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“The Odyssey” Read-a-long October 18, 2010

Posted by Heather J in Reading Ideas, Uncategorized.
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Are you planning on reading THE ODYSSEY for the Really Old Classics Challenge?  Maybe you should!  Trish @ Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting a read-a-long of this fantastic book in November.  It’s always more fun to tackle a classic with friends, so do consider joining in.

Here are the details, from Trish’s blog:

The Odyssey is divided into 24 books and we will read 6 books each week.  The schedule is as follows:

Nov 1-8: Books I-VI; 1-6
Nov 9-15: Books VII-XII; 7-12
Nov 16-22: Books XIII-XVIII; 13-18
Nov 23-30: Books XIX-XXIV; 19-24

I’ll put up a recap post and a Mister Linky on Mondays so you can link to your recap posts as well (except the last week which ends on Tuesday–think of it as an extra day for Thanksgiving).

A few notes
**The Odyssey will completely fulfill the requirements for the Really Old Classics Challenge!  Go sign up!
**My translation is by Robert Fitzgerald but the Robert Fagles version is supposed to be fantastic
**Consider listening to the audiobook version! This tale was originally told in the oral tradition.
**We’re all a little scared of this classic–you’re not alone in your timid feelings!  It’s OK.

You can get more details and sign up by clicking here.  Happy reading!


Non-Traditional Really Old Classics: Chinese and Japanese November 20, 2009

Posted by rebeccareid in Reading Ideas.
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Our previous listings of classic works focus a lot on European and Mediterrean classics. Therefore, I’ve compiled a list of some more really old classics from Japanese and Chinese traditions.

This list is, of course, not at all comprehensive. Let me know what we’ve missed (especially which traditions I should research next!) and I’ll add it! Let us know other really old classics you know about from other traditions and I’ll add them to a list too!

Note that many of the links are to works on Amazon or Wikipedia so you can get more information about the works.

  • Tao Te Ching by Lao-Tzu. Written probably 6th century BCE; ancient philosophical book central to Chinese religions.
  • The Art of War by Sun Tzu. Written 6th century BCE; a Chinese military treatise, still considered a basic text for military strategies and tactics.
  • Analects by Confucius. Written between 479 and 221 BCE; a record of the works and acts of the central Chinese thinker and philosopher.
  • Mencius by Mencius. Written in the 300s BCE; the most influential Confucian philosopher after Confucius himself.
  • The Kojiki: Records of Ancient Matters by Ō no Yasumaro. Written 712 CE; a collection of myths about the creation of Japan.
  • Nihon Shoki: The Chronicles of Japan by Prince Toneri. Written about 720 CE; a chronicle of Japanese history with a slightly more solid foundation in historical records than Kojiki.
  • Man’yōshū: The Collection of Ten Thousand Leaves by Ōtomo no Yakamochi. Written about 759 CE; the oldest and most revered of Japanese poetry collections.
  • Kokin Wakashū. Written in 905; a Japanese waka-poetry anthology.
  • The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter. Written in the 10th century; a Japanese folktale
  • The Pillow Book by Sei Shōnagon. 1000s; a book of observations and musing about life as a Japanese court lady.
  • The Tale of the Genji by Murasaki Shikibu. 1000s; a tale of women in the Japanese aristocracy, it’s often considered the world’s first novel.
  • Konjaku Monogatarishū (Anthology of Tales from the Past). Written from the 700s to 1100s; a collection of over 1000 tales from India, China, and Japan.
  • Hōjōki (An Account of My Hut) by Kamo no Chōmei. 1212; descriptions of disasters that befall the people of Kyoto, Japan.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Vol. 1 by Lo Kuan-Chung. 1300s; a historical novel of the years 169 to 280 in China.
  • Tsurezuregusa (Essays in Idleness) by Yoshida Kenkō. 1331; medieval Japanese essays.
  • The Tale of the Heike. 1371; an epic tale of the struggle between two clans for control of Japan.
  • Journey to the West (AKA Monkey) by Wu Cheng’en. 1590s; a Chinese fictionalized account of myths of a Buddist monk’s journeys. (Wikipedia)
  • The Water Margin: Outlaws of the Marsh by Shi Naian. Late 1500s; the story of 108 Chinese outlaws.

When to read a retelling: thoughts? November 10, 2009

Posted by Heather J in Reading Ideas.

I love to read retellings or reimaginings of older stories.  One of my very favorite books is THE MISTS OF AVALON, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, which tells the King Arthur story through the eyes of the incredible women around him.  However I don’t think I would have appreciated that book had I not been familiar with the story of King Arthur in the first place.  That is exactly what happened in my recent read of LAVINIA, by Ursula K. LeGuin; I wasn’t familiar enough with Virgil’s AENEID to understand and enjoy a book based on it.

I asked my challenge co-host Rebecca for her thoughts on this.  She doesn’t usually read retellings but she suggested that this might be like reading a book before seeing the movie based on that book, something that she definitely prefers to do.

So my questions to you are …

  • Do you prefer to read the original before reading the retelling?  Why or why not?
  • Are there any retellings you’d recommend that are so solid on their own that you don’t need any familiarity with the original story to appreciate them?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to share on this topic?

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this so please chime in!

Where Do I Begin?: Retellings October 27, 2009

Posted by Heather J in Reading Ideas.

I’ve recently discovered the fun of reading modern retellings of classic works, hence the extra credit option for this challenge.  If you’re up for the extra credit then this list is for you!  It is by no means complete, and I can’t vouch for the quality of the works, but hopefully it will give you some ideas of the type of retellings that are available.  I realize that the list is a bit heavy on the Greeks – help me balance it out please!

The Greeks

  • Firebrand, by Marion Zimmer Bradley (the fall of Troy from Kassandra’s point of view)
  • Lavinia, by Ursula K. Le Guin (retelling of The Aenaid through Lavinia’s eyes)
  • Ilium, by Dan Simmons (retelling of the Illiad set on Mars)
  • Olympos, Dan Simmons
  • Ithaka, by Adele Geras (retelling of The Odyssey)
  • The Memoirs of Helen of Troy, by Amanda Elyot (The Iliad)
  • Helen of Troy, by Margaret George (The Iliad)
  • Daughter of Troy: A Magnificent Saga of Courage, Betrayal, Devotion, and Destiny, by Sarah B. Franklin (The Iliad)
  • The Rage of Achilles, by Terence Hawkins (The Iliad)
  • Achilles, by Elizabeth Cook (The Iliad)
  • Pysche in a Dress, Francesca Lia Block
  • Till We Have Faces, by CS Lewis (the myth of Cupid and Psyche through the eyes of the ugly sister)

English & Irish Myth & History

  • The Ulster Cycle series, by Randy Lee Eickhoff – 6 books: The Feast, The Red Branch Tales, He Stands Alone, The Sorrows, The Raid, and The Destruction of the Inn
  • Cuchulain of Muirthemne, by Augusta Gregory
  • Son of Two Worlds: A Retelling of the Timeless Celtic Saga of Pryderi, by Haydn Middleton
  • Many books by Morgan Llywelyn
  • The Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley (King Arthur legend from the perspective of the women)
  • Le Morte d’Arthur, an Epic Limerick Vol.1, by Jacob Wenzel (retelling of the epic poem)
  • The Canterbury Tales, by Peter Ackroyd (modern language retelling)
  • Robin & the King, by Parke Godwin (Robin Hood)
  • Lady of the Forest, by Jennifer Roberson (Robin Hood)
  • The Sherwood Game, by Esther Friesner (Robin Hood)

Eastern Stories

  • The Storyteller’s Daughter: A Retelling of “The Arabian Nights”, by Cameron Dokey
  • Pancha Tantra – Five Wise Lessons: A Vivid Retelling of India’s Most Famous Collection of Fables by Krishna Dharma
  • Retelling the Ramayana: Voices from Kerala, by C. N. Srikantan Nair (reinterpreted from the perspective of women and Dalits)

Other Retellings

  • 3 books: The Singer, The Song, and The Finale, by Calvin Miller (A Mythic Retelling of the Story of the New Testament)
  • Grendel, by John Gardener (Beowulf from the monster’s point of view)

Where Do I Begin?: Some Lists (pre-1600) October 17, 2009

Posted by rebeccareid in Reading Ideas.

If you are trying to decide which really old classic(s) to read for the upcoming challenge, here are some lists and resources that may help you.

First, here is a (rather incomplete) list I compiled for last year’s Really Old Classics Challenge. I can’t include everything and it is rather skewed towards Western literature, but at least it is a start to get you thinking about which classics you might want to read.

  • Gilgamesh
  • Egyptian Book of the Dead
  • Holy Bible
  • The Apocrypha
  • Bhagavad-Gita
  • Homer Iliad, Odyssey
  • Aeschylus Oresteia, Seven Against Thebes, Prometheus Bound,
  • Sophocles Oedipus the King; Oedipus at Colonus; Antigone
  • Euripides Orestes
  • Aristophanes
  • Herodotus The Histories
  • Thucydides  The Peloponnesian Wars
  • Plato Dialogues
  • Aristotle  Poetics, Ethics
  • Plutarch Lives; Moralia
  • “Aesop” Fables
  • Cicero On the Gods
  • Horace Odes
  • Virgil Aeneid
  • Ovid Metamorphoses
  • Juvenal Satires
  • Martial Epigrams
  • Seneca Tragedies
  • Apuleius The Golden Ass
  • Saint Augustine City of God; Confessions
  • The Koran (Al-Qur’an)
  • The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night
  • The Nibelungen Lied
  • Beowulf
  • The Poem of the Cid
  • Dante The Divine Comedy
  • Petrarch Lyric Poems; Selections
  • Giovanni Boccaccio The Decameron
  • Michelangelo Buonarroti Sonnets and Madrigals
  • Niccolò Machiavelli The Prince
  • Leonardo da Vinci Notebooks
  • Benvenuto Cellini Autobiography
  • Giordano Bruno The Expulsion of the Triumphant Beast
  • Geoffrey Chaucer The Canterbury Tales; Troilus and Criseyde
  • Sir Thomas Malory Le Morte D’Arthur
  • Sir Thomas More Utopia
  • Edmund Spenser The Faerie Queene
  • Christopher Marlowe Poems and Plays
  • The Song of Roland
  • Michel de Montaigne Essays
  • François Rabelais Gargantua and Pantagruel
  • Erasmus In Praise of Folly
  • Christine de Pisan The Book of the City of Ladies
  • Romances of the Three Kingdoms
  • Sun Tzu’s Art of War
  • Confucius’s The Analects

Here are some other lists and resources on the web. Please note that not all works are pre-1600 A.D.