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!


  1. Ok, I'm clueless - who's the pic of?
    I also want to rec the 1998 movie of Great Expectations (starring Ethan Hawke) - a very interesting interpretation, imo.

  2. The picture is of Richard Armitage who starred in the BBC adaption of North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell.

  3. Great answer - thank you so much for the picture of Richard Armitage too - very yummy - and very wonderful in North & South ;0)
    My answer is here:

  4. Mister Pip made me want to read Great Expectations, too! That was such a cool book.


  5. I've read Great Expectations but haven't read Mister Pip yet. It's on my wishlist.

    My WG is up too.

  6. I want to read War and Peace too. I recently bought the new translation by Richard Pevear--the one that did the Anna Karenina.

  7. I read Faulkner in college and loved...which one, I wonder? The Sound and the Fury, maybe?
    Great Expectations, on the other hand, almost ruined Dickens for me. Go figure!

  8. Dickens wrote mysteries Marg - did you know that? Thanks for the excellent post

  9. I read War and Peace when I was 18 I think. I set it as a challenge. And I remember that it wasn't as hard to read as I had imagined.

    And it is always good to look at Richard Armitage. I am suprised that you don't work one into every blog post!

  10. Amanda, don't tempt me! I think that I was surprised by how easy to read Anna Karenina was when I read it too.

    Kerrie, I didn't know that!

    Ali, I can't remember what it is called, but it's the one with the "My mother is a fish" chapter. I actually thinking that listening to the audio version really helped with my enjoyment of Great Expectation because the narrator was just so good.

    Becky, that's the translation that I want to get hold of.

    Pussreboots, Mister Pip is definitely a highly recommended read.

    Lezlie, it was wasn't it.

    Thanks for stopping by everyone.

  11. I feel like I haven't read nearly enough Classics either. I always say I want to read more but I guess I feel like it's going to a bit like school work or something.

    I've been dipping into the book Classics for Pleasure by Michael Dirda and it really makes me want to read books that I never even would have thought of picking up. So I highly recommend that one.

  12. I'm sorry Faulkner wasn't to your liking as I absolutely loved Light In August but major kudos to you for reading Anna Karenina because I was never able to get through it. And please, please give Henry James a chance. I promise Daisy Miller is awesome.

  13. Erika Lynn, I am very much of the opinion that some times it isn't the book, it is that it isn't the right time to read the book! I will eventually give Faulkner another go, and Henry James!

    Iliana, I will keep an eye out for the Classics for Pleasure book!

  14. I haven't read any Gaskell yet. I really want to though.

  15. I am intending to read more Gaskell this year. Maybe Cranford, because I really enjoyed the parts that I saw of the adaptation of it which starred Dame Judi Dench.

  16. So glad you included the picture! I love North and South, both movie and book!

  17. I too love Great Expectations! My post is also about it. :) I've only heard about Mister Pip now.. so thanks! I think I'll check it out..

    I did not care for Faulkner's The SOund and the Fury, it was just too difficult for me. Maybe I'll try again someday..

  18. I'm with you. I haven't read a lot of classic literature myself. Not really because I don't want to, but mainly because I tend to lose interest in the novel after awhile. Love the stories, but the writing gets a bit too formal for me.

    However, I've never read Jane Austen either and I really don't plan to. Now, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde - they are on my list to read and I'm currently half way through The Picture of Dorian Gray.

  19. Jaxon, I haven't ever really been that aware of Oscar Wilde other than about the man himself, so I will be interested to hear what you think of his work.

    Claire, Mister Pip is definitley worth checking out.

    Suey, glad that you enjoyed the view as much as I do!

  20. I loved Mister Pip, but I have a hate/hate relationship with Dickens so I don't think I'll be re-reading Great Expectations.

  21. I have a hard time getting through the classics as well. I took an English class in college and we had to read Faulkner (snooze) and Pride and Prejudice. Now while I love the story of P&P, for some reason it was impossible for me to read the book. I recently added it back on to my list along with Wuthering Heights (again love the story- tried to read in college and couldn't) and the Great Gatsby. I'm hoping maybe now that I'm a bit older I'll have more of an appreciation *crosses fingers* I love to read and I really do feel like I'm doing myself a disservice by ignoring the classics.

  22. I haven't read a lot of classics either, I'm sorry to say -- though I still believe, whole-heartedly, that life's too short to read books you really don't care to read. Most of my classic-reading was done back in high school (don't ask how long ago that was!)but I've read a few here and there. The only one I've had to put down was ANNA KARENINA -- it was just too heavy on the detail and I felt suffocated -- but, you're right, maybe it just wasn't the right time. Oh, by the way, any time is a good time for a pic of Richard Armitage!

  23. I've never read any Austen either, and I feel like such a literary slacker!

    I read Great Expectations in high school, and I really enjoyed it. I think the audiobook way is probably a good way to go with Dickens though, especially if staring down one of his tomes leaves you a bit wary!

    I know what you mean about the classics enhancing your other reads. I made a point of reading Jane Eyre before I read The Eyre Affair, and I'm so glad I did! Not only did it help me enjoy The Eyre Affair, but I really (unexpectedly) liked Jane Eyre too.

  24. I cannot wait to see your review of Great Expectations..i just adored that story!

  25. Serena, I probably need to hurry up and write it then!

    Dreamybee, a literary slacker. That's exactly how I feel at time!

    Lynn, anytime is a good time! You are right. Sometimes having to read to a achedule works as a good incentive because you do keep going so that you don't let your fellow readers down.

    Maree - hate/hate relationship with Dickens! LOL!

  26. I actually never thought about listening to the classics. I think that's a fabulous idea!!

  27. It was interesting to hear that your enjoyment was greater when reading along with a group. I find this happens for me too, when reading books for school I find the discussions add alot to the reading experience.



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