Charlotte Reads Classics

Slowly, slowly, she sipped a sentence.

Tag: literary advent calendar

Legends from the Ancient North

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The house is halfway to Christmas. We have a tree standing only in its green glory, the house smells of baked orange slices and I’ve almost finished this year’s wreath. Everything is feeling wonderfully infused with tradition.

The connection between history and tradition is something I have been thinking about a lot recently as I prepared to return to blogging. This time of year makes me want to get on and make things; presents for friends, decorations for the house, food for my family. A big part of it is because it connects us to what people have always done. It is as true today as it was hundreds of years ago.

There was a documentary on last night about folk music and how we are starting to be less satisfied by what is manufactured and looking towards what can be hand crafted. A love of what is genuine and real, an interest in how things used to be made. This made me think about our oldest classic literature. Penguin have released a series of titles (all with beautiful covers) that inspired Tolkein’s Middle Earth. Out of all of the titles it was Beowulf that caught my eye. The oldest surviving work in English, it is definitely one that I am going to read in 2014. It is a work that is partly  a great story, but when read today it’s also about history, ancient customs and heritage.

We are all living on part of a larger timeline, and I can’t think of a better way of connecting to it than by reading the classics and by keeping traditions alive.

Quote for the Day

I had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth, but a steady accumulation of a thousand slights, a thousand indignities and a thousand unremembered moments produced in me an anger, a rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, Henceforth I will devote myself to the liberation of my people; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise.

Nelson Mandela, A Long Walk to Freedom

Good Morning, Middlemarch

 

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I feed too much on the inward sources; I live too much with the dead. My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes.

 

I started reading Middlemarch this morning and adored this quotation from the truly terrible catch that is Mr. Casaubon. I thought it was particularly amusing in light of yesterday’s post…

Time Regained

Two lads that thought there was no more behind
But such a day tomorrow as today,
And to be a boy eternal.

– The Winters Tale

Reading classics inevitably means looking backwards. Our favourite times have been and gone, people have lived and died, and events have run their course. In some ways, each of our reading days could be the same as they were yesterday.

But we know, as a collective of  classics readers that our reading lives will never get stale. Each new book we find takes us to, quite literally another time. And are we not able to define ourselves in the contrast?

In this spirit and inspired by o I’ve put together a list of ten classics that I would like to read sooner rather than later. Five are completely new to me and five are re-reads.

Five classics to move forward:

  1. The Red and the Black, Stendhal
  2. The History of Tom Jones, A Foundling, Henry Fielding
  3. Pamela, Samuel Richardson
  4. Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  5. The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope

Five classics of eternal boyhood:

  1. Middlemarch, George Eliot
  2. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Brontë
  3. Persuasion, Jane Austen
  4. The Shooting Party, Isabel Colegate
  5. The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

Let’s travel the world together.

For What Do We Live, but to Make Sport For Our Neighbours and Laugh at Them in Our Turn?

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The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

Austen should be read in the winter, on dark evenings with warm lights on. Sitting in an armchair, with the glow from the lamp not so different from the light of a candle.

Good books and good conversation: It turns out we are quite Georgian in our evening occupations.

Midwinter – Invincible, Immaculate

snow11 Illustration by Márton Margaréta

The title is the opening line from Angela Carter’s short story The Snow Child. This is a dark beginning to my 24 days of posting, but there will be plenty of time for festive reading, I promise.

The story is the shortest in her collection The Bloody Chamber and is based on the Brothers Grimm version of the fairy tale. A Count and Countess are out riding when the Count conjures a child as white as snow, as red as blood and as black as a raven. I won’t give away the whole story though in case you want to read it for yourself.

Carter stays true to the traditional, dark fairytale and manages to capture a lot of gothic imagery (puddles of blood, anyone?). In just two pages, she also manages to provoke a lot of thought about the difference in male and female status. There is a real mix of passivity, aggression and desire.

Despite these heated things this is a winter story, and the cold prevails. The characters are riding through a frozen landscape where everything is blanketed by layers and layers of white. However, more chilling are the characters themselves: The Countess in her spiky boots and spurs is so cool she could crack. I could really picture her seething on the inside but showing nothing but a glittering and icy exterior.

The child is nothing more than the snow she is created from.

I Read, Much of the Night, and Go South in the Winter

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I have thought about you a lot, recently.

Winter has always had a special magnetic quality for me. When there’s a chill to the air on crisp winter mornings I want to set out for Netherfield. On misty afternoons when the leaves have left the trees sharp and bare I want to wander across the Moors. And, of course, when its dark in December and the lights are warm inside houses how do you stop yourself reaching for a Dickens?

The past few months I have been reading like I have fallen in love again. The books haven’t been Classics, but they have been devoured all the same. I went to a talk and signing by Donna Tartt last month and she said something that really stuck with me. She was talking about art and different ways of being personally affected by pieces of art, when she explained why books, in her opinion, are the greatest art form. Essentially because unlike looking at a painting, or watching a film, when you are reading you are experiencing something first hand rather than voyeuristically looking in on. This is why when you finish a book you are never the same person that chose to pick it up.

This is what I have missed about reading classics and talking about them with you. The reading is as fulfilling and passionate as ever, but I’ve really missed the community of bloggers – especially my fellow classics bloggers – to share life-changing books with… Remember when we all read Clarissa?

So now on December 1st, as homage to my years of classics blogging not to be wasted, I propose a literary advent calendar. Between now and Christmas Eve, I will post once a day (ambitious) with a quotation, a photo, a book jacket, a review – there will be something different each day.

I am finding my feet again: Please join me for my journey back.