Jump to content


Classics you haven't read......or couldn't get through


  • Please log in to reply
75 replies to this topic

#46 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 11:40 AM

Oh, I wouldn't have expected Sue's "Wandering Jew" to be in such a list ! :icon8:

Estelle, you have to rememember that "when I was a child" is something that happened long, long ago. :) The book was old even when I found it on a shelf in our attic.

Zola, for me, is a wonderful source of detailed historical and social information about France during and after the Second Empire. Nana is the best, imo. I'm partial to La Bete Humaine and The Ladies' Paradis (Au bonheur des Dames), which tells you a huge amount about the rise of consumerism and the origin of department stores like Bon Marche.

#47 Estelle

Estelle

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,706 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 01:07 PM

Oh, I wouldn't have expected Sue's "Wandering Jew" to be in such a list ! :icon8:

Estelle, you have to rememember that "when I was a child" is something that happened long, long ago. :) The book was old even when I found it on a shelf in our attic.


Bart, that was not meant to be disparaging about your age :-)

Actually, what surprised me most is that I didn't even know that the book was known too in the English-speaking world...

Zola, for me, is a wonderful source of detailed historical and social information about France during and after the Second Empire. Nana is the best, imo. I'm partial to La Bete Humaine and The Ladies' Paradis (Au bonheur des Dames), which tells you a huge amount about the rise of consumerism and the origin of department stores like Bon Marche.


I guess I should give it a second try someday.
By the way, what a pity that reading an author for school often discourages people from reading some more... (Of course the opposite exists too.)

#48 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,086 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 03:28 PM

The biggest heresy though is "Diary of Anne Frank." We had to read it in school and I admit after awhile I just used the Cliff Notes.


This made me giggle and twitch -- when I was in high school I was quite sick for a few months and did most of my work from home. My English class was reading Jude the Obscure, and the copy I had was one of those bargain school editions with two books bound in the same cover. Jude was paired with Pride and Prejudice, and for me Hardy just couldn't compete. I tried and failed so often with Jude that I finally had someone bring me a copy of the Cliff Notes and I forced myself to read each chapter of the Notes and then of the text, and find every dreary point the Notes brought up.

I read Ivanhoe when I was in junior high school (lots of free time) and liked it a great deal, but I've always been tickled by the comment from one of Vonnegut's characters: "Wuffo I gotta read no Ivanhoe? Wuffo?"


I'm still trying to get my mind around the pairing of P&P and Jude the Obscure......

#49 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 05:35 PM

:)

Bart, that was not meant to be disparaging about your age :-)
site exists too.)

Estelle, I didn't think you were implying that that at all. :) :wink:

Back in the late 50s, when I was in high school, the list of "classics" was probably not all that different from what it is today. On the other hand, I don't remember many people questioning whether they should be classics. The canon of "great books" was pretty much accepted and agreed upon, even when young students didn't particularly enjoy the books. These books were, like certain foods, "good" for you even if unpalatable. My own interest in European classics came later, in college when I came acrdoss them while roaming around the library stacks.

I wonder who the American "classic" equivalents of Zola are: Theodore Dreiser? Sinclair Lewis? Upton Sinclair? I notice that no one has mentioned them.

#50 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,239 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 06:23 PM

I wonder who the American "classic" equivalents of Zola are: Theodore Dreiser? Sinclair Lewis? Upton Sinclair? I notice that no one has mentioned them.

Well, if mentioned by me, I guess this would be the wrong forum, for which this is basically a discussion about dislikes. Anyways, a little :) I just want to add that Dreiser has always been one of my favorite American writers. It's been years since I read him, but i have great memories of "Sister Carrie", "An American Tragedy" and "The Financier".

#51 kfw

kfw

    Sapphire Circle

  • Moderators
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,271 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 06:38 PM

Back in the late 50s, when I was in high school, the list of "classics" was probably not all that different from what it is today. On the other hand, I don't remember many people questioning whether they should be classics. The canon of "great books" was pretty much accepted and agreed upon, even when young students didn't particularly enjoy the books. These books were, like certain foods, "good" for you even if unpalatable.

Thanks for the reminisences, Bart. "Good for you" is part of what made me begin reread "Oedipus Rex" this past weekend, but not what made me finish it. How sad then to read this in today's NY Times report on the Russian reaction to Solzhenitseyn's death:

Mr. Vasilevsky said on Monday that young people considered figures like Mr. Solzhenitsyn to be artifacts, and that Russian society in general was no longer interested in towering cultural or social figures.

“There is no demand for great people,” he said. “I can’t say why, but this fact is simply obvious to me. Famous, notable, popular — yes. But not great, in the fullest sense of the word.”



#52 cubanmiamiboy

cubanmiamiboy

    Diamonds Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 5,239 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 06:50 PM

How sad then to read this in today's NY Times report on the Russian reaction to Solzhenitseyn's death:

Mr. Vasilevsky said on Monday that young people considered figures like Mr. Solzhenitsyn to be artifacts, and that Russian society in general was no longer interested in towering cultural or social figures.

“There is no demand for great people,” he said. “I can’t say why, but this fact is simply obvious to me. Famous, notable, popular — yes. But not great, in the fullest sense of the word.”

Well...old Soviet Union-(and its towerings)-is out...new Russia is in.

#53 carbro

carbro

    Late Board Registrar

  • Rest in Peace
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 6,361 posts

Posted 04 August 2008 - 10:05 PM

How sad then to read this in today's NY Times report on the Russian reaction to Solzhenitseyn's death:

Mr. Vasilevsky said on Monday that young people considered figures like Mr. Solzhenitsyn to be artifacts, and that Russian society in general was no longer interested in towering cultural or social figures.

"There is no demand for great people," he said. "I can't say why, but this fact is simply obvious to me. Famous, notable, popular — yes. But not great, in the fullest sense of the word."

Is it that different here these days? Anywhere? Our cultural icons are so accomplished that one candidate recently compared his opponent to two of our more popular cultural icons in an attempt to disparage him.

Back to the topic, I tried Solzhenitsyn once or twice -- don't remember which book, but it doesn't matter, because I couldn't get beyond page 20 or so. Hardly dipped my toe in.

#54 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 04:11 AM

Cristian, you are actually raising the issue of how "classics" are definied differently in different political systems. It makes sense that Dreiser, et al., who show characters at the mercy of a cruel social/economic system (American capitalism at the beginning of the 20th century), would win official support in Castro's Cuba.

kfw, thanks for mentioning Solzhenisyn. In his body of work there are at least two kinds of kind of "classic." I responded to One Day in the Life ... and Cancer Ward largely because of what they expressed about individuals and their personal experiences. What hapened to the characters depended, of course, on in a particular time and place, but they were somehow also universal..

August 1914 and Gulag Archipelago, on the other hand, appealed to me largely for what they revealed -- in great detail -- about a particular social system at a particular time in history. They're the kind of book I read haivng a couple of histories, atlases, etc., at hand

This mirrors, in a way, the division of War and Peace into two kinds of narration -- one small-scale, personal, familial; the other sweeping and geopolitical -- which we've mentioned earlier.

As I get older, I tend to prefer the second kind of classic, for reasons I do not understand at all. :)

#55 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,086 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 09:40 AM

I couldn't get through a lot of Solzhenitsyn, unfortunately. August 1914 was unreadable. Brave man, of course.

#56 dirac

dirac

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 25,086 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 09:44 AM

On the other hand, I really loved "Great expectations", "David Copperfield", "Oliver Twist", "A tale of two cities" and "Hard times" when I read it as a teen-ager (but have started at least three times "Martin Chuzzlewit" later and never finished it...)


Estelle, did you read Dickens in English or French? I'd be curious to know how he translates.

I didn't finish 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' either. Liking Dickens doesn't mean you have to like all of him.

#57 Estelle

Estelle

    Platinum Circle

  • Foreign Correspondent
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,706 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 01:52 PM

On the other hand, I really loved "Great expectations", "David Copperfield", "Oliver Twist", "A tale of two cities" and "Hard times" when I read it as a teen-ager (but have started at least three times "Martin Chuzzlewit" later and never finished it...)


Estelle, did you read Dickens in English or French? I'd be curious to know how he translates.

I didn't finish 'Martin Chuzzlewit,' either. Liking Dickens doesn't mean you have to like all of him.


I read it in French. Even now, I don't think I'd feel courageous enough to read it in English (my problem with reading literature in English is that either I spend much time with a dictionary, or I feel frustrated because I don't understand some words or expressions...) and when I read all of them (as a teen-ager) my English was weaker...
So I loved the translations, but since I don't know the original works I have no idea of how good they were.

I guess that lack of time probably had a role with my failure to finish "Martin Chuzzlewit" (besides the fact that I didn't find the characters especially interesting)- sometimes I'm a bit nostalgic of the time when I could spend whole days reading big books like "Les Misérables" or Dumas' "Joseph Balsamo" series (well, in that period I complained quite a lot about having to spend long summer holidays in a rather isolated house with little to do except reading... Grass always is greener somewhere else :) )

#58 cygneblanc

cygneblanc

    Bronze Circle

  • Senior Member
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 450 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 01:55 PM

One book I couln't finish during my first year in high school was Balzac's Le Pere Goriot. It was so boring and we were at the same time reading George Orwell's 1984 in our English class.

I, like a lot of my fellows, choose what's considered as an heresy by litterature teachers :) : I read instead a short book on le Pere Goriot which contain a very shortened version of the text with an analysis.

I also have some very bad memories of Tacitus' Annals I had to read (in latin!) for a latin course.

#59 papeetepatrick

papeetepatrick

    Sapphire Circle

  • Inactive Member
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,486 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 03:00 PM

"There is no demand for great people," he said. "I can't say why, but this fact is simply obvious to me. Famous, notable, popular — yes. But not great, in the fullest sense of the word."


This is a related to some of Nietzsche's ubermensch obsession with 'Zarathustra', an extraordinary text (and not nearly so difficult IMO as some people I know have perceived it), as well as his expressed belief that the Greeks were interesting because conditions allowed them to produce great individuals, and they're not making them like they used to. That's a different meaning from the above quote--which refers to something more humane, but still, there have been Nelson Mandela and Jimmy
Carter, among many others-- but either seem sometimes true, sometimes not. Flattening out of society and individuals is often discussed in intellectual circles, and it's impossible not to notice a lot of it. I don't believe it in either case, although there is a lot of trash and mediocrity.

Never read any Zola, Dumas or Hugo, and probably won't get to it, but read 'Pere Goriot' around the same time as cygneblanc, and
thought it was gripping, as is
'Cousine Bette' . The stories and discussions and popularizations and extravaganzas of Dumas and Hugo, etc., or so all-pervasive that I don't feel the need to read them through
(same with 'Don Quixote', most likely, which Martin Amis found the most maddening to ever get through of the old Big "God Books") gven that there are so many other things that seem more crucial, but I do feel the need to get to Stendahl, The Red and the Black, which Cristian mentioned.

I've read a fair amount of Dickens, but don't really love any of it but 'Oliver Twist'. Have
read most of Faulkner, but 'A Fable' is especially demanding, I may or may not get to it. He's always profound and trenchant, and I think 'Absalom! Absalom!' is the best to see Faulkner at his most magnificently powerful, without some of the difficulties you encounter with novels like 'The Sound and the Fury', although that's worth it too, and 'Light in August' is close to perfect.

Doubt if I will care to struggle with 'Finnegan's Wake', but 'Ulysses' is definitely worth tje effort (especially 'Sirens' and 'Circe' and that amazing writing he does for the lame girl romanticizing,
'Nausicaa'), and I recommend Edna O'Brien's excellent book on it in order to get through it..

May want to read Willa Cather at some point, have not done so. Of Dreiser, I have very much liked 'The Bulwark'.

Most things I haven't read haven't been because they were ultimately too difficult, but because of lack of time for reading everything. Of difficult things completed, I'd definitely say 'Tristram Shandy' was the most maddening, and took me 3 1/2 years. I read the Recherches of Proust in 2 months, admittedly all of it first in English. But that's several thousand pages; I thought Sterne was much more forbidding, because there is almost no sensuosity to this kind of writing.

#60 bart

bart

    Diamonds Circle

  • Board Moderator
  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 7,320 posts

Posted 05 August 2008 - 03:02 PM

I, like a lot of my fellows, choose what's considered as an heresy by litterature teachers :) : I read instead a short book on le Pere Goriot which contain a very shortened version of the text with an analysis.

I suspect that many of us have taken that route. :o :D

While we are in a confessional mode, I have to admit that Classics Comic Books provided me with a glimpse of a number of the more obscure and dated "classics." Two I recall were Hugo's Man Who Laughs and Dumas' Black Tulip. After enjoying the comic books, I did try to read both in full book format. But I didn't get very far.

Would these books be considered classics any longer?


0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users


Help support Ballet Alert! and Ballet Talk for Dancers year round by using this search box for your amazon.com purchases (adblockers may block display):