Sunday, June 28, 2009


* The Purloined Letter:
So far I've read this and The Pit and Pendulum through DailyLit and have thoroughly disappointed. I remember reading some of Poe's work years ago and really enjoying it, which is why I was looking forward to reading some more of his work through DailyLit. While The Pit and Pendulum held my attention (I loved the descriptive language Poe used), I was completely bored by The Purloined Letter. Towards the end of the installments, I actually found myself annoyed when they would come in the mail and would put off reading them. I struggled through and ended up giving the short story two stars. I really feel like those two stars is more than the work deserves, I think it deserved one star but got two because I'm sentimental of better days reading Poe and also just because it is a Poe story. Well, I'll attempt to rectify the situation and give it * here at least.

*I stumbled across a fascinating Google Book tonight, Lectures on Literature by Vladimir Nabokov. I was originally just going to read the section on Mansfield Park (which I did) but now want to go back and read the rest of it (though I am little wary of the section on Bleak House just because it is Dickens and he makes me shudder...). The only drawback to Nabokov's analysis of Mansfield Park is that he comes off as a snob and a bit self-righteous at times. One thing about Jane Austen herself that I always disliked was the fact that her characters (the ones on the periphery that is) are pretty black and white. She seems to harbor a belief that people are either born sensible (i.e. Elizabeth Bennett and Anne Elliot) and are therefor worthy of being literary heroes or fools (Mr. Collins, Lydia, etc.) and therefore luckless saps with no chance of being anywhere in between. Oh, and heaven help you if you are a fool in her world because she certainly doesn't suffer them lightly. Indeed, Nabokov seems to agree in the passages where he is describing a "good" writer and a bad/lazy one, and some Mansfield Park players like Mrs. Norris. If either of these writers had to choose sides in the debate of nature v. nurture, I think they'd both pick nature (or the luck of the draw) resoundingly...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reading List: 6/21- 6/27

Hippolytus (14% complete)
The Purloined Letter (50%)
The Secret Adversary (9%)

Just Finished:
The Pit and the Pendulum ***
The Sea Gull *** and a half*

I've been in love with Chekhov for years (ever since I read his short Peasants) but never read any of his plays until now (odd, since his plays are what he is primarily known for). I was able to read the play in one evening, in about two hours actually. It is a tragedy but I won't spoil the end. It is one of those little "glimpse into everyday Russia" that Chekhov is so known for. The story is pretty mundane on the surface (centered around a group of people, mostly of the artistic set, around a lake in the Russian countryside) but there is some depth under the surface. Tragic love, unfulfilled potential, wasted life, regret and duplicity are just some of the themes to the short play. I went into the play knowing absolutely nothing about it and was surprised to discover how Shakespearean is was (in a lot of ways it is like a Russian, modernist version of Hamlet) yet it still maintained all of Chekhov's hallmarks (which is what I fell in love with about his work) of a glimpse into the Russia that he knew and the fact that while his works seem trivial, they really aren't.

To Get:
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith

Friday, June 19, 2009

The 1001 List: 1850s-1860s

856. He Knew He Was Right – Anthony Trollope (l)
857. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (d)
858. Sentimental Education – Gustave Flaubert
859. Phineas Finn – Anthony Trollope (l)
860. Maldoror – Comte de Lautréaumont
861. The Idiot – Fyodor Dostoevsky (d)
862. The Moonstone – Wilkie Collins (d)
863. Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (d)
864. Thérèse Raquin – Émile Zola (d, in English and French)
865. The Last Chronicle of Barset – Anthony Trollope (d)
866. Journey to the Centre of the Earth – Jules Verne (d)
867. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky (d)
868. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll (d)
869. Our Mutual Friend – Charles Dickens (d)
870. Uncle Silas – Sheridan Le Fanu (l)
871. Notes from the Underground – Fyodor Dostoevsky (d)
872. The Water-Babies – Charles Kingsley (d)
873. Les Misérables – Victor Hugo (d)
874. Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev (l)
875. Silas Marner – George Eliot (d)
876. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens (d)
877. On the Eve – Ivan Turgenev (l)
878. Castle Richmond – Anthony Trollope (l)
879. The Mill on the Floss – George Eliot (d)
880. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins (d)
881. The Marble Faun – Nathaniel Hawthorne (d, vol. 1, 2)
882. Max Havelaar – Multatuli

883. A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens (d)
884. Oblomovka – Ivan Goncharov (other)
885. Adam Bede – George Eliot (d)
886. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert (d)
887. North and South – Elizabeth Gaskell (d)
888. Hard Times – Charles Dickens (d)
889. Walden – Henry David Thoreau (d)
890. Bleak House – Charles Dickens (d)
891. Villette – Charlotte Brontë (d)
892. Cranford – Elizabeth Gaskell (cl)
893. Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Harriet Beecher Stowe (d)
894. The Blithedale Romance – Nathaniel Hawthorne (cl)
895. The House of the Seven Gables – Nathaniel Hawthorne (d)
896. Moby-Dick – Herman Melville (d)
897. The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne (d)

So, the only ones I could not find online were Max Havelaar (it is available through Project Gutenberg in Dutch), Sentimental Education (it is available in various places in French), Maldoro (available in French in various places).

Reading List: 6/14-6/20

The Secret Adversary (d) 8% completed
Whose Body? (half way)
Beyond the Bayou (d) (just started)
The Pit and the Pendulum (d) (71% completed)

To-Read (in the immediate future):
The Chinese Parrot
Mysteries and Manners: Occasional Prose

(Tentatively) To-Read (eventually):
The Turn of the Screw
Flannery: A Life of Flannery O'Connor
Seven Keys to Baldpate
The Excursion Train
The Railway Detective
...and everything else on my DailyLit "To-Read" list.

I just finished The Diamond Master and Oroonoko. I read the Diamond Master through DailyLit and I'm not sure if I liked it or not...


It started out interestingly enough with a compelling mystery wherein fantastic diamonds have been sent anonymously to several high profile (and fictitious) diamond merchants. From there the plot plods along at an affable pace and the story remains just interesting enough to hold the reader's interest until about the half way mark. From there, the plot quickens, interesting and unexpected developments arise and the mystery deepens. It was around this point in the story that I really got sucked in. Then things start to go down hill during the last quarter of the story. Mr. Kellner (an important character) is murdered and this added mystery does little more than to muddle the main mystery of the diamonds. It seems like Futrelle is lost from this point on as he tries and ties up all the loose ends and give an explanation for all the mysteries going on. Eventually, the mystery surrounding the diamonds is solved (in an awkward to say the least way) and in the VERY LAST paragraph the author mentions who killed Mr. Kellner in passing (as if the only reason he mentions who the killer is at all is out of obligation to the reader). It was such a promising story and about 50% rewarding. If only the last half had been handled better...

I give it ***

989. Oroonoko by Aphra Behn

Just finished Oroonoko which is number 989 on the 1001 list. I read it online through the University of Adelaide. It is a fairly short book so I was able to read it in a day. A lot has been said about it and since I doubt I can add much I'll pass on an indepth review. It wasn't a bad read, the story was pretty compelling in parts and there were a lot of thought provoking aspects to it all. I thought it was interesting that while the author wants us to feel compassion for poor Oroonoko/Caesar and the fate that has befallen him, she doesn't view slavery as such a bad thing and it is obvious that she believes strongly in an hierarchical (arguably patriarchial) order to society. The brief biography on Behn that I read portrayed her as a strong restorationist and supporter of Charles II. This really comes through in Oroonoko and I think colors the whole story (albeit it not in a bad way). I also think Oroonoko is one of those pieces that reveals itself more and more with subsequent re-reads and that I just barely scratched the surface. I'll be interested to read what scholars say about it and what their interpretations/criticisms are of it and Behn. I gave *** but I have a feeling that with re-reading it I'll amend this rating.

Started 6/18, finished just after midnight on 6/19

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The 1001: 1810s - 1840s

I've read good chunks of some of these, like Jane Eyre, but for some reason or another I never finished them so I'm not including them as read (read titles are in italics). In addition to DailyLit and ClassicReader, I've also been introduced to The Literature Network. I always look for a book's availability on DailyLit first and then ClassicReader, I'll look for a piece on The Literature Network last (that site seems to have the smallest selection). Also, I kind of totally, misunderstood the point of the 1001. While I moaned about the lack of such heavyweights as Shakespeare on the list, I discovered that the list is meant to track the development of the novel. While I don't completely agree with this logic, I can understand why there are those parameters...

898. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens (d)
899. Shirley – Charlotte Brontë (cl)
900. Mary Barton – Elizabeth Gaskell (cl)
901. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë (cl)
902. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë (d)
903. Agnes Grey – Anne Brontë (d)
904. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë (d)
905. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray (cl)
906. The Count of Monte-Cristo – Alexandre Dumas (d)
907. La Reine Margot – Alexandre Dumas
908. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas (d)
909. The Purloined Letter – Edgar Allan Poe (d) (read 6/28/09)
910. Martin Chuzzlewit – Charles Dickens (cl)
911. The Pit and the Pendulum – Edgar Allan Poe (d) (read 6/20/09)
912. Lost Illusions – Honoré de Balzac
913. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens (d)
914. Dead Souls – Nikolay Gogol (ln)

915. The Charterhouse of Parma – Stendhal
916. The Fall of the House of Usher – Edgar Allan Poe (d) (read 7/1/09)
917. The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby – Charles Dickens (d)
918. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens (d)
919. The Nose – Nikolay Gogol
920. Le Père Goriot – Honoré de Balzac (d)
921. Eugénie Grandet – Honoré de Balzac (d)
922. The Hunchback of Notre Dame – Victor Hugo (d)
923. The Red and the Black – Stendhal

924. The Betrothed – Alessandro Manzoni
925. Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper (d)
926. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner – James Hogg
927. The Albigenses – Charles Robert Maturin
928. Melmoth the Wanderer – Charles Robert Maturin
929. The Monastery – Sir Walter Scott (ln)

930. Ivanhoe – Sir Walter Scott (d)
931. Frankenstein – Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (d)
932. Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen (d)
933. Persuasion – Jane Austen (d)
934. Ormond – Maria Edgeworth (ln)
935. Rob Roy – Sir Walter Scott (ln)
936. Emma – Jane Austen (d)
937. Mansfield Park – Jane Austen (d)
938. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen (d)
939. The Absentee – Maria Edgeworth (cl)
940. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen (d)

DailyLit: (d)
ClassicReader: (cl)
The Literature Network: (ln)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The 1001: 1750s-1800s

941. Elective Affinities – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
942. Castle Rackrent – Maria Edgeworth (d)

943. Hyperion – Friedrich Hölderlin
944. The Nun – Denis Diderot
945. Camilla – Fanny Burney
946. The Monk – M.G. Lewis
947. Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
948. The Mysteries of Udolpho – Ann Radcliffe (cl)
949. The Interesting Narrative – Olaudah Equiano (d)
950. The Adventures of Caleb Williams – William Godwin
951. Justine – Marquis de Sade

952. Vathek – William Beckford (d)
953. The 120 Days of Sodom – Marquis de Sade
954. Cecilia – Fanny Burney (d, parts 1, 2, 3)
955. Confessions – Jean-Jacques Rousseau (d)
956. Dangerous Liasions – Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
957. Reveries of a Solitary Walker – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

958. Evelina – Fanny Burney (d)
959. The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (d, also available in German)
960. Humphrey Clinker – Tobias George Smollett (d)
961. The Man of Feeling – Henry Mackenzie

962. A Sentimental Journey – Laurence Sterne
963. Tristram Shandy – Laurence Sterne (d)
964. The Vicar of Wakefield – Oliver Goldsmith (d)
965. The Castle of Otranto – Horace Walpole (d)
966. Émile; or, On Education – Jean-Jacques Rousseau
967. Rameau’s Nephew – Denis Diderot (d, but it is in French)
968. Julie; or, the New Eloise – Jean-Jacques Rousseau