Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

Update May 24, 2017: Wrap Up Post with Links to Review 

I will read these books for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2017.

1.  A 19th Century Classic - Pride and Prejudice- Jane Austen (1813)
Finally, at my age, I get around to it. Better late…

2.  A 20th Century Classic – The Crying of Lot 49 – by Thomas Pynchon (1965).
An oxymoron: a short Pynchon novel. Length probably explains why it’s assigned in college English classrooms.

3.  A classic by a woman author – Domestic Manners of the Americans – Frances Trollope (1832)
I’m always up for European visitors like Charles Dickens persecuting pre-Civil War Americans, who deserved all the scolding they got from visitors because they, in the main, tolerated race-based chattel slavery. At the time of first publication of Trollope’s book, my fellow Americans, insulted and aggrieved, went into such a snit that they took great pleasure in word plays with her last name, a synonym for a vulgar or disreputable woman especially one who has sex for money or – heaven forfend! – fun.

4.  A classic in translation – The Tale of Genji – Murasaki Shikibu (tr. Seidensticker) (about 1021)
I read most of this in early 1980, but never finished it, an omission that has haunted me like an incubus ever since.

5.  A classic published before 1800 - The Adventures of Roderick Random - Tobias Smollett (1748)
I read someplace a theme of this early novel is life in the British Navy of the time. Since I used to read the Aubrey-Maturin books, this should be good. Orwell says positive things about Smollett also.

6.  An romance classic – Jane Eyre - Charlotte Brontë (1847)
I must confess I’ve never read it, another omission like never having read Sense & Sensibility.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic - One Thousand and One Ghosts - Alexandre Dumas (1848)

8.  A classic with a number in the title – The Case of the Seven of Calvary – Anthony Boucher (1937)
The cover of this 1961 paperback says “a great mystery classic back in print.”  Boucher (as in “voucher” I think) is the author of The Case of the Solid Key, which really is a classic. The Anthony Awards are given at each annual Bouchercon World Mystery Convention.

9.  A classic which includes the name of an animal in the title -  Bugles and a Tiger: My Life in the Gurkhas - John Masters (1956, as old as me)
A military memoir, thus a guy’s book. Hey, there’s got be one among the hundreds of books read for this challenge.

10. A classic set in a place you'd like to visit – Small Town D.A. – Robert Traver. (1958)
But yet another guy’s book, to balance P & P and Jane Eyre and Lady Murasaki. So there. Traver, the author of Anatomy of a Murder, was a prosecutor in the mining, farming, lumbering district of Michigan's Upper Peninsula. This memoir, kind of true crime I suppose, features short accounts of cases he handled over ten years in what some people call God’s Country.

11. An award-winning classic - John Newberry Medal Winner – Audubon – Constance Rourke (1937)
During the Great Depression, many American intellectuals like Rourke were concerned that because of economic desperation and ugly examples of fascism abroad. America would take the extreme roads of authoritarianism or totalitarianism. So they wrote books and articles for the purpose of reminding Americans who we are and what values are supposed to mean something to us.

12. A Russian Classic – The Complete Short Novels – Anton Chekhov (tr. Pevear & Volokhonsky)
I think the best course for is to read one every other month. Savor, don’t gobble. Think it over. Write the review as I go along. Post the review in October.


  1. Merry Christmas to you and Good Luck with the Pynchon. I read Gravity's Rainbow earlier this year and I found it both rewarding and frustrating. Crazy to think it was published 50 years ago!

  2. Isn't the Tale of the Genji really, really long? I haven't read it, but if memory serves me the length intimidated me. I re-read both Mansfield Park and Jane Eyre recently and enjoyed them both. My interpretation of both books changed a lot from when I was a teen.

  3. The story of that playboy Genji is about 1200 pages long. To be honest, I'm having second thoughts. It's not an easy-to-read thousand pages like He Knew He Was Right (Trollope) either.