The last two Classic Club Spins weren’t all that successful for me.
Or perhaps they were.
What does “success” with a book mean anyway? I used to think that it meant I read the whole thing–every word on every page. I read the book. I finished the book. I could answer questions on a test or write an essay about it. A very close second to finishing the book was that I enjoyed or appreciated the book for what it was and/or that I learned something from it.
But these days I’m beginning to embrace the idea that success with a book means different things at different times depending on the book in question as well as my intention upon starting it. After all, if books are multifaceted creations that are continually being re-created by each reader, to think of my engagement with a book in such black and white terms as success (finished) or failure (DNF) has been a rather simplistic way of thinking about my reading experience. Am I reading each book to read each book or am I familiarizing myself with a particular book to, say, develop a greater understanding of the history of American Literature or perhaps familiarizing myself with a particular author’s oeuvre?
Part of me believes what I’m trying to articulate here, and another part of me thinks I sound like the loser in the back of the class arguing why I didn’t finish the assignment. Sigh.
When I couldn’t force myself to finish either Catch-22 and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (my last two spin books), I initially saw it as failure. However, I certainly read enough of each to gain familiarity with the style and get the gist of their content. I understand what each author was trying to accomplish. For now, I’ve come to realize, that is good enough. In the future I won’t be surprised if I pick up either or both of these novels and we become BFFs. I’ve learned never to say never when it comes to my personal reading preferences.
For me, at this time, maybe reading the entire classic isn’t always the point. My school-aged self would be so disappointed to hear my older self say that. And my former teacher-self is shaking the cage, yelling, “READ THE BOOK! YOU MUST READ THE WHOLE THING!”
“The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.” — Madeleine L’Engle
Here are my options for lucky spin #13:
- Pride and Prejudice, Austen, 1813
- The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne, 1851
- Carmilla, Le Fanu, 1872
- The Bostonians, James, 1886
- A Room with a View, Forster, 1908
- Maurice, Forster, 1914
- A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Joyce, 1916
- The Education of Henry Adams, Adams, 1918
- Winesburg, Ohio, Anderson, 1919
- So Big, Ferber, 1924
- The Magic Mountain, Mann, 1924
- The Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck, 1939
- A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Smith, 1943
- From Here to Eternity, Jones, 1951
- The Price of Salt, Highsmith, 1952 <— The Chosen One for spin #13!
I’ll be reading a 1986 Naiad Press copy of the book, which still lists Claire Morgan, Highsmith’s alias, as author. I used to own a bunch of Naiad Press books–unfortunately, I loaned them out, sold, or donated them over the years.
- Lord of the Flies, Golding, 1954
- Giovanni’s Room, Baldwin, 1956
- Ship of Fools, Porter, 1962
- A Moveable Feast, Hemingway, 1964
- Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut, 1968
When compiling this list I avoided huge tomes from my CC list like War and Peace and Don Quixote that I know I won’t have the patience for this summer. I’m looking forward to giving any of these a go. The Classic Club moderators will chose a number on Monday and I’ll come back and highlight the book I’ll be attempting this time around, which I’ll read (or not) by August 1st.
Fellow Clubbers–are there any books we have in common? Feel free to share your list in the comments. What does success with a book mean for you these days? For those of you not familiar with The Classics Club, check it out here.