Thursday, November 10, 2011

T. S. Eliot Poems for December

We've collaborated on this selection of Eliot's poems to read for our December discussion. As you see, the list is rather long. These poems all merit our attention, but some are more likely to figure in our discussion than others. So our suggestion is to read as many as you have time for, but concentrate especially on the italicized ones.

This way, you can read more widely if you wish, and the discussion will be enriched even if we don't spend a lot of time on each one of them. Contrariwise, people who are pressed for time in December can limit their reading to the lesser number and still be sufficiently prepared.

*The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
*The Hollow Men
*The Waste Land
Journey of the Magi
*From Four Quartets: "Burnt Norton" and "The Dry Salvages"
Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleisten with a Cigar
Sweeney Among the Nightingales
Ash Wednesday
Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

If you're reading from one of the editions of Eliot's Complete Poems and Plays, you may find it lacking in explanatory material. I plan to follow Bill Combs' suggestion and find a Norton Anthology or other resource that contains some extra help! And at David Isaacson's request, I've embedded this audio clip of T. S. Eliot reading aloud. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

Thomas Wolfe's Vocabulary

Whatever else you may think of it, Look Homeward, Angel is good for a little vocabulary building:

phthistic: Archaic Any illness of the lungs or throat, such as asthma or a cough.

stipe: the stem or stalk-like feature supporting the cap of a mushroom

convolve:  to roll together; writhe.

octopal:   resembling or having the characteristics of an octopus. "all the slow octopal movements of her temper" — Thomas Wolfe

guerdon:  reward, recompense.

If you eat poison stipes, you may experience only a phthistic reaction, or possibly an octopal convolving of the intestines will be your guerdon. Better leave 'em alone.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Our October Selection....

Hope to see you October 20 for our discussion of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard. We deliberately chose a short work to follow the marathon reading we did for Ulysses!

If you don't yet have a paper copy of the play, you can read it online here . A few scenes from the 1962 Judi Dench movie version can be seen here

Friday, April 22, 2011

Official Peak...

Of the two proposed Stendahl titles, Classics Revisited members have selected The Charterhouse of Parma for the 2011-2012 season--apparently a number of them had already read The Red and the Black and wanted to read a different Stendhal title. 

October 20, 2011       The Cherry Orchard / Chekhov
November 17, 2011    Look Homeward Angel / Wolfe 
December 15, 2011     Selected poetry / T. S. Eliot
January 19, 2012         The Coast of Chicago / Dybek
February 16, 2012       The Grapes of Wrath / Steinbeck
March 15, 2012            Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? / Albee
April 19, 2012               Dead Souls / Gogol
May 17, 2012               The Charterhouse of Parma / Stendhal 
September 20, 2012       Middlemarch / Eliot

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sneak Peak...

... for blog fans only. Here is the world's first look at the voting results for the 2011-2012 book selections. Which month goes with title is not yet determined.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? / Albee
Selected poetry / T. S. Eliot
Dead Souls / Gogol
Look Homeward Angel / Wolfe
The Grapes of Wrath / Steinbeck
The Cherry Orchard / Chekov
The Coast of Chicago / Dybek
Middlemarch / Eliot
Either The Red and the Black or The Charterhouse of Parma / Stendhal

Friday, March 25, 2011

Captain Carpenter / John Crowe Ransom

To commence the nudging of thought and mood back to the literature of the early 20th century, here for your consideration is an interesting poem published in 1924, the year before Mrs. Dalloway:

Captain Carpenter rose up in his prime
    Put on his pistols and went riding out
But had got well-nigh nowhere at that time
    Till he fell in with ladies in a rout.

It was a pretty lady and all her train
    That played with him so sweetly but before
An hour she'd taken a sword with all her main
    And twined him of his nose forevermore.

Captain Carpenter mounted another day
    And straightway rode into a surly rogue
That looked unchristian but be that as may
    The captain did not wait upon prologue.

But drew upon him out of his great heart
    The other swung against him with a club
And cracked his two legs at the shinny part
    And let him roll and stick like any tub.

Captain Carpenter rode many a time
    From male and female took he sundry harms
And met the wife of Satan crying "I'm
    The she-wolf bids you shall bear no more arms."

Their strokes and counters whistled in the wind
    I would he had delivered half his blows
But where she should have made off like a hind
    The bitch bit off his arms at the elbows.

Captain Carpenter parted with his ears
    To a surly rogue that used him in this wise
0 Jesus ere his threescore and ten years
    Another had pinched out his sweet blue eyes.

Captain Carpenter got up on his roan
    And sallied from the gate for hells despite
I heard him asking in the grimmest tone
    If any enemies yet there were to fight?

"Is there an adversary drunk with fame
    Who will risk to be wounded by my tongue
Or burnt in two beneath my red heart's flame
    These are the perils he is cast among.

"But if he can he has a pretty choice
    From an anatomy with little to lose
Whether he cut my tongue and take my voice
    Or whether it be my round red heart he choose."

It was the neatest knave that ever was seen
    Stepping in perfume from his lady's bower
Who on this word put in his merry mien
    And fell on Captain Carpenter like a tower.

I would not knock old fellows in the dust
    But there lay Captain Carpenter on his back
His weapons were the stout heart in his bust
    And a blade shook between rotten teeth alack.

The rogue in scarlet and grey soon knew his mind
    He wished to get his trophy and depart
With gentle apology and touch refined
    He pierced him and produced the captain's heart.

God's mercy rest on Captain Carpenter now
    I thought him sirs an honest gentleman
Citizen husband soldier and scholar enow
    Let jangling kites eat of him if they can.

But God's deep curses follow after those
    That shore him of his goodly nose and ears
His legs and strong arms at the two elbows
    And eyes that had not watered seventy years.

The curse of hell upon the sleek upstart
    That got the captain finally on his back
And took the red red vitals of his heart
    And made the kites to whet their beaks clack clack.

from The Fugitive, Volume III, Number 1. February 1924.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cheever Reading/Listening Lists

March 27, 1964

Here are the stories by John Cheever we will be reading  for the March meeting of Classics Revisited:

"The Enormous Radio"
"The Swimmer"
"The Country Husband"
"The Sorrows of Gin"
"The Housebreaker of Shady Hill"
"The Brigadier and the Golf Widow"
"The Reunion"

For recordings of Cheever short stories, check this out:
Each month the New Yorker invites one of its regular fiction contributors to choose a short story from the magazine's archives, read it aloud, and then discuss it with fiction editor Deborah Triesman. Two Cheever short stories have been featured so far, and with the click of a button you can listen to both of them at the New Yorker website.

On this page you'll find Robert Ford reading "The Reunion,"  and on this one, Anne Enright reads "The Swimmer." The discussions following the reading are always most insightful and interesting.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Resources from Library of America

You've seen those handsome Library of America books around and about--now have a look at the LOA website, where you'll find more treasure for the taking.

Library of America has begun offering a free "Story of the Week" feature: They select a short piece from one of their published volumes and present it on their website. You can read it there, or, by supplying your email address, have it sent to you automatically every week. As I write this, the current selection is Irvin S. Cobb's "Cobb Fights it Over Again" from At the Fights: American Writers on Boxing.

You can also listen to recorded readings from some of the great works LOA has published. Here you can listen to a program of poetry reading hosted by Garrison Keillor. It is the recording of a live event sponsored by LOA to celebrate the publication of American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century, featuring such readers as Harold Bloom, Robert Pinsky, X. J. Kennedy, James Merrill, Roy Blount, and N. Scott Momaday. You can also subscribe to LOA as a free podcast and receive more programs as they are released.

Lovers of classics must be grateful, first and foremost, to the Library of America for offering us, as its motto proclaims, "America's best and most significant writing in durable and authoritative editions" to purchase, but now also for these gifts of wonderful literature we can enjoy with very little trouble and for free.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A "Catcher in the Rye" Picture Album

The cover of an early edition illustrates one of Holden's happy moments.

9/15/1961 "For of all the characters set to paper by American authors since the war, only Holden Caulfield, the gallant scatologer of The Catcher in the Rye, has taken flesh permanently, as George F. Babbitt, Jay Gatsby, Lieut. Henry and Eugene Gant took flesh in the '20s and '30s."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Neglected Gems from The Time Reading Program

Can a Classic be forgotten? If it is forgotten, is it still a Classic?

Maybe so, if it's still available for rediscovery and appreciation.  Case in point: the titles chosen, back in the 60s, by the editors of Time magazine for their Reading Program. Here is what Wikipedia tells us about it:

The Time Reading Program...was a book club by Time from 1961 through 1966....TRP books followed no specific theme but covered literature both classic and contemporary, as well as nonfiction works and historic topics. The books themselves were chosen by National Book Award judge Max Gissen, perhaps best remembered as the chief book reviewer for Time from 1947 until the TRP began in 1961.

The books themselves were published by Time Inc. and followed a specific format despite their widely varying subject matter....Each book had a wraparound cover with a continuous piece of artwork across both covers and the spine, generally a painting by a contemporary artist commissioned specifically for the TRP edition. The TRP covers attracted a measure of acclaim at the time--according to Time, 19 TRP covers were cited in 1964 for awards from The American Institute of Graphic Arts, Commercial Art Magazine and the Society of Illustrators guild.

Perhaps most importantly for scholars and collectors, most of the TRP books had unique introductions written by various scholars specifically for the TRP edition. In a few cases, the texts have also been revised by the authors to create a definitive edition, although this should not be confused with abridgement, as the goal is not to make the book shorter....
Time once again attempted the reading program in the early 80s, with many of the same titles. Today, as with most book club editions, TRP books are generally not of particular value to collectors, with most titles being worth less than five dollars even in excellent condition.
Some of my copies were acquired when I belonged to the club in the 80s; the rest I've collected for considerably less than five dollars at second-hand books stores. They're easy to spot, being all the same size, having beautiful covers of stiff cardboard (now tending to break with age) and bearing the words "Time Inc" on their spines. When I see one, I buy it. 

So now are you wishing for a look at the list of titles? It so happens I've created one just for you. You will find it here, at "Lists of Bests." You can even check off the ones you've read and see what percentage of the total you've "consumed." And while poking around there, you might find, on other lists, other neglected classics to discover again.

And if you're really into forgotten classics, try perusing this website, The Neglected Books Page. Heaven forbid a website about neglected reading should itself be at all neglected!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Huckleberry Hacked part 2

This week on Studio360 Kurt Anderson interviews Dr.  Alan  Gribben, the publisher of the new version of Huckleberry Finn.  You can find the interview here and listen to the interview only under the picture of Huck on the right side of the page.

Not surprisingly, the situation has inspired our nation's political cartoonists:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Huckleberry Hacked

Just in time for our January discussion, Huckleberry Finn is making headlines. A new edition of Twain's book has just been published, in which all instances of the word "nigger" have been replaced with "slave," and "Injun" with "Indian."   

You'll find details in the New York Times article here, unless as sometimes happens the link is not permanent. In that case, to paraphrase the Three Stooges, "Google anything--you'll get it."

Wonder what Mr. Twain would think of to say about this... Let's hope he doesn't get airbrushed out of the photo.