October 27, 2010

A Poem for the Day: "The Pine Planters" By Thomas Hardy

This morning, on a whim, I picked up Thomas Hardy's novel The Woodlanders againYes, I just read it a few months ago; but it doesn't matter at all, I just felt that I needed to read it again.  Interestingly, now that I have completed reading most of the classical ancient Greek tragedies, I am realizing just how Sophoclean this tragic tale of Hardy's is.  While folks will tell you to read Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure (and you certainly should), you would be certainly remiss in not reading his beautiful and lyrical The Woodlanders.  To reinforce the point, I am sharing Hardy's beautiful poem, written in 1909, that he mated up with his novel, The Woodlanders.  Can the man write a love poem?  What a lamentation--it simply breaks my heart every time I read this poem...

The Pine Planters
(Marty South's Reverie)


We work here together
In blast and breeze;
He fills the earth in,
I hold the trees.

He does not notice
That what I do
Keeps me from moving
And chills me through.

He has seen one fairer
I feel by his eye,
Which skims me as though
I were not by.

And since she passed here
He scarce has known
But that the woodland
Holds him alone.

I have worked here with him
Since morning shine,
He busy with his thoughts
And I with mine.

I have helped him so many,
So many days,
But never win any
Small word of praise!

Shall I not sigh to him
That I work on
Glad to be nigh to him
Though hope is gone?

Nay, though he never
Knew love like mine,
I'll bear it ever
And make no sign!


From the bundle at hand here
I take each tree,
And set it to stand, here
Always to be;
When, in a second,
As if from fear
Of Life unreckoned
Beginning here,
It starts a sighing
Through day and night,
Though while there lying
'Twas voiceless quite.

It will sigh in the morning,
Will sigh at noon,
At the winter's warning,
In wafts of June;
Grieving that never
Kind Fate decreed
It should for ever
Remain a seed,
And shun the welter
Of things without,
Unneeding shelter
From storm and drought.

Thus, all unknowing
For whom or what
We set it growing
In this bleak spot,
It still will grieve here
Throughout its time,
Unable to leave here,
Or change its clime;
Or tell the story
Of us to-day
When, halt and hoary,
We pass away.



The photograph I have included is one that I took late one evening in the Bartholomew's Cobble Preserve near Sheffield, in south-western Massachusetts.  I went back east with my oldest daughter to attend an Edith Wharton biennial conference that was being held in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  I invite you to 'click' on the photograph for the larger view.  In some respects this photograph reminds of the woodland country that Hardy's Giles Winterborne were living and working in around the little 'Wessex' hamlet of 'Little Hintock.'  I do hope that the poem and the photograph inspire you to read this beautiful novel.  I'd love to hear your thoughts about the novel if you read it.

October 25, 2010

A Poem for the Day: "Cloverton" by Me

Tonight I am featuring a poem that I recently wrote.  I just returned from a week-long trip to Nebraska visiting my daughter and her husband.  My daughter and I took the opportunity to drive a few hours over to Red Cloud, Nebraska and spend the day in Willa Cather country.  Cather is one of America's great novelists of the early 20th century, and was the second female to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1923 for her novel, One of Ours (Edith Wharton was the first in 1921).  One of the stops we made was at the tiny Cloverton Cemetery where Anna Pavelka is buried.  Just down the road from the cemetery is the old farm-house where Anna Pavelka lived and raised all of her children.  Anna was the inspiration for Cather's great character, 'Antonia Shimerda' in her wonderful novel, My Antonia.  This visit to this cemetery, and seeing Anna's grave truly inspired this humble effort of mine.  I'd love to know what you think of the poem.


In the wind, the prairie grasses—
Sweep to and fro, and time just passes.
And here, in quiet, now you sleep,
In dark prairie soil, your rest now to keep.
The wind through the trees—a song of peace,
Song of fleeting seasons, never to cease.
South, down the dusty track, a mile or more,
The house, where thirteen children you bore—
Beneath the pale blue Nebraska sky,
Where among the clouds your soul doth fly.
Fields of grain and grasses gently sway,
And song of the Lark still heard at end of day.
Faded silken flowers, that will never grow—
By the stones of Cloverton, a bit of color they show.
Beneath the pale blue Nebraska sky,
Where among the clouds your soul doth fly.

[The photograph I have included is an example of the native Nebraska  tall-grass prairie ecosystem that I took at the Nature Conservancy's Spring Creek Preserve.  This is precisely the prairie ecosystem that Willa Cather and Annie Pavelka would have known growing up in the Red Cloud area.  Unfortunately, it is an incredibly endangered ecosystem these days; there simply isn't much of this native prairie left.  Please do 'click' on the photograph for a larger view.]

October 22, 2010

Cather Country!

How many of you have read the novels and short stories of Willa Cather?  She is one of my favorite American novelists!  I just returned from spending a week in Nebraska visiting my daughter and her husband in Lincoln (home of the University of Nebraska).

We took a couple of day trips and were able to visit Cather's hometown of Red Cloud, Nebraska.  My daughter is quite the Cather scholar and really gave me a superb 'busman's tour' of all of the important Cather sites and scenes from many of her novels.  It was just an awesome experience!

I took several photographs while visiting Red Cloud, and thought that it might be fun to share them with all of you.  The photograph at top upper-right is a black and white conversion that I made of Cather's childhood home in Red Cloud.  Please do make sure that you 'click' on each photograph for the larger view.

Here's Cather's home in color.  The trees are all just starting to change into their fall colors too.

This black and white photograph (at right) is the Miner House (the fictional 'Harling' house), and is where Willa Cather frequently stayed when she came back to Red Cloud to visit family and friends.  This house is thought to have been built in 1878, and is in the Italianate style.  She dedicated My Antonia to two of the Miner girls, Carrie and Irene ("To Carrie and Irene Miner, In memory of affections old and true").

This is the house that Anna Pavelka lived in out on the Nebraska prairie outside of Red Cloud.  Anna is the woman that Willa Cather generally based her character Antonia Shimerda upon in her classic novel, My Antonia.  The root cellar (tornado shelter too?) in the foreground is the one that Jim and Antonia climb out of followed by the gaggle of little children.  While this old abandoned house is owned by the Nebraska State Historical Society, it is in a desperate state of disrepair.  I hope that the means can be found to protect and restore this beautiful piece of Americana.

The photograph, at right, is of Anna Pavelka's grave in the tiny Cloverton Cemetery.  This cemetery is miles from anywhere out in the midst of the endless Nebraska prairie.  It was truly poignant to stand at this woman's grave and realize all that she had accomplished.  Besides being a muse and inspiration for Willa Cather's writing, she bore and raised thirteen children and lived a long life.  I do wish that they (whoever 'they' are) had not planted that ugly metal sign right on top of the poor woman's grave.  Even if one had had to browse about to find her grave, it shouldn't have taken very long.  It isn't a big cemetery at all.

This is a photograph of the St. Juliana Falconieri Catholic Church in Red Cloud.  This is where Annie Pavelka's ('Antonia's') baby was baptized.  It is now owned and protected by the Nebraska State Historical Society.  It was built in 1883 and was used by the diocese until 1903.

This is a photograph that I made of the Red Cloud Burlington Train Depot.  This is the train station that Willa Cather would passed through in her journeys to and from Red Cloud.  It has been lovingly restored too, and was fascinating to visit.  During Red Cloud's heyday, this depot would have seen something like ten trains a day passing through town.  Red Cloud was on the main-line between Kansas City and Denver.

Finally, I am including a photographic portrait of Willa Cather that I have always liked.  The necklace that she is wearing was given to her by her very good friend, and fellow author, Sarah Orne Jewett (The Country of Pointed Firs and Other Stories).  This photo of Willa is thought to have been taken about 1912 and was taken in New York.

Willa Cather was born in Virginia in 1873, and died in 1947.  When Willa was nine years old, her family moved to Red Cloud, Nebraska.  She later attended and graduated from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska.  She then went back east and worked as a teacher, newspaper writer and editor, and an editor of magazines.  Most importantly though, Willa Cather is known for her beautiful novels.  To finish this posting I am including a listing of all of her novels, in the order in which they were published.

Alexander's Bridge (1912)
O Pioneers! (1913)
The Song of the Lark (1915)
My Antonia (1918)
One of Ours (1922, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1923)
A Lost Lady (1923)
The Professor's House (1925)
My Mortal Enemy (1926)
Death Comes for the Archbishop (1927)
Shadows on the Rock (1931)
Lucy Gayheart (1935)
Sapphira and the Slave Girl (1940)

October 10, 2010

Review: "Antigone" By Sophocles

I have just finished reading four different translations of Sophocles' classic tragedy Antigone, which was chronologically the first of his three great 'Theban Plays.'  The other two, in the order written, include, Oedipus the King and Oedipus at ColonusAntigone is thought to have been written around 441 BCE.  I thought it might be interesting to briefly compare and contrast the four very different translations that I read.  As is to be expected, each had strengths and weaknesses.  At least you'll get a sense of what the various translations are like; and if you are a high school English teacher this might even be a helpful posting.

First though, it is probably worth just giving a thumbnail sketch of the plot of the play.  Antigone, Ismene, Polyneices, and Eteocles are the adult children of the accidentally incestuous marriage of Oedipus and his mother Jocasta.  The story of Oedipus and Jocasta is told in Sophocles' other two 'Theban' plays (mentioned above).   Also, if you have never read Antigone, and are worried about 'Spoilers,' you may just want to scroll down to the bottom and look at the comparisons between the four versions, and skip the next five paragraphs (i.e., those between the ***).


In Antigone, we find the two sisters, Antigone and Ismene, together in the Greek city of Thebes where a great battle has just concluded, and both of their brothers have been killed.  In fact, Polyneices and Eteocles have killed each other in single combat; with Polyneices fighting on the side of the Argive army attacking Thebes and its defenders, including his brother Eteocles.  The new king of Thebes, Creon, is their uncle (their mother, Jocasta's brother).  While Creon orders full military honors and funeral rites for the slain Eteocles, he issues an edict that the sisters' brother's body, Polyneices, be left to rot and be eaten by scavengers.  This harsh order profoundly offends Antigone's sense of family honor, and it completely runs afoul of the wishes of the gods that all dead are treated with respect and buried with appropriate honor and dignity.  Creon further adds that if anyone attempts to bury the dead man that they will be immediately executed.

Antigone asks her sister to go out on the battlefield and give their slain brother's body its proper funeral rites.  Ismene, however, is afraid of violating Creon's orders and refuses to help.  Antigone is appalled at her sister's weakness, and goes out by herself.  She finds her brother's body, purifies it, and covers it with earth to protect it from the scavengers--all done in direct defiance of Creon's edict.  The covered body is discovered by Creon's sentries, and is re-exposed to the elements.  The disobedience is reported to Creon as well, who is enraged that someone would disobey his direct orders.  Of course, Antigone is then caught attempting to rebury her brother's body, and is brought before the king.

The dialog between Antigone, Creon, and the Chorus is truly amazing and quite powerful.  It is the classic example of someone standing up and doing the morally correct thing, and knowing full well that what they do may cost them their life.  This represents the power of the individual against that of the State.  In fact, early on in the play in an example of imperial hubris, Creon utters a statement that we seem to hear from our political leaders time and time again--"And he who cherishes an individual beyond his homeland,/he, I say, is nothing."  Antigone stands up to Creon by simply stating that her honor, and the honor of her family, compelled her to do what she had done, and that it was also the law of the gods.  Creon says that she must pay the ultimate price for her "treachery" as he puts it.  He sentences her to death, and that she must be walled up inside of a tomb.

At this point the Chorus, comprised of Theban elders begins to doubt the wisdom of Creon's actions against Antigone.  On top of that, Haemon, Creon's son comes in and begs his father not to kill Antigone.  Haemon loves her and wishes to marry her.  More importantly, Haemon also believes that what Antigone has done for her slain brother is only right and proper.  He tells his father that even the citizens of Thebes believe that Antigone has simply upheld her family honor, and has committed no crime and should be spared.  Creon cares not for the opinions of the citizens and does not relent.  He orders Antigone to be taken away.

Later the blind 'seer,' Tiresias comes and chastises Creon for his hubris and arrogance, and ultimately convinces Creon that his edict was wrong-headed.  Creon accepts this verdict and orders the release of Antigone.  But it is too late!  When Creon and his guards arrive at the tomb, they find that Antigone has hanged herself, and that Creon's son, Haemon is in the process of committing suicide to be with her in the Land of the Dead.  Unfortunately, it only gets worse for Creon.  Upon returning to his palace in Thebes, he finds that his wife, Eurydice, has killed herself over the suicide of her son, as well as the death of her older son in the recent battle--both deaths she lays at the feet of her husband, Creon.  The Chorus has the last word--
"The mighty words of the proud are paid in full
with mighty blows of fate, and at long last
those blows will teach us wisdom."

Okay, here are the four different translations that I read.  I have to say that they are all quite good; and while the plot is obviously the same, there are subtle differences in meter, lyricism, tempo, and use of contemporary language.
  1.  The first version I read was in an edition entitled Sophocles I from the University of Chicago Press (1991), and the translation was authored by David Grene.  This was very solidly done and quite poetic.  It also comes with the other two "Theban" plays, referenced above.  
  2. The second version I read was from the "The Greek Tragedy in New Translations" series entitled, Antigone, from the Oxford University Press.  This 1973 translation was prepared by Richard Emil Braun, and was also very well done.  Like Grene's translation (No. 1), seemed to emphasize an adherence to a classical interpretation and felt rather scholarly.
  3. The most modern and intriguing rendition was the one prepared by the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney in 2004.  Heaney's version is entitled The Burial at Thebes.  I found this to be a fresh, fast-paced, and a very poetic and lyrical modern translation.  Heaney also incorporated an interesting structure in the poem, and uses a meter of three-beats per line for the dialogs of Antigone and Ismene, four-beat lines for the Chorus (similar to the old Anglo-Saxon of his Beowulf translation), and then iambic pentameter for Creon.  Cool, huh?
  4. My favorite translation of Antigone was that of Robert Fagles in the Penguin Classics edition entitled, The Three Theban Plays (1984).  This edition includes the two 'Oedipus' plays and the Antigone, and was nominated for a National Book Award.  I really enjoy Mr. Fagles' translations, as they truly seem to feel classical, but are very understandable.  I truly enjoyed his translations of The Iliad (reviewed here) and The Oresteia; and this translation of Antigone is just as majestic and lyrical.  I highly recommend the Fagles' translations of any of these enduring classics.
So, there you are--a quick review of four different versions of Sophocles' Antigone.  This is an important play to read and ponder.  The moral message put forth in the play illustrates a dilemma that just about each of us probably encounters at least once over the course of our lives.  What the Antigone teaches us is that it is the choice of an individual to stand up and be faithful to a code of ethics, with honor, integrity and personal responsibility in the face of external pressures, sometimes forcibly applied, from others advocating a different, but immoral course of action.  This is important stuff today, just as it was in Sophocles' time.

    October 8, 2010

    Review: "The Iliad" By Homer (Translated by Robert Fagles)

    "Homer makes us Hearers, and Virgil leaves us Readers."  So wrote Alexander Pope, in 1715, in the preface to his translation of The Iliad.

    I have just completed reading a magnificent translation of Homer's The Iliad, and couldn't have enjoyed the experience more.  I had read bits and pieces of The Iliad over the course of my life, but I had never read the entire poem from start to finish.  I recently purchased the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of a translation by Robert Fagles that was completed in 1990.  While I am not qualified to compare or judge the work of one translator versus that of another, I can say that I truly enjoyed Fagles' lyrical translation that largely maintains the hexameter verse structure (i.e., six beats per line) of the original Greek texts.  For a six-hundred page poem, it was eminently readable, and a darn good story too!

    Simply put, The Iliad is the story of the last year of the ten-year long Trojan War, long thought to have been fought between the Achaean (Greek) forces and the Trojans in the 12th or 11th century BCE.  The Iliad is thought to be about 2,700 years old and is, in essence, a transcript of an epic poem in hexameter verse that was originally shared via an oral or bardic tradition.  As I was reading the poem, I couldn't help but stop and imagine a traveling story-teller stopping in a small village, and standing in the village square next to a bonfire at night and recounting this tale to a rapt and wide-eyed audience.

    In some respects, The Iliad could have been easily titled "The Rage of Achilles" (and indeed, that is the title of Book One).  The poem opens with Achilles, and it essentially concludes with Achilles.  In between is recounted the tales of the battles of egos among the primary characters and among most, if not all, of the gods on Mount Olympus.  For example, the Greek leader, Agamemnon, and the Greek's greatest warrior, Achilles clearly don't like one another; and this initially leads to significant problems for the Greeks as they battle Hector and his Trojan battalions.  Similarly, on the Trojan side, Hector doesn't think much of his younger brother, the "magnificent" Paris (a simpering dilettante).  Unfortunately, for the Greeks, because of his ongoing 'tiff' with Agamemnon, Achilles sits on the beach drinking wine and sulking for much of the poem, and doesn't enter the fray until his best friend, Patroclus, is killed in combat with Hector.  Once Achilles commits to the fight though, he becomes the true definition of a 'berserker,' and is clearly the indomitable and heroic warrior; although I have to say that Diomedes and Great Ajax are pretty darned impressive fighters too!

    I very much enjoyed how the poem wove in the politics and actions of the gods and goddesses as they continually intervened and influenced the human protagonists during the course of the tale.  Some of the gods side with the Achaeans (e.g., Hera, Athena, Poseidon, Thetis, etc.), and others with the Trojans (e.g., Ares, Apollo, Aphrodite, etc.), with Zeus paternally watching over them all.  The poem also makes quite the point of describing the hubris, selfishness, deceit, and the treachery behavior exhibited by both mortals and immortals alike.  While the poem assigns the blame for the Trojan War on Paris' abduction of Menelaus' wife, Helen (i.e., "the face that launched a thousand ships"), I happen to think the poem also implies that the war was fought because of prideful stubbornness on both sides.  Also, from a historical perspective, I have to wonder if the Trojan War really wasn't the result of a Greek desire to expand its hegemony for simple economic reasons--i.e., to control the trade routes through the Aegean Sea.  Anyway, it doesn't matter, it was simply grand to read the poem and to be completely swept up in the drama and passion of it all.

    I must caution readers that The Iliad contains some of the most savage, intense, and vivid combat imagery that I have ever encountered in literature.  This ain't your typical 'So-and-so slew So-and-so' nondescript poetic characterization.  Oh no, this is gory, explicit, and very descriptive writing that tells precisely where the great bronze spearhead struck some poor fellow, and then what it did to his body, face, or internal organs.  After one reads The Iliad, one realizes that hand-to-hand combat and butchery with spears, swords, bows and arrows, chariots, and rocks and clubs is a very personal business, messy and very, very dangerous.

    I suppose that one's experience with reading The Iliad is influenced by the particular translation that you pick up, and there are a great number of them out there.  I chose the translation by Robert Fagles, largely based upon reading reviews and my own experience reading his translation of Aeschylus' The Oresteia.  Fagles' translation of The Iliad, for me was just magical and the poem seemed alive with richness in a contemporary framework that I could readily understand.  As I mentioned above, his translation is quite lyrical and loosely maintains a meter of five- and six-beats per line throughout.  Read it aloud, it just rolls off of the tongue, and becomes simply enchanting.

    I wanted to provide a couple of examples of the poetic flavor of The Iliad for you to experience.  The first example is from Book 4: "The Truce Erupts In War" and is a description of the Greek Army advancing across the Scamander Plain to meet the Trojan Army in combat--

    "As a heavy surf assaults some roaring coast,
    piling breaker on breaker whipped by the West Wind,
    and out on the open sea a crest first rears its head
    and then pounds down on the shore with hoarse, rumbling thunder
    and in come more shouldering crests, arching up and breaking
    against some rocky spit, exploding salt foam to the skies--
    so wave on wave they came, Achaean battalions ceaseless,
    surging on to war." (Book 4: Lines 489-496)

    One can almost imagine the soldiers, shoulder to shoulder, spears pointed forward, rank upon rank, advancing across the dusty plain, screaming and bellowing at the top of their lungs as they move toward their Trojan foes.  What a terrifying sight it must have been!

    The next sample I want to provide is from the last book of The Iliad, and recounts the late-night meeting between Achilles and the Trojan King, Priam.  I don't want to spoil the poem for any first-time readers, but suffice it to say that Priam is there for a very important reason; and after nearly ten years of war, the two adversaries sit together talking in Achilles' tent late at night.  It is truly a tender, touching, and most poignant scene; especially this almost pensive reflection on the human cost of the war that Achilles shares with King Priam--

    "Come, please, sit down on this chair here...
    Let us put our griefs to rest in our own hearts,
    rake them up no more, raw as we are with mourning.
    What good's to be won from tears that chill the spirit?
    So the immortals spun our lives that we, we wretched men
    live on to bear such torments--the gods live free of sorrows.
    There are two great jars that stand on the floor of Zeus's halls
    and hold his gifts, our miseries in one, the other blessings.
    When Zeus who loves the lightning mixes gifts for a man,
    now he meets with misfortune, now good times in turn.
    When Zeus dispenses gifts from the jar of sorrows only,
    he makes a man an outcast--brutal, ravenous hunger
    drives him down the face of the shining earth,
    stalking far and wide, cursed by gods and men."
    (Book 24: Lines 609-622)

    So, so sad; and somehow one suddenly realizes that Achilles has become a very, very wise young man.

    Almost 3,000 years ago, the Human Race was given a gift--a great gift from a largely unknown itinerant poet--The Iliad.  It is a treasure for all humanity.  Read it, think about it, learn from it, and most of all pass it on--tell this great story to all who will listen.  It is their story too.


    October 6, 2010

    My Top-Ten Favorite Authors

    Well, I am a little late for "Top-Ten Tuesday," but that's okay!  Like my friend, Lisa, over at Bibliophiliac, I am intrigued with the notion of thinking about and listing my top-ten favorite authors, rather than trying to identify my top-ten favorite books (which seems an incredibly daunting task) .  I like doing this periodically too, as my list of favorite authors (and books) seems rather dynamic and changes over time with all of the reading I do.  So, I may revisit this topic a couple of times each year.  I am hopeful that it will record my maturation as a reader.  Finally, I should point out that "Top Ten Tuesday" is an original feature/weekly meme created by the folks over at The Broke and the Bookish.

    So, here is my Top-Ten Favorite Authors list.  I am also endeavoring to include an example, or two, of their works of literature that I particularly admire.  This list is in no particular order, and includes--

    1. Homer--  What can I say?  The Iliad and The Odyssey are two of the greatest epic poems known to humanity, and ripping good yarns at that!  I highly recommend the translations by Robert Fagles too.  They are masterfully done, and incredibly lyrical.
    2. Aeschylus--  Aeschylus' trilogy of tragedies, The Oresteia, is stunningly powerful.  This is the story of the House of Atreus of Argos, and its journey from a dark and bleak legacy of treachery and vengeance to the establishment of a process for formal determination and atonement of guilt through the use of a trial and jury--the process that we now know as Justice.  Again, I highly recommend reading the Fagles translation.
    3. Emily Dickinson--  The 'Belle of Amherst' is, in my humble opinion, perhaps the most important American writer to date.  You simply must read her The Complete Poems.  Her poetry is brilliant, powerful and evocative.
    4. John Keats--  Much like Dickinson, Keats is a singular and unique poetic voice; a 'Bright Star' that was dimmed all too soon, with his death at such a young age.  Keats' Complete Poems is a volume that I continually visit.
    5. Jane Austen--  Austen's novels are some of the finest fiction in the English language; and her Persuasion and Emma are my two favorites.
    6. Charles Dickens--  In my opinion, Dickens may have been the Shakespeare of his day.  His stories are steeped in the human experience and have great meaning even now.  I highly recommend his novels, Bleak House and Our Mutual Friend.
    7. Thomas Hardy--  One of my favorite authors!  Hardy's appraisal and characterization of the pastoral human experience in his fiction and poetry is almost unparalleled in my view.  Whether intentional or not, I find in Hardy's poetry and novels the thread that reaches back to the ancient Greek tragedies that binds the story of Human Life inextricably with Fate and Destiny.  Reading Hardy's Complete Poems, Tess of the d'Urbervilles, The Return of the Native, and Jude the Obscure was a transformative experience for me--I just look at Life differently now.
    8. Leo Tolstoy--  For me, Tolstoy's fiction is the voice of what it means to be Russian (similarly, I think that Anna Akhmatova is the 'poetic voice' of the Russians).  In reading Tolstoy's War and Peace and Anna Karenina, the reader cannot help but inexorably become swept up in the passion, pathos, and drama of the heart and soul of the Russian peoples against the backdrop of that great land.  I highly recommend the new translations of these two novels by the husband-wife team of Richard Pevear and Lara Volokhonsky.
    9. George Eliot--  In my view, Eliot is the giant of the Victorian pantheon of writers!  Eliot's fiction is some of the most profoundly important literature that I have ever read.  Like Tolstoy and Hugo, Eliot is didactic, but her teaching, moralizing, and philosophizing flows ever so smoothly from the printed page to the reader's consciousness.  It makes sense and just rings True!  While I love all of her books, my two favorites are The Mill on the Floss and the monumental Middlemarch.
    10. William Shakespeare--  Again, what can I say?  Harold Bloom seems to see a Canon of Literature that is 'Shakespeare-centric' in that all literature revolves around the works of 'The Bard.'  I don't disagree.  Also, I love his sonnets and narrative poems!
    Well, there it is; my list of my 'Top-Ten Favorite Authors.'  I'd love to know what you think too.  Take a minute and tell me about your favorite authors and their great works?  Happy Reading!

    October 1, 2010

    Book Beginnings on Friday

    Book Beginnings on Friday is a meme hosted by Becky at Page Turners. Anyone can participate; just share the opening sentence of your current read, making sure that you include the title and author so others know what you're reading. If you like, share with everyone why you do, or do not, like the sentence.

    This week's book beginning sentence comes from The Iliad by Homer (translated by Robert Fagles)--
    "Rage--Goddess, sing the rage of Peleus' son Achilles, murderous, doomed, that cost the Achaeans countless losses, hurling down to the House of Death so many sturdy souls, great fighters' souls, but made their bodies carrion, feasts for the dogs and birds, and the will of Zeus was moving toward its end." (Book One: Lines 1-6)
    This is an awesome translation!  I have come to profoundly admire Robert Fagles's skill at translating the Greek classics and giving them life and lyricism for new generations.  I am also participating in a group-read of Fagles' translation of The Oresteia by Aeschylus in one of my book groups on Goodreads (see my earlier review of The Oresteia here).  My version of The Iliad is the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition, 1998, 683 pp.  I also highly recommend Fagles' translation of The Odyssey.

    I wish you all a wonderful weekend, and Happy Reading!