summer classics query

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Monday, May 28, 2012
I'm trying to work some classics into my reading rotation. For example, this year I read Great Expectations over Christmas/New Year. (two thumbs up!) Last year it was Jane Eyre. (Rochester = creepy, crazy, compelling. Jane E(ponymous) = speaks her mind and is awesome.)  I think I might try to slip a classic into my summer reading pile. Which one should I read first? Is there one you'd recommend above the others? Another title that you would recommend instead?

1.  Northanger Abbey, by Jane A.  -  the only one of her major novels I've never read! I understand it's  a gothic parody, if not the first gothic parody.

2. Moby-Dick, by Herman M. -  I've read probably the first third/three-eighths, but it was a couple of years ago now. I was quite enjoying it, but it grew easier and easier to not pick it up again. I would probably start again at the beginning, but this time persevere! (I might skip the cataloging of whales.)

3. The Woman in White by Wilkie C.  - I've been wanting to read this for ages!  I'm not sure why since I'm unclear on what it's about (women? dresses? ghosts? brides? ghost brides?) except that it might be vaguely spooky? Oooh - the first paragraph of wikipedia (I dare not read more) tells me that it is among the first mystery novels and it was serialized and epistolary. Every time I hear the title, it makes me think of this act of unforgivable cheesiness that you will now be thinking about ALL DAY LONG (fair warning) because it is insidious and full of malicious hidden brain traps if you've ever watched Top Gun*; before you know it you'll be all "HIGHWAY TO THE DANGER ZONE" as the soundtrack continues to play in your head. (or maybe that's just what happened to me.) But you know, maybe that's what Wilkie C. had in mind. Maybe he visited a medium --v. popular in victorian times -- and she told him all about the lady in red and Top Cruise but he thought that might be a little vulgar for a novel cover so he changed it to the woman in white for aesthetic reasons. (Is that TWiW's secret???)

*rudimentary fact checking tells me that this song was NOT in Top Gun, but I am far too attached to my vision of Wilkie Collins looking into a crystal ball and seeing Tom Cruise in his aviator glasses to correct it. But now you can think of the improved yet similar this and send yourself to the DANGER ZONE. (or maybe your brain will slide right over to Footloose. I don't know what happens in there.)

Seriously, though! What should I read? Have you read any of these? Did you like it?

Did Wilkie Collins see this vision of the future? Did it frighten him? 

9 comments on "summer classics query"
  1. I would say "Moby Dick." Let yourself read it slow, and I would say don't skip the whale ship cataloging. But then, MD made me fall in love with seafaring books. I did a slow read, and blogged about it, perhaps that would help. Save "Women in White" for my book group! We're reading it in the next year.

  2. Thanks, Heidi! I really did love what I read of it (which included the cataloging), but I think I let myself read too many other things at the same time and it fell away. Maybe this is the summer to do it right.

    Do you know what month your book group reading The Woman in White? (just curious! I realize the date may not be set yet.)

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  4. I second Moby Dick. It's also on my summer reading list! I tried reading Collins' The Woman in White years ago and it failed to impress me. As big mystery fan, I was expecting more. What I found frustrating about it was that it always felt like something good was around the corner, but it was just one long corner for me.

  5. Thanks, Adam! I think I will give it another go. Are you going to read it on your e-reader? I've downloaded it, but I also don't want to miss the AMAZING Rockwell Kent illustrations in the Modern Library edition. I've had that one checked out of the library for over a year! Maybe I'll just go back and forth. Anyway - if you come across the ML edition, check it out. Ooh - here's some woodcut magic:

    Good to know about The Woman in White. How do you feel about other very early mystery fiction? I haven't read a lot of it - I'm sure I read Murder in the Rue Morgue for school at some point, but I can barely remember. Hmmm... maybe I should add Poe to my list...

  6. Generally, if it's a mystery, I'm curious. So I've read some, but not Murder in Rue Morgue. My mom was a librarian and (is still) a collector of old books. So we'd always have an odd assortment of old hardcover books she'd come across at yard sales and library sales. So I remember reading a few old mysteries that way. The one that sticks to my memory (though it's no classic, I'm sure) is The Corpse in the Waxworks.

    Not very early, but somehow reading mysteries in their aged and dusty original form makes it much more interesting. What would you suggest for early mysteries?

    I was actually thinking about reading Moby Dick in hard copy form. I do love my e-reader, but I find for classics with multiple editions it's frustrating. Because then I get obsessed with researching editions, and then none of those are available as e-books. And I wouldn't want to read some of them on an e-reader anyways. It's not good for pictures or cross-referencing or having to go back to and check something from earlier in the book. I actually started researching Moby Dick editions a year or so ago, I need to get back into it. It's overwhelming. I'll check out the Modern Library edition. Thanks!

  7. The Corpse in the Waxworks is such a great title! I've bought books for less. I'm thinking back to a detective fiction class I took (a hundred years ago) - we didn't necessarily read a lot of classics but we did read some authors I was otherwise unfamiliar with. Have you ever read Janwillem van de Wetering? he wrote mostly mysteries set in Amsterdam, but also did a set of stories with a Japanese inspector. (I read Inspector Saito's Sato, which I remember liking, but it's been a long time.

    bombshell: I've never read Sherlock Holmes! Never! It's something else I'm going to correct shortly, but geez; there are so many books in the world to read. But what a great time to be a reader!

    I've given it more thought and agree about Moby Dick as a physical book. For some classics digital is fine, but MD has a million short chapters and the Modern Library edition I mentioned earlier has an amazing woodcut illustration for each. (plus the type is very pleasing on the page - as you know, these things are important.)

  8. I am very late, but fwiw I LOVED The Woman in White. I even read it on the kindle app on my smartphone before I got my Kindle. The format was tiny and annoying and that didn't STILL didn't stop me from enjoying it. I think you would like it! I have a hard copy of it too, if you want to borrow it.

    1. It's never too late for book talk! Good to know about The Woman in White - is it spooky, or did my imagination supply "woman in white = there must be a ghost somehow"? Thanks for the loan offer, but I have it on my kindle and I think I even have a physical copy knocking around somewhere. I've been meaning to read it for AGES!


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