Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Will I make it?  All these books in one year?  Probably not, I have to face the facts.  But, I will do the best I can with the goal of enjoying the novels, not speed reading just to say, "I'm done!!"  After all, the joy is the journey.  

I survived Halloween and my son Domenico's birthday all while living in a studio in Hawaii.  We moved out the beautiful house we were renting, a $2000. rent (YIKES!) And now are in the midst of "What do we do next?"  We camped two weeks on our kid's school vacation.  Then we rented a studio.  Now, we are contemplating a move back to our house in Maine, not the most comforting thought during the winter months.  But, my husband moved here for work and his job was eliminated.  How long can you sit around a place, no matter how beautiful, without gainful employment. Also, our schools have closed every Friday due to lack of money in education (don't even get me started on where the money went!!)
So, what to do, what to do??
This makes it a little difficult to make reading my priority, although I am doing my best in the evenings. One Dr. Kilby came across my site and was certain he had read my time frame incorrectly.  He emailed me to ask, "Umm, are you sure about the 365 day thing?"  (that isn't verbatim).  To which I replied, "No, but I am a person that has to set outlandish goals to accomplish anything."  When I went to graduate school, I had three children, two under the age of two!  My peers thought I was a little crazy, deservedly, given we had to teach full-time, take 33 credit hours, and I also owned a retail business.  But, I'm all for throwing myself into the fire.  
Dr. Kilby is a very well read individual and I thought he had some great insights and ideas to share about many of these novels.  So I'll share them as well......
I read An American Tragedy last year.  It was overly long and kind of a soap opera, but I enjoyed it overall.  He has interesting insights into psychology and our complex motivations, but his writing is downright cumbersome at times.  Like the Studs Lonigan trilogy I just finished, it is on these lists less because it is a “timeless classic of literature” and more because of how it pushed boundaries and was wildly popular in its time.  That’s my opinion anyway.

Gone with the Wind is kind of like that, too (I think it’s on the Time/American list but not on the Random House/British list).  Difficult to rank with the greatest literature on its own merits, but rather because of what it represents historically—like Harry Potter, it revolutionized the reading habits of the entire US (and much of the Western world?), not by changing University reading lists but by capturing the attention of the everyday public.  It’s fascinating that Mitchell and Rowling also each spawned the most critically acclaimed blockbuster films of all time.  There have been attempts at movies relating to Finnegans Wake, Ulysses, and Portrait of the Artist…but they’re not very memorable!   And I’m betting not many mill workers tucked dog-eared copies of these books into their lunchboxes like they did An American Tragedy and GWTW and Studs Lonigan!  (My 13 year old recently snuck and tried to read Ulysses because he heard it had been banned and censored…he reported back to me that “you would have to work pretty hard to get turned on by that book!”  I agree—in this age of free internet porn, it is difficult to imagine the titillation of poring through 100,000 cryptic words in order to uncover something about how eating undercooked kidney ties in with Freudian fantasies of carnal sexuality…)  The memory of Studs Lonigan that will remain with me forever actually comes from the deleted/censored alternative final 20 pages or so…after all his timid waffling about trying to be good and what is morality, etc, he is screaming “F#%$ my mother, f--- the ten commandments, I am the AntiChrist…”  Wow, you can see how that never saw the light of day circa 1934.   

Dreiser talked about the same themes that great literature has for centuries—struggles to overcome social stigma, the inability to rise out of your social caste, the consequences of unbounded ambition, etc….But he faced it head-on in a way that Victorian writers never would have dared…(Shakespeare was more likely to tell it like it was than most of the writers for the next 200 years that followed, wasn’t he?): ”What if your sister was a prostitute and had to go hide in a dirty motel to have a baby out of wedlock?  What if you were tempted to murder an innocent woman in cold blood in order to continue a meaningless affair with a well-to-do society girl?” 

I have not read Sister Carrie—it’s one of the next books on my list.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Kris- How far are you in your list? And when's the deadline?

And - you went to grad school while being a mom to 3 kids?! Jeez!

Thanks for the lovely card you sent. I would have to say you set the standard for "blog etiquette!"

Per Ulysses - “you would have to work pretty hard to get turned on by that book!” That is too funny! I second that wholeheartedly. I think it would not only be hard, but impossible -

“F#%$ my mother, f--- the ten commandments, I am the AntiChrist…” - I think I want to read Studs Lonigan now.