Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Penguin English Library Project

After administering a final exam on Monday, my spring semester is nearly over -- there's just some marking to do! Since I won't be teaching over the summer, I decided it would be worthwhile to take on a new reading project. Also, I desperately need to catch up on the bookish goals that were pushed to the backburner while school's been in session. When I saw O post this list of classics from The Penguin English Library, I instantly knew I wanted to make a project of it.

Like Emma Woodhouse, I make a good list but often have trouble following through. However, this list mirrors my general reading tastes while pushing me in some new directions. I think it will urge me to open some titles that I might otherwise neglect but are nevertheless pertinent to my research interests. I'll be working on this alongside my Classics Club project.

Without further ado, here it is...

1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
2. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
3. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
4. Persuasion by Jane Austen
5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
6. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
8. Emma by Jane Austen
9. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
10. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
11. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
12. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
13. Dracula by Bram Stoker
14. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle
15. Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
16. North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
17. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
18. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
19. Where Angels Fear to Tread by E.M. Forster
20. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
21. Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
22. Middlemarch by George Eliot
23. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
24. The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins
25. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
26. Moby Dick by Herman Melville
27. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte
28. Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
29. The Murders in the Rue Morgue and Other Tales by Edgar Allan Poe
30. Dombey and Son by Charles Dickens
31. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
32. Silas Marner by George Eliot
33. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
34. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
35. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
36. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
37. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
38. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
39. Tess of the D'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
40. The Five Orange Pips and Other Cases by Arthur Conan Doyle
41. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
42. Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell
43. Hard Times by Charles Dickens
44. Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy
45. Villette by Charlotte Bronte
46. New Grub Street by George Gissing
47. A Room With a View by E.M. Forster
48. The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells
49. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens
50. Little Dorrit by Charles Dickens
51. Evelina by Frances Burney
52. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
53. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon
54. Shirley by Charlotte Bronte
55. Dubliners by James Joyce
56. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
57. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells
58. The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne
59. Kim by Rudyard Kipling
60. Daniel Deronda by George Eliot
61. The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
62. Ivanhoe by Walter Scott
63. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
64. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens
65. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
66. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
67. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
68. Wives and Daughters Elizabeth Gaskell
69. Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding
70. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner by James Hogg
71. Daisy Miller and The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
72. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
73. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
74. Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell
75. The Man Who Was Thursday by G.K. Chesterton
76. The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
77. Pamela by Samuel Richardson
78. The Wings of the Dove by Henry James
79. The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
80. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy
81. Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad
82. The Way of All Flesh by Samuel Butler
83. Barnaby Brudge by Charles Dickens
84. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
85. Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
86. The Warden by Anthony Trollope
87. The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens
88. Washington Square by Henry James
89. The Confidence-Man and Billy Budd, Sailor by Herman Melville
90. Under the Greenwood Tree by Thomas Hardy
91. Nostromo by Joseph Conrad
92. The Small House at Allington by Anthony Trollope
93. Sons and Lovers by D.H. Lawrence
94. The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad
95. Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope
96. The Last Chronicle of Barset by Anthony Trollope
97. Framley Parsonage by Anthony Trollope
98. Two on a Tower by Thomas Hardy
99. Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin
100. Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett

The titles I've already read are presented in bold. With 33 completed I've made a respectable start but have quite a few new titles to dig into as well. Are any favourites of yours on this list?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mr Selfridge

Since the tragic decline of Downton Abbey (oh, what a waste!), there's hasn't been much in the way of period drama to attract my attention. Recent adaptations of Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End and Emile Zola's The Ladies' Paradise still haven't made their way to my side of the pond, nor has the second series of the poignant Call the Midwife. I've been feeling the lack of new material keenly.

Fortunately, the compelling Mr. Selfridge recently began broadcasting to American audiences. I've only watched the first four hours (all that's currently available), but thus far it's quite engaging and provides a sorely needed dose of period drama. Recounting the rise of Harry Gordon Selfridge's London department store and how it transformed the shopping experience, the series follows the socialiite world into which Mr. Selfridge attempts to ingratiate himself and the lower-middle-class workers under his employ.

Jeremy Piven does a wonderful job portraying the nuances of a man who is both charismatic and deeply flawed, but already I'm deeply invested in the narrative arcs of many female characters. Agnes Towler (Aisling Loftus), an accessories assistant who attempts to rise above the difficulties presented by a troubled family life, is an especial favourite. So is Lady Mae (Katherine Kelly), a former actress who now oversees London society with her masterful powers of manipulation. Ultimately, I'm most intrigued by the series' respresentation of women who negotiate (subtly or forcefully) for empowerment in a world that couldn't offer evolved gender roles quickly enough.

The discussion of clothing, accessories and design are also a real treat to a viewer who craves immersion in Edwardian England. These little details alone make the show worth watching!

 Selfridge's, Oxford Street, on its opening day in 1909

Have you seen Mr. Selfridge? If so, what did/do you think? (No spoilers, please! I'd like to be surprised. :))

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer

It's not you, it's me.

This trite phrase has become the ultimate dating cliche, but it effectively summarizes my experience reading The Grand Sophy. Georgette Heyer's knack for comedy and memorable characterization makes her novels the ultimate escapism for Regency nuts like me, and I've sung her praises since I randomly picked up Arabella a few years ago. This time, unfortunately, she just didn't delight me the way she usually does.


It's not her fault, it's mine. Really it is. Having heard The Grand Sophy touted as an absolute favourite among Heyer fans, I sought solace in its pages when going through an especially difficult few weeks. If anybody could lift my spirits, I thought, it would be Georgette Heyer.

And she did...a bit. The heroine's tenacity and special knack for rearranging others' affairs to her own satisfaction certainly amused me. Particularly humorous passages had me laughing out loud. Still, my Depths of Despair spirit (a la Anne Shirley) undoubtedly clouded the entire reading experience, making me relatively blind to Sophy's titular grandeur. I simply wasn't in the right emotional state to properly enjoy the many literary fruits Heyer has to offer. 

Please forgive me, Georgette! It's not you, it's me!

Nevertheless, I want to share a bit of the novel that did get through to me. Mr. Fawnhope, a prospective poet so preoccupied with his supposed genius he is utterly oblivious to the world around him, cheered me up whenever he appeared on the page. In the following quote, his sorta-kinda betrothed Cecilia finds herself tiring of Mr. Fawnhope's unflagging narcissism:

Mr. Fawnhope's conversation [was], at present, almost wholly confined to the scope and nature of his great tragedy. To listen to a poet arguing with himself -- for [Cecilia] could scarcely have been said to have borne any part in the discussion -- on the merits of blank verse as a dramatic medium was naturally a privilege of which any young lady must be proud, but there could be no denying that to talk for half an hour to a man who listened with interest to anything she said was, if not precisely a relief, certainly a welcome variation in her life. 

Moments like these made the reading unequivocally worthwhile, but I look forward to revisitng The Grand Sophy at a time when I'm more receptive to its charms.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Simple Pleasures: Old Movies

Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullavan in

I don't know what it is about old movies, but I'm crazy about them. They evoke happy childhood memories of family togetherness and make me feel nostalgic for the seeming simplicity of former times. Still, it's difficult to articulate what it is about the films themselves I love so dearly, but I turn one on whenever I crave warmth and cosiness. Somehow they make me feel all the comforts of home before the opening credits conclude.

Recently some new (or old) gems have been discovered. I saw The Shop Around the Corner (the film on which You've Got Mail was based) for the first time and found it to be a delight. My brother emphatically declared, 'This movie is feel-good awesome!' At my friend's insistence we watched The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer which also enchanted me. I heartily recommend both.

I do, however, feel that I need to delve into the wonderful world of classic film more thoroughly. Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart have always been firm favourites in our house, but upon reflection I see I've watched little besides iconic, popular classics. Which old movies do you love most? Please pass on your recommendations. I see an Old Movie Marathon in my near future!

Monday, April 08, 2013

Essays of Elia: My 'New' Antiquarian Treasure

Since reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, I've been dying to get my hands on this collection of essays by Charles Lamb. This text sets the novel in motion and forges bonds between the characters. 

I fell in love with this nineteenth-century edition as soon as I laid eyes on it at a charming antique shop in Park City. Sadly I was jobless (ahem, broke) at the time, so fortune compelled me to leave it on the shelves. When I spotted it again during the Sundance Film Festival, I snatched it right up! When I saw that the book had waited for me to return, I sentimentally concluded we were literary soul mates. 

I haven't had time to read it yet, but I believe Charles Lamb would be perfect on a leisurely, sunshiny sort of day. As an animal studies fanatic, I'm especially anticipating the infamous 'A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig,' and I'm sure Lamb's other literary gems will also delight me. 

Behold! My new baby!

Floral cover

The book features no discernible year of publication, 
but the inscription dates from 1897:
Presented to Mattie Read by the Twenty-First Ward
Primary Association as a Token of Thanks, Appreciation and a
Memento of Feb. 18 and 19, 1897

Title page

'Mankind...for the first seventy thousand ages ate their meat raw,
clawing or biting it from the living animal, just as they do in Abyssinia to this day.'

Monday, April 01, 2013

I Have Been...

Poppy Field Near Vetheuil (1879) by Claude Monet

Finished The Grand Sophy by Georgette Heyer yesterday.
Just ordered Jerome K. Jerome's Three Men in a Boat.
Bibliotherapy continues. :)

Academic work on Elizabeth Gaskell
and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. 
(Three cheers for all the great Elizabeths!)

 At flowers, buds and plants.
Currently obsessed by all flora and fauna.

Regina Spektor's Samson. So haunting!
 Bach's various string compositions. So invigorating!

Emma. This adaptation is sunshine for my soul:

 Discouraged by my recent past yet hopeful for my future.
Also, hungry. Time for a snack.

 The imminent blooming of our tulips.
A forthcoming holiday in June.

Percy. Poor thing hurt his paw today, 
but he's revelled in the extra attention. 
Dogs are the best.