jfetting's 11-11 Challenge

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jfetting's 11-11 Challenge

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Editado: Ene 1, 2011, 11:34am

Because I already know that 11 books in 11 categories is beyond me, I'm doing a modified 7-11 Challenge: 7 books in 11 categories. This'll give me some leeway for those off-challenge books I want to read, too.

1) Short story collections
2) 1001 books
3) Revisiting Jane Austen
4) Revisiting the Brontës
5) In Search of Lost Time
6) Drama/plays
7) Poetry
8) Spy novels
9) LT Group reads
10) The Ancients (Greeks and Romans)
11) Author Theme Reads main author: Mario Vargas Llosa

Editado: Nov 18, 2011, 9:05pm

Category 1: Short Story Collections - COMPLETE
Both anthologies and single-author collections count!

1) The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever - 10/13/11
2) Varieties of Exile by Mavis Gallant - 4/28/11
3) The Oxford Book of Short Stories ed. by V. S. Prichett - 7/5/11
4) The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke - 1/28/11
5) Beirut 39 edited by Samuel Shimon - 3/3/11
6) Dubliners by James Joyce - 6/5/11
7) Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield - 11/18/11

Editado: Dic 17, 2011, 8:56am

Category 2: 1001 books - COMPLETE
1) The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong'o - 12/12/11
2) Small Island by Andrea Levy - 8/12/11
3) Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison - 11/11/11
4) Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker - 5/15/11
5) Suite Francaise by Irene Némirovsky - 6/12/11
6) Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens - 3/20/11
7) The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai - 1/7/11

Editado: Dic 29, 2011, 10:43am

Category 3: Revisiting Jane Austen - COMPLETE
Because she is due a re-read!
1) Sense and Sensibility - 5/27/11
2) Pride and Prejudice - 9/22/11
3) Emma - 7/17/11
4) Northanger Abbey - 2/13/11
5) Persuasion - 12/28/11
6) Mansfield Park - 11/20/11
7) Sandition and other stories - 12/5/11

Editado: Dic 29, 2011, 10:44am

Category 4: Revisiting the Brontës - COMPLETE

1) Jane Eyre - Charlotte 5/14/11
2) Wuthering Heights - Emily 6/24/11
3) Shirley - Charlotte 8/6/11
4) The Professor - Charlotte 12/17/12
5) The Tenant of Wildfell Hall - Anne 2/28/11
6) Agnes Grey - Anne 10/7/11
7) Villette - Charlotte 12/28/11

possible extra credit: The Complete Poems of Emily Bronte (see poetry category below)

Editado: Sep 11, 2011, 6:41pm

Category 5: In Search of Lost Time by Marcel Proust - COMPLETE

1) Swann's Way - 3/18/11
2) Within a Budding Grove - 5/25/11
3) The Guermantes Way - 7/3/11
4) Sodom and Gomorrah - 7/30/11
5) The Captive - 8/28/11
6) The Fugitive - 8/28/11
7) Time Regained - 9/11/11

Editado: Dic 17, 2011, 8:55am

Editado: Nov 28, 2011, 3:29pm

Category 8: Spy novels - COMPLETE

1) The Honorable Schoolboy by John le Carré - 1/24/11
2) Smiley's People by John le Carré - 3/27/11
3) A Perfect Spy by John le Carré - 10/2/11
4) The Russia House by John le Carré - 10/29/11
5) The Constant Gardener by John le Carré - 11/28/11
6) The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum - 5/14/11
7) The Bourne Ultimatum by Robert Ludlum - 7/4/11

Editado: Dic 10, 2011, 8:38am

Category 9: LT group reads - COMPLETE

1) Nobody Said Not To Go by Ken Cuthbertson - Missouri Readers 1/23/11
2) Harry Truman's Excellent Adventure by Matthew Algeo - Missouri Readers 4/2/11
3) Private Life by Jane Smiley - Missouri Readers 6/1/11
4) Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne - Group Reads - Literature 8/21/11
5) Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy - Group Reads - Literature 10/20/11
6) Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg - Missouri Readers 10/9/11
7) The Tender Land by Kathleen Finneran - Missouri Readers 12/9/11

Editado: Dic 13, 2011, 8:51am

Category 10: The Ancients - by or about the classical world - COMPLETE

1) The History of the Peloponnesian War by Thucydides - 9/23/11
2) Sophocles: the Complete Plays - 3/10/11
3) The Complete Tragedies of Aeschylus volume 2 - 6/9/11
4) The Golden Ass by Apuleius - 8/24/11
5) The Politics by Aristotle - 12/12/11
6) Cleopatra: a life by Stacy Schiff - 6/20/11
7) The Histories by Tacitus - 11/9/11

Editado: Nov 1, 2011, 11:17am

Category 11: Author Theme Reads - Mario Vargas Llosa - COMPLETE

1) Conversation in the Cathedral - 2/11/11
2) The War of the End of the World - 6/18/11
3) Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter - 2/20/11
4) Feast of the Goat - 9/5/11
5) Death in the Andes - 10/31/11
6) The Bad Girl - 8/27/11
7) The Cubs and other Stories - 9/11/11

These are books read with the Author Theme Reads group here at LT. Our main author is MVL himself (the 2010 winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature). Our mini-authors are Jose Saramago and two other people who I can't remember right now. I'll be reading way more than 7 books for this category!

Oct 2, 2010, 1:16pm

Great categories! You seem to be taking on quite a variety, and I am very impressed by the Proust. :) I'm doing a short-story category too, so it'll be interesting to compare notes with you!

Oct 2, 2010, 5:31pm

That's one of the categories I'm looking forward to most - I love love love short stories. We will definitely have to compare stories!

Oct 3, 2010, 4:35pm

Will be interested in your thoughts on Rosencrantz. I loved the film production.

Thucydides may be a group read in 2011, in case you're interested. I have it lined up too.

Oct 4, 2010, 11:25am

Yay! A Bronte category.

Oct 4, 2010, 1:37pm

Proust! I'm excited to hear what you think when you get there. I've been considering him off and on.

Oct 5, 2010, 1:20pm

Victoria - ever since I read Juliet Barker's The Brontës earlier this year, I've wanted to go back and re-read their works (and read The Professor and Agnes Grey for the first time). So I'm looking forward to that, plus I usually read Jane Eyre every year or so, and it's time.

pammab & Christina - I'm excited about the Proust, too! I figure that this year I'm picking a lot of shorter things (plays, poetry, etc) and so I'll be able to devote time to Proust without feeling rushed.

auntmarge - I LOVED the movie of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern, especially when they're playing tennis ("rhetoric!"). Tim Roth and Gary Oldman are geniuses.

Oct 25, 2010, 11:41am

Interesting! I like your 7-11 approach. Eleven is still too many categories for my little brain to keep straight, so I'll just watch.

Nov 7, 2010, 11:30am

I read John le Carré's Spy Who Came in from the Cold and really enjoyed it. So I will be interested to see how you like his other books that you read.

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Ene 8, 2011, 11:45am

Off to a slow start, this year. But I finished a 1001 book - The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. I liked it a lot; very well-written and an interesting setting (the India-Nepal border, I think).

Editado: Ene 25, 2011, 6:37pm

For the drama category: Seven Plays by Henrik Ibsen

Overall: Ibsen was WAY ahead of his time, I think. These plays, despite being around 150 years old, are incredibly modern in the issues they address. Wow.

1) Hedda Gabler - one of his most famous. Hedda herself is one of those trapped-in-the-wrong-time women of literature, whose longing for a huge, beautiful, grand gesture on the part of anybody leads to tragic results.
2) Ghosts - all about STDs, and the resulting madness in the offspring. With some additional narrowly-avoided-incest! Fun for the whole family! (no pun intended)
3) An Enemy of the People - this one is great; all sorts of speaking truth to power! Also, since it is about what happens to one man who tries to expose corporate pollution, it is hugely relevant in today's society.
4) A Doll's House- obligate reading for the young feminist. Nora's journey to selfhood is an amazing story.
5) The League of Youth - power corrupts, and everyone is out for themselves.
6) The Wild Duck - don't be assholes to your kids, people. Your mistakes are not their fault. I spent most of it worrying about the actual wild duck (there is one; it isn't just a symbol although it is also a symbol).
7) The Master Builder - please tell me there is another level at which to read this, besides "old man desperately trying to convince himself that he is still sexually attractive to young women". Please.

Ene 18, 2011, 2:31am

Wow, I went and looked at the Ibsen book I have picked out to read sometime this year for my Plays category, and it includes 4 of the plays you mentioned above (A Dolls House, The wild duck, Hedda Gabler and The Master Builder). I will let you know if I figure out another way to interpret The Master Builder when I read it. I am sorry that An Enemy of the People is not included in my set, off to Gutenberg to see if it is there! :)

Ene 23, 2011, 12:23pm

For my LT group reads category:

#7 Nobody Said Not to Go by Ken Cuthbertson

This is a biography of a woman named Emily (or Mickey) Hahn and is the next Missouri Reader's group selection. On one hand, it is really badly written. Cuthbertson is one of those authors who is convinced that his audience can't remember, from one chapter to the next, important names, places, and events. So he keeps reminding you, over and over, that the Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong was called the Grips, that so-and-so's first wife died, etc. It drove me crazy - I, like most people, are actually not stupid, and don't need to be written down to.

On the other hand, Mickey Hahn was an absolutely fascinating woman. She was a St. Louis native, went to high school in Chicago, then college at Wisconsin. She was a prolific novelist, biographer, and contributor to The New Yorker. When she was in college she and a friend took off on a cross-country road trip from Madison to LA (in the 1920s, before such things as expressways and decent cars), she went to the Belgian Congo with the Red Cross for a couple years by herself, again. Then to Shanghai where she became an opium addict and concubine (no, really! All while writing for the New Yorker!), then to Hong Kong where she was trapped when Japan invaded in 1941, and where she also got knocked up by the head of British Secret Service (who she later married). Overall, one of those ballsy, outspoken, who-cares-what-they-think types that I admire the hell out of but am not nearly brave enough to be. She had a crazy, fascinating life. I need to read her writing, which I'm sure is much better than this book.

Ene 25, 2011, 6:36pm

For my Spies category: The Honourable Schoolboy by John le Carré

Three stars for this second of the Smiley spy books. It wasn't anywhere near as good as Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, but it was still a good read. (I may up the stars to 4 in the future, but we'll see). I love all the parts where he goes into nitty-gritty detail about spycraft; I don't at all like the behavior of Jerry Westerby. Also, le Carre follows the Trilogy Rule (#1 ends happy, #2 ends on a downer, #3 ends...?), and as this means that my favorite character got screwed over, boo on that!

Le Carre writes terrible women. There are 2.5 "women" in the book. One is the awesome Connie Sachs, aka Mother Russia, no scare quotes needed for her. She's one-dimensional, but then so are the other spies so that is ok. The problem comes in with the alleged love interests. I'm sorry, Mr. le Carre, but no women in the history of the world has ever fallen in love with a man who she meets 2 times, and the second time he shoves a gun in her back and tells her to shut the hell up. NO. This does not happen outside of the minds of certain dudes. Please stop. The 0.5 woman is this underage chick that Jerry is shacking up with in the book. She is, essentially, a body part, and really only speaks one time.

Ene 25, 2011, 8:19pm

>25 jfetting: - "no women in the history of the world has ever fallen in love with a man who she meets 2 times, and the second time he shoves a gun in her back and tells her to shut the hell up."

You are saying this becuase of the gun in the back thing right? Because I know several people who didn't even need 2 times to fall in love (and are still together) My in-laws fell in love across the room. To quote my mother-in-laws college roommate - I felt him fall in love in my arms and then discovered that it wasn't with me.

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Editado: Ene 25, 2011, 8:48pm

Yes, I meant the gun thing.

ETA: sweet story about the inlaws, though! Very cute. I'm told that my maternal grandparents fell in love at first sight, too (cute hearing them telling the story, as well. I have it on CD, from a family history interview, so I can hear it even though my grandfather has passed on).

Ene 29, 2011, 11:09am

Another one for my Drama category: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard. I watched the movie a few years ago, and really liked it but was confused a lot (they talk so fast! I couldn't keep up). So reading the words was really helpful. It is a great play - dark, funny, philosophical. Full of blood, love, and rhetoric, as The Player says. It is great reading for the Hamlet fans out there.

I finished a collection of short stories, The Ladies of Grace Adieu by Susanna Clarke. She wrote Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a Victorian-ish novel set in a universe where the boundary between the fairy world and ours is much thinner. These stories are set in the same universe. My favorites were "The Duke of Wellington Loses his Horse" and "Mrs. Mabb", although really I enjoyed them all. Highly recommended.

Feb 12, 2011, 11:02am

Conversation in the Cathedral by Mario Vargas Llosa

The book is framed as a conversation, sort of, between two people, Santiago and Ambrosio, who meet after many years and decide to go have a beer or 30 in a bar called La Cathedral. Stylistically, it follows conversational patterns. There is lots of jumping around, back and forth in time, as the characters reveal more about themselves and their relationships to everyone else in the book. The arcs of their lives, and their search for identity (Santiago's search for identity, especially) are depicted against the background of the Odria presidency/dictatorship in Peru in the late 40s and early 50s.

It is hard to follow at first, especially when the scene changes from sentence to sentence. And, of course, I know absolutely nothing about Peruvian politics, but that isn't necessary to enjoy the book. I liked it a lot, but it wasn't one to read while my mind is preoccupied with something else.

Editado: Feb 14, 2011, 7:06pm

For my Jane Austen category:

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen (re-read)

Polished this one off in an afternoon. I love this book - it is Jane at her snarkiest, before she learned how to polish up the bitchiness (and I use the word "bitchiness" in the best possible way. Reverently, even, in this case). An example:

"Where people wish to attach, they should always be ignorant. To come with a well-informed mind, is to come with an inability of administering to the vanity of others, which a sensible person would always wish to avoid. A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing any thing, should conceal it as well as she can."

Plus ça change, plus c'est le meme chose! I've totally been on that date. About 50 times.

Feb 15, 2011, 10:11am

What a great quote. :) I do love Northanger Abbey!

Feb 16, 2011, 6:35pm

Oh, now you make me want to pick up Austen! I read her many moons ago, when I was much too young to really understand it.

Feb 20, 2011, 8:48pm

Every time I re-read Austen I'm struck again by how clever and snarky and witty she was. I get more of the humor as I get older and meet more idiots kinds of people.

I finished another for my Mario Vargas Llosa category - Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter. Unlike Conversation in the Cathedral, this isn't a deep, political novel. It's much lighter and funnier than CitC. The main story (the narrator Mario's romance with his uncle's wife's sister and his work with the Scriptwriter) alternates, chapter by chapter, with the start of the Scriptwriter's radio scripts. They're fantastic - increasingly deranged as the Scriptwriter starts to go off the deep end. They remind me a lot, or at least the set up reminds me a lot, of Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveller (no story is ever resolved). Overall, a great read.

Feb 20, 2011, 9:18pm

I have Northanger Abbey in a nicely bound set (Three or four books in one!) of Austens that I inherited when a friend moved. This reminds me that I should start reading it! :P

Feb 25, 2011, 9:23pm

For my poetry category, I finally finished W.H. Auden's Collected Poems. I've been reading this on-and-off for a couple years now (it is a long long collection). Auden is a favorite - I especially like his shorter poems, like "Lullaby" and "Funeral Blues". These are included in this collection, along with some unexpected pieces. Auden tried his hand at storytelling through poetry, like Milton, and plays written as poetry, like Shakespeare. I didn't like these so much (much as I love him, he is not in the same league as either of those two), although there is one that reminded me quite a bit of Beckett's Endgame. Also included are hilarious little "Shorts" which are just a sentence or two, usually funny or thoughtful or bawdy. Overall, it is wonderful and a must-read for Auden fans.

Some of his more famous works, like "September 1, 1939" are omitted (I guess that Auden himself had a lot of control over what went into this collection, and he didn't like that poem). Also omitted is the dirtiest poem I have ever read in my entire life - which is called, for the curious, "The Platonic Blow". (Yes, it is about what you think it is about.) This omission is probably a good thing.

Feb 26, 2011, 11:34am

@35 -- I love W. H. Auden, and "Funeral Blues" is my favorite poem! I'm surprised to see that some poems are omitted, but I guess "Collected Poems" doesn't mean "Complete Poems." Can't believe they left out "September 1, 1939" though!

Feb 26, 2011, 1:15pm

My first exposure to "Funeral Blues" (and isn't it a wonderful poem?) was in Four Weddings and a Funeral, so every time I read it, in my head I hear John Hannah's Scottish accent saying the words.

Mar 1, 2011, 9:26pm

For my Bronte category, I read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. I like the first 4/5 of this book, and then I like the last chapter or two. The setup is fun, and the exposure of the Wildfell Hall Tenant's secret is great. My main problem comes after the Big Reveal, when Anne gets all preachy and unrealistic on us. She's spent about 400 pages getting us to loathe the problem character - believably, thoroughly, totally - and then it is almost like she got scared of what she had done, and stuck in some moralizing bullshit that didn't fit at all with what the characters would really have done (based on the personalities she gave them). Nice happy ending though.

Anne really could write, too. I'm looking forward to Agnes Grey.

Mar 2, 2011, 5:52am

I'm planning to read The tenant of Wildfell Hall this year so good to know you've enjoyed it.

Mar 4, 2011, 12:28pm

Another short story collection under my belt - Beirut 39, a collection of authors all of whom are under 40 and from the Arab world (according to the subtitle). There are more than just short stories in here - some chapters from novels and poetry are included too. As with all anthologies, some selections are great - there are a couple of poems I loved - and some of the short stories are fantastic. Others, not so much.

The subjects and settings were all over the board, which is to be expected since the Arabic-speaking world is by no means monolithic (despite what some of our US nutjobs would have you think). Overall, I really enjoyed it, and the exposure to something completely different from what I normally read.

Mar 11, 2011, 8:47am

I finished a book for my The Ancients category - Sophocles: The Complete Plays. This is the Paul Roche translation, a fairly recent one (2001ish?), and the language is pretty modern. Antigone isn't all "Creon, dude, WTF? Quit being an asshole and let me go bury my brother" but it isn't the most formal language ever. On the other hand - super readable and really brings home the idea that people really haven't changed that much in the past 2500 years. Sophocles, of course, wrote way more than 7 plays, but these are the ones that survived (and what a loss to our civilization that the others are gone, given just how wonderful these seven are).

1) Ajax - Ajax is mad because he doesn't get Achilles's armor after his death, goes on a rampage (very unfortunate for local livestock), realizes what he did, tragedy ensues.
2) Electra (my favorite of the bunch) - Hamlet Electra wanders around, angry and upset because her mother and her lover murdered her father. Her brother comes back, and Electra gets her revenge. Tragedy ensues.
3) The Women of Trachis - Heracles is back from the wars, bringing back spoils including the princess Ione. His long-suffering wife decides that she'll just be nice to the new girlfriend, and put up with the situation. After all, she has the ring, right? To prove to her husband just how cool with the situation she is, and secretly to win his love back (having been told by the centaur Heracles had just shot with a poisoned arrow that this would work), sends him a robe made with wool that had been used to clean the centaur's wound. It turns out that dying (murdered) centaurs lie. Tragedy ensues. I liked this one a lot too.
4) Philoctetes - so sad, this one. Odysseus is such a dick, honestly, I don't understand why Homer made him the hero of the Odyssey.
5) Oedipus the King - we all know the basics of this one, but it really is a spectacularly crafted play. You see the tragedy coming for miles, and just want to start shouting at Oedipus to just leave well enough alone and stop asking so many questions.
6) Oedipus at Colonus - another sad one, although it is nice to see someone (Theseus, the Athenian king) be nice to Oedipus. Creon is also a dick.
7) Antigone - more tragedy. Poor Antigone. Roche seemed to think that I would feel sorry for Creon by the end of it, but nope.

Mar 15, 2011, 10:03am

#41 Jennifer, I love your synopses of the Sophocles plays. You make me want to read them for myself, so onto the wishlist it goes, and off I go to the library to see if I can find them.

Mar 19, 2011, 9:58am

I liked them a lot. They aren't happy plays, but so worth reading. Plus, 98% of Western literature has been influenced by them in some way, and it is fun to notice a common plot device and realize that it was invented about 3000 years ago.

I finished the first book of In Search of Lost Time, Swann's Way, yesterday. This means that I have finished one book in every one of my categories. Whohoo! Proust's writing is every bit as beautiful and long sentence-y as reported, and since I like that sort of thing I really enjoyed the book. It definitely isn't for anyone who requires meaningful plots, though.

Mar 21, 2011, 8:31am

Another book for the 1001 category - Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. It is an earlier Dickens - I think only Pickwick came first - and isn't anywhere near as good as Bleak House. Dickens skewers the treatment of the poor in this book, and these bits are the best. Oliver's story is sappy and really well known, but overall I enjoyed the book. Better than David Copperfield, anyway.

Mar 22, 2011, 9:28am

And, I finished off a poetry anthology last night called Poetry: a pocket anthology edited by R.S. Gwynn. It is interesting how poetry has changed over the centuries, from rhyming happy poems about love and sex and politics to bleak, depressing, hopeless, free-verse poems about death.

I fully admit that I don't really understand modern poetry (a sentence which always manages to infuriate poets). Some of it really resonates (but then, is Elizabeth Bishop a modern poet? Doubt it, since she's dead), like "One Art", but a lot is either right over my head, or blah. Overall, this is a good anthology with a nice mix and a decent introduction to newer stuff.

Abr 2, 2011, 11:02am

I read another spy novel, Smiley's People, and I loved it. Absolutely one of my favorite books now. Le Carre's Karla trilogy is a lot of fun, and the first and last books are wonderful. I particularly like Smiley's People because my favorite character in the books is Smiley himself, and he really was the star of the show in this book. The end was perfect, even if it wasn't exactly what I wanted to see.

I finished off another poetry book, as well, The Complete Poems of Elizabeth Bishop. Well, complete as it stood back in 1969 - I really need to pay closer attention to editions when I get books out of the library. She's an excellent poet and I enjoy her work very much.

Abr 4, 2011, 9:39pm

Hey Jenny! I started my husband on Le Carre, The Spy that Came in from the Cold after seeing how much you liked his writing, and he really loved it. Maybe I'll get to them some day.

Had to laugh about the Dickens comments - I think I was scarred by reading David Copperfield also. The only Dickens I've read since high school is Hard Times and I wasn't very impressed. I'll have to try Bleak House some time, though.

Abr 4, 2011, 9:56pm

For those who don't think they can read 11 books in 11 categories, maybe you should cheat a little like I am. I'm in 2 other reading challenges as well, so I'm looking for books that will satisfy more than one category.

Abr 29, 2011, 11:05am

Whew! Finally managed to finish a book for this challenge. I just read Mavis Gallant's short story collection Varieties of Exile, another super good collection of short stories by one of my favorite short story writers. These are set in Montreal, or have connections to Montreal. Many stories are linked through the same characters, but at different times or from different people's points of view. Like many of her stories, these explore the themes of not-quite-fitting-in, of conflicts between different subsets of Montreal people, and of course of complicated families. I found it almost compulsively readable.

My favorites were the title story "Varieties of Exile", "Let it Pass", and the ones about Linnet.

Mayo 1, 2011, 2:44pm

For my Drama category, The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams

I'm never sure what to do with these sorts of stories, really. Not being a terribly dreamy, artistic, detached-from-reality type of person myself (I'm the kind of person who, while watching Rent, starts to wonder why some of those people don't get jobs and pay for their own wine and beer). So for this play, I couldn't really sympathize with all the crazy.

It may be one that works better on stage than on paper. I've seen a movie version with Katherine the Great as Amanda and Sam Waterston as Tom, and I remember enjoying that more than I liked it when I read it.

Mayo 1, 2011, 7:18pm

I will have to keep my eyes open for Varieties of Exile now, thank you for the heads up!

Mayo 4, 2011, 4:46pm

It's great - I hope you enjoy it!

Mayo 14, 2011, 12:06pm

Another spy novel under my belt - The Bourne Supremacy by Robert Ludlum. Although it is really more of an assassin novel, isn't it? Overall, I thought that this book was worse than the first one and orders of magnitude worse than the movie. The movie cuts out weak characters and extraneous b.s. and cuts right to the good parts. Plus Ludlum has this really irritating style, where he italicizes every other word. Horrible and insulting, that.

Mayo 15, 2011, 7:48pm

For my Bronte category: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (re-read)

So I read this for the first time when I was twelve, have read it every year or two since then, am now 33 (yikes!), so that makes probably somewhere around 15-20 readings? It is that good.

For my 1001 category: Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker

Now how to review this? It is horrifying, and fascinating (like a train wreck), and powerful, and beautifully written. Towards the end, it gets a bit too... well, if you go up to the messages around 34-45 or so, I have, in fact, found a female author who writes obsessively about female genitalia. However, this is justified since the book is about female genital mutilation (hence the "horrifying"). Quite a bit to think about in this book, on top of the knee-jerk OMG what a horrible thing to do. I think I have a better idea now of why such practices continue, as a way to maintain a sense of culture and to defy those who would try to come in and destroy your heritage. Plus, if that is the norm in the region - I mean, we live in a society where wealthy people inject themselves with BOTULISM TOXIN, for crying out loud, or chop up other body parts, to achieve a beauty ideal. Which is admittedly not the same thing as an non-consenting child being subjected to FGM.

But in the end, I'm right where Walker wants me to be - appalled by the practice and wanting it to stop.

Mayo 15, 2011, 8:16pm

Which is admittedly not the same thing as an non-consenting child being subjected to FGM.

Yes, which really is the key, isn't it!

Mayo 16, 2011, 10:43am

speaking of which


Mayo 16, 2011, 11:08am

I feel sick.

Mayo 17, 2011, 10:43pm

>56 clif_hiker:
Really puts bad day with the family in prospective. That is just some kind of crazy!

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Mayo 27, 2011, 9:41am

I added another to my Jane Austen category - Sense and Sensibility. When I rank Austen novels, S&S is definitely in the bottom half, significantly higher than Mansfield Park but quite a bit lower than Northanger Abbey. Something about it just doesn't work for me - I'm not sure if it is the insipid heroes, or the insipid heroine, or the John Dashwoods, or the Miss Steeles, or the idea that her mother and sister have decided that Marianne is to be a "reward" for Colonel Brandon's suffering and goodness. Ick. SPOILER ALERT - assuming that Austen novels can even have spoilers anymore - I'm happy Edward and Elinor ended up together, in a quiet parsonage where they can be boring together, but each time I read it I am more unsatisfied by Marianne's fate. Reading the last few pages, it doesn't seem like Marianne gets any say in her life - like she's being punished for being too in love with Willoughby, like because she knows that her behavior was a bit much in that situation, she's now going to settle down with someone she doesn't love (and I don't believe Austen when she says that Marianne "eventually" learns to love her husband) but who her mom likes.

And I finished another volume of Proust - Within a Budding Grove. The unnamed narrator is older, an adolescent, and so this volume is all about girls. First Gilberte, then Albertine. The narrator is a bit of a jerk - self-centered, manipulative, using people and then dropping them after he gets what he wants from them (status, attention, an introduction to better people). As unlikeable as he is, however, as he thinks back over these events, Proust puts some really universal thoughts into his head. Beautifully written book.

Jun 4, 2011, 12:30pm

For my LT group reads category, I read Private Life by Jane Smiley

Scientists in books are always crazy. Always, always, always (except for Meg Murray's mom in A Wrinkle in Time), and this book is no exception. An old maid (of 26) in post-Civil-War Missouri finally marries the local boy who had made good (sort of) and moves to San Francisco. She is repressed and moves through life as if it wasn't real, or as if she had no say in it. He is a arrogant, overbearing jerk who falsifies data and who eventually becomes the crazy guy who all of his colleagues make fun of.

I wasn't a big fan of the book, but it wasn't terrible. Andrew's character is a very common sort in my world - I know far too many scientists who make mistakes in their data but whose massive egos prevent their being able to publish retractions (which would be both the grown-up and the ethical thing to do).

Jun 11, 2011, 10:34am

For my short story category, I finished Dubliners by James Joyce. Unlike his famous and difficult novels, Joyce's short stories are super readable and really, really good. His most famous story is "The Dead" (about a dinner party, and a husband's discovery of his wife's past), and rightfully so (it may be one of the top 10 short stories of all time. Someday, I'll write that list down). I also liked "Eveline" a lot, but there wasn't a single clunker in the bunch. Beautiful collection that should be one everyone's must-read list.

I also finished off another for my "The Ancients" category: a trio of plays by Aeschylus (my copy is the second volume of Modern Library's set from like the 1960s. Old book in perfect shape, and I just found out that since the pages were still uncut in places, never read.) But enough about that; on to the plays.

1) The Suppliant Women: 50 daughters Darius don't want to marry their 50 Egyptian cousins. Somehow, the Egyptian rules state that the girls don't have a say. They go to Argos for help and protection, but since they aren't fully Greek they aren't guaranteed help. They get it, of course. This play was a little strange. The women's part is spoken by a chorus, which takes away from the drama a little bit. Individual characters are more sympathetic than a disembodied chorus. But overall, a good play.

2) The Persians: This play was a surprise. It was written about 10 years after the Persian wars ended (as described in Herodotus) with Greek triumph and Persian loss. The play is entirely from the point of view of the Persians, and they are presented very sympathetically, even though they were recently Greece's bitter enemy. It speaks well of the Greeks that they were able to look past their own anger to see their enemies' humanity.

3) Seven Against Thebes: tells the same story about Oedipus's children and how the boys go to war with each other and kill each other. Antigone is there too, at the end, insisting on burying Polyneices. Overall, this play cracked me up. All the action occurs offstage; the bulk of the play is spent introducing each of the Seven against Thebes, and what is painted on their shields, and which Theban gets to go fight him.

Jun 11, 2011, 5:33pm

If you haven't already seen it, I would recommend John Huston's film-version of The Dead. It's one of the most beautifully made films I've ever seen. Also, it was Huston's last movie before he passed away and he got to direct his daughter, Anjelica Huston, in the role of Gretta. Fantastic film!

Jun 12, 2011, 8:30pm

I haven't seen it - didn't even know it existed. I put it on my Netflix queue - I wonder how they'll make it work as a film. Can't wait to see it!

For my 1001 category:
Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Wow. Such an amazing, incredible, fantastic book. Nemirovsky managed to capture the humanity of both sides during the early years of WWII (and by that, I mean both the best and the worst aspects of humanity). She was not inclined to sympathize with either the French or the Germans as entities, but the individuals who populate her book are written as people, not heroes or monsters. They are cowardly, warm, selfish, brave, greedy, stupid, angry, sad, proud, etc. You start to love them, even the more odious ones.

It is heartbreaking that she never got to finish it. There should be three more sections! My copy (and I'm guessing all copies) has appendices with her notes for the rest of the book, and her correspondence before the war, and her husband's increasingly frantic letters and telegrams and attempts to find her after she was arrested and shipped off to Auschwitz before his arrest. And those bastard French collaborator police spent three years hunting down her teenage daughter trying to get her too (and didn't, thank God).

Jun 19, 2011, 8:47am

I finished The War of the End of the World for my Mario Vargas Llosa category. It was a difficult book to read, and harder to talk about. It is about a religious, socialist commune type thing set up in Brazil towards the end of the 1800s. According to my copy, the novel is based on a true story, so I'm guessing the settlement was real. The government of the state in which it was located, through trickery and lying and power plays, decides to destroy it. It takes three tries, with increasingly large armies.

Now, I always side with the underdog, and if there is a question of whose side I'm going to be on, soldiers or a community made up of society's marginalized and downtrodden who only wants to live in peace and be left alone, I'm picking the commune. And MVL does too - everyone who is involved with the government in any way, anyone who isn't somehow outside society in some way, is completely despicable and loathsome. Why couldn't they just leave the poor people alone? They weren't bothering anybody.

Downside to the book - lots of descriptions of battles (attacks, counterattacks, etc. Boring) and there are probably at least 10 rape scenes. I can't tell if MVL is trying to make a point, or if he is one of those writers.

Jun 22, 2011, 8:32am

For my "The Ancients" category, I read Cleopatra: a life by Stacy Schiff. This is totally cheating, by the way. I had originally intended the category to mean by the ancients, not about. But I'm expanding the category definition, now. So.

The book: three stars. It was ok - very readable, not dry or boring. Too readable, actually. While she has a couple pages of citations in the back, they aren't marked in the text. So if you want to know who the "someone" or "a twentieth-century historian" actually is, you have to go hunting. Important note: she doesn't actually tell you, all the time, who she is quoting. This gets annoying fast, makes me question her scholarship, and makes me suspect she is making things up. Probably she isn't, but she needs to tell me so.

As far as content goes, Cleopatra was super interesting, and it is unfortunate for her that history is told by the victors. It really does sound like Roman historians had a huge problem with powerful women.

Jun 22, 2011, 12:12pm

Just catching up! Recently caught up on my reviews, including Suite Francais, glad that you liked it as well.

Thank you also for the rankng of Austen books.. I have a nice hardcover complication I inherited, but was uncertain where to start. I was tending towards Northanger Abbey and you seem to agree.


I see you own even more Fforde books than I do! :P When you read Jane Austen do you go back and read through some of them as well? :P

Jun 22, 2011, 12:33pm

A handy-dandy guide to the Austen novels, in the opinion of jfetting:

1) Pride and Prejudice
2) Emma
3) Persuasion (2&3 switch places a lot - can't decide!)
4) Northanger Abbey
5) Sense and Sensibility

6) Mansfield Park

I think NA is a great place to start - it is nice and quick and fun. She's so much bitchier in it than she is in later novels (although she is always a bit snarky).

Jun 22, 2011, 1:27pm

LMAO! Thanks :P

Jun 23, 2011, 7:35am

Whenever I read S&S, I want to re-read the Fforde books (since the headquarters is set at Norland Park). I love Jasper Fforde. I think he's just brilliant.

I managed to fit in a quick read last night, Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett for my drama category. I'm sure this is one of those works that can be read on multiple levels, and has lots of symbolism, and if I'd read it in a college class I'd get as much out of it as I got out of Endgame. But I didn't. Waiting for Godot is absurd, and really funny. I'd love to see it staged.

Jun 23, 2011, 1:32pm

I have a review in my thread too, so there are at least a pair of us who read it for the 11 in 11 challenge. I think it would be really fun to see it staged, probably more so than reading it. Especially if you had wine with dinner before attending ;)

Jun 25, 2011, 3:11pm

I re-read Wuthering Heights for my Bronte category. It has never been my favorite; I prefer Charlotte's and Anne's books. But every time I read WH, I'm impressed by what Emily was able to do with the story. Just about all of the characters are horrible - Cathy is selfish and bratty and mean to Heathcliff, Heathcliff is vicious and cruel except to Cathy, anyone with "Linton" in their name anywhere is a whiny, spoiled, wimpy, pathetic nightmare (I much prefer Heathcliff, evil as he is). Nelly Dean is the only decent person in the whole book. I may hate the characters, but in the end I'm not indifferent to them, and the book is really compulsively readable. If nuts.

Jul 3, 2011, 7:40am

Half-year recap:

34/77 books read (close to half, but not quite)
Short stories: 4/7
1001: 4/7
Jane Austen: 2/7
Brontes: 3/7
ISOLT: 2/7
Drama: 4/7
Spy novels: 3/7
LT group reads: 3/7
The Ancients: 3/7
MVL: 3/7

My most-complete categories are short stories, 1001 books, and drama. No surprises there. My least-complete are Proust (not a surprise) and Austen (that one astonished me. I wonder why I keep putting her off?). I think I'm in decent shape to finish everything off by the end of the year, especially if I cut down on the off-challenge books. I'll have another book of ISOLT polished off by the end of the week, as well as another spy novel (the Bourne Ultimatum. Early review: this book is total crap) and a book of Emily Dickenson poems.

Jul 3, 2011, 7:59am

Thanks for the review of Cleopatra: A Life. I've been considering reading that one. However, having just finished Margaret George's Elizabeth I, I was wondering if I should read her Memoirs of Cleopatra instead (or in addition to) Schiff's novel.

Jul 4, 2011, 2:33pm

Another spy novel, this time The Bourne Ultimatum. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad book. I can't get over how much better the movies are than these alleged "novels". Ludlum is as much a crime against literature as the comparably talentless clown James Patterson.

Seriously, this book is one of the worst I have ever read. The characters are all idiots, to the point where their actions are no longer believable (the uber-assassin Jason Bourne not recognizing obvious traps? traps that are so not-subtle that the reader is left yelling at him? His tragically not-dead wife Marie - the movies again did the smart thing there - standing in the streets of Paris shouting "Jason" during an ambush? Come on people).

In short, this book sucked. All three of them did. Not ok.

Finished another volume of In Search of Lost Time: The Guermantes Way. Lots of social climbing, lots of our unnamed narrator acting like a sociopath, combined with lots of beautiful writing and spot-on observations about people. A wonderful book, my favorite of the set so far.

Jul 5, 2011, 1:07pm

I've been wanting to read the Bourne-books since I like the movies, but I'm allergic to stupid-character-syndrome, so thanks for saving me!! :)

Jul 6, 2011, 7:04pm

I read another book of short stories (I probably should have just done all short stories this year, since it seems like every time I think "oh, what next" I end up pulling out a book of short stories and saying I'll just read one per night. Then finishing it up in one big gulp.

My latest is The Oxford Book of Short Stories, edited by V.S. Prichett back in the early 80s. It is pretty great. He tried to pick less-anthologized works (not totally successfully - I think "The Fall of the House of Usher" might be one of the most anthologized short stories of all time, and I would have gone with "The Cask of Amontillado" instead). As usual with this sort of thing, I liked some and others not so much.

Favorites included "The Birthmark" by Nathanial Hawthorne, which is good but not as good as "Rapaccini's Daughter" which is the best story ever. Another goodie was "The Demon Lover" by Elizabeth Bowen. I've read one of her novels, wasn't too impressed, but obviously the reason why is because instead of writing novels she should have been writing short stories like "The Demon Lover". Ambrose Bierce's "The Coup de Grace" is excellent, like all his stories. Henry James's "Paste" is almost perfect, as is Somerset Maugham's "An Official Position". OH! And Ring Lardner's "Who Dealt" is amazing, too. I'm trying to think of ones that didn't work - none come to mind.

Jul 6, 2011, 7:20pm

Wow, this review really makes me want to pick up The Oxford Book of Short Stories! I do have a short-story category in my challenge this year...looks like this is the right thread to come to for recommendations!

Jul 6, 2011, 7:29pm

I really enjoyed it - even the only-ok ones were at least not bad. Except for "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calav-something County" which I hate. Hate, hate, hate. There was even a decent D.H. Lawrence short story in there, and I also usually hate. hate. hate. him as well.

Jul 6, 2011, 8:26pm

There was even a decent D.H. Lawrence short story in there, and I also usually hate. hate. hate. him as well.

Ha ha! Really? You? I'm shocked.

I read a DH Lawrence short story in uni that I didn't mind. Can't remember much about it. There was a married couple, and a visitor, and a barn with a horse. I think. Or maybe not. Can't remember what happened but I managed to write something about it.

Jul 7, 2011, 7:06am

Thanks for the review of The Bourne Ultimatum. I'd read a couple of Ludlum's books when I was a teen and wondered if I should reread one of them now. It sounds like I needn't bother.

Jul 15, 2011, 7:18am

I finished a book of Emily Dickinson poetry, Final Harvest. It is a kind of Greatest Hits collection. These poems start out happy and sunny, about bees and trees and nature and birdies. But really they are all about death. All 500 or so of them.

Jul 17, 2011, 1:02pm

I read Emma by Jane Austen for like the 10th time this week. I love this book! All the misunderstandings, all the earnestly wrong people - it is hilarious. Emma herself (whom I adore) comes in for most of the criticism for being so deluded, but there is not one single character who does not completely misinterpret someones feelings/intentions at some point in the book. This is one of the funniest of the Austen books, I think, and that is saying a lot. Mr. Woodhouse is especially wonderful.

Jul 21, 2011, 6:24pm

Wow you read a book 10 times this week! :-)
sorry, suffering from heat exhaustion in MN. . . you know it's been hot when 86 degrees feels COLD!

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Jul 23, 2011, 2:52pm

Ha! My grammar is pretty appalling in that whole paragraph, actually. I'm going to blame it on the heat, too. 100 in Portland, ME yesterday. Not at all prepared for that.

Jul 23, 2011, 8:23pm

Just loving all your very clever reviews, especially of the plays. Keep 'em coming!

Jul 24, 2011, 5:31pm

84> Ha have to love the weather this year! Nothing like exploding pavement to make the commute interesting.

I wonder what U2 really thought of the weather at last nights outdoor concert. Nothing like heat and a lot of rain to go with stage lights and electrical equipment. Thankfully today it is cooler, but it looks like that isn't lasting for long!

(Bruce's evil twin :-))

Jul 30, 2011, 3:25pm

Another volume of Proust out of the way this weekend - Sodom and Gomorrah, volume 4 of In Search of Lost Time. Our unnamed narrator has discovered that homosexuals, both male and female, exist. The whole book is about them, and society. Narrator (who everyone calls "Marcel" in their reviews, although I've yet to catch any mention of an actual name) is appalled by their existence (self-loathing much, M. Proust?). He is especially upset that his "love interest" Albertine - the scare quotes are b/c he is constantly going on about how he can't stand her and doesn't want her around except for the sex part - may have lesbian tendencies. This is my least favorite volume of the bunch so far. It isn't very well edited, because Proust was dying while doing the revisions, and Baron de Charlus, the Verdurins, Morel, and Albertine are in no way as interesting as Swann and the Duc and Duchesse de Guermantes. I can't stand the Verdurins - didn't like them in Swann's Way, don't like them now. Hideous people.

Ago 6, 2011, 10:56am

I re-read Shirley for my Bronte category. Story-wise, it revolves around two young women and their respective love stories. Main character #1 is Caroline Helstone, who is essentially Fanny Price lifted from Mansfield Park and stuck into a Bronte novel. She is of course anguished and tormented because she is in love with her cousin, doesn't hide it, and suffers because he is pursuing another woman for her money. This makes her physically ill - dying of a broken heart, of course, until a mysterious long-lost relation show up. Caroline is horrible; every single part of the book with her in it is a waste of paper. Boo.

The only real reason to read the book is because of main character #2: Shirley Keeldar. Shirley is a wealthy young lady, with money and land and charm and a fantastic personality. If Caroline is a totally unrealistic and annoying and insipid character, Shirley is real and vivid, almost as if she was drawn from life. Which, of course, she was. Shirley is Charlotte's tribute to her sister Emily (dead by the time the book was finished) - Emily as she might have been, with money and security and perfect health. Half the characters in the book are immediately recognizable as people in Charlotte's life (if you've read any Bronte biographies), especially the curates and the Yorke family. Heck, even Emily's dog gets a part. The writing in sections is heartbreaking, where she starts philosophizing and trying to work through her loss. It was a very good book, and I think I like it better now that I know more about Charlotte's backstory. In the future I will skip the Caroline parts. They are not good.

Ago 10, 2011, 2:56pm

How did I not realize that you also have a Bronte category? I noticed you listed Emily's poems as possible 'extra credit'. I also have her poems and have considered reading them for this year's challenge. Do you think you'll get around to it?

Ago 11, 2011, 11:18am

Yes, I do. I think I might give one of the unread poets in my "Poetry" category the boot and stick Emily in instead. I'm enjoying the Brontes.

Ago 11, 2011, 1:31pm

I'm enjoying my year with them too. Drop me a line if you want to read the poems at the same time. I'm flexible.

Ago 18, 2011, 7:56am

Good idea! Maybe in September or October? The Brontes make me think of autumn.

Two more books finished that fit into my challenge. 1) Small Island by Andrea Levy for my 1001 category, which was fantastic. It was about a pair of Jamaican immigrants to London back in the 40s after the war, their back stories, and their experiences in England. I was surprised, though I really shouldn't have been, but all the racism they encountered.
2) The Crucible for my drama category. It was a fantastic book, but it was horrifying, too. Miller did a great job relaying a sense of helplessness and insanity. How could this possibly be happening?

Ago 18, 2011, 8:12am

September or October sounds great.

Ago 23, 2011, 8:32pm

Another for my LT Group Reads category - I finished The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. This book is completely insane. I can't think of any other way to describe it. It does not tell either the life or the opinions of Tristram Shandy. He's not even born until the end of the first volume. There are lots of digressions, and addresses to the reader, and blank pages, and instead of just *** over swear words, there are entire sentences like "** ******** ***** ******* ******".

That said, I absolutely loved it. Five stars. This book is awesome.

Ago 23, 2011, 8:57pm

Although I love the film, I haven't been brave enough to tackle Tristram Shandy. I was particularly put off that the one term it was the only book read by the second year English class that covered that time period. Most English classes read six books, so that made TS seem more than a little daunting. You have given me courage!

Ago 23, 2011, 8:59pm

I'd save it for a time when you aren't really feeling the need for a plot. It doesn't have one. I was worried before starting it, that it would be really complex or unreadable or dull. But instead, it was hilarious. I can't wait to watch the movie.

Ago 27, 2011, 5:28pm

For my The Ancients category, I read The Golden Ass, a Roman novel (possibly one of the first ever novels). It's about a man who accidentally gets turned into a donkey, and his adventures. It reminds me a lot of Don Quixote, or the bits of The Canterbury Tales that I've read; it is a journey story, interspersed with stories Lucius hears along the way. It's pretty entertaining, and quite raunchy.

For my Author Theme Reads category, I read The Bad Girl by Mario Vargas Llosa. MVL seems to write two kinds of books (my n=4 though, so this may not really be the case). He writes big, sweeping, epic, political novels that are very deep and depressing and take a long time to read. Or he writes relatively lighthearted love stories. This book is one of the second type, and I liked it a lot. The titular Bad Girl pops in and out of the narrator's life, over the course of decades, so on top of the love/hate story we get glimpses of Lima in the 50s, Paris in the early 60s, London in the late 60s, Paris again in the 70s, Peru again in the 80s, Madrid in the 90s.

Ago 27, 2011, 7:10pm

Glad you enjoyed The Bad Girl. It's possibly what I'll be picking up next so it's good to see positive comments for it.

Ago 27, 2011, 8:10pm

I got to read The Golden Ass at Uni - it was one of my class' favorites along with Decamerone - and I'm always happy to hear that people pick it up without "having to." :)

Ago 28, 2011, 7:53pm

The Golden Ass would be great for a college class; none of the tragedy that you find in so many works from the ancient world. Plus, lots of potty humor. It was fun.

I finished two short volumes of In Search of Lost Time today - The Captive and The Fugitive. Plot-wise: in The Captive, our unnamed narrator acquires a name (Marcel), and keeps Albertine locked up in his house to prevent her from having sex with women. Every time she behaves, he gets bored with her. Every time she leaves the house, or has a friend over, he freaks out and falls back in love. Finally, finally, finally, she comes to her senses and leave the jerk.

In The Fugitive, Marcel plays a lot of douchey tricks to get Albertine to come back to him, but just as he succeeds she dies tragically in an accident. Does this stop Marcel from obsessing over whether she had hot girl-on-girl action while she was away from him? Or ever, in her life? NO! No it does not. So 200 pages of sending people out to investigate, losing it when he finds out that yep, she slept with women, and going on and on about losing the woman he loved. Then he goes to Venice, gets over it, a bunch of random things happen to random characters from earlier books, and then the volume ends. Sigh.

Other observations: Proust died while editing Sodom and Gomorrah, and the lack of his editing in these volumes shows. He keeps killing people off, but then forgets about that because they appear again (not in flashbacks), living their normal lives. This is probably also why the books are so short compared to the rest (400 and 550 pages, compared to almost 1000).

The narrator remains a little creeper, and if he was a real person in real life would be exactly the kind of guy you stage an intervention to get a friend away from. But he does come up with really profound statements, particularly about love, jealousy, and grief, which redeem a lot of the nonsense. One more volume left; I wonder who Marcel will inflict himself upon now.

Sep 5, 2011, 6:45pm

Another Mario Vargas Llosa novel under my belt: The Feast of the Goat. It is about the assassination of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, connecting different storylines from the point of view of the conspirators, Trujillo himself, various hangers-on, and a personal story that reflects the horror of living in the Trujillo regime. A political book, definitely, but one that was absolutely fascinating. I liked it better than The War of the End of the World.

Sep 5, 2011, 6:49pm

And I almost forgot! Another poetry collection, too, this week: Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda. These poems are gorgeous, even in English, but the original Spanish is included, so you can read these out loud and hear how beautiful they sound (even with my totally uneducated butchered attempts at a Spanish accent).

Sep 11, 2011, 6:51pm


Ahem. Excuse the shouting, but I FINISHED PROUST. With Time Regained, the final volume of In Search of Lost Time, Proust totally gives up on even the most basic attempt at plot. This is basically 500 pages of reflections on WWI, memory, loss, aging, death, literature, society, etc. One of my favorite volumes.

And with that... I did it! I did it! I read all of ISOLT! All 3000 pages! Overall, I'm torn. On one hand, everyone who says that Proust is a beautiful writer and presents these really universal themes and ideas is fully right. On the other hand, the snobbishness is really obnoxious to modern readers (or at least this modern reader), and the relationship between Marcel and Albertine is totally appalling. Marcel, as a character, is revolting. In this last episode, he wanders into some sort of S&M male prostitute brothel, and stands around and watches the Baron de Charlus get whipped by some footman. Ick, Marcel. I realize that, with a first-person narrative, in order to work these scenes in (and Marcel-the-character is very much only a frame for the book as a whole - things don't really happen to him) Marcel has to be a creepy voyeur stalker weirdo, but he's really hard to read about.

But definitely worth reading. I'll pick it up again, someday. In a decade or so.

Sep 11, 2011, 6:56pm

WOW. Congratulations!!!!!

Sep 11, 2011, 7:17pm

As someone who has never delved into - let alone finished Proust, I say Shout Away! Congrats!

Sep 11, 2011, 8:17pm

Congratulations! Quite an accomplishment!

Sep 12, 2011, 9:06am

I've never attempted Proust, so my hearty congratulations!

Sep 12, 2011, 1:28pm

Indeed! I never say never, but the chances of me reading Proust are about equal with me competing in an Iron Man competition. So, Jennifer, to you I say "congratulations on completing the iron man of literature!" Well done.

Sep 12, 2011, 1:33pm

>103 jfetting:. All I can say is WOW!!!!!

Sep 12, 2011, 5:42pm

Congrats! I've only ever read "Combray I" and finishing all books must be on par with finishing Ulysses! :)

Sep 12, 2011, 7:45pm

Congratulations!! I'm impressed!

Sep 17, 2011, 11:33am

Congratulations! Definitely something to be proud of!

Sep 22, 2011, 4:24pm

Thank you, thank you. Ok, I've read two challenge books in the past couple weeks. First, I finished off yet another Mario Vargas Llosa book. This one was The Cubs and other stories. The title story was the best. It was told in second person plural, and was about changing friendships among a group of teenage boys in Peru as the grew up, and especially about the fallout after one is castrated by a Great Dane. The other stories didn't even register, since I can't remember a single one.

I finished another poetry book, too: The Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats. It was fantastic; I've always liked Yeats - he wrote some of my favorites, including "When You Are Old", "Cap and Bells", and "The Second Coming". The whole collection is great, and I even liked the narrative poetry at the end (I don't, usually, unless it is Paradise Lost).

Sep 22, 2011, 5:14pm

"When You Are Old" is one of my favorite Yeats poems too.

Sep 23, 2011, 10:54am

Christina, you obviously have great taste in poetry! We have similar Auden favorites, too, if I remember correctly.

Sep 23, 2011, 11:10am

And more from this week:

For my Austen category, I read Pride and Prejudice for the eleventy-billionth time. It is as good as ever. For my The Ancients category, I finally finally finally finished The History of the Peloponnesian War. I didn't like it as much as I liked Herodotus, but the speeches were great and was very interesting to note all the times that the war went one way or the other based on one person's defection (Alcibiades, especially) or betrayal or motivating speech or whatever.

Oct 6, 2011, 10:41am

Two more down. First, I finished another spy novel, A Perfect Spy by John le Carre. I'm not sure it is totally fair to call this a spy novel. I mean, the main character is a spy, and there is a little bit about finding him that is similar to the Karla trilogy, but mostly it is the story of his life, and his relationship with his dad, and his handlers, and how he became a spy. I loved it.

And I finished off my Poetry category with The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Bronte. They're exactly the kinds of poems you would expect her to write, so whether or not they are good depends on whether or not you think she is overly dramatic or a genius. I loved them. I was surprised to learn that they mostly fit into the Gondal universe she and Anne invented, and aren't really personal poems at all. My favorite is the one that starts "No coward soul is mine". The only bad thing about this book is that now I'm dying to read the whole Gondal saga, and I don't know if that is possible.

Oct 6, 2011, 12:04pm

You finished the Poems! I still have about 15pgs to go but I'm not far behind you.

Oct 8, 2011, 11:13am

Another Bronte novel, Agnes Grey, by Anne, which is not a re-read, for a change. It was a quick and entertaining little read, but not exactly a work of genius. I feel like it could have been, if she had written more and gone into more detail and fleshed out some of the characters (like Mr. Weston). There could have been more drama and agonizing depth of feeling and whatnot when Agnes has to watch Rosalie Murray hitting on Mr. Weston. But then it would be Jane Eyre, I suppose.

Oct 8, 2011, 6:24pm

I finally finished Emily's poems, which completed my Bronte category. I'm said to see it go. I see you did Agnes Grey - there was a group read earlier in the Challenge, it would have been wonderful to have you with us. I have not read Jane Eyre in awhile but I did recently watch the latest film adaptation. It's interesting to see how each new director puts their own hallmark on the material.

Oct 8, 2011, 6:54pm

I had seen that and wanted to participate but that was in what, May? Spring sometime? Too much work-related crap on my plate. Sigh.

The latest film edition was beautiful, and I liked the acting, but WHY DID THEY LEAVE OUT THAT THE RIVERS FAMILY WERE HER COUSINS!?! Kinda a big flippin deal, especially when she leaves them 3/4 of her fortune. Jane was definitely a giver, but there was no way she would have offered money to as proud a family as the Rivers family unless they were related, and no way the Rivers would have accepted it unless they were family. That whole bit was completely unrealistic.

Oct 8, 2011, 7:14pm

Yes, I agree with you, it was a strange departure. It was a very beautiful production, I thought, except for Jane's fly-away hair. It niggled on me, I kept wanting to hand her some hair gel.
I wasn't thrilled with the director's attempts to make it a "horror" film with the quick jump-cuts and a few startling loud noises. I know he was trying to set a tone but it was jarring.
I liked the part after the discovery of Bertha where Rochester asks Jane if she's ever seen a mad-house and he says 'at least I spared her that'. And the fire scene, the realization of attraction, that was good. I thought he was an excellent Rochester. Still doesn't replace William Hurt in my mind, but very good.
And Dench! Need I say more?

Oct 8, 2011, 7:17pm

Dench was killer. As she is in everything ever. I liked whats-his-name as Rochester, too, but then again I picture Rochester as goodlooking-ish. Which one was William Hurt? Is that the one where Rochester keeps trying to make out with Jane to get her to stay after the Big Reveal? I liked that one; it seemed in character.

Oct 8, 2011, 8:11pm

That was Toby Stephens. He seems to be a really popular Rochester. But Hurt still rules the roost for me. Look him up on YouTube sometime. I particular like his proposal but his response when Jane douses him with water is classic too.

Oct 9, 2011, 3:25pm

For my LT Group Reads category:

Welcome to the World, Baby Girl by Fannie Flagg with the Missouri Readers group

I hate when this happens. A book starts out so well; it is clearly going to be one of those how-she-got-to-this-point books, with some nice comparison/contrast between City Mouse (here, a TV reporter named Dena) and Country Mouse (her Missouri cousins and Alabama college roommate). You always sorta know, in these books, that City Mouse is going to chuck it all because life in the country is better, fame isn't everything, etc. Like I said, it goes along so well for about 400 pages. Then the author tries to do to much, make too big a stretch, adds in one of the least believable "love" stories I've come across in a long time, neatly ties up every single loose end, and everyone lives happily ever after. Which turned out to be a really sucky ending to what had seemed like it would be a fun book. 3 stars.

Oct 9, 2011, 4:16pm

Lol! You need to post that review so I can give it a thumbs up :P

Oct 12, 2011, 1:37pm

Ok, done. Feel free to thumbs-up away! I always get a kick out of it when I see that someone has actually read a review I wrote.

Oct 14, 2011, 10:05am

I just finished a really, really long short story collection: The Stories of John Cheever. At first, I thought I wasn't going to like the book. Lots of stories about New Yorkers and New Englanders who use "summer" as a verb - I can't relate. I'm from the midwest, I'm broke, etc. But I kept reading, and they grew on me. He's got some absolutely fantastic stories - the very first one in the book is the frequently-anthologized "Goodbye, My Brother", and then "The Swimmer" is great, and I've forgotten the names of the rest. I've put check marks by my favorites, but my book is at home and I'm at work, so I'll edit this later. I like the ones set in his imaginary suburb of Shady Hill, and the ones about people struggling to make it in NYC. I'm not such a fan of the rich-expat-in-Rome ones (and it is only a little bit because I am envious!)

Oct 20, 2011, 2:45pm

I finished Jude the Obscure, which was supposed to be a LT Group read book but I think it was one of those books that people preferred voting on to reading. But I read it, and it is absolutely my least favorite Hardy book so far. Everyone in it is crazy, and some are borderline evil (nice marital rape, there, Mr. Phillotson), and I really think that they all deserve to be as abjectly miserable as they ended up. So that's good.

Oct 20, 2011, 2:51pm

Jennifer - I'm still thinking of reading Jude the Obscure this year. The only other Hardy I've read is Tess, and I loved it. Based on your comments, I think I really should read Jude, and then I can come here and we can bitch chat about it.

I may be guilty of voting for it but not reading it--so many books, so little time.

Oct 20, 2011, 3:18pm

I love Hardy, in general. I get that he's depressing, and bad things happen to all his characters, but in most of his books that I've read so far (Tess, Casterbridge, Native, Madding Crowd) there is always a character or two that I adore. Not this one.

I'm not sorry I read it, and I gave it 3 stars, but it isn't up to the others. And OMG those people are crazy. You should totally read it, so that we can discuss the crazy. Sue, especially, drives me nuts. I get that she's rebelling against Victorian morals, and all, but wow.

Oct 20, 2011, 4:42pm

Okay, it will be my big read for November. I was going to do a depressing/bleak theme for the month anyway, so that should really get me going!

Oct 29, 2011, 2:22pm

I finished The Russia House, for my spies category, this afternoon. It was great; I really love these le Carre books. This one had a love story thrown in that was slightly more believable than most he sticks in his books. The Russia-as-enemy is dated, but these are really fun.

Nov 1, 2011, 11:15am

I finished off my Mario Vargas Llosa category with Death in the Andes

Another depressing book about Peru, and people being very mean to each other. I gave it 3 stars. I don't know about this Vargas Llosa. I realize he's a Nobel Prize winner, I appreciate that some of his books are very profound and well-written and cover very big and important political topics. It's just that in general, I don't enjoy reading those books of his. I like the sillier ones, but even those I don't like that much. He's this year's Author Theme Reads author, but I think I may be done with his work for awhile.

Nov 10, 2011, 8:07am

I made it through another ancient writer - Tacitus: the Histories. You think modern politics are bad? Those Romans have us beat to pieces. The whole book basically covers the events of one year, 69 A.D., in which there were 4 different civil wars and 4 different emperors. Tacitus himself is an entertaining writer; he is not at all an impartial historian, and he doesn't think very highly of anyone in this book. Overall, an entertaining read.

Nov 12, 2011, 10:53am

And another 1001 book - Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison. She's just a genius, and I absolutely loved this book. Unputdownable.

Nov 12, 2011, 2:54pm

Yay! Song of Solomon is my favorite of Morrison's books that I've read. Glad you loved it too!

Nov 12, 2011, 9:38pm

It was amazing. It just sucked me in, to the point that things like "dinner time" and "let the dog out" didn't register at all. It was the perfect blend of history and real-fiction and imaginary-fiction (does that even make sense? all the magical stuff she throws in at the end, I mean) and life-of-a-family and I don't know. It was practically perfect, actually.

Nov 13, 2011, 9:37am

I totally know what you mean. Often books that have a magical element or extended metaphor like the flying stuff come off seeming either pretentious or silly, but she just fits it seamlessly into the story and somehow doesn't lose the reality of the characters. Very cool.

Nov 19, 2011, 10:26am

My last short story collection: Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield

These were fantastic short stories! "The Garden Party" was in there, of course, although it wasn't the best in the set. There were some wonderful character sketches, set in Germany, and then quite a few of her privileged-people-in-New-Zealand stories (always with an undercurrent of something not-quite-right). Also, it was a very pretty Folio Society book with lots of pretty illustrations and nice paper.

#102 The Misanthrope and other plays by Moliere

Tragic comedies? Is that the term? These are deservedly famous.

1) The Misanthrope - So this guy, he's so determined to stick with his principles, despite common sense and good manners suggesting he maybe not. An interesting idea: which is more important, principles-at-any-cost or civilized-society-involves-compromise?
2) The Sicilian - a very silly but fun comedy about what happens when a dad gets in the way of his daughter marrying who she wants.
3) Tartuffe - I would've liked it better if everything didn't work out at the end. That seemed a little too contrived. Although maybe the hypocrites and thieves did get punished back in the day, as opposed to now when they do just fine for themselves. The play also contains a subplot in which a dad gets in the way of his daughter marrying who she wants.
4) A Doctor in Spite of Himself - hilarious farce, about a peasant who gets pressed into being a doctor, to treat a daughter whose father is getting in the way of her marrying who she wants.
5) The Imaginary Invalid - a father imagines his is much sicker than he is, and because of this tries to get in the way of his daughter marrying who she wants.

I sense a theme...

Nov 21, 2011, 12:59pm

Another Jane Austen re-read: Mansfield Park

Oh, God, I just cannot stand Fanny Price. I want her out of this novel, or any other novel. I don't understand the point of her - she's so different from Austen's other heroines, in a bad way. Even Anne from Persuasion has some spunk to her. She's so good; there is no bad to her; there is no interesting to her. She moons over Edmund for the whole book, despite his confiding in her about how he feels about Mary Crawford (who is actually super interesting up till the point where Austen must have realized "Oh, no. The book is going to end in a chapter and I still have not justified why Fanny should end up with Edmund" and then she throws a not-in-keeping-with-her-character-up-to-that-point nasty mercenary quality to Mary.

Everything having to do with Fanny is just such moralizing bullshit. Except that, oh wait, being quiet, and never speaking up, and having no opinion, and always doing what you are told, and being too weak to WALK HALF A MILE are NOT VIRTUES. They are barely tolerable in live human beings; they are inexcusable qualities in a fictional heroine. I say, kick her out. Outside of the Fanny horror show, the rest of the book is quite good, and really pushes the envelope (for Austen) when it comes to behavior.

Nov 28, 2011, 4:58pm

I read The Constant Gardener over the holiday weekend, and with that I've completed my Spies/Thriller category. The book is great; I've seen the movie before so I knew what was going to happen but it was still good. I love how le Carre is able to switch from Cold War/Russian bad guys stuff to issues & evil that are around now. Evil pharma is especially interesting because Plan B is to work for big pharma some day.

The category overall has been split. The John le Carre books varied between "ok" and "OMG best ever", while the Bourne books sucked. Fun category, in general.

Dic 5, 2011, 9:30am

And a new Austen read - Sandition and other stories. Sandition and The Watsons were two unfinished novels. It was hard to tell where Sandition was supposed to go, but she was headed some riskier places, I think, than her other novels (the word "seduction" showed up multiple times, with an intended victim already selected). The Watsons looked like it was shaping up to be a P&P clone, complete with ballroom scenes (my favorites!) and marriages. I wish she had finished them!

Lady Susan is a brilliant little novella, in which the title character is a evil villain along the lines of the Marquise de Merteuil from Les Liaisons Dangereuses, who happens to be one of my absolute favorite characters ever (although somehow omitted from the list somewhere in this thread). Lady Susan isn't quite there, but still delightfully nasty. It's a really good story.

The second half of the book contains lots of Austen's younger work - sketches, stories, plays, etc. They're hilarious, really. So melodramatic! People fainting, falling into one another's arms, sobbing, etc. But then she'd stick in a completely Austen sentence, snide and hilarious.

Dic 5, 2011, 11:47am

I have a copy that includes Lady Susan, Sanditon, and The Watsons, but I don't think it has the "extras," i.e. the younger work - that part sounds absolutely hilarious!!

Dic 5, 2011, 7:53pm

I read a version of Sanditon that had been completed by "Another Lady," and I actually quite enjoyed it. There is an abduction, but of course it's comical and pathetic rather than sinister. I enjoyed the direction in which "Another Lady" ultimately took the book, although I wish Austen had lived to complete it herself!

Dic 10, 2011, 8:41am

My final LT group read of the year was The Tender Land by Kathleen Finneran. It was a memoir of her family, centered around her brother's suicide when he was 15 but not entirely about that. I loved the way it was organized (like a conversation, stories seeming to be told at random but not really), and I loved the obvious affection between all the siblings and the parents. The author has struggled with depression, and describes that very accurately and movingly. Overall just a wonderful book.

Dic 13, 2011, 8:58am

Two more categories completed:

1001 books, with The River Between by Ngugi wa Thiong'o. This book is amazing; it is pretty difficult to read (another dealing with FGM). It is about the clash of two cultures, and how that tears a tribe apart, and the fate of one man who was raised to believe that it was his job to unite them. 150 unputdownable pages of awesomeness.

The Ancients, with Politics by Aristotle. Oh, Aristotle. So, he sets forth the different kinds of government, and their strengths and weaknesses, and which are better applied to which state. He throws in some child-rearing advice, and suggests that women shouldn't have kids until they are at least 18 years old (good advice) and men shouldn't until they are 37 (hmmm). Everyone should stop at age 50 (good advice, again). Then men and women could live together for "reasons of health or some such reason" - maybe love and companionship? maybe not, since this is Aristotle we're talking about.

If you can keep all that in your head, separate from the other things Aristotle says, the book is boring but fine. The parts that upset me are his statements that "some men" are just born to be slaves. Designed by nature! You can tell this because they have no souls. Like women! Who also have no souls.

Thanks a bunch, Aristotle. That didn't cause centuries of problems, not at all!

Dic 17, 2011, 9:05am

I finished off my Drama/Plays category with No Exit and three other plays by Jean-Paul Sartre.

1) "No Exit" - this is the famous "hell is other people" play. Hell also apparently includes hideous antique furniture and no toothbrushes. A really, really darkly funny play.
2) "The Flies" - a re-telling of the Electra story. Not funny at all, but some interesting thoughts about freedom.
3) "Dirty Hands" - this may have been my favorite of the collection. It's about a young intellectual in the 40s who is part of a Communist party. He begs for a real job to do, but once he's in position isn't quite sure he can do it.
4) "The Respectful Prostitute" - racism in the American South in the 40s somehow looks even worse through the eyes of Sartre than it does through our homegrown writers, who already make it look pretty damn hideous.

Dic 18, 2011, 10:03am

I really enjoyed "No Exit" when I read it years ago -- I think you've convinced me to try some more Sartre. Those all sound very interesting, and handled well (which I'm sure they are), I bet they are delightful.

Dic 18, 2011, 12:40pm

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Sartre. I was expecting something much drier, and less story-like. But I was (happily) wrong.

Dic 29, 2011, 10:48am

For my Bronte category:

The Professor and Vilette: I'm lumping these books together because they are practically the same story, only one is told from a male point of view, and the other from a female point of view. Also, one has a happy ending and one does not. Both are about impoverished Brits who teach in Brussels. The Professor was Charlotte's first novel and it shows; Vilette is one of her later ones and didn't really hold up in a re-reading. I thought I had liked it better the first time around. In both books, Charlotte's really strong anti-Catholic bias is prevalent, and a little bit annoying to a modern reader.

For my Austen category:

Persuasion. I really really really love this book. I'm half in love with Captain Wentworth myself.

And with that, my challenge is complete!

Dic 29, 2011, 11:15am


Dic 29, 2011, 11:58am

Congratulations on completing your challenge!

Dic 29, 2011, 12:14pm


Dic 29, 2011, 10:37pm

Congratulations! How nice for you to end on Persuasion. :)

Dic 29, 2011, 11:32pm


Dic 31, 2011, 11:09am

Congratulations!!! Just finally went back now and thumbed your review... I am catching up :P I was also interested in your take on A Constant Gardener, that title keeps catching my eye. See you in the 12 in 12!

Dic 31, 2011, 11:25am

Thank you! For those interested, my new 12/12 challenge home is here

Dic 31, 2011, 4:09pm

Congrats on finishing!! Hope you have a great new years!

(formerly bookoholic13)