Those of you familiar with the Monty Python movie “The Meaning of Life” will be indelibly scarred by the enormously obese Mr Creosote and the result of him indulging in one last “wafer-thin” mint. If you haven’t seen this skit, it can be found on YouTube but beware – don’t watch after eating, experiencing an upset tummy or with a severe hangover.
The reason I mention him is to do with my similar inability to resist – in this case another book list. Having already committed to reading as much classic literature in chronological order as I can manage in my remaining years (which I currently estimate as 1300 – titles not years that is), and assorted other challenges (stand up Martin Edwards’ Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books) and certain authors’ collected works (Wodehouse, Christie), I found my gaze lingering today far too long on 1001 Children’s Books to Read before You Grow Up by Julia Eccleshare.
Already owning 1001 Movies … and 1001 Walks …, I didnt feel inclined to buy said title, but there it sat in the stack shelves of my library. So of course I had to borrow it.
I can feel the stomach walls giving way as I type …… beware!
This morning I yielded to temptation (again!) and visited our town’s annual charity book fair. Running for a week and held at the local racecourse, there were tens of thousands of second hand books to wander through with most paperbacks at $2 each and hardcovers at $3.
I took one carry bag with me to try and restrict myself somewhat, and came away with about 20 titles, all in excellent physical condition, to add to my TBR mountain. For $2 each, how many of these would you have taken home?
Penguin classics (strictly in the interests of this blog of course)
For the mystery shelves, two very different titles
Related to these is my quest to collect copies of Agatha Christie’s mysteries of a particular edition with covers I personally quite like, which came out 10 years (?) ago but I failed to acquire at the time. For such a best selling author, I think the covers of earlier publishings were either ugly or bland, but these are very nice.
A random brick from the travel tables
And some later volumes of some fantasy series I have to catch up on
Given the length of The Mahabharata, I won’t promise how much I will manage in October, especially as work has increased to a size where I needed to postpone my holidays sitting in the sun reading.
After the Mahabharata, I will tackle
- The first 5 books of the Old Testament (haven’t chosen which version of the Bible, but probably the King James Version)
- The Art of War (Sun Tzu)
- The next 7 books of the Old Testament
- The Homeric Hymns
- Tao te Ching (Lao Tzu)
One or two titles beyond that, and I will be firmly entrenched in the Greek plays by December.
I have just started The Ramayana (a modern retelling this time by Ramesh Menon) and then if I have enough stamina, on to The Mahabharata. That should see me well into the start of September, which will continue with:
- Aesop’s Fables
- Theognis’ Elegies
- The Homeric Hymns
- The first 12 books of the Old Testament (Genesis to Kings)
To represent the next few authors (Trytaeus, Sappho, and later Theognis) there are only a few remaining poems or fragments; and the terms ‘elegies’, ‘odes’ and ‘lyric poetry’ start to crop up. Before I start, it might be wise for me to investigate these various terms, as I didn’t understand the difference between them. (The following is pulled together from several sources)
- Epics are long poetic tales, often heroic in theme and apparently tend to use an elevated style of language.
- Lyric poems are shorter and do not tell a long story. They were often sung and accompanied on the lyre, and tended towards the emotional state of the poet, and are more in keeping with what I think of as modern poetry. Subcategories of this style of poetry include elegy, ode, and sonnet.
- A definition of ‘elegy’ is a little harder to pin down. Narrowly defined as a formal lament for the death of a particular person – more broadly defined, its subject matter in practice can consist of almost any topic, including celebrations or philosophical matters. Trytaeus’ military calls and praises, and Theognis’ emotive poems are elegies.
- An ode is a long lyric poem with a serious subject written in an elevated style.
- The sonnet was originally a love poem which dealt with the lover’s sufferings and hopes. It uses a single stanza of fourteen lines and an intricate rhyme pattern.
So literature buffs separate poetry into epic or lyric poetry, with the latter further divided into odes, elegies, sonnets, etc. Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and perhaps to a lesser impact, Hesiod’s poems, are definitely epics. Hope this helps 🙂
I am halfway through the Iliad by Homer (my copy is a Penguin edition edited by E. V. Rieu). but looking forward a little, I thought I would post the likely titles for August. In my order, they are
- The Odyssey (Homer)
- The Book of Songs, or Shih Ching (Chinese poetry, roughly contemporary to Homer)
- The Book of Changes, or I Ching (Chinese book of divination)
- The Upanishads
- Theogony, and Works and Days (Hesiod) c. 700 BC
- Elegies (Theognis)
- The Homeric Hymns (not written by Homer 🙂 )
That should be enough to be going along with for now. Happy reading, and watch for my review of The Iliad in coming days.
My aim for July will be
The Epic of Gilgamesh (done, yay me)
The Code of Hammurabi
The Egyptian Book of the Dead
The Rig Veda
That covers the first thousand years – not bad for our first month! The next thousand will take a whole lot longer but there is some great stuff waiting.