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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Classics on the side of the road

David Masters, Flickr

It was a hot, sunny day. (Proof: I was wearing sandals, a rare sighting. I even considered trading my eternal jeans for shorts.)

I was tired physically. (I had spent the previous night at a bachelorette party that took us from a spa to a wine bar to a dessert bar ... and finally to an underground, "clandestine" bar, complete with hidden passages, secret signs and passwords... in all legality my friends!)

I was tired mentally. I was driving my youngest daughter A to the third swimming pool of the day. (Swimming lessons at 8:30 am. Birthday party at the wave pool at 10:00 am. Other birthday party in a backyard pool at 3:00 pm.)

Then, something nice happened.

As I was dropping her off, I noticed what looked like a pile of junk on the side of the road. As I got closer, I realized there were boxes full of books. I kneeled beside the first one, half expecting to find titles such as "Birds of the Southern Shore of Nova Scotia" and "How to Prepare the Best Shepherd's Pie in Town". But familiar names and titles soon caught my eye. Wait a sec, I thought. There's a goldmine of classics in there!

Not one to let such gems toast in the sun, and definitely not one to let those end up in the garbage, I made a selection and went home with my treasure.

(Yes, I know I said in a recent post that I already own too many books! It's my Achilles' heel!)

I want to share my finds, but I won't stop at that. The teacher in me wants to give you readers a little challenge. I will provide you with the list of titles and respective authors, then with incipits - the first sentence(s) of each novel. You will have to pair them. I will provide the answers in my next post. Good luck!

In alphabetical order of author:

  1. Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844)
  2. Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones (1749)
  3. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby (1925)
  4. García Márquez, Gabriel: Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981)
  5. Homer, The Odyssey (Antiquity)
  6. Scott, Walter: Ivanhoe (1820)
  7. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (1952)
  8. Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina (1877)

Now the incipits, in random order:

a) All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

b) On the 24th of February, 1815, the lookout at Notre-Dame de la Garde signalled the three-master, the Pharaon from Smyrna, Trieste, and Naples.

c) By now the other warriors, those that had escaped head-long ruin by sea or in battle, were safely home.

d) An author ought to consider himself, not as a gentleman who gives a private or eleemosynary treat, but rather as one who keeps a public ordinary, at which all persons are welcome for their money.

e) The Salinas Valley is in Northern California. It is a long narrow swale between two ranges of mountains, and the Salinas River winds and twists up the center until it falls at last into Monterey Bay.

f) On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.

g) In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I've been turning over in my mind ever since. "Whenever you feel like criticizing any one", he told me, "remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had".

h) In that pleasant district of merry England which is watered by the river Don, there extended in ancient times a large forest, covering the greater part of the beautiful hills and valleys which lie between Sheffield and the pleasant town of Doncaster.

Time to put your answers in the comments (or simply comment on anything else this post inspired you)!

What is your favorite excerpt, and why?

What classics (or what books in general) have made a difference in your life?

Do you have any Summer readings planned? 

Do you believe in serendipity?

Quite another Tom Jones!


  1. Umm...I love to read but I don't know any of these - the only 2 I've read are The Great Gatsby and The Odyssey but it has been many years.

    1. What do you love to read, Kim? I'm always looking for suggestions. :-)

  2. By a process of elimination, we should be able to figure some out. Tolstoy would never have talked about California... ;-)

  3. This week end was halifax book swap. You put outside the book you dont want so someone else can enjoy it. It was not has popular as the curbside give away but i saw a couple of house doing it

    1. Aaahhh, that explains a lot. Well, they made a happy customer! :-)

  4. AHH LOVE.
    I was an english lit major and have a summer of revisiting classic planned.

    1. I didn't know that Carla! I was a French Lit Master's. :-) We should exchange reading suggestions!

  5. May sound daft ! But you could have written anything even Blah, Blah Blah 100 times over WHY?

    Because I just love that first picture ...great choice and good article, thanks.

    All the best Jan

    1. Hahha, as long as you like something Jan! :-)

  6. 1. Dumas, Alexandre: The Count of Monte Cristo (1844) b
    2. Fielding, Henry: Tom Jones (1749) d
    3. Fitzgerald, F. Scott: The Great Gatsby (1925) e
    4. García Márquez, Gabriel: Chronicle of a Death Foretold (1981) f
    5. Homer, The Odyssey (Antiquity) c
    6. Scott, Walter: Ivanhoe (1820) h
    7. Steinbeck, John: East of Eden (1952) g
    8. Tolstoy, Leo: Anna Karenina (1877) a

    b is my favourite because it promises a good and lengthy read - but so do most of the others!

    I couldn't live without reading and always have several on the go and a mountain of tbr's besideand beneath my crammed shelves. Literature is delicious and necessary.

    Yes I believe in serendipity, a clever find of yours.

    This is my first post on your site, led here by the wonderful & unique dovegrey.

  7. I am so profoundly unqualified for this post, or to respond to it, you have no idea. Never read any of the classics -- very few anyway. I have difficult time with reading fiction of any kind since it is always at odds with the fiction in my head.

    As the author Jeanette Winterson once said, "The problem with books is you don't know what's in 'em until it's too late."

    1. You're too funny (the name you used). :-)

      I have to admit I've been reading more non-fiction lately.

  8. 1b

    It's all serendipity!