)

1. Morrison, Toni: The Bluest Eye (1970)
2. Melville, Herman: The Piazza Tales (1856)
3. Jackson, Shirley: The Haunting of Hill House (1959)
4. Dickens, Charles: Bleak House (1853)
5. Camões, Luís Vaz de: The Lusiad (1572)
6. Ford, Ford Madox: Parade’s End (1928)
7. Swift, Jonathan: Gulliver’s Travels (1726)
8. Atwood, Margaret: The Handmaid’s Tale (1985)
9. Tomasi di Lampedusa, Giuseppe: The Leopard [Il Gattopardo] (1958)
10. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (1952)
11. Asimov, Isaac: Foundation Trilogy (1951-53)
12. Hugo, Victor: Les Misérables (1862)
13. Tolstoy, Leo: War and Peace (1869)
14. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (1932)
15. Marías, Javier: All Souls [Todas las almas] (1987)
16. Kafka, Franz: “Metamorphosis” (1915) and The Trial (1925)
17. Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: The Valley of Fear (1915, Scotland)
18. Verne, Jules: Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870)
19. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White (1860)
20. Vargas Llosa, Mario: The Feast of the Goat [La fiesta del chivo] (2000)

The Classics Salon 1

About a week ago, Saari of the blog Mangoes and Cherry Blossoms posted on her idea to begin a Classics Salon as a way for readers of classics to gather and chat, with the discussion prompted by a rotating series of questions that should apply to any books we’ve been reading, whether finished or not. I love this idea–for the relaxed nature, the allowance for the reader to be in the middle of something that makes it easy to participate, and it just seems so inspirational to me–Saari makes me want to get back to more serious reading. (Really, this slump has to end sometime…..)

I’m a day late this week–yesterday was a bit busy–, but I did want to participate.

What are your first impressions of the current classic you are reading?

Ah, I can’t really answer this about my current reading–all of the books I’m currently reading are either too new to be classics or rereads. Ahem. So I’ll go back to the last two, both of which I read (and blogged about) in January.

Treasure Island was in a sense a reread–my mom had read it to my brother and me when we were little. But I’d never read it for myself and didn’t remember much of the plot at all. I was surprised at how much time was spent early in the novel just getting to sea. With a title like “Treasure Island,” I would almost expect–and it would certainly be true, I think, of more recent novels–that the narrator/protagonist would be at sea almost in the first chapter. Mustn’t wait too long to get to the heart of the matter! But Stevenson knew his story–the adventure and suspense were there from the first page, and the background he set up in the opening part would prove to set the stage for the later sections of the novel.

What is interseting about this question–which I realize when I’m looking back at books I’ve already finished–is that word “first.” My first and last impressions of Pinocchio, another January read, were, I realize now, completely different. The first, though, what was my first impression…? I knew that it would not be like the Disney movie before I ever picked it up. Only a few chapters in, it seemed that it was a comedy. I recall–have in my notes–the fight between maestri Anotnio and Geppetto–they seemed like little kids in their behavior. And when Pinocchio ran away from Geppetto after first learning to walk, I thought that perhaps I was reading a picaresque novel. These were my first impressions. But as I said, I had a different view of the book by the end–where Treasure Island was consistent throughout, Pinocchio proved to be a much more complex novel. It’s interesting to contemplate how sometimes our first impressions can be spot on, but other times they are compelled by experience to change.

Thanks to Saari for hosting the Classics Salon! Check out her blog for her and others’ posts.

Week’s End Notes (24) – Once Upon a Time

 Once Upon a Time IX 

I’ve been in the midst of quite a reading/blogging slump lately. Part work (super-busy until about two weeks ago), part weather (just…winter…), part not quite finding the right book, part other distractions. I’ve only finished one book since January (The Dark is Rising by Susan Cooper), but I recently started rereading Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey, and I think that’s going to be just the thing. I’ve been missing 19th century lit, and didn’t even know it.

There’s also been the persistent idea worrying away at the back of my brain that I want to read some fairy tales, or adaptations. Maybe some writing about fairy tales. Something, I’m not sure just quite what yet. And when I saw–and I confess, I had completely forgotten that it would be coming soon–that Carl is hosting yet another edition of his “Once Upon a Time” event, it seemed that I simply must poke my head back in here and participate. Carl’s events are always fun (the number 1 and 2 rules), they don’t require much–one book is participating–and with the arrival of spring–actually here on time this year!–it seems the timing just right.

Now…what to read?

Wrap-Up: The Classic Children’s Literature Event, 2015


I can’t believe it’s already the start of February! It seems I was just returning to work after a short holiday break, yet a month has passed already. I hope everyone who participated in the Classic Children’s Literature Event this year had as much fun as I did. Thanks to everyone’s posts, I learned about many new-to-me books, and the Pinocchio RAL participants’ posts gave me plenty to think about on top of my own reading of the classic story.

To finish out the month, I’m listing here all the posts I came across over the course of the month. I know some books were read but unblogged, and where I’m aware of them I’ve listed those as well. If I’ve somehow missed you, please let me know! I will update as well if posts are added in the coming week.


Akylina at The Literary Sisters:
The Cuckoo Clock

Carol at journey-and-destination:
The Winged Watchman
: A Life in the Woods

Cleo at Classical Carousel:
The Cabin Faced West
The Forgotten Daughter

Fleur at Fleur in Her World:
Linnets and ValeriansThe Young Pretenders

My Book Strings:
Pippi Longstocking

Plethora of Books:
The Book of Three
A Wrinkle in Time

amanda at Simpler Pastimes:
Over Sea, Under Stone
Treasure Island

Pinocchio RAL:

Amateur Reader (Tom) at Wuthering Expectations  Post 2

Cleo at Classical Carousel

Lory at Emerald City Book Review

Plethora of Books [pre-reading post]

Scott at Seraillon

amanda at Simpler Pastimes


Thanks again for joining in and Happy Reading!

Completed: The Adventures of Pinocchio

Cover: Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, NYRB ed., trans. Geoffrey BrockThe Adventures of Pinocchio
Carlo Collodi
(1881-1883, serialized; published 1883, Italy)
Translated Geoffrey Brock
Introduction by Umberto Eco
Afterward by Rebecca West

After walking half the day, they came to a city called Chumptrap. Entering the city, Pinocchio saw that the streets were full of mangy dogs yawning from hunger, fleeced sheep shivering from cold, hens with no combs or wattles begging for kernels of corn, large butterflies who could no longer fly because there had sold their beautiful wings, tailless peacocks who were ashamed to be seen, and pheasants who toddled quietly about, mourning their glittering gold-and-silver feathers, now lost forever.

From time to time there passed, through that throng of beggars and shamefaced poor, opulent carriages containing Foxes, or thieving Magpies, or nasty Birds of Prey.(Ch. 18)

This sight filled poor Pinocchio with such great and unexpected happiness that he was just a whit away from becoming delirious. He wanted to laugh, he wanted to cry, he wanted to say a mountain of things. But instead he whimpered confusedly and stammered out a few broken and incoherent words. Finally he managed to let loose a shout of joy, and, opening his arms wide and flinging them around the little old man’s neck, he began to yell, “Oh, my dear daddy! I’ve finally found you again!” (Ch. 35)

Had I actually put any thought into it at all, I would have realized that 1) January means snow (= much lengthier driving commutes = less reading time) and 2) I had two crazy-making work deadlines to end January and so I really should have started The Adventures of Pinocchio in December, so that I, the RAL host, wouldn’t be the last one to get a post written. (Eeking it out the last day of January!) Had I had any foresight I would have read The Adventures of Pinocchio last June, mulled it over for a while, and then reread it again for the RAL.

It was, in short, rather nothing like I expected. Different than Disney, yes, that goes without saying, but such a collection of the fantastic and bizarre and wild and religious and didactic and satiric (I think) and the cruel and dark and comic and heartwarming! I do not quite yet begin to know what I think.

Does it help me to know that Collodi originally ended the story at chapter 15, with Pinocchio’s death? Or that children’s literature as separate from adults’ was a relatively new form of writing in a relatively recently unified Italy? In the Afterward by Rebecca West, I learn that Collodi was “basically suspicious of any programs that codified conformity, seeing them as a threat to individuality and personal freedom.” No wonder we can’t make up our minds: is it a didactic book, teaching children obedience, or a subversive one, teaching them that rebellion might have a price but it’s a heck of a lot more fun? Maybe it is not children he is teaching, but rather their parents.

Then the allusions–it seems there are many. Religious, certainly. And West’s afterward points to Pinocchio‘s indebtedness to the great Italian literary tradition: Virgil and Boccaccio and Dante, and so on. I am not convinced I have read a children’s book. But I am not convinced that I haven’t. Maybe it goes over my head because I am not still a child. Maybe Collodi was still writing in an older tradition, one that didn’t separate the children and the adults.

But on the way he felt ill at ease–so ill at ease, in fact, that he took one step backward for every two steps forward. And all the while he was talking to himself: “How can I ever show my face to the good Fairy? What will she say when she sees me? Will she forgive me this second escapade? I bet she won’t forgive me! Oh, she certainly won’t forgive me! And it serves me right! Because I’m a rascal, always making promises to change my ways and never keeping them!” (Ch. 29)

Is Pinocchio fundamentally a religious text, reflecting humanity’s sinful nature in the image of a puppet who wants to do the right thing, who promises to do the right thing, but continually fails? Or is it a story of growing up, a bildungsroman? Is it neither? Amateur Reader (Tom), in his first post, posits that Pinocchio is “murdered” in the end. I am not entirely convinced that the puppet is alive at all in the final chapters of the story, or his friends for that matter. But I am perhaps reading that all wrong. Maybe it goes over my head because I am not still a child. I make it what it is not.

Many thanks to all those who joined me on this journey through The Adventures of Pinocchio. Not only the book, but your posts have given me plenty to think on.

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