Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Classic Books

I recently read fellow blogger, Mojo, suggest that everyone spend some time reading classic books.  Classic books are classics for a reason, after all.  I've read a few.  Here are my thoughts on some of them:

Ulyesses by James Joyce

I read the first page and a half.  Which is the first chapter, or prologue.  I read it two or three times.  I have no idea what happened in that page and a half.

If someone tells me that they read it, I suspect that they are lying.  I could read it, its written in English with words that are arranged in sentences, but it is impenetrable.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I was encouraged to read it because of something that P.J. O'Rourke wrote.  Something to the effect of: "Stephan King said that if he had had a computer he could have written twice as much.  We don't need twice as much Stephan King, Jane Austen maybe, but not Stephan King."

Its got a slow start; for someone like me who is not inclined towards girly books.  But once you get into it its not bad.  Its a reasonable book and worth a read. (Though I advise forgetting any Game that you know while you read it.  I read it before I knew of Game and there are many places where the main characters do the opposite of what Game tells us we should.) Its very much a girls' book, but not bad. The main character's father is one of my favorite characters in a book.

I prefer "Emma," though possibly only because I prefer Emma to Elizabeth Bennett (main character in P&P).  Emma might be more "Game friendly" too.

Austen's four other books are all almost as good as those two, but not quite.

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe

Its not quite what I expected, but not bad.  Its simply written and an interesting story.  Much time is spent on the arrangements and creation of life on the island.  Robinson got much of his supplies from goats.  He lived on goat meat, birds, and the plants grown from a miraculous arrangement of seeds that were not destroyed when his ship capsized.

Either things were much different back then or something was off in at the end.  When Robinson got half of the proceeds from the plantation in Brazil he helped found, even after he had spent only 3 years there and around 30 stuck on an island.

I'd stop just short of recommending it.

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Gothe

I tried to read it.  Its a poem. In olde English.  Note the "e" in olde.  There's not a chance that I'll ever pick it up again.

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

I read the first 150 pages (9 chapters).  They weren't on the boat yet.  I stopped when the author was describing some sort of strange church scene that I did not understand until I saw part of the movie with Gregory Peck.  The author was trying to describe that the priest, or whatever, was speaking from a "crow's nest" inside the church.

It drags on and was probably the first book that I started to read but did not finish.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

There are several Sherlock Holmes books; all are the same with different mysteries.

These are good and interesting stories.  The writing is very simple and easy to understand.  The mysteries are very good.  You and I won't figure them out until Watson does; unless you are familiar with the lifestyles of the various peoples of London circa 1910.

(Just so you know, Sherlock Holmes was not written by the title character.  And it was written from the perspective of his partner Dr. Watson.  Many people that I've talked to have gotten this confused.)

Well worth a read.  His book, The Lost World, is not.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

My grandpa was a big fan of Ernest Hemingway, so I'm probably giving him more attention than I would had I not known that.

The Old Man and the Sea is very short.  Its meaning may have been too deep for me to understand.  Its worth a read, and you'll probably have it done in one sitting.

To Have and Have Not by Ernest Hemingway also happens to be my favorite Humphrey Bogart movie, although I have not read the book.

I once tried to read For Whom the Bell Tolls, but I did not care for it.  I did not care for it enough to watch all of the movie either; despite the fact that it starred Gary Cooper.

Because my grandpa liked Hemingway I will read more of his books, but I would not recommend them at this point.

The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin

Its...something.  It seems to me that Ben Franklin was a good guy; he was a founding father of the greatest country ever.  But It seems to me that I would not have cared to meet him in person.  He has his set ways, that I did not like the sound of at all, and he proclaims that only his habits and lifestyle should be done by others.

I read the whole thing, which ends much before we get to America's founding.

I would not recommend that you read it, unless you want to know why he liked his breakfast of soup and crackers, or whatever it was, and why he thought everyone should do the same.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Moby Dick sure set a bad precedent of me not finishing books, I can't believe how many of these that I did not finish.

My dad thinks that this book, and its author, are really good.  Dad's also the only person that I know who reads more than me.

I like to think that I don't mind reading about the upper class around the turn of the century but I have not finished reading this book.  I may try again because of how much my dad likes it.  But if you want to read a similar book, then I recommend Pride and Prejudice instead.

The Gun and Its Development by W.W. Greener

Probably the thickest book that I have ever started (that's saying something).  If you want to read about the history of the gun then this book is very good.

I'm as interested in guns, and history, and dry non fiction as most anybody but you'd need to be a serious fan of gun history to read all of this.  I did discover the wheelock action which I had never heard of before.  (It came between matchlock and flintlock.)

African Rifles and Cartridges by John "Pondoro" Taylor

I read it and don't remember it.  When the total number of books that I had read was less than around 200 I could have told you the main character's names and the plots of all of them.  But I don't remember this one.

That is also something considering that my favorite, and my dad's favorite, book is the autobiography of another elephant hunter:  Bell of Africa by W.D.M. Bell.

I think that my number one lifetime goal is to go to Uganda (or similar) and shoot an elephant.

Despite all that I don't remember this book.  Other than the introduction which pointed out that John Taylor was a bit of an exaggerator.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I didn't read it but I saw the movie.  My mother quite likes it.  I think, and my dad agrees, that the ending is truly awful.  "They're depressed even when they're happy," said my dad.

Think up your own story about a family just like yours.  Then think about them getting into a terrible situation.  Then think of them resorting to eating each other, because its their only option left.  That's the feeling that I got after watching this movie.

Walden by Henry David Thoreau

I'm a fan of P.J. O'Rourke's writing.  In one of his books he mentions Walden.  He points out things like the fact that despite Thoreau's goal of living alone in the wild for a time, he still attended parties and had his mother do his laundry.  P.J.'s writing eliminated any desire of mine to read this book.

Well, I've disliked more of these classics than I have liked.  But I hope that I have given you some direction towards reading the classic books.

Read Sherlock Holmes and Jane Austen.


  1. This is without a doubt the most interesting review of classic literature I have read. I disagree with everything except for Joyce, and I made it all the way through the funeral scene before I put it down.

    1. Opinions are always interesting in their differences among different people.