[DWJ] Classic Books

Kyra Jucovy arykiy at gmail.com
Tue Nov 3 21:06:10 EST 2009

The only thing I've been reading recently is large numbers of SAT practice
tests (this is the annoying part of tutoring), so I'll concentrate on the
classic books side of the question:  When I was in high school, the ones
that affected me the most were *The Great Gatsby *and Thomas Mann's shorter
works.  I'm not sure that either of them affect me now in quite the way they
did when I was in high school, but, man, did they affect me when I was in
high school ;-).

As for since high school, I really loved *Absalom, Absalom* - the vague DWJ
connection is that discussing the structure of modernist works in my seminar
always reminded me of *Hexwood*.  But my favorite classic author is
definitely Henry James - I particularly loved *Portrait of a Lady* and *Wings
of the Dove*, and the Preface to *The American *(not the novel itself, but
the Preface is probably one of the texts that has influenced me the most!)
I consider Henry James to be up there on my list of favorite authors along
with DWJ.  Oh, and I once had a dream in which *What Maisie Knew *and *The
Lives of Christopher Chant *were the same book, which still makes a lot of
sense to me upon waking up - the way that the parents in each book treat
their child is more or less the same.

That having been said, I know James is not for everyone.  One of the most
interesting experiences I had in graduate school was taking a course on
Flaubert and James that was cross-listed in the comparative literature and
English departments.  All of the comp lit people loved Flaubert and despised
James, and we English people tended to adore James and be somewhat dubious
about Flaubert (I didn't despise him, but he wasn't anywhere near as awesome
as James).  The poor professor, who liked them both, was rather surprised at
the way that his seminar turned into a battle zone.

Are you only looking for prose, or do other genres count, also?  I love *
Hamlet* and *The Wild Duck *and *The Importance of Being Earnest*!  And
Blake and Byron and Shelley and Keats (I am a little more iffy on Wordsworth
and Coleridge, but I might love them too if I had studied them more)!  The
DWJ connections in this paragraph should be more evident. . . .

I could also start talking about my two favorite "literary" novels of the
past 50 years, but those probably don't count as classics. . . .


On Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 11:19 PM, Melissa Proffitt <Melissa at proffitt.com>wrote:

> I am reading--nothing, actually.  I go through these phases where I am
> positively afraid to begin reading anything with profound emotional impact
> for fear it will take over my whole life.  It happens.  So I had _Jellicoe
> Road_ on my shelf for a bit before it went back to the library, and neither
> _Fire_ nor _Catching Fire_ has been read, ditto the third Alcatraz book...I
> blame October and a five-week period of doing nothing but costumes.
> Mostly, I've been re-reading things with an eye to a new experience.  In
> particular I enjoyed _The Barsoom Project_, book two of the Dream Park
> novels by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes.  It is mainly a murder mystery,
> but
> the primary subplot is about weight: how we feel about it, how we gain or
> lose it, etc.  I like that all the different characters have different body
> types and different attitudes towards their bodies.  Plus, it's always fun
> to imagine a place where you could LARP in a fully immersive and reactive
> environment.
> I started a blog as an extension of my reading journal; it's much easier
> for
> me to type than handwrite, so I don't feel the need to shorten an entry for
> the sake of my poor aching hands.  Of course, then I didn't keep up with it
> for, that's right, all of October.  If anyone is interested, it's at
> www.janessafari.com (it's there if you're not interested, too).  :)
> I hope your course is going well, Deborah.  I read _The Shadow Speaker_
> based on your class list and liked it very much.  That reminds me that the
> other thing I'm doing for the new year (aside from keeping up my blog) is
> starting to read from a list of Classic Books I've Never Read But Probably
> Should Have.  The idea is based on a reading group an acquaintance of mine
> is in; they read English (I think just English, might be English-language)
> novels that are commonly regarded as classics that the group members never
> actually read in school.  I don't think you can really create a definitive
> list of must-reads, and the idea is *definitely* not that one cannot be
> well-read without having experienced these books, but there are plenty of
> novels I've never read and it would be nice to have some sort of guideline
> for choosing them.  (My list is probably going to be packed with Dickens,
> for whom I developed an early distaste that intellectually I know is
> ridiculous, but the feeling is still strong.)  So if anyone's interested in
> posting, say, a list of ten classic novels that changed your life, I'd be
> glad of the input.
> Melissa Proffitt
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