Casual Classics Challenge

MizB over at MizB Challenges You is hosting 5 different challenges this year, one of which is the Casual Classics Challenge.  I’ve been looking for some motivation and accountability to inspire me to read “Mrs.  Dalloway”, in case I decide to read “The Hours”.  Do you find my life pathetic when you read that sentence?  I sorta do, but also, I suspect that those of you who read book blogs and participate in challenges probably understand.  The rules of this challenge are quite casual, which is nice.  The goal is to read 4 Classics in 2009.  That’s it.  And the definition of Classics* is pretty loose, too.  Any book written before 1970 can be included.   Without further ado, here’s my list.   Book descriptions are from Powells.com, and are listed as Publisher Comments.

Mrs. DallowayMrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf.

“Mrs. Dalloway chronicles a June day in the life of Clarissa Dalloway–a day that is taken up with running minor errands in preparation for a party and that is punctuated, toward the end, by the suicide of a young man she has never met. In giving an apparently ordinary day such immense resonance and significance–infusing it with the elemental conflict between death and life–Virginia Woolf triumphantly discovers her distinctive style as a novelist. Originally published in 1925, Mrs. Dalloway is Woolf’s first complete rendering of what she described as the “luminous envelope” of consciousness: a dazzling display of the mind’s inside as it plays over the brilliant surface and darker depths of reality.”

I tried to read this book several years ago, and I failed.  The beginning of Clarissa’s day was just too drawn out and kind of boring.  I’m hoping that I have matured enough since then to read the book and enjoy it, because I’ve heard such wonderful things about it.  Wish me luck.

The Member of the WeddingThe Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers.

“Here is the story of the inimitable twelve-year-old Frankie, who is utterly, hopelessly bored with life until she hears about her older brother’s wedding. Bolstered by lively conversations with her house servant, Berenice, and her six-year-old male cousin — not to mention her own unbridled imagination — Frankie takes on an overly active role in the wedding, hoping even to go, uninvited, on the honeymoon, so deep is her desire to be the member of something larger, more accepting than herself. “A marvelous study of the agony of adolescence””

I read another book by Ms. McCullers several years ago, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, and I was blown away.  It was a quiet, beautiful book, written when she was just 23.  Truly a wonderful, wonderful book, that I highly recommend.  I was at the library the other day picking up a few other books, and I saw this and had to have it.  See, another reason to join this challenge!  I’ll probably read this book soonish, as it is a library book.

Slaughterhouse FiveSlaughterhouse Five, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

“Slaughterhouse-Five is one of the world’s great anti-war books. Centering on the infamous fire-bombing of Dresden, Billy Pilgrim’s odyssey through time reflects the mythic journey of our own fractured lives as we search for meaning in what we are afraid to know.”

I’ve seen the film, years ago, which was pretty amazing. I honestly don’t remember if I’ve read this before, but if I have, it was so long ago that it doesn’t count.  Billy is a time traveler, shooting back and forth, forwards and backwards in his life, between his youth in WWII and his middle age in the suburbs.  It’s a lot better than I make it sound.

KimKim, by Rudyard Kipling

“Kim is an orphan, living from hand to mouth in the teeming streets of Lahore. One day he meets a man quite unlike anything in his wide experience, a Tibetan lama on a quest. Kim’s life suddenly acquires meaning and purpose as he becomes the lama’s guide and protector — his chela. Other forces are at work as Kim is sucked into the intrigue of the Great Game and travels the Grand Trunk Road with his lama.

How Kim and the lama meet their respective destinies on the road and in the mountains of India forms one of the most compelling adventure tales of all time.”

Several years ago, my Grandmother moved from her house in Modesto to an assisted living facility in Portland, where she can be closer to my father, step-mom,  and my sisters.  While we were going through her things, I found this book, which had been my fathers way back when he lived at home.  I brought it home with me, and vowed to read it sooner or later.  Looks like the time has come, or at least, will come, this year.  I grew up with Kipling’s Just So Stories (my favorite being The Cat Who Walked By Himself, O my best beloved).

Thanks, MizB, for hosting this challenge.  I’m looking forward to it.

*The idea of reading ‘Classics’ reminds me of when I went to talk to the department Chair of the Comparative Literature department, before I enrolled in graduate school.  He was talking to me about reading the Classics, and I told him I had read quite a few…he asked which ones I had read, and I mentioned books like these, like those written by the Bronte sisters, Jane Austin, Shakespeare, etc.  It turned out that what he meant was the types of Classics you read when you’re a Classics major.  Cicero. Homer. Ovid.  Ancient works.  I hadn’t read much, just snippets in High School Latin, but he was very gentle and kind and didn’t make me feel stupid or anything.  I signed up for that department, partly beause he was kind.  The people in the English department were snobby, and there was a recession, so I couldn’t find work that paid more than I was making at my hotel job, so I decided to go back to school…I liked the books in the Comp Lit section of the bookstore.  Not the best way to choose a major, but actually, not the worst either.

7 thoughts on “Casual Classics Challenge

  1. Some times people who are kind and informative, shape us to who we are now. I am not a classic type reader. I am lazy and so something in the book has to tease my brain and make it work. and keep me awake. That is embarrassing to write, sorry.

  2. Oh, good luck with Mrs. Dalloway! I read some Woolf in college, and remember enjoying it once I got into the whole stream of consciousness thing. Then again, that’s all I remember about the book;) So good to hear from you, Julie! (My vote is for the Gypsie, and you should get it, because you’d look so cute riding it!)

  3. LaLunas, that is indeed the problem with classics…they can put you to sleep at times. That’s why I need a challenge to motivate me. If you can get past the writing of times gone by, they can be so rewarding. They wouldn’t be classics if they had nothing to offer…most of them, at least.

    Casey, glad you came by! And I hope that I am able to get into Dalloway. Really. Last time was a no go, but that was a long time ago. I’ve heard such good things, so I’m more determined this time.

  4. I read Slaughterhouse Five after seeing the film and like it quite a lot. The book by McCullers looks really interested as well. This looks like a good selection of books, so I don’t think it will be hard to get through them.

  5. I’m going to do this one. My year is starting pretty slow on the reading front and heavy on the stress and sleep side of things. I’m reading The Picture of Dorian Gray right now though.

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