Suggestions for January – when we will be discussing classics

Death Comes For the ArchbishopWilla Cather – Death Comes for the Archbishop sprang from Willa Cather’s love for the land and cultures of the American Southwest. Published in 1927 to both praise and perplexity, it has since claimed for itself a major place in twentieth-century literature. The narrative follows Bishop Jean Latour and Father Joseph Vaillant, friends since their childhood in France, as they organize the new Roman Catholic diocese of Santa Fe subsequent to the Mexican War. While seeking to revive the church and build a cathedral in the desert, the clerics, like their historical prototypes, Bishop Jean Laury and Father Joseph Machebeuf, face religious corruption, natural adversity, and the loneliness of living in a strange and unforgiving land. The historical essay traces the artistic and spiritual development that led to its writing. The broad-ranging explanatory notes illuminate the elements of French, Mexican, Hispanic, and Native American cultures that meet in the course of the narrative, they also explain the part played by the land and its people – their history, religion, art, and languages.

 

 The Hitchhikers Guide to the GalaxyDouglas Adams – The story of a British earthling plucked from his planet, and his subsequent adventures elsewhere in the universe.

 

The Call of the Wild - Jack London – Part St. Bernard, part Scotch shepherd, Buck is a sturdy crossbreed canine accustomed to a comfortable life as a family dog — until he’s seized from his pampered surroundings and shipped to Alaska to be a sled dog. There, the forbidding landscape is as harsh as life itself during the gold rush of the 1890s. Forced to function in a climate where every day is a savage struggle for survival, Buck adapts quickly. Traces of his earlier existence are obliterated and he reverts to his dormant primeval instincts, encountering danger and adventure as he becomes the leader of a wolf pack and undertakes a journey of nearly mythical proportions. Superb details, taken from Jack London’s firsthand knowledge of Alaskan frontier life, make this classic tale of endurance as gripping today as it was over a century ago.

 

Catch 22Joseph Heller – Catch-22 is like no other novel we have ever read. It has its own style, its own rationale, its own extraordinary character. It moves back and forth from hilarity to horror. It is outrageously funny and strangely affecting. It is totally original.

It is set in the closing months of World War II, in an American bomber squadron on a small island off Italy. Its hero is a bombardier named Yossarian, who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he hasn’t even met keep trying to kill him. (He has decided to live forever even if he has to die in the attempt.) His problem is Colonel Cathcart, who keeps raising the number of missions the men have to fly.

Cry, the Beloved CountryAlan Paton – The most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, and an immediate worldwide bestseller when it was published in 1948, Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty. The eminent literary critic Lewis Gannett wrote, “We have had many novels from statesmen and reformers, almost all bad; many novels from poets, almost all thin. In Alan Paton’s Cry, the Beloved Country the statesman, the poet and the novelist meet in a unique harmony.”

 

The Grapes of Wrath – B – The Grapes of Wrath is a landmark of American literature. A portrait of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, of one man’s fierce reaction to injustice, and of one woman’s stoical strength, the novel captures the horrors of the Great Depression and probes into the very nature of equality and justice in America. Although it follows the movement of thousands of men and women and the transformation of an entire nation, The Grapes of Wrath is also the story of one Oklahoma family, the Joads, who are driven off their homestead and forced to travel west to the promised land of California. Out of their trials and their repeated collisions against the hard realities of an America divided into Haves and Have-Nots evolves a drama that is intensely human yet majestic in its scale and moral vision, elemental yet plainspoken, tragic but ultimately stirring in its human dignity.

 

 

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee – Lawyer Atticus Finch defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic, Puliter Prize-winning novel—a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. Through the eyes of Atticus’s children, Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unanswering honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930’s.

 

Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh – In this classic tale of British life between the World Wars, Waugh parts company with the satire of his earlier works to examine affairs of the heart. Charles Ryder finds himself stationed at Brideshead, the family seat of Lord and Lady Marchmain. Exhausted by the war, he takes refuge in recalling his time spent with the heirs to the estate before the war–years spent enthralled by the beautiful but dissolute Sebastian and later in a more conventional relationship with Sebastian’s sister Julia. Ryder portrays a family divided by an uncertain investment in Roman Catholicism and by their confusion over where the elite fit in the modern world.

 

The Sun Also Rises - Ernest Hemingway – The quintessential novel of the Lost Generation, The Sun Also Rises is one of Ernest Hemingway’s masterpieces and a classic example of his spare but powerful writing style. A poignant look at the disillusionment and angst of the post-World War I generation, the novel introduces two of Hemingway’s most unforgettable characters: Jake Barnes and Lady Brett Ashley. The story follows the flamboyant Brett and the hapless Jake as they journey from the wild nightlife of 1920s Paris to the brutal bullfighting rings of Spain with a motley group of expatriates. It is an age of moral bankruptcy, spiritual dissolution, unrealized love, and vanishing illusions. First published in 1926, The Sun Also Rises helped to establish Hemingway as one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century.

 

A Passage to India - E. M. Forster – A Passage to India (1924) is a novel by English author E. M. Forster set against the backdrop of the British Raj and the Indian independence movement in the 1920s. It was selected as one of the 100 great works of English literature by the Modern Library and won the 1924 James Tait Black Memorial Prize for fiction. Time magazine included the novel in its “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005″.[1] The novel is based on Forster’s experiences in India. E.M.Forster borrowed the book’s title from Walt Whitman‘s poem Leaves of Grass.

 

Bleak HouseCharles Dickens – The story concerns a long-running legal dispute which has far-reaching consequences for all involved, and serves as Dickens’ assault on the flaws of the British judiciary system (based in part on his own experiences as a law clerk). The author’s harsh characterization of the slow, arcane Chancery law process gave voice to widespread frustration with the system, helping to set the stage for its eventual reform in the 1870s.

 

The Boys of SummerRoger Kahn – A baseball book the same way Moby Dick is a fishing book, this account of the early-’50s Brooklyn Dodgers is, by turns, a novelistic tale of conflict and change, a tribute, a civic history, a piece of nostalgia and, finally, a tragedy, as the franchise’s 1958 move to Los Angeles takes the soul of Brooklyn with it. Kahn writes eloquently about the memorable games and the Dodgers’ penchant for choking — “Wait Till Next Year” is their motto — but the most poignant passages revisit the Boys in autumn. An auto accident has rendered catcher Roy Campanella a quadriplegic. Dignified trailblazer Jackie Robinson is mourning the death of his son. Sure-handed third baseman Billy Cox is tending bar. No book is better at showing how sports is not just games. 

 

RebeccaDaphne du Maurier - “Last Night I Dreamt I Went To Manderley Again.”

So the second Mrs. Maxim de Winter remembered the chilling events that led her down the turning drive past ther beeches, white and naked, to the isolated gray stone manse on the windswept Cornish coast. With a husband she barely knew, the young bride arrived at this immense estate, only to be inexorably drawn into the life of the first Mrs. de Winter, the beautiful Rebecca, dead but never forgotten…her suite of rooms never touched, her clothes ready to be worn, her servant — the sinister Mrs. Danvers — still loyal. And as an eerie presentiment of evil tightened around her heart, the second Mrs. de Winter began her search for the real fate of Rebecca…for the secrets of Manderley.

One thought on “Suggestions for January – when we will be discussing classics

  1. Not up to reading a book? – there are always great films made from great books. John Campea – who is a frequent film critique blogger – recommends these from classics as some of the greatest films made from books:
    The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
    Wuthering Heights (the 1939 version)
    The Postman Always Rings Twice
    To Kill a Mockingbird
    Of Mice and Men
    Lord of the Flies
    The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe
    A River Runs Through It
    Pride and Prejudice – the 1940 version with Olivier.

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