The Classics Book Tag

I first saw this tag on booktube, but it’s been around on blogs, too, so I thought I might do it. The original tag can be found here. Anyway, I thought it would be fun, so even though no one tagged me I decided to do it so that you can get to know me better and hopefully some discussion may arise. Feel free to comment! 🙂

1. An overhyped classic you really didn’t like:

Don Quixote, I don’t even have to think about it! I really, really, really don’t like it. And it is said to be the best novel ever written! The novel is picaresque, and it’s an ironic portrayal of chivalric romances, so I should have liked, but no. I do get that it’s metaphoric and all that, but I found it too repetitive, the same things being said time and time again but in a different way, and I didn’t care for it at all. Maybe there’s something wrong with me, I don’t know…

2. Favourite time period to read about:

I can’t really say that I have a favourite time period to read about. I really like reading about the Middle Ages, and I have recently read The Decameron by Giovanni Boccacio, which was written in the fourteenth century, and am currently reading The Once and Future King by T.H. White, which is a retelling of the Arthurian legends. I also like to read about the Celts, but I haven’t read a lot about them so I hope someone can recommend something to me. I would certainly suggest reading Ellen Evert Hopman’s books, Priestess of the ForestThe Druid’s Isle, and Priestess of The Fire Temple because they are interesting but also very informative.

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I also like the beginning of the 19th century (Mary Shelley, Bronte sisters etc.) and modern books which take place in the Victorian era.

3. Favourite fairy tale:

Probably Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling, though it makes me so sad… I have a soft spot for animals.

4. What is the most embarrassing classic you haven’t read yet:

I wish I’ve read more Dickens, I’ve only read Oliver Twist and Great Expectations so far. I must admit I’m not really drawn to Dickens’ novels… But I’m most embarrassed that I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 because I’m sure I would love it. The thing is, I grew up with different classics here in Croatia, a lot of Russian and French literature, so I haven’t read as many American and English classics as people form English-speaking countries have. I studied English in college though, so I caught up with a lot of them, but I feel that the modern classics weren’t mentioned a lot, and I’m trying to read them as I feel I really should, considering my education. Oh, and Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, that’s something I definitely should’ve read by now!

5. Top 5 classics you would like to read soon:

Well, Fahrenheit 451 and Lolita for sure, The Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens because I think I might enjoy this one, Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut because I liked the other two of his books that I’ve read, and Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates because I’ve heard great things about it.

6. Favourite modern book/series based on a classic:

I’m not really sure I know one, so I’m going to cheat a little on this one. Terry Pratchett’s books are quite intertextual, so Wyrd Sisters has a lot of references to Shakespeare, while Witches Abroad references fairy tales.

7. Favourite movie version/tv-series based on a classic:

BBC series are always good, but everybody knows that. I liked the first season of Penny Dreadful, a series that features all the most famous horror characters – characters from Dracula, Dorian Gray, Victor Frankenstein and his Creature etc. But the second season is not that interesting I have to say…

And I would like to add something, as the question about fairy tales reminded me of Disney, I have to say that I love Tangled and The Emperor’s New Groove! Oh, The Emperor’s New Groove, only watching the trailer makes me feel so happy! 🙂

8. Worst classic to movie adaptation:

There was never a good Frankenstein… I liked how the creature was portrayed in Penny Dreadful, though.

9. Favourite editions you’d like to collect more classics from:

I have to say that I like my simple black Penguin Classics, white Penguin Modern Classics and Oxford Classics. All of these are beautiful in their simplicity, and I actually prefer paperbacks because I find them more practical. And I do like how these editions look an the shelves. In an ideal world, I would collect the Barns and Noble classics which are just too pretty, though quite huge and I guess hard to read from… But I would just look at them and enjoy. XD

10. An underhyped classic you would recommend to everyone:

I’m not sure if it’s underhyped, but I don’t see a lot of people talking about it – The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I really loved this novel. I would also recommend The Decameron, which I’ve already mentioned, especially if you’re interested in the middle ages and the Italian Renaissance. It’s basically a collection of short stories sou you can’t always pick and chose a few if you don’t want to read it whole.the age of innocence

EDIT: How could I forget The Song of the Nibelungs! Shame on me, because it’s great – a medieval German saga about the hero Siegfried in which Siegfried is not really the main character… Lovely 🙂

Does anyone want to do this tag? Feel free to do it! 🙂

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Review: “The Sword in the Stone” and Pacifism

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“The Sword in the Stone” is the first book of T.H. White’s novel The Once and Future King, a retelling of Arthurian legends. As someone who is really fond of these kind of legends, I just had to pick it up. Finally.

First, I want to say something about the style. Some aspects of the story are explained and described in terms which did not exist in the Middle Ages – for example, the Badger speaks about his doctoral dissertation, which I found amusing. And really, mostly this is quite humorous, and it worked great. Sometimes, though, I wanted to be dragged into the world of king Arthur and this prevented me a little bit. However, I did find some references quite interesting as they referred to our time in a critical way, which gives another aspect to the novel. I also liked some references to the medieval tradition, for example Robin Hood appears in the novel. I especially liked how maid Marion was portrayed.

Now, let’s talk about the story. “The Sword in the Stone” part follows young Arthur’s childhood and education, the times when he was still called Wart. Wart is raised by Sir Ector and lives in the shadow of his son, Kay. Since Kay is Sir Ector’s real son, he’s supposed to become a knight, and Wart his squire. Wart wishes he could be a knight, but accepts his destiny. However, the boys’ tutor Merlyn pays much more attention to Wart.

Throughout the book, Merlyn gives Wart some life lessons and transforms him into different animals. By learning about the ways in which the animals live, Wart learns about the world in general. And here comes the part that I found most enjoyable. It’s easy for a book about knight and chivalry to portray fights and war as something interesting and almost good. However, T.H. White turns this around. For example, this is how a goose reacted when Wart asked her if geese have wars against other geese.

“What a horrible mind you must have! You have no right to say such things! And of course there are sentries.There are jer-falcons and the peregrines, aren’t there:the foxes and the ermines and the humans with their nets? These are natural enemies. But what creature would be so low as to go about in bands, to murder others of its own blood?” …

“I like fighting,” said the Wart. “It is knightly.”

“Because you’re a baby.”

Arthur is quite naive in the beginning. He looks up to the knights, who act funny and whose tournaments look like jokes – which is also a nice comment on violence. He also looks up to Kay, the boy he grew up with, even though Kay is vain and not kind to him. The author stresses this himself, and makes sure that the reader is aware of Wart’s naivety:

The Wart continued to be stupid, fond of Kay, and interested in birds.

Several years later, Wart has a conversation about fighting with the Badger, in which the Badger also says how humans wage war against each other, and how they are feared by all animals. Wart says that he would like to be a knight, go to war and show his courage. He also says that the ants fight against each other. And in the end, the Badger then puts everything in the right perspective:

“Which did you like best,” he asked, “the ants or the wild geese?”

The chapter ends here, but to the reader it’s obvious that Wart didn’t really like the ants, and that he enjoyed his time with the geese.

Silly Wart will become the great king Arthur, which is shown in the end, when he manages to draw the sward from the stone. To do this, he had to use all the knowledge he gained from Merlyn and the animals. II think this shows that he has the ability to grow and become wise. In the beginning of the second book (I’ve read only three chapters so far) Wart is still not completely changed, but Merlyn still teaches him the same values.

“(…) What is all this chivalry, anyway? It simply means being rich enough to have a castle and a suit of armour, and then, when you have them, you make the Saxon people do what you like. The only risk you run is of getting a few bruises if you happen to come across another knight. (…) All the barons can slice the poor people about as much as they want, and it is a day’s work to hurt each other, an the result is that the country is devastated. Might is Right, that’s the motto.

I really like Merlyn’s words and criticism, and it will be interesting to see how Arthur’s character will develop.

I will post another review once I finish the entire book. I’m really excited to see how it progresses. 🙂