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from here to eternity: the summer book

photo(7)So I am technically dreaming right now because summer for me is still nearly a month away and just last night I realized I was entering the dizzying vortex of finals: finals weeks . . . three to be exact, with literally hundreds more student papers to touch in some meaningful way.  At this point, really, I just sort of toss them around like balls in the air and hope they don’t bounce back.  So what better way to keep my crazy panic at bay than to dream of that summer book.  Oh, the summer book!  Aren’t you already shopping for yours?  Calling out to all your friend lists.  Tweeting . . . have any recommendations?  I need some summer books!!  Checking out everyone else’s Facebook updates to see what their friends recommend?  Well, last summer I was totally swept away by All That Is by James Salter, and I can’t wait to read his classic 1975 novel Light YearsDescribed as lyrical, iridescent, mystical, magnetic, seductive, witty, elegantly nuanced . . . what more could we ask for in a summer book?

Extraordinary . . . at once tender, exultant, unabashedly sexual, sensual, and profoundly sad.  Light Years is a masterpiece.

~ Elizabeth Benedict, Philadelphia Inquirer


mccaullifeThis looks good as well.  Had me at salacious details.

“With Twilight of the Belle Epoque Mary McAuliffe offers a delightful romp through one of the most vibrant periods in French history, even as she elegantly captures the shadows looming on the horizon. Those unfamiliar with this period will be awestruck by its riches, while connoisseurs will delight as McAuliffe brings to life the colorful cast of artists and innovators—from Picasso to Peugeot—who ushered in the twentieth century in the City of Light.” (Rachel Mesch, Yeshiva College; author of Having It All in the Belle Epoque)

“Picasso, Stravinsky, Proust, Marie Curie and Gertrude Stein are just a few of the creative dynamos who appear in the pages of this new volume—a lively account of an era of literary, artistic and technical innovation that ended with the world-altering tragedy of WWI.” (France Magazine)

“It’s actually not so much a history of a time as a collection of biographies—over 30 of them—of early 20th-century French inventors, politicians, and artists. The author divides the book by year, with each chapter relating significant events in the life of the main subjects during that one year. . . . McAuliffe has an eye for the evocative, using quotes—and salacious details—to bring these early 20th-century men and women to life.” (Library Journal)


What’s on your summer reading list?

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classics club readathon (unfog my glasses!)

What a perfect procrastination plan!  The new term starts this week and I have no idea what my students will be reading for the next three months, so what better way to spend the day than joining this Classics Club Readathon?  Go me!

Here are my answers to their kick off blog prompt.  If you are another Classics Club reader visiting my blog for the first time (that is, after you have finished all that reading, of course), consider following on twitter or bloglovin.  My Classics Club reading list can be found here.

  1. Name and Blog: Rebecca blogs at TWO OR THREE LITTLE BIRDS
  2. Snacks and Beverages of Choice: I just ate my usual brunch (quinoa cooked in coconut milk with sliced dried mission figs and apricots, flaked coconut and chopped pecans drizzled with maple syrup) and finished a pot of coffee.  All good to go for now.
  3. Where are you reading from today?: At home in a comfy chair, feet up
  4. What are your goals for the Readathon?: Avoid thinking about students and work Monday
  5. What book(s) are you planning on reading?: I will finish James Salter’s A SPORT AND A PASTIME and peek into a vintage collection of Maugham’s short stories I recently acquired.
  6. Are you excited?: Always.

END OF DAY UPDATE: I finished the classic Salter.  Next to the cellar-aged Bordeaux in his most recent All That Is, Salter’s 1967 novella A Sport and a Pastime read like a Beaujolais Nouveau.  I am at a loss for words actually and don’t know quite how to describe this book.  It was short and I finished it.  With such a sparse narrative in only about 180 pages, Salter’s infamous literary sex scenes take over any plot or character development, and it becomes one huge fantasy I feel a little strange for having been let in on, especially considering the narrator is the creepy voyeur friend gathering the couple’s steamy love affair through hotel windows.  As a writer I do get excited over some of his sentences.  But just as some critics condemn feminine romance writers for their bodice ripping plot lines, let’s just say this book had a little too much bulge in the pants for me.  Sometimes, yes, there can be too much!  If it were set a year or two later and somewhere outside of France, there’d have been tight polyester and Led Zeppelin on in the background.  Not my favorite book but as a Salter fan, I am glad I read it.  With that said, I did pick up Homer again and pulled myself together for some reading more appropriate for children’s bedtime.  Littlest love and I are just getting to the good part where Odysseus begins to unravel his story, and we read tonight about his arrival at the Island of the Cyclops’ and the encounter with the Lotus-Eaters.  My favorite part is coming up — when he escapes the Cyclops’ cave!


A PG-13 excerpt from A Sport and a Pastime, the book’s most romantic tragic bit the lady in me appreciates, when the cad is just about to pull anchor (could be a racy pun there?) and head back to the states.  He has promised his lover he will return to her but of course has no intention of doing so.  Oh and remember, this is told from the point of view of the creepy Humbert Humbert character who is jealous of the young man’s effortless swagger.  A pitiful tragic character who tells us, There are long silences filled with things I ache to know. . .

He tries to memorize her.  His hands touch her carefully.  His lips form reverent phrases.

Afterwards they lie for a long time in silence.  There is nothing.  Their poem is scattered about them.  The days have fallen everywhere, they have collapsed like cards.  The air has a chill in it.  He pulls the covers up.  She is so perfectly still she seems asleep.  He touches her face.  It is wet with tears.

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the classics club list


I am officially in the club.  The Classics Club.  Only, I think I have been an unofficial member for quite some time.  Up until today, though, I’ve been sort of a fake.  A collector.  I’ve got puddles of chic wicker floor baskets from Pottery Barn, all artfully arrayed with neat stacks of books.  At the foot of my bed: books.  Next to my overstuffed bedroom chair: BOOKS!  My home office is lined with bookshelves full of books I’ve read, but when I wander into a bookstore and these books follow me home, I toss them into a basket with a pocket full of good intentions.  So many books I want to read and so little time.  So today, I joined The Classics Club.  My name is Rebecca and I am a book-a-holic.

The Classics Club is an online community, a virtual meeting space for other book-a-holics.  When you join the club, you are required to make a promise to read at least 50 classics in 5 years and then blog about them.  That sounds like such a noble goal, and yet I’m already doubting myself being not only a terribly slow reader but someone who can’t waste a moment on a bad book.   How will I be able to do this?  But then I look at all these baskets of brand new books.  I look at the tall stack on my nightstand and feel for the housecleaners who must dust and rearrange them.  I look on the shelf above this very desk and see The Wings of the Dove.  The House of Mirth.  The Optimists Daughter.  They’re all longing to become more than mere decorative objects around my house.  So, here is the list I’ve gathered.  Some of these have been on the to do list for quite some time.  Others are re-reads, and still a few more are obscure things I feel I need to read should I fancy myself a Medievalist some day down the road, because you know, those oddballs are few and far between in English Departments these days, especially at community colleges like mine.  Imagine that and wish me luck!  I welcome other suggestions if you’ve got them, too!  What are you reading?  What have you loved?

Classics Club 5-Year List (not in any specific order)

1. M. Somerset Maugham The Painted Veil or Short Stories

2. Leo Tolstoy Anna Karenina

3. Oscar Wilde The Picture of Dorian Gray

4. Edith Wharton The House of Mirth

5. Henry James The Wings of the Dove

6. Jane Austen Mansfield Park

—. Northanger Abbey

8. Flannery O’Connor The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor

9. Thomas Hardy The Return of the Native

10. Faulkner Absalom, Absalom!

11. Barbara Pym A Glass of Blessings

12. Chinua Achebe Things Fall Apart (dreading this!)

13. Cormac McCarthy The Orchard Keeper

14. —. Blood Meridian

15. Carson McCuller’s The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

16. Nathaniel Hawthorne The Marble Faun

17. Eudora Welty The Optimists Daughter

18. Sherwood Anderson Winesburg, Ohio

19. Evelyn Waugh A Handful of Dust

20. Graham Greene The Heart of the Matter

21. —. The End of the Affair

22. —. Our Man in Havana

23. Willa Cather Death Comes for the Archbishop or My Antonia

24. Thomas Merton Seven Storey Mountain (if at first you don’t succeed . . .)

25. Wallace Stegner Angle of Repose

26. John Fowles The Magus

27. Margaret Mitchell Gone With the Wind

28. Fredrico Garcia Lorca The Gypsy Ballads

29. St. Augustine Confessions

30. Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca

31. Milan Kundera The Book of Laughter and Forgetting

32. May Sarton Plant Dreaming Deep

33. Dante The Divine Comedy

34. St. Teresa of Avila The Interior Castle

35. Dostoevski The Brothers Karamazov

36. James Salter Light Years

37 —. A Sport and a Pastime

38. Pablo Neruda Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair

39. Truman Capote Breakfast at Tiffany’s

40. Colleen McCullough The Thorn Birds

41. Margaret Atwood Surfacing

42. Mo Yan Red Sorghum

43. Philip Roth Portnoy’s Complaint or Everyman

44. Michael Cunningham The Hours

45. Maya Angelou I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

46. Colette My Mother’s House

47. unknown 14c, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

48. Margery Kempe The Book of Margery Kempe

49. unknown 14c, Pearl

50. Sir Thomas Malory Le Morte D’Arthur


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