“Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice
Not the cover I have but it’s too pretty to not include.

Since this is a very popular classic, I won’t bother including a summary. It’s universally known. As for my thoughts on the novel, see below. In short, I didn’t like it and I stopped at Chapter 18 because I refused to continue torturing myself a moment longer. If my harsh reaction to the story turned you off, then maybe you should skip the extended thoughts below.

My thoughts:

I thought I would enjoy reading Pride and Prejudice this time. After all, I’m older, wiser, and more mature than the last time I read it. A few years usually make my reading the classics a more positive experience. I hated The Great Gatsby when I read it in high school, but now I like it. And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have enjoyed Jason and the Argonauts as much as I did last year if I’d read it while in high school or college. I wasn’t as patient with stories when I was younger.

So I thought the same would be true for Pride and Prejudice: I’d return to it a few years later and love it so much that I’d go out and buy all the copies with pretty covers. But I guess I just don’t vibe well with Jane Austen. And when I tried to figure what exactly I don’t like about the story, I found it hard to come up with an answer. At first I thought it was the story. But I enjoyed the movie adaptations and I still thought the story funny when reading it. Then I suspected the writing. But I enjoyed the prose and sped through parts that contained mostly prose. Then I realized it’s the dialogue. It threw me off and since dialogue makes up a good bit of the story, I ended up not liking the story at all.

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“The Wife of His Youth” by Charles W. Chesnutt

The Wife of His YouthI read this before for a college class and always wanted to revisit it. So when the Bout of Books 14 read-a-thon came around, I saw it as the opportune time to give this story a go.

Quick summary:

“The Wife of His Youth” is a short story about a man whose wife found him after searching for 25 years after slavery was abolished. They were married while living in the south during slavery. She was a slave but her husband was a free man. The people she worked for planned to sell her husband so she helped him escape. She didn’t know where he went but since gaining her freedom after the Civil War, she has been searching for him.

The story’s main focus is on the divide within the Black community. The man is light-skinned and is a member of a prestigious organization in his community that’s prejudiced against dark-skinned Blacks. He was considering to marry a well-connected, young light-skinned woman within the organization when his wife, who is darker and older, shows up.

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“The Call of the Wild” by Jack London

I love the title.
I love the title.

I’m way behind on my Classics Reading Challenge, I think. It’s just that my stereotyping the classics as stiff, boring books is so strong that whenever I think of reading a book commonly referred to as a classic, I get turned off and run to the comfort of a fantasy novel. At the beginning of April I treated myself to a trip to Philadelphia and read Jack London’s The Call of the Wild on the way there. I did not expect to enjoy it as much as I did (I do believe this sentence pops up in all my reviews of classic novels). As soon as I read the first sentence, I was hooked and knew I would have to pause reading Mary Norris Between You & Me until I was done.

Quick Summary:

The Call of the Wild is about Buck, a half St. Bernard and half Scottish shepherd dog, who is abducted from his sheltered life in Santa Clara Valley, California, and traded into the toils of the unforgiving North to repay a debt. Though taken from the comfort and surroundings he knew, Buck proves to be intelligent and resourceful, quickly learning how to maneuver his surroundings and adapting to the changes and strangers he encounters. His adaptability, instincts, observant nature, and large size help to keep him alive and prevent other dogs from picking on him. He is owned by several masters but never loses his independence. After the loss of John Thornton, his master and friend who loved him dearly, Buck loses all vestiges of civilization and returns to the wild as a leader of a pack of wolves.

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“Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.
Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

Like most people, the first time I encountered Zora Neale Hurston‘s Their Eyes Were Watching God was in my AP Literature class. It was a required summer reading and weirdly, I enjoyed every minute of it. I recall my teacher discussing it on the first day. She read the passage on the pear tree and the bee and asked what it meant. No one raised their hand. It seemed that though we knew what the pear tree and the bee symbolized, we were too embarrassed to say it. I raised my hand and tentatively answered that I think it symbolized Janie’s first sexual experience. The teacher replied that I was almost correct and went on to further explain.

Apart from the moment when Janie and Tea Cake first meet, the pear tree passage is my favorite part of the book. Indeed, Their Eyes Were Watching God is one of my favorite novels. I love it for its imagery and poetic language. I love it because it’s like a play at times, what with the exaggerated personas that certain villagers take on when they congregate at Joe Starks’ shop, the stage, and the fact that they are sometimes represented as a chorus, their voices, feelings, and thoughts represented as one for all of them.

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“Classics for Pleasure” by Michael Dirda

Available on Amazon and at your local bookstore.

I’ve always thought of the classics as boring and stuffy books to which I would not relate and would not enjoy. I would hardly pick one up to read for leisure and would only purchase them to add to my bookshelves to show off to friends. My views changed after reading Michael Dirda’s Classics for Pleasure.

I first read this book last year when I rescued it from a Borders sale. Since I was broke with no job prospects, I thought it best to spend my time reading the classics. Being the impatient person that I am, I wanted to know what to expect before I begin. Would I like what I read or not?

I was sucked so deeply into this book that I believed that I would like all the works discussed. Dirda’s love for literature is apparent throughout. And his appreciation for the works selected for Classics for Pleasure drew me in and made me want to experience such magnificence for myself.

Fortunately, I got a job but became sidetracked and forgot about pursuing the classics. Now that things have settled down a bit, I’ve decided to hop on the bandwagon and join The Classics Club, which I believe will be a great way for me to stick to my plan to nourish my reading appetite with the classics. The Classic Club asks that members list 50 or so classics that they plan to read over a 5 year period. After completing a book, members discuss it on their blog and share the review with other members via The Classics Club’s blog.

It’s a great plan and helpful, especially if you’re reading a difficult book that might make you miserable. Misery does love company!

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