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Classics Revisited


Dates, Location

  • Third Thursday of every month (September to May)
  • 7 pm - 8 pm
  • Central Library, Boardroom (3rd floor) 
  • Phone 269-553-7839 for more information

“Reading and re-reading the best books of all time.”

“Literature is the question minus the answer.” —Roland Barthes 

Join these book-besotted local librarians for a lively discussion about favorite classics, both modern and old standards! 

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2018-2019 Schedule:

Germinal - December 20, 2018 by Émile ZolaGerminal - December 20, 2018  
Zola, Émile
Considered by Andre Gide to be one of the ten greatest novels in the French language, mile Zola's Germinal is a brutal depiction of the poverty and wretchedness of a mining community in northern France, translated with an introduction by Roger Pearson in Penguin Classics. tienne Lantier, an unemployed railway worker, is a clever but uneducated young man with a dangerous temper. Compelled to take a back-breakin job at Le Voreux mine when he cannot get other work, he discovers that his fellow miners are ill, hungry and in debt, unable to feed and clothe their families. When conditions in the mining community deteriorate even further, Lantier finds himself leading a strike that could mean starvation or salvation for all. The thirteenth novel in Zola's great Rougon-Macquart sequence, Germinal expresses outrage at the exploitation of the many by the few, but also shows humanity's capacity for compassion and hope.Roger Pearson's lively and modern new translation is accompanied by an introduction that examines the social and political background to Zola's masterpiece, in particular the changing relationship between labour and capital. This edition also contains a further reading list and filmography, chronology, notes and glossary.Emile Zola (1840-1902) was the leading figure in the French school of naturalistic fiction. His principal work, Les Rougon-Macquart , is a panorama of mid-19th century French life, in a cycle of 20 novels which Zola wrote over a period of 22 years, including Au Bonheur des Dames (1883), The Beast Within (1890), Nana (1880), and The Drinking Den (1877).If you enjoyed Germinal , you might like Zola's Ther se Raquin , also available in Penguin Classics.
Selected Essays - January 17, 2019 by Michel de MontaigneSelected Essays - January 17, 2019  
Montaigne, Michel de
Michel de Montaigne was one of the most influential figures of the Renaissance, singlehandedly responsible for popularising the essay as a literary form. This Penguin Classics edition of The Complete Essays is translated from the French and edited with an introduction and notes by M.A. Screech.In 1572 Montaigne retired to his estates in order to devote himself to leisure, reading and reflection. There he wrote his constantly expanding 'assays', inspired by the ideas he found in books contained in his library and from his own experience. He discusses subjects as diverse as war-horses and cannibals, poetry and politics, sex and religion, love and friendship, ecstasy and experience. But, above all, Montaigne studied himself as a way of drawing out his own inner nature and that of men and women in general. The Essays are among the most idiosyncratic and personal works in all literature and provide an engaging insight into a wise Renaissance mind, continuing to give pleasure and enlightenment to modern readers.With its extensive introduction and notes, M.A. Screech's edition of Montaigne is widely regarded as the most distinguished of recent times.Michel de Montaigne (1533-1586) studied law and spent a number of years working as a counsellor before devoting his life to reading, writing and reflection. If you enjoyed The Complete Essays , you might like Francois Rabelais's Gargantua and Pantagruel , also available in Penguin Classics.'Screech's fine version ... must surely serve as the definitive English Montaigne'A.C. Grayling, Financial Times 'A superb edition'Nicholas Wollaston, Observer
The Golden Ass - February 21, 2019 by   ApuleiusThe Golden Ass - February 21, 2019  
(date uncertain)
The Golden Ass is a unique, entertaining, and thoroughly readable Latin novel - the only work of fiction in Latin to have survived in its entirety.It tells the story of Lucius, whose curiosity and fascination for sex and magic result in his transformation into an ass. After suffering a series of trials and humiliations, he is ultimately transformed back into human shape by the kindness of the Goddess Isis.Blending romantic adventure, fable, and religious testament, The Golden Ass is one of the truly seminal books of European literature, of intrinsic interest as a novel in its own right, and one of the earliest examples of the picaresque. This new translation is at once faithful to the meaning of theLatin, whilst reproducing all the exuberant gaiety of the original.
The Invisible Man - March 21, 2019 by Ralph EllisonThe Invisible Man - March 21, 2019  
Ellison, Ralph
Invisible Man is a milestone in American literature, a book that has continued to engage readers since its appearance in 1952. A first novel by an unknown writer, it remained on the bestseller list for sixteen weeks, won the National Book Award for fiction, and established Ralph Ellison as one of the key writers of the century. The nameless narrator of the novel describes growing up in a black community in the South, attending a Negro college from which he is expelled, moving to New York and becoming the chief spokesman of the Harlem branch of "the Brotherhood," and retreating amid violence and confusion to the basement lair of the Invisible Man he imagines himself to be. The book is a passionate and witty tour de force of style, strongly influenced by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land , Joyce, and Dostoevsky.
Prejudices, 1st Series - April 18, 2019 by Mencken H.L.Prejudices, 1st Series - April 18, 2019  
H.L., Mencken
H. L. Mencken was unquestionably the most provocative and influential journalist and cultural critic in twentieth-century America. The six volumes of Prejudices , published between 1919 and 1927, were both a slashing attack on what Mencken saw as American provincialism and hypocrisy and a resounding defense of the writers and thinkers he thought of as harbingers of a new frankness and maturity. Laced with savage humor and delighting in verbal play, Mencken's prose remains a one-of-a-kind roller-coaster ride through a staggering range of themes: literature and journalism, politics and religion, sex and marriage, food and drink.In this and a companion volume, The Library of America presents all six series of Prejudices in their original form. The first three series include some of his most famous writing, including "The Sahara of the Bozart," an attack on Southern culture so unbridled as to earn him widespread criticism from politicians and the press; "The National Letters," a lively and free-spoken survey of writing in America; "The Dry Millennium," an analysis of the multiple absurdities of Prohibition; "Exeunt Omnes," an unblinking and deromanticized contemplation of death; and "On Being an American," a humorous celebration of the political and cultural panorama that he saw as "incomparably the greatest show on earth." Here are his harsh summing-up of Theodore Roosevelt's career ("he didn't believe in democracy; he believed simply in government") and his sympathetic portraits of literary friends like James Huneker and George Jean Nathan. Mencken's account of the original reception of Prejudices , from his memoir My Life as Editor and Author , is included as an appendix.Edmund Wilson wrote: "Mencken's mind . . . has all the courage in the world in a country where courage is rare." That courage may sometimes have been coupled with an inflexible stubbornness that led him into positions hard to defend. But to succeeding generations of writers and readers, Mencken was the figure who had risked charges of heresy and sedition and almost single-handedly brought America into a new cultural era. To read him is to be plunged into an era whose culture wars were easily as ferocious as those of our own day, in the company of a critic of vast curiosity and vivacious frankness.
Collected Fictions - May 16, 2019 by Borges Jorge LuisCollected Fictions - May 16, 2019  
Jorge Luis, Borges
Jorge Luis Borges has been called the greatest Spanish-language writer of our century. Now for the first time in English, all of Borges' dazzling fictions are gathered into a single volume, brilliantly translated by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges' talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect one-volume compendium all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the master's work for those who have yet to discover this singular genius.Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1899, Jorge Borges was educated by an English governess and later studied in Europe. He returned to Buenos Aires in 1921, where he helped to found several avant-garde literary periodicals. In 1955, after the fall of Juan Peron, whom he vigorously opposed, he was appointed director of the Argentine National Library. With Samuel Beckett he was awarded the $10,000 International Publishers Prize in 1961, which helped to establish him as one of the most prominent writers in the world. Borges regularly taught and lectured throughout the United States and Europe. His ideas have been a profound influence on writers throughout the Western world and on the most recent developments in literary and critical theory.A prolific writer of essays, short stories, and plays, Borges's concerns are perhaps clearest in his stories. He regarded people's endeavors to understand an incomprehensible world as fiction; hence, his fiction is metaphysical and based on what he called an esthetics of the intellect. Some critics have called him a mystic of the intellect. Dreamtigers (1960) is considered a masterpiece.A central image in Borges's work is the labyrinth, a mental and poetic construct, that he considered a universe in miniature, which human beings build and therefore believe they control but which nevertheless traps them. In spite of Borges's belief that people cannot understand the chaotic world, he continually attempted to do so in his writing. Much of his work deals with people's efforts to find the center of the labyrinth, symbolic of achieving understanding of their place in a mysterious universe. In such later works as The Gold of the Tigers, Borges wrote of his lifelong descent into blindness and how it affected his perceptions of the world and himself as a writer. Borges died in Geneva in 1986. (Bowker Author Biography) 
Barchester Towers - September 19, 2019 by Anthony TrollopeBarchester Towers - September 19, 2019  
Trollope, Anthony
After the death of old Dr Grantly, a bitter struggle begins over who will succeed him as Bishop of Barchester. And when the decision is finally made to appoint the evangelical Dr Proudie, rather than the son of the old bishop, Archdeacon Grantly, resentment and suspicion threaten to cause deep divisions within the diocese. Trollope's masterly depiction of the plotting and back-stabbing that ensues lies at the heart of one of the most vivid and comic of his Barsetshire novels, peopled by such very different figures as the saintly Warden of Hiram's Hospital, Septimus Harding, the ineffectual but well-meaning new bishop and his terrifying wife, and the oily chaplain Mr Slope who has designs on Mr Harding's daughter.Anthony Trollope was born in London, England on April 24, 1815. In 1834, he became a junior clerk in the General Post Office, London. In 1841, he became a deputy postal surveyor in Banagher, Ireland. He was sent on many postal missions ending up as a surveyor general in the post office outside of London.His first novel, The Macdermots of Ballycloran, was published in 1847. His other works included Castle Richmond, The Last Chronicle of Barset, Lady Anna, The Two Heroines of Plumplington, and The Noble Jilt. He died after suffering from a paralytic stroke on December 6, 1882. (Bowker Author Biography)