Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's Top Ten Tuesday from The Broke and the Bookish is:
Top Ten Books On My Winter TBR.
1. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 

I read it last year, I will read it this year, and I will read it next year.

2. The Winter's Tale by William Shakespeare.

"A sad tale's best for winter. I have one 
Of sprites and goblins."
(Act II scene I)

3. Domestic Manners of the Americans by Fanny Trollope.

This I bought today, and plan on reading as soon as I've finished my James Joyce biography. 
It's by Fanny Trollope, Anthony Trollope's mother, and it's a rather damning account of her travels in America (published in 1832), which led her to be, in Mark Twain's words, 
"so handsomely cursed and reviled by this nation".

4. The Legend of Good Women by Geoffrey Chaucer.

5. Good Wives by Louisa May Alcott.

I re-read Little Women last Christmas and decided to save Good Wives for this Christmas.

6. Armadale by Wilkie Collins.

This, I hope, is going to be one of my first 2015 reads. One of the lead characters, Miss Gwilt, is described as "One of the most hardened female villains whose devices and desires have ever blackened fiction"! It's at least partly set in Norfolk (I'm going off the blurb at the back) so I will read this as part of my Reading England Challenge.

7. Exemplary Stories by Miguel de Cervantes.

I've been meaning to read this since I read Don Quixote.

8. The Nibelungenlied

I haven't made my list yet for Fanda's Literary Movement Challenge, but I think I'll be reading this for the first month, which is medieval literature.

9. The Life and Letters of Leslie Stephen by Frederick William Maitland.

I've been meaning to read this practically since it came out (ok, that might be a slight exaggeration), so it will be on my TBR 2015 Challenge (I still need to decide on the final titles for this challenge). It's said to contain the first published words of Virginia Woolf: I've flicked through it, and I think I know the part that is being referred to, and I'm convinced they are Vanessa Bell's words. But I shall read it and find out!

10. The Diaries of Francis Kilvert.

Another book I've been meaning to read for quite a while! It's the diaries of the Rev. Francis Kilvert, who lived in both Wiltshire and Herefordshire (so I'll also be reading it for my Reading England Challenge).

A busy winter lies before me! 

Monday, 24 November 2014

Reading England 2015.

Already people are beginning to think ahead to their reading challenges for 2015 (I'm particularly excited by Fanda's Literary Movements Reading Challenge, which I'll write about in the coming weeks, and I see Adam has posted his TBR 2015 Challenge which I shall be joining), and I've been thinking of challenges and the various read-alongs which are cropping up. I've also been thinking of hosting my own challenge, a challenge I've been thinking about since June as it happens: Reading England. This is not unlike the 50 States Reading Challenge, only for this one we would be reading books set in various English counties.

The Goal: To travel England by reading, and read at least one book per however many counties of England you decide to read.

Example: You aim to read three books set in three different counties, and you read Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy, Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, and The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates. Reading these means you have read a book from Dorset (Far From the Madding Crowd), London (Mrs Dalloway), and Kent (The Darling Buds of May).

The Rules:

  • This challenge begins on the 1st January 2015 and ends on 31st December 2015, but of course if you really get into it then keep it going :)
  • You can sign up any time between now and the end of 2015. Only books read after 1st January 2015 count, though.
  • Choose a level (below), but do not feel obliged to pick your books or even your counties beforehand. 
  • Because this is a classics blog, I'd encourage people to read classic novels, but how you define classics is up to you.
  • You are not limited to English authors. Henry James, for example, is American but his novel The Turn of the Screw is set in Essex, and so he counts for the challenge.
  • It would be grand if you blogged about the books you read for each county but you don't have to. If you do, you don't have to feel obliged to give any information about the county in general other than, maybe, "This is my review of x which is set in the county of x". You could also include a description of the landscape in your posts, but again you don't have to.
  • You do not have to read the books in their original language, translations are accepted (I only read in English so I would never dream of making other people read in their second language!)
  • Audio books, Kindles, and whatnot are accepted too.
  • Poetry, plays, biographies, and autobiographies count as well as novels. 

The Levels:
  • Level one: 1 - 3 counties
  • Level two: 4 - 6 counties
  • Level three: 7 - 12 counties
  • Level four: 12 + counties

The List:

Firstly, this list is not exhaustive, and there are no doubt many books that you may decide is more suitable for a particular county than the ones I've listed. You get to choose your books, I'm not asking you to pick from this list. Secondly. this isn't even an exhaustive list of counties! Odd as this perhaps might seem to someone not from England, listing English counties is a tricky business! What I have listed here is based on the 39 Historic Counties of England, although I've listed novels set in Middlesex as London, as Middlesex would have once contained the likes of Bloomsbury, Kensington, Hampstead and the like within its borough of Ossulstone. Rutland is now made up of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire, and finally Westmorelandshire is a part of Cumbria. It wasn't easy to get the information together for this list, so there may be errors, but I hope there aren't!

And without further ado, here is the list of suggestions:

  • The Two Sisters by H. E. Bates
  • My Uncle Silas by H. E. Bates
  • Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  • Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy 
  • Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes
  • Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor by William Shakespeare
  • The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde
  • Evelina by Fanny Burney
  • Lark Rise to Candleford by Flora Thompson
  • The Longest Journey by E. M. Forster
  • Maurice by E. M. Forster
  • Glory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Jacob's Room by Virginia Woolf
  • Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
  • Frenchman's Creek by Daphne du Maurier
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  • Basil by Wilkie Collins
County Durham
  • Afternoon Off by Alan Bennett
  • Rokeby by Walter Scott
  • The Tennant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins
  • Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
  • Lady Anna by Anthony Trollope
  • The Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
  • Adam Bede by George Eliot
  • Uncle Silas by J. Sheridan Le Fanu
  • The Lair of the White Worm by Bram Stoker
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore
  • The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley
  • He Knew He Was Right by Anthony Trollope
  • Rachel Ray by Anthony Trollope
  • The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis
  • Moonfleet by J. Meade Falkner
  • Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  • The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
  • Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
  • Thank you, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
  • Barnaby Rudge by Charles Dickens
  • Nightingale Woods by Stella Gibbons
  • The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  • Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee
  • The Tailor of Gloucester by Beatrix Potter
  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  • On The Black Hill by Bruce Chatwin
  • The Diaries of Francis Kilvert by Rev. Francis Kilvert
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
    • The Darling Buds of May by H. E. Bates
    • The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
    • Murder in the Cathedral by T. S. Eliot
    • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    • The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
    • Cakes and Ale by W. Somerset Maugham
    • Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
    • Hard Times by Charles Dickens
    • Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
    • North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
    • Redburn by Herman Melville
    • The Road to Wigan Pier by George Orwell
    • Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson
    • The Right to an Answer by Anthony Burgess
    • John Marchmount's Legacy by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
    • The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
    • Pamela, or, Virtue Rewarded by Samuel Richardson
    • Emma by Jane Austen
    • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
    • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    • The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
    • The Man Who Was Thursday by G. K. Chesterton
    • Fanny Hill by John Cleland
    • No Name by Wilkie Collins
    • Moll Flanders by Daniel Defoe
    • A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
    • The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
    • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
    • Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
    • The Nether World by George Gissing
    • New Grub Street by George Gissing
    • The Diary of a Nobody by George and Wheedon Grossmith
    • Hanover Square by Patrick Hamilton
    • Esther Waters by George Moore
    • The Diary of Samuel Pepys
    • Vanity Fairy by William Makepeace Thackerary
    • Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
    • Night and Day by Virginia Woolf
    • The Big Six by Arthur Ransome
    • Armadale by Wilkie Collins
    • Mansfield Park by Jane Austen [uncertain]
    • Mistress Masham's Repose by T. H. White
    • The poetry of Wilfrid Gibson 
    • Rob Roy by Sir Walter Scott
    • Ruined City by Nevil Shute
    • Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
    • The Rainbow by D. . Lawrence
    • Sons and Lovers by D. H. Lawrence
    • The White Peacock by D. H. Lawrence
    • The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford
    • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    • Howards End by E. M. Forster
    • A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman
    • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
    • Persuasion by Jane Austen
    • No Name by Wilkie Collins
    • The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
    • Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer
    • The Belton Estate by Anthony Trollope
    • Aunts Aren't Gentlemen by P. G. Wodehouse
    • Anna of the Five Towns by Arnold Bennett
    • The Old Wives Tale by Arnold Bennett
    • Adam Bede by George Eliot
    • Celia by Fanny Burney
    • No Name by Wilkie Collins
    • We Didn't Mean to Go to Sea by Arthur Ransome
    • The Watsons by Jane Austen
    • A Room With a View by E. M. Forster
    • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
    • Sanditon by Jane Austen
    • The Worm Forgives the Plough by John Stewart Collis
    • The Last Post by Ford Maddox Ford
    • The Collector by John Fowles
    • Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons
    • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
    • The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists by Robert Tressell
    • The History of Mr. Polly by H. G. Wells
    • The Invisible Man by H. G. Wells
    Tyne and Wear
    • The novels of Catherine Cookson
    • The Stars Look Down by A. J. Cronin
    • The Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden
    • Tom Brown's School Days by Thomas Hughes
    • Kenilworth by Walter Scott
    • As You Like It by William Shakespeare
    • The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
    • The Chronicles of Barset by Anthony Trollope
    • Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
    • Aurora Leigh by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
    • The Well of Loneliness by Radcyffe Hall
    • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë [uncertain]
    • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
    • Shirley by Charlotte Brontë
    • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
    • No Name by Wilkie Collins
    • Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
    • The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith
    • A Kestrel for a Knave by Barry Hines
    • The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shady, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne
    • Dracula by Bram Stoker

      As I said, county boundaries do change, and the settings for books change too, so reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens would see a jump between London and Kent, and Dracula by Bram Stoker describes both Kent and Yorkshire (Whitby). On this basis, it's up to you how you would categorise the novels you read, but it would be nice if, for example, you read Great Expectations for Kent, and then a different London novel or vice versa. 

      So there it is! A very long post for what I hope is a fun and straightforward challenge! If you want to join let me know by leaving me a comment, and if you decide to write a post on your blog about it then leave me a link. If you join, I suggest to keep track of your challenge you write a master post then through out the year keep adding your books to that.

      And here are your buttons:
      I hope you join me! :)

      Edited to add: I've just started a board on Pinterest with suggestions for each county, and I'll keep adding to it as I find more suggestions. 

      Wednesday, 19 November 2014

      War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.

      War and Peace (Война и миръ) was written by Leo Tolstoy and published in 1869. It's one of those books that are high on people's list of intimidating books for it's sheer length, but, as it happens, it's not even in the top 20 of the longest novels ever written (it's 21st, I think), about on a par with Les Misérables by Victor Hugo, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (both of which are slightly shorter), Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand, A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (slightly longer). It is no Clarissa (Samuel Richardson), and it's certainly no In Search of Lost Time (Proust)

      The only danger, as with all books, is that it might be boring. A month ago, having read the Rosemary Edmonds translation (Penguin Classics) twice, I would have agreed. Reading it took a great deal of effort and self-discipline, and ultimately it was a disappointing and a very pointless exercise. Frustration was my only memory of these two reads. When my friend suggested another translator I half-heartedly agreed; it's certainly worth a try, but to go through it all again a third time didn't fill me with excitement. Nevertheless I bought a copy of the Louise and Aylmer Maude translation (Oxford University Press), and I duly ignored it for ten months.

      I decided to read it in October because, having just finished one chunkster (The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope) I was in the mood for another, but perhaps not quite of Clarissa proportions. So there it was: the third chance. The first few pages didn't go well, I have to admit, and it looked as though it was another mission doomed to failure. But something, what I don't know, just clicked, and became one of those books I couldn't put down. I ended up reading it in about a week and a half - one of those glorious books that constantly call - I didn't watch television, I was hardly on the internet, all I wanted to do was read this book. The Maude translation was exciting and engaging, it gave so much warmth and vitality to Tolstoy (which, sadly, I can't read in the original language). 

      Writing about the plot, however, is still a little daunting! I remember someone telling me the easiest way to describe it is as so: "War and Peace is about Russia". And, indeed, it is, partly at least. It's about five aristocratic families during the French's Napoleonic Era; the novel begins in 1805 and climaxes in 1812 when the French invaded Russia. This is, of course, a rather complex period and I've read that it's necessary to have a basic understanding of this period in order to appreciate War and Peace: well, I didn't have a basic understanding and I enjoyed it, so I dare say I wouldn't worry too much about background reading: Tolstoy explains what is happening, and for me this was enough - in fact, I learned quite a lot, and not just about the Napoleonic era, but also a little about Catherinian Era preceding it. 

      It is, as I say, focused on the aristocracy (as opposed to, for example, Dostoyevsky's focus on the lower classes). The families are the Bezúkhovs, the Rostóvs, the Bolkónskys, the Kurágins, and the Drubetskás (one observation - what makes War and Peace tricky is that when one is unfamiliar with the pronunciation of a name it becomes hard to remember, so I'd suggest either finding out how the names are pronounced, or at least saying them out loud a few times as you would imagine they were pronounced. This helps enormously) and their experiences during 1805-12. However unfamiliar this era is, the geography of Russia and Europe, and the difficult-to-pronounce names, the themes and experiences of the characters are anything but alien. These are as familiar as Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, George Eliot, or so many other great Victorian writers. 

      Pierre Bezúkhov played by Anthony Hopkins (1972).
      Pierre Bezúkhov is my favourite character: he is the illegitimate son of Count Kiril Vladímirovich Bezúkhov who becomes their heir to his father's estate. He himself becomes Count Bezúkhov, and a part of upper class society. He is an intelligent, warm, and kind man, but socially very awkward and misplaced, at times even scandalous. He struggles throughout the novel to find happiness and peace, and he becomes Tolstoy's own mouthpiece. He is a philosophical chap, very earnest, and to read his progression is deeply satisfying. Natasha Rostóv is another favourite: she is passionate and so full of life, impetuous too, which leads to a catastrophic decision. As with Pierre and other characters, we read of her progress, her suffering, and her joy, all these events and emotions that shape and change her character. 

      This great cast of characters is life-like: Tolstoy is a realist, and if I was to list the characters it would be difficult and very off-putting to potential readers, but like life the characters are joined: like Eliot's Middlemarch Tolstoy has spun a fine web and attempting to break it down would be a disservice to him - quite simply, it is like life. The characters are so well-drawn and distinctive, it's not so hard to keep track of them all. Life is full of people and relationships of all kinds, and Tolstoy wrote life.

      It is, in short, a tremendous book about people and their lives, their desires, and how their 'self' as it were shifts and is shaped by their relationships and experiences. It's not a book to be feared but to be anticipated and enjoyed. It's a book I'll re-read again, and I'll look forward to doing so. It's not a thick, dense tome with too much going on. Virginia Woolf said of Tolstoy that he was the greatest of all novelists, "Nothing seems to escape him. Nothing glances off him unrecorded" ('The Russian Point of View' from The Common Reader First Series, 1925) - this is it. War and Peace must be read, and it's a pleasure and a privilege to do so, with the right translator of course.

      Finally, some illustrations from various (unnamed) artists from The complete works of Count Tolstoy (Translated from the original Russian and edited by Leo Wiener), published 1904 by D. Estes & company (Boston). 


      Monday, 17 November 2014

      Parlement of Foules by Geoffrey Chaucer, and a new challenge.

      This weekend I've been thinking about my various reading challenges, particularly reading Dostoyevsky's major works. It's a challenge I've had going for nearly a year, and it's become a thorn in my side. The list I chose was far from complete, and the idea of adding more on to it filled me with dread. Furthermore, the point was to make a sort of study of Dostoyevsky, and I've simply not managed to whip up enough enthusiasm for the task. It's now a definitive list of vague intentions, and whilst I still want to read through his works, I don't want to make this challenge of it when it is so half-hearted. I was thinking about it this weekend, as I say, and I realised I had five left on the list (and only one of the works I've reviewed on this blog); in theory I could finish some time in the new year, but even so I wouldn't have "studied" anything. And so, for now, I think it is time to suspend the Dostoyevsky challenge and move forward with something new, someone I do have enthusiasm for. And that someone, as the title of this post suggests, is Geoffrey Chaucer

      I'm lucky with Chaucer: I don't find him as hard to read as many, and everything I've read I've enjoyed. The idea of re-reading The Canterbury Tales is exciting, and there are a great many other works I want to read as well. And so I shall, starting with the relatively short Parlement of Foules.


      The Parlement of Foules is 699 line poem that goes by several names: The Parliament of Foules, The Parlement of Birddes, The Assembly of Fowls, The Assemble of Foules, The book of Seint Valentynes day of the Parlement of Briddes, or The Parliament of Birds. The exact date it was written is uncertain, but there's reason to believe it was around 1382: in lines 113 - 119 Chaucer writes,
      Cytherea [Venus], thow blysful lady swete,
      That with thy fyrbrond dauntest whom the lest
      And madest me this sweven for to mete,
      Be thow myn helpe in tis, for thow mayst best!
      As wisly as I sey the north-north-west,
      Whan I began my sweven for to write,
      So yif me myght to ryme, and endyte!
      A few lines later (line 130), he refers to "grene and lusty May", which has led John M. Manley (a Chaucer scholar) to point out that Venus was extreme north in May 1374, 1382, and 1390. Chaucer mentions The Parlement of Foules in The Legend of Good Women, which was written somewhere between 1382-86, therefore Foules could not have been written in 1390, and it is generally more in keeping with his "middle" works as opposed to his earlier works, which would perhaps rule out 1374.

      It is a Valentine's Day poem, and most likely the very first poem to refer to Valentine's Day as a special day of celebration for lovers. His narrator begins on a bleak winter's day, reading Cicero’s Somnium Scipionis (Dream of Scipio, from the sixth book of On The Commonwealth, 54 - 51 BC). He writes,
      The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
      Th'assay so hard, so sharp the conqueringe,
      The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne,
      Al this mene I by love, that my felynge
      Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
      So sore y-wis, that whan I on him thinke,
      Nat woot I wel wher that I flete or sinke.
      He goes on to reflect on love, and though the narrator has never been in love he is fascinated by it, and yearns to know true love. Going back to Cicero, he writes of what he has read; that Scipio the Younger has a vision, his grandfather Scipio Africanus appears to him, takes him up to the stars, and tells him his fortune, advises him, and warns him that the Younger derives too much pleasure from earthly things.

      Our narrator stops his reading, it has become too dark -
      The day gan faylen, and the derke nyght,
      That reveth bestes from here besynesse,
      Berafte me my bok for lak of lyght...
      He goes to bed, to sleep, and he too is visited by Scipio Africanus in a dream, who takes him to a beautiful garden full of trees and flowers,
      A gardyn saw I ful of blossomy bowes
      Upon a ryver, in a grene mede,
      There is a swetnesse everemore inow is,
      With floures white, blewe, yelwe, and rede,
      And colde welle-stremes, nothyng dede,
      That swymmen ful of smale fishes lighte,
      With fynnes rede and skales sylver bryghte.
      This part is probably my favourite part of the poem - the garden is so vivid and so wonderful, it has the technicolour sharpness I remember admiring in Virgil's The Aeneid, and it's such a thrill to read like Ovid's 'Golden Age' from Metamorphoses, which I'll quote here:
      Spring was the only season. Flowers which had never been planted
      were kissed into life by the warming breath of the
      gentle zephyrs;
      and soon the earth, untilled by the plough, was
      yielding her fruits,
      and without renewal the fields grew white with the
      swelling corn blades.
      River of milk and rivers of nectar flowed in abundance,
      and yellow honey, distilled like dew from the leaves of
      the ilex.
      (This is one of my favourite poems in Ovid).

      In this garden the narrator meets a great many characters; Cupid, Diana, Thisbe and Pyramus, Venus (to name but a few), and the fair and "noble goddesse Nature" who is surrounded by birds -  
      For this was on Seynt Valentynes day,
      Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make,
      Of every kinde, that men thynke may;
      And that so huge a noyse gan they make,
      That erthe and see, and tree, and every lake
      So ful was, that unnethe was ther space
      For me to stonde, so ful was al the place.
      Having described the many birds, his attentions return to Nature, who "held on hire hond / A formal [female] egle". The eagle has three suitors and she must choose her mate. Each suitor declares his love and pledges his faithfulness, then the other birds discuss the matter; the nature of love, and what constitutes 'fulfilment' and 'companionship', and they argue, and even suggest a battle. As for the result: I won't spoil the end.

      I love this poem! I loved the narrator, the earnest book-lover who wants to discover love. The discussion between the birds, the "parliament" in both senses of the word, was insightful and great fun, too. This is what I love about Chaucer - his sense of fun, his beautiful descriptions, and his great vision and understanding. It's suggested that the eagle represented Anne of Bohemia, and the three suitor-eagles are King Richard II, Friedrich of Meissen, and Dauphin and future King Charles VI of France, all of whom were suitors for Anne of Bohemia (who would marry Richard II in 1381). This is by no means a definitive theory, but interesting nonetheless.

      These dream-visions are, I've read, quite typical in Chaucer's work: The Legend of Good Women, House of FameRomaunt of the Roseand Book of the Duchess are also based on dream-visions, so I think I've picked a good poem to start with. For the next poem I think I'll pick the Book of the Duchess. It's much longer than the Foules, but still it feels more accessible at 1334 lines while I'm in this very early stage of reading Chaucer.

      And finally, an illustration - this one is by Warwick Goble and is from The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, which was published by Macmillan in 1912.

      Parliament of Birds by Warwick Goble.

      Saturday, 15 November 2014

      The Classic Club Survey.

      Before I begin with this monster survey, let me just say that the spin result is in, the number is 13, and I got New Grub Street by George Gissing. I haven't read any Gissing but I've been meaning to ever since I saw The Nether World described as "Zola-esque". I'm pleased to get this one, and relieved that I didn't get Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People, which I rather regretted including!

      And so to the survey......

      1. Share a link to your club list.

      2. When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? (We are SO CHECKING UP ON YOU! Nah. We’re just asking.) :)

      I joined on 12th March 2012. I've finished my first list, which was 180 books, and now I'm on to my second, of which I've read 17, so the grand total of Classic Club books is 197.

      3. What are you currently reading?

      David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

      4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?

      War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy. This is the third time I've read it: the first two times were translated by Rosemary Edmonds and I hated reading it, slightly less so the second time, for reason. The third time I read the Maude translation which was recommended by a friend and I loved it! I shall be reviewing it soon, hopefully by the weekend.

      5. What are you reading next? Why?

      Most likely New Grub Street for the spin, but I'm also drawn to Walden by Henry David Thoreau.

      6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?

      My answer will surprise no one here: Germinal by Émile Zola. I urge all those who haven't read it to read it immediately.

      7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?

      Quite few. I'm looking forward to Francis Kilvert's diary, a biography of George Eliot written by Virginia Woolf's father Leslie Stephen, the Palliser novels by Anthony Trollope, and Basil and No Name by Wilkie Collins. 

      8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?

      It's going to take a lot to get myself ready to read Das Kapital by Karl Marx. It's the sheer size of it! And it won't be an easy read... 

      9. First classic you ever read?

      I think it was either Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, or Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, both of which I've re-read this year.

      10. Toughest classic you ever read?

      I'd say Lorna Doone by R. D. Blackmore. I know this isn't a standard answer, and there are books with a far greater reputation for toughness, but, though I loved it, it was difficult reading. 

      11. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?

      All of Émile Zola inspires me. Stephen King's It (which some might argue shouldn't be defined as a classic but I disagree) scared me, and Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence angered me precisely because it generally is agreed to be a classic despite being one of the worst books ever written.

      Manuscript of In Search of Lost Time.
      12. Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?

      In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust is the longest book I've read. And I'm guessing Das Kapital is the longest left on my list.

      13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?

      The Iliad by Homer is surely oldest, and left on my list is The Oresteia by Aeschylus (458 BC).

      14. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?

      My favourite autobigraphy is by Anthony Trollope, and I think even non-Trollope fans would find it inspiring. It's difficult to decide which biography I'm most looking forward to - I think Barker's The Brontes will be brilliant (I may read this before the year is out), and I'm looking forward to The Life and Letters of Leslie Stephen as well. And Shakespeare by Anthony Burgess. All of them, really!

      15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?

      Germinal, because it's excellent and Zola speaks the truth. Everyone must read it!

      16. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?

      I have a first edition of Orlando by Virginia Woolf, which my boyfriend bought for me for our second Christmas together.

      17. Favorite movie adaption of a classic?

      Either Pride and Prejudice from 2005 (Keira Knightley) or A Christmas Carol from 1984 (George C. Scott).

      18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.

      I think Zola's The Dream would be a wonder to watch.

      19. Least favorite classic? Why?

      Women in Love by D. H. Lawrence. It's terrible.

      20. Name five six authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.
      1. Samuel Johnson
      2. Arnold Bennett
      3. George Sand
      4. Henry David Thoreau
      5. James Woodforde
      6. Francis Kilvert
      21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?

      I'm most looking forward to Walden by Henry David Thoreau - I've not yet read a bad review, and I think it'll be one of those amazing books that will stay with me. I've got a good feeling!

      22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)

      Yes, most notably Middlemarch by George Eliot.

      23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?

      Monsieur Myriel, the Bishop of Digne, from Victor Hugo's Les Misérables.

      24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?

      As I'm full of cold, right now I feel like David Copperfield's mother on her death bed!

      25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?

      Monsieur Myriel, perhaps. Not a question I've considered!

      26. Which classic character reminds you of your best friend?

      At times my best friend can be a peculiar hybrid of both Jeeves and Wooster.

      27. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why?

      Jane Eyre. I'd love to read about her marriage. And Elizabeth and Darcy's marriage, so Pride and Prejudice as well! In fact, lots of novels that has the "happily ever after" end - I want to read the happily ever after!

      28. Favorite children’s classic?

      The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame.

      29. Who recommended your first classic?

      My mother.

      30. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)

      My pal Sandy, as well as my favourite bloggers.

      31. Favorite memory with a classic?

      Reading Clarissa by Samuel Richardson. I took that book everywhere with me (which is why that book I had bought brand new is now in rather poor condition), and it was exciting, not just for its content but also because I knew I was reading the longest book ever written in English.

      Zola, by
      Aubrey Beardsley.
      32. Classic author you’ve read the most works by?

      Émile Zola (I've read all twenty of the Rougon Macquart novels, plus one or two others). Dickens and Woolf come a close second and third.

      33. Classic author who has the most works on your club list?

      Émile Zola (a lot of re-reads, plus the Three Cities trilogy and The Four Gospels, of which sadly there are only three).

      34. Classic author you own the most books by?

      Émile Zola. I own over 30 books now, a few (maybe five or six) of the same title by different translators.

      35. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?)

      Flaubert in Egypt by Gustave Flaubert (I hadn't heard of it when making my new list) and The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith (it didn't occur to me to put it on: quite an error).

      36. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. :) Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?

      I honestly couldn't say which author I would want to explore without having read anything by him or her. As for those I'm familiar with - Virginia Woolf, Charles Dickens, Anthony Trollope, William Shakespeare, and Émile Zola spring immediately to mind.

      37. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?

      A whopping 84. There isn't one I can single out - I'm very much looking forward to all of them!

      38. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?

      No, but there are some that drove me insane with boredom. The Small House at Allington, for example.

      39. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?

      The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins. I didn't think it was my sort of thing at all, and how wrong I was!

      40. Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?
      1. Working harder on my Zola website.
      2. Taking part in Fanda's Literary Movement Reading Challenge (I'll post about this soon).
      3. Finishing my Dostoyevsky's Major Novels challenge and possibly starting a Chaucer's complete works. Possibly.
      4. Reading Trollope's Palliser novels.
      5. Re-reading a lot of Virginia Woolf.
      41. Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

      Das Kapital, and also The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith.

      42. Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

      I am dreading Darwin's Origin of Species. I've read extracts - a 90 or 100 pages book with various paragraphs and chapters, and it was horrendous.

      43. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?

      The motivation and the community aspect. It's not easy to set oneself such challenges and be completely alone - I think being part of a club gives it a sense of purpose, and makes it all great fun. Plus, of course, I've learned a lot from others.

      44. List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?

      Choosing only five bloggers is very hard - I subscribe to about 80! I'll go for 5 straight off the top of my head and spend the rest of my days regretting not mentioning certain folk...
      1. Cleo
      2. Fanda
      3. Amanda
      4. Melissa
      5. Ruth
      45. Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber?

      I've read many great posts! I remember enjoying Cleo's post on Trollope's The Warden, and I loved Charlotte's 'Gathering Books and Blankets' post from October. There are too many to choose from!

      46. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made?

      I have two read-alongs that spring to mind: firstly, the Middlemarch read-along from last December hosted by Beth. I started it when I started this new blog, and last December was such a nice month, so there's fond memories evoked from remembering Middlemarch, plus it was a book I didn't like but I loved it the second time around. Secondly, Amanda and Melissa's Chronicles of Barchester read-along. That took between March and November, and I loved reading Trollope, plus there was a great sense of accomplishment on completing it.

      47. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?

      Germinal by Émile Zola! Lots of people are meaning to read it and I'd like to give them the final nudge!

      48. How long have you been reading classic literature?

      All my life, but seriously reading it - probably around October '11.

      49. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc.
      1. My first post on this blog.
      2. Finishing the last Classics Club list.
      3. 2013 book stats.
      4. A to Z Bookish Survey.
      5. Top Ten Favourite Classic Books.
      50. Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!)

      I've been working on this (off and on) all week, so I think 49 questions is sufficient! :)

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