50 Questions about Reading the Classics: Part 1

classicsclub3The Classics Club has posted a survey asking members 50 questions about their experience of reading classic works of literature. Here are my ramblings on the first 25 questions. 

  1. Share a link to your club listhttps://bookertalk.com/classics-club-list/
  2. When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? I joined in August 2012 which means I have until August 2017 to read 50 titles. So far I’ve read 18 and given up on two.
  3. What are you currently reading? I have a confession – my current book isn’t from my classics club list. It’s All Our Names by Dinaw Mengestu, a novelist from Uganda
  4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it? Confession number 2 – my most recent reading was Fear by Gabriel Chevalier, a novel set  in World War 1. . It’s been called a ‘rediscovered classic’ because it was first published in 1930 and then disappeared so I could have claimed it as a classics club read except that I hadn’t put it on my list. It’s uncomfortable reading at times because most of the narrative takes place at the Front and as we all know, soldiers in the trenches endured unimaginable conditions.
  5. What are you reading next? Why? Oh dear, that is one of those questions I find hard to answer because I don’t plan ahead. I choose usually according to my mood at the time. Whenever I plan, I end up changing my mind so I’ve stopped doing it. I know at some point between now and January 5, I will be reading Daisy Miller and Washington Square by Henry James since that was the book which turned up in the latest club spin. But as i’ve already written, I’m not relishing the prospect.
  6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why? This would be L’Assommoir by Emile Zola, part of his Rougon-Macquet series. This is the third book from the series I’ve read and it was just as gripping as Germinal and La Bete Humaine. It’s a graphic story of a woman’s attempt to find happiness amid the grinding poverty of a working class district in Paris. Powerful writing.
  7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?  I wanted to choose some classics that reflected one of my other interests, world literature. I added Things Fall Apart  by the Nigerian author Chinua Achebe to my list because it is one of the first novels by an African author to receive global critical acclaim.
  8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why? I’m not avoiding anything as much as maybe deferring the moment when I read the three books by Virginia Woolf.
  9. First classic you ever read? This is lost in the mists of time – I do remember reading Black Beauty but whether that’s the first I’ve no idea.
  10. Toughest classic you ever read? War and Peace I found hard going – not only because it was so long but I just couldn’t keep all those Russian names straight in my head. It didn’t help that Russians have three names and Tolstoy kept using them interchangeably so I was always struggling to work out who was being featured.
  11. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry? Zola’s Germinal made me both angry and tearful. This is a novel about the desperate conditions of a mining community in Northern France and since my ancestors were coal miners, the book had a personal resonance. I kept thinking of my grandfather and great grandfather working in similar conditions.
  12. Longest classic left on your club list? No idea – Wives and Daughters looks long (and the print size is small) but whether it’s longer than Old Curiosity Shop I don’t know. Dickens can be rather wordy.
  13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list? Oldest one I’ve read is a play, Medea by Euripdes which dates from 431BC.  A surprisingly good experience. Oldest one left is Canterbury Tales from 1381 – I’ve started it but its the kind of book I can read only in short spurts
  14. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — The Unequaled Self, Claire Tomalin’s biography of Samuel Pepys was riveting. See my review here 
  15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? The one THEY want to read – who am I to impose my ideas on someone else.
  16. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any? My very battered copy of Middlemarch from university. It’s an orange cover Penguin full of tiny scribbles in the margins. I remember clearly sitting for hours reading this, desperately trying to get through it in time for a tutorial
  17. Favorite movie adaption of a classic? There are many TV serialisations I can watch repeatedly (Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth or Martin Chuzzlewit with the brilliant Tom Wilkinson as Mr Pecksniff ) but not many films. Two adaptations of E M Forster novels come to mind as ones I rate highly – Howard’s End with Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins and A Passage to India  with, I think, Peggy Ashcroft
  18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.  L’Assommoir would make a good film, it has some wonderful set pieces
  19. Least favorite classic? One that I didn’t’ finish – Bleak House. It has a superb opening
  20. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read. None – a lot on my list have been around for decades, or centuries in some cases. I think these authors can wait a few more years before I get around to them
  21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?  If i was that excited I would have read them already wouldn’t I?
  22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? ( I was ready to throw Portrait of a Lady in the waste bin but had to finish it because it was part of a literature course. Second time around (yes I had to do a second read in order to write the essay) I warmed to it more.
  23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head? Scobie in Heart of the Matter by Grahame Greene, a man who tries to keep his moral centre but ultimately proves powerless
  24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself? I wouldn’t wish that on any character
  25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like? None of the people in the books I’ve read seem to have very happy lives so I have no desire to emulate them.

About BookerTalk

What do you need to know about me? 1. I'm from Wales which is one of the countries in the UK and must never be confused with England. 2. My life has always revolved around the written and spoken word. I worked as a journalist for nine years then in international corporate communications 3. My tastes in books are eclectic. I love realism and hate science fiction and science fantasy. 4. I am trying to broaden my reading horizons geographically by reading more books in translation

Posted on November 26, 2014, in Classics Club and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. I also find planning my next read not conducive to my reading habits. I prefer to surprise myself and pick something up that suits my mood. There are times when I’m in the mood for something serious, or something I can sink my teeth into. Then there are those times when I just want to be entertained and read something fluffy that does not require me to think. Or if I’m in the mood for flights of fantasy then I’d pick something up to suit it.

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  2. I didn’t know about this one Guy but it sounds so good that I’ve just bought it.. I’m classing it as an early Xmas present from me to me.. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  3. Have you read THE KILL?(Zola) I bet you would like it. There’s a 1956 B&W version of L’Assommoir. Somewhat sanitized but still well worth catching.
    http://phoenixcinema.wordpress.com/2009/04/10/gervaise-1956/

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