Saturday, July 24, 2021

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021: Wrap-up post



Announcing my completion of the Back to the Classics 2021 Challenge

(hosted by Books and Chocolate)






Thank ya, thank ya very much.


And here is my wrap-up. I completed all 12 categories.


19th Century Classic:

Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell

20th Century Classic:

Herzog by Saul Bellow

Classic by a woman author:

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett

Classic in Translation (from French):

Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Classic by Black, Indigenous, Person-of-Color (BIPOC) author:

Journey to the West by Wu Chen'en

Classic by New-to-Me author:

Sybil, or the Two Nations by Benjamin Disraeli

New-to-Me Classic, by a favorite author:

Hard Times by Charles Dickens

Classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title:

Ratman's Notebooks by Stephen Gilbert

Children's Classic:

The Wonderful Adventures of Nils by Selma Lagerlöf

Humorous of satirical Classic:

The Loved One by Evelyn Waugh

Travel or adventure Classic:

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Classic Play:

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof...a play by Tennessee Williams

This is probably Tennessee Williams best known play. It won a Pulitzer Prize, and Williams said
it was his personal favorite of his works. Fortunately for me, I had never seen a film or stage production, so it was all new to me.


I’ve always been intrigued by the title.


The play takes place in a single day, late 1950s, in a single room of the Mississippi cotton plantation of Big Daddy Pollitt. Big Daddy is dying of cancer, though he doesn’t know it. His dysfunctional family has just learned the truth, and intends to break the news to Big Momma after Big Daddy goes to bed.


Big Daddy is bombastic, rude, and bullies his family. Big Momma desperately wants to believe – and pretends – that all is well. Oldest son Gooper (Gooper? I know, right?) and his wife Mae, are two-faced and conniving to win the estate. Younger son, and clear favorite of Big Daddy is Brick, who is an alcoholic and lives platonically with his wife Margaret aka Maggie aka the cat on the hot tin roof. 


In short – they’re a mess. Ordinarily, I dislike stories about self-destructive people, and at first I didn’t like this one for that very reason. But somehow, Maggie grew on me. She was the closest to being morally or emotionally healthy – and she has her issues. But I felt sorry for her, and admired her determination to save Brick and her marriage. And Brick is even sort of likeable, as he is completely honest about his alcoholism, and utter uselessness. 


My copy contained two different versions of the 3rdand final act. The first as Williams wrote it, and the second, with changes suggested by stage director Elia Kazan. In a note about the alternate version, Williams opined that Kazan’s suggestions improved the play. I agree. 


This play read pretty easy, almost like a novel. But plays are meant to be performed, not read. I watched two film versions: 1976 starring Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner, which was quite true to the play (version with Kazan’s suggested revisions). The 1958 version starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman is more iconic but far less faithful to the play, though I thought Taylor and Newman were more convincing as Maggie and Brick.  


Reading this play satisfies a classic play in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021, and completes the challenge for me, having read all 12 categories.



Sunday, July 11, 2021

The Classics Club Spin #27

It is time for the 27th edition of the Classics Club Spin – List 20 books from my Classics Club TBR, the moderators will pick a random number between 1 - 20, and I then have until August 22nd to read the corresponding book. 


You’re probably wondering why August 22nd ?


In honor of National Pecan Torte Day of course.


My spin list



1. At Play in the Fields of the Lord

2. The Recognitions

3. Portnoy’s Complaint

4. The Adventures of Oliver Twist

5. Death of the Heart

6. The Worm Ouroboros

7. The Magus

8. Foundation

9. Martin Chuzzlewit

10. Dombey and Son

11. Little Dorrit

12. Barnaby Rudge

13. Nightmare Abbey

14. Our Mutual Friend

15. Loving

16. A House for Mr. Biswas

17. Lord Jim

18. Scoop

19. The Silver Sword (Escape from Warsaw)

20. The Maltese Falcon



I guess I’m hoping for #6. Nothing here I’m dreading though.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie (novel #184)

très excellent!

This was my first read in Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series.


Though I agree with my daughter, and must reluctantly assert that this is one of those rare instances where the film is better than the book.


It is about murder on a train – the Orient Express of course. As luck or providence should have it, the great Belgian detective happens to be on board, and the situation is further intensified, when the train is stuck in the snow, at some remote spot for several days, meaning no local authorities to investigate. Poirot is engaged by the director of the line to solve the embarrassing murder, which would seem a simple case: there are limited possible suspects, and no means of escape.


But of course, it is not simple, and even when Poirot solves “who done it” or qui l'a fait, it is still not so simple.


It is one of those maddening dilemmas wherein justice is not served by the law, and the law must be delicately ignored for true justice. This is the part that the recent film does much more artfully than the book. 


But the book is still très bien. I will definitely read more by Agatha Christie and more of Hercule Poirot.


My rating: 3 1/2 of 5 stars


This book satisfies a travel or adventure classic in the Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 challenge.




Saturday, July 3, 2021

Six Degrees of Separation: from Eats, Shoots & Leaves to A Tale of Two Cities

Six Degrees of Separation is a monthly meme hosted by Kate @ booksarmyfavouriteandbest. 


This month’s chain begins the grammar guide, Eats, Shoots & Leaves. The title of which, is the second-best argument for the Oxford comma. The best argument sentence is: “I’d like to thank my parents, Mother Teresa and the Pope”. I haven’t read Eat, Shoots & Leaves, but I’m familiar, and I’m a big fan of the Oxford comma (never wrong to use it, sometimes horribly wrong if you don’t). I have read the rest of these, and as usual, I am sticking to the classics.


The grammar guide let me to the book that breaks all the grammar rules: 

Ulysses by James Joyce. Not a fan of that book, but it led me to another by Joyce, that I found much more accessible.


A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. And that for obvious reasons, reminds me of:


The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James. I’m not a big fan of Henry James either, but I did like this one. And the main character, Isabel Archer, reminds me of an erstwhile book blogger, whom I shall not name, but…she is THE #1 FAN of Margaret Mitchell and…


Gone With the Wind, the heroine of which, is of course, Scarlett O’Hara. Perhaps she is an anti-heroine. Regardless, Scarlett reminds me of Becky Sharp from…


Vanity Fair. I’m not the only one, there are some who surmise that Becky was in part an inspiration for Scarlett. I did like Vanity Fair very much, and you know who else did? Charles Dickens. In fact, he named one of his children after William Thackeray. So, I’m going with a Dickens novel to wrap this up, but which one? I’ll just go with my favorite, and Dickens’ best…


A Tale of Two Cities




And that is how you get from Eats, Shoots and Leaves to A Tale of Two Cities.