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Topic: time to list your notable classic reads!

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Subject: time to list your notable classic reads!
Date Posted: 12/15/2013 5:48 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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Now that we're halfway through December, I'd enjoy learning which books you considered most notable from this year's challenge. Here are my choices. . .

best book--Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

worst book--Moll Flanders (Daniel Defoe)

book you enjoyed that you didn't really expect to--Death in Venice and Other Stories (Thomas Mann) (I will definitely be seeking out other books by this author)

What are your choices?

                                                                                                                                Rose

Date Posted: 12/15/2013 9:31 PM ET
Member Since: 8/17/2009
Posts: 929
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Gosh, I fell far short of my goal - only read 2 classics this year.  But I absolutely loved The Jewel in the Crown and plan to read the remaining three in the Raj Quartet in 2014.  And right now I'm enjoying A Month in the Country so I actually may end up with a grand total of 3 for the year.

Date Posted: 12/16/2013 12:41 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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I don't want to name a "best" book from among the 11 books I've read for the challenge.  But there were two I disliked heartily----Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and Edith Wharton's The Mother's Recompense.

The Idiot, by Dostoyevsky, was difficult, for me, and I'm not at all sure what the 'message' in Moon Tiger, by Penelope Lively, is . . . .

I'm finishing Dombey and Son at present, and finding it easier reading than I thought a 948 page Dickens novel would be.



Last Edited on: 12/28/13 6:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/16/2013 1:55 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Rose, what did youi like about AK and what did you dislike about M.F.?

I tried to read AK years ago during the Oprah book club years and I just could not care about any of the characters and I don't care much for infidelity and the whole book just wasn't good timing for me. Maybe later.

I've read Moll Flanders and made it all the way through but I don't remember enjoying it or hating it. It was just another "eat your peas" type of book. I did like that it was readable even though it was written in the 1722. I feared that it would be unaccessable but it wasn't that way.

Date Posted: 12/16/2013 1:57 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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Bonnie, do you struggle with Dickens? I struggle with him. I want to like his other works beyond "A Christmas Carol" which I adore, but I could not get through "Great Expectations" because of the middle slog and A Tale of Two Cities intimidates me. I've read Bleak House and thought "Meh."

It takes me a while to settle into the language.

I've got David Copperfield on my list again. I hope I can manage.

Date Posted: 12/16/2013 2:36 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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What I loved about Anna Karenina was that I was interested in every plot angle--and Tolstoy certainly covered the gamut! As he did in War and Peace (which I was less crazy about), he presented a full, detailed picture of the many elements affecting the characters.

Moll Flanders was very wordy, but said little. (Robinson Crusoe had hit me the same way, although it's many points higher, IMO, than Moll.)

I want to jump into the discussion about Dickens: he is one of my top favorite authors.  His plots are so rich and his characters so unique: I savor reading his books.

A couple years ago, one of the categories for the Classics Challenge was revisiting a book you'd read in high school. That gave me a second chance at A Tale of Two Cities, which is the only Dickens book I did not appreciate--until reading it again. How much had flown over my head in high school!

                                                                                                                                Rose

Date Posted: 12/16/2013 10:10 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
Posts: 25,000
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I remember reading the prologue (?) in Tale of Two Cities and being impressed with how he was writing about the trees in the forest and how they were to be used for wood to make a guillotine. The way it was written really creeped me out in a good way. But I never managed to put it on my reading list.

 

"it is likely enough that, rooted in the woods of France and Norway, there were growing trees, when that sufferer was put to death, already marked by the Woodman, Fate, to come down and be sawn into boards, to make a certain movable framework with a sack and a knife in it, terrible in history"

Date Posted: 12/17/2013 4:53 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
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About Dickens. Tome, I don't "struggle" with a book by him---at least not any of the ones I've read so far.  The thing is, it takes so long to read a novel like Dombey and Son.  It's made more feasible by the way the chapters (sixty-two of them) are not lengthy, and when one puts the book down, and returns to it later to continue reading, it is no problem to recollect what just happened in the story the last time one read a slug of it.   I agree with Rose that Dickens' plots are rich and each of his characters is unique.  For me, the only adjustment I've had to make is to take the time to read a book three times as long as other novels.

About seventy years ago, when I was in high school, we read some of The Pickwick Papers.   I expect Mr. Dickens did a decent job of transcribing for the printed page the dialogue, but it's pretty tricky for 20th century American readers unfamiliar with British English, with various accents such as Cockney, or Yorkshire, and the characters of course used their mid-19th century vocabularies.



Last Edited on: 12/28/13 6:11 PM ET - Total times edited: 5
Date Posted: 12/17/2013 8:13 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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I wasn't crazy about The Pickwick Papers, but there certainly is a great deal of humor in it (which I do love)!

My very favorite Dickens novel is David Copperfield. But the one I read this year--Bleak House--is also wondrous.

                                                                                                               Rose

Date Posted: 12/19/2013 8:23 AM ET
Member Since: 9/25/2006
Posts: 314
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Wilkie Collins warned me off Dombey and Son when he said "...the latter half of Dombey no intelligent person can have read without astonishment at the badness of it." To show how tough writers can be on each other, he said of Edwin Drood  "...cruel to compare Dickens in the radiant prime of his genius with Dickens's last laboured effort, the melancholy work of a worn out brain."

I liked Pickwick for its humor and Bleak House for it its action in the second half. But all of them have their slow spots and Dickens is so long-winded. I have to be in the right mood to just settle into his novels.

Anyway, my notable classics of 2013 are:

Playback by Raymond Chandler.  This novel does not belong to the highest rank in terms of mystery genre of the writer’s own work. However, it was the first Chandler I’ve read in about 40 years and it made me revise my previous hasty and callow opinion of Chandler.

The Forged Coupon by Leo Tolstoy. This is a classic because its theme (actions have unforeseen consequences) has lasting significance and worth. Plus, the narrative vitality and coherence is model story-telling.

The Master and Margarita by Mixail Bulgakov. This is a work recognized as definitive in its genre of fantasy and satire. I can’t decide if the political and social satire is more powerful than the sheer art of the prose. In the end, I will opt for art, I think.

My Bondage and My Freedom by Frederick Douglass. Of course, it is a classic because it is a traditional example of a slave narrative, but the sheer power of his prose I didn’t expect.

V. by Thomas Pynchon. 2013 was the 50th anniversary of this novel. Turning 50, then, it becomes a classic. Like a classic should it established a standard for post-modern prose, as powerful and exasperating as that can be.



Last Edited on: 12/19/13 8:24 AM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 12/19/2013 3:56 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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Well, this "intelligent person" is now reading "the latter half of Dombey", and so far I have felt no "astonishment at the badness of it".

What was with Mr. Collins, anyway?

Date Posted: 12/23/2013 1:03 PM ET
Member Since: 5/15/2010
Posts: 143
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Just finished Bulgakov's Heart of a Dog. Brilliant satire, not actually published during his lifetime, but circulated among friends. Too subversive for communist Russia. See the Wikipedia article for details. I could have put it under the Banned Books category or a work that inspired other works, as there was an opera based on it, but placed it in the Russian lit category. Well worth reading as is anything by Bulgakov.



Last Edited on: 12/23/13 1:05 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/27/2013 3:38 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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I was just re-reading these threads today (it's a pleasant procrastination method), and noticed the remarks about Wilkie Collins' criticizing Dombey and Son. Collins and Dickens were really good friends for a long time, but then had a falling-out. That might have prompted Collins to express some negativity. I love both authors.

                                                                                                                    Rose

Subject: Best, Worst...
Date Posted: 12/30/2013 1:17 AM ET
Member Since: 11/15/2011
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I only managed to complete five books from my Light Challenge, but liked everything that I read so it was hard to choose "the best," so I went with the most enjoyable:

Best--The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte  (Just a great read!)

Worst--(None)

Enjoyed but did not expect to--The Seven Storey Mountain by Thomas Merton  (More down-to-earth than I expected.) 

Difficult, but worth the trouble--A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens  (Challenging to read at my "advanced age."  No wonder I got little out of it in high school!) 

Date Posted: 12/30/2013 3:51 PM ET
Member Since: 5/4/2009
Posts: 87
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I went crazy and read a book for each of the categories.

 

Best -- Tolstoy's War and Peace

Worst Meh -- Harper's Iola Leroy. I liked it, it was okay.

Enjoyed, but did not expect to -- James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room (GBLT)

Difficult, but worth the trouble -- Spenser's The Faerie Queene I originally read this because it was on a list of books that people pretend to read, but never actually read. I know why now. lol This year I read waaaay too much epic poetry. I need a year or so off to recover from it.

Date Posted: 12/31/2013 11:27 AM ET
Member Since: 8/9/2005
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Last Edited on: 2/4/15 3:51 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/31/2013 8:23 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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I agree that Anna Karenina was a frustrating character, but what a wondrous book! Tolstoy gave us a detailed panorama of Russian society at that time.

                                                                                                                                       Rose