- Fizzy Thoughts: Weekly Geeks 2009-03

Weekly Geeks 2009-03

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


For our assignment this week, Ali posed a set of questions about classic literature:

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don't get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it!

I would say I'm ambivalent about the classics. Too much time spent in school, I guess. I want to read what I feel like reading, not what someone has deemed worthy of being read. And what I feel like reading is usually a book published in the very recent past (usually within the last 10 years). I honestly can't think of a single classic (over 100 years old) that I truly love. I will confess that Jane Austen leaves me cold (both the books and the movies), although if we move into classic children's literature I do have a few books that bring back very fond memories (The Secret Garden and all of the Anne of Green Gables books).

The thing about classics is that often, there is an assumption that everyone knows what happens. Even if you haven't read the book you probably know the basic premise of the story. Which can be a bit of a downer if you actually want to read the darn thing. Alternately, there is often the assumption that you know what the book is about...so there are all sorts of references to classics that can go right over a person's head. It's a lose-lose situation.

2) A challenge, should you choose to accept it: Read at least one chapter of a classic novel, preferably by an author you're not familiar with. Did you know you can find lots of classics in the public domain on the web? Check out The Popular Classic Book Corner, for example. Write a mini-review based on this chapter: what are your first impressions? Would you read further? (For a larger selection of authors, try The Complete Classic Literature Library).

A challenge? Okay, Ali. I accept your challenge of a chapter and I'll raise you a section. Because I just happen to have Anna Karenina on hand (long story), and well, it really doesn't have chapters. It has eight parts, divided into somethings...whatever they are, they're too short to be called chapters (at least for the sake of this challenge). Since I can't read only two pages for a mini-review, I'm going for Part 1 in its entirety.

Anna and I got off to a shaky start. Oblonsky seemed a bit too fond of saying "ay ay ay" and "oh oh oh" (pages 2-3) and then on page 13 it was a bunch of "ah's." Despite this less than stellar vocabularian (yes, I'm making up words) start, the dialogue mellowed (a bit) dramatically and improved (quite a bit) in terms of qualifying as dialogue and not just "oh woe is me" sentiments and the book actually got interesting. Although I was starting to despair that the title character would never appear. I guess if a book is 800 plus pages, the author can be forgiven for taking 60 pages before introducing the person the book is supposedly about.

One of my favorite things about the book (so far) are the notes that the translators included at the end. They explain some of the more obscure Russian terms and the references that would have made sense in 1877, but that are beyond this modern girl. Since I loved the few Russian history classes I took in college, these notes are a bonus.

Currently I'm on page 77 and *gasp* enjoying it. What is drawing me in is the glimpse into a society and way of life that is long gone. This book is appealing to my inner historian. I'm definitely reading to the end of Part 1, then I'm going all out and finishing the book. At least I hope so.

3) Let's say you're vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don't find her a book, she'll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her?

After Myrtle and I have a little chat about how she could have possibly forgotten a book, I'd ponder the appropriateness of Olive Kitteridge (hmmm, maybe not the best choice for crotchety Auntie M) or The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (that one just might shock the socks right off of her). Then I'd buy her something more "classical." Maybe something by Wally Lamb because it would be a) complex and b) long. Or something gothic in nature, such as The Thirteenth Tale or The Shadow of the Wind.

4) As you explore the other Weekly Geeks posts: Did any inspire you to want to read a book you've never read before—or reread one to give it another chance? Tell us all about it, including a link to the post or posts that sparked your interest. If you end up reading the book, be sure to include a link to your post about it in a future Weekly Geeks post!

Hey, don't push it. I'm already reading Anna Karenina. I'll be damned if I'm jumping into The Count of Monte Cristo. Melissa and Jackie suggested Dracula, which I think is a fabulous idea, and more my speed.

12 comment(s):

Rebecca @ The Book Lady's Blog said...

Anna Karenina is one of my all-time favorites, and I'm so glad you're enjoying it. My Cousin Myrtle received some of the same reading recommendations as yours.

Jo-Jo said...

I've only read a couple of classics myself, but after I finish one I always say--I really want to read more classics! I read Anna Karenina a few years ago and loved it. I figured if I could get through that I can read anything!

bkclubcare said...

I applaud your dedication in answering all the Qs for this week's geek. I just realized that I forgot to add my post to the linky... I think the Thirteenth Tale and Shadow of the Wind are EXCELLENT sugs for Myrtle. And I begrudgingly admire you for the AK attempt. Show off.

Eva said...

Love AK, and I love this week's Weekly Geeks. :) Dracula is a fun read!

Ali said...

Wow. I'm so frigging impressed with you I'm grinning ear to ear. And you're liking it! You made my day, Fizzybev. :-)

Melissa said...

Oh do read Dracula. The story, the mood, it's all creepy-good.

I read AK a dozen years ago and the one thought I retained was that I liked it, but the last 100 pages were completely worthless.

Nymeth said...

"The thing about classics is that often, there is an assumption that everyone knows what happens. Even if you haven't read the book you probably know the basic premise of the story. Which can be a bit of a downer if you actually want to read the darn thing."

This can bug me as well. Especially the assumption that it's okay to spoil classics, because "anybody who's somebody" has already read them. Well, *i* haven't. Not most of the time, anyway :P

Dracula is indeed great!

softdrink said...

Sounds like AK was the right decision, since so many of you liked it!

And Ali, does this mean I get an "A"? :b

Lexi said...

Haven't read Anna Karenina yet, but I'm encouraged to hear that you like it. Right now, I'm tackling Doctor Zhivago. It's one of those "classics" that everyone seems to know the ending to but me. Of course, that might just be because of the movie...

Ali said...

softdrink, I'm a homeschooler who doesn't believe in grades, so you don't get an A. You get a virtual brownie. :-)

Bogsider said...

I am not participating in Weekly Geeks this week. I've read a ton of classics, but they are more or less all Danish or Scandinavian classics and I am not in the mood to write a post about that right now.

But I have awarded you the Lets Be Friends Award instead ;o)

http://louspages.blogspot.com/2009/01/lets-be-friends-award.html

Dreamybee said...

Guess what I just jumped into-The Count of Monte Cristo! I went to the library the other day and figured I would try some unread Bronte or Austen, but there was none to be found. I ran across Dumas and thought I might as well give it a shot. I'm so glad to see so much high praise for it! Then again, I see a lot of high praise for Wuthering Heights, which I couldn't stand, so who knows.

I've never read Anna Karenina, but I think that's a pretty admirable jumping in point!

In a real sense, people who have read good literature have lived more than people who cannot or will not read. It is not true that we have only one life to live; if we can read, we can live as many more lives and as many kinds of lives as we wish. ~S.I. Hayakawa

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.
~St. Augustine

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.
~Mark Twain

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