'I Went to a Public School' and other random musings.

I went to a public high school. I was a science geek. I hated english classes, though I did well in the ones I DID take. There was no “required reading” during the summers. I took a literature class in college, but it focused on short stories and plays.

Consequently, I haven’t read any of the classics…no Pride and Prejudice, no Wuthering Heights, no Moby Dick. I haven’t read Ulysses, Anna Karenina or Crime and Punishment. I’ve missed out on David Copperfield, …Huckleberry Finn and Oliver Twist!

I read voraciously so there’s no reason I shouldn’t, couldn’t, HAVEN’T read the ‘classics’! I’ve made it my mission to start, create my own little required reading summer.

So where shall I start? I need a top 10 list of novels and I look to the TMs to help me pick them out. Help a deprived girl out!

Random Stuff
[li]I got a toe ring. Not one of those el cheapo adjustable ones, but an honest to goodness “They had to fit my toe” one. For some reason, it makes me feel wicked sexy.[/li][li]Apparently, I have freakishly skinny toes.[/li][li]I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo on the small of my back, possibly something to honor my daughter. Do you think that’s a weird place for a tribute to ToddlerNym?[/li][li]Do you think it’s weird to get a tattoo when I’m in the process of having one lasered off?[/li][li]Catherine Zeta-Jones is a stunningly beautiful woman but what’s up with her not smiling on magazine covers?[/li][li]I really, really like that new song by Lifehouse. It’s called Hanging by a Moment and you can hear it here: http://www.lifehousemusic.com/lh_music.html[/li][li]And check out the lead singer, YUM![/li][li]I also am intensly amused by the song Hey Pretty by Poe. You can listen to it here: http://www.screamradio.net/poe/Poe%20-%20Hey%20Pretty%20(Just%20Another%20Drive%20Remix)/[/li][li]Remember that this is all copyrighted material![/li][/ul]

Thank you for your time.

Sue dear,

I am not sure if you are missing on a whole lot by not having read the classics, since they have been covered in different versions so many times that when you read them they sound kind of hackneyed!

Sorry, I don’t have any published work of literature yet, so I will have to stick to recommending you works by Woody Alen and Boris Vian. (anything by these guys)

There ARE no “must-read” classics, it all depends on your personal taste. I cannot abide James Joyce, Mark Twain or Ernest Hemingway, myself. And I adore Thackeray, Jane Austin, Dickens, Tolstoy. it even changes from year to year—when I was in my 20s, I loved P.G. Woodhouse and F. Scott Fitzgerald. When I tried to reread them recently, I found them both too mannered and twee.

Y’know what to do? Do you have a good, well-stocked library nearby? Just dive into the shelves and browse. Read the blurbs, the first page or a page at random, and find what sounds interesting to you (some days I’m in the mood for Heavy Russion Lit; others, for a light drawing-room comedy). I have discovered lots of authors this way I otherwise never would have heard of: Booth Tarkington, Eliz. Gaskall, Anthony Trollope, Edgar Saltus.

Random Stuff

• The toe ring sounds great—what’s it look like?
• Be wary of tattoos . . . there are other ways to “honor” the kiddo.
• Ever notice Catherine Zeta-Jones talks like Elmer Fudd?
• Being an Old Fogey, I have never heard of ANY of thes musicians.

Well…the books I had to read that I actually liked, somewhat:

Go Down, Moses - William Faulkner.
Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Other stuff I had to read that you might like better than I did:

A Farewell to Arms - Hemingway
My Antonia - Willa Cather
Great Expectations - Dickens
Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton

Quick anecdote about Ethan Frome…while discussing symbolism in class one day, we got to a scene in the novel where Ethan’s wife had put a pickle dish up on a shelf in the closet. Out teacher was attempting to convince us that this was a metaphor for the lack of sex between Ethan and Mrs. Frome. One friend of mine was continuously not understanding how the two were related…

Whereupon, another friend says, in one of the classic lines ever: “Well, think about it - where do you stick your pickle?”

And, as a bit of advice - only get into reading the classics if you really want to read them. Reading them because you think you should is a good way to have a bunch of books that you won’t read around. Trust me on this :slight_smile:

Don’t listen to those guys! Reading fine literature is HARD WORK! Pleasure doesn’t some into it at all! And personal taste? HAH! You’ll read what I TELL YOU.

Now, go read THE EPIC OF GILGAMESH, Joyce’s FINNEGAN’S WAKE, Wu Ch’eng-En’s JOURNEY TO THE WEST, Faulkner’s ABSALOM, ABSALOM, Gogol’s DEAD SOULS, Hardy’s THE MAYOR OF CASTERBRIDGE, Goethe’s FAUST, Stendhal’s THE RED AND THE BLACK, Eliot’s MIDDLEMARCH, and Nabokov’s PALE FIRE. Then write me a 20-page paper on each. Then go and stand in the corner.

Nice toe ring, BTW.

Read through the Kalevala and Dante’s Divine Comedy.

Delve into Russian underground writers (Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita would be a good start).

Read Moby Dick. Thrill to the excitement of Upton Sinclair’s Jungle. Read through some Swift. Any will do. Modest Proposal and Gulliver’s Travels are probably the place to start–probably the most amusing, too.

  1. Waiting for the Barbarians J. M. Coetzee
  2. The Scarlett Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
  3. To Kill a Mocking Bird Harper Lee
  4. The Lord of the Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
  5. The Sun Also Rises Ernest Hemingway
  6. Call of the Wild Jack London
  7. A tree Grows in Brooklyn Betty Smith
  8. Alice In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
  9. Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy Douglas Adams
  10. The Unbearable Lightness of Being Milan Kundera
    Extra credit
    Little Women Louisa May Alcott
    Great Expectations Charles Dickens
    Catch-22 Joseph L. Heller
    Nice toe ring.

I’d not go for the tatoo as a tribute to ToddlerNym; think of when she get to about 8 and older and notices it, she will be embarrassed. Take lots of pictures and put them into a scrapbook, she will know you love her and it is something she can show her friends.

Have fun reading some of the classics. I know I did.

Kipling’s Jungle Book. (and/or his short stories. My personal faorites are “The Butterfly Who Stamped” and “Without Benefit of Clergy”. Quick warning, the man was a big, fat racist so some of his stories have undertones that make me blanch. Its under control for the most part, but just a few of those lines are wild.)

Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream and Taming of the Shrew.

If you like thinking and symbolism try Beowolf and then the more modern re-write from the point of view of the monster, Grendel (I can’t remember the author)

Let me echo A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Scarlet Letter. But I found Faust to be long and boring. (I have the patience of a two year old. I read books I like. I like a lot of so called ‘classics’. Which gets me into trouble when I hit stuff like Faust or Moby Dick. yawn But hey, go for it.)

MOBY-DICK isn’t boring! I learned all kinds of cool stuff from it, like how to cook a whale steak, and what ambergris is, and proper flaying technique! If it was BORING, I woulda told Sue to read it!

Sorry about the above post, Sue…I was feeling a little giddy.

Have you considered reading a book about reading books?

Kenneth Rexroth’s* CLASSICS REVISITED and MORE CLASSICS REVISITED are, er, classics. So is Henry Miller’s** THE BOOKS IN MY LIFE. Also very good, if a tad more bourgeois, is Clifton Fadiman’s*** THE NEW LIFETIME READING PLAN.

All three of these guys really make your mouth water for Thucydides, Rabelais, Cervantes, and Flaubert.

  • Famous San Francisco poet, godfather to the Beat Movement
    ** Famous dirty-book writer
    *** Famous Book of the Month Club guy

From Eve:

It’s actually two narrow (1/16"?) gold bands on either side of a wider silver band. No twists or turns, just simple polished bands

By GOD, she does!! No matter, she’s still a stunner.

I just can’t figure out why she goes for that “sexy” half-smile thing. It looks like she’s internally debating if being part of Hollywood royalty is worth having to see Michael Douglas’ wrinkly butt every day.

Somehow, I don’t trust you.

Wow, awesome goalie and a writer too!

I don’t expect any of it to be fluff, I expect some difficult reading. The point is that they’re considered classics for a reason and if high-schoolers can do it, so can this 30yo mother.

You think I should start with Faust or would my brain implode?

It was John Gardner who wrote Grendel, and I’ve also heard good things about it. It’s somewhere on my list of things to read…

I’m on the cynical school which says that most classics are classic only because people are too afraid to say they don’t like/understand them, or just haven’t read them.

That being said, I like all of the Shakespeare and Twain I’ve read (probably about half of each), I’m back and forth on Dickens and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I can’t stand Jane Austen. (Sorry, Eve. I’ve read Emma and Sense and Sensibility, and it’s just no use.) I’ve read lots of others, which I may remember to post later.

In a similar vein to Ike’s suggestion, I’d try picking up a copy of one the Norton Guides to Literature - they’re big, heavy, and expensive, but worth it. I used one in each of my highschool English courses, and the amount of literature those things pack in is incredible. They have excerpts of major novels (in the genre / time period / locale for which they’re written), and representative pieces of each author’s body of shorter work. In other words, it’s like a survey course with a 2000-page textbook. :smiley:

If I were you, I wouldn’t read Moby Dick, unless that is your into really really long stories about whales. (You know whats really scary? I read that book for FUN!) The one book I would recommend (Another classic that I read just for fun, which is actually scary now that I look back on it) is A Tale Of Two Cities. Its a little confusing the first or even second time you read it, but if you read it like 3 times you get to understand it, or you can read it really really slow. The reason I had a hard time “getting it” was because it jumps around a little bit. Besides that, its a really good book and someone gets their head chopped off!!
To Kill A Mockingbird isn’t a bad book, but if you have to explain every part of it you don’t like it anymore TRUST ME! Great Expectations isn’t bad, none of Charles Dickens’ books are.
Don’t limit yourself to just the classics, if your in the mood for reading, visit your library :).

That’s a classic? Sheesh, I read that when I was 12. Maybe I’m not such a doofus after all.


Yup. It isn’t such a good idea. Maybe I’ll just get a regular old tattoo there.

Just to break up my responses:

Congrats on the toe ring. It sounds wicked cool, but I’d have to see it to verify the sexiness. :wink:

I have Freakishly-Long Toes[sup]TM[/sup], if that makes you feel better. I think they’re appropriately svelte.

Removing and adding tattos concurrently does sound a little bizarre, but if it works for you… better ask ToddlerNym what she thinks now, before it’s too late. :wink:

I also really enjoy the Poe song, but the video wasn’t downloading yesterday. :****pout:

[Preview’s taking too long, I’m just gonna submit and hope for the best. Sorry in advance, folks!]

C’mon Ike, you really think I don’t know who Henry Miller is? :wink:

So what is ambergris anyway?

Hey Pretty is such a good song. I am delighted in your choice of music.

Thank you. I’ve been walking around singing it for days.

ToddlerNym has taken to saying, “Stop sing-ging Mommy.”

Simply speaking, it’s whale vomit . . . used in perfumery as a fixative.

Gratz on the toe ring, those things ARE devilishly sexy…

I don’t know where you’re located, but Hanging by a Moment is totally played out here, in Connecticut…I cringe whenever I hear it now. :slight_smile:

Hey Pretty has a semidecent chorus, but I can’t stand the spoken lyrics in the rest of it…just doesn’t appeal to me, I’m sorry to say.

Read Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury…it’s one of the most fantastic books I’ve ever read and can be considered as a “classic”.