Category Archives: Classics

Classics Club Spin, #24: The House on Mango Street

“She thinks stories are about beauty. Beauty that is there to be admired by anyone, like a herd of clouds grazing overhead. She thinks people who are busy working for a living deserve beautiful little stories, because they don’t have much time and are often tired.”

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros, is a beautifully written series of vignettes, very poetic and poignant, about a young Hispanic girl growing up in Chicago. These short little narratives of so many episodes in her life, create a clear view of the culture she grows up in and the struggles she faces in coming of age. It’s not an easy life, but she is one who observes closely and learns from her experiences. She is often lonely on her road to self-discovery, but is also surrounded by family and friends. She seeks beauty and a life beyond where she is growing up. And she describes it all as a poet would.

“Someday I will have a best friend all my own. One I can tell my secrets to. One who will understand my jokes without my having to explain them. Until then I am a red balloon, a balloon tied to an anchor.”

The House on Mango Street was one of my choices for my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

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 I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Illinois.

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

One of the positive things about our extended time of quarantine for the Covid-19 virus, is that there have been so many excellent online events and experiences to lift our spirits and remind us of the beautiful and special things in life. I found one of those online events and enjoyed an amazing performance serial of the classic poem, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  I read it once long ago (in high school), and probably wouldn’t have read it again until I found this link.  It’s a MUST experience, because each section is read by a different performing artist, and the artwork that accompanies it is phenomenal. It’s a completely immersive art experience, and is incredibly powerful. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the experience!

After The Original Drawing By Gustave Dore

Around the World in Eighty Days

“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager.”

Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne, is a classic that I was familiar with, watched the movie version, but had never read the book. So I  put it on my “Fifty books in five years” list for The Classics Club. It was so much more fun, and funnier, than I expected! It’s a wild mad dash around the world!

The story is that Phileas Fogg makes a wager with his gentleman’s club members that he can circle the world in just eighty days. He and his French valet, Passepartout, set out from London to win this wager, and have every kind of adventure, and obstacles to overcome, that can be imagined. To add to the adventure, although he didn’t realize it at the time, he was pursued by a detective due to a misunderstanding that he was a criminal on the run.

“It’s really useful to travel, if you want to see new things.”

This novel was full of humor and fun. I must read more of Jules Verne’s books!

 

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Pippi Longstocking

Pippi Longstocking, by Astrid Lindgren, has long been on my list of books to read because I didn’t read it as a child, although that little girl with red hair and strange braids was always in the periphery somewhere. But I thought since she is just a little bit older than me, she is 75 years old this year, (to my 71 years), that I should celebrate by finally reading the book.

It is a beloved book worldwide, but I didn’t fall in love with it. I mostly enjoyed it, and could certainly see why it would appeal to many people young and old…and I admired the strength of this nine-year old girl and her goodhearted but quirky nature. But I felt like I was missing some of the cultural context of the book…things that might be more humorous and/or meaningful in the original language and culture. (Or maybe it was just that my sense of humor has been quarantined a little too long this spring?)  She was not a boring character, and she had spunk! I think she actually might just be the quintessential spunky character.

from the publisher:

Pippi is an irrepressible, irreverent, and irrefutably delightful girl who lives alone (with a monkey) in her wacky house, Villa Villekulla. When she’s not dancing with the burglars who were just trying to rob her house, she’s attempting to learn the “pluttification” tables at school; fighting Adolf, the strongest man in the world at the circus; or playing tag with police officers. Pippi’s high-spirited, good-natured hijinks cause as much trouble as fun, but a more generous child you won’t find anywhere.

Astrid Lindgren has created a unique and lovable character, inspiring generations of children to want to be Pippi. More than anything, Pippi makes reading a pleasure; no child will welcome the end of the book, and many will return to Pippi Longstocking again and again. Simply put, Pippi is irresistible.

So the book experience for me was okay, but I was much more interested in the author, Astrid Lindgren, who appealed more to me than the character she created. She was a humanist and committed advocate for children and animal rights, and through her writings and advocacy work, she was able to help bring changes into law that prohibited violence against children (she was very much against corporal punishment) and promoted animal rights. You can read more about her work here on her website.

I’m sorry to all of you who grew up absolutely loving Pippi. Perhaps I should reread it at some point down the road to see if it was just my state of mind right now, or if the book just wasn’t quite my cup of tea.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

A Tiger for Malgudi

A Tiger for Malgudi, by R. K. Narayan, is an unusual book, a story about humanity from the viewpoint of a captured tiger. It is a compelling story, with much humor, very well written and enjoyable to read. But it is much more than an entertaining read. It is full of insight and wisdom about human beings and the human condition, and I found it refreshing and uplifting.

Summary of the story from the publisher:

A venerable tiger, old and toothless now, looks back over his life from cubhood and early days roaming wild in the Indian jungle. Trapped into a miserable circus career as ‘Raja the magnificent’, he is then sold into films (co-starring with a beefy Tarzan in a leopard skin) until, finding the human world too brutish and bewildering, he makes a dramatic bid for freedom.

R.K. Narayan’s story combines Hindu mysticism with ripe Malgudi comedy, viewing human absurdities through the eyes of a wild animal and revealing how, quite unexpectedly, Raja finds sweet companionship and peace.

To give you a good idea of the wisdom of this little book, here are some of my favorite passages:

  • You are not likely to understand that I am different from the tiger next door, that I possess a soul within this forbidding exterior. I can think, analyse, judge, remember and do everything that you can do, perhaps with greater subtlety and sense. I lack only the faculty of speech.

 

  • For one used to the grand silence of the jungle, the noisy nature of humanity was distressing.

 

  • Tigers attack only when they feel hungry, unlike human beings who slaughter one another without purpose or hunger …’

 

  • All growth takes place in its own time. If you brood on your improvements rather than your shortcomings, you will be happier.’

 

  • We have lost the faculty of appreciating the present living moment. We are always looking forward or backward and waiting for one or sighing for the other, and lose the pleasure of awareness of the moment in which we actually exist.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story from India.

One Day At Teton Marsh

During this time of self isolation, are any of you dreaming of travel? I am! but right now I’m happy to be able to do some delightful armchair traveling.  One Day At Teton Marsh, by Sally Carrighar, is a beautiful written and illustrated book about the wildlife at Teton Marsh, in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, all on one day at the onset of winter. You can see that my copy of the book is old from the photo above. It was published by the University of Nebraska Press, (one of the Bison Books) which was my favorite publishing company for many years. But it’s been a long time since I read it. But I pulled it off the shelf recently and reread it. It has been a lovely companion for my armchair travels, and when this time of quarantine is over, and it is safe to travel again, I want to go to Jackson, Wyoming, and spend some time appreciating the wildlife of that beautiful area!

The style of this book is very interesting. Sally Carrighar has told the story of that one day at Teton Marsh from the point of view of each of the animals that live there. So with each chapter, you really learn about the animal, it’s life and habitat, and how it fits in to the web of life. The writing is beautiful and the stories are quite fascinating! And I love the illustrations, by George and Patritia Mattson.

You’ll have to check your library to find a copy of the physical book because it is out of stock everywhere I looked. However, it IS  available as a Kindle book here.( Just be sure to read it on a device where you can really appreciate the illustrations!)

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “WANDERLUST: Reading the States,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each of the 50 United States. This book took place in Wyoming.

 

 

I also read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

Ballet Shoes

photos above are from the ballet book I adored as a child…

It’s never too late to catch up with books you missed reading as a child!  Ballet Shoes, by Noel Streatfeild, is the first book in another series I missed reading when I was growing up. I don’t know how that happened, as I loved ballet and would have loved this book! But I’m glad I filled in that gap by reading it while I was sick in bed this month. It was fun and interesting, and a great way to take one’s mind off a cough and a cold.

from the publisher:

Pauline, Petrova, and Posy love their quiet life together. They are orphans who have been raised as sisters, and when their new family needs money, the girls want to help. They decide to join the Children’s Academy of Dancing and Stage Training to earn their keep. Each girl works hard following her dream. Pauline is destined for the movies. Posy is a born dancer. And Petrova? She finds she’d rather be a pilot than perform a pirouette.

Classics Club Spin #22

 

It’s time for another Classics Club “Spin!”  Here’s how it works:

At your blog, before next Sunday 22nd December 2019, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List.

You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.

Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you have been putting off, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favourite author, re-reads, ancients, non-fiction, books in translation — whatever you choose.)

On Sunday 22nd December, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by 31st January, 2020.

My record for finishing my Spin books for the Classics Club isn’t great, but I always like to give the book a try! So here I go again with a list of  books from my 50 books to read before March, 2022. (I’m weighting a couple of them a little heavier this time!)

My List for Spin #22:

  1. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
  2. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, by Jose Fernandez
  3. The Sussex Downs Murder, by John Bude
  4. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  5. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  6. The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner
  7. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  8. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  9. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  10. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  11. Night, by Elie Wiesel
  12. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  13. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons of the City, by Italo Calvino

  14. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  15. The Ramayana, by Bulbul Sharma
  16. The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  17. The Measure of My Days, by Florida Scott-Maxwell
  18. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  19. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  20. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf

Classics Club Spin #21

Hooray!  It’s time for another Classics Club Spin!

How it works:

  • Before next Monday 23rd September 2019, create a post that lists twenty books of your choice that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.  This is your “Spin List.”
  • You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the spin period.
  • On Monday 23 September, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by 31st October 2019.

My Spin #21 List:
(stop back here after September 23rd to see which book I will be reading for this CC Spin!  I’ll highlight it in red.)

  1. Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther
  2. Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
  3. The Gaucho Martin Fierro, by Jose Fernandez
  4. The Sussex Downs Murder, by John Bude
  5. The Secret Agent, by Joseph Conrad (Did not finish.)

  6. Kokoro, by Natsume Soseki
  7. Excellent Women, by Barbara Pym
  8. The Story of an African Farm, by Olive Schreiner
  9. The Sea Runners, by Ivan Doig
  10. Rose in Bloom, by Louisa May Alcott
  11. Sons, by Pearl S. Buck
  12. A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf
  13. Night, by Elie Wiesel
  14. The Solitary Summer, by Elizabeth von Arnim
  15. Marcovaldo, or The Seasons of the City, by Italo Calvino
  16. A Room With a View, by E.M. Forster
  17. The Ramayana, by Bulbul Sharma
  18. The Lost Prince, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  19. The Measure of My Days, by Florida Scott-Maxwell
  20. Green Thoughts: A Writer in the Garden, by Eleanor Perenyi

This challenge is a fun recurring event of The Classics Club. Click here to see my list of 50 books to read in 5 years.

Jane Eyre

 

Thank you to my big brother, Curt, for telling me 57 years ago that he thought I’d like the book he’d just finished reading: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I read his copy and it’s been my favorite book ever since. And having just finished listening to the audiobook version, fabulously narrated by Thandie Newton, I can say without reservation that it is still my favorite book!

from the publisher, Penguin Random House:

Charlotte Brontë’s most beloved novel describes the passionate love between the courageous orphan Jane Eyre and the brilliant, brooding, and domineering Rochester. The loneliness and cruelty of Jane’s childhood strengthens her natural independence and spirit, which prove invaluable when she takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. But after she falls in love with her sardonic employer, her discovery of his terrible secret forces her to make a heart-wrenching choice. Ever since its publication in 1847, Jane Eyre has enthralled every kind of reader, from the most critical and cultivated to the youngest and most unabashedly romantic. It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and as a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman’s quest for self-respect.

I know from experience that this is a classic that should be reread at different times in one’s life. Each time I read it I see something new, receive the story in a different way. This is the first time I’ve listened to it read aloud to me, and my narrator did an incredible job! Thandie Newton’s narration was an absolute gift…so perfect, so insightful. It added a whole new dimension to the story for me.

Charlotte Bronte’s writing, though, is superb. I didn’t want to miss one word of it as I listened.  Her plot is compelling with an amazing level of detail about Jane Eyre’s experiences and her responses to them. I know that when I first read it I was carried away by the romance of it, and it is a deeply romantic book. This time, I was completely carried away by her struggle for independence and for her right to live her life by her strong sense of right and wrong, without compromise. That was a personal strength that was in her from a very young age, strength that  helped her survive an incredibly cruel childhood, a difficult pathway into adulthood, and was the source of her courage and resilience as an adult seeking to find her place in the world.

Once again, after finishing this reading of the book, I find myself deeply admiring Charlotte Bronte. She created a complete and totally engrossing world in this novel, and she created a main character that continues to inspire me.

 

I chose this book to read for The Classics Club, as one of my 50 books in 5 years. I also count it as one of the books on my list for R.I.P.-XIV.