Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Ten Classics Most Intimidating: Classics Club November Meme

(But I Know I’ll Read Anyway)

November’s prompt for The Classics Club monthly meme is…

What classic piece of literature most intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)

Starting early this year I’ve been collecting, sorting, and editing list of classics works for The Classics Club Project, which is now have been expanding to 120 (instead of 100 which I listed when I decided to join the project). Among them there are books that I really want to read, but somehow intimidate me to start with. These are ten of them (11 originally, but I have scraped Gone With The Wind) :

The Origin of Species – Charles Darwin
I don’t read many non fictions, but I think I need to give Darwin a try; his work has been inspiring the world. After reading Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder, I was more convinced that I must read Darwin one day. From many reviews I have been browsing, most of them said that Darwin’s language is quite understandable even if we are not scientists or biologists, and the book is far from boring. This is comforting….

The Divine Comedy – Dante Aleghieri
Poems are not my favorite reading, but again, I think I must give this particular one a try. Plus, I have picked Dante’s Inferno for my The Well Educated Mind Self-Project, so I know I must get on this in no time.

Cicero's Selected Works – Marcus Tullius Cicero
Treatises on Old Age & Friendship – Marcus Tullius Cicero
I am a fan of Roman history, and have read quite many of Roman themed historical fiction. One of my favorites was Robert Harris’ Imperium (and the sequel: Conspirata), a story about the biggest orator of all time: Cicero. After reading this, I began to fall in love with Cicero, I admire his principles and his speeches, so, I think I must at least try to read few of his works (non fiction again..). I picked the above two titles (the only two I can find in online store and gutenberg), I’m not sure whether I will read both of them, but I’ll try one for sure.

Moby Dick – Herman Melville
This one is intimidating mostly because of the length of the story. But if I succeeded in conquering the 1448 pages of Gone With The Wind, I’m sure I can do this one too. I just hope the language is not too difficult…

Candide – Voltaire
I have thought that Candide is a tough read, but from several reviews I read, I’m convinced that instead of giving a headache, Candide is enjoyable to read. I’ll come to you soon, Voltaire!

War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
Big chunk book, Russian literature and Leo Tolstoy; three threatening aspects for a bookworm! But who could resist the temptation to read War and Peace? Maybe I just have to prepare a whole one (or two?) month together with several light readings to get into this book. Well, maybe a company to read it along is even better. Anyone?.... Melisa? Bzee?

The Prince – Niccolo Machiavelli
I’m not quite sure why this book has been intimidating for me, maybe from the synopsis, but I have a feeling that I’d love it.

The Sorrows of Young Werther – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Goethe’s name I think, that has made this book intimidating for me, but still, I’d read it anyway.

Siddharta – Herman Hesse
I am assuming Siddharta as a philosophical book, thus is quite intimidating, but if I could manage to finish Sophie’s World, I might give this one a try, especially after Tze Wen encouraged me.. ;)

What about you? What classics is/are most intimidating for you?


  1. I think classic is always intimidating. I haven't read a lot so far. The only author whose diction I can still understand is Jane Austen.

    I gave up Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights because I just don't understand the words. Right now I insist on reading A Tale of Two Cities because, despite the complicated words, the story is engaging. Though I refer to dictionary a lot +_+

    Anyway, nice to meet you :)

  2. I promise you, the language in Moby Dick isn't difficult at all. It's actually quite accessible. The length won't feel as daunting as well because they're divided into really short chapters and you'll feel like you've breezed through so many chapters in no time. :)

    The Divine Comedy is wonderful, but I feel like it needs many rereadings, although it's probably just me and classic poems. I loved loved the Robert and Jean Hollander translation. Besides the beautiful work they've done with the rhythm and the accessibility of the language, they've included really helpful notes.

    1. Moby Dick": OK, noted! It's relieving to know that it's divided into short chapters. Will come to this soon, thanks Claire!

      Divine Comedy: I'm not a fan of poems, but from what I have browsed (the first page), it doesn't seem terrifying.

  3. It has never occurred to me to read Darwin or Cicero...and I doubt I ever will. I've always been curious about The Prince, but I don't if I'll ever get to it cause I have so much else I want to read more than that! As for Dante....I'm reading the Inferno first step to conquering my dread of verse. :)

  4. I read War & Peace a couple of years ago and I am very, very glad I did. It's got a gossipy quality to it I enjoyed, it's a bit like watching a grand party from the balcony and overhearing all the conversations, and the depth of the stories justifies the book's length. Only advice I would give is you should print out a list of the characters' various names and keep it at the back of the book for reference. Most of the characters have three names - first name, family name, patronymic (clan name) - and then also have nicknames and aristocratic titles or professional/military titles which is very realistic but can be a bit daunting if you're used to modern novels where John Smith is John for most of a novel.

  5. For Dante I would recommend either the Mandelbaum or Musa translations. They are much easier to read and understand than some others--a big help in following the progress of the poem, particularly for native Bahasa Indonesia speakers. I particularly like Mandelbaum. His extensive notes are located at the end, so they don't get in the way of reading the poem. It also includes the complete original Italian text on facing pages. A long time favorite and worth the effort!

    1. Noted, thanks for the recommendation. Actually I have intended to read from ebook, but now I think I should get a paperback, the edition you've recommended if possible.

  6. All those sound pretty scary to me! Good luck with them! Sounds like you've got great advice from comments. I will keep them in mind also. Maybe I'll add Moby Dick to my list. I would love to be able to say, HEY, I've read that!

  7. Siddharta is actually quick and beautiful--you should just jump right into that one!

  8. Wow, Fanda, we have a lot in common. I did not put Origin of Species on my list, but I fear I wouldn't touch it.

    I also love Roman history, but I am intimidated by the writers of the time. (I don't want to be though.)

    Also, I do not like poetry or prose or whatever, but I am working on it little by little. I just finished The Faerie Queene w/ my kids, and although I struggled through it, I love it.

    I think I told you about my issue with Moby Dick, but you can do it.

    And someday I am going to conquer War and Peace, after The Well Educated Mind project.

    BTW, I love your WEM self-project, too. I'll be checking back to see how you are doing.

    Ruth at An Experiment With The Well Educated Mind

    1. Ruth, I tend to read Roman history through historical fiction written by contemporary authors, like Robert Harris or Robert Graves. Cicero would be the only Roman writer I'm interested to read, although I'm not sure whether I would finish it at all...

      Thanks for your encouragement, and I'll be glad if you'd like to check my progresses with WEM.

  9. Of the books listed above, I will go for Cicero, even if it is intimidating because I do love Roman history. Looks like lots of Clubbers feel intimidated by War And Peace, though.

    1. Yep, I can't wait to read Cicero's works, hopefully next year!

  10. That's an interesting list Fanda. Some of those would certainly go on my "intimidating" list. But others I never thought of as intimidating.

    I enjoyed Candide a lot. It was so funny! :)I plan on reading On the Origin of Species next year. In fact, I've already started it, but it's slow going.

    1. Great, I'd like to read your thoughts about On The Origin of Species! And I might read Candide sometime during this year, as more and more people said it was good or funny, I become more interested in starting it. :)

  11. I really liked Moby Dick :) As for Darwin... I read a VERY heavily abridged version and my GOD it was soul-crushingly dull. I, too, am intimidated.

    1. You read the abridged version and it was very dull? Uh-oh... :(


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