Read With Me

Last summer, in hot and furious pursuit of credits to graduate, I took a creative writing class. Instead of being excited for the learning ahead, I just hoped to get through it without ending up in tears trying to finish the assignments. My college memories consist of me hoping this at the start of every semester, often ending up sadly disappointed. This time though, I got darn lucky.

Mr. Baxter, the creative writing professor, turned out to be one of my all time favorite teachers. I liked him because he was young enough to remember how hard college is for those foolish enough to endure it. He understood we all had other homework and other commitments in addition to his course. Instead of taking these situations personally, he accepted them and asked for no justifications. He honestly couldn’t have cared less about the excuses. All he cared about was writing and literature. I hate that expression about someone’s “passion” for their work. It’s so often used to describe people not deserving of the title. But for this professor, it applies in spades.

As we made our way through the semester, he led discussions about the stories we read with infectious zeal. His intensity and focus on writing styles, sentence structure and phrasing completely changed the way I read and interpret writing.

In the final week of the class, Mr. Baxter offered to create a reading list for anyone interested. I jumped at the chance and when I met with him to retrieve my final paper, he presented me with a two-page list of books. The selections are a mix of titles specifically tailored to my tastes (stories set in the 1940s!) and classics everyone should read. Each title is accompanied by a note, justifying it’s position on the list.

Long story short, I’ve only made it through one of the books on the list as yet, so I will be discussing each one as I finish it here. Anyone who would like to jump in and read one of the books along with me is most welcome. I’ll post the intro to each new book every other Saturday morning, allowing two weeks for reading in between.

The list:

The Slaves of Solitude, Patrick Hamilton

Mrs. Bridge, Evan S. Connell

Blithe Spirit, Noel Coward

The Quick and the Dead, Joy Williams

The Rainbow, D.H. Lawrence

The Group, Mary McCarthy

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh

The Remains of the Day, Kazou Ishiguro

Jude the Obscure, Thomas Hardy

Consider the Lobster & A Supposedly Funny Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace

The plays of Martin McDonagh

The Thin Place, Kathryn Davis

The Short Stories of Shirley Jackson

Slaughterhouse Five, Galapagos & Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut

The Sea, John Banville

“The Dead” from Dubliners, James Joyce

The Portrait of a Lady, Henry James

Bleak House, Charles Dickens

All right then. My post on The Slaves of Solitude will be up on Wednesday, July 27th. In the meantime, if you’d like to read along, inexpensive copies of the book can be found here. Don’t let that odd cover art fool you, either. The Slaves of Solitude has nothing to do with houses of ill repute.

Check out my Amazon aStore with all the books on the list here. There’s also a link for it in my menu at the top of the page.


Filed under Book Review, My Art, School

7 responses to “Read With Me

  1. This sounds like a really cool idea! I can’t wait to see what you think of some of these books. Who knows, I may even read some of them if I have time. Going to check out the Amazon store now!

  2. I really loved Jude the Obscure and The Portrait of a Lady. Those are two really great novels about ambition and loneliness. A lot of people are turned off by them, but I think they were beautiful books.

    This is a great list of titles. I’m happy that you found a great professor. They can really make a difference.

  3. I love professors like that! They’re the best!

    Oooh! I was actually in the middle of writing a post on my “Summer Reading List.” So, this is just awesome!

    I can’t wait to read all your reviews (and I LOVE the art!)

  4. Pingback: Read With Me: The Slaves of Solitude | Noir Girl

  5. This is so neat! I somehow missed this post & just saw it when you linked back from your first review today (the 27th) :-)

    My mom’s favorite author is Charles Dickens, and Bleak House is one of her favorites of his work… she’s been talking about it ever since she read it a couple years ago, going on about how wonderfully the story is, and how beautifully he wrote it. I think I’ll definitely read-along when you tackle that one! :)

    Have you ever read any Vonnegut before? Galapagos & Breakfast of Champions really aren’t my favorites of his :\ If I had read those first I might not have become such a huge fan (even though Breakfast is considered one of his very best, for some reason I just don’t think it lives up to his other work) Everything he wrote is fantastic, though, so it’s just the lesser of his amazing books ;-)

    ps. I love the artwork you did to go with this!!!!! SERIOUSLY Casey you need to open an etsy shop! You’re so talented in so many ways – sewing, painting, drawing – you need to start sharing it with the world! :D

  6. ugh how “wonderful” the story is.

  7. Ooh Kate, I’d love to have you read Bleak House along with me! Maybe we could each do a cover design for it when we’re finished. :D
    Yeah, I remember when you and I have talked about Vonnegut before you recommended Slaughterhouse Five as the one to start with. I’ll slip that one in before the others!
    Thank you, thank you for the lovely compliments! :D

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