Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life by George Eliot
(Penguin Classics, 2011, 880 pages)
After multiple attempts and months of stopping and starting I have finally finished Middlemarch. I’m sure that doesn’t make it sound appealing but truthfully I loved every minute of it and it really speaks more to my flaws than to the novel’s appeal. After finishing Middlemarch I read a New Yorker article “Middlemarch And Me What George Eliot teaches us” by Rebecca Mead and decided that instead of giving a plot summary I would just include a quote from the article that I think speaks to what I found most interesting; the novel is sometimes biting and satirical but never at the total expense of the characters:
But Eliot’s satire, unlike Austen’s, stops short of cruelty. She is inveterately magnanimous, even when it comes to her most flawed characters; her default authorial position is one of pity. Rosamond Vincy is foolish and intractable—her husband refers to her in his later years as his basil plant, because it was “a plant that had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains.” But the sequence of chapters in which self-involved, trivial Rosamond realizes that Will Ladislaw is in love with Dorothea, not her—she is “taken hold of by an emotion stronger than her own, hurried along in a new movement which gave all things some new, awful, undefined aspect”—is a masterpiece of sympathetic imagination. A reader marvels at Jane Austen’s cleverness, but is astonished by George Eliot’s intelligence.
The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
(Little, Brown & Company, 1945, 214 pages)
I’m still not sure what the main point of the book was about! It was so different and it seemed like it was a running commentary by the main character. I need to read some reviews. Maybe after I do that I will appreciate it more! I’m am glad I read it, though. I always wondered what it was like.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
(Harcourt, 1994, 311 pages)
This classic text stands up each time I read it and I feel like I get something new out of it every time. I had to re-read Flowers for Algernon for a class that is discussing the text and while I wasn’t necessarily eager to read it again I quickly found myself sucked back in to the story.
Originally published as a short story this book follows Charlie, a man in his early 30s who is mentally disabled. He has always been motivated to try and learn so he can “be like other people” and it was because of this motivation that his teacher suggested him as a good candidate for an experiment at a local college aimed at increasing intelligence. After the surgery we see the changes in Charlie through the text of progress reports he submits to the professors in charge of the experiment.
There are more changes in Charlie than just what we see on the intellectual front. He is also tapping into his past and how his family affected him and led him to where he came to be in the present day. The book tackles a lot issues with an emphasis on humanity and respect. It’s a heart-breaking book and while there are dated aspects to it (and a few things that led me to raise my eyebrows) I think it’s a valuable text that prompts good reflection and discussion.
The Natural by Bernard Malamud
(Perennial Classics, 2000, 228 pages)
Women – both problem and answer.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
(Simon & Schuster, 1994, 415 pages)
Repetitive ridiculousness; Pure madness; Ingenious
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013, 96 pages)
Wise prince teaches invaluable lessons.
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
(Square Fish, 2007, 247 pages)
Strange classic that holds up.