Classics Club Readathon Wrap-Up Post

Classics Club Read-a-ThonI ended up falling asleep a lot earlier than I wanted to last night, so I wasn’t reading at all during the last half-dozen hours or so of the readathon (which ended at 8am EST, which is 5am PST/my time.) But I did get a lot more reading done on the 4th than I normally do of an average day, which is all I really hoped to do. So I’ll call this readathon a success!

I didn’t actually finish any books. I ended up reading chunks from several different titles, so I made progress on each of them. I had to change things up every so often so as not to doze off, and this worked fairly well to keep me turning pages.

I got through page 181 of 254 of Rite of Passage, which is to the end of Section 2 of 3.  I expect to finish it up today.  (It is so very good…far better than I expected.  I actually can’t wait to review it, because there are so many things I want to say – very unlike me!)

I struggled through about 25 pages of Mrs. Dalloway.  I was not expecting this one to be such a toughie for me, as I actually really like stream-of-consciousness and appreciate Woolf’s style.  But this was slooooow going for me…very rough.  I think one of my problems with it is that I think of stream-of-consciousness as generally 1st-person, whereast this is in 2nd person.  It’s not so much a stream of the protagonist’s thoughts as it is of the author’s.  At the risk of sounding offensive (as I do greatly respect Woolf,) it was rather like listening to a neighbor lady, aunt, or co-worker talk on and on and on about just about everything under the sun, skipping subject to subject without much logical structure.  And you like this person and want to listen and pay attention…but they drone so that you start to zone out and are just smiling, nodding and making occasional polite sounds to show you’re listening.  Well, that’s how the reading of this was feeling to me.  I did have some more success at the end when I stopped trying to follow narrative breadcrumbs and just let the words flow into my brain – like looking at one of those illusion pictures where you must relax your eyes just so and gaze into the pixels, not at them.  Once I started approaching the book in that way, things were easier to process.  I think I will only read this in the morning when I am most alert and just sort of listen to Woolf go on, hoping her words will coalesce in my mind over time.

I read (actually reread from many years ago) 3 of the 7 stories in Seven Japanese Tales.  I am appreciating these even more this time than when I first read them. Tanizaki had such a keen, almost uncanny grasp on the nuances of human nature.

The last book I tackled was another reread, this one first read when I was 15 or so (somewhere between 25-30 years ago) – The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon.  When I first read this, I read it as literature.  This time, I’m approaching it as nonfiction. There are many, many footnotes in this work – sometimes 3 or so per sentence – and I am reading them all as I come to them, flipping to the back of the book, back and forth.  So this is slow reading, too, but I’m really enjoying reading it this way. It’s like being told a story while a scholar whispers in your ear elaborations and definitions of words, festivals, cultural details and historical errata.  I feel like I’m learning a lot more about Heian-era Japan this read-through, so while I loved the book when I was a teen for its literary qualities, this time it’s doubly rewarding.  (I got through 38 pages of text and the 11 pages of footnotes that accompany those sections.)

I’m looking forward to the next readathon.  I can never manage to steamroll through books like I used to, but I do get more read during these events than I would otherwise, and the posts and tweets of the other participants are encouraging and fun to read.  I hope all of you who took part had a great time, too!


3 thoughts on “Classics Club Readathon Wrap-Up Post

  1. You had quite a collection of reading – wonderful! I attempted to read Mrs. Dalloway for a class a few years back, but I just couldn’t do it. I’d like to try her work again, but it probably won’t be this year. Also, I’m excited for the next readathon. I may have to organize my own since I won’t want to wait a whole year for it to come around again.

  2. I was pleased to read your comments about Mrs D. I tried and failed to read it several years ago. It was my first Woolfe, so I haven’t tried anything since in case I had the same problem.
    Your comments suggest this is not exactly like her other work, so perhaps I should try again? Any suggestions for which one is more accessible for first timers?

    • I don’t have a lot of experience with Woolf, but A Room of One’s Own, while not fiction but essay, is much more clear-cut, as well as being an insightful look at what she believed were the roadblocks keeping more women from writing. Sadly, not all of her points have been erased from society yet today.

      I have read part of and need to get back to Orlando. It wasn’t stream-of-consciousness but does require a bit of suspension of disbelief, as there is a fantasy element. (The protagonist is very long-lived – through multiple generations – and changes gender fluently. The movie adaptation stars Tilda Swinton in the title role.) This is the Woolf novel I WISH I was reading right now, but alas Mrs. D is the group read I must get through.

      I’ve read that The Voyage Out, her first novel, is less of this style, but I can’t speak with personal experience as to how experimental she gets.

      (To the Lighthouse, which I did read long ago, is stream-of-consciousness, but I didn’t find it so difficult as Mrs. D. It flowed better for me, although I’m afraid I honestly can’t pin down why.)

      Edit to add: Here’s the trailer for Orlando. I think Woolf was ahead of her time here, mixing historical fiction with futurism with romance with social critique re: gender and societal roles.


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