You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Classics’ category.

I can’t remember if I’ve previously read The Catcher in the Rye, and therefore I’m not sure if I cheated when I put it here in “Books I Should Have Read Before.” When I opened it for what I thought was the first time, I vaguely remembered some details as if I’d dreamed them: Pencey Prep, the phonies, some ice skating. Maybe everyone was right when they answered my, “I”ve never read it!” claims with, “That’s impossible — they force you to.” “They,” of course, are our teachers, the ones who have made this assignment fiction for as far back as anyone can remember. I wonder if that’s why I can only remember fragments. Did I never finish it? Did I get bored halfway through because Holden, that prissy dip, couldn’t just man up and do his homework like I was every day? Whether I made it through to the end or not, it’s obvious why the book failed me then and why it probably fails so many other kids: it’s not a book for kids.
Read the rest of this entry »

Advertisements

Arthur

King Arthur may well be the ur-fantasy story.   The ur-hero story even.  This story has been told countless times, in many forms including, quite notably, Monty Python’s version (you can’t expect to wield supreme executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!), one of my personal favorites.  There is even much academic debate about whether a real Arthur or Merlin existed. While that is mildly interesting, and I have been known to read a treatise or two about what might have happened, I’d much rather read pages and pages (and pages and pages) of stories about what could have happened.

The Arthurian legends were certainly my first foray into “fantasy” and it’s the one story I never tire of, no matter what the medium.  I daresay I’ve read them “all” – The Mists of Avalon, the Sword in the Stone, The Once and Future King, even Tennyson’s Idylls of the King.  I have a grand copy of Le Morte d’Arthur, almost too beautiful to read (or at least that’s my current excuse for not reading it). 

I love this story (or should I say stories) so much that I took an entire class in college about King Arthur (me, a science major!), in which we read the older texts based on the oral legends (where Gawain was the hero, not some pretty French dude).  They aren’t as flowery as the Lancelot versions with their courtly love, chivalry and the round table, but it is those gritty older texts that, in my humble opinion, have spawned the best modern Arthurian works.  As my high school English teacher always told us “Arthur was a peer of Beowulf.”  Which means, though he likely carried a sword, his armor was made of leather instead of metal, and he probably didn’t joust.

Read the rest of this entry »

Well that’s finally finished, and what a birthday week it was. It feels slightly indulgent to take up so much blog space with something so silly, but then again, are 400th birthdays silly? They only come around once, after all!

I hope you enjoyed reading some of these reflections on the sonnets but more importantly, I hope you felt inspired to pick up an edition to peruse on your own, at your own pace, in the little nooks and crannies of your day.

In that spirit, I thought it would be fun to collect a select few images of the many thousands of editions that have been printed since 1609. Keep on the lookout for the one that grabs your eye.

“But thy eternal summer shall not fade.”

Read the rest of this entry »

The little Love-god lying once asleep
Laid by his side his heart-inflaming brand,
Whilst many nymphs that vow’d chaste life to keep
Came tripping by; but in her maiden hand
The fairest votary took up that fire
Which many legions of true hearts had warm’d;
And so the general of hot desire
Was sleeping by a virgin hand disarm’d.
This brand she quenched in a cool well by,
Which from Love’s fire took heat perpetual,
Growing a bath and healthful remedy
For men diseased; but I, my mistress’s thrall,
Came there for cure, and by that I prove,
Love’s fire heats water, water cools not love.

Read the rest of this entry »

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

Read the rest of this entry »

When I consider every thing that grows
Holds in perfection but a little moment,
That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows
Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;
When I perceive that men as plants increase,
Cheered and check’d even by the self-same sky,
Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,
And wear their brave state out of memory;
Then the conceit of this inconstant stay
Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,
Where wasteful Time debateth with Decay,
To change your day of youth to sullied night;
And all in war with Time for love of you,
As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

Read the rest of this entry »

Those hours that with gentle work did frame
The lovely gaze where every eye doth dwell,
Will play the tyrants to the very same
And that unfair which fairly doth excel:
For never-resting time leads summer on
To hideous winter and confounds him there;
Sap check’d with frost and lusty leaves quite gone,
Beauty o’ersnow’d and bareness every where:
Then, were not summer’s distillation left,
A liquid prisoner pent in walls of glass,
Beauty’s effect with beauty were bereft,
Nor it, nor no remembrance what it was:
But flowers distill’d, though they with winter meet,
Leese but their show; their substance still lives sweet.

Read the rest of this entry »

So oft have I invoked thee for my Muse
And found such fair assistance in my verse
As every alien pen hath got my use
And under thee their poesy disperse.
Thine eyes, that taught the dumb on high to sing
And heavy ignorance aloft to fly,
Have added feathers to the learned’s wing
And given grace a double majesty.
Yet be most proud of that which I compile,
Whose influence is thine and born of thee:
In others’ works thou dost but mend the style,
And arts with thy sweet graces graced be;
But thou art all my art and dost advance
As high as learning my rude ignorance.

Read the rest of this entry »

As an unperfect actor on the stage,
Who with his fear is put besides his part,
Or some fierce thing replete with too much rage,
Whose strength’s abundance weakens his own heart.
So I, for fear of trust, forget to say
The perfect ceremony of love’s rite,
And in mine own love’s strength seem to decay,
O’ercharged with burthen of mine own love’s might.
O, let my books be then the eloquence
And dumb presagers of my speaking breast;
Who plead for love, and look for recompense,
More than that tongue that more hath more express’d.
O, learn to read what silent love hath writ:
To hear with eyes belongs to love’s fine wit.

Read the rest of this entry »

sonnets-fronticpieceA bit of a departure from the usual fare, but in honor of the 400th birthday of the first edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets I thought it would be fun to write about a different one each day this week. These aren’t going to be essays, really — just the kind of responses Jess and I always write, straight from the hip.

So much has been said about the Sonnets that I don’t need to add anything — no contextual stuff or hypothesizing about the poems’ objects. Who really cares who the dark lady was, or the youth, or the whoever? They’re poems — maybe the most jewel-like and exquisite poems we’re lucky enough to have. They’re packed, speaking to feelings we’ve all had in such simple phrases they sound like coded messages right from the subconscious. And they’re fun, with bouncy rhythms and that dangerously nursery-like Elizabethan ABAB rhyme scheme that only the most talented writers can drive towards literature without veering off the cliff into aphorism.

I’ll break my own rule about contextual stuff just this once, to say that the one theory of these I like the best (I think it was Wordsworth’s) is that they are purely Shakespeare’s thoughts, without the filter of characters in a play. So much of what he wrote was based on history and folklore that I like to believe the sonnets were his respite, a chance to write directly about what he had felt and experienced himself in life. For all our kvetching about Shakespeare’s thin biography, I think we can learn all we need right here, and through them learn a little about ourselves.

I hope you’ll take this anniversary week as an excuse to grab your favorite pocket-sized edition and give yourself a couple hours of a sunny afternoon to read a handful of Sonnets and let them sink in, play with them for a bit, and reap the rewards it’ll bring to the rest of your day.

Jessica’s Reading

Jesse’s Reading

Jesse and Jessica are Both Reading

Devin’s Reading

Categories