2017 Classics Reading Challenge – Completed!

As of yesterday, I completed the Back to the Classics Reading Challenge! I’m glad I did it. I read a few books I wouldn’t have read otherwise, and got to re-experience some I’d encountered years ago. Every time you read a book, for the first time or the tenth, you get something new from it. So this was a good opportunity to both find new (to me) books, and reread others. Without further ado, here’s my list (also found on Goodreads):

  1. A 19th Century Classic– any book published between 1800 and 1899. – The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe. I chose this book because I quite like Poe’s poems and short stories. Now I know why he only completed one novel – it never came near the genius of his shorter works. Parts of it were ok, but at one point I found myself feeling that it was very familiar. That’s when I realized that it was extremely similar to the experiences of the Essex. He did quite faithfully reproduce the travel narrative that was so popular, at least in parts, while other parts were quite odd indeed (such as the ending). I was glad to get to the end, and am still surprised to find how much I disliked a work by Poe.
  2.  A 20th Century Classic– any book published between 1900 and 1967. – Go Down, Moses by William Faulkner. It’s been awhile since I’ve read any Faulkner, and I’d forgotten how much he likes to write in a stream of consciousness. That took some time for me to adjust, but once I did, I enjoyed the stories.
  3.  A classic by a woman author. –North and Southby Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story. Having lived in northern England and seen the difference that still exists between north and south, I loved reading of others’ experiences with the great difference present.
  4.  A classic in translation.  – A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov. First off, I found the author’s obsession with Byron a little odd. Apparently he really likes everything about Byron and kept referencing him. Then again, we all have that one artist we just adore. I’m more of a Coleridge fan, but he’s entitled to like Byron.

    I found myself rolling my eyes at Pechorin a lot of the time, but given that the author created the character specifically to illustrate the vices of the age, I’d say that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, Pechorin’s bad traits weren’t limited to that time, but have always been around in some form or another.

    So overall, the book was ok. I don’t plan to reread it, but I didn’t feel like I was just slogging through it, either.

  5.  A classic published before 1800.The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper. I just read The Last of the Mohicans, and I quite enjoyed it. I don’t know why I’d never picked it up before, other than the fact that I don’t generally read much American lit (the exception being Poe). I found it a compelling story, aided by interweaving historical events and people into a fictional story. While Hawkeye’s biases towards the Delawares and against the Hurons colors the interactions, this serves, in my opinion, to add to the authenticity. Both sides held that the tribes who worked with them were better than the opposing tribes, even while they committed the same offenses – this is a common view, excusing the faults of our own side, to which I think we can all relate.
  6.  A romance classic. A Room with a Viewby E. M. Forster. Meh. I decided to tackle the romance classic first for the reading challenge, and I wanted to read one I hadn’t read yet. I wasn’t overly impressed. It had many of the standard romance classic elements, but not created in a way that stayed with me. None of Austen’s wit, for example (or even the Bronte’s memorable characters, much as I dislike their characters).

  7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Draculaby Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?! I love all the Catholic imagery, as well, and the allegorical nature of the character of Dracula. And just the richness of the book itself. One of the things I always notice about classics is how rich the language is, and that is especially true of Dracula. It’s one I plan to read again in the future. I can’t wait to share it with others, too.

    8.  A classic with a number in the title.Richard III by William Shakespeare. It’s amazing how rereading a book years later can allow one to catch more beneath the surface. Especially now that I’ve studied more of the history of the Wars of the Roses and the Tudor period, I can see how the Shakespearean account uses the accepted Tudor history to make Richard into his greatest villain (well, maybe Iago fits that. No, I think Richard.).

9. A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. For some reason this was never on the syllabus when I was in school, so I’d never read it. I wish I had – it’s a beautiful book. While set in the 1930s, the observations about people, prejudice, and fearing those we don’t know are just as relevant today as when the book was written. I want to read Lee’s other novel now, and I will definitely reread this book in the future (probably with my children, when they’re a little older). I feel like it should be required reading in schools, and I’m sad to hear that some are now taking it off of reading lists. Obviously I will be recommending this book to others.

10.A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. – The Woman in Whiteby Wilkie Collins. I was intrigued by this, considered one of the earliest mystery novels, and the bonus is that it is set in England. Being an Anglophile, I could happily visit most places in the UK, and I could easily picture the countryside. As for the story itself, I found the changes in narration to be done well. I could’ve wished that the women were more interesting/less passive. The only one who is truly interesting is the one who is described as being more mannish and ugly. Overall, though, I enjoyed the book.

11.An award-winning classic. – The Rievers by William Faulkner. It’s not difficult to see why Faulkner won the Pulitzer for this book. It’s a comic masterpiece, yes, but it was also the commentary on race relations and the options available for men and women, black and white, that struck me. Faulkner had an eye for seeing the relationships between people of different color and sex and bringing that to light in his stories. Yes, he is also a product of his time, but I think he saw the disparity and lamented it. I felt that the thoughts he gave to Lucius at one point, as he mused on race relations, were in fact Faulkner’s own thoughts.

12. A Russian Classic. –The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I saved this for last. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to reading more Russian lit. I know that somehow, somewhere, there has to be non-depressing Russian literature. This was certainly a well-written story, and perhaps more reflective of the realities of life than it would have been had Mitya been acquitted. I suppose it comes down to the question of whether art should reflect life, or provide hope and an escape from the realities of life. As a reflection of life, though, this book does a good job. While I don’t really want to reread it, I did enjoy reading this, at least once I got to book 3 of it. I’m glad to say I’ve read it, at least.

 

 

Advertisements

You Know, I Could Be Wrong

It was another hot Sunday, and I was sitting in the pew at my contemporary Methodist church. The kind of church that had a rocking band, big screens, few religious images, and dynamic preaching. The pastor was preaching on, hmm, you know, I can’t remember. Conflict resolution, maybe? I’m not entirely sure. What I do remember are the words he told us to say to ourselves: “you know, I could be wrong.”

I do remember he said it in the context of debating/arguing with another. Since I liked to win debates and arguments, to the point of continuing to argue even after I’d realized I was wrong and yet unwilling to admit that, hearing that it was okay to admit to being wrong was huge for me, and something I vowed to put into practice.

The main thing that flashed through my mind upon hearing that line, though, was remembering a couple of conversations from college the previous semester. One of the girls who lived down the hall from me was a practicing Catholic and we would occasionally have conversations about our beliefs. I remember her saying something about going to Adoration, or something else about the Eucharist. I can’t remember the full conversation, but I do remember that I was unwilling to entertain the possibility of being wrong in my beliefs on the Eucharist, and I talked to my roommate later that day. I was scared that I was wrong, and wanted my roommate to agree with me (she did) so that I could just say I was right and forget about it. But I never forgot about it, and it came rushing back when I heard my pastor instruct us to say, “you know, I could be wrong.”

I still wasn’t ready to wrestle with that possibility, so it just stayed in the back of my head for another few years, when I started dating my now-husband (a devout Catholic) and realized I had to confront Catholic belief. Remembering that earlier conversation from freshman year, and wondering all that time if I could be wrong, I started with looking at the Eucharist. This time, I forced myself to look directly at what the Church said and look at Scripture without prejudice, instead of just looking at anti-Catholic sites (as I was tempted to do so that I could say I was right).

Doing that, it was like looking at Scripture for the first time. I know I’d read John lots of times, yet the import of John 6 had never hit me before. Reading how the Israelites were forbidden from consuming blood because the life was in it, and then seeing Jesus’ words about one only having life if one drank His blood made both verses make sense. Reading the history of Eucharistic belief, and how all the early Christians believed in the Real Presence in the Eucharist sealed it. I knew that if the Eucharist was true (and I’d come to believe it was, after these lengthy, late-night research sessions), then I had to be Catholic.

I know the suddenness of my conversion surprised all those around me. No one, including my then-boyfriend, had any idea I was researching it. In fact, when I told him I wanted to convert, his first response was that he was not asking that of me. I was determined, though, and impatient to be received into the Church. I couldn’t read enough, and God humoured my impatience by allowing me to enter in December after private instruction and a Landings course instead of going through RCIA and waiting for the next Easter. From the time I determined to convert to the time of my Confirmation was all of 7 months. But I knew, and once I knew I longed for the Eucharist, to receive Jesus in that way. I’ve never looked back.

Telling myself “you know, I could be wrong” was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. It’s something I still try to do instead of just assuming the belief or position I hold is the correct one. I’ve never regretted doing this, especially since it has only brought me closer to God. I can’t thank Him enough for that gift, and for speaking to me through the pastor that day so that I could let go of my pride enough to follow God more closely. It’s still a journey, and not always an easy one, but it’s one I’m glad to be on.

We’re Failing Women

I was just exploring the site ourbodies.hercampus.com and reading through the experiences of women who have had abortions, and the views of those who were originally pro-life and became pro-choice. I appreciate their candor and willingness to open themselves up to talk about this. In perusing these, though, I came to the conclusion that we (society) are failing women in many ways still. Just not in the ways those women wrote about (in my opinion).

Many of those who were pro-life and became pro-choice did so because they, or someone they knew, were unprepared to have a child, or in an abusive relationship, or didn’t have money to raise a child, or had unsupportive family members, or something of that ilk. Those are all real hardships, and not to be taken lightly. These women concluded that, because these situations exist, abortion is needed.

Why? Because our society has taken the easy way out in deciding it is easier to debate abortion than to do more to support women who are in tougher situations. So women continue to wonder how to afford a child when their school or work won’t offer paid maternity leave. Or they continue to receive snide remarks from people about family size. Or they live in a state that gives paternity rights to rapists (if that isn’t an incentive for women to abort, I don’t know what is).

So I read things like this and I’m saddened that these women felt abortion was necessary in order to address these wrongs. We must work harder to make it so those things aren’t even issues, so that we meet a pregnancy announcement with joy and will help the women and the babies. Our society isn’t pro-life, not just because of abortion, but because abortion is seen as needed to address the other issues women are facing. Until we understand that and seek to help address the issues that lead women to abortion, we won’t be pro-life.

Reading Challenge – The Woman in White

The Woman in White

1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. – The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. – unfinished

3.  A classic by a woman author. – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story.

4.  A classic in translation.  – unfinished. Maybe I’ll go with Madame Bovary, but I’m not sure.

5.  A classic published before 1800. The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper

6.  A romance classic. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. I wasn’t all that impressed, really.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Dracula by Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?!

8.  A classic with a number in the title. – unfinished

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  – unfinished

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. –unfinished

11. An award-winning classic. – unfinished

12. A Russian Classic. – unfinished

Reading Challenge – Last of the Mohicans

Here’s the latest update on my classics reading challenge. I just read The Last of the Mohicans, and I quite enjoyed it. I don’t know why I’d never picked it up before, other than the fact that I don’t generally read much American lit (the exception being Poe). I found it a compelling story, aided by interweaving historical events and people into a fictional story. While Hawkeye’s biases towards the Delawares and against the Hurons colors the interactions, this serves, in my opinion, to add to the authenticity. Both sides held that the tribes who worked with them were better than the opposing tribes, even while they committed the same offenses – this is a common view, excusing the faults of our own side, to which I think we can all relate.

1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. – unfinished

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. – unfinished

3.  A classic by a woman author. – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story.

4.  A classic in translation.  – unfinished. Maybe I’ll go with Madame Bovary, but I’m not sure.

5.  A classic published before 1800. The Last of the Mohicans, by James Fenimore Cooper

6.  A romance classic. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. I wasn’t all that impressed, really.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Dracula by Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?!

8.  A classic with a number in the title. – unfinished

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  – unfinished

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. –unfinished

11. An award-winning classic. – unfinished

12. A Russian Classic. – unfinished

Reading Challenge Progress

I’ve completed 1/4 of the reading challenge and thought I’d update here.

 1. A 19th Century Classic – any book published between 1800 and 1899. – unfinished

2.  A 20th Century Classic – any book published between 1900 and 1967. – unfinished

3.  A classic by a woman author. – North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’d never heard of her before, but it sounded like a good book and I wasn’t disappointed. While I wished part of it would have moved a little faster (and apparently it did in the original publication as a serial), it was a well-written story.

4.  A classic in translation.  – unfinished. Maybe I’ll go with Madame Bovary, but I’m not sure.

5.  A classic published before 1800. reading now  – The Aeneid by Virgil

6.  A romance classic. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster. I wasn’t all that impressed, really.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic. – Dracula by Bram Stoker. I can’t recommend this book enough! It is such an amazing book. Everyone needs to go and read this. Well – what are you waiting for?!

8.  A classic with a number in the title. – unfinished

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title.  – unfinished

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit. –unfinished

11. An award-winning classic. – unfinished

12. A Russian Classic. – unfinished

So for the ones I’ve yet to read, or even to decide on a book to read for that category, I’m open to suggestions. I’m trying to read books I’ve not read before (I had read Dracula years ago, but it’s so good I just had to reread it).

Size Matters Not

Growing up, I didn’t believe that fat could be beautiful. No, beauty was restricted to those who were thin. I didn’t understand the beauty of Renaissance models, instead trying to say that they valued fat as a sign of wealth, but that it wasn’t actually beautiful.

And I was completely confused when I watched Oklahoma! and heard Will singing about Kansas City. In the song, he describes going to a burlesque show and how “one of the girls was fat and pink and pretty.” But using the words “fat” and “pretty” in the same sentence, the same description, just didn’t compute. I assumed he must be using the word “fat” to mean curvy, not actually fat. I even said so to a girl I was babysitting (who was also confused by that line).

In both cases, I was performing mental gymnastics to avoid associating anything beautiful with fat. Fat was a bad word, an ugly word. After all, all the media told me that beautiful women were thin. My grandfather, who was wonderful in many respects, also commented negatively on the weight of any in the family who were not super thin (and praised those who were slender).

Even though I was naturally slender – to the point of being accused of having an eating disorder, which is also not a fun stereotype, but not the same as fat-shaming – I always hoped I wouldn’t gain weight. I hoped I wouldn’t gain the “freshman 15” in college, for fear of being less beautiful. I’m ashamed to say I even looked down on those who did gain that weight.

But now I have children of my own, and I see the media portrayals and stray comments with a new perspective. I wonder how my children will receive and internalize those nearly subconscious messages. What I want them to know, what I want to teach them, is that their beauty comes from within, and that their clothing size matters not at all in that determination.

A lot of this comes from my acceptance of the changes in my own body, having had 3 children well over 8lbs at birth, and the diastasis recti that has come with that. While I wish I could’ve come to this realization earlier, I’m glad I’m learning it now, and I hope my children see me be comfortable in my own skin and internalize that example. I’ll just keep repeating that size matters not, and pray that message will overshadow what the media tells my children.