Saturday, January 24, 2009
Weekly Geeks #3 - The Classics
I don't know where I was last week, but I completely neglected to do Weekly Geeks! So this week I want to get an early start. This week's theme is to "have fun with the classics". The explanation is a long one, so I am just going to link to it for now, and you can go and have a look at the suggestions at your leisure.
The timing of this assignment is actually pretty good because I have just recently finished listening to Great Expectations on audio book. Having really enjoyed that listening experience I am planning to listen to more classics on audio during this year. The first step will be to rectify what others may perceive as being one of the big gaps in my reading experience, and that is the fact that I have never, ever read any Jane Austen. I have Pride and Prejudice waiting for me to pick up the next time that I make it to the library.
Whilst I have read some classics (some thanks to Oprah and others due to the old Barnes and Noble University), it is an area where I am not as well read as I probably should be. Part of the reason for that is the general impression that reading them will be a bit too much like hard work. Of the ones I have read like East of Eden, Anna Karenina, The Odyssey and One Hundred Years of Solitude, I ended up really loving them. I do think that part of the reason for my enjoyment is the fact that I read it along with an online group, and therefore was able to chat about my reading experience as I went along, and to hear other people's thoughts and questions. With the Gabriel Garcia Marquez books I was able to pick up a couple of his other books and read them by myself, but I haven't yet got that brave when it comes to Tolstoy. It's not that I haven't thought about reading War and Peace for example. It's more that I would prefer to read the version by the same translators who did Anna Karenina and I haven't yet seen it in the shops here, and I don't really think that War and Peace is a practical choice for a library read. Of course, I didn't love them all. There are some that I just didn't really get why particular books are considered classics, or even if I can see why, found them just not readable - not books that you can easily get lost in. (William Faulkner anyone?)
So what prompted me to actually pick up Great Expectations by myself? Well, it was really as a result of other reads. Last year I read Jack Maggs by Peter Carey for an online reading group, and I really did not know until we were part way through the discussion that the book was a reworking of Great Expectations with a couple of additional angles and characters. Not long after that I also read Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones, which isn't a retelling as such but rather a homage to the power of a classic book. Having read both of those, it was an obvious step to actually pick up the book that inspired both of those authors. I think that because the path seemed so organic and that I wasn't forcing myself to read something is a part of why I enjoyed it as well.
The only other classic that I have read recently was North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, and that was inspired by the BBC adaption. (It is sooo tempting to put in a gratuitous picture of Richard Armitage, but I will try to control myself).
I have often thought about reading more classics, particularly as I know that it will enhance my reading of some of my other favourite reads - for example the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde which are populated by so many classic characters. Whilst I have always known who Miss Havisham is as an example, I am pretty sure that I would appreciate her character when she appears in the Fforde books more now that I have read more about Miss Havisham in her original setting.
As an additional part of this week's Weekly Geeks, I am going to try to ensure that I post my review of Great Expectations! Stay tuned.
Oh, what the heck! Gratuitous shot included for my viewing pleasure, and anyone else who happens to enjoy the view too!