Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Iliad of Homer

Audiocourse: Iliad of Homer by Professor Elizabeth Vandiver
Rating: 5

I am reading the Iliad and thought it would be helpful to listen to this course.  I would highly recommend anything by Professor Vandiver - she has a gift of making the material accessible and interesting.

The Iliad of Homer
Translated by Richmond Lattimore (Professor Vandiver's suggested translation)
First published: 750 BC
Rating: 5
Helpful resources: audio course (see above),  The Great Books: A Journey Through 2,500 Years of the West's Classic Literature by Anthony O'Hear, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes by Edith Hamilton.

Prior to reading, these were my preconceived ideas about The Iliad:  ancient literature, must know Greek to understand therefore inaccessible to the general public, uninteresting, old, irrelevant, boring, very difficult read so why bother?

 I was pleasantly surprised at the read-ability and accessibility of Lattimore's translation.  Listening to Professor Vandiver's lectures certainly helped.   There is a reason why this epic has not been lost to obscurity.  I found it to be very interesting and plan to journal through it, after which I will write a more thorough post.

The interaction and interplay of human and gods is sometimes funny, many times tragic and downright captivating.  It is a story of war that showcases all aspects of human drama and emotion:  courage, honor, sacrifice, love, revenge, hate, death, grief, fear, shame, nobility and fate.

The gods in Homer's world are immortal but not necessarily good.  In fact, O'Hear quotes Longinus, a first-century A.D writer: "as far as possible Homer made the humans in the Trojan War gods, and the gods human."  I would agree.

I have Lattimore's translation of The Odyssey of Homer on my nightstand and plan to tackle it next.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Classics Club Book List - March 12, 2012 - March 12, 2017

I was excited to see  the unveiling of The Classics Club hosted Jillian at A Room of One's Own but wasn't sure I could manage it with my other challenges.  Problem solved - I have decided to roll up three current challenges Great Authors, English Novel and Shakespeare into one - a perfect solution!

UPDATE - the club has grown so much it now has its own blog.

I will give myself the maximum time (5 years) to read the list below.

I don't plan to give myself prizes for certain milestones, rather my rewards will come when I read a reference to a book like War and Peace (which I haven't read yet but seems like everyone else has) and I can say to myself, Yes, I've read that too. 

The number in parenthesis is the rating given to the book.  I use the Goodreads system. 

1 - didn't like it
2 - it was ok
3 - liked it
4 - really liked it
5 - it was amazing

Bibliography from the audio course: Great Authors of the Western Literary Tradition by various professors.  Note:  I will be adding to this list as I slowly listen to all seven parts.
  • Aeschylus I and II: The Complete Greek Tragedies
  •  by Aeschylus ed by David Grene and Richmond Lattimore.
  • Euripides I - V: The Complete Greek Tragedies by Euripides ed David Grene and Richmond Lattimore.
  • The Epic of Gilgamesh translated by Andrew George.
  • The Iliad by Homer translated by Richmond Lattimore - read March 2012 (5).  See post on Josh's blog.
  • The Odyssey by Homer translated by Richmond Lattimore - read April 2012 (5)
  • Greek Lyric: An Anthology in Translation by Andrew W. Miller.  Includes works by Alcaeus, Archilochus, Anacreon, Sappho and Pindar.  Prof. V says this is "readable and accurate". 
  • The Complete Plays of Sophocles translated by Sir Richard Claverhouse Jebb. 
  1. Ajax - read Feb 2012 (4)
  2. Electra - read March 2012 (4) 
  3. Oedipus the King - read July 2012 (4)
  4. Antigone - read July 2012  (4)
  5. Trachinian Women
  6. Philoctetes
  7. Oedipus at Colonus.
  • The Aeneid by Virgil translated by Robert Fitzgerald (1984) - read July 2012
  • Metamorphoses by Ovid translated by Charles Martin (1999)
  • The Golden Ass by Apuleius translated by P.G Walsh (1999)
  • Confessions by Augustine translated by R.S. Pine-Coffin (1961)
Bibliography from the audio course: The English Novel by Professor Tim Spurgin
  1. Love in Excess by Eliza Haywood
  2. Clarissa by Samuel Richardson (divided into 9 ibook volumes)  Vol 1, Vol 2, Vol 3,  
  3. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  4. Tristam Shandy by Laurence Sterne
  5. Evelina by Frances Burney
  6. The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe
  7. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - already read
  8. Emma by Jane Austen - already read
  9. Waverley by Sir Walter Scott
  10. Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper 
  11. The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
  12. Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac 
  13. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
  14. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
  15. Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
  16. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  17. Moby Dick by Herman Melville 
  18. Bleak House by Charles Dickens
  19. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert 
  20. Mill on the Floss by George Eliot
  21. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  22. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  23. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  24. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 
  25. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  26. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  27. "The Art of Fiction" by Henry James 
  28. Germinal by Emile Zola
  29. Tess of the D'Ubervilles by Thomas Hardy
  30. "Candor In English Fiction" by Thomas Hardy
  31. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  32. The Ambassadors by Henry James
  33. Howard's End by E.M. Forster
  34. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
  35. Dubliners by James Joyce
  36. The Good Soldier by Ford Maddox Ford
  37. The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
  38. Women in Love by D.H. Lawrence
  39. Ulysses by James Joyce
  40. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  41. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  42. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
  43. The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
  44. Finnegans Wake by James Joyce
Shakespeare Challenge
  1. Henry V
  2. Antony and Cleopatra - read August 2012 (4)
  3. Richard III
  4. King Lear
  5. Othello - read in July 2012 (4)
  6. Hamlet - read March 2012 (5).  See two posts on Josh's blog:  Death, Grief and Suicide in Hamlet Part I and Part II
  7. Julius Caesar - read August 2012 (4)
Other classics:
  1. Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen - read May 2012 (5)
  2. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn - read June 2012 (5)
  3. Mansfield Park by Jane Austen - read June 2012 (5)
  4. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway - read July 2012 (4)
  5. A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf - read May 2012 (4) 
  6. On the Road by Jack Kerouac - read August 2012 (3) 

Sunday, March 4, 2012

February Monthly Poetry Post

This monthly event is hosted by Lu at Regular Rumination and Kailana at The Written World.  I am a few days past due on this post and actually thought I would skip it altogether except today, I read a poem by Mark Doty in Kevin Young's anthology, The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing which led to a google search which led to Doty's web site, which led to this amazing essay; a response to the question, "Can Poetry Console a Giving Public?"

In it, he provides a thought provoking answer to the following question, "what are the uses of elegy?"
To confirm the loss is real, that individual disappearance matters; that the rupture in the known world is pointed to, held up for attention, shared.  Death is, simply, not to be understood.  But to assume that therefore no accommodations with it may be made is to give up on language's project of discovering and articulating meaning in experience.  Through negotiation with the fact of mortality arises our education as human beings.
Wow - this really spoke to me.  I have experienced a "rupture" in my known world, the day our 17-year old son was buried - now almost three years ago but at times, seems like yesterday. 

And this quote in which he is speaking about his personal experience with death, of writing about it, and fellow sufferers' reactions to his work.  
Art may not make anything better, but there is some power in recognizing that someone else has felt as you do, that your interiority which seems especially in grief so unreachable, may in fact share a space with the inner life of another.
This articulates why I continue to write on Josh's blog and why I have become a insatiable reader. 

I have put his following works on my wish list:
  • Atlantis - a collection of poems published in 1995 in which the title poem is dedicated to his lover Wally, who died in 1994 from AIDS. 
  • Heaven's Coast - a memoir published in 1997, based on their final years together. 
  • Dog Years - a memoir written ten years later and according to Goodreads, "is the story of two beloved retrievers and is a pointed, perceptive meditation on life, death, and the nature of companionship."

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Clarissa Volume 3 by Samuel Richardson

Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson
Vol 3: Letters 93 - 154
Published: 1748
Rating: 5
Vol 1 post
Vol 2 post
Other posts: 2012 Year long reading co-hosted by Terri and JoAnn.  Post at Delaisse.
Challenge: The English Novel 

I have switched to reading the ginormous paperback bought a few weeks ago at a local library sale, mainly because the previous owned is like me, a "scribbler" (one of Richardson's favorite ways to describe his heroine's need for writing): underlining sentences, writing in the margins, circling words, writing the major theme of the page at the top, asking questions and displaying emotion with the occasional swear word, explained below.  I find it fascinating to see what another reader thought of the work.

This is my favorite volume - I couldn't read it fast enough.  In the first two volumes, the story is told primarily from Clarissa and her best friend, Anna's point of view with only 3 letters from Lovelace.  We are left dangling at the end of volume 2, when C confesses to A that she has run away with LL.  In volume 3, roughly one-third of the letters are from LL to his friend, John Belford.  So now, we are privy to his point of view - the cad and rogue.  Richardson has chosen to show the villain LL in all his vain, conceited and ugly glory (can you tell I can't stand the guy?)

I have been wracking my brains for the past few days to think of another villain in literature that is as bad as LL and had to resort to a Google search for help.  Here is a list called the "50 Greatest Villains In Literature", in which LL ranks six, beat out by 1) Satan in Paradise Lost, by John Milton, 2) Samuel Whiskers from The Tale of Samuel Whiskers, by Beatrix Potter, 3) Cruella de Vil from The Hundred and One Dalmatians, by Dodie Smith, 4) Iago from Othello, by William Shakespeare and 5) Voldemort from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling.  To round out the top ten, the villains that follow are 7) Ambrosio from The Monk, by M G Lewis, 8) Claudius from Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, 9) Mr Kurtz from Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad and 10) Vindice from The Revenger's Tragedy, by Thomas Middleton.

The only book I have read from this list is Harry Potter and would agree that Voldemort's cruelty and disregard for human life surpasses LL.  Some of these books are on my TBR so as time goes on, I will be able to form my own opinion on the order.  Suffice it to say, to be in the top ten is pretty bad.  Surprisingly, one character who did not make this list is the ultra creepy, self-justifying pedophile, Humbert Humbert from Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.  More interesting is that another character from the book, Clare Quilty is ranked 34.  I did read Lolita and do not remember Quilty so had to read the Wikipedia synopsis.  To me, HH should be in the list in lieu of Quilty and ranked higher.

Why is LL so bad and noted as a bastard several times by the previous owner of my book?  He is a pathological liar who reminds me of a sly, cunning, hungry cat that ultimately plans to kill and eat the poor, naive, innocent mouse but thoroughly enjoys toying and playing with it before delivering the fatal blow.  What follows are quotes that make my blood boil.

He proudly admits to manipulating C's entire family with the sole purpose of driving her to utter and total dependence upon himself.
I knew that the whole stupid family were in a combination to do my business for me....working for me, like so many underground moles; and still more blind than the moles...unknowing that they did so, I myself, the director of their principal motions; which falling in with the malice of their little hearts, they took to be all their own (Letter 97: LL to Belford).
To LL, it is all a game with Clarissa as the prize.
It was her character that drew me to her, and it was her beauty and good sense that riveted my chains, and now all together make me think her a subject worthy of my attempts, worthy of my ambition (Letter 110: LL to B).
In the midst of his game, he must show self-control but it is hard.  He dreams of the day when he can do what he wants.
....will kiss her when I please; and not stand trembling, as now, like a hungry hound who sees a delicious morsel within his reach (the froth hanging about his vermilion jaws), yet does not leap at it for his life (Letter 115: LL to B). 
The lies he tells to C are too many to note.  Then he writes this to Belford in Letter 127:
I love when I dig a pit, to have my prey tumble in with secure feet and open eyes; then a man can look down upon her, with an oh-ho charmer!  How came you there!
And even more horridly in Letter 152:
Here, I have been at work, dig, dig, dig, like a cunning miner at one time and spreading my snares like an artful fowler at another, and exulting in my contrivances to get this inimitable creature absolutely into my power.
Poor Clarissa!  She is intuitive enough to know that LL is not one who can be fully trusted but because of the increased estrangement from her family, largely due to LL's "contrivances", she has no choice but to rely upon him; a most unfortunate place to be.