Classic Spotlight: Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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“Hamlet is a play of contagious, almost universal selfestrangement.”

– Stephen Greenblatt, Hamlet in Purgatory

Obviously, this week’s Classic Spotlight is all about Hamlet. It’s basically impossible not to have heard of this play, and I guess even people who haven’t read it know at least the most basic plot or premise. What made Hamlet this well-known? Well, there can never be a definite answer to this question, but one of the reasons is definitely the fact that Hamlet is open to numerous interpretations.

One perspective I’ve always found interesting is the fact that we are given the story from Hamlet’s point of view. We as readers trust him. We are not supposed to doubt the version of the story that we are given. And yet, imagination can lead us anywhere. What if Hamlet truly is mad?

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Hamlet has problems with his own identity after the death of his father. He projects all of the virtues he appreciates in people onto his father and it seems that he takes pleasure in being the only one who still appreciates him. The father becomes the ideal he aspires to, and his memory transforms into an idealised image. Therefore, the father becomes a part of Hamlet, the man Hamlet wants to be. Hamlet’s ideal self, represented by the ghost, may be awakened by the urge to keep everything in place, but it also awakens Halmet’s doubts about himself.

It is also interesting that, though he is not the only one who sees the ghost, Hamlet is the only one who hears him speak, and what the ghost says and wants Hamlet to do is what Hamlet wants to hear. In short – Claudius is the villain, but spare your mother (whom Hamlet loves dearly).

And while King Hamlet (who interestingly shares the name with his son) is the embodiment of eveything Hamlet wants to be, Claudius becomes all that he hates. He is weak, while King Hamlet is a warrior, he is treacherous, while King Hamlet is honourable. And, maybe, Claudius represents some traits that Hamlet sees in himself, but doesn’t like. Hamlet is not strong-minded. His inability to act is what drives the plot forward. It could also be argued that he is not that brave. That’s why this quote is particularly interesting:

“…my uncle,/ My father’s brother, but no more like my father/ Than I to Hercules“ (1.2.152-153).

Does this equation suggest that father is like Hercules, and Claudius is like Hamlet? Well, it’s certainly interesting to guess.

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Classic Spotlight: Preface to The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

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Hello, bloggers and other visitors! I recently noticed a hashtag on Instagram called Classics Thursday, and it gave me the idea to start a similar “meme” here on the blog. I’ve seen it on @katha_logisch and I’m not sure who the actual creator is, but I hope they don’t mind my idea of writing posts to accompany the Instagram photo. I’ve actually been thinking about making my blog and my Instagram more connected, so this is one way to do that, too. Anyway, the plan is to write a post about a classic on Thursdays (probably not every Thursday, but as often as I can manage).

My first Classic Spotlight post will be about one of my favourite classics, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë. Well, actually, it won’t be about the book, but the author’s Preface, which is a very important piece of feminist writing. In the preface, Anne Brontë responds to those who found her book too scandalous (and, sadly, her sister Charlotte was one of them). Some found it especially concerning that the author of such a book is female.

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In the novel, Brontë writes about alcoholism, and the suffering of a woman whose husband is an alcoholic. The  main character, Helen Huntington, leaves her husband to protect her son from his father’s influence, aware of the gossip and scandal her decision might cause.

What’s interesting to me is that Helen never actually divorces her husband – she even comes back to take care of him as he is dying. She is also extremely pious. Nothing Helen does is truly scandalous. Today, no one would find the novel too graphic either. And yet, that was how it was perceived. This opens some questions about censorhip and the many books that get banned even today for similar reasons.

This is what Anne Brontë writes in defence of her novel:

“…when we have to do with vice and vicious characters, I maintain it is better to depict them as they really are than as they would wish to appear. To represent a bad thing in its least offensive light is, doubtless, the most agreeable course for a writer of fiction to pursue; but is it the most honest, or the safest? Is it better to reveal the snares and pitfalls of life to the young and thoughtless traveller, or to cover them with branches and flowers? Oh, reader! if there were less of this delicate concealment of facts – this whispering, ‘Peace, peace,’ when their is no peace, there would be less of sin and misery to the young of both sexes who are left to wring their bitter knowledge from experience.”

I have to agree with Anne Brontë completely. Life can be gruesome and horrible, and literature should be allowed to present it as it is. I know some people are sensitive to graphic imagery, and that is fine, they should be warned about it so that they can avoid the books which disturb them. However, this doesn’t mean that such books should be banned. Literature, and art in general, has the right to question and to provoke. Anne Brontë’s words are a voice against censorship. She also writes about equility, and says:

All novels are, or should be, written for both men and women to read, and I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be really disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man.

Quite opiniated and maybe not as meek as she was usually protrayed to be, eh? You can read the entire preface by Anne Brontë HERE, it is great, and short.


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Top 5 Wednesday: Favourite Polarizing Books

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There are certain books that people seem to either love or hate, with no in between. For this Top 5 Wednesday, I was supposed to chose 5 of those books that I like. Honesty, I’m not completely sure if these fall into this category, but from what I’ve heard I think they do. Also, some of these are not really favourites of mine, but I don’t hate them as some people do.

Let’s start!

1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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I love this book and it’s one of my absolute favourites. I know a lot of people who share these feeling, but I’ve also come across a lot of people who kind of hate it… Which makes me a bit sad… Those people often say that characters are unlikeable, but I think the part of what makes this book great is the flawed characters. I did come to care for them, in spite of their flaws.

2. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis

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I can understand why some people don’t like this book. It’s not a pleasant one to read. But I still loved it! I already mentioned it in a post about my favourite villains – the way it’s written is just amazing!

3. Medieval sagas

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I don’t think this is a case of love-or-hate, it’s more like: some people enjoy these sagas and others don’t read them at all. I loved The Song of the Nibelungs (or the Nibelungenlied), The Saga of the Volsungs (Völsunga saga) and I loved Beowulf. There’s just something about these stories that fascinates me. I’m kind of a medieval geek. XD

4. The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

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You don’t read books like this for the wonderful prose, you read them for the fun and mystery. I was still in high school when I read it and I found it very interesting then. I also liked Angels and Demons. It was a perfect fast-paced summer read.

5. Twilight by Stephanie Meyer

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I didn’t know which book to choose next, so here’s one I don’t actually like, but I don’t hate it as much as some do. Twilight is a book that really gets a lot of hate and a lot of love at the same time. And yes, it’s not a book I love, but I did like it when I first read it (this was also in high school) and I wanted to know what would happen next. The books get worse and worse as the series progresses, that I have to admit, but the first one wasn’t that bad.

So, do you have any thoughts about these books? I’d like to hear from you! 🙂

 

Top 5 Wednesday: Books I Want to Re-Read

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I’ve found out about the Top 5 Wednesday group on Goodreads quite some time ago, and I always wanted to participate but never did… Now it’s the time to start doing it! Maybe not every Wednesday, but as often as I can. They have some very interesting ideas, just like this one.

So, here are the five books I’d like to re-read:

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1. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

I loved this book! I’ve already read it two times, but I feel the need to re-read it. And soon!

2. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo

I’ve read this book in college and it immediately became my favourite. And favourites have to be re-read. 😉 I don’t own a copy, though, but I’ll get it soon.

3. The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

These books are so lovely, dark and cosy at the same time. I would definitely like to re-read them.

4. Just Kids by Patti Smith

An amazing book like this one has to be read many times!

5. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

My all-time favourite, I’ll probaby read it many, many times more. 🙂 As you can see in the picture, the book is already very battered.

I hope I’ll have the time to actually read them all again in the near future. 😉

My Top 10 Books of 2015

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Dear bloggers, I wish you a very happy 2016!

For my first post of the year, I decided it was the best to look back on the books I’ve read in 2015. Compiling this list took me longer than I expected it to. I’ve read quite a lot of books this year and it was hard to choose the top 10.  Of course, these books are in no particular order. I could never list them in order, I think. XD Mostly because I like them for different reasons.

Without further ado, I’ll start the list with a few classics and then I’ll move on to more contemporary literature. Also, I noticed that I’ve already posted about or at least mentioned most of these books on my blog, which is expected since I like talking about books I liked. 😉 Therefore, I won’t talk a lot about each particular book. It would make a too long post anyway…

1.Far from the Madding Crowd, by Thomas Hardy

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This is a true classic – a wonderfully written story with a great heroine who makes mistakes and will drive you crazy at times, but you’ll still love her. My post on a little piece of this book can be found HERE.

 

 

2. North and South, by Elizabeth Gaskell

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Another classic I think everyone should read, even though I feel it’s not talked about that often. Once again – a great, and strong heroine, who takes care of her entire family and still finds time to be kind. This novel is more than a love story – it deals with social issues and the way of life in the industrial North.

 

3. Ivanhoe, by Sir Water Scott

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As I mentioned several times before, I’m obsessed with everything medieval, even when it’s not that historically accurate. I really liked the Romantic Medievalism of Ivanhoe and the way in which Walter Scott uses some elements of medieval literature.

 

4. The Once and Future King, by T.H. White

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I’ll continue with the Middle Ages. The Once and Future King is a retelling of Arthurian legends. I had a lot to say about it, so I dedicated not one but two posts to it. XD (POST 1, POST 2)

 

 

5. Just Kids, by Patti Smith

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This book is Patti Smith’s memoir about her youth and life with her friend/lover Robert Mapplethorpe. It’s also a book about art and artists. It made me cry (and I don’t cry that often) but at the same time, it remained somewhat hopeful. Simply wonderful. My post about it can be found HERE.

 

6. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett.

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For me, 2014 was a year marked by Terry Pratchett. However, this is the only book of his I’ve read this, I mean last, year. On the bright side, it might be my favourite. Small Gods is a stand-alone novel of the Discworld series, which means you can read it even if you’ve never read a Discworld novel before.

 

7. Horns, by Joe Hill

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What I like about this book is how strange it is. Yes, I’ve read even stranger, but it’s still very interesting. For me, it’s a book about pain, and the evil we all have inside of us. But it’s also more than that.

 

 

8. Honour, by Elif Shafak

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This book is just wonderful! The writing, the believable characters, the non-judgemental way in which it deals with difficult topics such as immigration, culture, religion and even honour murder… Everything. If you want to know more, I wrote a post about Honour and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihe – find it HERE.

 

9. Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adicihe

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The book mentioned earlier, Americanah, is another book which deals with culture and, most of all, race. It is also a love story, but underneath it, it hides much, much more.

 

 

10. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen

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Last but not least. Actually, it might be the least, but I enjoyed Water for Elephants despite the love story and the ending being a little too cheesy. Sometimes, you need cheesy. XD What I loved about it is that it’s dedicated to all the poor elephants who suffered and were even killed in circuses. Animal rights are an important issue for me and I liked how the portrayal of the circus life is not romanticized as it often is. The book is also well reasearched. I found it captivating. 🙂

 

As an honourable mention, I’ll add another book to my list.

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The book is Stonehenge, by Bernard Cornwell. I wanted to mention it because it made me want to read more Bernard Cornwell, especially since people seem to be saying that this isn’t one of his best novels, and I really liked it. It takes place 4000 years ago and deals with the building of Stonehenge, so what’s not to like? 😉

 

And in the end, I’ll also mention a manga series I really loved.

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Paradise Kiss has only 5 volumes (and there’s also a 3-volume edition). It’s about a girl who becomes a part of the fashion world after meeting a group of designers. But most of all, it’s about growing up and finding yourself. And it was very fun, though heartbreaking at times. Ai Yazawa’s manga are always heartbreaking…

 

Hope you enjoyed my list and, please, feel free to share some of the books you loved in 2015! 🙂

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! 🙂

Classics are not just “those books you read for class”

Yes. Classics are more than that, and you know it.

However, I’ve noticed that many people have a problem with getting into classics, and I think that’s really sad because there are so many books they are missing on. And that’s why I’ve dedicated my first blog post to debunking some myths about classics.

First of all, “classics” is not a book genre. I really don’t understand why it is used that way. A classic is a book that is considered timeless, a book that brought some literary innovations and is as important now as it was in the past. Just because a book was written a long time ago, it doesn’t mean it is a classic. Besides that, classics can be any genre you can imagine. They can even be SF/dystopian such as Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or 1984 by George Orwell; horror such as Dracula by Bram Stoker or Carmilla by J. S. le Fanu; or horror/SF such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (which, I have to add, is one of my favourite books of all time.) And you also don’t have to limit yourself to novels. Maybe you prefer poetry? Or you should try and read some plays? I think plays are actually quite overlooked, but even though they are written to be played (as the name says), they can offer a great reading experience as well.

What can be concluded from my previous point is that classics are not boring. Yes, you can find some of them boring, and that’s fine. But the key is to look for classics that suit your taste. If you find the language or style of older books uninviting, then you can always try some of the modern classics.

So, if you need any guidance or recommendations, feel free to ask! Nothing would make me happier than sparking interest in reading classics. 😀

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