How many books have you lied about reading?

I have a confession; it’s months and months since I read a classic book. PLEASE DON’T ATTACK ME.

I went through a stage of really getting into classic books; I read them in the bath, on the floor of
img_1961 trains, on buses and snuggled up in bed. I checked them off my list of books I really should get read list. I think I might have made it through half the list I promised myself I would read and then for some reason I stopped. I put down all the classics and pretty much have only been picking up crime and thriller books since. I’m not sure why – oddly I’m often terrified by crime books but it’s all my tiny mitts have wanted to read recently.

I clicked onto Facebook this morning (#PRODUCTIVITY) and this post flashed up; How Many Of These Books Have You Lied About Reading?

I love Buzzfeed and their click-bait titles, and I thought what the hell. I ended up with this answer.

You checked 5 out of 52 on this list! 


You’re not bothered about how cultured you’re perceived to be. You’re not into the
classics and don’t mind who knows that. Lying about the books you’ve read is a slippery slope that you refuse to fall down.

So, these are the books that I might have white lied about reading and to be completely honest with you, I’m not even that ashamed.

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson

Gone with the wind by Margaret Mitchell

Atonement by Ian McEwan

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I feel many readers, as like myself might have at some point said a tiny porky as to whether they’ve read someone’s favourite classic. Maybe in this situation:

Person in Love with the book: “Oh god, everyone has read Gone with the Wind! Seriously, it’s an honour to have been born in a time where it was written.”

Lizzy (awkwardly) “Oh, never read it myself – cover put me off. Think I might have heard good things but not put my mind to it yet.”

Person in Love with the book: “Well, right, bye.”

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Okay, maybe not as extreme as that but it’s how I’ve felt on numerous occasions. It’s kind of when you meet a boy and they ask you whether you’ve heard of a certain band and suddenly they are your favourite band despite the fact you’ve never heard of them.

“Oh, didn’t they do a secret gig in Manchester 4 years ago – yeah I was there. Wore a band tee and they picked me out from the crowd. Pretty cool tbh with you. Oh you didn’t hear of that very secret gig, well can’t call yourself much of a fan can you.”

So, I thought today we could all be very honest and come clean about the classic books we haven’t quite got round to yet but might have lied about reading. In the spirit of positivity let’s not get down that we never made it through Oliver Twist or that we found Pip’s journey a massive let down (Great Expectations is not a book I own up to have read – I despised it.)

PS: I just want to point out Buzzfeed it’s not that I’m not into classics ie your statement “You’re not into the classics and don’t mind who knows that.” It’s just there were quite a few on the list I did actually read and enjoy and there are a few on there I haven’t read YET.

If you want to take the quiz (I know I just slated it a little but you might be intrigued here’s a cheeky link,) and let me know which bookish white lie reads you want to get off your chest in the comments.

https://www.buzzfeed.com/cassiesmyth/how-many-of-these-classics-have-you-lied-about-reading?utm_term=.oqj5kxY32#.hhXQzMRnm

 

 

 

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The Post Office by Charles Bukowski

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Good morning readers, another ‘classic’ book for you today. I wasn’t planning to read this, but due to moving house I’ve had to move libraries. So taking all my beloved books back including F (a novel) which I haven’t yet finished, me and T wandered to the new library in Hanley and we both forgot it was a Sunday. So, I had to borrow one off T. It turns out that this and Factotum are rather similar. However, if you’re yet to read Bukowski then this might persuade you to get hold of a copy.

Henry Chinaski is a lowlife loser with a hand-to-mouth existence. His menial post office day job supports a life of beer, one-night stands and racetracks. Lurid, uncompromising and hilarious, Post Office is a landmark in American literature, and over 1 million copies have been sold worldwide. This book is the story of Henry Chinaski’s world. Its deep and compelling individuality is a refreshing change from conventional literary works.

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I first want to comment on Bukowski’s acknowledgements at the front of the book; ‘this is presented as a work of fiction and dedicated to nobody.’ This basically sums up the entirety of Bukowski’s work. It’s brutal, honest, raw and unmaterialistic. The book follows Henry Chinaski who works in the Post Office. The character who is Bukowski’s alter ego in many of the book is an alcoholic who strives to stay alive and stay drunk. Following both his personal and ‘professional’ life we see Bukowski treat women as like they are only for sex, work paying Bukowski to do as little as possible and us readers are treated with as much contempt as the characters in the rest of the tale.

What sets this apart and what makes it so much like Factotum is that it tells the tale of a man who is in touch with the most basic of urges. Sex, money, friendship, horse racing, and getting pissed is the crux of the book whilst Chinaski comes across as a man who knows the world and is cleverer than most but his inability to compromise with society as a whole means he will never move forward in his life. He refuses to buy into social morality, and instead is a man who barely survives.

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The prose is easy to read and flows along. It is sarcastic and cynical but there is something loveable there despite Chinaski’s apparent want to alienate the reader at every turn. *Trigger.*

 There was a part  that was a little distressing; Henry rapes a woman and yet Bukowski by the end of the short scene made it sound as if she enjoyed it. It felt a little stressful and unneeded but you get the feeling Bukowski writes whatever he wants whichever want he wants. Chinaski as a character is not a nice man and many of the things he says and does are disgusting and repugnant. But there is something truly fascinating about the life that he leads.

In terms of its seeming similarity to Factotum, it revolves around the same ideology of sex, alcohol, racing, and working as little and as badly as possible. It is both cynical, written in the same style and a number of scenes turn up in both books. Once again this could be Bukowski just playing with being an author but it felt a bit repetitive. T was about to buy Factotum but I’m not sure it’s worth reading both. For me anyway.

There is a lot of beauty in this book, but it is a cynical type of beauty. I enjoyed it as much as I did Factotum but I don’t feel I learnt anything from it. An author definitely worth a read, but maybe not a second.

Linnnnnnks

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Factotum: Charles Bukowski

Afternoon readers and happy Tuesday; after a wonderful evening playing monopoly and eating heaps of chicken tikka masala, mushroom pilau and peshwari naan I have another classic review for you today in the form of ‘Factotum by Charles Bukowski.’ As mentioned in yesterday’s Monday Musing, its suggested similarities to George Orwell’s book Down-and-out in Paris and London promoted me give this a go and I’m going to attempt to compare the two in this review because despite the similarities in context the styles are wildly different. However another overall fulfilling and intriguing read.

Henry Chinaski, an outcast, a lover and a drunk, drifts around America from one dead-end job to another, from one woman to another and from one bottle to the next. Uncompromising, gritty, hilarious and confessional in turn, his downward spiral is peppered with black humour.

 As the blurb suggests the book follows the rather down-and-out Henry Chinaski as he bumbles between bouts of drinking, half-hearted attempts to keep down a job, a smattering of highly sexual relations with numerous women and a slight yearning to be recognised as a writer. The book, as like Orwell’s, takes on a documentary style ultimately detailing his succession of menial jobs, shortage of money and his day-to-day experiences of low life urban America.

So the basic framework is down, onto the good bits. Whilst Orwell’s book took a truly romanticised style of commentary Bukowski is brash, unaltered, and blunt. The words used are haggard and honest. In one scene near the beginning Henry has moved into a new apartment when he is introduced to the lady next door, a prostitute. The language and description of the brutal event that takes place next is both harrowing and appallingly described. Whilst Orwell romanced us as a reader, Bukowski is sharp and observant. The reason this works is because Henry as a character is so blasé. Both unmoved and offhand he drops women, apartments and jobs at the drop of a hat.

In this sense it allows the plot to move forward continually with little abandon, moving between cities and jobs with very little care. He works in many different establishments with many different titles including janitor, bookie and stock boy. He moves with reckless abandon and with little worry. The only constant is the relentless drinking and the inevitable circle of hangovers. Henry states, ’When you drank the world was still out there, but for the moment it didn’t have you by the throat.’ The description of their (Henry throughout the book is in an on-off relationship with a lady named Jan also dependant on liquor) is raw and honest and the author holds very little back. The descriptions of their booze filled evenings, with no food to make a meal but with enough wine to get the two blind-eyed drunk is explicitly written. The blazing rows, the infidelities and the sudden exposure of a sexual disease are described crudely. Almost purely documentary in style we meander along living the life of Henry through the words told to us.

My only real wobble with the book was the way Bukowski described the females in the tale. Throughout the book Henry is both often uninterested and cold however despite this most of the women described throw themselves at his feet desperate for his affection. It’s an odd mix and comes off incredibly misogynistic. The second is a little deeper; throughout Bukowski is incredibly honest. His characters and their events are told from a cold piercing eye looking upon the world. At times however it strays from being authentic and feels more of an imitation of reality, something a little contrived and seeking too much pity. For me it’s lacking something that Orwell managed to pack droves in and that was sympathy; I was rooting for the main character from the very beginning. Here, I didn’t, but, I was happy to sit back and read along.

 Overall despite everything I did enjoy reading this tale; rough and ready, packed with dark humour, violence, sex and alcohol it tells a compelling tale of a male who finds sanity in the bottom of a bottle rather than in life itself. A wandering tale that has left me only wanting to read more from Bukowski.

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Musing Mondays

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Happy Monday readers; yes it’s that time of the week again  where we drag our aching bones from warm beds and hazily stumble into the daily grind of work once again. It’s only the 9th of March and I’m having a pretty productive month already. I’ve overhauled my theme and working on some new graphics and already I think it’s so much fresher, brighter and cleaner. I’ve also managed (somehow) to review five books this month with two being classics and one purple flower has finally sprung from my purple hyacinth and it is beautiful. To get us through another Monday, I have a little musing for you, a meme by the wonderful Jenn at A Daily Rhythm 

This musing comes from the line ‘I’m currently reading.’ If you’re a regular reader of MLBB you will know I’m currently completing a challenge to read ten classic books. Now I’ve started it, it seems like such a small number to read because so far each that I have read has shown me something new. You can see the reviews so far on my 101 things in 1001 days page  and this week there will be a review of the book I’m currently reading; ‘Factotum by Charles Bukowski.’ I’m only a third or so in but already it’s pulling all the right strings. It’s blunt, brutal whilst also sharp and snappy. It’s also plunging through the plot pace wise with no abandon. I picked it up because the blurb quoted,

‘Not since George Orwell has the condition of being down-and-out been so well recorded: The New York Times.’

Now I loved George Orwell’s book ‘Down and Out in Paris and in London,’ and so with this book being described in this way I couldn’t help myself but take this one out too. Since I started the challenge I’ve been inundated with suggestions of books that will intrigue and interest me. Only last week my dear friend Otis came round and we sat up until just before 1am talking about classic literature and eating my Grandmother’s shortbread. My parents who have always encouraged my love of reading have also suggested books and we have spent a great deal of time discussing classic authors and their books.

Additionally on entering the library this week, one of the librarians took me aside and told me that the library has a vast number of classics that are kept away because there just isn’t space for them on the shelves. Seeing me perusing the shelf ‘named classics,’ he told me to let him know if there were any I wanted but couldn’t see because he would go down and personally find them for me. I’ve been missing out all this time on some exceptional books because a small fraction of classic literature had left me cold and cynical. I think this 101 things challenge has been the most eye-opening so far and I cannot wait to get stuck into more even when the challenge has been completed.

The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath

Happy weekend readers, I’m currently snuggled up in bed watching Hell’s Kitchen and penning you this review which is an odd but quite productive mix, if I suddenly start writing in capitals you’ll know that Gordan Ramsey is throwing people out of the kitchen. Saying that I’m sure it won’t  come to that. Today’s book review is another classic, although ultimately a modern classic and one I’ve been getting around to reading for a little while now. I haven’t really spoken about my TBR list but I don’t actually keep one because it terrifies me how long it would be, however I have one that sits snugly in the back of my mind of books I think I should read and this one has been on it for years. Finally I have got round to it. It’s taken a little while to decide my final thoughts but today I bring you my review of the beautiful and haunting ‘The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.’

I was supposed to be having the time of my life.

When Esther Greenwood wins an internship on a New York fashion magazine in 1953, she is elated, believing she will finally realise her dream to become a writer. But in between the cocktail parties and piles of manuscripts, Esther’s life begins to slide out of control. She finds herself spiralling into serious depression as she grapples with difficult relationships and a society which refuses to take her aspirations seriously. The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s only novel, was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. The novel is partially based on Plath’s own life and descent into mental illness, and has become a modern classic.

I’m not sure how many of my readers will have read this rather wonderful book but I’ll script out a little bit of the plot. The story follows a year in the life of Esther Greenwood a plucky young lady who wins an internship to at a New York Fashion magazine. Despite the wild parties, exciting lifestyle and a bounty of friends Esther’s life starts to spiral out of control, first slowly and then suddenly almost all at once. A mixture of difficult relationships, the worry of losing her virginity and society refusing to taking her aspirations wholly seriously she spirals into a deep and serious depression. After failing to get onto a writing course with an author she ends up back at home with her parents who take her to psychiatrist, worried about her mental state. We follow as she battles with her depression, suicidal thoughts, and the inhumane shock therapy she is subjected to. A truly compelling tale.

So that’s a very crude description of the book and there is so much more to it but I’m hoping to pull you in with the review more than the description of the plot. Additionally before we dive into my thoughts I’ve done a little researching on the book and this was originally published under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas back in 1963. Some say the book is mainly autobiographical some state it was partially based. I’m reviewing this as much as I can on the book and the book alone.

I guess what stands out the most about Plath’s novel is how committed it is to telling a truly honest tale about experiencing a mental illness and Esther’s truly difficult battle with depression. It doesn’t feel over emphasised or skewed to make it more dramatic. Instead, we are told a truly upsetting but wholesome tale of ‘The Bell Jar.’ See, as Esther considers her life she describes her illness as to be trapped inside a bell jar. Alienated from the world Esther battles with the feeling of isolation, which leaves her unable to function on a human level (at one point she refuses even to shower.) The novel doesn’t give any easy quick fixes and throughout Esther discusses her belief that she may never be cured but will be something that needs controlling by her for the rest of her life.

One of the things I really enjoyed, were the contrasts between both the different parts of the story, the first during her internship and the second where she struggles between different psychiatric units; both are beautifully written. The imagery of the girls she meets and befriends and their glitzy nights out and interesting daily lives are brought to life before the reader’s eyes but there is always that feeling of isolation and an inability to fit in. The writing is stylish, honest, raw and sometimes confusing. It moves at times randomly and without warning. Esther is such an interesting character as well, both honest, naïve, blunt and edgy her personality warps throughout making the events even more intriguing.

It’s very difficult to get everything into this review because there is so much to pack in. If you haven’t read it I would really recommend it because it is a stunning piece of writing. It’s a raw and honest portrayal of Plath’s decision to face her own demons and attempt to pull through. Devastatingly we know the heartbreaking truth of Plath’s battle but her novel and tale live on, there to be read by generations and generations to come.

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