Yay I’m on a roll with these posts! (or I might have just done them all in a batch and scheduled them… but whatever) For those of you who are new here (hi!) or missed my last few posts (where were you?! JK 😉 ) I’m currently sharing my lovey-dovey feelings about my favourite classics. I went into how I was doing this in (probably too much) detail in the first week, so I’m not going to bore you with it- suffice to say this is part three of four and each week has a vaguish theme. This week it’s EPIC! (I mean the theme, not the post- though if you think my posts are epic, have a prize banana, I salute you 😉 ) Well sort of epics, some of these are just bunched into this group because they address BIG IDEAS.
The Count of Monte Cristo– boy this book has scope! From the ship docking in the opening chapter to the ever expansive horizons the protagonist treads, the reader is taken on quite the journey. On the surface, it is a wonderful adventure story- however simmering under the surface is a classic tale of revenge- one which holds many lessons.
Theogony– if we are talking scope, no story has more than the Theogony. We are talking the literal origins of the universe, from a Greek perspective of course (it’s upto you whether you take that literally 😉 ) And my goodness, Hesiod might have been one of the world’s most adept misogynists, but dude sure can spin a story. No matter how often I read this, I’m always entertained by these myths. Oh and Works and Days is great too 🙂
Aeneid– I own the most atrocious translation of this- and yet this still struck me as one of the most powerful stories ever told- which says everything. If the majesty of such a story could shine through a translation (so bad it made me laugh out loud) then you can imagine just how good it is. One thing I love about it is how it manages to splice the basic narrative structure of both the Iliad and the Odyssey together, combining the two into one incredible tale. It may be technically unfinished- nonetheless it is one of the most tightly woven stories I have ever read.
War and Peace– I honestly never expected to love this as much as I did. For years, I saw it as little more than a challenge- but when I finally read it WOW– it blew me away. I was instantly wrapped up in the characters, the philosophical discussions, and the beauty of the imagery that crossed the boundary a translation often erects. Of course, it took a lot of commitment, yet ever since I read it, I’ve been itching to give it a reread (it did completely kill the adaptation for me though, cos nothing could live upto that level of epicness).
Grapes of Wrath– speaking of language, this book has some of finest writing I have ever seen. I don’t care what you think of Steinbeck’s philosophy, no one can argue that the writing here is anything less than profoundly stunning. There are few books that have blown me away as much on sheer imagery alone and this is one of them.
The Great Gatsby– and yet another beautifully written book. Here, my taste for lyrical, flowery prose shines through unashamedly again. As I’ve mentioned before, I love the Romantics and Fitzgerald drew heavily on their seductive style. Ergo, I adore this book. And if that wasn’t enough, I find the study of human nature in this book so compelling- especially because the characters are so ridiculously unlikeable. (Yes, I love to hate characters sometimes)
East of Eden– I actually love this for very different reasons to Grapes of Wrath. Yes, it has a lot of the same skill in terms of writing and yes, it likewise has a magnificent scope. However, what I love about this is the family drama and mirroring of the Kane and Abel story at the heart of the book. It is such a fascinating exploration of humanity, I cannot help but find this one of the most compelling family epics in existence.
The Chosen– moving from a story about brotherly and fatherly love, to one about friendship. This story is a gorgeous modern day allegory about two friends who grow from being enemies on the baseball court to best friends. What I loved most about this was how it tackled Jewish philosophy and struck at the heart of the universal question of baseless hatred.
Daniel Deronda– I know that normally people are especially fond of Middlemarch by Eliot- and that’s cool, whatever floats your boat. Yet while I’ve read it twice and have been struck by the characters both times, the provincial life setting prevented me from fully forming an emotional connection. This book on the other hand… I do not expect everyone to be as in love with this as I am, yet I was fundamentally blown away not only about how it had mature philosophical debates and drew realistic Jewish characters (in a non-Holocaust book! without being anti-Semitic!), but also how it managed to show that people are not simply their group identity, they are textured and complex (I know *shocker*)
Heart of Darkness– this book is a puzzle- and yet I enjoy cracking it. Layer upon layer of meaning is coated onto this slightly bizarre, tightly woven book. I do not know that I will ever get to the bottom of it- all I know is that there is something which compels me to read and reread it.
Fahrenheit 451– well I had a burning desire to put this on the list 😉 (gosh- apologies for that appalling joke, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself 😉 ) Seriously though, this is one of the most illuminating, powerful books I’ve ever read. The imagery from beginning to end is burned into my brain. With a grand vision, this book illustrates the true horrors of collectivism.
1984– while I often envisage Fahrenheit 451 as depicting Nazism, 1984 strikes me as the cold knife of communism. Twice in my life I have read this book and twice I have put it down with no intention of picking it up again. Not because I dislike it, but because this book shakes me to my core. The imagery is terrifyingly realistic, the messages echo across time and the book paves the way for every dystopia that follows. There is nothing quite like it.
So have you read any of these? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments! This feature will be back again next week… for the last time! (well for now)