Hello fellow classic enthusiasts and welcome to The Lost Generation Tour held by The Classics Circuit. As soon as I received word of this tour I immediately knew which book I wanted to spotlight. It was a re-read for me but one of those books that I remember distinctly down to exactly when and where I was when I first devoured it and how long it took me to complete it (approximately a week). On my second reading I took my time and simply enjoyed the nuances and details I might have not have appreciated both as a reader at a younger age and as a first time reader of the book who simply could not get enough of it as fast as possible. The book is one of many on ALA’s List of Banned and Challenged Classics. It is the story of one young man and his insatiable thirst for social advancement and what some may consider the “rags to riches” American dream. The novel is the 1925 classic An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser.
This work has been called “the worst-written great novel in the world” while others consider it one of the greatest American novels of any time period. The novel is considered a work of naturalism: a literary style that explores the premise that individuals’ fates are determined by a combination of hereditary and environmental constraints that leave no room for free will or true individual choice. For that reason our main character Clyde Griffiths is considered to be somewhat of an anti-hero.
We begin in Clyde’s childhood on the city streets as part of a family missionary group barely surviving and shunning the world of material possessions and even the stability of modern education for a sidewalk sideshow religious lifestyle. Clyde even as a child rejects this lifestyle, seeing his parents as fools and longing for more. He wishes for everything he sees around him but beyond his grasp, he wishes for power, wealth, to be accepted, to be someone. He wants the American dream and is determined to do anything to get it….no matter the consequences.
The novel continues to follow Clyde through various jobs, shenanigans and lapses in moral judgement until a defining moment when Clyde does the unthinkable for the sake of his ambition. Is Clyde a bad human being or a product of his upbringing and the greed of American society at this time in history? Only you as the reader can truly make that judgement after completing the book but many readers have differing opinions or believe a little of both.
While I don’t want to spoil the book for readers who know nothing of the central premise or ending, I will say that Dreiser based the book on a very sensational murder case involving a young man named Chester Gilette who in 1906 murdered his pregnant girlfriend and later paid the ultimate price: his life.
In the case of An American Tragedy it’s not necessarily the writing that excels…more the truth of the story. The novel works and flows in a way that readers are carried along almost magically despite it’s rather long length. It is a true classic and a testament to the question of whether we choose our own fate…or it is chosen for us by the life we are given to live. Does it take a truly horrible person to commit a crime or are some people pushed to limits that they cannot handle due to their upbringing or what society has led them to believe is most important in life. In the end An American Tragedy gives readers an engrossing story and a debate to settle within themselves. It’s a classic often forgot but not to be missed.
Please remember to also check out The Classics Circuit’s other “Lost Generation” tour stops to find other great classics just waiting to be read.
Welcome to the Classics Challenge 2011 hosted by Stiletto Storytime
Choosing my reading challenges for the year is always one of my favorite things to do. This year I really wanted to incorporate a challenge into my classical reading tastes. I love classic literature. I love discovering those classics that have gotten away from me or re-reading my favorites. It’s been a love of mine for almost as long as I have been reading. In college I chose to study English Literature and then moved on to get my Master’s in Library Science so that I could share my love of classics with others. So in that spirit I have decided to host my very first challenge:
The Classics Challenge 2011
The challenge is simple: Read classic literature. It can be from any period or genre you choose. The only rule is that it must in some way be considered a classic. What is a classic you ask? A classic to me is a book that has in some way become bigger than itself. It’s become part of culture, society or the bigger picture. It’s the book you know about even if you have not read it. It’s the book you feel like you should have read.
There are four great levels in this challenge designed to suit any reading level and the main goal is to share classics you may or may not have known about otherwise. I encourage you to sign up below and add the challenge button to your blog. The Classics Challenge Page will also allow you to add your reviews as time goes by. Every few months I will post a wrap-up along with my own periodic reviews of the classics I am enjoying. And of course I will also be giving away prizes as the year progresses to those who participate. The challenge will run from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2011. You can join at anytime. If you have a blog fantastic! If not then we still want you to read along with us. You can post reviews from any platform or just follow along and participate in comments.
Student: Read any 5 Classic Books
Bachelor’s Degree: Read any 10 Classic Books
Master’s Degree: Read any 20 Classic Books
P.H.D.: Read any 40 Classic Books
I was in elementary school the first time I read To Kill A Mockingbird
. I was a child so enamored of reading that I took a list of books considered to be classics and began reading and never quite stopped. I had a reading level higher than my maturity at the time but I didn’t much care. I was hungry for words and that list was my menu. As I re-read many of those books later in school or in my own personal reading, I often picked up on things, imagery, symbolism or nuances I was way too young to understand the first time around.
However that was not the case in most ways for To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee
wrote from a child’s point of view, one of innocence, truth and honest questioning. A viewpoint that a child could follow, especially a child of the South. Her book affected me the first time I read it as well as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. This last re-read made me realize more than ever that part of the book’s allure is that it was truthful about things often not discussed such as race and class. However what I think made it even more attractive is that is was from a child’s point of view. A child that had to be told why things were the way they were. Doesn’t it all sounds so silly when it has to be explained….doesn’t it make us see how these rules and ideas we held dear were wrong…and really didn’t make any sense at all. Isn’t it amazing how the innocence of children so often makes us see the truth just like that moment outside the jail when Scout makes a connection that makes everyone human once again and breaks up the mob.
It reminds me not to dismiss what comes from the mouths of babes…for it is so often true and wise, much more so than anything we adults have sat and mulled over for hours. Lee knew that I think, that’s why she let that little tomboy girl do the talking. She knew Scout was the voice that could deliver the story with nothing but honesty and innocence and truth. That is what made it a classic and why it is so impacting to so many…we were all children. We all asked why things were the way they were. We all wondered….questioned….decided. And made our own estimations of why life works the way it does. We can only hope Scout helped some out in their outlooks and that people were changed as a result. I have now doubt some were and still are. Bravo Ms. Lee….and Happy 50th!