Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Damn You, Anna Karenina

It all started when I was a stay at home mom to Ava in her first year. After hours and hours of solitary time of just me and a baby, I felt like my brain cells were making a steady decline into goo. Then on one episode of Oprah, she went on and on and on about how great the latest version of Anna Karenina was and how it was going to be her new book club book. Great! Something thought provoking and a book that didn't have Playskool stamped on it!

Ava turns seven this summer, and I'm only two-thirds of the way through. Ughh.

Firstly, I can't stand how whiny and self-centered Anna is. I know that the social boundaries of the 1800s Russia and present day are like night and day, but I like to think that there's a certain intimacy between a man and wife that exists and is timeless. Why neither Anna nor Alexei could pipe up about how miserable they were drove me crazy.  Add to that the insanely boring musings of Levin and his farming practices, I've not been able to plod my way through the whole book. I'll make it someday, but man am I so not interested!

My failure with Anna Karenina lead me to ponder classic literature and how much of it I hadn't read. It's kind of embarrassing really, when you take into consideration the AP Lit classes in high school and the college lit classes later on.  I've read a lot of books, just none of the ones that everyone seems to think matters.  I googled the top 100 must-read classics and was humbled by how many of them I couldn't cross off my personal list. And that is where I discovered this summer's hobby.  Adios television, hello mostly eighteenth century Britain!

It's Going to Be a Long Summer

Armed with The List, I marched to the library and book store. It was with some trepidation that I cracked open Vanity Fair, especially after my struggle with that damn Russian chick. The book was just as thick, and the older style English was enough to look daunting. Oh, how I was relieved after the first chapter, and even though the book was riddled with just as many characters and just as many sub-plots, Vanity Fair was such a better book!  With that I gained the courage to steam through the rest of the list.  I know that so many classics are not included in that 100, but it seemed as good a place as any to start my self-education. Summer of Literature, here I come!

P.S. Isn't it kind of pretty in my neck of the woods?
Blossoms

And in case any of you are wondering, here you go:

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
2. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories - Nikolai Gogol
3. Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
4. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
5. Notes From Underground - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
6. Story of the Eye - Georges Bataille
7. Spy In House Of Love: V4 In Nin'S Continuous Novel - Anais Nin
8. Lady Chatterly's Lover - D.H.Lawrence
9. Venus in Furs - Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
10. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
11. The Karamazov Brothers - Fyodor Dostoevsky
12. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
13. Diamonds Are Forever - Ian Fleming
14. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
15. The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad
16. A Room With a View - E. M. Forster
17. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
18. Don Juan - Lord George Gordon Byron
19. Love in a Cold Climate- Nancy Mitford
20. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Tennessee Williams
21. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
22. Middlemarch - George Eliot
23. She: A History of Adventure - H. Rider Haggard
24. The Fight - by Norman Mailer
25. No Easy Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
26. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
27. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
28. Notre-Dame of Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) - Victor Hugo
29. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
30. The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens
31. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
32. Bram Stoker's Dracula - Bram Stoker
33. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
34. The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
35. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
36. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
37. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
38. Baby doll - Tennessee Williams
39. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
40. Emma - Jane Austen
41. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
42. The Odyssey - Homer
43. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
44. Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
45. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
46. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
47. Vile Bodies - Evelyn Waugh
48. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
49. The Beautiful and Damned - F. Scott Fitzgerald
50. Against Nature - Joris-Karl Huysmans
51. The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X
52. The Outsider - Albert Camus
53. Animal Farm - George Orwell
54. The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx
55. Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
56. The Time Machine - H. G. Wells
57. The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
58. The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells
59. The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
60. We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
61. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
62. Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga - Hunter S. Thompson
63. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
64. Another Country - James Baldwin
65. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
66. Junky: The Definitive Text of Junk - William S. Burroughs
67. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
68. Confessions of an English Opium Eater - Thomas De Quincey
69. Subterraneans - Jack Kerouac
70. Monsieur Monde Vanishes - Georges Simenon
71. Nineteen Eighty-four - George Orwell
72. The Monkey Wrench Gang - Edward Abbey
73. The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
74. Bound for Glory - Arthur Miller
75. Death of a Salesman - Georges Simenon
76. Maigret and the Ghost - Georges Simenon
77. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
78. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
79. A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan, Sir Doyle
80. The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan
81. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
82. Therese Raquin - Ãmile Zola
83. Les Liaisons Dangereuses - Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
84. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
85. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy (Damn You! -fist in air)
86. I, Claudius : From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 - Robert Graves
87. Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton
88. The Beggar's Opera - John Gay
89. The Twelve Caesars - Suetonius
90. Guys and Dolls - Hal Leonard Corporation
91. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
92. The Iliad of Homer - Homer
93. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
94. From Russia with Love - Ian Fleming
95. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
96. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
97. The Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith
98. Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens
99. Scoop - Evelyn Waugh
100. Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis

5 out of 100. Just sad.

3 comments:

Kerrie said...

I also only have five I can cross off that list. I'd recommend going for the Jekyll and Hyde story right away. It's a novella and a quick read!

While I'm not working through a list of classics, I have been trying to read more classics these past couple years, and I'm struggling. I did manage to read The Picture of Dorian Gray, but I CANNOT get past the difficulty of Mrs. Dalloway. I'm trying to get interested in Pride and Prejudice now.

The classics are written in a style that is very difficult for me to read. All those run-on sentences and semi-colons! Mrs. Dalloway has a 90+ word sentence with 25 punctuation marks on the first page. The second sentence in The Picture of Dorian Gray is 124 words. It's first sentence was 45 words. Maybe our sentences are shorter and quicker now because we think/move faster than they did back then?

Ambrewskins said...

A Room with a View was also a very quick read and pretty entertaining. The long sentences do get pretty tedious sometimes, but I'm starting to see that it varies from author to author. I've also realized that, even thought a lot of these classics are endeared by many, doesn't mean I have to like all of them! Just look at how many people completely love or completely hate Jane Austen!

phoebe said...

I am ashamed to admit I have not read as many as I would iike of those as well but I highly recommend Cold Comfort Farm and Lucky Jim as some good times reading.