1001 Books: Metamorphoses; Chaireas and Kallirhoe; The Princess of Cleves

In this post you get 3 for the price of 1!

As part of my 1001 books personal challenge I read:

  • Metamorphoses by Ovid: Ancient Greek tales of metamorphosis told in beautiful language
  • Chaireas and Kallirhoe by Chariton: painful.  Utterly painful
  • The Princess of Cleves by the Comtesse de La Fayette: Easy language, but a really boring read.

Sadly, I don’t remember much of the actual stories.  It’s like once I finished reading them I blocked the bad memories.  Well, to be fair Metamorphoses was actually pretty good.  It was nice to re-learn the Greek myths that explain how things came to be (why mulberries are red, why certain flowers grow together, etc.).  The language used was beautiful and simple to read.  It was one that I could see myself referencing again in the future.

1001 Books Challenge: Gargantua and Pantagruel

Some of the stuff discussed in this book were hilarious.  One character was advised not to marry because his wife would end up cheating on him with a priest.  There were pages and pages of insults.  That’s it, literally, pages of insults.  Then at the end another character describes a magic grain/herb/plant thingie that does just about everything – it cures a bunch of diseases, provides shelter, repairs weapons… and even gives gods the ability to travel among the stars!  If I were one to buy into snake oil sales, I’d totally buy some Pantagruelion!

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Gargantua and Pantagruel
by Francois Rabelais

1001 Books Challenge: Aesop’s Fables

For more information about my Personal 1001 Books Challenge click here.

This rhyming read brought back memories of childhood.  I remembered each of the fables and, with the distance of age, saw just how many of them had been made into children’s movies.

This is a book I’ll definitely be reading to my nieces and nephews in the future.  Remember: morals never go out of style.

The version I read had been scanned from a really old copy, but there are others available at Amazon.

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Aesop’s Fables
by Aesopus

1001 Books Challenge: Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit

This book was read as part of my personal 1001 Books Challenge.  You can read about it and see the list here.

Have you ever read something that made you feel dumb?  Really?  Me either until now.

This is not to say that I understood none of this particular book.  There were random parts that made a bunch of sense and the rest… well…  It went way over my head.  Maybe it was the style of the writing that was the problem.  I could understand it if I concentrated really hard and analyzed each sentence.  But who really wants to do that?  I just wasn’t in the concentrating mood today.

The parts that I did understand made sense.   Some of it was even funny.  Some of it was common sense – just worded differently.

I’d have to read it again to “get” the rest of it, but I don’t think I’m willing to do that right now.  Maybe in a few months or so, once this has had a chance to marinate in my brain for a bit.

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Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit
by John Lyly

1001 Books Challenge: Aithiopika

This book is part of my 1001 Books Challenge.  You can read about it here.

This was a surprisingly quick and easy read for something that was written so long ago.  Originally written by Heliodorus, this version of Aithiopika (An Ethiopian Romance) was translated by Moses Hadas.

Plot devices abound – pirates, kidnapping, mistaken identities, stories within stories within stories, love, lust, obsession…  you get the idea.  It all ends with Ethiopians setting aside human sacrifice in the interest of love and fidelity.

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ISBN 0-8122-1672-5

1001 Books Challenge: Oroonoko

To see the list of 1001 Books click here.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
ISBN 0-140-43988-9

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I’m not normally one to read introductions to books before I read the book itself.  It used to make me crazy that my teachers would force us to read the intros first when they would often contain interpretations of the work that I didn’t agree with… oh yeah, and spoilers too.  So, I didn’t read the intro for this story until I was about halfway through.

I only read the intro because the work itself struck me as being something of a fairy tale.  A beautiful (by Anglo standards), noble (by those same standards), naive, trusting warrior prince becomes a slave through trickery.  It’s a story of an idealized version of a person’s life, with love, rebellion and murder mixed in.  I came to find out that Behn wrote this story as a social/political commentary for her own time.  Although it wasn’t completely obvious to me initially, I could see it as I thought about it a bit more.

The language used was beautiful. I read parts of it aloud for the sheer pleasure of hearing the words that were written.  And, at only 73 pages long it was a quick read that was easy to follow.

 

1001 Books Challenge: The Adventures of Don Quixote

Yay!  I finished the first book in my 1001 Books Challenge! I knew I wanted to start at the bottom of the list with the oldest books and work my way up to more recent publications, but the only one I had in my hot little hand was The Adventures of Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.

I knew it would be a difficult read, but I didn’t anticipate having quite so much trouble.  It’d been awhile since I read anything resembling Shakespeare or old fashioned texts so I was very challenged by this book.  There were a couple of times where I wanted to give up but I figured that it wouldn’t be a good way to start a challenge, so I continued.  After the first half of the book I started to read with more ease.  Even still, I couldn’t read with any background noise – it took all my concentration to be able to understand what I was reading.

DH reminded me that the book was supposed to be a parody and therefore funny.  I’m not sure if the funny parts went over my head because I was concentrating so hard on understanding everything or if it just wasn’t funny, but I found myself laughing at very little.  If it’s one of those things you have to read a second time to “get” the jokes, well… I’ll just have to pass on the humor this time.

Don Quixote is the story of an old man who believes himself to be a knight errant, and a simple man who he has conned into becoming his squire.  Don Quixote is quite delusional and he manages to convince Sancho (his squire) that his delusions are real.  Eventually, gossip about this crazy duo spreads: books are being written by bunches of different authors, each with their own spin on the exploits.  People begin to play tricks on the knight and squire so that they can be written about as well.  Eventually Don Quixote loses a challenge and is forced to go home where he passes away.

Towards the end of the book I began to feel bad for Don Quixote.  Maybe that was the problem: I empathized too much with him to ever think that what was happening was funny.  It just seemed like everyone was making fun of him and teasing him, but he was completely unaware of it and thought they were all being completely sincere.  It truly reminded me of a bunch of bullies making fun of a mentally retarded person for their own entertainment.  Or like the popular kids tricking the outcast into thinking that they’re important to the group.

1 book down… 1,000 to go!

Don Quixote

I keep trying to read this book.  Man is it hard.  And boring.  I’m almost 200 pages in to the 531 page book.  Each page is a struggle, which makes it that much harder to enjoy the story.  I don’t know if I’ve just gotten dumber or what, but I’m sure feeling dumb.  I haven’t had to concentrate so hard on words since… well, I don’t remember when.  Even Shakespeare was easy for me.  *sigh*  Back to reading.

 

de Cervantes, Miguel. The adventures of Don Quixote. Ann Arbor, MI: State Street Press, 2002. (ISBN 0-681-45390-7)

What to read…

One of the things I realized at CLA was that I don’t read much.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  I voraciously consume trashy romance novels, but we all know that’s not the same as “reading”.

Without even realizing it, many of us are book snobs.  We look at what someone else is reading and (perhaps unconsciously) judge them based on the title, genre and even on the cover art.  So what do my reading preferences tell you about me?  Do they give you a true picture of who I am?  Probably not.

I read what I read because it’s easy.  I don’t have to think very hard about the story.  I don’t have to look for a deeper meaning.  I don’t have to critique the plot, the message, or even the idea behind the story.  I just have to read it.

There were people at CLA who were reading books that have won literary acclaim.  There were people who were reading children’s books.  There were people who were reading technical manuals and social commentaries.  There were people reading library school texts and things that looked really interesting.  And then there were those of us who were reading trade paperbacks.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t consider myself a book snob.  I believe that reading is reading (and reading is good), no matter what you’re reading.  But if all I’m ever reading is the latest bodice ripper, then there’s something wrong… especially since I work at a library.

When I work at the reference desk I need to be able to give informed advice about books that isn’t based solely on what I see checked out/returned a lot during my circulation duties.  I also need to broaden my horizons so that I’m not basing my “informed” advice on the “If you liked _____, then you may like ______, ________, or _______” shelf at Borders.  So, with that in mind I’ve decided to focus the brunt of my reading on other stuff.

Looking around online for inspiration, I found a list of 1001 Books to Read Before You Die at http://www.listology.com/list/1001-books-you-must-read-you-die.  It was typed up from a book by the same title.  It seems like as good a place as any to start, right?

There are titles on the list that I remember reading before, and ones that I attempted to read but quit in the middle.  I’ll be reading them all again.  I’ll try to write about/review as many of them as possible as I finish them.  Instead of picking books randomly from the list, I decided to start at the bottom (the oldest titles) and work my way up.  I’d also like to finish reading these books within 2 years.  We’ll see how it goes.

Luckily I was able to find all of the “pre-1700” titles in my library system and through Link+!  And one of them is here in my house somewhere.  Way to save money!

Wish me luck!

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