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captainbackfire

If you were to read a classic...

14 years ago

My friend and I have decided that of all the classics out there that we have not read, we'd like to read Dante's Divine Comedy and Joyce's Ulysses. (Does anything say 'dork' any better than this?)

So, I wonder, what classic would you choose?

Comments (44)

  • 14 years ago

    I would love to read Middlemarch. Eliot gives me fits but if I can get involved I think I would like Middlemarch very much. So many people say it's a favorite of theirs.

  • 14 years ago

    War and Peace... It's in my TBR pile, but I am a bit commitment-averse!

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  • 14 years ago

    George Gissing's Workers in the Dawn. After lusting after this book for YEARS, my DH bought it for me two Christmases ago. It has been out of print for decades upon decades and finding a good copy at an affordable price is tough. But he did it. And now, that darned book is so very special to me, I am almost enjoying the anticipation of reading so much that I can't bring myself to actually take it down and read it. Aren't I weird? I am such a complete and total book geek...and proud of it.
    PAM

  • 14 years ago

    Pickwick Papers by Dickens. It has been on my TBR for a long time. Each time I pick it up to read another modern book I want to read comes along-but I will read it - one day!

    Pat

  • 14 years ago

    Thackeray's Vanity Fair has been sitting in my TBR pile for years. I really thought I'd like to read it, but each time I pick it up the tiny print and hundreds of pages make me put it down again. Someday!

  • 14 years ago

    War and Peace, Heaven help me!

  • 14 years ago

    Sheri Vanity Fair is one of my all time favorite classics- a wonderful read IMO!

    Pat

  • 14 years ago

    It is War and Peace for me, too. I started on it last year but got sidetracked and never made it back.

    Frieda, Middlemarch is well worth the effort. I listened to it and read parts of the book at times to be sure I had the names right and wasn't missing anything. It was about 50 hours of listening but I enjoyed it all.

  • 14 years ago

    Ulysses. I bought the novel and a reader's guide that was just as big several years ago, but have yet to crack either one. I'm intimidated. Which is silly. I'm well read in the Greek Classics and know my mythology. Still, I'm intimidated.

    Tried The Divine Comedy once but was quickly bored reading all the footnotes about people of Dante's time. I began thinking about it again after reading The Birth of Venus by Dunant. If I remember correctly our heroine was very fond of the poetry.

  • 14 years ago

    Moby Dick.

    I've got a copy. I'm just put off by its reputation of being dense and heavy.

  • 14 years ago

    In my time I have read quite a few classics but mostly under duress while at school and studying for English exams,
    where I covered much Austen, Bronte, Eliot, Thackeray, Hardy etc. quite enough to keep me from similar works for many years.
    I have a dusty copy of Wuthering Heights next to my bed with only a few chapters read . . . it all seems SO hysterical. I feel I ought to try some Trollope but which one to start with? We have nearly all Dickens' books here, copies from my late mother, yet I have read hardly any of them.
    My only excuses are that many of these books are published/printed on very thin paper with too small print which is a serious strain on my aging eyes . . . and idleness to take the plunge.

    Re Middlemarch Did the excellent BBC series of a few years ago ever reach the US? Worth watching if it is on DVD.

  • 14 years ago

    I really want to re-read "Tess of the D'Urbervilles." I was forced to read it in high school and it went far, far over my head.

    As well, Dickens' "Tale of Two Cities." I detest most of Dickens, but that particular novel touched something in me when I read it in high school.

  • 14 years ago

    I would like to read "Silas Marner" and some of the Anthony Trollope stuff. I just *happened* to find myself in a second hand book shop the other day and a Trollope book threw itself at me so I had to buy it. Now it's in the rather large TBR pile.

  • 14 years ago

    I'd have to second "Vanity Fair" and "Moby Dick". I would also like to try re-reading "Wuthering Heights", I too found it too hysterical, I couldn't see the motivation behind all the emotion but I love reading ABOUT the book (and the Kate Bush song - lol!) I seem to find all the reviews, synopses of the book very tragic and romantic, more so than the book. Does that make sense?

  • 14 years ago

    I read "Middlemarch" twice after seeing the series on Masterpiece Theatre. I have started "Bleak House" but can't seem to stay with it.

  • 14 years ago

    Moby Dick is not too dense. It is heavy to carry around! I enjoyed Ahab's Wife by Sena Jeter Naslund. Its first line is one of my all-time favorites: "Captain Ahab was neither my first husband nor my last."

  • 14 years ago

    War and Peace and Vanity Fair are both on my list of classics-to-be-read-someday, but if I were to choose one today, it would be The Turn of the Screw - I saw the movie with Deborah Kerr several years back, but somehow couldn't get past the first chapter of the book at the time.

    Just recently got around to reading Utopia, Dracula, Jekyll&Hyde, and Candide as part of a classics challenge for another reading board. Also, I finally read something from Lope de Vega, something I've been wanting to do since reading Harry Turtledove's Ruled Britannia several years ago. I picked up a volume of 3 plays: Fuenta Ovejuna, The Knight from Olmedo, and Punishment Without Revenge (all well worth reading), although the translation didn't seem to capture the poetry.

    I'll pass on Ulysses though! Joseph Campbell spent a lot of time on it in his 4th volume of The Masks of God, and I read enough to decide that Joyce is not for me. :) On the other hand, The Divine Comedy is a favorite; I've read Mandelbaum's translation of the entire Comedy and Pinsky's version of The Inferno, but my favorite is still Ciardi's translation. I'd like to try Dorothy Sayers' prose translation sometime, though.

  • 14 years ago

    Donnamira, your info on Divine Comedy translations is helpful. One of the dilemmas my friend and I are facing is the decision of which translation to read; should we read different translations to talk about contrasts? Should we stick together on just one, to give each other support? Still undecided at present.

    Several of the titles mentioned so far would also appear on my shortlist -- Middlemarch, especially, and possibly War and Peace and Vanity Fair.

    Have read Silas Marner, Tess, Les Miserables, Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights (twice! I was sure I didn't get the whole 'Heathcliff is so dreamy' thing; second effort did not illuminate, either.) Liked them all, and would read them again, yes, even W. H.!

    Have no desire whatsoever to read Moby Dick. Just plain not interested.

  • 14 years ago

    I hated "Silas Marner" when we were forced to read it in high school. Recently, I tried to re-read "Wuthering Heights" but found it over the top and ridiculous, so gave the book away.

    FWIW, I think "Turn of the Screw" is well worth the patience to stay with it. We had a discussion on the James novel some years back at this forum, which I will never forget.

  • 14 years ago

    captainbf, the Mandelbaum and Ciardi translations are very similar, both with helpful notes, and overall equally good. The Ciardi translation is slightly earthier, intentionally so (Ciardi points to Dante's use of the Italian vernacular over Latin), and happened to be the one I read first, so that may be why I prefer it. If I were going to compare different translations, I'd probably go for the poetry vs prose comparison, but that's because I already compared multiple poetry versions. I've heard that the Sayers prose version is very fine, but have yet to try it myself.

    The notes are helpful in explaining the politics of the personages Dante assigned various afterlives. Discovering how many Popes Dante stuck in hell was a source of endless amusement to our adolescent, anti-establishment 15-y/o minds when we read Inferno in class, many moons ago.

    You may recall the phrase "multifoliate rose" from T.S. Eliot's The Hollow Men - IIRC, it's a reference to Dante's description of heaven in The Paradiso. There are fantastic images in all 3 poems. The 9th circle of hell will leave an indelible picture in your mind.

    I'm between books at the moment - perhaps this is a good time to try The Turn of the Screw again. Woodnymph, I was indeed thinking of the discussion here when I listed it as the classic I would like to read.

  • 14 years ago

    I have started Paradise Lost several times but just don't have the gumption to stick with it. In a completely different vein, I have a copy of Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy which has remained unread for two decades now. I guess I'm just intimidated by its size and bleak reputation.

  • 14 years ago

    It is David Copperfield for me. Have read three other books by Dickens, but this one is intimidating for some reason.

    Since I'm not sure why you are asking, but am guessing you are looking for a good classic to read, I'd recommend The Sound and the Fury and/or As I Lay Dying. Either of these two would be good precursors to Ulysses. All three use stream of conscienceness and these two are much, much shorter than Ulysses. A bit difficult to get through but well worth it in the end. I still have Ulysses in the TBR pile, but there are so many others that will come to the top before this one ever gets there. Here, here to An American Tragedy, which I passed on to my mother but yet have not read myself.

  • 14 years ago

    I have read David Copperfield but I really want to read more Dickens, especially Great Expectations.
    I have read very few classics, but was forced to read Thomas Hardy at high school and hated it.

  • 14 years ago

    After Zafon's The Angel's Game, Dickens's Great Expectations is a must read for those of us unfamiliar. It holds a prominent place in that noir tale of early 20th century Barcelona.

  • 14 years ago

    I have Irving Stone's The Agony and the Ecstasy in my TBR pile; does that count as a classic? I also picked up The Old Curiosity Shop (Dickens) at a book sale a while ago which is just waiting for the right mood to hit me to be read.

    I read Ulysses (Joyce) for a literature class in college and had to force my way through it. It didn't do anything for me at all, which may have been because of the stream of consciousness style of writing, but I really didn't care for it.

    One of these days, I'm going to tackle War and Peace; so many of you have spoken so highly of it that it's on my list of "should" reads.

  • 14 years ago

    To iamkathy: re the reason I asked the question: my friend and I have taught English together for the last 29 years, and have become great friends with incredibly similar interests in many things including books. Our book club had just met, and we do occasionally read classics with the book club, but I broached the subject with her knowing that she and I, b/c of our English teacher backgrounds, probably had titles in common. And sure enough, we did! We have traveled many times to Italy, from which came our desire to read Dante. We have traveled to Dublin, as well, and that accounts for our interest in Joyce.

    About The Sound and The Fury and As I Lay Dying -- I have read and taught AILD, liked it fine, and appreciate your bringing my attention to it with reference to Ulysses. I have not read TSATF, but it would definitely be one I'd consider.

    Now for bringing things full circle: Our book club recently (last Wednesday) went to a literary picnic at The James Thurber House in Columbus, OH. The speaker on this particular evening was Jennifer Crusie, whose next book will be a modern day take on The Turn of the Screw, interestingly enough. We all thought a read of this classic would be very much something we'd like to do.

    Here is a link that might be useful: Thurber House

  • 14 years ago

    I have a membership to an audio book club and was running out of sci fi (my long love), so thought I'd listen to some of the classics I managed to avoid in school. so far I've listened to 2 of my absolute favorites, Tale of Two Cities and Count of Monte Cristo. New ones have been Bleak House (very much enjoyed it, Dickens has a wicked sense of humor), Jane Eyre, and now am trying to get through Les Miserables by Hugo. Sigh, having some problems with Hugo. A few years ago when commuting over an hour I worked my way through our local library's classics and listened to Hunchback - finished it but was angry by the end. Maybe I just don't understand the french version of the romantic era?

  • 14 years ago

    Hi, Dee, glad to see you made it here :-)))))

  • 14 years ago

    iamkathy, "An American Tragedy" is one of my all-time favorites. I've read it at least twice, perhaps more, and just find the story so quintessentially American (as the title would suggest). Dreiser is not a beautiful writer, but he sure can tell a story.

  • 14 years ago

    kkay, funny that you mention AAT as one of your faves; I left the poor girl in the middle of that lake about 25 years ago, and have never had the slightest interest in getting back to her and seeing the ending of things. It was such a depressing book to me. Different strokes...

    Listening to the classics on tape is a brilliant idea. (I may be one of the few left who have never listened to a book on tape.)

  • 14 years ago

    I have a list of classics I want to read and I am slowly working my way through it. Right at the top is to finish reading the Icelandic Sagas. I read several when I was at school and have finished several since then, but I still have two long ones left and many of the shorter ones.

    One day I will get myself a copy of War and Peace and read it. Other classics on the list include The Brothers Karamazov, The Tale of Genji, Moll Flanders, The Divine Comedy and The Mahabaratha. I would also like to read some of the ancient Greek classics, e.g. the Ars Poetica and Ars Rhetorica.

    And yes, Ulysses is also on it. It used to have Clarissa on it, but I decided that it is simply too long.

  • 14 years ago

    Captain--Ah, it's a pity you couldn't finish AAT, but you're right--everyone's taste is different. Sad fiction never really gets to me; I actually prefer a melancholy tale. Sad non-fiction does get to me. Though AAT was based on a real-life story, of course.

  • 14 years ago

    I like classics, but couldn't finish Moby Dick- Melville went off on one too many tangents for me. Similarly I couldn't finish Moll Flanders- her "life" was the same situation over and over again, just in different locations with different associates. Gave up about three quarters of the way through. I tried reading the Tale of Genji but struggled with the vastly different culture and couldn't appreciate the poetry due to allusions and puns that didn't translate well. Having read Murasaki's Tale by Lesley Downer, though (a fictional account of the life of Genji's authoress, based on diary fragments and other historical inforamtion) I might give it another go.
    My SIL has a collected works of Dickens I'm planning to get my hands on one of these days (it's huge so not bedtime reading though :-) ) and I'm looking for the Oz books to read as well. Not "classics" I know, but neglected old books nonetheless. And one of these days I'll read Vanity Fair.

  • 14 years ago

    Colleen, I love those "Oz" books, and I do consider them classics. I'd love to re-visit them all.

    I'm planning to re-read "Tom Sawyer" soon.

  • 14 years ago

    Based on kkay's opinion, I will give An American Tragedy another try in the fall when I have more time. Have you read Dreiser's Sister Carrie? That novel haunted me for months.

  • 14 years ago

    Yes, I did read "Sister Carrie," and only recently (after having read "An American Tragedy" at least twice) and really enjoyed it. "Carrie" is haunting, but didn't have the powerful darkness of "Tragedy." But it's a great story and apparently loosely based on the life of Dreiser's sister.

  • 14 years ago

    I had not heard that Carrie Meeber was based on a real person. How fascinating. The book is certainly very daring for its time. I found the depictions of poverty and homelessness in New York in the 1880s to be very haunting.

  • 14 years ago

    Sorry, that should have been "The Tale of Murasaki" by Lisa Dalby. Got her mixed up with Lesley Downer, the other Westerner who became a geisha, also with the same initials.

  • 14 years ago

    This is tough since there are literally hundreds of classics I haven't read yet, but would like to someday.

    The one I had hoped to get to this summer (but haven't yet; I'm trying to get through my TBR pile first!) is Gone With the Wind. I might save it for next summer since it seems like it would make a good summer/warm weather read.

    For this winter, I'd like to read Dr. Zhivago (sp?). Shockingly, my library has it (extremely small library; doesn't have many of the classics...for instance, they only have one Jane Austen novel). It looks like a great read to cozy up to during cold, snowy weather. I'd also like to read Jane Eyre from begining to end. Started it twice; didn't care for it either time so away it went! I think I made it half-way through last time I attempted. I would like to re-read Lolita sometime soon too; along with his other works--I've only read Lolita and Ada.

  • 14 years ago

    I took the 2 copies of Inferno back to the library this week. I studied each one (wish I'd written down the translations of them; would tell you if I had) and decided that I wasn't anywhere close to having the time to concentrate on such heavy material.

    Will keep looking and maybe when things slow down as fall and winter come on, I might get into it.

    After reading kren250's post above, I thought back to the first "classic" I read, and when. I read The Grapes of Wrath in 11th grade; I remember it because I had a sense that I had read something truly important and meaningful. I didn't have the full comprehension of it, as I was so young and naive. (Had a rather sheltered upbringing by today's standards.) Perhaps I'd read some prior to that, but if I did, I don't recall the intuitive "knowing" that I'd come across something significant, as I did with Grapes.

    Do you remember which of the classics you first read?

  • 14 years ago

    Mine was Jane Eyre. An aunt loaned it to me and told me to keep it as long as I wanted to. I think I had it three years and read it annually. That led me to Wuthering Heights from the school library, and I read Gone with the Wind around the same time (13-ish).

    We studied Treasure Island, A Tale of Two Cities, Romeo and Juliet, and MacBeth in English lit during my four years of high school.

  • 14 years ago

    I think one of the first classics I read was Lord of the Flies, and I was 11 or 12. It must've made a big impact on me, because ever since then I've "enjoyed" reading novels about society breaking down, people surviving on their own in the wild, etc. I also read To Kill a Mockingbird and Grapes of Wrath around the same time; I remember liking them both but lots in Grapes of Wrath went over my head. I really should re-read that one again someday.

  • 14 years ago

    I remember reading a few significant books like some Jane Austen novels, The Red Badge of Courage, Madame Bovary (!), and Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. They mostly went over my head, but nonetheless influenced me to read more similar titles. I've reread them all several times since.

  • 14 years ago

    Good morning, all. Fascinating topic.

    Of the four Chinese classical novels, I've read two: Journey to the West (aka Monkey) and The Water Margin (aka Outlaws of the Marsh, All Men are Brothers). Still need to read Romance of the Three Kingdoms and The Story of the Stone.

    I can heartily recommend Journey to the West, trans. Anthony Wu, 4 v. from Univ. Chicago Press. The hero, Monkey, shows up in a lot of modern novels by Chinese and Chinese American writers (e.g. Tripmaster Monkey, His Fakebook by Maxine Hong Kingston).

    Water Margin is a lot like the Icelandic sagas, netla. "Then they went here and killed a lot of people, then they went over there and killed a few more, then the other people came back and killed a few of them..." usw. Well, not quite that bad, but with very sparse prose and characterization determined only by what people do, not what they say or what the author thinks about them.

    colleenoz: All fourteen (?) of the Baum Oz books were published in paperback by Ballantine about twenty or twenty-five years ago; you might be able to get used copies from abebooks or some other 2nd-hand vendor. I don't know if the later ones by Ruth Plumley Thompson are available in recent editions or not...while they're a lot of fun (I still have vivid memories of Captain Salt in Oz from my childhood), I've never tried to find them.

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