The nearly insurmountable challenge of a 19th-Century novel

This post is a twofer. Two reviews for the price of one. This is because I have very little to say about the first novel I selected to fulfill the 19th-Century category of the 2016-17 Classics Challenge.

courage.jpgAfter living a month or so inside the head of the Rebels while reading “Gone With the Wind,” I thought I’d spend some time with the actual winners of the Civil War (though are there really any winners in war?) by reading Stephen Crane’s 1895 novel “The Red Badge of Courage.” I’d liked his short stories (especially “The Open Boat”) and was eager to read it.

I chose this book because it has been on my bookshelf for some 20 years and because it was short. It should have stayed on the bookshelf.

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Coming in from the heat with a classic spy novel

spy.jpgThough I’ve been reading like a dervish, assuming they read, it’s been so beautiful outside I haven’t trapped myself at my computer to post about them. We’re in the middle of a heat spell, so I thought I’d stay in the air conditioning and play catch-up.

In the month-plus since I’ve posted, I have good and bad, new and classic, thrillers and cozies. Now it’s time to get moving on the blogging.

This year’s Classics Challenge includes a category for which, I think, a challenge like this was made: A book by an author you’ve not read before. In my Sisyphean task to eliminate books from my shelves and the boxes in the basement, I chose to read John LeCarre, whose novel “The Spy Who Came In From the Cold” has been collecting dust since I shoved it in a sack on Paper Bag Day at a local church’s used book sale lo these many years ago.

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Back to the classics: ‘Gone With the Wind’ as a civics lesson

gone.jpgThe duly elected president of our country the other day asked, about the U.S. Civil War, “If you think about it, why? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

I think I speak for all Americans with brains and for thinking people everywhere when I ask: What the complete fuck?

Assuming he can read, he might find an answer (do himself no harm, either) by doing what I just did: I read “Gone With the Wind,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Margaret Mitchell about not just the Civil War, but its aftermath. I chose this book to satisfy the Classic by a Woman Writer category in this year’s Classics Challenge.

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A children’s classic tale of a boy and his dog

OldYeller.jpgWhen the kids were young, I read to them nearly every night. I read classic children’s novels (“The Narnia Chronicles,” “The Never-Ending Story,” “Pinocchio” “Winnie-the-Pooh”) and, when they got older, some that weren’t specifically for children, but which I thought they’d enjoy (“Phantom of the Opera,” “A Christmas Carol,” “The Erotic Works of Anaias Nin, you know the canon). But, as kids get older, there are other things to do.

I miss those times, but I’ve written about them before, and I have promised shorter posts, so let’s get to the point of this one.

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‘Groucho and Me:’ Light on details, but not on laughs

groucho and me 2.jpegReaders shouldn’t turn to “Groucho and Me” funnyman Groucho Marx’s 1959 memoir to learn anything substantial about him or his famous brothers. He even acknowledges that a couple of times. Do pick up the book if you want to laugh. It’s the funniest book I’ve read in a long time.

I chose this book from among several options on my bookshelf to fulfill the Memoir or Biography category for the 2016/17 Classics Challenge. Surprisingly, there were several options on my shelves. I thought it might just be the time to dive into Moss Hart’s “Act One,” (and finally finish) or Sheilah Graham’s “Beloved Infidel,” her take on her relationship with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Oddly, I had even others that could fill the bill, too, but decided humor was the way to go. There’s so little to laugh at these days.

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Classics Challenge reads a book that was banned

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Are you taking the challenge? See the next category at the end of this post.

The only thing that saddens and dismays me more than when people try to get a book removed from a school curriculum or a public library is that school districts and library boards have to listen to crackpots who request this.

These incidents are usually started by an overprotective parent who doesn’t want a child exposed to ideas that may “corrupt” them. But when you do a little research you’ll discover that people have asked that works ranging from those by ancient Greeks to Toni Morrison and J.K. Rowling. That’s when you realize it’s not the work itself, it’s the ideas in the work, and the way they challenge the status quo that scares people. Some people, I should say, not all. But, as you know, it’s always, sadly, the loudest, most ignorant bitcher who always gets heard.

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The Classics Challenge is back with new menu items and a few leftovers

For the last few years, my wife and I have challenged ourselves to read classics. I confess we stole the idea from this person who actually offers prizes for people who participate. So few readers of this blog let me know whether they’ve joined me, and even fewer comment or let me know the book they’re reading that I offer no incentives except the joys of reading classics.

Today I offer the categories for the 2017 Classics Challenge. Play along and let me know how you’re doing. Remember, our arbitrary ruling on what defines a classic is that it must be at least 50 years old.

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