Friday, August 31, 2018

The Classics Club Fifty Question Survey

I joined the Classics Club a bit less than a year ago and this survey first appeared long before I joined. But that's no reason not to answer it now! Especially as it's generating new interest. So here we go! It will probably take me a couple of goes to get through all the questions.

1. Share a link to your club list.

Here's the list.

2. When did you join The Classics Club? How many titles have you read for the club? (We are SO CHECKING UP ON YOU! Nah. We’re just asking.) ðŸ™‚

November of 2017. I've read 7 so far (and I'm in the middle of two others). 

3. What are you currently reading?

Ooh. How many books can I put here? For the Classics Club, Romola and Jean-Christophe. I'm also in the middle of the non-fiction literary history Exhaustion by Anna Katharina Schaffner and Document 1 by François Blois for my Canadian challenge. There are a bunch of others piled up by my reading chair with bookmarks sticking out of them, but those are the ones I'm actively (?) reading.

 4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it?

Gourmet Rhapsody by Muriel Barbery. I liked it. Best of her three novels, I thought. I may yet do a blog post. My local library branch is reading her most recent book The Life of Elves for its book club.

5. What are you reading next? Why?

I'm finishing Romola! In any case. But it will be easier if I'm out of Internet range over Labor Day weekend, which is possible.

6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why?

Probably Silas Marner, but The Leopard and Morte d'Urban were both awfully good as well. But Silas Marner is just such a touching story. (See below.)

7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list?

I certainly expected the George Eliot books to be amazing. I'd reread Middlemarch just before putting together my list and the absolute greatness of George Eliot was rolling round in the forefront of my brain. Of the remaining ones, I have very high hopes for Go Tell It On The Mountain, A Room of One's Own, and the Edith Wharton books.

8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why?

I don't feel like I've been doing this long enough to be particularly avoiding anything. But I've done two spins and I didn't put either of the really, really long ones on those lists.

9. First classic you ever read?

I thought The Secret of The Mansion was pretty classic, but if you don't count Trixie Belden or Nancy Drew, the first classic I spent my own allowance money on and then read was a volume of selected Edgar Allen Poe writings. I still have it, though the cover is held on by tape. In that book's introduction I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge was Poe's favorite poet and I bought and read a selected Coleridge, too. "It is an Ancient Mariner, and he stoppeth one of three..."

10. Toughest classic you ever read?

Would have to be pre-Classics Club and pre-blogging. When I was in grad school, a friend and I read the Iliad straight through in Greek, but my Greek was pretty good then and it didn't seem that difficult. It would now. I read Beckett's trilogy of novels--Molloy/Malone Dies/The Unnameable--and that was a struggle. It required being in an Internet-free zone with no other books available. The trilogy has some great quotes--"Try again. Fail again. Fail better."--but hoo, boy. Characters? Story? Forget it.

11. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry?

Now it's true I'm an easy mark for tears. I don't think there's a Pixar movie I didn't cry at. (Well, maybe Cars 2.) But I was bawling (with happiness) in reading Silas Marner when Eppie chooses to stay with Silas.

I'm planning on reading Dracula soon. I'm easily scared and I'm expecting to be scared.

Frederick Douglass still had the power to make me angry.

12. Longest classic you’ve read? Longest classic left on your club list?

Roberto Bolaño's 2666 (pre-blogging) would be up there. I actually like to sink into long books. I have read War and Peace, Les Mis, and the complete Count of Monte Cristo. I put both the complete Arabian Nights and Gibbon's Decline and Fall on my Classics Club list. Maybe I'm technically insane?

13. Oldest classic you’ve read? Oldest classic left on your club list?

I read the Epic of Gilgamesh in translation for a class somewhere. Maybe there's something older in Chinese or Indian literature, but at that point it would be the sort of thing scholars argue about. The oldest thing on my list I've read so far is Frederick Douglass, not all that old. The oldest on the list is Plutarch's Lives

14. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any?

I don't read a lot of literary biography, though I seem to be reading more. Years ago after reading basically all of Steinbeck, I read Jackson Benson's biography. It did enhance my understanding of Steinbeck. Hermione Lee's bio of Penelope Fitzgerald was fun, too.

15. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why?

"All six. Every year." But if that's not your answer, I would certainly say the Odyssey, which is pretty foundational for western literature and I think a really fun read to boot. I really liked the new translation by Emily Wilson.

16. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any?

These. They're the complete tragedies of Euripides in Greek, the Teubner (German) edition of 1857, edited by August Nauck. I will almost certainly never read them in this edition but when I saw them (£5 for the pair years ago) I just had to have them. 

Not my usual pattern--I generally buy books to read them. Or at least put them on the TBR pile with the intention of reading them.

17. Favorite movie adaption of a classic?

The Sense and Sensibility with Emma Thompson comes to mind immediately. There were a couple of great modernizations at one point: Clueless and Ten Things I Hate About You.

18. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film.

I'm generally a little frightened to see a movie adaptation of a classic I love. My assumption is they'll ruin it.

19. Least favorite classic? Why?

Samuel Beckett's novels? (See above.) But your mileage may vary on whether those are even a classic. I've curiously never warmed up to Trollope.

20. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read.

Off my list:

Malcolm Lowry
Mary Wollstonecraft
Daphne du Maurier

Other classic things:

Murasaki Shikibu (The Tale of Genji)
Mikhail Bulgakov

21. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why?

Malcolm Lowry's Under The Volcano may happen soon. I own it; he's Canadian-ish, and then because of my current obsession with The Mystery of Edwin Drood, I'm interested in addiction novels.

22. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.)

Moby Dick. I think I got about a third of the way through in high school. (Don't tell Mr. K.) I tried again years later and loved it, though there are some slow parts.

23. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head?

John Jasper (from The Mystery of Edwin Drood.) Guilty or no?

24. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself?

A Belden? (See above) I was most like Mart, the science nerd with too many words. And I so wanted to be a Bob-White when I was ten. I've definitely identified with Jane Eyre and David Copperfield over the years. That whole coming up from nowhere thing. Though in fact I had parents who liked me and whom I liked.

25. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like?

Edmond Dantès? Except even after he's got everything he wants he still seems a little sad.

26. Which classic character reminds you of your best friend?

You know, I'm not sure the Other Reader has a good classic character model. Despite the fact that I use Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveler for my reference. 

27. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why?

Don Quixote, Robinson Crusoe, Pilgrim's Progress? Well, I'm not Samuel Johnson, thank goodness. But he may be right about Don Quixote. I'd read it. Most things, though, I wouldn't.

28. Favorite children’s classic?

Fox in Socks. "I can't blab such blibber blubber!" From a little later age, Robin Hood. Some of the obvious candidates, Little Women or Just-So Stories, I didn't read until I was an adult.

29. Who recommended your first classic?

Robin Hood came from my dad. I think it was in 6th grade, which would make it Mrs. Gaines, that I came across Edgar Allan Poe.

30. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature? (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.)

I'll listen to pretty much anybody's recommendations, but I'm persnickety. The only person offhand I can think of who has a 100% hit rate is the cable installer from ten years ago or so who said I should read Guy Gavriel Kay. He was right.

31. Favorite memory with a classic?

I directed Euripides' Bacchae in Greek as an undergraduate. Very intense and a lot of fun.

32. Classic author you’ve read the most works by?

Pre-blogging I finished all of Dickens' novels, The Old Curiosity Shop being the last for me. Several I've read more than once. 

33. Classic author who has the most works on your club list?

There are four by George Eliot on my list. Two and a half down!

34. Classic author you own the most books by?

It would appear Dickens is the winner. Unless you count Erle Stanley Gardner as a classic.

35. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?)

After seeing Nancy's completed list, I wish I'd included some non-English literature in the original language. But I'm not adding any books now. I want the satisfaction of planting my flag and saying done! at some point. Then for that next list...

36. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. ðŸ™‚ Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way?

Dickens would be interesting read this way. You could even overlap the reading of the ones he overlapped in writing.

37. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy?

No rereads on the list, though I do like to reread favorite classics. But I was feeling a yen to knock off books I owned and hadn't read.

38. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish?

Yes, but never say die! After all it took me twenty years to decide Moby Dick was pretty good.

39. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving?

I tried Ulysses once and failed, but then I needed to read it for a class and started it again pretty reluctantly. That time I did finish it and decided I did actually like it. Though loving it is a little too strong.

40. Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature?

Reading, reading, reading, spins!, and reading. And a readalong if it happens!

41. Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

I definitely want to read some more James Baldwin. If I don't make them happen this year!

42. Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year?

I've got two super long ones on my list: the complete Arabian Nights at 4000 pages and Gibbon's Decline and Fall at about 3000. I think it's safe to say at least one of those won't be happening next year...

43. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club?

The discussion, the cross-currents, learning about new books and new stuff about books!

44. List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs?

I just added the bloglist gadget to my blog with a bunch of my favorites. And it updates regularly. Very cool!

45. Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber?

So many! But this is a recent one I really liked.

46. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made?

Looking forward to this!

47. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why?

Something big with lots of points for discussion. A Russian? Or maybe Middlemarch?

48. How long have you been reading classic literature?

If I've got the right moment for that Edgar Allan Poe, about 45 years. Something like that. Though I didn't start earnestly reading great literature on my own until I was in my early 20s.

49. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc.

A couple of great books: J. F. Powers' Morte d'Urban, Silas Marner
Two bits of potted biography masquerading as a book review and a challenge update: Virgil, Mike Royko
Plus a little po-mo self-referentiality

50. Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!)

Why did it take me so long to fill out this survey my answers to the first questions are already out of date? See here. There's no answer to that!


  1. Wonderful answers...and so many books that have a deep connection to the time and place read in your life. We've read the several...same books! Oh, and I do remember the Rime of the Ancient Mariner! So glad we connected via The Classics Club and I'll make my Read Canada Challenge book list today!

    1. I'm glad the connection happened, too! The whole classics club community is great. Looking forward to catching up on your posts after the Labor Day holiday.

  2. Another Trixie Belden fan! I loved her books so much in my tweenie years. And Ang Lee's S&S is the best isn't it? The really never needs to be another adapatation.

    Loved reading your responses - thanks :-)

  3. I loved reading your answers to these questions. Some random thoughts: I'm hoping to read the Arabian Nights, too, but my edition (apparently a children's version) has only 250 pages. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Gourmet Rhapsody; now I will probably try to read it next summer for Paris in July. I'm a childhood Trixie Belden fan, too, and I'm curious as to whatever happened to her. I hated Under the Volcano. I hope you like it better than I did.

    1. There was at least one novel about a grown up Nancy Drew. It was fun. Somebody should do one about Trixie Belden. There was going to be the Belden-Wheeler detective agency!