Thursday, April 04, 2019

Classics Club - 50 Club Questions

Since I still haven't finished War and Peace--I'm getting close---so I decided to take the Classics Club 50 Question survey

It's long but was fun to revisit my blogs since joining the club almost 6 years ago. I am not quite done with the 50 books I selected to read in 5 years, and to be honest I've done some substituting along the way, but here goes (dividing the 50 questions into more manageable 5 sets of 10):

Set 1
  1. Share a link to your club list.
  2. When did you join The Classics Club? Almost 6 years ago - April 27, 2013 was my first blog post on it. How many titles have you read for the club? 42 out of 50
  3. What are you currently reading? War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy
  4. What did you just finish reading and what did you think of it? I read Anne Bronte's Agnes Grey in January--I know I'm in the minority but Anne is just not a writer of the same caliber as her sisters Charlotte and Emily.
  5. What are you reading next? Why? Song of the Lark, by Willa Cather - two birds with one stone, it will be my book set in a place I have read for Back to the Classics Challenge, 2019
  6. Best book you’ve read so far with the club, and why? East of Eden, by John Steinbeck - technically it was a reread as I read it in high school but I reread it a couple of years ago, and then listened to it on a road trip to CA, where we visited Salinas.
  7. Book you most anticipate (or, anticipated) on your club list? Of my remaining titles, I think The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton has me most excited--I saw the mini-series decades ago and finally got it on a reading list.
  8. Book on your club list you’ve been avoiding, if any? Why? The Mayor of Casterbridge, by Thomas Hardy - he can be so depressing!
  9. First classic you ever read? Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  10. Toughest classic you ever read? Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy - I disliked all the characters, found the story insipid, and the rambling annoying.

Set 2
  1. Classic that inspired you? or scared you? made you cry? made you angry? In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote - scared me because the story was real not fictional
  2. Longest classic you’ve read? Between Dickens and Tolstoy, who knows? Longest classic left on your club list? Either Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot or Can You Forgive Her, by Anthony Trollope
  3. Oldest classic you’ve read? From my list, The Vicar of Wakefield, by Oliver Goldsmith Oldest classic left on your club list? Probably Can You Forgive Her, by Anthony Trollope
  4. Favorite biography about a classic author you’ve read — or, the biography on a classic author you most want to read, if any? Jenny Uglow's biography of Elizabeth Gaskell is absolutely first rate--comprehensive, charts her progress as an author, her motivations, and great lit crit on the novels themselves.
  5. Which classic do you think EVERYONE should read? Why? I personally love Middlemarch, by George Eliot. To me, it is about forgiveness and recognizing that we are all weak in different ways and to be compassionate.
  6. Favorite edition of a classic you own, if any? A two-volume, hardbound complete works of Jane Austen. I bought it at a used bookstore for $13 when I was 13. The first books I bought with my own money.
  7. Favorite movie adaption of a classic? North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell - one of my favorite books and adaptations of all time.
  8. Classic which hasn’t been adapted yet (that you know of) which you very much wish would be adapted to film. Sylvia's Lovers, by Elizabeth Gaskell - the setting (north Yorkshire coast during the whaling days) and a classic lover's triangle, would make a terrific video
  9. Least favorite classic? Why? There are some I have no interest in rereading (Anna Karenina, Vicar of Wakefield, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea), but none I would consider a waste of my time to have read.
  10. Name five authors you haven’t read yet whom you cannot wait to read. Victor Hugo, William Faulkner (except for 1-2 novels in high school), Flannery O'Connor, Kate Chopin, James Baldwin

Set 3
  1. Which title by one of the five you’ve listed above most excites you and why? Les Miserables for the very obvious reason that I love the musical.
  2. Have you read a classic you disliked on first read that you tried again and respected, appreciated, or even ended up loving? (This could be with the club or before it.) Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton - was unimpressed in high school, but loved it when I read it a few years ago.
  3. Which classic character can’t you get out of your head? Roger Hamley from Gaskell's Wives and Daughters - I love that he was modeled on Gaskell distant relative Charles Darwin; he is kind and gentle, loving and honest, and grows in self-realization in the course of the story.
  4. Which classic character most reminds you of yourself? I have always identified with Dorothea Brooke of Eliot's Middlemarch
  5. Which classic character do you most wish you could be like? Sophie Croft in Austen's Persuasion - practical, pragmatic, warm, compassionate
  6. Which classic character reminds you of your best friend? Roger Hamley of Wives and Daughters reminds me of my husband and best friend ever.
  7. If a sudden announcement was made that 500 more pages had been discovered after the original “THE END” on a classic title you read and loved, which title would you most want to keep reading? Or, would you avoid the augmented manuscript in favor of the original? Why? Gaskell's Wives and Daughters - she died before finishing it, and while she left notes, another 500 pages of Roger and Molly would be such a gift.
  8. Favorite children’s classic? Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne - my father read this as well as Alice in Wonderland and The Wind in the Willows to me repeatedly, and I love them all but Pooh most of all.
  9. Who recommended your first classic? My mother bought me a copy of Pride and Prejudice, and shortly after that my older brother Mark gave me a copy of Jane Eyre to read. I've been reading the classics ever since.
  10. Whose advice do you always take when it comes to literature. (Recommends the right editions, suggests great titles, etc.) My brother Mark, my friend Maxene, and my sister Frances.

Set 4
  1. Favorite memory with a classic? I've read The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens at least three times, and I enjoy chatting with my brother about this because it is one of his favorites too.
  2. Classic author you’ve read the most works by? It has to be Dickens, just because he wrote more novels than did Austen. But, I've read all of Austen and Gaskell, and still have a few titles by Dickens before I have read the lot.
  3. Classic author who has the most works on your club list? Dickens (some were rereads)
  4. Classic author you own the most books by? I own more books by and about Austen, with Shakespeare, Dickens, and Gaskell nipping at her heels.
  5. Classic title(s) that didn’t make it to your club list that you wish you’d included? (Or, since many people edit their lists as they go, which titles have you added since initially posting your club list?) I'm ready to dive back into Mark Twain and Bernard Shaw.
  6. If you could explore one author’s literary career from first publication to last — meaning you have never read this author and want to explore him or her by reading what s/he wrote in order of publication — who would you explore? Obviously this should be an author you haven’t yet read, since you can’t do this experiment on an author you’re already familiar with. ðŸ™‚ Or, which author’s work you are familiar with might it have been fun to approach this way? I did this with Gaskell, and have been working my way through Eliot (Daniel Deronda will finish Eliot for me), but I would really like to get a handle on Barbara Pym and read her books in order and read about her as an author.
  7. How many rereads are on your club list? If none, why? If some, which are you most looking forward to, or did you most enjoy? 9 of the 50 were rereads - I enjoy rereading favorites or revisiting books I was ambivalent about when I read them at a young age. Since I have been reading classic literature for almost 50 years, sometimes rereading a book from my teenage years is like reading it for the first time!
  8. Has there been a classic title you simply could not finish? I have tried on at least three occasions to read Ulysses, by James Joyce, and give up by about page 100.
  9. Has there been a classic title you expected to dislike and ended up loving? War and Peace - so much better than I expected. One of my all-time favorite reads.
  10. Five things you’re looking forward to next year in classic literature? 2020 means that books published in 1970 are now officially classics: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest; Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; Sophie's Choice; Burr; Centennial

Set 5
  1. Classic you are DEFINITELY GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year? Leaving my comfort zone and reading classics from Latin America.
  2. Classic you are NOT GOING TO MAKE HAPPEN next year? Anything by Dostoevsky.
  3. Favorite thing about being a member of the Classics Club? Inspiration to explore classic authors/titles I haven't heard of.
  4. List five fellow clubbers whose blogs you frequent. What makes you love their blogs? Karen at Books and Chocolate (her love for Emil Zola inspired me to read Germinal), Margaret at Books Please (very eclectic--from classics, to mysteries, to non-fiction, to travel), Adam at Roof Beam Reader (extremely thoughtful and thought-provoking posts), Fanda at Fanda ClassicLit (she is very ambitious and dedicated when it comes to selecting what to read next--inspiring), Joann at Lakeside Musing (our tastes align so well--if she recommends a book, I read it!)
  5. Favorite post you’ve read by a fellow clubber? Main Street, by Sinclair Lewis (reviewed by Karen of Books and Chocolate) - I remember seriously not liking this book when I read it as a teenager; Karen has inspired me to give it another year!
  6. If you’ve ever participated in a readalong on a classic, tell about the experience? If you’ve participated in more than one, what’s the very best experience? the best title you’ve completed? a fond memory? a good friend made? I read A Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins as a read-along by someone who posted the serialization according to the original schedule, but 150 years later. It was awesome to read it like this.
  7. If you could appeal for a readalong with others for any classic title, which title would you name? Why? I would do a reread of War and Peace as a read-along. So much to talk about in that book!
  8. How long have you been reading classic literature? My dad read classic children's lit to me from infancy. I graduated to grown-up classics at about age 11, and have had a steady diet of classics for the past 50 years or so.
  9. Share up to five posts you’ve written that tell a bit about your reading story. Reviews, journal entries, posts on novels you loved or didn’t love, lists, etc. Elizabeth Gaskell compilation of posts; Breakfast at Tiffany's: The Great Gatsby reimagined; Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday; Back to 1599: Looking at Henry V in Context; The Invisible Woman: the Story of Nelly Ternan and Charles Dickens
  10. Question you wish was on this questionnaire? (Ask and answer it!) What makes a work a classic? Older than 50 years and still in print or reasonably available and still relevant. Except for the age criterion, it's really a judgement call.
That was fun - I look forward to reading fellow Classic Clubbers answers as well.


  1. Hi Jane, very interesting and thoughtful answers you have given to the 50 questions. I too loved the North and South miniseries and Richard Armitage spectacular as John Thornton. I know what you mean abkut In Cold Blood. Read it years ago and what was so chilling is that Capote sets up a situation where you not only follow the lives of the killers but also the lives of the Kansas family in the days before they are so btutally murdered and in hindsight maybe the family's privacy in tneir final days should have been left intact.

  2. So much to comment on here
    - East of Eden is one of my favorites, too. I've probably read it at least 4 times.
    - Also love North and South, book and adaptation. I'm hoping to read Wives and Daughters later this year.
    - LOL about Dostoevsky... I'm trying to convince myself this is the year to read C&P!
    - Thanks for mentioning my blog :)

  3. Middlemarch is one of my favorites, too. Everyone should read it! ;D And I had the same reaction to Ethan Frome as you did: didn't really like it the first time I read it, but reread it just a few years ago and loved it. Fun post!

  4. I also loved North and South and the TV series with Armitage. I need to read War and Peace. I got 100 pages in and got side-tracked. I've been terrible when it comes to the classics. Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte are about it. Great post.

  5. Great post! I loved reading your responses. It made me want to drop everything and run to a library and check out a ton of books. Alas I still have to work in order to feed my book buying habits! :D

    I think that is so neat that you still have your Jane Austen from when you were a girl and that you were introduced to them young. I think classics can be intimidating (I know they were for me) for many adult readers!

    Your last question and answer about what makes a classic a classic is great because it really is subjective, isn’t it? But so interesting to think about and discuss.

  6. Jane,
    There is an abundance of food for thought here. I could wax on and on, but I hope to come back to this post in the very near future to make some specific comments about books we've both enjoyed. Right now, I'm pressed for time, but I wanted to comment just so you know how much I appreciated this entry.

  7. What a great wrap-up. I totally agree with your feelings about Middlemarch. I love its depth of characterisation, and the way George Eliot wrapped it up so that nothing quite happens the way characters would've hoped for, yet it's all in the big adventure called life.

    And that hanging ending of Wives and Daughters, because of Gaskell's sudden death, made me so sad. Her romantic reunion of Molly and Roger would have been lovely to read. I agree with your love of Roger too, and his Ugly Duckling transformation. What a guy, to stay so sweet-natured after being eclipsed by his brother in their parents' estimation for so long.

    I haven't read all the Dickens books yet, but The Pickwick Papers is very cool, being his first. My favourite so far is Great Expectations.

    Looking forward to reading more.

  8. Middlemarch has a fond memory in my mind, but I read it so long ago that a reread is long overdue (like East of Eden). But since joining the CC rereads have been hard to do as I keep discovering new-to-me authors there, like Cather & Zola who have written soooo many books as well!

    I have Uglow's bio on my CC list 2, you've made me very keen to get into it. I tend to have the same issue with Hardy as you - his world view is so negative, yet his descriptions of the countryside are so beautiful (although he can go on a bit too!)

    Thanks for joining in the tag - you're the first for 2019 :-)