Book 460: Ulysses – James Joyce

joyce-james-ulyssesIt’s been three weeks since my last post, but obviously it was worth it. At the end of the month I’ll have a two month recap, but for now you just have to bask in the glory of knowing someone who has completed the infamous Ulysses!

It only took a little over four months, but if you remember I started way back in June with the Serial Reader (app website). Serial delivers 10-15 minute sections of the book daily to you and you make your way through the book. I had concerns about reading the book this way especially with remembering details from previous issues, but overall I had a pretty good experience. This one had 109 sections based on my preference and the first half was great to read by serial, but the last two sections weren’t quite as easily read.

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Book 429: The Arm of the Starfish (O’Keefe Family #1) – Madeleine L’Engle

L'Engle, Madeleine - The Arm of the Star Fish (O'Keefe Family #1)I decided to go down the full L’Engle Murray/O’Keefe rabbit hole. It may take a while to finish with other books burning holes in my kindle/on my shelf, but I will finish them!

I wasn’t as sold on this book as quickly as I was with A Wrinkle in Time, but it grew on me. The final quarter of the book was really strong! (And she didn’t rush the ending, or perhaps she did and I’m just used to it now.)

It’s a bit confusing, but I think I have it sorted out as The Arm of the Starfish is the second book written in the Kairos super-series, the first book of the second generation O’Keefe Family series, and the fourth book chronologically in plot line. Looking at the publication dates, it looks like L’Engle bounced back and forth between the two series (and another one) while she was writing in the ’60s and ’70s.

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Book 414: Bel Ami – Guy de Maupassant

de Maupassant, Guy - Bel AmiAfter a two month hiatus I am back with the 45th book from my Classics Club list. That’s 45% of my list done and I’m only 32 books behind schedule 😉

Going into Bel Ami I thought I knew what the book was about, but I wasn’t aware it had a subtitle, The History of a Scoundrel, which would’ve told me I was in no way correct!

If I’m honest I chose Bel Ami because it was short and accessible on my phone. (Thank you Kindle iPhone app, this isn’t the first time you’ve saved me from boredom.) I forgot the next book I wanted to read and an hour is a long time for lunch so I started this and read it pretty quickly. You’d think I would use lunch and my commute to catch up on my 10+ hours of back logged podcasts to listen to, but no why would I do that when there are more books to read!?

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Book 395: Tropic of Capricorn – Henry Miller

Miller, Henry - Tropic of CapricornI didn’t think it was possible, but I liked this one even less than Tropic of Cancer. Seriously, I was in no way a fan of this book. The amount of raunchy sleazy descriptions in Tropic of Capricorn, if possible out weight those in the first novel.

The only thing I can truly say I’m grateful for is that I got it off my shelf where it’s languished since the 2010 Boston Book Festival (it was the last one!). It also counts toward my Classics Club list so yay for that too!

I can’t even pretend it’s hard to say why I didn’t like this book, it really was just too much sex, misogyny, sexual assault and crass language. When you add in the stream-of-consciousness I’m surprised I even got through the book. It’s no wonder the book was banned in America (Wikipedia link) for 30 years. I don’t believe in book banning or censorship, but this really tested my limits.

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Book 390: The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath

Plath, Sylvia - The Bell JarThis is one of those books that has so much umph in the cultural milieu that it’s a wonder I’ve never read it before. I squeezed it in just in time this month to get a podcast recorded to be released at the end of the month. If you’re in the Boston area and you want to record one let me know! 😀 But, more importantly than podcasting, this book counts as the 43 book of my Classics Club journey. (See, I told you I was still chipping away). I’m so far off target it’s not even funny, but I’m glad that I’m still occasionally reading from my list.

Let’s start with the big to-do about this novel. Maybe it’s not that much of a to-do, but it felt like one. I still don’t know how much of this novel to believe is fiction. It’s very clearly labeled as fiction and yet it is very clearly Plath’s own personal story. I mean her mom wrote a letter to the American publishers saying these are real people and real stories thinly veiled as characters! There is one point where I couldn’t help but laugh because Plath writes Esther, the main character, writing a novel about a character doing the same thing. HOW META CAN YOU GET?! This is the same story being told by three different people all of whom are telling/experiencing the same story.

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Book 381: Northanger Abbey (Marvel Illustrated) – Nancy Butler & Janet Lee

Butler, Nancy, Jane Austen and Janet Lee - Northanger AbbeyI’m so glad I’m on Austen overload this year. I’m not really sure what I do on the years I don’t read this much Austen. Does that actually happen? I should start tracking my Austen reads in addition to everything else I track.

This is the second of the Marvel Illustrated Jane Austen series and I have to say I’m impressed so far. Butler knows how to reduce down the stories to their key elements without losing any of the wit and humor Austen infuses into her work. I preferred the illustration style of Hugo Petrus from Pride & Prejudice versus Janet Lee of Northanger Abbey. Which is interesting because I know it took me a while to adjust to that style, maybe when I read Emma, also illustrated by Lee, I won’t have as many issues. All of this being said, I really enjoyed this adaptation.

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Book 369: Symposium – Plato

Plato - SymposiumI understand how important this work is, you know, history and stuff (hello sarcasm), but there is no need for the introduction to be roughly half the length of the entire work! Seriously, by time I actually got to the work which I would say is about 60 pages long, I’d read 30 pages and knew almost the entire story! Whoever wrote the introduction quoted almost all of it.

Mostly this book brings back the time in my first year of undergrad where I thought I wanted to study Ancient-Medieval history and then I scrapped by with my worst grade ever in my Greek history class and spent the next three-and-a-half years trying to make up for it and improve my GPA. On the plus side, this book counts towards my Classics Club reading list and I’m slowly chipping away. Finishing this, I’ve now passed the 40 books mark (41/100) and I’m nearing the halfway point. I’m behind schedule, but I threw the schedule out the window ages ago.

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