Summer classics: u-turn on #1

Poor James Joyce. I’ve dropped his A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man from number one to number three at best in my Summer classics challenge. Nothing against Joyce or the book, I’m just easily sidetracked. I realised that Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar was sitting on my shelf staring at me accusingly and I also located my copy of Ray Lawler’s Summer of the Seventeenth Doll which is coming up at the MTC. I’m thinking about tracking down the other two plays from The Doll Trilogy, hence Joyce possibly slipping further down the reading list.

I’ve finished The Bell Jar and will write it up soon but for now I’ve started on The Doll.

Summer classics from the bookshelf

Inspired by Literary Minded’s ‘20 Classics in 2011‘ project I’ve used it as a springboard to get around to an item long on my to do list. That’s right, read those classics. You see despite many that know me assuming I came from an arts background I flipped from arts to science come VCE (year 11/12 or high school senior years for those not from these parts). I put aside my paint brushes, charcoal, silk screens, sewing needles, history and language books two-thirds of the way through high school and switched to maths/science. Don’t ask. I still don’t understand all this time later. So yes, this meant I missed out on the fun subjects offered in those final years. I never did English Literature for one and lets face it – the more interesting choice of reading material (back when I was in school anyway) was saved for the literature class, not the standard English class.

So here I am, with almost twenty years having passed and I’m finally going to pick up some of those books I never got around to. I imagine my summer reading list will be a little haphazard. A mixture of books I did read (but oh so long ago) and some I wish I had. Others I see on high school and university book lists and get a little pang for, wishing I’d studied them. More still I found at second-hand stores and bought full of good intention; they made it to the bookshelf but never the bedside table. This I hope shall be the summer to fix that! Then there’s also the library. My local library is amazing and the cube of my bookshelf dedicated to library borrowing is always overflowing.

I’ll add my list as I go and I expect the project will continue once the summer is over at a slower pace when free time more scarce, but the loose plan is to aim for one book a week while the heat of summer is here to encourage me to hide under a shady tree, in a lovely park, with a good book and a cold drink. Ambitious yes. I foresee I rewrite to this plan quite quickly but for now let’s swing with it.

The rules, loosely speaking, are this: the book is to preferably come from the bookshelf, if not the local library or a friend’s bookshelf. One of the points of this pursuit was to remove the dust gathering on these neglected classics on the bookshelf.

The first classic I’ve picked from the shelf is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce. I’ve not read it before and it’s one I picked up at a local second-hand bookstore in the last six months or thereabouts. I’m aware that Joyce’s prose can make getting into the book a little more challenging but this is one of the classics I’ve long wondered why it’s taken me so long to pick up, hence top of the list for no other reason that it sprung out at me from the bookshelf demanding to be read.



Before I begin I need to finish the book I’m currently wandering the streets with, miraculously not bumping into poles and other people, while my head is propped downward reading. I’m a little too attached to We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. No discussion of the film please, I won’t be seeing it until the book is complete.

The idea with this project is not simply to read the books but also write something about them once they’re read. So in that wonderful universe where all things go to plan (i.e. not the one I’m currently filling) there could actually be regular weekly blog posts about books I’ve devoured. Note: take this paragraph lightly. I shall attempt to keep to my plan of reading and writing regularly. I am after all doing this both by choice and for pleasure – what could possibly go wrong?