Posts tagged books
Posts tagged books
eccecorinna answered your question: Brainy types…Currently reading some things on spiritualism, and post-WW1 Britain. good stuff.
Spiritualism! Does this have to do with ACD?
roane72 answered your question: Brainy types…I… suddenly feel less brainy, because I’m not reading anything to educate myself right now. Or, pretty much ever, really.
Oh, Roane! I didn’t mean to make anyone feel less brainy. I think thateveryoneI come into contact with here on tumblr is brainy. But I wanted to see if anyone else has the dorkish compulsions that I do to read serious stuff for fun. :) I”m glad to see that you are better-adjusted.
thebelletristarchive answered your question: Brainy types…This week, a text about Russian literature. I have not read any of the Russian classics & this book is a good starting place to learn more.
Oh, what is the text? I have only readAnna Karenina.I am honestly very intimidated by Dostoievski and Gogol and other Tolstoys. I wouldn’t know where to start. Let me know what you end up reading.
eldritch-horrors answered your question: Brainy types…I always have something by Tufte sitting on my bedside table. Right now it is Envisioning Information.
Oh, Tufte’s books are so much fun to look at! Such graphic pleasure…
sophiahelix answered your question: Brainy types…Still finishing up Eminent Victorians. Also just starting Infinite Jest, which feels like an education in itself!
What is it like to read Eminent Victorians? Can you understand the references or are they too specific to that time period? I’ve never read any David Foster Wallace but I admire your attempt to have a go at that tome…
theopoeisis answered your question: Brainy types…Wow. Pretty much everything I read (except fanfic) tends to be nonfiction on things I’m interested in. I could do a whole bloody essay on it.
Oh, you really should write an essay on it! What kinds of things do you read?
When I finished my undergrad studies in literature, for about two years I didn’t want to read anything but non-fiction. It was as if, after studying poetry and novels and form and function, I really yearned for the ‘real’ world. I don’t make quite the same distinction now between fiction (which is real, in a different way) and non-fiction, but I am now back to reading more fiction again, probably because my academic work requires me to read psychology articles and books all day long.
pennypaperbrain replied to your post: Brainy types…I read in Russian to improve my language skills. Currently on Anna Karenina. Admittedly I’ve stalled almost completely for some months due to health issues. I hope to get back to it soon.
That is so impressive that you are reading AK in the original! See my post above about being intimidated by Russian novelists. I hope that your health issues improve soon, or that you get a better handle on what’s going on. :)
leontinemay answered your question: Brainy types…I’m with Roane, although I do think everything we read educates us. Also, I read The New Yorker and occasionally The Economist, so there.
Yes! Absolutely, everything we read educates us. And I wish that I were better about reading magazines — we have a subscription to the New Yorker, for pete’s sake, but usually my husband reads it, not me — and I really need to start reading The New York Times again because I feel like such an ignoramus about current events.
When it comes to Russian literature, I didn’t know where to start either Emma! And I wanted to choose a Russian novel or two and maybe some poets to read (translated into English) over the summer. I borrowed Literary Russia: A Guide to the Authors, Characters, Scenes and Streets by Rosamund Bartlett and Anna Benn from a friend and thus far it has been quite interesting. The social & political history of Russia/Soviet Union/USSR/Russia is discussed in contrast to the popular authors, persecuted authors and bureaucratically praised authors. It’s also an adept map of Russia’s geography in words. I’ll let you know what works I narrow my search down to…perhaps you might like to read some of them as well. :)
I don’t know who invented this list but it seems to be made up of the ‘classics’ as well as some recent bestsellers?
Anyway, if 6 is the average number that folks have read, I shudder to think of what standard deviation above the mean my score of 51 places me at. Because as well as loving literature, I am also a social science geek. :)
Well Emma, I’m not an average six either according to this list of somewhat random books.
I’ve read 39 of these books, but did not enjoy all of them, and there is also another 10 that are on my ‘to be read soon’ list and there’s an additional 5 titles which I would like to buy.
It’s quite easy, being surrounding online and in real life by avid readers, to not remember just how small a role books play in the lives of many people.
This list was fun to browse through and think about, but it is not statistically accurate. These titles are not all guaranteed to be on any particular curriculum, so unless an individual has a great love of reading or has taken extensive courses in nineteenth century & modern and postmodern literature, then these titles may be mostly new to him or her.
Different high schools, grammar schools, colleges and universities focus on widely varying texts; thus, one’s assigned reading depends on the country, level of difficult of the course and the professor.
I don’t think that “six is the average” reflects the average intellect of people or that in this case the average is ‘normal’ and, therefore, the desirable number at which to be, but rather that the majority of human beings are presented with few opportunities to read as much as the wish and those that do have such chances for learning unfortunately do not always choose to seize a book.
My suggestion for another text on this list is:
The Importance of Being Earnest - Oscar Wilde
Any other suggestions? Perhaps Austen’s novels could all be grouped together and that would make room for 5 more titles on a list of 100.
I remember, sometime around the age of 11 or 12, when I discovered that books — as in, real, serious literature (not marketed as paperback romances)— were a font of information about sex.
To what did I owe this startling discovery?
Either to Philip Pullman’s The Ruby in the Smoke, in which the heroine and hero make love before his tragic death in a fire; or to the numerous cavepeople sex scenes in Jean Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear.
OK, in retrospect, probably neither of these books ranks up there with the classics that I was later to read, and which I mention below. Nevertheless, whichever book came first — in my memory, I hope that it was Pullman’s, because I consider him a superior author, and I love Victorian romances — ever since that early age, I have looked to books as a source of erotic inspiration. No wonder, then, that I enjoy reading and writing erotic fan fiction so much.
I like books that are erotica proper, like Anaïs Nin’s Pretty Birds, or John Cleland’s The Memoirs of Fanny Hill, or de Musset’s Gamiani. Older erotica, especially, is fascinating to read, because of what it teaches us about the mores and prohibitions of a given era.
I also enjoy books where sex is a major theme, or where sex drives the plot, as in:
- Defoe’s Moll Flanders
- Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter
- James Baldwin’s Another Country
- Almost every book by D.H. Lawrence (who, of course, is my favorite author)
- Graham Greene’s The Heart of the Matter, The Quiet American, The End of the Affair
- Marguerite Duras’ The Chinese Lover (thanks to havingbeenbreathedout for reminding me of this book!)
- Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach
- Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence
- Thomas Hardy’ Tess of the d’Ubervilles and Far from the Madding Crowd
- Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (how could we forget Humbert Humbert in our list of sexual predators?)
And then there are those books where the erotic, if not the sexual, underlies the narrative, as in:
- Emily Brontë’sWuthering Heights
- her dear sister Charlotte’s Jane Eyre
- Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God
- Henry James’ The Portrait of a Lady
- George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda
What else would you add to this list? I admit to having a preference for erotic books that fall outside of the ‘romance’/Harlequin genre, and would like to know what others have found in the ‘serious literature’ camp. And if you’re interested, I’ll share some of my opinions about the above books. And please, if you disagree with how I’ve categorized them, please let me know!
I read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter at a young age and as far as I can remember it was the first work of literature I encountered that had references to sex in it and it includes some more nudity later on too, if I am recollecting it correctly. Rather surprising for a generic novel in the mid-1800s!
There are also literary depictions of sex or at least -implicit or explicit- thoughts on sex in non-fiction. Two examples that spring to mind are Orwell’s Road to Wigan Pier and Capote’s In Cold Blood.
Back in the fictional world of literature, there are some novels that portray how sex can be a negative thing when it is combined with poverty, lack of contraceptives, lack of safe sex, lack of education or abuse…or all of the above. Often these novels are about the 1930s, which is not a coincidence. The Great Depression. The Dirty Thirties. The Interwar Years. The following are not exactly happy reading:
The best category though, is the thought-provoking and realistic one in which the writer delves into the plot with great detail and the characters are complex and interesting. These are some of my favourites:
pemonynen replied to your post:pemonynen replied to your post: Point of View Mary…
On the subject of Mary’s favourite books…in my fic, one of her birthday presents from Matthew was a copy of ‘Persuasion’. She was not impressed. :P (It was a joke present.) As much as I love Austen, I can’t see Mary as a fan of her myself.
AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH BRAIN TWIN!
I can’t imagine Mary would actively dislike Austen and I’m quite sure she’s very familiar with her works and appreciates them. But I agree with you - I don’t think that the 18th/early 19th century romances would be really her style. (And I agree that Matthew giving her Persuasion would be a daft thing to do. Like, who doesn’t own their copies of JA novels?!)
Personally I see her as more interested in the 19th century realist novels - Eliot, Dickens, Thackeray, Hardy (well, we know she engages with what he writes), James and Wharton. Complicated plots, moral dilemmas, interesting and three-dimensional female characters, no easy happy ending, brimming with learning and intelligence - these are the types of novels that I can see Mary enjoying. Her favourite book? Middlemarch. Why exactly Middlemarch? I’m not quite sure except that I feel it combines all these points into a work of great subtlety and genius.
On the other hand, we also know that she has a classical background. Was she actually reading the myth of Perseus and Andromeda before dinner that day or did she just say that to give an excuse for the reference which she knew by virtue of being well educated? I’m inclined to believe she was. Why? Because in fact it’s a torturous reference to make. Why Perseus? Why not St. George? It’s the same story and FAR more English. In fact history, myth, folk tale, epic, play, opera, novel… they’re all stuffed with examples of a pitiable woman being rescued from some undesirable fate by a hero. This sums up most of literature. So I’m inclined to think that Mary was actually reading the myth - or at least had it in her mind. So where would she have read it? There are various versions but the fullest and most well known account is in Book IV of Ovid’s epic poem The Metamorphoses. (I really can’t see her reading some retold book of myths for fun. Mary Crawley reads literature, not the Cliff Notes picture book versions…)
So Mary reads Latin poetry, presumably translated. We know nothing of her linguistic skills, ancient or modern, but teaching girls classical languages would have been unusual and I can’t see her sticking to such study. The Met is a long work of mythology and romance and tragedy. Chances are if she’s read that she’s also read Homer and Virgil in translation and will be familiar with those stories. She may also have read Ovid’s other love poems - some witty, some vulgar, none too serious. Not sure how she’d have got on with them, but I bet she’s read them. We’ve established she has an interest in mythology and tragic/realistic love. It’s likely she’s read the great Greek tragedians therefore, Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus. I would expect that to be the extent of her classical reading.
Moving forwards, she will of course be familiar with Shakespeare, Milton, Spencer, Dante, Pope, Byron and all the romantic poets (Keats, Coleridge, Wordsworth, Shelley). Why am I so sure? Because everyone was. What else did a woman have to do in those days but read, ride and do needlework? We’ve never seen her do needlework but we have seen Mary reading a lot - in bed and in the drawing room - and moreover reference what she reads more than any other member of her family save Violet. She would know all these authors well enough to quote from memory if needed because people could in those days - and did. Read novels from the 19th century and the characters are CONSTANTLY quoting and referencing. So would Mary because she is a great reader and I think it’s a shame her knowledge isn’t shown more in fanfiction, though I suppose that’s because most people nowadays are very poorly educated. (Thanks, modern society. OK, everyone. Who here knows their Milton and Spencer back to front? Thought not. Me neither.) She not only reads, but reads voraciously and applies what she reads to her own life, absorbing the lessons of literature very imaginatively in the same way that WE are absorbing the fictional characters in this very show. Edith is clearly well read too but she is not as imaginatively absorbed in what she reads as Mary is - that we can see anyway.
I bet she’d like Tennyson - plenty of romance and poetry and mythology with a modern (19th century) fatalism. And other narrative poetry. I can’t see her going for lyric poetry so much as narrative. Mary responds to situations and characters, especially ones that she can imagine she can relate to in some way, who stand for something. Tess is as much endued with fatalism and symbolism as anything Ovid wrote.
Would she like the Brontes? To a certain extent. The struggles of their heroines against the patriarchal society which they to some extent overcome and to some extent are stifled by would appeal to her, but I think the melodrama might make her roll her eyes. I think Mary enjoys writing about characters who confront their fate and must deal with it, usually to tragic ends, because only in comedic and romantic literature (such as Jane Austen) do characters trip merrily along to marriage. Mary Crawley knows that this is unrealistic but the setting isn’t sufficiently stylized (as in mythology/poetry/symbolic writing) to be idealistic. Hence the interest in classical myths in which Fortuna and Fatum and the three spinners play large parts and nobody can ever escape their destiny.
Mary would see herself as one of these characters - as a great heroine, struck down by the weight of the society she lives in and the expectations of the path her life must take, rebelling against it all the while knowing it’s futile, but never quite giving up that romantic hope that perhaps the spinners will be kind this time and let her be rescued. This is the best option for her. Sybil looks to what women can do to change their lot in life and does it - she’s very modern. But all Mary’s heroines, all the ways they deal with their struggles - they are looking backwards to the 19th century.
This is why people call Mary a literary heroine. Because she sees herself in those terms. She is consciously a product of what she has or is reading. When she wails to her father that he won’t defend her, she is speaking like a character in a novel. When she compares herself to Tess of the D’Urbervilles it’s because Tess is to her as Emmeline Pankhurst might be to Sybil. These are the women, the characters, the inspirations, the role-models on whom Mary fashions herself.
To bring this back to where it started, it is no great stretch to imagine Mary seeing herself as Gwendolen Harleth… as Isabel Archer… as Penelope… depending on the situation she finds herself in. I find it very hard, however, to see her ever comparing herself to bright Elizabeth Bennet whose struggles are simplistic and very much defined by the pre-determined “happy ending” of the genre in which Austen is writing. Mary knows that her happy ending has never been pre-determined, she has never set herself up as the heroine of an Austen novel; and this, more than anything else, convinces me that Austen is not one of her favourite authors. Because she herself is not an Austen heroine.
Thank you Silvestria, for such a detailed list of literature that Mary has likely encountered in the world of Downton Abbey.
I think Mary’s love of reading and romantic nature, which she covers quite effectively with frosty glances and abrupt dismissals in an attempt to not be hurt, is what makes me love Mary so much…I see a lot of myself in her character.
Don’t mind me as always, I just want some Cumberchest.
His expression when the bubbles start! For just one moment I think he forgets he’s filming a commercial and thinks ”bubbles?…what the…oh”, which is something I’ve done too.