Hey Classics Challengers: A punny kids’ tale that goes everywhere and nowhere

In a restaurant, kids in tow, I’ll ask the waitress,”Is the Greek in the Greek salad real or imitation?” My kids roll their eyes. I’ll tell kids, “I’m built backward: My nose runs and my feet smell.” Again, more eye rolling.

So you’d think Norton Juster’s “The Phantom Tollbooth” would be right up my alley. It’s filled with puns and one-lines and long setups for bad punchlines. But no.

tollboothI’ve just finished the Classics Challenge 2015 (and at 3 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, not too soon) by reading a book by an author I’ve not read before. This book also fits the category of a book by an author I’ll not read again, too.

Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: A punny kids’ tale that goes everywhere and nowhere”

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Hey Classics Challengers: Can you squeeze a new author in this year?

It’s December 30. That means one day left for this year’s Classics Challenge and one category left: A classic by an author new to you.

This author isn’t, new to me, but I’ve never read anything by him. Actually, I don’t think most people know he wrote more than one work and, in fact, I need to go find the book so I can remember his name.

tollboothOK. I’m back. It’s Norton Juster and I’m about to read his 1961 classic “The Phantom Tollbooth.” Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: Can you squeeze a new author in this year?”

Hey Classics Challengers: ‘The Good Earth’ is a great gift

So people sometimes ask me, “What’s the point of your Classics Challenge?”

I usually say something like, “It’s important to expand your reading list. You can’t just read the same authors over and over, there are so many great books. You have to explore…” blah blah blah.

Good EarthNow I can boil my argument down to one book: “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: ‘The Good Earth’ is a great gift”

French novels. Am I right?

Oddly, I picked up two French novels right at the same time. One in book form, the other on CD. One a best-seller in France and many other countries and the other by Patrick Modiano, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2014.

Both left me with a profound feeling of quelle le fuc? And made me long for the works of Dumas, Voltaire, Sartre and Camus, among other French novelists who knew how to tell a story and make you care.

Continue reading “French novels. Am I right?”

Hey Classics Challengers: Have someone choose a gift for you

Two categories and less than two weeks. And in those two weeks, two holidays and various family gatherings that will take me away from reading.

Being the gift-giving season, the obvious next category is a classic chosen for you by someone else. The only rule is that person has to have read that book.

So mbuck 2.jpegy wife chose for me the book she read for our Pulitzer Prize-winner category this year: “The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck. She said it was her favorite book this year.

Continue reading “Hey Classics Challengers: Have someone choose a gift for you”

Under a tragic moon, O’Neill examines the end of life and love

I thought I was giving myself a break when I decided to fulfill my Nobel Prize-winner category for the 2015 Classics Challenge by choosing a play. They’re short, I told myself. I can generally get through one in a solid night of reading.

Don’t I know myself better than that?

Eugene O’Neill, America’s greatest playwright (yeah, yeah, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Edward Albee), is never an easy read. With all the raw emotion, the self-delusion and self-destruction, it’s hard to watch his work, especially knowing that it is drawn almost completely from his own sad and sorry life. It (almost) never fails to captivate me.

Continue reading “Under a tragic moon, O’Neill examines the end of life and love”

The 2015 Man Booker Prize, Part 2: Some also-rans

First, read all about my mad Man Booker Prize love here then about this year’s winner here.

Caught up? OK, here we go with brief reviews of two also-rans. These books are very different in tone, but have a lot of similarities: Both are about families and the communities they live in and both were bestsellers. There are many differences, though: One is by a first-time author and one by an old pro, one essentially a comedy and one so tragic it could be a comedy. Both are worth a read, but for different reasons.

Continue reading “The 2015 Man Booker Prize, Part 2: Some also-rans”