CLASSIC CLUB UPDATE

I was so excited about joining the Classic Club, as explained on Deb Nance’s Readerbuzz, that I started early and read (actually listened to) Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim in December, rather than waiting for January, as instructed.

I was very disappointed in my first attempt on whittling down my list of 100 classics (the first twenty of which I posted my first Classic Club post). I received the original list in high school, and it has been an on-going “project” ever since. Deb had spun the spinner, and #14 was the number of choice, Lord Jim on my list.

Most of the book was an audio slog. It was not the fault of the narrator’s calm, unexcited voice; it was the writing of the story. Jim, himself, was just too upright and uptight–too “good” to be true, and he was wracked with guilt over things that were just “human nature,” never cutting himself any slack, until Marlow (the narrator of the novel) and I just wanted to say, “Get over it man, and get on with it!”

It had its moments. How could it not with pirate attacks, shipboard fires, ships sinking, tropical islands complete with beautiful maidens, corrupt rulers, double crossings and backstabbing, an on and on…? Through it all stood the upright Lord Jim–totally blessed and fortunate, and yet totally miserable. Whatever could happen to a man of the sea did happen to Jim. The ending was predictable, for an unhappy man like Jim could not put up with a happy ending.

THE CLASSICS CLUB

I found this interesting meme on Deb Nance’s Readerbuzz. To join the “club,” one makes a list of 20 classics, posts the list on her blog, then Deb will use a spinner to choose a number. If you wish to “join,” it’s not too late. First, post your list. Deb has spun the spinner last Saturday, and the number is 14; you are to read book #14 by Jan. 30th, 2021.

I have a list of classics from high school.

Here is my list:

  1. Go Tell It on the Mountain James Baldwin
  2. My Uncle Silas H.E. Bates
  3. Looking Backward. Edward Bellamy
  4. The Death of the Heart Elizabeth Bowen
  5. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee Dee Alexander Brown
  6. Tarzen of the Apes Edgar Rice Burroughs
  7. The Way of All Flesh Samuel Butler
  8. The Plague Albert Camus
  9. The Spy Who Came in from the Cold John Le Carre
  10. The Horse’s Mouth Joyce Carey
  11. Don Quixote Miguel de Cervantes
  12. The Ox-Bow Incident Walter Van Tilburg Clark
  13. The Heart of Darkness Joseph Conrad
  14. Lord Jim Joseph Conrad
  15. Origin of the Species Charles Darwin
  16. Out of Africa Isak Dinesen
  17. Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  18. Sherlock Holmes Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  19. Sister Carrie Theodore Dreiser
  20. The American Tragedy Theodore Dreiser

Ok, Deb, it looks like I’ll start with Lord Jim. I sure hope it’s good!

Want to play along? Use google or whatever search engine you wish to get a list of “classics,” list twenty of them, and get started!

SATURDAY MORNINGS FOR KIDS

Just like television programming back in the 50s and 60s, this blog reserves Saturday mornings for kids. Today, I wish to feature a series that has been around since I was a kid–The Mrs. Piggle Wiggle series.

Two of the books are in my Little Free Library in my yard right now.

Mrs. Piggle Wiggle is described in the book as being, “very small and has a hump on her back… When children ask her about the hump, she says’ Oh, that’s a big lump of magic.’ ” “The children are all very envious of the hump because, besides being magic, it is such a convenient fastening place for wings.” The children of the town are her friends, and she leads them on many adventures throughout the series.

For example, Mrs.Piggle Wiggle’s Farm deals with Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s attempt to straighten out Fetlock Harroway, the town’s spoiled child and bully, who rules the roost at his house. Finally, he gets so bad that he is sent to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s to be “cured of faults,” something Mrs. Piggle Wiggle has done for many boys and girls in her town. The results are hilarious.

Betty McDonald, the author, writes in a captivating, gentle style that will have kids and those who read to them chuckling together.

Celebrating Color Progress: DEAR MR. KNIGHTLY by Katherine Reay

Bright orange colored cover

Thanks to Carla at Carla Loves to Read for introducing me to this great author. I checked this one out from my local library in big print. Knightly was Reay’s debut novel, and perhaps the one I enjoyed most. It is epistolary in nature, told in the form of letters from Samantha, a “bookish” grad student who often quotes classics and sometimes hides behind the words of their characters, to an anonymous donor who pays for her school and gives her a monthly allowance. I guessed early on who the donor was, but instead of ruining the story for me, it just made it all the better.

As in most of Reay’s novels, there is a touch of romance, and Alex, a published author five years older than Samantha provides just that. Christian values and integrity are present as well, and instead of making the story “sappy,” it allows the “good guys” to win.

There are also additions at the back of the book: a reading group guide, a list of the books Samantha quotes or mentions with enough to make the reader say, “Aha, I see… ,” and questions and answers with the author. This would make a fine book club selection.

FRIDAY FIRSTLINERS

“Letter 1

To:Mrs. Saville, England

St. Petersburg, Dec. 11th 17__

You will rejoice to hear that no disaster has accompanied the commencement of an enterprise which you have regarded with such evil forebodings. I arrived here yesterday, and my first task is to assure my dear sister of my welfare and increasing confidence in the success of my undertaking.”

I am about to reread Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein, and the above are its opening lines. Join me (if you dare).

 

 

BOOKS ABOUT BOOKS CHALLENGE CONTINUED

Recently I read and reviewed The Haunted Bookstore by Christopher Morely, a classic from WWII days. It led me to the audiobook of Morely’s previous book, Parnassus on Wheels. Parnassius tells the story of Roger Mifflin, bookstore owner extraordinaire, before his bookstore days and how he met and courted Mrs. Mifflin. Like a tinker of those days, Mifflin traveled from town to town, selling used books instead of pots and pans, his gaudy cart pulled by a decrepit old nag, Pegasus. [His] “delight in books and authors is infectious.”

When he visits a local author and “gentleman farmer,” he finds the author off gathering material for his latest book and the author’s sister capably running the farm in his absence. Parnassus is the story of HER adventure.  She is a delightful recently-turned “feminist”–from the perspective of the early 1900s. She buys Parnassus on Wheels and travels (unescorted) with Mifflin as her passenger and guide, and the rest is a hilarious narrative that brings together the two perfectly matched individuals whom we meet as a couple in The Haunted Bookstore.

I seldom use the word “quaint” when I describe a book, but this lovely pair, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookstore are just that–and a darned fine read!

THE HAUNTED BOOKSTORE, A CLASSIC by Christopher Morely: Review

In attempting to read about books, bookstores, libraries, and all things “bookish” between January 2019 and December 2019, I came across a book considered a classic, which fits my definition of a cozy mystery. Just in time for Halloween, Christopher Morely’s The Haunted Bookstore continues the saga of Parnassus on Wheels. It describes the bookstore of Roger Mifflin, proprietor, whose sign in the window welcomes booklovers, but warns, “This shop is haunted.”

The story is set in 1915 Brooklyn, NY. Enter Titania Chapman, enlightened daughter of a business magnate father who asks Mifflin if he will hire his daughter as an assistant. A budding career girl, something new to Mifflin and his wife, Titania is full of “new views” and ways to improve the comfortable old bookstore. Meeting a young ad salesman who tries to get Mifflin to advertise, Titania puts him through the paces and hoops of earning a young girl’s affections. There is mystery; there is romance; there is humor–all told in a charming style of writing that endears these characters and this novel to the reader. “Lively spirits” seem to be the cause of the things that go bump in the night, and the mysterious shadow men who appear are obviously up to no good.

All is revealed and satisfyingly resolved at the end, something modern readers seldom get enough of. I highly recommend this novel.

Tuesday Teaser

This meme, hosted by the Purple Booker, asks readers to grab the book they’re currently reading, copy a few sentences in an attempt to get readers to show interest in your “read.” Why not play as well, put your sentences in the comments section, being careful not to give away anything vital–no spoilers. Please remember to include title and author.

Here is mine for this week: From Taylor Caldwell’s Tender Victory

“They had finished dinner and the children were in bed, and there was the good hearty sound of Mrs. Burnsdale, washing dishes in the kitchen.  Dr. McManus and Johnny sat in the study-parlor; the muggy air barely stirred in the close confines of the room. The doctor laid down a heavy brown paper parcel of x-rays.  He lit one cigarette after another, his big face moving, his eyebrows jerking, his mouth pursing.  Johnny waited, his hands clenched on his knees, praying for some hope in the older man’s verdict. But the doctor continued to sit there, dropping ashes on his thighs, muttering in his squeaky voice, scratching his ear.  Four hospital calls had come for him, but he had snarled into the telephone, and had suggested aspirin or a “jolt of morphine, and tell him to shut up,” and he still sat there, the mound of ashes increasing on his soiled light suit.  There were great sweat marks under his monster arms, and his shirt collar had become gray.”

What a way to build suspense; they don’t write detailed description like they used to.  This reader, for one is waiting with held breath to see if an operation can help Johnny’s young foster soon. Caldwell’s old-fashioned novel does everything right and keeps the reader turning pages and staying up late to read another chapter.

Now add your teaser. Scroll down to “About the author” and type your teaser underneath into the box provided.

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA: A Review

This 1997 novel, on the NY Times Best Seller List for over a year, gives the perfect women’s point of view on a Japanese women’s institution, surprisingly written by a man, Arthur Golden. It was researched very thoroughly and is a PWR selection for this quarter.  It is sexy, expressed in a most polite Japanese way, and described by reviews of its day as “astonishing,” “breathtaking,” a “literary sensation”, “seductive,” and “an exotic fable.”  If it isn’t considered a classic, it should be.

The novel recounts the story of Sayrui, a fictional famous geisha, probably a composite of several famous geisha of Japan’s past. Born in a tiny, poor, fishing village, Chiyo ( her first name as a servant in the geisha house she is sold to by her father)/ Sayrui’s life reflects the difference between the life of a geisha and the life of a prostitute. Hatsumomo, a famous geisha of the same house is her nemesis, insanely jealous and revengeful motivated by feelings of jealousy, fear, insecurity, and mean-spiritedness. Chiyo’s only friend, Pumpkin, eventually betrays Chiyo/Sayrui, making Mamha’s job as Sayrui’s mentor/”Big Sister” all the harder.

Of course it is a romance, but much much more than that.  There is a well-described picture of Japanese life both before and after the WWII bombings. Sayrui’s life goes from rags to riches to rags again to…I’ll let you read the end of the story. The underlying theme of the book deals with how a woman’s life and destiny depended on a man. It is a worthwhile investment of your precious reading time that will keep you turning pages into the wee hours.

THE BOOK THAT MATTERS MOST: A NOVEL: A Review

To tell you what a good read this book was, keep in mind that I read it in a day and a half in a week I didn’t have any time to read in.  It was a fast read; it was an engaging read–I couldn’t wait to get back to it; and it was an informative, actually educational ,read.  And, all this in a novel!

This 2016 publication by Ann Hood includes everything I enjoy in a novel: It was about a book club; it was about a middle age woman whose husband was a cad; it was about friendship and was character driven.  The characters, both major and minor are vividly depicted, and the reader cares about each one. The relationships dissected were mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, and friends and lovers–which all make good reading.

To quote one critic, the novel is a “celebration of all that books awaken within us: joy, love, wisdom, loss, and solace.” There are enough twists and turns to satisfy even this reader who demands them, and Hood is a natural storyteller. It is a book for book clubs, specifically and book lovers, generally.

A bonus in the novel is the description of  year’s worth of the book club’s discussions on the selections of the year’s theme, “The book that matters most to me”, some of which I had not read.  The books discussed (linked to the characters who chose them) are: Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, Anna Karrenina, One Hundred Years of Solitude, To Kill a Mockingbird, Catcher in the Rye, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Slaughterhouse Five.   The mystery and revelation involved in the protagonist’s choice is a wonderful “touch,” leaving a twist for the last few pages.

This is an exceptionally satisfying read, stuffed full of the “good stuff” that makes us choose novels as well as a book you will enjoy on many levels.