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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A Little More about the Books on the Survey

When it comes to it, I'm a selfish man.  While I love teaching, I love (almost as much) the fact that I learn so much more teaching something than just reading it.  Even if no one else reads a thing on this to-be "blog," I'm gonna do it anyway.  Each of these books has changed my life.  Some of these books have done so over and over again.  They can do this for anyone.  Cheers.

The Inferno of Dante by Dante Alighieri: Book CoverL'Inferno, by Dante Alighieri

Dante's descent into Hell, and the beginnings of his quest to find his soul mate, Beatrice.  While we will indeed look at all the "episodes" through the circles and bolgie, we will also examine the underlining plot and character development of Dante.  We will also look at issues of translation, and work back and forth between the Longfellow and Pinski.  If you don't want to buy the book to keep up, you can go here-- http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/d#a507 --and download it for nothing.  I can't help you with the Pinsky.  It is my favorite translation, though.

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll: Book CoverAlice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll

I'm sure you all think you know a whole bunch about Alice.  Well, unless you took the books from me in the first place or have otherwise really dug into it, you're probably missing a few things.  These are together--and yes, I mean it--one of the most beautiful stories ever told.  If this ends up a selection, we'll look thoroughly first at the author before getting into the stories, because, though he never shows up in any of the movies, Lewis Carroll himself is the second and unsung protagonist.  Get the text for these two, as well as for some of the other Carroll works we'll look at, here: http://www.gutenberg.org/browse/authors/c#a7

East of Eden by John Steinbeck: Book Cover
East of Eden, by John Steinbeck

If I had to choose on single book to put at the very top of my list of favorites, this is the one.  This book, much like the grandfather says to the kid in The Princess Bride, has it all: "fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, true love, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles...."  Okay, so there's no fencing and only a figurative monster, unless you count deformity.  Based generally on the Cain and Abel story from Genesis, this book takes you through three generations and lets you watch, practically forcing you to pray (as if it would make a difference) that these people won't choose what you know they're going to choose anyway.  We will also examine this in light of a new discovery my sister made: the journal and letters Steinbeck wrote while writing his own favorite of his works.

the Imagist Poets

Okay, this is a pet project for me.  I'm interested in going back and really looking again at the likes of Hulme, Pound, Williams, and so on.

Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour by J. D. Salinger: Book CoverRaise High The Roof Beam, Carpenters, by J.D. Salinger

I love this book, because Seymour Glass is one of my very favorite characters.  I'm debating about changing this to another from Salinger's list.  Thoughts, anyone? 

Blindness by José Saramago: Book CoverBlindness, by Jose Saramago

I only got to teach this once.  I know I'm missing something.  Everything (that I've found) of Saramago's is allegoric.  I know I'm missing at least something.  I didn't see the movie that came out a couple years ago, and I'm not going to bother.  It's a movie about Blindness--a freaking epidemic of blindness--isn't a movie, in all its visual "glory" kind of the wrong direction for this particular story?  Anyway, this book is gorgeous, shocking, and satisfying.  Even if we don't read it here, don't miss it!

The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco: Book CoverThe Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana, by Umberto Eco

Okay.  Umberto Eco.  While I've known about him for some time, he is quickly becoming one of my very favorites.  While the majority of his work is in literary theory and a little thing called "semiotics," he also dabbles in novel writing.  Name of the Rose, Foucault's Pendulum, Baudolino, to name a few, but I'm partial to Loanna.  It's more readable than some of his other stuff, and it also offers the opportunity to examine the semiotic issues at work in all of his stuff.  If you like literary deconstruction, this should be a lot of fun.

Beatrice and Virgil by Yann Martel: Download Cover
Beatrice and Virgil, by Yann Martel

The Life of Pi man's newest iteration, and, though flawed, absolutely brilliant.  It's a book that's about the author, but not about the author; about the Holocaust, but not about the Holocaust; about a taxidermist, and very much about the taxidermist. 


Learn more.  Ask questions.  I'm excited to get started.  SO VOTE!


  1. Dear Mr. Center,

    Next time I work I'm buying a copy of Blindness and The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana.

    Also - there is a copy of Dante's Inferno on sale that has a cover made to look like the recent video game that came out.

    I was originally going to leave just this comment but got sidetracked: What is your favorite part of East of Eden?

  2. I forgot to mention that when I told you about Beatrice and Virgil like a year or so ago, I bought a copy of it for myself and then both Tobin and I bought a copy for you. Later, over email, you told you bought a copy of it on your own. Sorry. Tobin has it now.

  3. Thanks Nickie for posting this on Facebook. This is Eric Becker haha. Glad to see you have a blog Mr. Center! It's defintely an interesting read!

    I wanted to say how much the Life of Pi affected me when I read it three (possibly four?) years ago. I still make references to it today and have been meaning to reread it as an adult.

  4. Well, it's looking like East of Eden is going to be first. I'm thinking it's going to have to be Queen Loana second, but I'm kind of kicking myself for not including Jorge Luis Borges on the list. We might have to do that second no matter what.... I don't know.

    My favorite part of East of Eden?? I don't know, Nickie, but I'm sure it will come out when we start taling it through.

    Glad you're all here! (Good to "see" you, Eric.)

  5. i'm already a huge fan of alice's adventures in wonderland--you know that--but the there are three other books that piqued my interest here: l'inferno, beatrice & virgil, and east of eden. i voted for east of eden because i know it's [one of] your favourite book[s] and i'm curious to learn it by you. this sounds fun.

  6. Awesome, Katie! Glad to have you on board! To be honest, East of Eden wasn't my first choice, but now that I know you're particularly interested, my leanings are swaying. Besides, we've got all the time in the world. We'll see what comes next.

  7. By the way, if you're not registered as a "follower" yet, please do so. It's easier for me to keep track of who's reading and tayloring comments and thoughts and questions. It's almost like a classroom!


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