Saturday, August 5, 2017

july reads : baby, you're so classic

last month, I went on a grand adventure. it was kind of weird.

I read classics.

and didn't have to write papers on any of them.


I have no idea why that felt so freaking weird, but it did. I'm not typically the kind of person who reads a lot of the classics--every now and then I'll get a craving, but typically I stick to newer stuff. but for July, I read SIX whole classics, some of which I loved, some of which...not so much.

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+ the handmaid's tale +

oh my gosh. this was definitely a love. I was going to read this last year, but I never made it to the library when my hold came in and therefore never got around to reading it. but oh my gosh. this book.

it's so bleak and such an interesting world because it is our world but it also isn't. the premise is chilling and scary and yet you look at certain events in our society today and realize that there are eerie similarities between this year and that.

it's been a good month since I read this book, so my memory is a little foggy on details of what I really, really loved (I need to start writing reviews RIGHT after I finish the book, not a month later...) but I definitely remember that it was a good read. a haunting read, but a good read.

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+ hard-boiled wonderland and the end of the world +

okay, so I said weird earlier, right? well, it wasn't just the whole 'not writing papers' part...it was mostly to do with this book.

I'm not sure how to feel about this one. I liked it--it was funny, it was interesting, it was clever--but it was hella WEIRD. like, none of the characters had names. they were identified only by their traits. not even in the protagonist had a name. I like characters to have names! it helps me connect with them and see them better. but no. it took me a while to get into the book because of that. it also bounced between two different stories and you don't really get an explanation of why until the end? it was totally cool when you get it explained, but right off the bat, it's baffling. I thought I was missing pages or something. but the humor in this was wonderful and surprising, and although it laaaaaaagged so much, I really wanted to keep reading. I think I liked the parts where they were climbing through the sewers the best.

however, I did have some issues with this book. first of all, this 30 something man kept thinking about having sex with a 17 year old girl. ew. and there was a whole section of him contemplating chubby women as sexual partners, and it was very awkward and I couldn't tell if he actually liked chubby women or if he didn't. overall he just came across as very condescending and creepy. secondly, if you like your books to be straight forward and not abstract at all...you will not like this book. I am a very abstract-leaning person myself, and I had a difficult time wading through this book. I still liked it, but it took a while. and even now I feel like I don't understand everything. I probably never will.

this gif is the most accurate thing and unless you've read the book you won't get it
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but there were unicorns (that is, dead unicorns) and puns and just really interesting aspects of this book that make it one of my favourites that I read this month.

also, I'm about ninety-percent sure there's a Deadman Wonderland connection here and I am determined to find it.

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+ the jungle +

I didn't plan on reading this one. it just happened. I was reading my history book and it mentioned the jungle, which took me back to high school. I LOVED reading this book for high school American History, which is ironic, because literally everyone else in my family hates it with a passion. but I guess even at sixteen the power that this book held really made an impression on me, and reading it as an adult furthered that.

the jungle follows the story of Lithuanian immigrants coming to Chicago for a better life. they get cheated by their landlord, stuck in the worst working conditions, and are made to watch as one by one their family disintegrates, killed off by illness or accidents. it's a hard read, and it's extremely bleak, but my gosh does it pack a punch. this book was originally written in order to illuminate the issues within society during the Gilded Age (look mom, I actually pay attention in class). Upton Sinclair wanted to highlight the atrocities committed against immigrant men, women, and children and spur society toward fixing the issues. he did so by taking the upper class into the meat packing factories, by showing them what kind of horrors took place there. but instead of doing something to change the flaws in the system, the upper class focused on the fact that their food was being prepared in these dirty, awful places--they didn't care about the workers who lost their hands, skin, and lives while working in those factories. the jungle triggered the Food and Drug Act and the regulations we follow today regarding food processing, but it wasn't until decades later that the workers got any sort of justice. and I guess that just adds to the heartbreaking nature of this book.

I don't recommend the jungle if you're looking for something cheery. it's so far from that. but it's an excellent piece of literature, as well as a chilling social commentary.

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+ the house of mirth +

also another read I gleamed from my history book, although I'd never read this one before. I call this 'Jane Austen but without the happy ending and the witty dialogue'. it follows the life of Lily, a girl who comes from the middle class but associates with upper class society and the pressures that places upon her. she has to find a rich husband to support her, but in order to meet people like that, she just keeps putting herself further and further into debt, until one day her mistakes catch up to her and slowly her reputation is shattered.

the house of mirth is yet another sombering read (are you seeing a theme here?) it's full of devastating statements about Lily's state of mind, her desperation and her hopelessness. the ending is horribly sad, because you don't really know if  she was consciously committing suicide or if it was an accidental OD (sorry, spoilers--but I told you it was sad!) overall it left me feeling gray and cloudy, and while it was a very interesting read, it honestly felt too much like a book I wrote a paper on last semester for me to enjoy it.

not my style
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+ farewell to arms +

ah, ernest hemingway. my good old friend. not.

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I wanted to like this book. I really did. and I did like parts of it. but mostly...nah. I don't know what it was about it--the whole pages of dialogue, the disconnect between the protagonist and the real world, the utter futility of it all...maybe if I'd read this book first, before all the other slightly/really depressing books I read this month, maybe I would've liked it better, but by the end of July, I was ready to read something happy. and this wasn't it.

but me no likey
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so yeah. and that's pretty much all I have to say on that. *shrugs*

do you have any favourite classics? ones that aren't deeply sad and depressing? my personal favourites are probably Castle of Otranto, Northanger Abbey, and Frankenstein (purely so I can laugh at drama queen Victor)--and yes, those are books I had to read for school. sue me. I love me some gothic/romantic literature. I also really liked Kidnapped, by Robert Louis Stevenson (Alan Breck was my first fictional crush I think, and he made me want to be a Scotsman. *shrugs*)

and if you don't read classics--you should totally give it a try. it's a bit of a mixed bag, but there are some golden ones out there!

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4 comments:

  1. These sound like very heavy books. I think I need to read a couple of these. I am pretty much done with the light, sappy sweet Y.A fiction I have been reading.

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    1. see, I liked YA because there are both sides of the equation--you can easily find light reads that don't drain you completely, and there are plenty of heavy dark reads as well--you just have to look for them. I feel like with classics, since writing has changed so much, the humor is typically very morbid or sarcastic, and everything is extremely melodramatic. but that doesn't mean there isn't good in both genres. :)

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  2. Classics are always so interesting! Reading something that made a huge impact in its day is a really fun way to put yourself in the shoes of the past. I think my favorites are Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand, and Julius Caesar by Shakespeare.

    Ellie | On the Other Side of Reality

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    1. I have yet to read Les Miserables and I 've been meaning to for about five years. *hangs head in shame* But I have read Cyrano de Bergerac for my senior year College Prep Literature class and it was one of the funniest, most ridiculous things I've ever read. We also read A Tale of Two Cities and A Man Who was Thursday, which are also some of my all time favourite classics (and they were actually really fun to write essays on--miracles do happen!)

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