Literary Blog Hop!

The Literary Blog Hop is Hosted by The Blue Bookcase.

Welcome Literary Blog Hoppers! My blog is an eclectic one, but I often read and comment on classic works and authors, and am happy to discover other bloggers who do the same.  Thanks to The Blue Bookcase for hosting the “LBH”  🙂

Today’s question involves Contemporary books that are Literary Classics…What makes a contemporary novel a classic? 
Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why.

(Note: For the purposes of discussion, I considered “contemporary” to mean an author who is still living and writing.)

Hmm… that’s a tough one, as it involves predicting the future.  Very few of the ‘contemporary’ books I’ve read in the past few years even made it to my ‘candidate’ list.   A few that did might be The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini, Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier, and maybe The Book Thief by Markus Zuszak.  The last is usually sold in the “young adult” sections of bookstores, but it is certainly a book that countless adults have read and enjoyed as well, and I can see it being “One of Those Books I Read in School” many years from now.  Cold Mountain wasn’t my cup of tea, but the writing was beautiful (Heck, it won the National Book Award, didn’t it?  It must have some merit).  The Kite Runner was a good story and excellently written as well.  I see all three of these books being part of the libraries of the “culturally literate” many years from now.  What do you think?

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Finally Finished: Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

This book is probably the one – of all my readings thus far this year – that I have the most ambivalent feelings about. The second half of the book went much faster for me (reading speed-wise) than the first half. I’m a bit hung up on why this should be so. Is the second half better than the first, or is there just more action as the book approaches its climax just as Inman approaches his home? There is also the not to be underestimated factor that I actually focused on this book during the past 36 hours or so. This likely added some continuity for me when compared with the short spurts of time I grudgingly doled out to it during the first 29 days of the month. As is usually the case, the real answer is a combination of these (and probably unknown other) factors. Bottom line is, though, that I’m finished, and I have to admit I’m a results-oriented guy… :-). I’m not going to give away plot details in this post, so no spoiler alert, but I will say that if you want every mountain, valley, tree, plant, road, rock, river, run, rill, or rivulet in Appalachia described In detail, this is your book.

The book is often described as a “Civil War novel,” but I’d have to take exception to that. The Civil War is only the backdrop before which the story of Inman and Ada – and the land of Western North Carolina itself – can be told. The novel is more about the transformation of people. Both Ada and Inman change drastically during the time of their separation. Not just their character changes, but they both undergo the physical changes that only true hardships can effect.

Another theme that seems to run through the novel is that of what I guess I’d call “wounded-ness.” Many, if not all of the major characters are wounded in some way, most physically, but some emotionally or psychically as well. The country itself (here I do not mean the land, but the concept of the nation) is also wounded – something the reader really comes to appreciate as he follow Inman On his journey homeward. It is notable as well that there are several “healers” throughout the book: Ruby (Ada’s friend and ‘savior’), Inman himself, the old goat-herding woman that Inman meets in the mountains, and “The Power of Love” itself when Inman and Ada finally come together.

Also of note are the similarities this story has to the epic poem, The Odyssey of Homer (and do I really have to say “of Homer?” Oh well, I already did, and I’m not taking it out). After finishing the novel, I read a little about it on line, and found one interview with the author wherein he acknowledges that he re-read The Odyssey as part of his research. I agree that Inman is heroic and endured a long journey home after a war, but he is no Odysseus. And I guess we can be both grateful and disappointed by that. If I had to know one of them personally, I’d choose Inman. I feel he is more heroic in the modern sense, and does not mirror the ancient’s cunning – and self-serving intelligence. Nor his infidelity. Can you say “Calypso?”

I also was reminded while reading this book that many soldiers from the Civil War walked home (regardless of the enormous distance sometimes involved). Didn’t Ashley Wilkes in Gone With the Wind also walk most of the way home upon his release from the Federal POW camp? I am reminded also that the “only ghost I’ve ever seen” (I won’t retell my personal ‘ghost story’ here, but since it is, after all, Halloween, I’ll include a link to my earlier post describing it in detail) was likely a Civil War soldier repeating his long walk home.

I must finish by saying how disappointed I was by the ending of this book. I don’t know how others felt (perhaps you can add a comment here? ) but I was uncharacteristically angry…

Cold Mountain

Alright, folks…Enough is enough. I’m going to finish this dang book this weekend if it kills me.

On a related note: this may be my last post.

Progress Report

Well, here it is almost the end of October already. I’ve read most of my required reading for the month, with the exception of having the second half of Cold Mountain yet to finish. Boy, is that book ever slow going for this reader!

To divert myself, I’ve begun reading Thomas Hardy’s Two on a Tower. It is proving to be a great story and I can’t wait to finish it and get something written on it for my fellow citizens of Bibliophilopolis. I read all the “major” Hardy novels years ago, and am very much enjoying my reintroduction to him via this book.

Upcoming for November, I plan to read another book related to the Civil War, about the West Point class of 1846, which included several key generals in the war. I also plan to read the November selection of my primary book club – P.T. Deuterman’s Darkside. That should be an easy, diverting read for me. I also have Khaled Hosseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns in the queue. This is a borrowed book, so I’d like to get to it soon, and I really enjoyed the other book of his that I’ve read, The Kite Runner. I’ll also have another Vonnegut title assigned by the KVML book club, but I won’t find out what that one is until tomorrow, when we meet to discuss Welcome to the Monkey House. These books, along with finishing Two on a Tower, would give me a count of five for November, one better than my par score of four, and leaving me at 46 total for the year, where I’ll hopefully be able to get my par four in December to make 2010 my most prolific reading year to date. Hurrah!

What about you? Are any of these books on your to read list? Have you read any of them already? Let me know your thoughts or suggestions for future reads..

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Progress Report

Here it is over halfway though October already, and I am pretty much on pace to get all my “required reading” done. I’ve finished Mockingjay and the collection of H.G. Wells short stories. I’ve got about ten short stories to go in Welcome to the Monkey House (Kurt Vonnegut). And am now also about 25% into Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain.

The latter book is proving to be slow going for me. “It’s not my fault,” though, as I was literally 50+ pages into the book before any real action occurred. Frazier is wonderful (as he also was in the book, Thirteen Moons, which my book club read a couple years ago) at prose that is descriptive of the natural world, and I am enjoying this side of the book. The flow of book, however, is rather confounding to the reader. We keep switching back and forth between the main characters, Inman and Ada, but within their stories are several flashbacks and sometimes flashbacks within flashbacks. It’s difficult to keep the “target” in view sometimes, but I have managed to stay with it thus far – albeit at the cost of very slow reading (this is a two minutes per page book for me so far; I hate slogging through at that pace). Anyway, enough whining. I’m hoping to finish it and the Vonnegut short story collection by the end of this coming weekend, which will leave me time to focus the rest of the month on a “new discovery.”

Next up for me (and I confess I read about thirty pages into it this past weekend when I got frustrated with my progress toward Cold Mountain) is Thomas Hardy’s Two on a Tower. Somehow, knowledge of this book’s existence had escaped me until recently – and I count myself a Thomas Hardy fan – when I learned of it via Chris’s great blog, ProSe (Chris is another of that too rare species: the male book blogger).  His review of Two on a Tower can be found here.  I was able to download it for free to my Nook and it hasn’t disappointed in the early going. Hardy’s Return of the Native and Jude the Obscure are both among my favorite classics, with Tess of the d’Urbervilles earning honorable mention” as well. I’m really looking forward to reading the rest of Two on a Tower.

Now reading: “The Stolen Bacillus and other Incidents” by H.G. Wells

This collection of short stories is the October selection of my book club, The Indy Reading Coalition. Usually, in October we have a seasonal theme of ghost stories, or – last year – we read a collection of Edgar Allan Poe works. We struggled to decide on something this year but finally went with H.G. Wells who, though not a writer of the horror genre per se, did write a lot of off-beat, unusual stories. Plus, our club had read and enjoyed one of his other stories (“The Flowering of the Strange Orchid”) as part of our “Short Story Month III” in July of this year.

In addition to this collection, I’m looking forward to a busy reading month in October. I plan to finish Mockingjay (the final installment in Suzanne Collins’s “Hunger Games” trilogy) and also read “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier to count toward my personal Project: Civil War reading. Then, late in the month I have another meeting of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club, which is reading “Welcome to the Monkey House” – another short story collection. That’ll be a lot of short stories to read in a month, but Im looking forward to it. That would make four “books” in October, which is kind of my “par score,” but if I read anything else this month it might by The Sparrow, or A Prayer for Owen Meany, which I’ve wanted to get started on for a long time.

That’s me. What’s on your agenda…?