Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Books we oughta read

The 1930s WPA poster at right inspired us to ponder the question of classics we think we should read ... someday. The Dickens oeuvre looms, as does War & Peace. The plot of Thackeray's Vanity Fair is known through many excellent film adaptations, but what is his prose actually like? Dickens' prose style is fantastic, as is Austen's. But can George Eliot or Nathaniel Hawthorne recover from the taint of high school English?
Browse amongst our online listings and you're sure to find a classic on your literary bucket list worth delving into (Joyce, Lawrence, Flaubert, anyone?). With books by Mark Twain and the Tolstoy mashup Android Karenina, we have titles by six of the nine authors depicted!
What are the books you've "always meant to read"?

17 comments:

  1. I have a shamefully pristine copy of "War and Peace" on my shelf. It mocks me when I'm tired... I swear it talks to me!

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    1. Sounds like material for a cartoon!

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    2. It's really very interesting, although I wouldn't recommend it as a beach read!

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  2. My list is way too many! I own so many great classics and have every intention to read them but then I get distracted by another book. So many books, so little time.

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  3. This is gonna sting..."Vanity Fair" (ouch), "Les Miserables" (aggh), "Remembrance of Things Past" (ohhh).. Enough self-flagellation for one day!

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    1. I listened to an audio version of Les Miz & HATED it! I do like Proust though.

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  4. "Infinite Jest" by David Foster Wallace, always wanted to read it, but its just too long and "Great Expectations" but again the length intimidates me.

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  5. "I would rather read again for the first time Anna Karenina, Far Away and Long Ago, Buddenbrooks, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, War and Peace, A Sportsman's Sketches, The Brothers Karamozov, Hail and Farewell, Huckleberry Finn, Winesburg, Ohio, La Reine Margot, La Maison Tellier, Le Rouge et le Noire, La Chartreuse de Parme, Dubliners, Yeats's Autobiographies and a few others than have an assured income of a million dollars a year" Heminway in Esquire, 1935

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    1. Thanks for the heads-up on Les Miz. In return let me say that I worked my way through 75% of War and Peace and did not enjoy it. But The Bros. Karamazov is a truly great novel, and of Dubliners, the last story "The Dead" will stay with you. I recall Madame Bovary from my college days, with a pleasant aftertaste, although only hazy specifics.

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    2. The Dead - one of the greatest stories ever. Good movie too by john huston.
      75% - impressive! I hear those Russian novels are much better in the newer translations (not Constance Barnett or whatever her name is).

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    3. The Maude translation did not add any obstacles, I think. The problem was with Tolstoy's detailed expository manner, which introduced many characters at once, with the flat acceptance of a video camera. The war chapters were more interesting than the high society chapters. I suppose it is a tribute to the author that the ennui of the wealthy upper class proved contagious to the reader. The research necessary to the work must have been prodigious.

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    4. I'm very intrigued by your observations. Thanks for sharing them.

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  6. This is the year I will read all of "The Canterbury Tales" (I'm halfway through) and absolutely the year I will read Joyce's "Ulysses" and maybe understand two percent of it!

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    1. Are you reading in English or Middle English? I highly recommend the latter with a good edition. The web also has parallel text editions.
      I've done a lot of Joyce classes, but even so when I listened to an audio course and then read chapter by chapter I got a lot out of re-reading Ulysses lo these many years later.

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  7. I find it bizarre to force-feed oneself a "classic" in order to be able to say "I've done it." Why not just read what pleases you, for the enjoyment of it, instead of treating reading like the running of a marathon?

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    1. I agree with you ... I personally avoid a lot of classics because I don't think I'd like them or tend to pick up something I'm pretty sure I'll enjoy; but I'm willing to give them a go (theoretically), knowing I can always stop reading and move on if I don't like a book. Life's too short to read books you don't enjoy!

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  8. I entirely disagree with the assessment of Les Miserables. I read it about a year ago and absolutely loved it --- a really absorbing book full of richness and life and sympathy. It reminded me of Dickens in that way.

    On the other hand, I've never read Joyce's Ulysses. Please don't tell anyone.

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