Tagged: classics

Ewan McGregor and Gwyneth Paltrow in Emma

Classics Club Book #12: Emma by Jane Austen

The last time I read Jane Austen’s Emma was long before I had seen the movie with Gwyneth Paltrow. Since then I’ve seen the movie maybe half a dozen times, as it’s become one of my girls’ favorites. Because I’ve seen it so many times, the movie has overshadowed the book in my memory. So as I picked up my Kindle to read the novel for my Classics Club Challenge I was curious about how different the two might be and how the movie would stand up next to the...

London Plague of 1665

A Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe

Many consciences were awakened; many hard hearts melted into tears; many a penitent confession was made of crimes long concealed. It would wound the soul of any Christian to have heard the dying groans of many a despairing creature, and none durst come near to comfort them. Many a robbery, many a murder, was then confessed aloud, and nobody surviving to record the accounts of it. When A Journal of the Plague Year was first published in 1722 as the “Observations and Memorials” of a “citizen” who called himself...

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan Cites The Odyssey, Moby Dick, and All Quiet on the Western Front in Noble Prize Lecture

Bob Dylan’s Nobel Lecture is a meditation on the relationship between literature and lyrics. It’s a powerful witness to the lifelong influence great literature can have on a person’s life. Dylan explains that the books he read in grammar school have had a profound influence on his life and on his songwriting: Don Quixote, Ivanhoe, Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels, A Tale of Two Cities, but most especially Moby-Dick, All Quiet on the Western Front, and The Odyssey. He says the books he read in grammar school gave you...

The Trial by Franz Kafka

Classics Club #9: The Trial by Franz Kafka

The Trial by Franz Kafka is one of the masterpieces of existential literature. Or so it is said. Since I’m not up to date on my existential philosophy, the book was largely wasted on me. It’s always a challenge to read books that come at life from a different world view than one’s own, but to give them a fair chance requires wrestling with their philosophical underpinnings. I’m not at a point in my reading life or my intellectual life where I’m interested in exploring the existential experiences described...

Far from the Madding Crowd

Classics Club #8: Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Far from the Madding Crowd is 10th on the The Guardian’s poll of greatest love stories of all time. I did not find it as great as that. Yes, Bathsheba Everdene and Gabriel Oak are well realized characters, and Hardy’s descriptions are evocative and detailed, but the plot did not grab me at all. I can appreciate a good classic romance now and then, but for some reason Far from the Madding Crowd lost my interest fairly quickly. Maybe it was the fact that Bathsheba kept shooting herself in the foot, so...

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos

The short answer is that if you love the novel or the musical Les Misérables, then yes, you should run right out and buy a copy of The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos. If you are what Cameron Mackintosh calls a “Les Mis freak,” then this book is definitely for you. But it is also for those who love literature in general, who love a good “behind-the-scenes” documentary, who are fascinated by literary history, or who love reading about how authors work. I couldn’t...

Welsh Valley

Classics Club Book #7: How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn

O, there is lovely to feel a book, a good book, firm in the hand, for its fatness holds rich promise, and you are hot inside to think of good hours to come. How Green Was My Valley is a gem of a novel. It took me a while to warm up to it, since it doesn’t really have a focused plot, but instead is a coming-of-age story that unfolds the way life does. It’s the story of a coal mining community in South Wales as told through the...

Classics Club Book #6: Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell

Because I graduated from high school in 1984, I’ve always had a connection with both the dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-four by George Orwell and the rock album 1984 by Van Halen. Over the years, the former has grown in my estimation and the latter has declined. The album by Van Halen is something you outgrow. The novel by Orwell is something that grows with you. I put Nineteen Eighty-four on my Classics Club list because I knew my daughter would be reading it in her senior high school literature class,...

The Bridge of San Luis Rey

Classics Book Club #4: The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder

“Why did this happen to those five?” If there were any plan in the universe at all, if there were any pattern in a human life, surely it could be discovered mysteriously latent in those lives so suddenly cut off. Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan. I’ve had The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder on my to-read list for probably twenty years. I had vaguely heard of it growing up, but it really...

Lord of the World

Classics Club Book #3: Lord of the World by Robert Hugh Benson

The two Cities of Augustine lay for him to choose. The one was that of a world self-originated, self-organised, and self-sufficient, interpreted by such men as Marx and Hervé, socialists, materialists, and, in the end, hedonists, summed up at last in Felsenburgh. The other lay displayed in the sight he saw before him, telling of a Creator and of a creation, of a Divine purpose, a redemption, and a world transcendent and eternal from which all sprang and to which all moved. Before Fahrenheit 451, before Nineteen Eighty-four,...

The House on the Borderland

Classics Club Book #2: The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson

The House on the Borderland is an eerie novel that ultimately leaves many questions unanswered. Written in 1908, it is often cited as an influence on writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Terry Pratchett, and it is listed in Fantasy: The 100 Best Books, edited by James Cawthorn and Michael Moorcock. It also becomes my second finished book in the Classics Club Challenge. I really wanted this book to be good. The beginning starts off promising: two men on a fishing holiday in a remote part of Ireland discover...

The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Classics Club Book #1: The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

Strange to say, although in times of immediate danger, in face of an enemy, the image of death always breathed new spirit into him and filled him with angry courage, the same image appearing to him in the silence of the night, in the safety of his own castle, afflicted him with sudden dismay. For this time it was not death at the hands of a mortal like himself that threatened him; not a death that could be driven off by better weapons or a quicker hand. It...

Classic Books

50 Classic Books in 5 Years for My 50th Birthday

Since today is my 50th birthday, I thought I would start my next 50 years off right by joining the Classics Club and committing to read 50 classic novels by October 25, 2021. The idea behind the club is to read at least 50 classic books within five years, and to blog about each one. My main purpose in this project is to read more books from my Summary of Great Books Lists and my Catholic Classics List. I’ve selected books from those two lists along with a...

The Betrothed (I Promessi Sposi) by Alessandro Manzoni

Reading The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni

I’ve been enjoying The Betrothed in a mellow sort of way, the way one enjoys a beer or glass of wine. Rather than gulping it down, I’ve been taking it in small sips. It’s that kind of book. The Betrothed by Alessandro Manzoni is one of the books on my Catholic Classics Reading List. It appears in Fr. John Hardon’s Catholic Lifetime Reading Plan, in Harold Bloom’s The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages, and it is number 94 in Daniel Burt’s The Novel 100: A Ranking of...

First Sentence of Pride and Prejudice

200 Years of Pride and Prejudice

Pride and Prejudice was first published in January of 1813, and it remains one of the greatest novels ever written, appearing on seven of the thirteen “great books” lists I used to compile my personal summary of great books. In The Joy of Reading, Charles Van Doren describes the novel in this way: Pride and Prejudice was her first novel; she wrote a version of it before she was twenty. She put it aside to write Sense and Sensibility, her first work to be published; she then rewrote...