Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Back to the Classics 2019: My List

Happy New Year everyone! I am the worst at making resolutions and sticking to them BUT I have successfully completed the Back to the Classics Challenge ever since 2014 when Karen at Books and Chocolate took it over from blogger Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much.  Below is my proposed list for the Back to the Back to the Classic Challenge 2019

1. 19th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1800 and 1899. 
Because I can use Trollope for another prompt below, I think I am going to choose Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens for this category. 

20th Century Classic. Any classic book originally published between 1900 and 1969.  
I will continue to chip away at the Modern Library’s 100 Best of  the 20th century list. I have 26 titles left to go! I might choose Native Son by Richard Wright since I own a copy. 

Classic by a Female Author.
I think I will read  A Glass of Blessings by Barbra Pym.  I own a copy and weirdly, though I love Babs, I only read her it seems when this particular challenge “makes me” do it. Same with Dorothy Whipple. 😟

Classic in Translation. 
Maybe that copy of Suite Française translated from the French in to English that has been languishing on my shelf for ages? On the other hand, Sylvia at silviacachia is going to host a Don Quixote read-along which would fit perfectly in this category if for some reason I STILL don't get to the Némirovsky title.

Classic Comedy.    
I think I might go for Three Men in a Boat. I have a copy already -are you sensing a trend here?  😃

Classic Tragedy.  
I may have to *gasp* get a book from the library or buy one to fit this category.  I do have a copy of The Wings of the Dove, which I think would probably qualify (as Karen points out in the introductory post, comedy and tragedy are subjective.  But I have never read any Hardy and maybe I should? On the other hand, other than The Turning of the Screw, I’ve never read any Henry James…

Very Long Classic. Any classic single work 500 pages or longer, not including introductions or end notes.
And here’s where I get my Trollope in. (There was one year where I could have actually read a Trollope for almost every category and I’m kind of sorry I didn’t! LOL).  Either I will read The Way We Live Now or my next in the Pallliser Series which is Phineas Redux

Classic Novella. Any work of narrative fiction shorter than 250 pages
I’ve got a few from my shelves that would fit here: The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh, Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis (would work for the comedy prompt too) or The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane. 

Classic from the Americas (includes the Caribbean). 
Possibly I will read One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I own a copy that I found on the street walking my dogs (don’t worry, it was probably left over from a yard sale…I didn’t quite pick it out of someone’s trash can).  

Classic from Africa, Asia, or Oceania (includes Australia). 
I have to buy or borrow for this category.  I really do want to read more Elizabeth Goudge so I might steal the idea of reading Green Dolphin Street from Karen.  On the other hand, I am interested in reading anything from Kenyan author Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o. He has at least three titles older than 50 years and all are published in the beautiful Penguin Black Spine editions…so tempting!  

Classic from a Place You've Lived. 
If only I’d lived in the UK so I could pick another Trollope title. 😁 I might go super specific here and pick Cannery Row since I lived for a year in Monterey, California.  Or maybe I'll read the second Philip Marlow book in the series by Raymond Chandler. Either way, I will borrow the book from the library.

Classic Play.
I think I will pick something from Oscar Wilde again because he is so much damn fun!  Again, I will have to borrow from the library, but that’s OK. I own a couple of Shakespeare’s plays but frankly don’t enjoy reading them. I prefer to see them performed

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Last Ten Books Tag

I saw this meme first on Simon's blog at Stuck in a Book and thought it looked like fun. The original tag was created by Mark Nash on BookTube.  There are ten questions about the last book that....

1. The last book I gave up on
I rarely DNF books. But I did abandon Kushil's Dart by Jaqueline Carey which I picked up in a Little Free Library in my neighborhood a couple of years ago.  I have been wanting to read more Fantasy and had heard good things about this title from other sources. But reading the back cover, the first few pages and in particular the goodreads reviews, I realized there is an erotic component with sado/masochistic tendencies to the story and while I don’t think I am a prude (maybe I am?), that isn’t something I really want to read about in any genre.
2. The last book I re-read
I recently finished listening to Our Mutual Friend on audio as narrated by David Troughton (excellent job he did!).  I first read this title with my eyes a few years ago. It isn’t my favorite Dickens in particular because I have real trouble accepting how the Bella Wilfer story-line is handled, but listening to it did make me appreciate just how funny Dickens can be and also how I wish he had had the opportunity to at least finish The Mystery of Edwin Drood because Our Mutual Friend also has some excellent crime/mystery elements and it would have been fascinating to see Dickens develop more in that direction..
3. The last book I bought
The last book I bought was Smoke City by Keith Rosson. I was thinking it would be longlisted for the 2019 Tournament of Books (it wasn’t) and the description totally intrigued me - from goodreads:
Marvin Deitz has some serious problems. His mob-connected landlord is strong-arming him out of his storefront. His therapist has concerns about his stability. He’s compelled to volunteer at the local Children’s Hospital even though it breaks his heart every week.
Oh, and he’s also the guilt-ridden reincarnation of Geoffroy Thérage, the French executioner who lit Joan of Arc’s pyre in 1431. He’s just seen a woman on a Los Angeles talk show claiming to be Joan, and absolution seems closer than it’s ever been... but how will he find her?
That just sounds so amazingly weird and I was ordering presents for others online and…well, you know how that happens! 
4. The last book I said I read but actually didn’t
I don’t know that I have ever done that?  I wasn’t an English major so never felt any pressure in that regard. Nobody cared if I had read Moby Dick or not. LOL I do recall as a 12 year old lying about watching the movie Saturday Night Fever (I wasn’t allowed to watch R-rated movies) and using scenes from the movie-to-book adaptation of which I obtained a contraband copy to support my “proof” that I had seen it.  Kids are weird!
 5. The last book I wrote in the margins of
I rarely write in a book or highlight passages. However, I am currently reading Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann in German and am occasionally writing a note or translation in the margins to help cement it in my brain.   
6. The last book I had signed
I‘ve purchased second hand books that turned out to have been signed, but I have never myself requested that an author sign a book.  
7. The last book I lost
I don’t lose books often. I did leave a copy of Daphne Du Maurier’s The Parasites on a plane in 1986 (I never went back to it) and I also left a copy of Saul Bellows' The Adventures of Augie March on a train in the mid 1990s. This was unfortunately a library copy so I had to replace it and to add insult to injury, I kinda hated it. But I did eventually finish it.
8. The last book I had to replace
I accidentally ordered the U.S. version of Becky Chambers’  Record of a Spaceborn Few earlier this year and had to replace it with the much classier UK hard cover edition.
9. The last book I argued over
Like may bookbloggers, I don’t know many people IRL who read books with the intensity that I do. So even if I wanted to argue there is no one to counter-argue. The closest I come to lively book discussion is on the Tournament of Books group site The Rooster on goodreads.

10. The last book you couldn’t find
I think what is meant by this is a book that you want to read but cannot find in any store or library. I don’t know that there is any book that I have wanted to buy that I could not find!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 – Wrap Up Post

It’s a wrap!  I have officially completed the  Back to theClassics Challenge 2018 hosted by Karen at the blog Books and Chocolate.

AND I managed to choose and read all 12 titles from books I already had on my shelves. YAY!  

Details are as follows:

1. Fittingly, I started this literary journey off with A CLASSIC TRAVEL OR JOURNEY NARRATIVE, FICTION OR NON-FICTION.  I read Orient Express by Graham Greene, first published in 1933. It wasn’t as good as his better known books such as The Quiet American in my opinion, however.  

2. Then I moved on to a sure fire good read:  A CLASSIC CRIME STORY, FICTION OR NON-FICTION.  I read and really enjoyed  The Man in the Queue by Josephine Tey.

3. The enjoyment factor took a nose-dive with my choice of  A 20TH CENTURY CLASSIC. While I am glad to have read Winesberg, Ohio  by Sherwood Anderson because I can now cross it off the Modern Library 100 Best of List, I think this was probably my least favorite of all 12. Too bleak and monotone for my taste.

4. I was pleasantly surprised with my choice of  A CLASSIC WITH A COLOR IN THE TITLE. I read The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorn and once I got past that unnecessary prologue, I found it really interesting and strange (in a good way).

5. My absolute star was the book I read for  A CLASSIC IN TRANSLATION.  I loved Guy de Maupassant’s Bel Ami. Such a great book about a really unpleasant man!

6. Next up was A CLASSIC WITH A SINGLE-WORD TITLE which I fulfilled by reading  Passing by Nella Larson, a short but very powerful read.

7. Possibly the hardest to choose for was the category RE-READ A FAVORITE CLASSIC.  I finally landed on Wuthering Heights by Emilie Bronte. This turned out to be a great choice because I think this is a book upon which one’s perspective can change dramatically with age and experience.

8. For the choice of   CHILDREN'S CLASSIC  I read and enjoyed the Newbery award winning Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes, a book a never read as a child.

9. For my favorite category of A 19TH CENTURY CLASSIC I read  Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop which was not his best in my opinion, but nonetheless, wonderful because Dickens was a genius.

10. For A CLASSIC BY AN AUTHOR THAT'S NEW TO YOU  I read  Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston which was pretty fabulous.

11. For the choice of A CLASSIC THAT SCARES YOU I girded my loins and read Light in August by William Faulkner, which wasn’t as difficult as I had feared.

12. Finally I read No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym for the category of  A CLASSIC BY A WOMAN AUTHOR  which I really loved as I have loved everything I’ve read by Pym thus far. 

As usual, I am so looking forward to the 2019 edition of this challenge and so pleased that Karen has graciously decided to continue hosting for another year. Contact information is: naessa[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: No Fond Return of Love by Barbara Pym

Like many readers, I buy books with the best of intentions and yet often don’t act upon them, i.e. read my own damn books. To wit, I own nine Barbara Pym but had only read two of them. Now I’m up to three! Because I read Pym’s No Fond Return of Love, first published in 1961, for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018 category “Classic by a Woman Author”.

One of the most delightful things about No Fond Return of Love was the realization that there is a “Pymverse” of London in the late 1950’s in which many (maybe all?) of Barbara Pym’s characters operate. For careful readers there is a tiny Easter egg from Excellent Women in Less Than Angels and now I found another follow up tidbit from Less than Angels in No Fond Return of Love. I love this idea and really look forward to discovering more of these little surprises as I read more of Pym’s works.

No Fond Return of Love covers familiar territory found in her other books: academia, marriage vs singledom and the Anglican Church. The main protagonist is Dulcie Mainwaring who decides to attend a weekend conference on publishing (she works freelance as an indexer and research) to help her get over her broken engagement. Dulcie likes researching people as well. ‘I love finding out about people’, said Dulcie, ‘I suppose it’s a sort of compensation for the dreariness of everyday life’.  I have to imagine that Dulcie shares this curiosity about in the lives of strangers with Barbara Pym herself.

At the conference, Dulcie meets the rather difficult and sulky Viola Dace, a fellow indexer and Aylwin Forbes, a handsome, married forty-something author with whom both Viola and Dulcie maybe, sort-of fall in love. It’s all very Pymsian as their lives intertwine, making the London suburbs seem more like a cozy village rather than a sprawling metropole. And as usual, I laughed out loud multiple times. The humor is so subtle and surprising. I can see where Pym’s humor would not be to every reader’s taste, but when you get it, you really get it if you know what I mean.

This is now the last book that I needed to read for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2018. Not as early as some but still happy to be crossing the finish line in good time! My wrap up post will be forthcoming. :D

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Back to the Classics Challenge 2018: Light in August by William Faulkner

I am just a lil’ bit behind on blogging.  I actually read Light in August back in August.  This book was my choice for the Back to the Classics Challenge category “Classic that Scares You”.  I think for most readers it is clear where the scare factor comes in! Faulkner is pretty famous (infamous?) for being difficult to read.  And this was the first book of his that I have ever finished (I started Wild Palms and Absalom, Absalom ages ago but never got too far in either). 

I finished Light in August, but did I understand it?  I am happy to report that it was very accessible, though not a particularly cheery book. Faulkner sprinkles portmanteau words like “fecundmellow” throughout the book which were interesting. I can see how they emphasize and add to the atmosphere. 

And this book has a lot of atmosphere.  The reader can almost chew it. The book opens with a young pregnant woman walking down a dusty road. Lena Grove has walked from Alabama to Mississippi because she has convinced herself that her baby’s daddy, Lucas Burch, just hasn’t gotten a chance to send for her yet.  When she gets to Jefferson, Mississippi she meets a former co-worker of Lucas’ named Byron Bunch who immediately falls in love with Lena.  Byron and his predicament, because he is an honorable man and feels bound to reunite Lena with the neer-do-well Lucas and Lena’s delusional devotion to Lucas, are almost the comic relief in the book. Only it is more of a tragic-comedy. 

Lena’s arrival in Jefferson coincides with a house on fire wherein a murdered woman has been found. The dead woman, Miss Burden, is an outcast, even though she is well off and white, because her father and grandfather were abolitionists from the North.  The book takes place in the 1920s but clearly the locals have long memories.  

That kicks off the story but there is so much more as the narrative twists and turns. The structure of the novel is interesting. I didn’t notice at first how far I had been lead from the opening until about half way through. The real focus is Joe Christmas, a drifter who had been living behind the Burden house and may or may not have been her killer and Joe may or may not be “black”.  The story eventually morphs into Joe’s story; how he ended up in Jefferson and why he behaves the way he does and it does finally lead back to where is starts. 

Light in August is a story of the South and a story of pathos, hatred, violence and racism.  Like I said, not cheery but definitely worth reading. Now that I’ve tackled Faulkner’s “easy” stuff I have to move on to As I Lay Dying and The Sound and the Fury. Maybe next year? We’ll see

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Towards Zero by Agatha Christie - The 1944 Club

Oh I had such ambitions for the 1944 Club but as the saying goes, the best laid plans of mice and men…  I hope I do get to Dolphin Street by Elizabeth Goudge one of these days and I have The Dangling Man by Saul Bellow gathering dust here on my shelf. What I did manage to read was Towards Zero by the inimitable Agatha Christie.
I love Agatha Christie. All of her mysteries are fairly short and a total breeze to read. I always desperately want to know who did the crime and I almost never guess right.  
The book starts off rather slowly and confusedly, starting first with a semi-retired octogenarian solicitor named Mr. Treves ruminating on the many threads that lead up towards a murder,
‘“All the converging towards a given spot…And then when the time comes – over the top! Zero Hour. Yes all of them converging towards zero…” He repeated: “Towards Zero..”  Then he gave a a quick little shudder.’  
Then the scene moves to a man who made failed suicide attempt now convalescing in hospital and then to Superintendent Battle (one of Christies lesser known and lesser used detectives) solving a boarding school theft involving his teenage daughter by using psychology. The reader may wonder what is going on. Where are the dead bodies?
But then the story starts to move in to classic Christie mystery mode as a summer house party at  Gull’s Point, home of  widowed Lady Tressilian, starts to form.  For the cast of characters there are living at Gull’s Point  Lady Tressilian, bedridden but still formidable (and rich), and her companion, Mary Aldin who may not be as willing to give up her best years to playing nursemaid to an old woman as she seems.  Coming for a fortnight’s visit is Lady Tressilian’s former ward and heir, Neville Strange and his new, rather vulgar (and much younger) wife, Kay, Neville’s ex-wife, the long suffering Audrey and Thomas Royde who grew up with Audrey and has been carrying a torch for her for decades. Finally, turning up like a bad penny is lothario Ted Latimer who has the hots for Kay.
What could possibly go wrong?
Christie does a good job keeping the tension high and when the murder does happen, I was surprised at who was killed because it really could have been any of them; everyone’s tempers were quite frayed by that point.
The resolution of the mystery and romantic pairings are perhaps a little too convenient but honestly I don’t mind that. I had a lot of fun being duped by the red herrings and enjoying the upper class scene of pre-war Britain.
Many thanks to Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings for starting the club.  Even though I didn't get to everything I intended this time, it is always good fun thinking about the possible reading choices and checking out what other people read for the prompt!

Friday, October 5, 2018


I meant to post this LAST MONTH but then life got in the way. 

I definitely want to participate in Readers Imbibing Peril XIII which started waaay back on September 1 and runs through to October 31. This year it is hosted by blogger My Capricious Life.  

I mean, how could I skip this? It is the THIRTEENTH EDITION! Muwahaha!

At this point, however, I am only going to try for Peril the Third, which is to read only one book that fits within any of the following R.I.P. definitions: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller, Dark Fantasy, Gothic, Horror, or Supernatural. I think I can manage to squeeze in one book in the next three weeks. 

I am planning on reading Slade House by David Mitchell which I meant to read last year for RIP XII but didn't get to. This is also a book I have owned for a while and as usual I have to push myself to read what I own instead of becoming distracted by new books or library books.

Another October Blog-event I hope to take part in is the 1944 Club hosted by Simon at Stuck in a Book and Karen at Kaggsy's Bookish Ramblings between October 15 and October 21. 

Originally I had planned to read Dangling Man by Saul Bellow but because I am currently reading Humboldt's Gift by Bellow now I have decided against more Bellow. He is not the kind of author I could "binge-read" as the kids say.   

Instead, I think I am going to read one of the two Agatha Christie books published in that year: Towards Zero or Death Comes as the End.  I don't own a copy of either but her books read so fast and they aren't very long, I hardly feel guilty about sneaking them into my reading now and again. :)

Alas, here in Southern California, there isn't much weather-wise to mark the Fall season so I am really pleased when there are prompts to help me direct my reading choices!  Do any of you read seasonally or do you, like me, let external forces nudge you in one direction or another?