Gilmore Girls Reading Challenge

A good list to get ideas for classical reads:

I recently started watching the series Gilmore Girls, which I never really got into the first time it was airing on television. If you haven’t watched this series before, I highly recommend it because it is so well written!  These two speak so fast that it’s impossible to catch all that they are saying (check out short video of them arguing below).

Essentially, this show is about a ‘perfect’ mother-daughter relationship and both of their quests to find the perfect men, while aspiring to reach their dreams [For Lorelai (the one on the right), she dreams of owning her own Inn. For Rory (the one on the left) she dreams of going to Harvard, which is where the reading challenge was inspired from.]

I did not start this reading challenge, but it was smartly started by this blogger. To see the list of book, click on that link.  If you love classical literature, you will have noticed you on well on your way to being a RORY! However, depending on your love of reading, there are 3 levels in total:

Emily (Lorelai’s Mother) : Read 5 books from at least two different categories.
Lorelai: Read 10 books from at least three different categories.
Rory: Read 20 books from at least four different categories.

I’m not going to fully participate in the challenge, but I think it is a great list to be inspired from when looking for new classic reads.

Advertisements

“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

This short story is one of my number one favourite narratives. It adheres to my favourite genre: psychological and written in the first-person-narration.

It is narrated from a woman’s point of view, although her name is never given (it may or may not be Jane). This helps to allude to a woman’s position during the woman’s rights movement in the early 1900’s (identity was not important).  Yet it is an identity crisis that drives the narrator mad in the end.

Reminiscent of Edgar Alan Poe‘s psychological horror tales, “The Yellow Wallpaper” takes you on a disturbing journey through a mentally ill or oppressed woman of the Victorian era.

My favourite quote is the last sentence of the short story, and I don’t think sharing it here will ruin the plot in any way for you: “Now why should that man have fainted? But he did, and right across my path by the wall, so that I had to creep over him every time!”

To read a free online version of this text, click here. I promise, it will take all of 10 minutes from your life.

Movie: At one point there was speculation of a movie being made starring Julia Stiles, but it appears to have fallen through. There is supposed to be a 2010 thriller version of the story coming out, but I could not find any video clips to share.

There is, however, a 1989 made for TV movie that you can watch for free online here. It’s pretty good and done by the BBC, who always make the best made for TV movies.

Sidenote: If you live near the Toronto area, there is a great house to visit that reminds me of the one described in this story…creepy! GoogleMap ‘Rouge Valley Conservation Area” and look for a house just North West of that marker, just before another Toronto Zoo giant parking lot. You aren’t supposed to drive down, but you can park and walk, it is city property. No one lives in the house right now, but looks like the city is renovating it.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

At the bookstore I work at, this text always seems to disappear if we leave it on the shelf, which is why after many instances of trial and error, we now leave it safely in the back, only bringing out upon customer request.

Why is this particular classic such a hot theft item? My manager blames it on the uneducated thieves who have the context of this book miscued.

Apparently, most believe Lolita to be a pedophiles perfect scenario, which after reading it, I guess it is…in a way. When initially trying to get it published, Nabokov was unable to find an American publisher and settled for publishing in Paris instead (Published September 1955).  In Britain it was received as  “the filthiest book I have ever read” and “sheer unrestrained pornography,” being banned from being sold in the country.  But this couldn’t stop the first print run of 5000 copies to sell out.

I would categorize Lolita as one of my favourite genres, a psychological portrait of a character type written in first-person narration.

At times, I couldn’t believe I was reading this text, for example: “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”

But the overall writing style and explanation of the protagonist Humbert Humbert’s (yes, this is not a typo, his first name is the same as his last) obsession for nymphets eventually won me over: “Now I wish to introduce the following idea. Between the age limits of nine and fourteen there occur maidens who, to certain bewitched travelers, twice or many times older than they, reveal their true nature which is not human, but nymphic (that is, demoniac); and these chosen creatures I propose to designate as “nymphets.”

Overall, I really did enjoy the book, especially for it’s literary qualities of being a tragic-comedy, his many instances of wordplay, puns, anagrams, and coinages such as nymphet.  A recommended read!

Movies:

I found this to be a very condensed version of the book, but a good representation of the characters: (From 1962)

I haven’t watched this 1997 version, but Jeremy Iron is a perfect fit for the role of Humbert Humbert.

Book of the Month Clutch

Don’t be fooled, these are not your average classic books.

Kate Spade has introduced her Book of the Month Clutch bag series. There are only three ‘books’ in the series and each boasts as being a mini work of art. They are crafted with hand drawn elements and colourful collage, including spine and back cover with back cover copy.

If you leave this purse unattended at your next event, it might just be mistaken for the book it masquerades.

I personally don’t like the cover art they chose to depict these classics, but what do you think?  Also, at 325$ a purse, I unfortunately won’t be sporting one of my favorite classics, The Great Gatsby, anytime soon.

A French Classic, Bonjour Tristesse by Fracoise Sagan

Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan

From the back cover: Endearing, self-absorbed, seventeen-year-old Cécile is the very essence of untroubled amorality. Freed from the stifling constraints of boarding school, she joins her father-a handsome, still-young widower with a wandering eye-for a carefree, two-month summer vacation in a beautiful villa outside of Paris with his latest mistress, Elsa. Cécile cherishes the free-spirited moments she and her father share, while plotting her own sexual adventures with a “tall and almost beautiful” law student. But the arrival of her late mother’s best friend, Anne, intrudes upon a young girl’s pleasures. And when a relationship begins to develop between the adults, Cécile and her lover set in motion a plan to keep them apart…with tragic, unexpected consequences.

The internationally beloved story of a precocious teenager’s attempts to understand and control the world around her, Françoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse is a beautifully composed, wonderfully ambiguous celebration of sexual liberation, at once sympathetic and powerfully unsparing.

My Review: If you have not read this book, run out to get it right now!  I guarantee you will enjoy this read and will not be able to stop until you have finished.

I picked this book up on a whim because of it’s cover, and because it was on sale.  I was so happy that I was introduced to Francoise Sagan, who seems to have lived a life like her protagonist Cecile.  Sagan marvelously wrote Bonjour Tristesse when she was only 18 years old.  Upon it’s publication, she was immediately indoctrinated into the Parisian intellectual scene.

Bonjour Tristesse translates to Hello Sadness, but I wouldn’t say this novel left me sad or depressed in any way.

It was also made into a beautiful movie in the 70’s, which I highly recommend (although, the book is better), they did the casting to pitch perfection and the locations match to a key.  Take a look at the clip below (only first 10 minutes of movie is in B&W, rest is in colour):

Arsène Lupin by Maurice Leblanc

Arsène Lupin by Maurice Leblanc (1909) (translated by Edgar Jepson)

First Impressions:  I’ve read all of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories and thought he was the one and only detective in my life… but then I was introduced to Arsène Lupin. Known for creating the fictional gentleman thief, he is often described as the French counterpart to Arthur Conan Doyle.  The style of Leblancs prose is reminiscent of Doyle’s, but this novel focuses on the success of the gentleman thief instead of the detective. All I can say is that I’ve been converted to the French side.

Short Plot Summary: Before being visited by Lupin, French aristocrats receive a pleasant note, telling them that they will be robbed of a certain artifact on a specific night. No matter the precautions the rich take, they can never protect their valuables from Lupin. He is truly a master of disguise and an actor of the first-rate. He is a Robin Hood of his time, with all the refinement of an educated French gentleman. The tale is much more thrilling told from this point of view, because the Lupin always has everything to loose, but is too addicted to the thrill of robbery.

Excerpt From the Novel:

“Come,” he said, laughing still. “This is nonsense! What do you mean by the same handwriting? It can’t be.”

“It is the same handwriting. Am I likely to make a mistake about it?” spluttered the millionaire. And he tore open the envelope with an air of frenzy.

He ran his eyes over it, and they grew larger and larger—they grew almost of an average size.

“Listen,” he said “listen:”

“DEAR SIR,”

“My collection of pictures, which I had the pleasure of starting three years ago with some of your own, only contains, as far as Old Masters go, one Velasquez, one Rembrandt, and three paltry Rubens. You have a great many more. Since it is a shame such masterpieces should be in your hands, I propose to appropriate them; and I shall set about a respectful acquisition of them in your Paris house tomorrow morning.”

“Yours very sincerely,”
“ARSENE LUPIN.”

“He’s humbugging,” said the Duke.

“Wait! wait!” gasped the millionaire. “There’s a postscript. Listen:”

“P.S.—You must understand that since you have been keeping the coronet of the Princesse de Lamballe during these three years, I shall avail myself of the same occasion to compel you to restore that piece of jewellery to me.—A. L.”

“The thief! The scoundrel! I’m choking!” gasped the millionaire, clutching at his collar.

Something to Think About:

  • The character of Lupin might have been based by Leblanc on French anarchist Marius Jacob
  • Leblanc appeared to have resented Lupin’s success. Several times, he tried to create other characters, but could not separate himself from Lupin.
  • Leblanc wrote a story where he introduces the character Sherlock Holmes and he becomes one of the hunting detectives for Lupin.

Adaptations:

Movies

His books have been turned into many movies, the most recent, a 2004 French adaptation with two notable French actresses, Eva Green and Kristin Scott-Thomas, of the character (perhaps the inspiration for creating a Sherlock Holmes blockbuster).