Classics Club Spin #16

classicsclub

 

I think this has come at a good time. My energy is flagging a bit and I feel the pressure of unfinished challenges before the year ends. Yes, this is self-inflicted pressure, but I sign up for these specific challenges because I LIKE them and the books they involve.

These Spins always bump up my enthusiasm and even though I don’t always finish on time, I usually do finish at some point. (Case in point: the last Spin, #15, was to be posted on May 1st. The Spin Goddess chose #12 which was Dracula. That post went up October 10th)!

If you are a Classics Clubber and have never done this I encourage you to try. It’s fun and you feel like part of the community.

It’s easy and simple to participate. From the website:

 

What is the spin?

It’s easy. At your blog, before next Friday, November 17th, create a post to list your choice of any twenty books that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the year (details to follow). Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

On Friday, November 17th, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by December 31, 2017. We’ll check in here in January to see who made it the whole way and finished their spin book!

 

Here is my list of 20 beginning from the top of my list of books I already have on my shelves. All the classics here would be first reads. I know, I know Pride and Prejudice, Rebecca, Wuthering Heights…where have I been?!!

 

Jane Austen
1.Pride and Prejudice (1813)
2.Persuasion (1817)

Richard Doddridge Blackmore
3.Lorna Doone (1869)

Anne Bronte
4.Agnes Grey (1847)
5.The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
(1848)

Emily Bronte
6.Wuthering Heights (1847)

Willa Cather
7.O Pioneers! (1913)

Daniel Defoe
8.Robinson Crusoe (1719)

Theodore Dreiser
9.Sister Carrie (1900)

Daphne Du Maurier
10.Rebecca (1938)

George Eliot
11.Silas Marner (1861)
12.Daniel Deronda (1876)

Elizabeth Gaskell
13.Mary Barton (1848)
14.Cranford
(1851)
15.North and South (1854)
16.Wives and Daughters
(1864)

George Gissing
17.The Odd Women (1893)

Radclyffe Hall
18.The Well of Loneliness (1928)

 Henry James
19.Portrait of a Lady (1881)
20.The Bostonians (1886)

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The War of the Worlds, H.G. Wells (1898)

My Edition:warworld
Title: War of the Worlds
Author: H.G. Wells
Publisher: Tor
Year: 1988, text of the original 1898 edition
Pages: 204
Synopsis: Goodreads

No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man’s and yet as moral as his own; that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied, perhaps almost as narrowly as a man with a microscope might scrutinized the transient creatures that swarm and multiply in a drop of water. [i]

My Thoughts

When I put The War of the Worlds on my Classics Club reading list, I did so because I felt it was a book I ‘needed’ to read. Needed as in should: A classic work by an important author, whose works are the foundation of modern science fiction.

I also thought I knew the story having heard snippets of the infamous radio program devised by Orson Welles and the Mercury Theater on the night of October 30, 1938 that scared almost a million people into believing Martians had landed and were destroying planet Earth.

fakewar

But from the opening pages, I realized I really didn’t know the story of the nameless narrator who, when looking through the telescope of a friend, sees 10 flashes of light coming from Mars and the gaseous flumes pulsating from its surface and the catastrophe these events bring.

Then came the night of the first falling star. It was seen early in the morning, rushing over Winchester eastward, a line of flame high in the atmosphere. Hundreds must have seen it, and taken it for an ordinary falling star. [ii]

The story follows the unnamed philosopher/writer from his telescopic viewing of Mars and the first “falling star,” to the landing of the cylinders that house the Martians and the destruction they bring with their heat rays and black powder. They are 100 feet in height with spindly arms and legs that tuck into their war-machines that have the capacity to destroy the world and enslave the human race. We follow him as he escapes from his home to take his wife to her family miles away and through his arduous journey to London where he craves understanding, insight and a way to stop this menace.

The writing was so compelling that I found myself thinking of the story in the car repair waiting-room as well as at the doctor’s office. So near to the end of the book, I sat in the parking lot to finish it!

The book is also a study in behavior when people are confronted by such a monumental disruption to their world view. Most ran for their lives without regard for the needs of anyone else, some wanted to stay and fight or study the invaders, some appeared to be in a paralyzed daze. One of these characters waylays the narrator with his plan to save humanity by moving mankind underground into the sewers while they learn about the Martians and try to find their Achilles’ Heel.

It’s saving our knowledge and adding to it is the thing. There men like you come in. There’s books, there’s models. We must make great safe places down deep, and get all the books we can; not novels and poetry swipes, but ideas, science books. That’s where men like you come in. We must go to the British Museum and pick all those books through. Especially we must keep up our science—learn more. We must watch these Martians.[iii]

The narrator is caught up in this plan until he sees the true nature of the man: he is just a “strange undisciplined dreamer.” He is once again off to London.

Entering the city, the signs of Martian destruction are everywhere: the black powder, the charred bodies and buildings and the strange red vine brought by the Martians that springs up trees, on bushes and in ponds. At Oxford Street by the Marble Arch he sees black bodies strewn around, incinerated. Breaking into a pub he finds food and drink which lulls his tired body to sleep. Awakening at dusk, the humming noise of “Ulla, ulla, ulla, ulla” fills his ears. Making his way toward the sound he comes upon a howling Martian in its death throes having been torn apart by dogs. Moving up to Primrose Hill he looks down upon another Martian, dead. And the “Ulla, ulla” stops abruptly.

Surveying the land below he sees overturned war-machines and their Martian inhabitants stark still. But how did they die? Not by any manner of military might or strategy, but by the smallest microscopic army. “Slain by the putrefactive and disease bacteria against which their systems were unprepared;…slain, after all man’s devices had failed, by the humblest things that God, in his wisdom, has put upon this earth.”[iv]

The novel ends with the narrator reunited with his wife and the world getting back to an uneasy normal, because knowing Martians can space travel, this may only be a reprieve. As it is, telescopes have detected light and gas coming once more from Mars, and lights falling on Venus.

We have learned now that we cannot regard this planet as being fenced in and a secure abiding place for Man; we can never anticipate the unseen good or evil that may come upon us suddenly out of space…It may be that across the immensity of space the Martians have watched the fate of these pioneers of theirs and learned their lesson, and that on the planet Venus they have found a securer settlement….[v]

I came away from The War of the Worlds with a desire to read more ‘old school’ science fiction. I would describe this book generally as ‘character-driven by events,’ with a noble protagonist who managed to stay uncorrupted by circumstance.

Final Thoughts

It is interesting to note that Wells compares the Martian invasion and desire to conquer and vanquish with our own behavior toward the animals and peoples of earth:

And before we judge of them too harshly we must remember what ruthless and utter destruction our own species has wrought, not only upon animals, such as the vanished bison and the dodo, but upon its inferior races….Are we such apostles of mercy as to complain if the Martians warred in the same spirit?[vi]

Finally, if we ponder our reactions to what some say is our own dying planet will we at some point look out into the dark universe for some other bright star where life might be possible on one of its plants, as the Martians did to save their own kind? How much more are we like them that we would have this same feeling?

That last stage of exhaustion, which to us is still incredibly remote, has become a present-day problem for the inhabitants of Mars. The immediate pressure of necessity has brightened their intellects, enlarged their powers, and hardened their hearts. And looking across space with instruments, and intelligences such as we have scarcely dreamed of, they see…a morning star of hope, our own warmer planet, green with vegetation and grey with water, with a cloudy atmosphere eloquent of fertility.[vii]

___________

 

[i] 3.
[ii] 10.
[iii] 175.
[iv] 186-187.
[v] 187.
[vi] 5.
[vii] 4.

 

Classics Club Spin #11 and my Classics Club list.

Of Gone with the Wind and War of the Worlds

Well, the Classics Club has spoken, er chosen, the magic Spin number of 19 and I will not be reading Gone with the Wind this time around…or will I? More on that below 🙂

No, 19 corresponds to a book in my ‘dreading to read/feel obligated to read section, which means I will be reading The War of the Worlds by the prolific H.G. Wells. I think my hesitation to read this classic has been because I felt I knew it already having heard many renderings of it on the radio, mimicking the original that scared the bejesus out of so many who heard it the first time.

worworld
At any rate, I am kind of relieved, because it is a short novel AND, if the number had been just one less, I would be reading Moby Dick, and *ack* on that. I know, I know…it is not nice to bash a classic, and I am sure for many this is a great book. But until it should come to pass that *I* have to read it, it shall remain on my ‘dreading to read’ list.

Which brings me to Gone with the Wind. I am so happy to share my good fortune! Jillian of a room of one’s own is going to do a readalong of it in just a few weeks. This is her favorite book; she knows it well; and I have signed up! And yes, it is in the midst of the Christmas crazies, but how can you not take advantage knowing your reading will be enhanced by someone so familiar with it???

Besides, reading is a good way to take a break during this time. It rests your fighting-the-crowds body and calms your stressed I-can’t-find-Uncle-John’s-gift mind, right? So join me if you will and sign in here to let Jillian know you are in.
GWTW

On a more personal note: not only am I excited to finally read *this* classic, but I will be reading from my grandmother’s (z”l) copy. How special is that?!

Classics Club Spin #11

classicsclub

My first Classics Club Spin! This will help me as I organize my reading for the next few months, and I need that, because, oh my, I get distracted with all that’s out there and not on my 5 year list!

The deal: Choose twenty books from your aforementioned list, number them 1-20 and put them in categories of your (or their) own choosing (optional). On Monday, December 7th, they will choose a number and that is the one you must read by February 1, 2016.

If you are not familiar with the Classics Club and you want to be, go HERE!

Five I can’t wait to read:

1. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818)
2. Betty A. Smith, Tree Grows in Brooklyn (1943)
3. Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights (1847)
4. Willa Cather, O Pioneers! (1913)
5. Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe (1719)

Five whose authors I know, but don’t know this work:

6. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (1899)
7. Wilkie Collins, Woman in White (1859)
8. William Dean Howells, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885)
9. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890)
10. Benjamin Disraeli, Coninigsby (1844)

Five I am embarrassed to realize I never read:

11. Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind (1936)
12. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852)
13. F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)
14. Daphne Du Maurier, Rebecca (1938)
15. Virginia Woolf, The Years (1937)

Five I am dreading or feel obligated to read:

16. Charles Kingsley, Hypatia or New Foes with an Old Face (1853)
17. Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1855)
18. Herman Melville, Moby Dick (1851)
19. H. G. Wells, The War of the Worlds (1898)
20. Sir Walter Scott, Ivanhoe (1820)