Sunday, June 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow's book Herzog comes in at number 42 on our list and we will be reading it in March of 2017.  Many would argue that Saul was the greatest author of our time.  Since today would have been his 97th birthday it seems to be the perfect opportunity to tip our hates to this literary genius.

In doing so I would like to share one of my favorite quotes from him;

“Boredom is the conviction that you can't change ... the shriek of unused capacities.”

Friday, June 8, 2012

O'Connor was famous before she was famous

Long before Flannery O'Connor was a famous author she was famous for another reason.  Watch this clip from 1932 clip that was played in movie houses across the country.

Click HERE.  I cannot figure out how to embed it.

Here love for birds grew as she did.  By the time of her death she had dozens of peacocks and other birds living on the farm with her.  According to our guest blogger who will be posting later this month she also loved to drive a short distance away to visit a small place called "Goat Town".  This small town was so small it didn't even have a stop sign or light but it did have one small store that tied its goats to the railing earning the town its nickname.  She even drove visitors over to the town to see all of the goats.

I know here love of peacocks does little to help us in our study of Wise Blood but I found it too interesting not to share.  

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

What is Lupus?

When I read that Flannery O’Connor died of Lupus my first thought was, “That is really sad.  What is Lupus anyways?” 

According to my research it is a systematic autoimmune disease that can affect any part of the body.  The official name is “Systemic Lupus Erythematosus” or lupus for short.  With this disease the immune system actual turns on the person’s body and it begins to attack itself.  This causes inflammation and damages tissues at the site of the attack.  Most commonly the systems that are most affected include the heart, joints, skin, lungs, blood vessels, liver, kidney and nervous systems. 

This disease is hard to diagnose because of the fact that it could possible affect so many different areas mimicking other possible health issues.  This was the case with O’Connor.  She had been sick for a while (even had a floating kidney issue) and had been diagnosed with arthritis.  She wasn’t officially diagnosed with lupus until 1950 (she found out about the diagnosis in 1952).

Today this disease is treatable, though not curable, and most patients live a long healthy life despite the disease.  In O’Connor’s time this was not the case.  Being diagnosed with Lupus was a death sentence and usually meant that the person had 5 years to live or less and the death would be a slow painful one.  O’Connor knew this fact having watched her dad die from the same disease.

Because of her status O’Connor was able to take the latest and greatest in drugs to treat Lupus and was able to defy statistics by living 14 years with the disease.  During this time she completed most of her work writing up to the very end.  She did have frequent flares of the disease that caused her great trouble and she was forced to use crutches to walk for the last 9 years of her life. 

O’Connor never made a big deal of her disease.  She instead focused on the things that mattered most to her.  Because of this instead of spending her final years at home mopping she instead set out to write things that would forever change the world.  The simple fact that we are reading her book on the list of the 100 greatest novels shows that she accomplished her goal.  In 39 short years she accomplished what the average writer cannot accomplish in a lifetime.  

Monday, June 4, 2012

Who was Flannery O’Connor?

As we begin our reading of Wise Blood we look first to the life of its author. 

Mary Flannery O’Connor was born on March 25, 1925 in Savannah Georgia to Edward and Regina O’Connor.  As a young child she already showed signs of the complex, multifaceted, somewhat mischievous, individual that she would become.  Stories abound of her bring tomatoes for the teacher instead of apples, chewing snuff in class and shooting rubber bands from her braces behind the nuns backs.  Family and friends recognized at a young age the genius and talent she possessed but few could guess the celebrity that she would become.

As she grew she quickly proved that she cared little for what others thought of her.  She was willing to pursue her own interests regardless of what others thought.  While most girls here age enjoyed playing piano, dancing or chasing boys she instead focused on drawing cartoons (or using linoleum cutting) and writing.  These interests stayed with her the rest of her life and she pursued them with wholehearted devotion.  She never did find a need for piano, dancing or even for boys spending her entire life single. 

In 1941 her father died of Lupus.  Flannery was forced to watch the man that she adored most in the world suffer a horrible slow painful death at the age of 45.  She spoke rarely of her father again.  According to those who knew her best this silence showed how deep her love had been and how deep her hurt was at his lose.  She spoke rarely of the things that mattered the most to her.

After graduating from Peabody High School in 1942 O’Connor enrolled in an accelerated program at George State College for Women at the young age of 16.  There she continued to grow as both an artist and as a writer.  Many of her students believed that she was more on the level of the faculty than the other students.  She graduated in 1945 with her B.A. in Social Sciences and from there moved to Iowa to attend the University of Iowa.  She first entered into the journalism department but soon entered into the Writer’s Workshop program.  While in this program O’Connor’s genies began to show even more causing most of the class to be intimidated by her. 

After finishing her schooling and a year fellowship writing O’Connor moved to Saratoga Springs, New York to live at Yaddo, a refuge for artists.  From there she moved to New York City for a short time and then to Ridgefield Connecticut to live with Robert and Sally Fitzgerald.  It was her that she completed most of her work on Wise Blood (although the most important work would be done later and we will look at this in a further post).

In 1950 O’Connor had her first flare of Lupus and was diagnosed with the disease.  Surprisingly her mother kept the diagnoses a secret from her for 2 years.  Because of the disease she was forced to return to Georgia to live with her mother in Milledgeville on a farm called Andalusia.  It would be here that she would spend the rest of her life writing and suffering through flares of Lupus.  She was able to travel and speak some between the flare ups and even had an audience with the Pope in 1958.  Her final tally of works includes 2 novels, a collection of short stories, and a few other pieces. 

Flannery O’Connor passed away on August 3, 1964 from lupus following a surgery.  She was 39 years old.  At her death America lost one of its most promising young writers.  

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Introducing the first 100 Novel Challenge Book Giveaway!!!

This may not be the exact cover look.
In July we will begin reading the novel The Trial (Der Prozess) by Franz Kafka.  It is the story of a man who is arrested and prosecuted without ever being told the nature of his crime.  This will be the third novel of our ‘100 Novel Challenge’ and it will be the first novel we have read so far that was not originally written in English.  If you are a proficient reader of the German language you will find this novel for free on the Kindle and you will have the opportunity to enjoy reading it in its original language, but the rest of us will have to settle for reading a translation of the book.

Of course, the translations of the book are not free.  Let me take that back.  The translations of the book are not free for most people.  One of my lucky readers will receive a free copy of this book the first week of next month courtesy of the 100 Novel Challenge team (me).

Here is how you can enter to be that lucky person:

For 1 entry into the contest this post needs to be shared on your Facebook Wall or Twitter feed.  When you have completed this mission comment here to let me know.  I don’t believe that anyone would sacrifice their integrity for a free $10 book so there is no need to leave links to the tweets or posts. 

I am allowing 5 shares on each platform (no more than 1 per day) before the end of June meaning that through this method you could be entered in the contest 10 times.

For 5 entries into the contest simply create a blog post on your own blog, or a link on your personal website regarding the 100 Novel Challenge.  Please leave a link in the comment section below so that we can all check out your site/blog.  This will be a great way for us to get to know each other better as well.

Finally, for 5 entries into the contest write a review of one of the books that we have read (Frankenstein or Wise Blood) for an online bookstore such as Amazon.  In the review state that you read the book through this challenge.  If the user agreement does not allow for links do not link back to this site but i you can please do.

Through these methods you have the opportunity to enter this contest 20 times and if all goes well many people will join us making it possible for me to give away many more books. 

The winner will be announced on June 30th.

Good luck!

Friday, June 1, 2012

A brief introduction to Wise Blood

Good morning! Let me be the first to welcome you to the month of June.

 Many people are excited because the month of June marks the first full month of summer. They will all be outside working in the yard or catching a game at the local ballpark. Most of the kids are home from school and vacation season has finally begun. As readers we have an extra reason to be happy for June. This marks the second month of our ‘100 Novel Challenge’ giving us the opportunity to read another of the greatest novels of all time, Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor.

 Wise Blood was published on May 15, 1952 marking the beginning of a short but powerful writing career. The publishing of the story of Hazel Motes didn’t attract a great deal of positive attention at first. One of the first critics even went as far as to say that it was the “work of insanity”. Another critic wondered “if the struggle to get from one sentence to the next is worthwhile”. Reactions from Flannery’s family were not any better. Regina, Flannery’s mom, fell asleep on page 9. A cousin of hers ordered advance copies to send to all of her friends (the local priests) without having read a word of the book. When she finally received her copy some say she was so upset by what she read that she spent a week in bed and then sent apologies to everyone she had sent a copy to. Another older relative simply sent her a note stating, ‘I do not like your book’.

 That first wave of poor reviews was followed by reviews that gave the exact opposite opinion of the book. The New York Herald Tribune Book Review wrote that “Flannery O’Connor, in her first novel, has taken on the difficult subject of religious mania, and succeeds in telling a tale at once delicate and grotesque.” Newsweek called O’Connor “the most naturally gifted of the youngest generation of American novelists”. 

These mixed reviews show the complexity of the book we are about to read. If you are one who likes to surface read a book without looking for greater understanding you may finish this read shaking your head wondering what sort of drugs O’Connor put into her body. If you are willing to read for understanding though, you will find a deep and powerful message.

 I look forward to another great month of reading with you.

 Paper version.  I cannot find a Kindle version to link to.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Movie Frankenstein

As part of this reading challenge I decided that it would be fun to review the film adaptations of the book that we are currently going through.  With Frankenstein that became a bit of a challenge.  This book has been adapted more times than one could imagine in almost every way possible.  Within just a few years after the book was published plays were written based on this book, and it never stopped.  When the moving picture came on the scene this novel became fodder for dozens of movies as well. 

Of these multiple adaptations it would be almost impossible for me to review all of them.  There simply isn’t enough time in the day.  In order to keep myself from going crazy I decided to review just one.  I decided to review the one that is considered the greatest of them all.

In 1931 a film was released that was so shocking that viewers needed to leave the theater.  It was far too intense for most people and in some states portions of it were even banned.   Frankenstein suddenly became more than a work of literature.  Frankenstein was now a household name.
Unfortunately the household name was not all that close to the Frankenstein that we have grown to enjoy over the past month.  Much of the depth and beauty had been removed. 

Boris Karloff did a fantastic job of creating a monster that would inspire film makers for generations.  The work that he did is still touted today as one of the greatest monster portrayals in the history of film.  This monster though never lived on Mary Shelley’s paper. 

Despite the fact that I did enjoy this film I have to say that I was disappointed.  I was hoping for something closer to what I had read.  I was hoping to see the characters come to life on the screen before my eyes.  This didn’t happen.  Even the story itself was twisted to a point that very few elements remained. 

One could almost say that the script of this movie was much like the monster itself.  Mary Shelley’s work was cut to pieces and stuck back together in order to create new life.  The new horrific life created was nothing like the original, but was powerful in its own right.  This new life was so powerful that even though it was much different than the original it became even bigger than the original.  People around the world began to believe that this new version was in fact the story of Frankenstein.  They began to believe that the monster was a slow moving, stupid, psychotic, killing machine.  Billions of people recognize this new monster, and almost no one even knows that the original was something different. 

To this films credit though it is foundational to the modern horror film and for that fact alone I must tip my hat to it.  This is a movie that should be viewed by all, just don’t expect it to be true to the story.

The Next Generation of readers

Reading great books is becoming a thing of the past.  Children are being allowed to fill their minds with video games and TV.  By the time they reach adulthood they no longer care about books.  It is up to us to make sure that we are bringing up a generation of readers.    A generation that understands the importance of great books.  A generation that can get lost in the written word. 
This 100 novel challenge has made me understand the need for this even more with my own children.  I refuse to allow them to grow up without an understanding of the importance of the written word. 
Tomorrow I will post the last of our Frankenstein series, the movie review.  Then it will be time for us to grab our next book, Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor.

Monday, May 28, 2012

My reaction to Frankenstein

As our first month of this challenge draws to a close and we gear up for our next book it’s time for one last reflection on the book that we have just read. 

Starting this challenge with a well known book such as Frankenstein turned out to be a great blessing for me.  It allowed me to ease in with a subject that I thought I already knew.  Of course, it turns out that everything I thought I knew about Frankenstein was wrong. 

The modern idea of who this monster is differs greatly from the character that I found on the pages of Mary Shelley’s book.  I have always thought of Frankenstein (the monster) as a slow moving being both physically and mentally.  Reading this book was eye-opening.  The true character has deep emotions and feelings leaving the reader not knowing whether to hate him for his killings or love him because of the pain that he has experienced.  I found myself experiencing this same tugging of feelings.  Who is the real monster in this book?  After a month of reading, I still can’t answer this question.  Perhaps the answer is both.

As for the story itself I found it surprisingly simple, and yet wonderful.  The worlds flowed smoothly in front of me and I found myself immersed in the story, loving every minute of it.  Mary Shelley is a master of storytelling.  The simple narration led to the genuine feeling of the book, and by the time the book concluded I felt a vested interest in almost all of the characters.  This is a book that I would highly recommend.  I now understand why it is on the top 100 list, and yet surprised that so few people have read it. 

I know that this book was based in science fiction, but as I was reading it a very real life warning for myself came to mind.  The idea of destruction through the pursuit of a single passion not only impacts science.  It can also impact people like you and I.  Let me try to explain.

I have 2 dreams that I am currently pursuing.  First I have returned to school so that I can complete my Masters degree and go into vocational ministry.  This is an intense pursuit and it requires a great deal of time and energy from me.  Secondly I am working towards my dream of becoming a published author.  This is also an intense pursuit which keeps me awake into the wee hours of the morning.  There is nothing wrong with either of these pursuits and some might even say that they are good.  If I am not careful though, I may allow my pursuits to lead to my destruction.  Many who have sought these goals before me have lost their spouse and children along the way.  They have lost friends and family.  When they finally achieved their goal they looked up and found themselves completely alone and unsatisfied.

Like Frankenstein we each have the capacity to push ourselves to ruin, all in the name of some greater purpose.  May this book serve as a reminder of that possibility.  It was a good book with good characters but for a book to be truly great it needs to change us.  I believe this lesson (at least for me) is what makes this book great.

 What are your thoughts?  Did you enjoy the book?  Why?  Any takeaways that you can share with us?

Friday, May 25, 2012

A reader’s thoughts on Memorial Day

As we head into this long holiday weekend many of us have big plans for things that we are going to be doing with friends and family.  Perhaps you are going to spend time at the lake, or maybe you will just stay home and grill.  Maybe you will go to your local cemetery to decorate graves, or maybe you will use the long weekend to catch up on some much needed sleep.  If you are anything like me though, any plan that you have will also involve sneaking away for a bit and doing some reading.

As readers we have much to be thankful for as we celebrate Memorial Day.  We take it for granted that we can go to our local library and grab a book on any subject and read it without issue.  This ability to read freely was far from free.  Billions of people around the world today do not enjoy the same freedom that you do.  For them reading many of the books we enjoy is nothing more than a dream.  The only reason we are able to enjoy this freedom that they covet is the soldiers who gave their lives in service fighting for that freedom.  This weekend is meant to honor them.  

There is another soldier that we must recognize during our Memorial Day weekend as well.  This soldier though didn’t fight battles with guns and swords.  Instead they fought the battle for freedom with pen and paper.  It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, and many times these men and women have proven it true.  Some of them lost their lives because of what they wrote.  They found themselves martyrs for causes that they believed a great deal in.  Others spent their lives as living martyrs sacrificing everything in order to fight for what they believed in.  Instead of seeking riches and fame they put words to paper.

These word soldiers have ranged throughout time and on Memorial Day I believe that we must honor them.  We must honor men such as those that penned the Declaration of Independence.  With each word they signed a possible death sentence knowing that they were fighting for something greater than themselves.  We must honor men such as Abraham Lincoln who used his words to change the heart of a nation and bring families back together.  We must honor men like Martin Luther King Jr. who used the written word to help bring an end to racial separation.  We must honor the thousands of other men and women have done (and still do) the same. 

I hope that whatever you plans are this weekend you take at least a few moments to think of those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for our country.  Think of the soldiers that willingly laid down their lives on battle fields around the world and throughout the course of American history.  Millions of them have died over the years so that we can live in the country that we live in today.  While doing this don’t forget to remember the writers who have used weapons more powerful than even guns to change our country and allow us the freedom that we enjoy today.

Of course there is no way to thank them for all that they have done to earn and guard the freedoms we enjoy.  They are no longer with us.  Perhaps the best thing we can do is to simply enjoy the freedom that we have because of them.  Pick up a book and start reading it.  Billions of people around the world cannot do this, but you can.  Don’t waste this freedom that you have.  While you are reading it, think of the millions of soldiers who died so that you could.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Frankenstein’s social impact

Being in print for almost 200 years Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein has left a large legacy.  Thousands of essays have been written on the topic of this book and Mary herself.  Students have even devoted dissertations to the topic of Frankenstein and its impact on society.  Had I planned better and not started this reading program during my first month of finals in a decade I was planning to explore each of the major points of interest in detail.  Instead I will use this thread to sum up the various topics that find themselves at the forefront of Frankenstein scholar.  If one of these topics interest you let me know and I can get you information for further study.  I am sure that as you read through these you will be able to pickup the source of these topics from what you have read.

Destructive Potential of Science
One of the most obvious topics that has been explored by those looking to this text and its reflection on society is the possible destructive nature of science.  When misused this tool we use to gain knowledge, and progress mankind, can in fact have the opposite effect causing harm to society.  When Mary Shelley wrote this book the scientific world was rapidly changing and this caused great fear.  People understood the power of the scientific search and knew that if it was allowed to progress too far irreparable damage to the world could be caused.   

In today’s world we have almost forgotten this fear.  Despite the fact that we live closer to global disaster than ever before we tend to forget the power of atomic bombs, or biological devices are cloning.  This book serves as a good reminder.  Some discoveries are not worth the consequences. 

Nature vs. Nurture
How would the monster have turned out had he been loved and cared for?  What would have happened had he been named Simon and tucked in at night with a bedtime story?  Of course this is a question that we can never answer, but the idea is intriguing.  The conversations between Frankenstein and his creation seem to suggest that things would have been drastically different. 

This story line may be different than anything we will ever experience in life, but I am willing to bet that a visit to your local prison may prove that the story isn’t too far off.  Humans struggle with the same emotions of rejection and vengeance as our demon do.

Tampering in God’s Domain
One of the most discussed themes in Frankenstein is the fact that God alone can create life.  By fooling around in this area we can only bring destruction on ourselves.  Of course some may disagree but even most passionate atheists will agree that some things, such as the creation of life, should be left alone. 

Gender identity
Yep, people use Frankenstein to discuss gender roles and identity.  It’s ridiculous in my opinion.  If you want information on where to find out more about this let me know and I will send it to you.  I tried to read about it and couldn't take it seriously…

Physical Deformity = Monster
I wish this were not true but I believe that it is.  The monster was reject almost everywhere he went instantly because of his appearance.  In our society this is true as well.  Of course we don’t beat and stone people, but watch from a distance sometime as a person with a major deformity or issue goes about life.  People leave a wide path for them, avoid eye contact and do not talk to them.  The less normal you look, the less as a human you are treated. 

I challenge you to change this in your life, and in the world around you. 

Other topics as well
Of course, these are not the only issues that are discusses regarding this text, but they are the main issues.  I apologize I could not devote more ink to them because of my poor planning.  That will not be the case in the future. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Hope you are all enjoying...

I am enjoying Frankenstein much more than I thought I would.  Its really a good book and this experience is helping me get even more excited about things to come.  We still have 99 books left.  What are your thoughts so far?  How is your reading going?  Are you reading yet or still waiting to get started? 

I ask these questions for 2 reasons.  The first is I really want to know and covet a dialogue between readers.  Secondly, its finals week and I am half dead so I don't have the energy to create a long post...  Only a couple more left though and I will be done till fall. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Modern Prometheus

The full title of our book is Frankenstein or a Modern Prometheus.  Some of you may have that on the cover of your book, others may not.  My copy leaves this portion of the title off. 

What exactly does "modern Prometheus" mean though?  Follow the below link to find out. 

Click HERE

Sunday, May 6, 2012

The origin of Frankenstein -- and the modern vampire too

In the summer of 1816 Mary Godwin (later Shelley) traveled with her soon-to-be-husband Percy Shelley and her step sister Claire Clairmont to a villa in Switzerland to spend a couple of months with world famous poet Lord Byron and his friend Dr. John Polidori.  The idea was that they would spend a great deal of time out and about or on the lake, but the weather had different plans.  One of the strangest weather patterns in history was in place that year causing a great deal of rain and unseasonably cold temperatures.  Some have even called 1816 the year that "summer never came".

Of course in 1816 there was no TV or radio, and travel was only on foot or horse so one had to stay close to home.  This meant that the 5 (plus a small child) young vacationers had to come up with activities in order to avoid boredom.  They spent a great deal of time in conversation with each other debating current issues in all fields.  They also spent a large amount of time reading to each other various books.  At one point they even got there hands on a book of German ghost stories.  It was these stories that would prove fodder for a small piece of history.

The poet Lord Byron came up with the idea of a contest.  They would all write a ghost story to share with each other by the end of the summer.  Mary had a great deal of troubling coming up with the idea for her story.  One night that all changed.  Mary closed her eyes to fall asleep but instead she was greeted by an image of a scientist standing next to a table containing his creation.  She opened her eyes startled, but knowing that she had found her story. 

Over the next 2 years Percy Shelley encouraged and helped her grow the tale and bring it to novel length.  His finger prints can be found in the wording of the book, but based on what he changed it is obvious that he missed her point.  The only portions he adjusted were places where he made the monster less human and more monster-like.

Out of this 2 year labor stemming from a contest we get the book we hold in our hands today.  Amazingly though this isn't the only book (or piece of history) that came out of this contest. 

The famous Lord Byron began work on a vampire story but as far as anyone can see it was never finished.  Its fragment was eventually published at the end of one of his other works.  He did produce other works during this summer though.  Dr. John Polidori on the other hand wrote what may be the most important vampire book of all time in The Vampyre.  In it he creates the image of the modern vampire that has been used by almost all authors since including Bram Stoker.  What you think of when you think Dracula comes from this book.  Percy Shelley did write one of his most significant works during this contest in Hym to Intellectual Beauty.  Like most of his work it didn't receive great reviews.  Claire also wrote a book for this contest but it never found its way to publication. 

I can't find whether they considered Mary as the winner of the contest. I guess in the larger scope of history the answer is obvious. We are reading her book, but have never heard of the other 4 writers.

What we know for certain though is that out of the contest came two of the most important figures in horror writing history in the monster known as Frankenstein and the modern Vampire.

The other thing that came out of this meeting is what is known as the "curse of Frankenstein".  Of the 6 people in the house that summer only Mary and Claire would be alive in just a few short years. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Robert De Niro's Frankenstein - by Frank Caliendo

I found the video that Aaron posted about earlier and thought I would share it with the group. 

Have a great weekend!!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Author of Frankenstein -- Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley always wanted to be a great writer.  Of course, considering her parents there is possibly little else she could have wanted to be.  She was born to literary celebrity parents on August 30, 1797 in London.  Her father was renowned novelist and essayist William Godwin, her mother a pioneering feminist writer named Mary Wollstonecraft.    The two had never married believing that marriage was simply a form of prostitution.  

In an event that would foreshadow the tragic life she would endure her mother died when she was only day’s old due to complications from giving birth.   Her father was crushed but quickly married the next door neighbor Mary Jane Clairmont in order to provide a mother for Mary and her older sister Fanny.  The relationship between Mary and her step mother was never a good one and her father appears to have emotionally removed himself from the equation as well. 

Mary did have a luxury that few young children have.  Because of the status of her father as a prominent author and thinker there was a constant stream of intellectual giants visiting the household.  She was able to rub shoulders with men such as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Humphry Davy and Charles Lamb.  These figures played a large role in her education as well due to the fact that she was home educated.  

Although her father was emotionally distant he was still an attentive and involved father.  It was he who took time to educate his daughter at home.  He also worked to develop and encouraged her love for writing.  When Mary was only 11 years old he helped her to publish her first short book of poetry titled Mounseer Nongtonpaw.  Little did he know that in less than 8 years she would conceive and write what would become one of the most famous novels in history.

One of the famous men that made trips to visit Mary’s father starting in 1814 was a rising poet named Percy Shelley.  The attraction between the two was almost immediate and they fell deeply in love.  The fact that he was a married father of 2 apparently made little difference to either of them.  When Mary’s father discovered the relationship he was furious.  Shelley’s family was obviously unhappy as well.  So, in keeping pace with what young stupid people do, they ran away together to mainland Europe.  

In 1815 Mary delivered her first child but tragedy struck when the baby died only a couple of days later.  

Mary’s spirits were lifted a year later when she delivered a healthy baby boy named William.  Her spirits were lifted even further when her step sister Claire told her that she and Percy had been invited to spend the summer with famous poet Lord Byron in a villa in Switzerland.  It was in this villa that the story for Frankenstein would be born (more on this event on Monday).

Frankenstein was published on the last day of 1817 and would mark the beginning of a series of events which few could withstand.  First her half sister Fanny committed suicide.  Shortly after this Percy Shelley’s ex-wife committed suicide as well.  These events were followed by the birth and death of another baby and in June of 1819 her three year old son William died of malaria.  Her husband Percy passed in July of 1822 when a freak storm popped up while we was sailing as well.  These tragedies also go alongside the various friends that passed early, including almost everyone who spent that summer in the Swiss villa where Frankenstein was born.  In fact, the events following the publishing of Frankenstein were so terrible that many have called it a curse.  After reading the history I may have to agree.

Mary lived alone for most of the rest of her life.  She spent her time writing her own books, and publishing work that she found of her husband’s.  She never remarried or seemed to find any happiness.  She dies on February 1, 1851 at the age of 53.  Of all that she wrote throughout the remainder of her life nothing ever came close to her first major work, Frankenstein. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

#100 - Mary Shelley's Frankenstein - - let the book club begin!

Drama critic Christopher Small noted that Frankenstein is "uniquely new to every fresh generation of readers" but that it is also "familiar to them before they begin to read". For many of us this is true. We will be reading a book for the first time, but the story of Frankenstein has been around our entire lives in one way or another.  With each turn of the page we will go deeper into a world that we have never been before, yet we will be doing so alongside characters we have known since preschool.
As we move through this book you may be surprised to find that there are no hunchback assistants or angry villagers with torches chasing the monster through the country side. These images have been added over the course of 100 years of movie adaptations, graphic novels and all sorts of other pop culture. You may also be surprised to find that after 100 years of Hollywood the central characters and heart of the story has remained unchanged. These cultural icons in the public consciousness are almost identical to the ones that can be found in Mary Shelley's 1818 original copy.

As we progress through this tale it will be exciting to see what portions are as we expect them to be based on our film and pop culture knowledge and what portions shock us because of how different they are from what we know.  

A few words before we begin

As we begin this 8 year 4 month journey I would like to say a couple of words about how I plan to move forward.  

Each month we will all be reading a novel together.  Of course, we all have different schedules and responsibilities so we will not be reading at the exact same time, which could lead to some spoilers if not handled well.  Because of this I plan to spend the first half of each month on author, background, literary and historical information.  These posts will give some information about the book but will focus on bigger picture topics.  The second half of the month will be on the text itself.  This will allow time for all of us to be adequately progressing through the novel before information from the book starts coming out.  I would hate to spoil a great book for someone.  I probably will not be able to stay away from everything for the slower readers though, and discussions will be taking place throughout the month in the comment sections.  If something is being discussed that could ruin a plot twist I will place the text “spoiler alert” on the post or comment so you can decide if you want to read it or not.  I ask other commenters to do the same.

My goal is to post 3 times per week (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) and I should stick to this pretty closely.  I tell you this so that you can hold me accountable if I get behind.  Also, I enjoy research immensely so if there is ever a topic that you would like me to cover, or feel I have not covered deep enough, let me know.

There are only 2 rules for this book club blog.  First is that language should be appropriate for all ages.  I don’t think this will be a problem but I want to say something now just in case.  I have run into some potty mouths before and I hate deleting comments for any reason.  Secondly, have fun.  

With that, I give you Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Warm Up

Tomorrow we kick off our first book Frankenstein.  Some believe that this old "horror" book is not still relevent today.  I would like to remind you of this.
Remember Dolly? 

Think there may be human examples of cloning out there already?  I do.  But even if there are not, there will be some soon.  Some scientist somewhere is going to clone a human at some point and there is probably little we can do to stop them.  What will that mean for the new child?  How will the child be treated?  Is the child even a real person?  Will everyone agree on this?

Still think Frankenstein is not relevent today? 

Sunday, April 29, 2012

My dream room

I have always dreamed of having a room like this to read and write in.  This place has everything including the best atmosphere possible.  I think I could possibly die in this room.  Here is a link to several more great places to read.  Check it out

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Off to the library

I am on my way to my favorite place.

I love everything about the library.  I love being surrounded by books.  I love sitting on the floor in a isle somewhere finding an author or book I have never heard of before.  I love the cozy feeling I have every time I am in there.  Most of all though, I love the smell.  It is the greatest smell on Earth.  I love the slightly musty smell of old well loved books and I also love the crisp smell of fresh ink in a new book.  Please tell me I am not the only one.

BTW:  Some genius has created a candle with this scent.  Awesome, but I will just surround myself with books instead. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Bible and other Missing books

I have been asked why many of the most important books in history have been omitted from this list.  Some have asked why the Bible is not included, others have asked about Pilgrim's Progress (the second best selling book of all time) and others have asked about other books.  I can't answer for those who made the list but I will give my best guess.

First, this list is exclusive for novels.  That removes the books such as the Bible (which is a collection of letters and documents).  It also excludes books that are poetry by definition such as Homer's Odessy or Iliad.  Other great books are also left off because of language barriers and translation issues.  This list is specific to an English audience.  We as 21st century Americans probably would find little meaning in works such as I Ching or Tao Te Ching

Secondly, any list created automatically carries with it the bias of those who are selecting.  It also carries with it the bias of the culture at large.  Sadly the modern English speaking culture has lost its respect for classic religious texts and this list brings light to this situation.  Almost all religious books have been removed from this list, from all faiths.  Not only is Christian literature missing, but also are books of Catholic importance and others. 

No thinking person (whether religious or not) can doubt the impact that these books have had on the world. 

Lastly, this list contains mostly recent novels.  There are very few books listed that are more than 150 years old.  These books were written for our audience and we can immediately relate to them because we live in (or near in time) to the context of the book.

Regardless of whether one agrees 100% with the list or not it cannot be missed that these are all great novels.  Perhaps when this is over in 8 years we can start reading the others.  Start looking now for your copy of I Ching

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Got to keep posting

I really don't have anything to say yet.  We haven't started reading and everything I have to post is for our first book.  I don't want to use all of that material and have nothing left to say while we are reading.

I have to keep posting though.  The Internet is a funny place where everything has to do with search engine rankings.  In order to get people to come here I need a greater ranking.  In order for the greater ranking I need more material on here.  That means that I need to keep posting, even when there is no reason to.  Like now.

I also need to mention words like '100 Greatest Novels' and 'book club' and 'online' often enough that when people search with those terms this blog shows up.

So really, all of this to say that there is no need to read this.  This is just a post for the sake of posting.  carry on with your day...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Epic Fail

I started reading our first book last night.  I know, I'm sorry.  I will read it again starting May 1 I promise. 

It is good though.  If you havent read this before I think you are going to enjoy it.  It's actually not at all what I expected.  It's much more.

Thank you again for joining me in this adventure.  I am really excited to read these books and hopefully meet some new people.  I am hoping that in 8 years this is going so well that we need to find a new list of books to read together.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Difficult not to start reading...

I am having trouble not jumping the gun and starting our first book.  I want to do this right which is why I think waiting until May 1 is the best idea.  It gives us all a chance to get the book ready and it also allows time for more people to join in on the fun. 

I have the book in my hands though (actually on my Kindle) and its not like me to not read it.  I need something else to do instead so I will be grabbing another book.

With that in mind I was wondering what you favorite book is.  Why?

Also, whats the worst book you have ever read?

For me nothing beats The Hitchhikers Guide books.  I love every page of the books.  The worst book ever is War and Peace.  We will get to read both during this challenge.

Celebrity bloggers?

My goal is to make this one of the greatest book clubs on the net.  We will already be reading the best books available written by some of the greatest writers in history.  Its going to be hard to get better than that.  I am going to bring in fun historical facts regarding the books and the writers themselves which I am excited about.  I do love history.  I am also looking to bring in elements of pop culture inspired by the books.  maybe during our read of Frankenstein we can talk about Herman Munster. 

I want to make it bigger than that though. 
Starting today I am looking for guest posts from various famous celebrities for each book.  These will be people that can add value to the conversation regarding the book such as people who have played in the film versions or other authors that have been inspired by the work.  I am also looking to bring in professors of literature and history in order to bring value to the conversation. 
I am not sure if I can pull this off put I figure its worth a try.  The worst they can do is say "no".  If there is someone you would like to hear from on a particular book please let me know and I can hunt them down.  I figure the further we go in this project the bigger it should get.  This will give us greater odds of hearing from those we want to hear from. 

Also, if any of you happen to be besties with Stephan King please let him know that we would love to hear his thoughts on our first book Frankenstein.

Buy Frankenstein for $0.00!!!

Our 'book club' will be kicking off on May 1, 2012 with Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

There are dozens of copies of this book that you can get or go to you local library.  I did find though that if you have a Kindle you can download it for free.  In fact, I think several of the books we will be reading in this can be gained free on the Kindle.

Do you have a Kindle or another ereader?  Do you prefer reading from it or paper books?

If you are using something besides Kindle let us know if this book is free on it as well.

Friday, April 13, 2012

About the top 100 list

Before we get started I figure I should let everyone know where this list of 100 books came from. 

After reviewing several different top 100 lists a lady by the name of Leisa Watkins had a brilliant idea to create the perfect top 100 list.  She took the lists created by Random House Readers, The Random House Board, the Radcliffe List, Time Magazine, Guardian Unlimited and the BBC and combined them.  Using these lists she created a list that takes into account the majority of the English speaking world, the readers of these books, and those at a higher level.

You can read all about her system HERE.

Many of the books are the same, but there are some differences between lists.  We could have used any of the lists on this journey but I figured we might as well get the best of the best.

So without further adieu.  Here is our list.

1.    THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
2.    ULYSSES by James Joyce
3.    1984 by George Orwell
4.    THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
5.    ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
6.    THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
7.    CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
8.    LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
9.    BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
11.  THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
12.  TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD by Harper Lee
13.  THE LORD OF THE RINGS by J.R.R. Tolkien
15.  ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
16.  TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
17.  INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
18.  A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
19.  GONE WITH THE WIND by Margaret Mitchell
20.  AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
21.  A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
22.  A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
23.  LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
24.  THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
25.  DAVID COPPERFIELD by Charles Dickens
26.  EMMA by Jane Austen
27.  TESS Of The D’URBERVILLES, Thomas Hardy
28.  THE SCARLET LETTER by Nathaniel Hawthorne
29.  WUTHERING HEIGHTS by Emily Bronte
30.  THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
31.  SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
32.  JANE EYRE by Charlotte Bronte
33.  BELOVED by Toni Morrison
34.  ANNA KAREINA by Leo Tolstoy
35.  THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
36.  NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
37.  ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SOLITUDE by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
38.  NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
39.  HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
40.  UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
41.  THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
42.  HERZOG by Saul Bellow
43.  THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS by Kenneth Grahame
44.  U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
45.  FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
46.  AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
47.  WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
48.  THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
49.  THE WOMAN IN WHITE by Wilkie Collins
50.  THINGS FALL APART by Chinua Achebe
51.  TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
52.  MY ANTONIA by Willa Cather
53.  LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
54.  THE MAGUS by John Fowles
56.  DON QUIXOTE by Miguel de Cervantes
57.  TOM JONES by Henry Fielding
58.  WAR AND PEACE by Leo Tolstoy
59.  MOBY-DICK by Herman Melville
60.  MADAME BOVARY by Gustave Flaubert
61.  WINNIE THE POOH by A(lan) A(lexander) Milne
62.  GREAT EXPECTATIONS by Charles Dickens
63.  THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV by Feodor Dostoevsky
64.  TRISTAM SHANDY by Laurence Sterne
65.  LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa M. Alcott
66.  VANITY FAIR by William Makepeace Thackeray
67.  PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen
68.  IN SEARCH OF LOST TIME by Marcel Proust
69.  THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
71.  GRAVITY’S RAINBOW by Thomas Pynchon
72.  THE AWAKENING by Kate Chopin
73.  DUNE by Frank Herbert
74.  A TOWN LIKE ALICE by Nevil Shute
76.  CLARISSA by Samuel Richardson
78.  A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY by John Irving
79.  THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO by Alexandre Dumas
80.  THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY by Henry James
81.  OF MICE AND MEN by John Steinbeck
82.  ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
83.  GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
84.  CHARLOTE’S WEB by E. B. White
85.  ROBINSON CRUSOE by Daniel Defoe
86.  CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Feodor Dostoevsky
87.  THE STAND by Stephen King
88.  REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier
89.  I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
90.  HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
91.  TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
92.  THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence
93.  BLEAK HOUSE by Charles Dickens
94.  ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
95.  ABSALOM, ABSALOM! by William Faulkner
96.  THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James
97.  AUSTERLITZ by W. G. Sebald
98.  THE TRIAL by Franz Kafka
99.  WISE BLOOD by Flannery O’Connor
100. FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley