The Classics Club

And the Title Is….

 

Cover: Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell

With #4 spun, it looks like I’ll be reading Mary Barton over the next few weeks (hopefully!). It’s been a while since I’ve read Gaskell, but I do really like her, so I’m excited for this one. And it will be nice to get back to some Victorian literature; it’s been quite a while.

Looking forward to a short work week, too—hopefully some extra reading time to get this started.

Happy reading!

The Classics Club

Another Classics Spin

Question Mark - cover place holder

If at first you don’t succeed….

This is apparently the 16th Classics Club spin. I don’t know how many I’ve attempted, and it’s been even fewer I’ve completed successfully (maybe one?), but it seems always worth the try.

Actually, I’d been thinking just the other day that’s it’s been a while since I’ve really read any books to sink my teeth into, or even any 19th or early 20th century fiction. (Of course, then I remembered that I read Twenty-thousand Leagues Under the Sea this summer, which I keep managing to forget.) So as it happens, this spin is quite timely. Because I’m craving some 19th or early 20th century reading, my spin list is largely from the middle of my Classics Club list, and I’ve left it in chronological order. I’m rather rooting for #1, Lady Susan, as I pulled that out for a reread a few weeks ago, though I haven’t gotten to it yet. But really, anything here would be good, especially as the bulk of the books are currently on my shelves just waiting to be read!

And you, are you spinning?

  1. Austen, Jane: Lady Susan (England, c. 1794)*
  2. Austen, Jane: Emma (England, 1816)*
  3. Brontë, Anne: Agnes Grey (England, 1847)
  4. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Mary Barton (England, 1848)
  5. Gaskell, Elizabeth: Cranford (England, 1853)
  6. Trollope, Anthony: The Warden (England, 1855)
  7. Collins, Wilkie: The Woman in White (England, 1860)
  8. Hardy, Thomas: Far From the Madding Crowd (England, 1874)
  9. James, Henry: The Turn of the Screw and Other Short Fiction (U.S., 1878-1908)‡
  10. Tolstoy, Leo: The Death of Ivan Ilyich and Other Stories (Russia, 1886-1912)
  11. Wilde, Oscar: The Picture of Dorian Gray (Ireland, 1891)*
  12. Wells, H.G.: The Time Machine (England, 1895)
  13. Wharton, Edith: The House of Mirth (U.S., 1905)
  14. Cather, Willa: Death Comes for the Archbishop (U.S., 1927)
  15. Faulkner, William: The Sound and the Fury (U.S., 1929)
  16. Gibbons, Stella: Cold Comfort Farm (England, 1932)
  17. Huxley, Aldous: Brave New World (England, 1932)
  18. Bromfield, Louis: The Farm (U.S.-Ohio, 1933)
  19. Wright, Richard: Native Son (U.S., 1940)
  20. Ellison, Ralph: Invisible Man (U.S., 1952)
Reading

Completed: ‘Salem’s Lot

As I ease my way back into blogging (i.e., struggle to remember that I’m supposed to take some time to actually write about books), I recalled two things:

1) I never remembered to “close out” my Readathon post. If you’re deathly curious, I managed 248 pages over 6.25 hrs of actual reading time. Which, admittedly, in a 24-hour period doesn’t sound like a lot, but a) I was unfortunately rather sleep-deprived heading into readathon and b) for me that’s rather good lately. Those 248 pages included rereads from Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (‘textbook’ version, not the movie screenplay version) and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, both by JK Rowling, plus a good chunk of Blood Crime by Catalan author Sebastià Alzamora (accidentally timely, given the recent political upheaval in Catalan/Spain).

2) I had a draft of a post I had started this summer for a book that, given the “spooky season” we are just departing seemed completely appropriate to finish up and share now. [Yes, I’m a little behind. I’m calling this progress.]

‘Salem’s Lot
Stephen King
US, 1975

Cover: 'Salem's Lot by Stephen King (mass market paperback)I picked ‘Salem’s Lot off my bookshelf this past summer on a whim—I was looking for something that would read quickly, to kick-start me back into better reading habits, but also a “gown-up” book to convince myself that I was capable of reading anything more complex than Beatrix Potter. (Slow reading spring, can you tell?) Though long, it worked—I found I could fly through pages even in just a short sitting, which is often all I have available.

‘Salem’s Lot is Stephen King’s vampire novel, an exploration of the idea “what if Dracula arrived in the 20th century US?” As such, it is—King acknowledges—heavily indebted to the 1897 Bram Stoker novel. But even with my fond familiarity with Dracula (I’ve read it twice) and the clear direction of the story—I had a fairly good idea shortly in who would/wouldn’t survive—I found it compulsively readable.

This was actually my first King novel, and really one of my few forays into the horror genre. I didn’t find it particularly frightening or even chilling; perhaps I’ve been jaded by the realities of actual events, but I find I am frightened not by fictional monsters, rather the real ones. Interestingly, King investigates this: some characters struggle to accept the reality of vampires in their community, because aren’t vampires fiction? Which forces the reader to realize, hey I might not be scared by this book, but if vampires really DID exist, really DID have such power—would I recognize it in time? More importantly, the vampires are ultimately a stand-in for the real monsters that King—and the reader—knows exist. The horror is not the something supernatural lurking in the dark of abandoned houses, it is the something all-too-human committing unspeakable acts, whether behind closed doors or openly but without correction.

In the end, what I found most interesting about the novel—though I enjoyed the story—is how it serves as an artifact of its time. The descriptions of hair styles and clothing. The references to wars, both Korea and Vietnam that are current in a way they aren’t today. The “politically incorrect” speech of the era, and the casual references to political corruption from an era in which the Watergate Scandal still poignantly stung. And yet we can still find parallels today, reminding us that though technologies may change (how would this story be different with cell phones?!), the human condition has not.

Although after one book, I’m not yet so much a Stephen King convert as to say I wish to read his entire backlist, I could see reading more at some point down the road—recommendations welcome!

Readathon

Readathoning

Pokes head in room…anyone there?

So, it’s been a while. And for a while there, due mostly to time issues, I wasn’t sure if I was going to come back here. But I made up my mind this week, and Dewey’s Readathon seemed the perfect way to ease back into the blog. (Not reading. That hasn’t been a problem.)

Readathon book pile
Stack of Possibilities

Not everything will be read, and perhaps only one may be even finished. (Fantastic Beasts for sure!) I’m a little late getting started, and there may even be more napping than reading. But let’s see where the day leads us, shall we? I’ll keep updating here as I go along… (and on Twitter @simplerpastimes).

Happy reading!

Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

Wonderfully autumn-like (finally!) Northeast Ohio

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

The two Harry Potter titles (rereads). No scratch that, All the Crooked Saints.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

Popcorn!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’m a tea- and chocolate-addicted reader who seems to keep distracted by some fun new hobby, but reading will always be my true love.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

It’s been a while, but this time I’m going to be more willing to skip between books at whim. Also, I’m more open to naps.

Hour 4

Haven’t been solidly reading – by my reading timer only about 1.5 hrs. But I read all of Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. Haven’t decided for sure on what’s next—maybe a bit more of Blood Crime (Sebastià Alzamora), which I started earlier this week before moving onto All the Crooked Saints?

Nearly Hour 9

Got a bit sidetracked there, and have only managed about 2 hours of actual reading time over this last section, but I did make it through Part 1 of Blood Crime. That seems like a good spot to change it up, so I’m switching to All the Crooked Saints, which I’ve been looking forward to reading for quite a while now.

Hope everyone else is enjoying this as much as I am!

Hour 12

Time flies! And I haven’t done quite as much reading as I’d intended, but…well, I don’t have anything else to do from now until whenever I fall asleep, so there’s still plenty of time.

Mid-Event Survey:
1. What are you reading right now?

At the moment? All the Crooked Saints, but I’ll probably be switching to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban soon.

2. How many books have you read so far?

I’ve finished (1) and read chunks of two others. I’m skipping around, so I don’t expect that I’ll finish anything else.

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

Hmm. Well, since it’s likely the only new book I’ll read in the second half is Harry Potter…, I’ll say that one.

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Interuptions only of my own making! But laundry really must be done…

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

That I haven’t fallen asleep—I really thought I’d be much more tired today.

Classic Children's Literature

A Farewell to the Classic Children’s Literature Event

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 300px

Time always flies so fast during the Classic Children’s Literature Event! I can’t believe it’s the end of the month.  Already! I had hoped to get just one more book finished before the end of the month, but I’m still over 50 pages away, so it’s not looking likely. I’m sure that in addition to this last book, I’ll have one more straggler into May. So, if like me, you’re just not quite finished, feel free to share any last reads here over the next couple weeks and I will update the participant list.

Participant List:

Carissa at Bookshelves and Daydreams:
Mary Poppins Comes Back
Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle
The Borrowers
From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

Carol at Jouney and Destination:
My Friend Flicka
Devil’s Hill

Cleo @ Classical Carousel:
Finn Family Moomintroll
Cyrus the Persian

Emma at Words and Peace:
Charlotte’s Web

Faith at Household Diary:
The 101 Dalmatians
Children of the New Forest
Bed-Knob and Broomstick

TJ at My Book Strings:
Three Tales of My Father’s Dragon

Amanda at Simpler Pastimes:
Beauty and Other Variations on La Belle et la Bête
Tales and Stories of the Past with Morals (Charles Perrault Fairy Tales)

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Participants:

Cirtnecce @ Mockingbirds, Looking Glasses and Prejudices
Amanda @ Simpler Pastimes

Please let me know if I’ve missed your post!

Happy Reading!

Classic Children's Literature

Completed: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 250pxAlice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Lewis Carroll
1865, England

It has been many years since I last visited Wonderland. I’ve only ever been there via the written word, all of the film adaptations seem to have passed me by. And so this reading surprised me. It was both familiar and un-, a return to somewhere I’ve been, a return to somewhere I didn’t recognize. While episodes such as the hookah-smoking caterpillar, the homicidal Queen screaming “Off with their heads!” and the Mad Hatter’s endless tea party are so familiar as to have become recognizable pop culture, I was surprised both at how much I remembered of the Pig and Pepper chapter and yet the episodes with the Mock Turtle and the Griffin not at all.

That word, “episodes.” Although the action flows from one scene seamlessly–if sometimes incongruously–into the next, just as in a dream, it seems to be composed of episodes: the caucus race, the tea party, the croquet party, the trial, and so forth. There is not really a through plot line, it is Alice’s “adventures,” and adventures must always be unexpected. But Alice proves they need not always have a motive. (The closest we get to a motivation is Alice’s desire to enter a beautiful garden, but once that is accomplished we still have plenty of book left.)

It is a dream story–explicitly so–and so both nonsense and perfectly sensible in the way that all good dreams are. The delightfully odd mind that this must have sprung from! It is, I can tell, even without the annotations in the copy I read,* that these characters, these references must have meant something to the “original” Alice, Alice Liddell–surely she must have played croquet and with playing cards, knew the proper manners for tea, and had overheard talk of such mysterious things as “caucus races.” Even the poems Carroll parodies that are now largely forgotten (well, I do know “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star) would likely have been familiar to her, perhaps learned for her lessons; recitation seems such a common occurrence here!

I was most surprised by the humor. Doubtless the jokes and puns passed my fourth-grade self by. It is meant to be a bit silly too, I think. Now that I have reread it, I have no desire to try to impart some sense, some greater meaning to it, for I am not convinced that any is intended. Perhaps as some scholars think, there are references to historical figures or perhaps it is full of symbolism and greater meaning. But I find that I am quite content to take it as it is, to let my inner child simply meet it with delight.

*The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, Introduction and Notes by Martin Gardner, 2000 ed. I have mixed feeling about annotated editions. Sometimes such notes are useful, other times they are merely distractions. Although sometimes interesting, here I thought they too often went on too long (no, I don’t care about the 1933 film version, I’m interested in the text) or into unnecessary deviations. The context provided and the reprinting of the rhymes Carroll was parodying could be useful, however.

Classic Children's Literature · RAL

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland RAL

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017

It’s here, time for discussion of our thoughts on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland! If you’ve never read Alice before (or are more familiar with any of the several film adaptations), was there anything that surprised you? Did you feel as lost as Alice? What just is this book about? Leave links to your posts in the comments, or feel free to discuss below.