Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bon Apetit

My first ever post on one of the 52 books I have pledged to read as part of The Classics Club is a bit of a cheat. I couldn't resist; ever since I baked a cake and handed it in to my tutor instead of writing an essay, I have delighted in breaking rules. So the first book is not exactly what I would consider a classic, but I have a really good reason for letting it slip through the Classic Definer Net of Criteria, which I will explain. But first: what is the book?

My Life in France by Julia Child. The book is a memoir of a time in Child's life when she was creating what I do consider a classic: Mastering The Art of French Cooking, and that is why I have let it slip through. I have dipped into Mastering while reading My Life in France and quite enjoyed the added context the biography gives the cookbook.

What I have loved so much about My Life in France is that it is a joyful, inspiring and exciting read. Child's enthusiasm for her discoveries is palpable and invigorating. My Life in France is a story about a mind awakening, horizons expanding, and passions and direction in life being discovered. It is utterly heartwarming and reassuring to know that it really can happen to a person at any age.

It ramped up my own enthusiasim for food, cooking and eating (always fairly high to begin with). I have slowed my reading pace in order to peruse more deeply than normal several books on my groaning recipe book shelves, including Jamie's Great Britain (Jamie Oliver) and Four Seasons Cookery Book (Margaret Costa). This has been a wonderfully pleasurable and informative experience, and I wouldn't have thought to do it if I hadn't been reading My Life in France.

So, if one chooses to define a classic as a book that can make you think deeply about a topic, and open you mind to new ideas and possibilities then My Life in France most assuredly counts as a classic. And if if one chooses to see a classic as a book that has been engaged with multiple times and in multiple ways, you could equally use this definition to include My Life in France in a list of classics. I whole heartedly give this book five sticks of butter out of five.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Let's Play 52 Pick Up

I humbly submit my application to join The Classics Club

Like the time I moved to Hobart in Tasmania because it was as close to wilderness as I could bear, I have taken up a mildly difficult and hugely exciting and fun challenge that in no way impares my access to tea or chocolate: I have taken up the challenge to read 52 classics in five years. They are my own selection, and the method I used to choose which classics would make the cut was mixed, but was heavily influenced by several walks around my apartment peering at the bookshelves. Fans of useless trivia will be delighted to discover that I already own 36 of the books on this list.

Here is my list, with a few things marked out for those of you who like added detail:

* = re-reads, because I want to see if an older version of me has a different take on the book in question.
@ = As most of the people taking part in this blog challenge seem to be American, I have marked out all the Australian classics.
# = non fiction

I have chosen to read some short stories, but they are all in published collections. Since I plan to read the whole volume I have listed the volumes in question as one single book. I also feel compelled to point out that, according to the rules, The Significance of the Frontier in American History might be considered too short to count as one book. But I beg you to allow me to take a couple of hundred pages off my Anna Karenina entry and tack them on to The Frontier essay quota. I'll only do it the once, I promise!


1. Lolita - Vladimi Nabokov *
2. Eleven Kinds of Lonliness - Richard Yates
3. Disturbing the Peace - Richard Yates
4. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
5. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
6. Great Expectaions - Charles Dickens
7. Hard Times - Charles Dickens
8. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorn
9. The Muddle Headed Wombat - Ruth Park * @
10. Missus - Ruth Park @
11. Harp in the South - Ruth Park @
12. Poor Man's Orange - Ruth Park @
13. My Life in France - Julia Child
14. The Australian Ugliness - Robin Boyd @#
15. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackery
16. Northanger Abbey - Jane Austen
17. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
18. Mansfield Park - Jane Austen
19. Persuasion - Jane Austen
20. Voltaire in Love - Nancy Mitford #
21. Madame du Pompadour - Nancy Mitford #
22. The French Lieutenant's Woman - John Fowles
23. Portrait of a Lady - Henry James
24. Careful, He Might Hear You -Sumner Locke Elliot @
25. The Glass Canoe - David Ireland @
26. Little Women - Louisa May Alcott
27. Cranford - Elizabeth Gaskell
28. The Glass Bead Game - Herman Hesse
29. I Capture The Castle - Dodie Smith
30. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and Six Other Stories - F Scott Fitzgerald
31. Tender is the Night - F Scott Fitzgerald
32. The Beautiful and the Damned - F Scott Fitzgerald
33. The Significance of the Frontier in American History - Frederick Jackson Turner #
34. Friday's Child - Georgette Heyer *
35. The Art and Craft of Approaching Your Head of Department to Submit a Request for a Raise - Georges Perec
36. A Void - Georges Perec
37. Things: A Story of the Sixties with A Man Asleep - Georges Perec *
38. The End of the Affair - Graham Greene
39. Twilight Sleep - Edith Wharton
40. The Glimpses of the Moon - Edith Wharton
41. The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett *
42. The George's Wife - Elizabeth Jolley
43. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
44. 1984 Orwell - George Orwell
45. Down and Out in Paris and London - George Orwell #
46. Short Stories - Somerset Maugham
47. Theatre - Somerset Maugham
48. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll *
49. Through The Looking Glass - Lewis Carroll *
50. Dracula - Bram Stoker
51. The Wizard of Oz - Frank L Baum
52. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Expected finish date: 12th September 2017

All reviews I post of books from this list can be found by searching for the label Classics Club

Edit: below is the list-in-progress of any classic I read not from the original list:

1. Starlight - Stella Gibbons