Friday, January 25, 2013

Reading Classics

What's on your reading list right now?  Do you even keep one?  I may start a Pinterest board of books just to keep track of what I want to read. (Ugh, I know, one more thing to do.)

My reading lately had gotten to be all blog posts and nonfiction, especially things like "how to remodel your bathroom" or "Quilt Binding 101," good stuff but not exactly expanding my heart's horizons, you know?

A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on the wonderful blog Life in Grace and Edie's book club.  This is nor ordinary book club--October's book was Plato's Republic.  January is The Aeneid by Vergil, so I decided to just jump in.  I'm so glad I did!  Today I am half-way done with it, and the entire book has captured my heart.  Sarah Ruden, the translator for my edition, has kept the poetry in place as she translated it.  I can't even imagine how hard that must have been.

The funny thing is, it isn't hard to read.  It is wonderful, with beautiful language and a great big story.  Already I have images swimming in my mind and heart--I don't think I will ever forget Dido's anguish over being left by Aeneas in particular.  That part of the story, a beautiful strong queen wrecked by love--this is universal.  I couldn't help but feel that this is why stories like this still exist.  It speaks to the truth in all of us.

As a side note, I noticed something interesting.  Even back then, in ancient days, people were sailing to new lands and colonizing.  Dido and the Phoenicians left Tyre to found Carthage in Libya, and the Trojans in their defeat went to Italy, becoming the Romans.  (Yes, I know that this is legend but there is always truth behind these stories that are handed down.)  How funny!  Sometimes we like to think that we Westerners, or Americans, were the first or only people to do something, for example, to settle a new country.  But it's been going on for millenia, the way of people who want to move around the globe.

At the same time, I've also decided to read Hugo's Les Miserables.  (After all, there is only so much metered epic poem that you can read at one time.) I swear I am the only person in the country who hasn't seen the musical or the movie, but I would like to read the book first.  At more than 1100 pages, the movie might be in the dollar bin by the time I get to it.  I am only about 80 pages in, but the writing and the ideas expressed are so beautiful, I just feel grateful to get to read it.  Last night while I waited for the girls to ride their horses I sat in the car and read.  I started crying over the beautiful way that M. Bienvenue, the priest, was so kind to Jean Valjean.  A beautiful book.

I invite you to read either one along with me!  Have you read any classics lately?  Any favorites?  Don't spoil Les Mis for me!


John Fraser said...

One of my favorite books of all time is Bonhoeffer's Cost of Discipleship. To know that he wrote that book - then died for the faith he believed in - just makes it all that more powerful.

I am also a huge fan Of C.S. Lewis'space trilogy. It's a bit out there conceptually. But it captured my heart. (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, That Hideous Strength) Then I realized that one of my favorite 90s Christian Bands, King's X, included something from this series in each of their first 4 or 5 albums. That was so cool. Sadly, King's X turned secular and chased after the wrong agenda after those first few albums. But the messages of the first few albums were really good.

I know none of these are really called "classics." But, perhaps, they are books that are off your radar screen so it might give you something to research into!

Cheryl said...

I have that Bonhoeffer book on my shelf, unread. I also liked those Lewis books, Perelandra less than the others. My hands-down favorite of Lewis' is The Great Divorce. I read that about once a year.

I was thinking here about these books that are presented as "hard" because they are old and therefore unrelatable. (Is that a word?) But in reading them, especially the Aeneid, you feel the universality of the human condition, love, death, war, adventure... There is so much to learn.

Incidentally, it also seems to me that this perception that the old works are "hard" is the same one that makes the Bible feel inaccessible, too. I think if more people would just "pick it up and read" that they would be surprised at how easy to understand most of it really is.

Thanks for your suggestions! I haven't heard of King's X...I will check it out.

John Fraser said...

King's X is the band. Wasn't sure if I made that clear. Spiritually, I have the most in common with the album Gretchen Goes to Nebraska. That album challenges everything from televangelism to the Inquisition investigation of Giordano Bruno. As a person who believes the church should be careful to not fall into "doing things for the sake of tradition" and instead actually "using our brains to relate to God's ways," there is much to like about this album. That, and the guitar riffs are simply amazing. And they use both a sitar and a dulcimer among the traditional instruments. :D

But ... back to books. For me, many of the older books that are difficult for me to read are that way simply because they are poetic. My brain cannot wrap my head around poetry. The same is true about the Bible. It is one of the reasons why I don't preach on the psalms very often. I just struggle so much with the psalms and I feel utterly inept at grasping the true meaning from them. Even in school I was a solid "B" student in English until we hit the poetry unit. I'd work twice as hard just to get a "C."

But what's weird is that Greek plays are some of my favorite old things to read. Antigone, Oedipus Rex, Agamemnon ... now that's good reading. And yes, I know, many of them are poetic.

FYI ... don't try to make sense of my brain when it enters the land of Literature. There is little rhyme or reason to it!