101 things in 1001 days: Read ten classic novels

101 things in 1001 daysClassic books; from Tolstoy to Fitzgerald, Bronte to Lee we’ve all at some point come into contact with a classic from the cannon of books that are recognised as the cream of the crop. I have avoided them as like the plague for the majority of my book blogging life as it were. I refused to read classic books at school with Enduring Love being a particular sticking point. Why? They just weren’t really me, and pulling apart the commas, certain word use and the like, as well as being asked to read the book a number of times, by the end of the semester the book was ruined.

However, when I started writing my 101 things in 1001 day list I decided it was time to start reading the classics again and give the cannon another chance. I picked books that interested me; historical fiction based and picked authors that I had already read books from such as Orwell, Fitzgerald (although that didn’t work so well) and also books at school that I hadn’t got the chance to read. I asked friends and family what they would suggest and I created a list of sorts, with extras being added along the way.

My final list included
1) Down and Out in Paris and in London by George Orwell
2) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
3) Girl 20 by Kingsley Amis
4) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
5) Factotum by Charles Bukowski
6) Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
7) Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote
8) To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
9) Animal Farm by George Orwell
10) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
And, because I’m a little bit dopy
11) Gerald’s Party by Robert Coover

the-bell-jar2 Book review of, Of mice and men factotum1  Breakfast-at-Tiffanys-Truman-Capote-711x1024

On this list there are some utter stunning books, that I have had the pleasure of reading over the past few months and each has taught or shown me something about reading. Coover, Amis, and Plath all showed me how the writing of classic books can differ so greatly and yet still be incredible reads. Orwell showed me that all of his books are so different in content and yet they can be linked so quickly through the sheer in-depth nature of the meaning interwoven into every single word. Capote gave me one of my favourite books and brought Holly Golightly to life in a way I didn’t expect possible.

Harper Lee and John Steinbeck showed me that not all books taught in education are painful and that I need to go back and look at the books I so quickly dismissed. Reading Alcott finally allowed to me get through a childhood reading block and James Baldwin’s book almost reduced me to tears. Finally Bukowski and Coover showed me that even classics can be incredibly exciting in terms of the style and that I have read nothing like them in any of the contemporary novels I’ve come across so far.

I guess you could say in the last few months I’ve taken my hat and eaten it. I had it all wrong about the classics, but then, when you’re forced to read books it’s unlikely to make it more enjoyable. Being able to choose my own books; Wuthering Heights, (which I have read) and Dickens are unlikely to bring rave reviews but give me grit from Orwell and Bukowski and I’m a happy bunny.

One way to really show my new found love of classic fiction is recently for a Top Ten Tuesday post I was allowed to pick my own topic and, you guessed it, I decided to pick my next ten classics. I have learnt so much through this 101 thing to do and I have created a love of classic fiction which you will definitely be seeing more of as MLBB continues. *eeee*

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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30 Day Challenge!

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Morning fellow bloggers! This is the day that I will finally give in my essay on the standardisation of taste! However I also start serious work on my essay on ‘Great Philosophers’ which is horrible seeing as I have no time for a break between the two. However this is still a day for excitement and another 30 Day Challenge Post! 

So today is day 21 and I am nearly through! As always with this thing I have a problem with the question which will come as no surprise if you have been reading these day to day! What does it mean by novel? I’ve looked up a definition and it says…’a fictitious prose narrative of book length, typically representing character and action with some degree of realism.’

 
So the answer to this question is….’Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott’ Little Women was a fiction novel for girls that veered from the normal writings for children, especially girls, at the time. The novel had three major themes:” domesticity, work, and true love, all of them interdependent and each necessary to the achievement of its heroine’s individual identity.However I never finished it! It is one of those unfinished books that I gave up on when I first started reading novels properly and wasn’t completely used to them. One day I will try again to finish it. Until then I tried but unfortunately failed, however it is still the first novel I remember reading. Although to be honest it inspired me to go on and find books I really loved and continue reading! So alls well that ends well. Ciao
 
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