Thursday, 15 January 2009

From A to Z - a comprehensive journey through literature

I finally decided where my first bookish journey is going to take me and I've even taken the first tentative steps. In fact you could almost say that I have begun and ended the journey in the space of a week ..... I shall explain.

Staring forlornly at the bookcase which holds my classics, I realised how many of them I had yet to read. I may think myself well read, but when one can state that most of the books on the shelf have yet to be perused, the title of 'well read' looks to be in jeopardy and something must be done, and quickly!

So - as the title of this post might suggest, I have decided to go from A to Z with the authors of the classics and see if I can't remedy my appalling state. I have a few rules: It must be fiction and the author must have written the book over fifty years ago. In the end I had to break this rule for X and Z, but as for the others, I have remained true.

However, I am having a little trouble with U and Y - can't find any possible fits, so I could do with a little help there!

So far I have read two out of twenty six - Markus Zusak's 'The Book Thief' and Jane Austen's 'Northanger Abbey' (This explains my having started and finished the journey, now I just have to fill in the middle. Also, as you can see, I cheated with Z, as Mr Zusak is well and truly alive, but I was having trouble, and as I was reading his book for book club, I thought I could get away with it!

I loved 'The Book Thief' for so many reasons, but mainly because of it's way with a sentence. It's narrated by death, but because it's about a child, there is an artlessness to the way things are described. It's interesting too, with all the films that have come out recently, to read a book set from a German perspective - although the main characters are not typically German, seeing as they are hiding a Jew in their basement. It's a fantastic book though, and truly deserves to be read as soon as possible by everyone!

At the other end of the spectrum, I have just finished 'Northanger Abbey'. I was shocked to discover that I'd not read any Jane Austen for well over four years. How on earth I managed this I have no idea, but I do remember trying to read N.A. when I was 15 and stopping fairly soon as I didn't really find the Gothic irony appealing. More to the point, I don't think I understood it. I won't say that it's my favourite Austen - for that I think is 'Persuasion' - I have a feeling Jane is trying too hard. It's very possibly her first novel to be written, and in attempting the satire of the Gothic novel so popular at the time, she can be a touch heavy handed. I do like the characters though - I would dearly love to give Isabella a good, hard, slap - I think she's even worse that Elizabeth Eliot and Mrs Elton combined (which is saying a lot!), but I don't think I'd want to go out to dinner with any of them (which is always the acid test). Catherine is rather silly (and I suspect would remain so even after marriage), the younger Tilneys are rather aloof, and all the Bath characters are vapid, selfish or just plain boring. I think Catherine's brother might improve on better acquaintance, but we are never given that chance.

That was all a bit vitriolic wasn't it? And I don't mean any true criticism, as it's so interesting to see the earlier Jane. Perhaps my next project should read everything in chronological order to see how she developed ... I've certainly got it all!

Anyway, the A - Z journey has begun. I think I'm going to move on to V next .... but I won't spoil the surprise by telling you who that is!

In the meantime, if anyone could come up with a U or Y (and even a Q, I don't particularly like my choice for that) I would be very grateful!

And I leave you with a shocking piece of news: I'm not going to buy a single book for the next 12 weeks - I've managed two weeks already .... will I manage this? I doubt it, my birthday and the Oxford literary festival fall within this period ......


Jenny said...

My husband will *only* read classics. He's mostly getting ideas from Clifton Fadiman's "Lifetime Reading Plan." Try taking a look there if you need extra ideas for the leftover letters!

oxford-reader said...

Ooh - that sounds like a good book! I shall have to hunt for it ...

dovegreyreader said...

Zola Zola Zola! Ladies Paradise, marvellous, that should sort your Z dilemma!