My List for Classics Club Spin #28

The Classics Club has announced another spin. How do the spins work? I pick 20 books from my Classics Club list and number them. On October 17, the club picks a number, and that’s the book I will read before December 12, the deadline for this spin. So, here is my list for this spin. This time, I haven’t picked any of the difficult books on my list:

  1. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole
  2. The Mayor’s Wife by Anna Katherine Green
  3. The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson
  4. Rhododendron Pie by Margery Sharp
  5. The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer
  6. Grand Hotel by Vicki Baum
  7. Merkland, A Story of Scottish Life by Margaret Oliphant
  8. Miss Plum and Miss Penny by Dorothy Evelyn Smith
  9. Love’s Labour’s Lost by William Shakespeare
  10. The Dead Secret by Wilkie Collins
  11. Much Dithering by Dorothy Lambert
  12. A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute
  13. Weatherley Parade by Richmal Crompton
  14. The Moonspinners by Mary Stewart
  15. Iza’s Ballad by Magda Szabo
  16. Music in the Hills by D. E. Stevenson
  17. Tis Pity She’s a Whore by John Ford
  18. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  19. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
  20. The Saga of Gosta Berling by Selma Lagerlof

Classics Club Spin 11!

Cover for Far From the Madding CrowdClassics Club has announced another spin. This time I have exactly 20 items left on my Classics Club list. But I don’t want to end up with Henry VI Pt. III before Pt. II, so I’ve done some creative listing, picking an entry to list twice. Classics Club will pick a number on Monday, and that’s the book I’ll read. (Although to be honest, I’ve read some of these already and just haven’t posted my review yet.)

I do wish the Classics Club would stop making their spin deadline be the first of the month, because I can’t tell you how many times it has ended up being the same day as Literary Wives, which is the case this time. The reviews are to be posted by February 1, so I’ll have to post mine earlier. Anyway, can’t wait to find out one of the books I’m reading in December and January!

  1. Henry VI Pt. II by William Shakespeare
  2. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  3. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  4. Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley
  5. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  6. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  8. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  9. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  10. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  11. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  12. Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro
  15. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
  16. That Lady by Kate O’Brien
  17. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor
  18. The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  19. Night by Elie Wiesel
  20. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy

Classics Club Spin #10!

Cover for The Remains of the DayJust announced was the first Classics Club Spin since April. For the spin, we pick 20 entries from our Classics Club list, and then the Classics Club picks a number. We read the book corresponding to that number and post a review on October 23.

Unfortunately, since I always enjoy the spin, this may be the last in which I can participate with my current list, because I have so diligently read my classics that even though I have more than 20 still on my list, that is only because I have read them but not yet posted my reviews. I have exactly 20 unread books left, so I will be short for the next spin. If I want to participate, I will have to leave off some numbers and hope they’re not picked, or post the same books twice, or something. Any suggestions? I don’t want to change my list until I finish it.

Here is my list for Spin #10! My last 20 books! (My goal was to read all 50 by February 13, 2019. I think I’m going to make it.)

  1. The Vicar of Wakefield
  2. Henry VI Pt. II
  3. Night
  4. A Wreath of Roses
  5. Selected Poems by Robert Frost
  6. The Idiot
  7. Ada
  8. That Lady
  9. Beloved
  10. The Remains of the Day
  11. The True Heart
  12. The Beggar Maid
  13. Troy Chimneys
  14. Red Pottage
  15. Rebecca
  16. The Moonstone
  17. Far From the Madding Crowd
  18. Vanity Fair
  19. Bleak House
  20. Henry VI Pt III (I hope they don’t pick this number, because if they do, I’ll have to read Henry VI Pt II, too!)

Update: The selected number was #5, aargh!

Classics Spin #9!

Cover for The MoonstoneI always enjoy the Classics Club spin, where the club invites members to post a list of 20 book from their Classics Club lists, draws a number, and then you promise to read the book corresponding to that number by the deadline. Unfortunately, the date for posting that list always seems to fall on the same day as Literary Wives club, so I’m posting it a little early. Here is my list, and I will read the book chosen by May 15.

  1. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  2. Henry VI Pt I by William Shakespeare (chosen by the spin)
  3. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  4. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  5. Night by Elie Wiesel
  6. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  7. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  8. Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy
  9. Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  10. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  11. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  12. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro
  13. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
  14. Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley
  15. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor
  16. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  17. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  18. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  19. The True Heart by Sylvia Townsend Warner
  20. Beloved by Toni Morrison

Day 636: Their Eyes Were Watching God

their-eyes-were-watching-godTheir Eyes Were Watching God was my selection for Classics Spin #8 for the Classics Club! Here is my review.

I had a complex reaction to this novel. On the one hand, I liked its protagonist, Janey Crawford, and was interested in her struggle to define her own identity. On the other hand, I didn’t much like any other characters in the novel. On the one hand, Janey’s struggles to define herself make the novel a landmark feminist book; on the other hand, Janey defines herself through her choice of husbands and her relationships to them. On the one hand, I don’t usually like tales in the vernacular; on the other hand, both the educated omniscient narrator and Janey’s vernacular third/first-person narration have moments of entrancing imagery. And speaking of that imagery, for a book written in 1937, the novel is occasionally startling in its sexuality.

A woman in her 40’s, Janey has recently returned home without Tea Cake, the man she left with. Having departed in some scandal, a well-off widow with a much younger, penniless man, she is figuring in a lot of talk. So, when her friend Phoeby comes to see her, Janey decides to tell her the story of her life.

Janey was raised by her grandmother in West Florida after her mother had her as a result of rape and then disappeared. Janey is a light-skinned black woman with long beautiful hair, and her appearance features in much of her story. When she is still an extremely innocent 16-year-old, her grandmother marries her off to a much older man, trying to give her stability. Janey thinks that marrying will make them love each other, but she is soon disillusioned and finds he is inclined to treat her like a work horse.

Then she meets Joe Starks, a flashy well-dressed man who seems to be going somewhere, and is. She leaves with him and they settle in an all-black town in “the new part of Florida,” where Joe soon becomes the mayor and store owner. But he defines his marriage by what he gives her and expects her to maintain a certain decorum as his wife, not allowing her to participate in many of the small town amusements. Also, he treats her with disrespect, publicly ridiculing her.

After Joe dies, under circumstances that have already started talk, Janey meets Tea Cup and eventually leaves with him to work in the Everglades. Although Tea Cup is in some ways an improvement over her other two husbands, there are some events that disturbed me. First, he steals her $200 and comes back with $12, but she is only upset when she thinks he has left her. Next, he earns it back but makes her put it in the bank and promise to live off what he can provide, a classic play for dominance that ignores the fact that she soon has to go to work next to him, manually in the fields. Finally, he beats her up once, not because of anything she does but because he wants to show everyone that she belongs to him.

Hurston was a trained ethnographer, and her fiction details a way of life in small-town Florida of her time. I found many of the details interesting. A fascination with skin color and Caucasian features is one theme that comes up several times. In fact, when Tea Cake beats Janey, instead of provoking a discussion of the fairness of the beating, the people are more fascinated by Janey’s skin being fair enough that they can see the bruises, which makes the other men envious.

Janey is often viewed harshly and unfairly by others. But it is part of her growing self-awareness that she doesn’t care. Although to me she sometimes seems too passive in her relationship to men—her gentle response to Tea Cake’s beating is seen as a good thing—she is otherwise a strong and resourceful heroine.

Classics Club Spin #8!

Cover for The MoonstoneIt’s time for another Classics Spin! I have put together a list of 20 books from my Classics Club List. On Monday, the Classics Club will pick a number between 1 and 20, and the number they pick determines the book that I will read from the list below. I’ll read that book and review it on January 5!

  1. Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes
  2. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  3. Henry VI, Pt. I by William Shakespeare
  4. A Wreath of Roses by Elizabeth Taylor
  5. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  6. Red Pottage by Mary Cholmondeley
  7. Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns Carr
  8. That Lady by Kate O’Brien
  9. Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple
  10. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  11. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
  12. Selected Poems by Robert Frost
  13. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  14. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  15. Night by Elie Wiesel
  16. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
  17. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  18. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  19. Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy
  20. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray

Day 591: Goodbye to All That

Cover for Goodbye to All ThatThis is my book for the most recent Classics Club Spin! I originally announced that I would post my review a day late, on October 7, but I decided to post it early instead, so as to meet the spin deadline, since Monday, the deadline, is Literary Wives.

Goodbye to All That is the only memoir by Robert Graves, written in his 30’s about a dozen years after World War I. Nowadays, Graves may be best known as the author of I, Claudius, but the publication of Goodbye to All That was extremely controversial. It was one of the first memoirs about the war, and it was one of the most critical.

But before Graves turned a satiric eye on the war, he pointed it at the public school system. I did not always understand what was going on in his boy’s school, but the layers of hierarchy and the customs seem ridiculous. Not surprisingly, this same complexity extends to the different regiments in the military and their customs—where to wear their decorations, what to wear (for one regiment in France, the answer is shorts), and who may speak or drink in the officer’s mess.

Graves, who enlisted early in the war at the age of 21, was soon viewing it all skeptically. One scene of high satire takes place in a meeting of battalion officers, who are all called in to listen to the complaints of their colonel that the men aren’t buttoning their pocket flaps and so on—the worst offence being that he heard a soldier actually call a noncommissioned officer “Jack”! This meeting takes place at the same time that the division is issuing commands for the men to perform impossible missions that would have gotten them all killed had they not been cancelled at the last minute.

Graves also deals somewhat facetiously with the premature reports of his own death, sent by the military to his family after he was wounded, by putting a polite announcement in the Times.

This memoir is interesting enough, although at times I could not follow the nuances of the events, having no knowledge of British school or military terms. There is a short glossary of military terms at the beginning of the book, but it is insufficient. These days, news of incompetency and jingoism during the war is no surprise, but when this book was published, it was the cause of a storm of letters containing all kinds of accusations against Graves.

Classics Spin #7!

Cover for BeowulfI have enjoyed the Classics Club spins so much that I’ve decided to participate again in Classics Spin #7! In these spins, members of the Classics Club post a selection of 20 books from their Classics Club List, then the Classics Club picks a number on the slated day, and you read that book within the next couple of months. Unfortunately, this time, the Classics Club post will be battling with my next post for Literary Wives, both due October 6. I will post my Literary Wives review on the 6th and post my review for whatever the spin book is on the 7th. I usually don’t do what the spin advises and post my books by category of how much I look forward to them, but this time, what the heck. The spin number is announced next Monday.

Books I’m Dreading

1.   The Vicar of Wakefiel

2.   Giants in the Earth

3.   Beowulf

4.   Henry VI Pt. I

5.   Don Quixote

Books I’m Looking Forward To

6.   Mrs. Marjoribanks

7.   Sisters by a River

8.   The Age of Innocence (an old favorite)

9.  The Remains of the Day

10.  Vanity Fair (another old favorite)

Books I Am Neutral About

11.  Night

12.  Ada

13.  Beloved

14.  That Lady

15.  The Call of the Wild

Other Choices

16. Red Pottage

17. Goodbye to All That

18. Brave New World

19. Greenbanks

20.  The Beggar Maid

Classics Club Spin #6

Cover for Snow CountryClassics Club Spin #5 was fun. It’s nice leaving your reading choice up to fate occasionally. So, I decided to participate in Classics Club Spin #6! Here is my short selection from my Classics Club list, numbered but in no particular order. On Monday, the club will pick a number, and I get to read that book sometime in May or June. The club suggests grouping your choices in some way, such as books you have been dreading to read. I prefer to put those off by not including them on this list!

  1. Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  2. Stoner by John Williams
  3. Night by Elie Wiesel
  4. The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter
  5. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
  6. Beowulf (Seamus Heaney translation)
  7. La Reine Margot by Alexandre Dumas
  8. The Perpetual Curate by Margaret Oliphant
  9. Troy Chimneys by Margaret Kennedy
  10. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  11. Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple
  12. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
  13. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
  14. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  15. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  16. Ada by Vladimir Nabokov
  17. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  18. Sisters by a River by Barbara Comyns Carr
  19. Selected Poems by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  20. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro

My Classics List

I am following my friend Cecilia’s lead and participating in the Classics Spin. It sounds like fun. It isn’t clear to me if you have to be a member of the Classics Club or not, but anyway, here goes. I have to make my own list of 20 classics, and then each month the club will arbitrarily pick a number, and I have to read and review that book that month. Sounds like fun! Most of these are books I haven’t read, although there are a few I want to reread in the near future. Here is my list, in no particular order.

  1. Cover for The Long ShipsThe Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  2. Summer by Edith Wharton
  3. The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  4. Stoner by John Williams
  5. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  6. The Known World by Edward P. Jones
  7. O Pioneers! by Willa Cather
  8. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  9. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  10. Greenbanks by Dorothy Whipple
  11. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  12. The Scottish Chiefs by Jane Porter
  13. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
  14. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  15. Light in August by William Faulkner
  16. Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
  17. The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  18. The Beggar Maid by Alice Munro
  19. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  20. The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson