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Topic: Need advice about 1st book on my Classics Challenge

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Subject: Need advice about 1st book on my Classics Challenge
Date Posted: 1/1/2010 11:11 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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I was all ready to begin my first book of the Classics Challenge and had pulled A Farewell to Arms off my shelf.  I thought that I had probably read it once in high school or college when I read most of Hemingway.  While looking through my pbs Book Journal for something else, I noticed that I read this again (or for the first time, who knows) in 2008!  Sorry, Ernest, evidently you're not that memorable to me.  Because I don't want tore-read something that I read fairly recently, I decided to switch to Catch 22 which I KNOW that I haven't read.  It's either that or re-read Vanity Fair which I did read in college (and, trust me, that was not recently!).  So, which do you recommend--those of you that have read both?  There is not a copy of Catch 22 available on pbs and I already have Vanity Fair.  That's not a problem, though.  I can find it at the library or buy it elsewhere.

 

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 12:22 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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Read what you're in the mood for, what you're going to enjoy, that way it'll start off on the right, fun note.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 1:33 PM ET
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I'm with Vanessa. There should be nothing on anyone's list that they don't want to read.  Technically, there are no literary encyclopedias that to not include verse in the definition of an epic. In other words, there is really no such thing as an epic novel. So what.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 1:44 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Thanks, Vanessa and John, but I think that I was misunderstood a bit.  Of course, I know that I can read what I want; however, this should be a challenge.  What I really wanted was an opinion of Catch 22.   Is it worth a read?  This is for a book set during a war.



Last Edited on: 1/1/10 1:45 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 1/1/2010 1:59 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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I am not familiar with Vanity Fair. I have read Catch 22 which is quite funny in parts and really gets you to think about the insanity that is war. However, 22 gets sloggy in some parts.  My high schooler (at the time) and his friends loved it in the beginning, but never finished it. 

I however, read the whole thing because when I was a little kid I happend to watch the  1970 movie with Alan Arkin. I always associated Catch 22 with one particular grisly scene about 2/3rds into the book, IIRC.  So when I finally read the book as an adult, I wanted to find out what that was all about.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 2:13 PM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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Vivian,  I haven't read either, so no help there. :)

But I think what the earlier posters were saying was to read whichever one you're in the mood for.  They sound like they are pretty far apart style-wise, so does one style appeal to you more?  I myself really like 19th Century British novels so if I only had those two to choose from I'd definitely go with Vanity Fair, but that's just me.  There are a ton of books set during wars, so if you've already read VF I'm sure there are lots of other choices.

I started two challenge books already today, one is a textbook for the general challenge, and the other is for the Classics.  I was planning to start with short stories but one of my Classics challenge books was found at the library, so I'm reading that one first so I don't have to keep renewing it.  It's Monsieur LeCoq, an early mystery novel, and so far so good.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 3:19 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Thanks to all.  I'm still trying to decide.  Like it or not, I think that there are some classics that should be read.  For example, I finally read Moby Dick this past summer and did not like it at all.  However, I now have read it and, therefore, have formed my opinion of it.  1984 is another that I recently read (actually listened to).  It was not my favorite, but, again, I am glad that I have read it.  The term "catch 22" is used so often, I somewhat think that it is a book that I should read.  I may look at it at the library or bookstore and decide.  And, yes, there are many "war" books to choose from but I have read several of those. 

If I read only what I think I would like (which is what I do when not reading classics), I wouldn't really consider the 2010 Classics Challenge a challenge at all.  I usually read a classic a month anyway.  Then, I may be pleasantly surprised when I read one that I wouldn't normally choose.  Isn't a challenge meant to push oneself?

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 3:33 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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Isn't a challenge meant to push oneself?

I say yes!  But seriously, I don't want to ever read Moby Dick. That's not a challenge. It's torture. Big difference.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 3:43 PM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Okay!  I have received a sign from on high (or, at least, from pbs).  Earlier today, the only copy of Catch 22 that I could find on pbs was an audio cassette version.  Just then, when I decided to go to my Reminder List and switch all of the different versions that I listed and of which there were zero availabe, to my Wish List---a copy had evidently been posted.  So, I ordered it! 

LOL, Tome.  But if you remember reading some other posts of mine, Moby Dick was the only book I have ever been assigned (and that was two different times) that I didn't read.  That was a challenge for me!  But, I DO NOT recommend it, period.  Just one of those hoops that I had to go through before I die!

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 6:17 PM ET
Member Since: 6/19/2007
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Hey Tome- I like Moby Dick.  I'll read that enough times for both of us if you read Thomas Hardy for me!  Talk about torture.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 6:56 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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I'll read that enough times for both of us if you read Thomas Hardy for me!  Talk about torture.

If I recall correctly, John W here at  Classic Lit forum says Hardy is the author who demands so much and rewards so little. Doesn't sound pleasant at all.

Date Posted: 1/1/2010 7:02 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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I'm still smiling at the foregoing exchange . . . . the thought crossed my mind that one could use an analogy with food to talk about reading choices.  Personally, there are certain foods I really don't like that much at all, that I still include in meals sometimes.  I can truthfully say that I have liked most of the books I have ever read, but of course there were a few exceptions.  But, like those certain veggies I don't like, I ate 'em anyway.  That's how I discovered I don't like 'em!  It's nice to know, and not have those unanswered questions about them.  Reading required books in school is kind of analogous to having to eat what your hostess serves you when you are a guest at dinner, especially in a foreign country, don't you think?  Maybe Moby Dick is like "literary spinach" ?



Last Edited on: 1/1/10 7:04 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/2/2010 12:31 AM ET
Member Since: 1/16/2006
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I have not read Vanity Fair, but Catch 22 is still one of my favorite classics.  I do hope you enjoy it! 

I started one of my challenge books today and I like it a lot already. 

Date Posted: 1/2/2010 8:21 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Good analogy, Bonnie.  I think you're exactly right.  I don't like spinach but love spinach dip (therefore, feeling a little righteous because I've eaten spinach!).  I'm very pleased with myself when I've finished a classic that I think should be read, even if I didn't really like it.  Of course, I'm even more pleased when I love a classic (by the way, I have liked every Hardy that I've read--to each, his own).

 

Thanks, Kate, I will begin Catch 22 soon.

Date Posted: 1/2/2010 10:38 AM ET
Member Since: 6/24/2009
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I read Vanity Fair for the Out with the Old challenge last year.  I enjoyed it but it took a long time to read. The writing is typical 19th century flowery stuff.  The story is very good, though, so it is worth wading through when you feel in the mood.

I loved Catch-22 and thought it was hilarious in spots. I would definitely recommend that one if you are going to pick between the two.

I've started reading the Sherlock Holmes complete works for our January BOM and am remembering a lot more than I thought I would about the plots. Makes me feel maybe my mind hasn't gone as bad as I thought.  Sometime I don't remember even the simplest thing and wonder if it's turned into a sieve or I'm getting old or something....no, NOT POSSIBLE :o)

Kat (polbio) -
Date Posted: 1/2/2010 9:32 PM ET
Member Since: 10/10/2008
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Vivian, I am using Catch 22 as my choice for the war category as well. I started it months ago and put it down right before we moved and never got back to it. So I figured I would pick it up again. So far it is hilarious.

Date Posted: 1/2/2010 11:31 PM ET
Member Since: 10/2/2007
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Well, I appreciate this thread because I couldn't think of any book in the war category that I was eager to read, but I recall liking Catch 22 many, many years ago (though I can't say I remember much about it specifically).  It will be like reading a new book!  Thanks for putting it on my radar screen, Vivian.

Date Posted: 1/3/2010 7:46 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
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Thanks to all replies.  Although I have a copy of Catch 22 ordered from pbs, I picked up the oldest, nastiest copy you can imagine at our library yesterday.  I don't usually object to how a book looks, but this one is terrible.  However, I did get started with it, amidst all the bowl games.  So far, it is amusing.  My husband, who rarely reads, told me that he didn't think that it was a classic.  It does just barely meet the 50 year requirement, so I'm ignoring him!

Date Posted: 1/3/2010 10:04 AM ET
Member Since: 8/27/2005
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Vivian, I think your approach to fiction is how I feel about non-fiction.  About 1/3 of what I read is nonfiction, and although many of those bboks are about subjects that fascinate me, I do throw in subjects I'm not that interested in but I feel I should know about.  Even the books on subjects I like are not what I'd call fun or relaxing reading, a few are a struggle to get through, but I learn so much from them that I don't hesitate to read them.

With fiction, on the other hand, there may be a lesson to learn from a fiction book, but if it's set in a time or place I don't like to read about, or done in a style of writing I don't like, I don't want to read it--I can find a book that I enjoy reading that makes the same point (especially when you consider the idea that there are no new themes in fiction ).  I think of fiction as teaching me something, but the lesson should sort of sneak up on you, because you're so engrossed in the author's talent to tell a story.

Of course, there's also the fiction that is just mind-candy, for distraction and relaxation.  But those books don't become classics!

Date Posted: 1/3/2010 7:48 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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Oh, Diane, I like that expression, "mind candy".  It's better than some of the ones I've used to try to describe some kinds of books----"bulk fiction", "bubble-gum mysteries", and "fluff".  One teacher-friend used to speak of "whipped cream", but I always took it to mean something such as "totally unnecessary, something that makes 'dessert' even more decadent" kind of reading.  To me, "bulk fiction" means those strings of books put out year after year, rather formulaic, by writers such as Robin Cook.  All of you can probably handily list our "bulk fiction" writers.  It comes from the way you can buy stuff such as oatmeal, etc., in the supermarket, by scooping it out of a bin, in the quantity you want. 

The "bubble gum" phrase comes from the time I accepted a friend's criticism about being narrow in my reading taste, and picked up a Sparkle Hayter murder mystery.  Something about that book made me recall my "Dubble Bubble" days as a little girl.   Of course, we shouldn't forget that strange category,  "non-books".  I take that term to mean something like the literary equivalent of Jerry Seinfeld's TV show-----"it's about nothing."  I bet some of you have things to say about this . . . 

Date Posted: 1/4/2010 2:01 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
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Henry James, TomeTrader, James!  Hardy I hold in absolute highest esteem. Among English novelists, I am not sure who I think is better except for Conrad.


And Bonnie, what you describe as bubble gum I would call pablum. And about 75% of what is circulated on PBS, to me, fills that bill. I don'tthink you are one of these young sprouts whose knowledge of anything in the past stops about 1990. Bubble gum, remember?  First used to describe The Archies. [and in their particular case, I think a really bum rap. I have always held in highest esteem "Scooby Doo "and"Bang Shang-a-lang"]. Also applied correctly to the Monkees, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, and a few others. Term used to describe stuff sold as rock n' roll what didn't have neither grit nor soul.

NOw let me get this Eagles junk off my turntable and put on some fine fine early Temptations. "I'll have sunshine, on a snowy day."

Date Posted: 1/4/2010 4:10 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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Henry James, TomeTrader, James! 

Yikes! Okay. Got i!

Date Posted: 1/4/2010 7:01 PM ET
Member Since: 12/22/2008
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I've read most of Thomas Hardy's novels and loved them.

OTOH, my DH loves Moby Dick.

Different strokes..........

Date Posted: 1/11/2010 12:18 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
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It's funny, 15 years ago, I would have agreed with Bonnie about "literary spinach".  A couple of years ago I realized that my TBR list is infinite and expanding, and my inexorable march toward the grave means that I will never, ever finish it.   I suddenly developed a lot less patience for overprivledged, long-dead Englishmen.  If Henry James and I have nothing to say to each other, I am at peace with that, and I don't imagine he's much bothered, either.  I am much less willing to stick with something that doesn't grab me than I was when I was younger.

Date Posted: 1/11/2010 12:40 PM ET
Member Since: 1/30/2009
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Oh my god, Conrad is one of the authors that is absolutely pure torture for me.  Jude the Obscure aside, I do love Hardy though.   And Vanity Fair is one of my all time favorites, but no matter how many times I try, I cannot get through Catch-22.