Reading · Reading Ohio · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (32)

Cuyhoga River in Winter - Kent Ohio
A view of the Cuyahoga River just over a week ago. Would you believe I took this from a busy bridge facing downtown Kent? It’s all about the framing…!

I feel as if I’ve been shamefully neglecting the blog. Neglecting reading other’s posts. It’s a Sisyphean task, that–keeping up with everyone, everything. Especially when I already have the feeling of being underwater elsewhere, at work most especially. I keep plodding away at the reading, though, my Sunday morning reading the one constant. I’m only one week behind (and intend to catch up) on the Deal Me In Challenge. I finally finished Chronicles of Avonlea, which happens to be a short story collection, and which I believe I actually started over a year ago (maybe even in 2015!). Yet I feel as if I’m moving quickly nowhere. Perhaps the long list of unblogged books bogs me down. So many I don’t even properly remember now, not well enough to write about. And perhaps that is why I’ve written nothing.

But I’ve had enough of feeling their weight on my shoulders. Somehow, I’ve managed to dash off a few short posts here this afternoon. Those will be forthcoming. And for those I don’t feel I can prepare a proper post for (but those I still wish to say something about), a few thoughts:

His Last Bow – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Scotland, 1917)

A collection of Holmes stories I read last fall on vacation. A diverting read, though I fear that I don’t remember the stories that well.  This leaves just one collection left and I will have finished all the Holmes stories!

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (Britain/Zimbabwe, 2015)

The publicity surrounding the movie prompted me to pick this one up. A psychological thriller, I found it much more unputdownable than Gone Girl, but I didn’t feel the need to run out to see the film version. Though I did like the end much better.

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt (U.S., 1975)

On learning of Natalie Babbit’s death late last year, I immediately had to pick up Tuck Everlasting for a reread. I had last touched this one in late elementary school, and so both found that I couldn’t remember the story and yet it was completely familiar. A sweet story of a young girl who accidentally meets up with a family who has drunk from the fountain of eternal youth, it is in a way a touching meditation on death and life and the consequences of immortality.

She folded her arms and nodded, more to herself than to Winnie. ‘Life’s got to be lived, not matter how long or short,’ she said calmly. ‘You got to take what comes. We just go along, like everybody else, one day at a time.’ (Chapter 10)

Although I read it as a nostalgia piece/for my Children’s Classics project, Tuck Everlasting could also be assigned to my Reading Ohio project, as Natalie Babbit was originally from/grew up in Ohio. It’s also a nice segue to add a little reminder that the 5th Classic Children’s Literature Event is coming up in just a couple weeks! I’ve already a collection of books waiting for me temptingly…

Happy Reading!

Purple Orchid in Full Indoor Bloom
Who says winter isn’t growing season?
Classic Children's Literature · RAL · Reading · The Classics Club

Coming Soon: Classic Children’s Lit Event, 5

2017-ral-original

I’ve been more absent from here lately than I’d like–it seems like February is just a month that I don’t get along with. But now it’s March, the sun is shinning (and it’s supposed to be half-way warm this week!), and that means the 5th edition of the Classic Children’s Literature Event is just around the corner: April–less than a month away! I can’t believe this is the 5th year.

alice-original

As in years past, I will be reading an optional readalong title. I really waffled over what to pick this year, but finally opted for one of the runners up from last year’s poll: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It’s been many, many years since I last/first read this–I believe in fourth grade, so I don’t remember it all that well other than that’s is odd, something that must surely appeal to many, as evidenced by the recent movie adaptations (confession: I haven’t actually seen them). Although I have an illustrated version that also contains Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, I decided to pick up The Annotated Alice from the library. Still a coin toss as to which book I’ll read from.

Event Basics

  • During the month of April, read as many Children’s Classics as you wish and post about them on your blog and/or leave a comment on the event page on this blog. I will have a link page starting the first of April to gather posts so that we may share as we go.
  • The optional RAL title: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. (Optional: also read Through the Looking-Glass. I’m guessing I won’t get through both.) I plan on discussion the weekend of April 21-23.
  • I’m not going to be the “children’s classics” police. Use your own judgement for what fits the category but if you want some guidelines, these are what I’m going by:
    • I think many of us have read more recent children’s books that we may already deem “classics” (for example, many people feel that way about the Harry Potter books), but for this event, I’d prefer if we read books that were written prior to 1967. This will still allow a lot of options, and will hopefully avoid the “but what is a classic” dilemma! (And yes, 1967 is rather arbitrary. Rebel if you wish, but 50 years old seems a good age.)
    • Defining “children’s,” especially prior to 1900 or so can be a challenge as some books we think of as “children’s” today may not have been intended that way at the time. Personally, I’d say books appropriate for approximately an elementary-school aged child or preteen (to read or to have read to them) should be fine. I’d personally also count the various fairy tales, even though some of the earliest versions were not exactly family friendly.
    • Feel free to include books from any country, in translation or not. I have limited exposure to non-American children’s lit, so I’d love to learn about books from other countries myself.
    • Feel free to double up with other events or challenges if you wish.
  • And if you need ideas I posted
  • There is no deadline for joining or participating (other than, of course, the end of April).

Most important: Have fun!

Please let me–and other participants–know in the comments of this post if you are interested in participating, and let me know if you have any questions. Also, please feel free to use any of the event/RAL images on your own blogs.

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 300px

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 250px

Classic Children's Literature Event April 2017 200px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 300px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 250px

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland RAL April 2017 200px

Happy reading!

Participants:

Image sources: The event logo illustration is “Merry Christmas” from The Way to Wonderland (1917, Mary Stewart), illustrated  by Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863-1935). The RAL logo illustration is from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865, Lewis Carroll), 1907 edition illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939).

The Classics Club

Classics Spin 15

Question Mark - cover place holderHuh. It’s been a long time since I participated in a Classics Club Spin – apparently they’re on #15, and I last “spun” for number 9! So it’s about time. Especially since I have a new list from which I’ve only read one book so far. Of course, I have an abysmal record at finishing either book and/or post by the deadline, and I don’t exactly have an abundance of reading time at the moment, but ever-optimistic, I’ll try again. Per the suggestions, I selected a mix of books I’m really looking forward to/neutral about/on the slightly dreading side of neutral (I’m only truly dreading the really long books, but if I’m to be at all practical, I’d better steer clear of those at present). I’ve rounded out the list with the 5 Shakepeare titles currently on my CC list.

Without further ado:

  1. Jane Austen – Lady Susan
  2. Louis Bromfield – The Farm
  3. Homer – The Iliad
  4. William Shakespeare – The Merchant of Venice
  5. William Faulkner – The Sound and the Fury
  6. Anthony Trollope – The Warden
  7. Jonathon Swift – Gulliver’s Travels
  8. William Shakespeare – Hamlet
  9. Elizabeth Gaskell – Cranford
  10. Charles Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
  11. William Faulkner – The Reivers
  12. William Shakespeare – Othello
  13. Stella Gibbons – Cold Comfort Farm
  14. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby
  15. William Dean Howells – The Rise of Silas Lapham
  16. William Shakespeare – King Lear
  17. Aldous Huxley – Brave New World
  18. Ann Radcliffe – The Italian
  19. Joseph Conrad – The Heart of Darkness
  20. William Shakespeare – The Tempest

Good luck to those also participating and Happy Reading!

Classic Children's Literature

Open to Suggestions – Children’s Classics

Yellow Rose Bouquet
Happy Valentines Day!

I’ve long had pleasent memories associated with Valentines Day, although these are the memories of childhood rather than more mature associations. My mom would always–still does, actually–make frosted heart cookies, double stacked–yummy! My brother and I could always, growing up, count on a chocolate heart or a small bundle of wrapped chocolates from the local candy shop. And for several years, a new paperback as well. I still have my first copy of Pride and Prejudice, which arrived on Valentines of 8th grade. (Though it is considerably more visably battered now.) Before that, it was always a YA or Middle Grade book, almost always award winning. My mom has good taste.

So it shouldn’t be any surprise that on Valentines Day, my thoughts always turn to favorite books. This year I’ve been thinking about the upcoming Classic Children’s Literature Event (April! Just around the corner…), and when not panicked about getting my act together to get ready, I’ve been musing over what to suggest as a readalong title. And I must admit, nothing in particular is really calling to me this year. Sure, I have a great long list (and if pressed today, I would say the Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, which have the advantage of being available in an English translation online), but I just haven’t settled on the right book. So I’m throwing it open to suggestions: is there a children’s classic (at least 50 years old, please) that you would love to read–either for the first time, or revisiting–this year? I’ll take suggestions until the end of the month and announce the RAL title at the start of March.

Happy Reading!

Personal Great Books · Reading

Completed: Silence

Cover: Silence by Shūsaku EndōSilence
Shūsaku Endō
Japan, 1966
William Johnston, translator
With a forward by Martin Scorsese
(Picador Modern Classics, New York, 2016)

Nearly the last book I finished in 2016, Silence was certainly among the most powerful I’ve read in the last few years. It is the story of two Portuguese Jesuit priests, desperate for word of their mentor and disbelieving that he could have apostatized, who sneak into 17th century Japan only to find a world vastly different from anything they have previously experienced. Told in the form of letters, 3rd person narrative, and diary entries, Silence is a powerful and thought-provoking investigation of faith and its testing.

I suppose I should simply cast from my mind these meaningless words of the coward; yet why does his plaintive voice pierce my breast with all the pain of a sharp needle? Why has Our Lord imposed this torture and this persecution on poor Japanese peasants? No, Kichijirō was trying to express something different, something even more sickening. The silence of God. Already twenty years have passed since the persecution broke out; the black soil of Japan has been filled with the lament of so many Christians; the red blood of priests has flowed profusely; the walls of the churches have fallen down; and in the face of this terrible and merciless sacrifice offered up to Him, God has remained silent. This was the problem that lay behind the plaintive question of Kichijirō. (Ch 4)

There are no easy answers here, and while it is clear that the Portuguese are out of their depth, tossed into a culture and mindset so different than that they have previously known and a persecution they were not truly prepared for, it also allows the reader to interrogate their own response: in the position of the priest or the Japanese Christian peasant would you act the same? What does it mean to renounce a belief outwardly but inwardly keep it; is this still an apostasy? Is there a penalty for faith hidden rather than professed? Endō does not tell us; in the end we are left to decide for ourselves.

 

The Classics Club · WeeksEnd Notes

Week’s End Notes (31) & Classics Club v2

I just realized that I haven’t taken a single photo this year, excepting some really exciting work pics (of markups on drawings – see exciting). Not helpful in learning to use my camera better this year. I will have to add that to my February priorities. I made a list at the start of the month of my January priorities, and so far it’s been really helpful in keeping me focused. I also just this week finished listening to Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and that’s really the point of the book: you have to prioritize and focus your time. I wouldn’t call it life-changing for me–I already knew that was my problem–but her suggestion that we need to plan even our leisure time in advance if we’re to maximize it really hits home, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. (And no, she doesn’t mean planning out every minute, just knowing what activities you want to do so that instead of frittering away hours online or in front of the TV or what have you, you actually read that book you’ve been meaning to get to.) I’ve categorized every weekend so far this month: one for DVR catch-up/knitting, one for reading, one for misc. to do’s (this weekend!), and it’s left me feeling a lot more productive. Even if I feel like I haven’t actually managed to read all that much this month so far.

Part of that is the season: winter is for knitting and I don’t knit and read at the same time. I do knit and TV watch at the same time. I suppose I could knit and audiobook… Part of it is the general sleepiness winter seems to bring. Part of it is the Deal Me In Challenge. So I’m reading, but short things, and it doesn’t feel as much of an accomplishment. But I’ve been keeping up so far!

  • Week 1: Q of Clubs – Fray Luis de León, “Oda III”
  • Week 2: 8 of Clubs – Francisco de la Torre, “Soneto V,” “Soneto XX,” and “Soneto XXIII”
  • Week 3: A of Diamonds – Ben Jonson, “To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare”

The first two weeks were challenging as both were from Clubs, which are all Spanish poems. I have a copy of Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain (ed. Elias L. Rivers) which I’m reading from and it does have prose translations, but those are…okay. So I’ve been challenging myself to really read the Spanish closely, which takes a good chunk of time. “Oda III” was the easiest, a poem in praise of Francisco Salinas, a music professor at the University of Salamanca. The Sonnets by de la Torre were more challenging, especially as their language included words (or spellings?) that the online translation dictionary couldn’t always find, I assume obsolete or archaic. I also have never done as well with Sonnets as with other poem types. “To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare” I read with much greater pleasure. Both as it was far less work and as I was familiar with the subject. I was amused to find that Jonson predicted that Shakespeare would continue to be performed/read for centuries to come – how prescient! It also seems that Jonson’s words could be used in the who wrote Shakespeare battle as pro-William Shakespeare, as Jonson both praised Shakespeare’s words (over contemporaries) and clearly refers to him as the “Swan of Avon,” though also, famously, reminding us that Shakespeare “small Latin and less Greek.” I have yet to read this week’s selection (a short story – finally!).

I’m also in the middle of two longer reads, a reread of Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Maggie Stiefvater) and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Which brings me to the next topic. I’m fast coming up on the deadline for my original Classics Club list, in March. Five years! Already! And…well, it hasn’t gone so well. Of the 125 items on the list, I’ve only completed 14 (nearly 15). I’ve read 26 individual books/plays, but a number were combined into one list item. (Or 28 books if one counts the volumes of The Lord of the Rings separately.) At the same time, I’ve been itching to update/revise the list. I’ve read some books for my Ohio project that could have counted on a Classics Club list, but I hadn’t included them. And there are others I still want to read. I also have a Great Courses series, “The Western Literary Canon in Context,” which has added other (admittedly white male) titles to my TBR list. Then I also seem to keep dipping back to rereads that weren’t on my original list. Not to mention quite a few other books lining my shelves that never made it to/were purchased after the original list was made.

So, in the spirit of the New Year (it’s still early enough to say that, right?), and in the excitement that list making always brings me, I announce The Classics Club v.2, my ten year reading list. It’s long, at 150 items, so I’ll spare you scrolling through. But if you really want to read it, it’s HERE. I had some trouble cutting down (ha!), and it’s longer than the original list. Even assuming that the revisions/additions help me stay more focused, I’m still never–based on current reading rate–going to get through this list in only five years. So I’m blithely disregarding the 5-year guideline.

Some notes regarding the list:

  • Most unread titles from the original list are still here. I swapped out some of the Greek plays (largely based on the Great Courses series reading list) and dropped a couple other titles that aren’t actually on my shelves, but I tried to keep the variety of genre/country I had on the original.
  • I’ve added a number of rereads. Mostly Austen. I can’t help it.
  • The only book that I read on the original list that makes a reappearance is Beowulf, which I want to reread in another translation.
  • I’ve added some Ohio reads.
  • Most of the additions are ancient/medieval lit. I’m a little scared of some of those actually…
  • I also added three Faulkner which I’m really looking forward to. I only had one title on my original list because I wasn’t sure if I’d like him. It was a mistake.

I’d ask you what to read first, but current read The Epic of Gilgamesh is item #1. When I’m not mired down in Spanish poets…

Happy Reading!

 

 

Reading · The Classics Club

Completed: Pride and Prejudice

Cover: Pride and Prejudice (Dover Thrift Edition)Pride and Prejudice
Jane Austen
England, 1813

My most recent reread of Pride and Prejudice (I believe this was my third time through Austen’s most famous novel) was over my September vacation, and I confess I wasn’t really reading it for anything other than pure enjoyment of the story. And it was a pure joy. I had forgotten quite how much I enjoy Austen’s writing and her tales; although I reread Northanger Abbey about a year previous, it was one of Austen’s earlier works and its charms are different than those of Pride and Prejudice.

(And from here, I assume you’ve read this or otherwise know the plot and don’t care about “spoilers.”)

But as I thought about it afterwards, I recognized that while on the surface–and this is perhaps the Austen we most commonly see in pop culture–Pride and Prejudice seems in many ways a fairy tale: poor(ish) girl + rich boy = happily ever after (in the case of P&P x 2), this is only the surface, and only the central characters. Elizabeth and Jane Bennett’s marriages to the wealthy Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley, respectively, may have all the elements of happily-ever-after, but even if we don’t question that supposition, there are two other weddings that happen in the course of the novel. To imagine that Lydia and Mr. Wickham will ever end happily…well. I can think of any number of outcomes, one of which Austen actually illustrates in Mr. and Mrs. Price in Mansfield Park – and that’s the best alternative. Let’s just say I imagine that Lydia will hardly be Mr. Wickham’s last conquest.

Without thinking highly either of men or of matrimony, marriage had always been her object; it was the only honourable provision for well-educated young women of small fortune, and however uncertain of giving happiness, must be their pleasantest preservative from want. (Ch. XXII)

And then there’s Charlotte Lucas and the ridiculous Mr. Collins – a marriage of pure practicality. And her reasonableness in entering into a wedded state with such an unreasonably silly man serves to illustrate to readers even centuries later just what the situation was for a woman of Austen’s era. No, the fairy tale may be the surface that pulls us in, but the reality that lies beneath is the reminder of just how fortunate the eldest sisters–and we today–really are.