The anniversary of my signing on to The Classics Club flew past without my noticing a couple months back. I am now twenty-three books into my fifty book goal and there’s three years left, so that should be no problem at all.
The list so far:
- The Trial and Death of Socrates: Four Dialogues by Plato (Sometime BC)
- Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (1623)
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813)
- Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
- The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (1876)
- Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (1883)
- King Solomon’s Mines by H. Rider Haggard(1885)
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson (1886)
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
- Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (1899)
- The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle (1912)
- The Great Gatsby * by F. Scott Fitzgerald (1925)
- The Hobbit * by J.R.R. Tolkien (1937)
- The End of the Affair by Graham Greene (1951)
- The Old Man and the Sea, Ernest Hemingway (1952)
- The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham (1953)
- Have Space Suit—Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein (1958)
- Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut (1961)
- Solaris by Stanisław Lem (1961)
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey (1962)
- Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut (1963)
- Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes (1966)
- Chocky by John Wyndham (1968)
I’m so glad I came across the club when I did. It was just the kick in the ass I needed to get into reading the classics again, and I was surprised by just how much I enjoyed most of them once I started. It’s turned out to not be much of a challenge at all. It’s like challenging yourself to eat at a great restaurant each month.
The Classics Club has had a monthly meme this entire time, and I’ve been completely ignoring them. It’s a monthly classics-related question. This month they asked:
Think of an example of a classic you’ve read that presents issues like racism/sexism as acceptable within society. Do you think the reception of this classic work would be the same if it were newly published today? What can we get out of this work despite its weaknesses? Or, why would you say this work is still respected/treasured/remembered in 2014?
The first title that jumped to mind was The Taming of the Shrew, a comedy in which a woman is treated like an animal, psychologically abused, and left a hollow shell of who she once was. It’s hilarious!
I outline the plot fairly thoroughly in that post, for those who may be unfamiliar with the play.
This likely gets a pass just because it’s Shakespeare and four hundred years old. Times were very different back then. The way Katherine is treated would obviously not fly by today’s standards, and when you read it on paper it’s almost easy to see it more as a horror than a comedy. Some if it really is hilarious, and the language is beautiful, so it was with some conflicted feelings that I found I was really enjoying it. I think the surprise of what I was reading added to the excitement.
I’d like to see this one performed. I think I read it as Katherine playing it straight, which is almost painful, but I could see if coming off much differently if the actors involved decided to play it sarcastic. It would still be sexist, but much easier to sit through.
It can sound like an excuse when someone says that racist or sexist story elements are products of the time in which they were written, but it is true. I think it’s best to take it as an important reminder of how things were and a happy reminder of how far we’ve come.