Rediscovering classic novels

(Zone 8a)

Hey I mentioned Jane Austen in my second post!

I studied King Lear in High School and absolutely loved it. I've seen numerous Royal Shakespeare Company productions, my favourite being Michael Gambon's Lear in 1982 (he's now more famous as Prof Dumbledore in the Harry Potter movies). He was a towering Lear. I don't think the play is depressing, bleak yes, but cathartic and redemptive also. Shakespeare had the most incredible insight into the human psyche!

The Forbidden Planet is based on The Tempest, not A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Dracula is an amazing book - some fantastic imagery and truly chilling.

One classic I want to re-read soon is Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights. Fantastic novel.

An interesting point concerning JK Rowling is that her publisher apparently suggested to her that she use her initials when the first Harry Potter book that came out, so that boys wouldn't be put off reading something by a female writer! It certainly worked!

(Zone 7a)

You did. So sorry... forgive us? ^_^

(Zone 8a)

Oh ok then :)

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, I was dimly aware that someone had mentioned Jane Austin but didn't think mentioning her again was too awful. Sorry I didn't give you proper attribution, though.
And yes, of course, The Forbidden Planet was based on the Tempest not Midsummer Night's Dream. What was I thinking?
I, too, like Lear and do not find it depressing, nor did I find Jane Smiley's, A Thousand Acres depressing, but one of our posters did. Depressing is in the eye of the beholder. Certainly the events are sad, but for most people I believe they are cathartic. Still every person has his or her own reaction.
You are very lucky to have had a British education, at least I gather you did. I think the British system is much more likely to teach the classics than the American one. In the UK, the English classics are your heritage. In the US, they are our heritage, too, but many Americans don't want to take the trouble to try to understand British language, especially old British English as in Shakespeare. More's the pity that they don't because the English classics are wonderful and juicy. But as a high school English teacher, I can tell you teaching the classics is hard on the teacher because the teacher always has to convince students and sometimes parents that they are worth the effort.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

Classic love storys are powerful. Romeo and Juliet and Wuthering Heights are two of my favorites. Also Doctor Zhivago.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I haven't read Dr. Zhivago, but I saw the movie. ( Must read it for my self.). Great love story!

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

I did a little cheating and asked the Web to refresh my memory regarding the classics. Came up with a nice list of English Classic Lit here: http://www.cyberjaz.com/audiobooks/fiction/classic-british-literature/ .

Rudyard Kipling! I love his books. What an exciting writer. Some regard him as racist, as they do Twain, but I think he is only holding up a mirror to his time, and had a true love, if not always understanding, of India and the people.

I thought it was funny that Edward Bulwer-Lytton is listed, as he is held up as an example of the worst writer ever. He is the author who is originally responsible for the line "It was a dark and story night." that Snoopy was always typing.

I've never read The Death of Arthur. I wonder if The Once and Future King by T.H. White counts?

I have always meant to read The Forsyte Saga, kept seeing it at the library whenever I was looking for Robert Graves, and I would see Galsworthy.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

That is a good list cece but I think they missed DH Lawrence. Anyone else notice a missing work/works that they think should be on the list for the British classics?

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

Wanted to bring up Willa Cather. I read Death Comes to the Archbishop when I lived in Pecos, New Mexico, and it was interesting to know and have a reference for all the locations mentioned in the novel. It was also a very moving story.

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

You're right, Dahlianut! All I can think is this list is from an audio book seller. Perhaps they don't have the rights to Lawrence's work on audio?

There are probably more complete lists out there. I just needed to give my brain a nudge! LOL!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

I haven't read Willa Cather yet. Here's an interesting list I found when I looked up Willa Cather's works http://www.time.com/time/2005/100books/the_complete_list.html

(Zone 7a)

In reading that last link, I found this on Hemingway.

From Time magazine, Dec 13, 1954...

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,935439,00.html

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

Fast moving discussion here- it must be bad weather in a lot of gardening areas LOL
I was sad at the end of Thousand Acres- as I recall at the end the family was all broken up and one woman was dealing with cancer--just seemed to end in turmoil. I thought catharsis was "nice at the end."
Loved Dracula in high school, hated Wuthering Heigths in HS but loved it recently, been meaning to get Ana Karenina (was on tv few years ago ) and haven't read many of the other books named

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Went to get "The Great Gatsby" today, but am going to have to wait for it for a few days. Grrr. I was proud of pushing myself to read some classics and broaden my horizons. I should have taken a list with me.

Maybe next week!

(Zone 7a)

Getting lots of good ideas here. I was investigating classic novels and re-discovered Washington Irving, Jack London and O. Henry.

Santa Fe, NM

I was in a reading group at one time and we decided to read some books considered classics. I was the Dickens fan, one woman liked Isak Dineson and another liked Zora Neal Hurston. I hope I am not mis-spelling too many names. Hemingway, Steinbeck...the usual suspects. I have enjoyed reading the old Uncle Remus stories, which are considered very politically incorrect. But, I do think they reflect a certain specific time and place and were not meant to be demeaning to the black people who told the stories. Which are excellent trickster stories. I find them as much of a classic as "Wind in the Willows" stories or Winnie the Pooh. Though the animals are not near as precious. And what about Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit? I liked the illustrations more than the stories.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Wow, you guys have truly come up with some wonderful old books -- I loved Death Comes for the Archbishop, which has extra meaning for me because it deals with New Mexico. Same for D.H. Lawrence. He ended up living a good bit of his life in New Mexico and wrote quite a bit about the experience. He had a ranch up north of Taos. You are probably right, Dahlia about the audiobook company not having the rights to his estate.
Loved the list from Time Magazine. It is great novels since 1923. Not sure how they picked 1923, but the list is quite interesting. I don't even know what some of the books are. Others are undoubtedly classics -- like Light in August by Faulkner. I haven't read The Moviegoer by Percy, but I have heard it is very good.
I haven't read The Death of Arthur either. Probably should. Love all things Arthurian -- but especially a book that is decidedly to new to be a classic yet -- The Mists of Avalon -- my favorite.
I struggled with Wuthering Heights as a kid, but might like it now. But probably not, too romantic, perhaps.
Beatrice Potters books would probably be classics. I didn't read them but my mother did.
And another one we haven't mentioned -- The Secret Garden. That should definitely be a classic.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

I think The Secret Garden was mentioned on the earlier thread. I love most of Frances Hodgson Burnett's books - that, A Little Princess, and Little Lord Fauntleroy especially. I also have The White People, which is very odd and deals with spiritualism, and The Shuttle, which is a highly romantic and dramatic tale of the relationship between England and America as shown by the differences in business and social mores. I didn't like either of the latter two!

Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were both too dark and full of turmoil for my taste although I read them.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

I adored Jane Eyre, not sure I would like it now, though. The wife in the attic though is an image that still sticks with me. There should be a book from her point of view. Husband locks you in the attic and courts a young governess! Hmmm.
Wuthering Heights didn't do much for me at the time. Improved my vocabulary, though.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

"Mists of Avalon". I think it did for me what "Roots" did for a lot of African Americans.... gave me a sense of historical identity that I lacked before reading it, (needless to say, most of my heritage is based in the UK) especially as a female.

Surprisingly enough, none of her others books touched me in the least, very disappointing.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

LOL--since some people are not fans of Wuthering Heights ( i was not also at one reading) then let me admit that I read Secret Garden with my DD in her fourth grade class and did not enjoy it. I thought it was too hard for fourth grade 'advanced' and would bore the boys.
"Waxed lachrymose" that was in W H- and I never forgot what it meant after I had to look both words up in the dictionary before continuing (= got weepy)
kwanjin- I liked Call of the Wild reading it with my son. If you come across London's story To Build A Fire, get that. Its great. The year I read C O T W, I then got two modern books related to dogsledding, was fun to explore. You would like Guts by Gary Paulsen, not classic, but very real life outdoorsy, he ran dogs a while too.
Hey, Stephen Crane, Red Badge of Courage? The Open Boat (short story)?

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Sally, I agree that Secret Garden would probably be boring for boys. Most of her work would be, especially Little Lord Fauntleroy! Noel Streatfield's Movie Shoes is about making a film of The Secret Garden, and it's fun if you liked the original.

Kids read at all different levels. I don't remember when I got into Secret Garden but I would think I was about 8 or 9. Another kids' classic which I adored but haven't been able to get my GD to read is Hector Malot's Nobody's Girl. It's about a very plucky girl who had to be on her own taking care of herself, and it talks about how she managed it. I have always liked exposing girls to novels in which girls can take charge; Understood Betsy is another one like that.

Anne Arundel,, MD(Zone 7b)

I loved A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

My sister and I both adored A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. In fact, I used Francie's method to teach myself touch-typing when I was twelve. I covered the keys to my grandfather's old Remington with tape and put a chart up above the paper. It worked like a charm.

Columbus, OH(Zone 6a)

My two favorite children's books were The Jungle Book and Bambi. Both amazing stories that boys and girls can enjoy, and far better than the watered down cutesy Disney movies.

Bambi in particular can be very dark tale, without a happy ending. Felix Salten wrote a novel that makes you think and feel, about the state of Man and the creatures who share this planet with him.

Calgary, AB(Zone 3a)

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is definitely a classic IMPO. I love that book.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

Okay, I guess I can say that I have read a least a *few* classics, if Tree in Brooklyn counts along with the Secret Garden!

North East England, United Kingdom(Zone 8a)

To go back to Shakespeare which I love I found one of the best versions of King Lear was Kurosawa's Ran. Amazing film. Of course he also did a version of Macbeth in Throne of Blood and Hamlet in The Bad Sleep Well.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Oh yes, Kurosawa's films of Lear and Macbeth were wonderful. My DH played Macbeth in out local little theater group and we had to watch Throne of Blood as part of his self-assigned homework for the part. Wonderful film and Ran was almost ballet like -- very choreographed and in color. Shakespeare does have that universality that is a sure sign of a great piece of fiction.

Santa Fe, NM

Ran is a great film. I also loved "The Jungle Book" as a child and "Rikki Tikki Tavi" which is about a boy and his pet mongoose. I Very Much wanted a mongoose as well as a koala bear and plenty of other animals that weren't really appropriate for suburban Arizona. I still would like an elephant. Babar and company are nice classic books which are now considered racist though I don't remember thinking about that as a child. Babar was a bit stuffy, though. Curious George was more lively. I think that is a classic children's book.

Plano, TX

childhood books could be a new thread--i loved reading good night moon to my kids when they were very young and just saw a biography of the author
cat in the hat was the first book that really made reading special to me-- and now that i teach first grade i find many books that i love reading to the kids but the ones we all enjoy the most are the junie b jones ---so funny--
sorry to digress--none are classics--

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

plainolinda, I had no idea that you were a first grade teacher. What an honorable and rewarding, if exhausting profession. Yes to Dr. Seuss, Good Night Moon and many others. I have never heard of Junie B. Jones. Will have to look that one up!

Babar racist! I guess I better read it again. I had no idea. I am a big fan of elephants as I may have made clear in the past. I have been wondering why I don't have one at my farm in Mississippi. They survive nicely at the elephant preserve in Tennessee. Why not at my farm in Mississippi. Of course, it might get expensive fencing the place adequately. Still, no more need to bush hog! Just take the elephant for a stroll. Of course, one needs at least two because they are herd animals. And elephant vets are hard to find, but they must have one for the zoo in New Orleans.

Another classic is Le Petit Prince, which was my reading text in my freshman French class in college. Wonderful book. Hope it isn't racist. It does deal with invasive species. That is good and up to date. That should be a classic. I thought Babar was one as well, and also Madeleine.

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Pajarito, here's a discussion about racism in Babar:

Quoting:
The accusation of racism in Babar rests largely on two books published before 1950. Today, the drawings of what the texts refer to as "cannibals" (The Travels of Babar, 1932) and "savages" (Babar's Picnic, 1949) seem shocking. When these books first appeared, however, much of both adult and children's culture was naively racist. White performers blacked their faces to resemble caricatures of African-Americans, and a recurrent cartoon situation of the 1930s and 1940s featured a pair of missionaries in a cook pot; Doctor Doolittle and Little Black Sambo were popular and much-admired children's books, and thousands of English and American children owned Golliwog or Mammy dolls.

Jean de Brunhoff had drawn caricatured Africans in The Travels of Babar, and they must have seemed a reasonable subject for his son Laurent, who was only twenty-three at the time Babar's Picnic was written. Soon, however, as people all over the world became aware of the hateful and harmful stereotyping of not only African but Asian and Native American people, Laurent was one of the first children's book artists to make amends and include realistic drawings of black people in his public scenes. In Babar Comes to America (1965) there are African-Americans on the street in Chicago, New York, and Detroit: they are shown building automobiles, fishing from a pier along with whites, and at a Hollywood party. While in New York, Babar goes to hear "Theodorus Priest" (Thelonious Monk) and his jazz quartet, which includes two white and two black players.

For a long time Laurent de Brunhoff has regretted his early drawings of African "savages"; he decided years ago that Babar's Picnic will never be reprinted. Yet Random House, the original publisher of Jean de Brunhoff, continues to issue The Travels of Babar, with its stereotyped black "cannibals," and some adult readers still complain of its bias: the description of the book on the current Amazon site calls it "as far from politically correct as you can get." Fortunately, this has not prevented millions of children—and adults—from enjoying the other Babar books, many of which are now being reprinted in beautiful new editions by Harry N. Abrams.[8]

from a very long article about the books here:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/17640
I never cared for Babar, francophile though I am, because of the violence at the very beginning where the mother is shot.

Elephants might not make such good pets, though. My aunt and uncle had a circus and I remember her screaming that the elephants were in her garden again, tearing up her flowers.....

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Thanks, greenhouse_gal for the info on Babar. I do remember the awful part at the beginning about the mother being killed. I did not read these books as a child but discovered them as a young adult. I don't think I paid much attention to the plots just the really cute pictures.
As for the elephants, that is a great story about your aunt and uncle owning a circus and the elephants tearing up her flowers. In real life, I have read of the havoc wreaked on farms in West Africa by elephants passing though and eating all the good stuff and tearing up the rest. My desire for an elephant is just a fantasy. But it occurs to me that it really would be possible in that climate -- and they would love the lake.

(Sheryl) Gainesboro, TN(Zone 6b)

I remember the same thing about the "Little Black Sambo" book that I read as a child - I don't remember enough to be able to identify the racist statements or tone, but I do remember the imagery of tigers chasing each other around and around a tree, going so fast that they melted into golden butter for Sambo's pancakes (which I'm sure many tribes in Africa have on a daily basis... hey, wait.... tigers are from Asia... hmmmm... ....)...

(Zone 7a)

The title alone would raise eyebrows today. I remember that book but not the story.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Yes, I loved Little Black Sambo, too, but it is obviously racist. I also read an entire series as an elementary school student that was stunningly racist -- Miss Minerva and William Greenhill. I loved it and no longer remember what was racist about it, but I do remember that it was. Not a classic for sure.

(Zone 7a)

Interesting what is acceptable for one generation but not the next. What are we doing today that will be frowned on tomorrow?

Southern NJ, United States(Zone 7a)

Little Black Sambo was Indian, though, not African, so I'm not sure if the racist accusation still works as well. I think those who make it are assuming that Sambo was African. As you noted, Pagancat, there are no tigers in Africa....

We have some Babar books floating around the house, somewhere, but I really found the first one upsetting as a kid. I don't remember if my own kids cared or whether Babar was a big item for them.

Los Alamos, NM(Zone 5a)

Good question, Kwanjin.

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