House Made of Dawn

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HouseMadeo_0N. Scott Momaday’s first novel, “House Made of Dawn,” is noted by some critics as sparking a renaissance in Native American literature. Published in 1969, the novel won the Pulitzer Prize, rave reviews, and a place in the canon of contemporary literature.

So, it is with some hesitation that I admit to not enjoying the novel too much. There seems to be an attempt at being elusive, at showing only part of what is happening, in a way many post-modern novels do. I actually enjoy many novels without the normal narrative, or rising plot structure, but Momaday’s books just fails to connect the pieces when needed.

The novel centers around Abel, who returns to his reservation following his time in World War II. Not long after arriving at home, he murders a man. We pick up the story seven years later in Los Angeles, when Abel is let out of jail. At first, we get the story (or lack thereof) from Abel’s mind, but then it switches to the Priest of the Sun, John Big Bluff Tosamah, who gives a long sermon. The sermon shares many stories of the Kiowa tribe, to which Momaday belongs. The tales are interesting and create a better understanding of the Kiowa tribe, but the connection of these to Abel’s situation is not clear. The last major section switches to Abel’s friend, Ben Benally’s, viewpoint of Abel. It is not a pretty picture. He cannot understand the way other Native Americans have assimilated to white culture, and he begins to drink and leaves his job. Eventually, he just disappears.

The narrative comes full circle, and is at its strongest, in the final pages of the novel. Abel disappears so he can return home to care for his dying grandfather, and there seems to be a return to his starting point as he reenters the traditions of his heritage.

As noted before, the novel is seen as creating a publishing spark for writers such as Leslie Marmon Silko, Louise Erdrich, and Sherman Alexie. Their novels seem are clearer in their narratives, but perhaps Momaday’s challenging storyline reflects the struggle of Native Americans in contemporary life. It hits many of the themes that will dominate other novels, such as assimilation, alcohol abuse, racism, loss of tradition, and a return to Native American roots. Because of its influence, it is worth reading.

The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World, Poems 1953-1964

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avenue bearing the initial of christI’ve read and reread Galway Kinnell’s poetry over the years, and although I bring no scholar’s claim to his work, I can attest to the power of his words. Kinnell’s words show an honest, earthy, man who is open to the world around him.

I’ve often used the word “earthy” to describe Kinnell’s work, but I’ve also seen “earthly” applied. Looking for the difference, I settled on this distinction from grammarist.com. “Earthly and earthy were originally synonyms, but the adjectives have undergone differentiation over time. Today, earthly means of, relating to, or characteristic of the earth (often as opposed to heavenly or divine). Earthy means (1) plain, (2) natural, or (3) indecent or coarse.”

The reason I include this is that Kinnell’s poetry fits both of these definitions. He certainly writes of the earthly, but he can do so in an earthy way. It is hard to walk away from Kinnell’s poetry without the need to wash up, not from disgust, but from the dirt and grime he immerses you in. But it is the dirt and grime of a hard day working on a project — it is a good feeling. Kinnell seems as if he can walk into the earth, and he does something much like this in one of his masterpieces, “The Bear.” He is grounded in this world (earthly), and takes the world for what it is (earthy).

This collection, The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World, Poems 1953-1964, is described as follows: “This newly assembled volume draws from two books that were originally published in Galway Kinnell’s first two decades of writing, WHAT A KINGDOM IT WAS (1960), which included the poem “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World,” and FLOWER HERDING ON MOUNT MONADNOCK (1964). Kinnell has revised some of the work in this new edition, and comments on his working method in a prefatory note.”

In this short, prefatory note, Kinnell explains he took out some “unsalvageable” poems, and then revised others. For him, writing is a process, so returning to these poems in 2002 (when this volume was published), he lets the process continue. There is no weeping and moaning over what was or should have been — he makes changes he wants, and moves on. In a way, this reflects his poetry. It is unique mix of the objective and emotional. He can be moved by something in nature, describe it in an objective way, and then move forward from the experience, as opposed to pining to relieve it once again. He does not forget it, indeed he may be defined by it, but he does not get lost in it.

What this collection shows is Kinnell bouncing between his New York and Vermont homes, which he did for many years. The title poem, “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World,” is a 14-part poem which recreates the sights and sounds from the outset.

“pcheek pcheek pcheek pcheek pcheek
They cry. The motherbirds thieve the air
To appease them. A tug on the East River
Blasts the bass-note of its passage, lifted
From the infra-bass of the sea. A broom
Swishes over the sidewalk like feet through leaves.
Valerio’s pushcart Ice Coal Kerosene
Moves   clack
                      clack
                                clack
On a broken wheelrim.”

So many visual and auditory signals in that opening verse immediately put you in the context. But the words are simple, the images clear and not overwrought. They are earthy and earthly.

Throughout his work, Kinnell allows what he sees to speak for himself. He is a poet who gets out of the way of his poetry. Like the simple prose of Marilynne Robinson, Kinnell knows a simple phrase can carry a great deal of meaning. What he does in the city, works well in the country as well.

First Song
Then it was dusk in Illinois, the small boy
After an afternoon of carting dung
Hung on the rail fence, a sapped thing
Weary to crying. Dark was growing tall
And he began to hear the pond frogs all
Calling on his ear with what seemed their joy.Soon their sound was pleasant for a boy
Listening in the smoky dusk and the nightfall
Of Illinois, and from the fields two small
Boys came bearing cornstalk violins
And they rubbed the cornstalk bows with resins
And the three sat there scraping of their joy.It was now fine music the frogs and the boys
Did in the towering Illinois twilight make
And into dark in spite of a shoulder’s ache
A boy’s hunched body loved out of a stalk
The first song of his happiness, and the song woke
His heart to the darkness and into the sadness of joy.

Not only does Kinnell capture a simple scene, he allows the weight of it to show — this is not a Norman Rockwell painting, but Kinnell is also not so cynical that he cannot find joy. What this poem also shows is Kinnell’s respect for children and their experiences, which does not show up as much in this volume as some of his other work. This poem also shows that Kinnell does not simply present a laundry list of ideas for the reader to interpret. He is willing to interpret and offer his view.

In the second half of this volume, which is  “Flower Herding On Mount Monadnock,” there is a poem entitled “Spindrift,” which ends with the verse:

Nobody likes to die
But an old man
Can know
A gratefulness
Toward time that kills him,
Everything he loved was made of it

It is a strong statement for a then young poet, but one that holds true, although I would argue the man does not need to be old. Gratefulness is not necessarily a time-bound attitude, although it is difficult for some to attain.

In the end, Kinnell creates that “earthy” and “earthly” poetry, which shows a world we can recognize. But through his poetry, we see more in it then we realize. It is not a forced deepening of everything we see; it is an openness to what the world has to say.

Note: For those not familiar with Kinnell, here is a short excerpt from his bio:Galway Kinnell is the author of ten books of poetry, including The Book of Nightmares, When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone, Imperfect Thirst, and most recently A New Selected Poems and Strong is Your Hold.  He also published a novel, Black Light; a selection of interviews, Walking Down the Stairs; and a book for children, as well as translations of works by Yves Bonnefoy, Yvan Goll, Francois Villon and Rainer Maria Rilke.A former MacArthur Fellow and State Poet of Vermont, he has been a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets.  In 1982, his Selected Poems won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, and in 2002, he was awarded the Frost Medal by the Poetry Society of America.

Solaris

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SolarisNovelIt is not often I stray into the world of science fiction, but my oldest son challenged me with a classic text as a Christmas present. It was a pleasant stray.

Stanislaw Lem was a Polish writer, and Solaris, published in 1961, is considered by many (and I’m in no position to argue) a classic of science fiction.
The novel is centered around psychologist Kris Kelvin, an expert on the planet Solaris, who visits there to study the ocean which covers the planet. He arrives to find one of his colleagues has just killed himself, the remaining two are acting strangely, and unexpected visitors are arriving. The visitors, it turns out, are created from their memories. In Kelvin’s case, he suddenly finds himself spending time with his wife, who killed herself after they argued nearly 20 years before.
But where do these creatures come from? It is interesting to consider that you could switch their appearance to a devilish influence and you have a horror novel. Instead, Kelvin and the others think the Solaris ocean is creating them. The ocean is a living being, and they attempt to communicate with it. Are these resurrected beings meant to curse them? Are they gifts from the ocean?
Their attempts at communication are constantly frustrated, and from what others say about the book, Lem is commenting on inability of humans to communicate with non-humans. His philosophical forays lend support to this, but like much good science fiction I’ve read, the real skill is in looking at humanity from a new perspective.
What do these appearances say about us as people? The creatures are human in nearly every respect, but Kelvin can tell that this is not his wife. Even if we can replicate the cells of our body, will we create the same person? Most interesting (but not fully explored) is the creature’s growing awareness of its own existence. This creature, resembling his wife, Rheya, knows she is not who she thinks she is. She has no past, yet she has a memory. How and why did she appear suddenly on the space station? We see her struggle with her own identity, similar to how a human would, but for different reasons.
It is in the raising of these questions, without attempting to answer them all, that Lem’s novel works so well. He uses a science fiction premise to examine one of our most perplexing creatures — us.

A Christmas Carol

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ImageIn a time filled with endless movie and television interpretations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, it is easy to get confused about what the actual story says or does not say. I love all the variations, whether it be my favorite version with Alistair Sim, or Bill Murray in Scrooged, or Kermit the Frog clerking for George C. Scott. Some stay closer to the story than others, but all seek to portray the same message that Dickens created — the choice of joy in the world.

The plot line is undoubtedly familiar to most, but the written story itself is still refreshing to revisit. Yes, it as wordy as Dickens always is, but there is an excitement behind the writing which supports the theme of joy itself. Dickens seems as if he is sitting in the room telling you this story, hardly able to remain seated as he describes the feast surrounding the Ghost of Christmas Present, or the horror of the voiceless Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come.
It is not a continually cheerful story — it is a ghost story; yet the greatest horrors come in Dickens’ paintings of the people suffering from want of food, shelter, or love. Scrooge is not excused from what he has created, and thus his conversion will either be dramatic or fail to occur. Of course, he is converted.
It is easy to put a Christian gloss on a Christmas story, but this is not a story of Christian redemption. Scrooge does go to church on Christmas day, but that is noted in passing. Instead, we get a longer description of him pacing in front of this nephew’s door working up the courage to enter. We are also privy to what is often described as a comic moment in the films, in which he meets up with one of the people who sought his assistance the day before in helping the poor. In this horrific scene Scrooge confirms that the prisons and Union workhouses are still in operation, but is told people would rather die than go there. “‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.” Who, then, should the reformed Scrooge meet as soon as he walks out the door on Christmas day, than one of these men.
“It set a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.” In other words, the challenge of overcoming his past is directly presented to him, and he chooses to go straight after it.
Scrooge changes because he realizes he has a choice in how to live his life, and so far he has chosen poorly. He can withdraw from the world and its demands, but be miserable, or he can embrace life and those around him. We know his choice and we see the impact it has on others. Like George Bailey, from another memorable Christmas movie, he also sees the impact his life has on others.
We are here, we impact others, and we choose our path in life. Simple, but essential, lessons.

Steppenwolf

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wolm1990fSome books seem to belong to youth and need to be reintroduced as we age. Kurt Vonnegut and Ray Bradbury were regular companions of mine in high school, yet still hold my interest 30 years later. Alas, the same cannot be said for another companion, Nobel-prize winning writer Herman Hesse.

Rereading Steppenwolf after so many years, the main question I had was, how did I get through this in high school? At that time I read many of Hesse’s novels and was quiet infatuated with his outlook on life. Now, finding myself just slightly older than the protagonist, Harry Haller, aka, Steppenwolf, I just find him annoying. He is not unfamiliar; just the type of person I would not find myself sharing dinner with in a corner booth of the local cafe.

The novel centers around Haller in a manuscript written by him, but left behind in the room he rented. Whatever happens to Steppenwolf in the end, we are not sure. Personally, I’m not interested in a sequel. The Steppenwolf spends his days pondering the great mysteries of life and agonizing over how he does not fit into the society in which he, apparently, does not want to fit into anyway. He obsesses over himself and tries to be humble about how brilliant he is, but he clearly he feels above most other people.

Just when he decides that he can take no more and resolves to kill himself, he meets Hermine, a siren of pleasure who introduces him to other women, teaches him to dance, and shows him how to enjoy life. He suddenly finds himself becoming what he hates, but he enjoys it. In other words, he becomes a person of action, of life, rather than just thought, and he lives a more enjoyable existence. This highlights the dual nature of existence Hesse proposes; indeed, the multiple nature of existence. But in the Steppenwolf, the wolf of the Steppes, we find a man who is half human and half wolf. He can be gracious and social (human), while at the same time despising all society, including himself (wolf).

At this point I had hope for the book. Our annoying narrator begins to see the fool that he is. “The late Herr Haller, gifted writer, student of Mozart and Goethe, author of essays upon the metaphysics of art, upon genius and tragedy and humanity, the melancholy hermit in a cell encumbered with books, was given over bit by bit to self-criticism and at every point was found wanting.”

But no, Hesse then takes us off in a direction which quickly unravels the novel (and I’ll avoid details should you choose to read the novel).

A central theme which is toyed with throughout the novel and emerges more clearly at the end is the idea of laughing at life, including yourself. Haller, the people of eternity are telling him, takes life too seriously. He needs to laugh with the world and at the world, but as a participant and not an observer. Developed in a stronger fashion this could be a fascinating theme, but when Hesse fully introduces it toward the end, it sounds simply trite. He has created of story of too much darkness to simply say you need to laugh.

Many of the themes Hesse deals with seems outdated and sophomoric, but we must remember Hesse, a German, is writing this in between two world wars. Much of what we now see as tiring (e.g. mirrors looking into the soul, the lone individual against society) was more cutting edge at that time. Critics say this is his most autobiographical novel in that, like the narrator, he is coming off a bad marriage and did himself suddenly step out into society for a time. With more distance between himself and the writing, his other novels may hold up better after many years. I’m hesitant to try another one, but am open to recommendations.

So I put this in my classic listing since it comes from a Nobel-prize winning writer (maybe they liked that he left Germany and became a Swiss citizen) and many people, such as myself, have immersed themselves in his work at some point in their career. But a true classic transcends time, and I do not see this novel succeeding on that count.

Emma

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The Annotated EmmaJane Austen fans will lovingly quibble over which of her novels is the best. Pride and Prejudice is a universal favorite (and my personal choice), while Sense and Sensibility has a strong following behind it. But scholars often point to Emma asher finest work. It is her longest work and she excels at using dialogue as the vehicle for telling you the most about her characters. Seemingly unimportant conversations are essential at showing you the motives, the tenancies, the strengths, and the errors of her characters. I’ve read this book several times and now spend more time on these character-driven sections than in the past. It is truly some amazing writing.

But what has held me, and perhaps others, away raising the Emma flag too often is, well, Emma. Austen herself famously wrote in a letter prior to starting the novel that “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” I must say, I’ve always felt she hit it on the mark. Emma is a manipulative person who feels she knows what is better for everyone else than they do themselves. When her attempts at matchmaking fail, she shows temporary guilt, and then unconsciously moves on to the next matchmaking attempt. She grooms one young lady like a puppy, and then sets her up for one fall after another (unintentionally, but still!). And then (PLOT SPOILER) in the end she gets all that she wants. Clearly, if you are familiar with Austen you expect a happy ending, so that is not much of a spoiler, especially she does not figure out what she wants until near the end of the novel.

Perhaps the most damaging mark against Emma comes close to the end when she makes  an accurate, but hurtful, comment toward a woman who talks too much. The “Box Hill Incident” shows Emma at her worst in that she seems unaware of the influence she has on others. Only when she is taken to task by her friend, Mr. Knightly, for her comment, does she begin to understand the damage she has done. That she is unable to immediately undo the damage gives her time to consider the consequences. I’ve always felt uncomfortable with this scene because, to put it simply, it is uncomfortable. You watch helplessly as one person makes a fool of themselves and then makes it worse by her cutting remark. However, reading it this time, I was uncomfortable because it is a great shot — she is right on mark and she is funny. That line to one person may have returned with an equally adept shot, but in this case she hits a person who is defenseless in so many ways. Mr. Knightly highlights this in his censure of Emma’s actions.

Which brings us to the underlying issue of class distinction found in the novel. What makes Emma’s comment so wrong is not the comment itself, but the person she hurt. It is someone beneath her social circle, someone who has seen her social stature drop, and someone who will not see it rise. She is down and Emma has kicked her.

Emma should have see the fault because she is very conscious of class. But as Mr. Knightly implies, that is simply a matter of birth. While she will have advantages that others will not, that only makes it more important for her to reach out to others.

Austen shows the breaking down of the social classes in the early 19th century. Wealthy tradespeople are buying property and asserting their social demands — think of it as the New York battles between “old” and “new” money seen in Edith Wharton’s novels. In Emma we see the blurring of these lines, especially in a small society, but the lines are still there. By the end of the novel the lines have been broken in one case, but maintained in two other relationships. Austen blesses them all with happiness.

As for Emma, she is unlikable in that she is really like us. She is a flawed character. Austen does not present too many stereotypes, and, in fact, Pride and Prejudice relies on our character flaws for driving the novel forward. But Emma is more flawed, more realistic, than most of Austen’s characters. It may be that glimpse in the mirror which has driven me away from Emma since I first read this novel many years ago. As I get older I find I’m more comfortable acknowledging my faults. Perhaps that is why I’m now more comfortable with Emma.

A final note. I read the “Annotated” version by David Shapard. This is the third of these editions I have read and I enjoy them immensely. On the left hand page is the text and on the right hand page are Shapard’s notes, which at times are reflections on the text, at times clarifications of definitions, and at times insight into time-specific elements (such as what the different carriage styles signify). For a first-time reader I would recommend focusing on Austen, but then be sure to return to one of these versions for a fresh look at a classic.

Fahrenheit 451

Fahrenheit 451Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is certainly one of the most read and most debated books in our canon. Because of its straightforward plot and writing, it is a popular requirement in high schools. While I was not required to read it, like many high school students I had my “Bradbury” phase and read many of his works. But like many books, the central idea becomes detached from the novel as memories fade and is used in all types of ways that Bradbury likely never intended.

It is a book on censorship. It is book on government control. It is a book about the power of books.

All of that is true. What does happen when thoughts are censored and governments control what we know and do not know. What would happen in a world without books, where those ideas can no longer be debated. But really, this is a book about us. The readers. The should-be-readers. The once-upon-a-time readers. Because this is really a book not about books, but what we take from them. The books hold no value. And the people who memorize books hold no value in and of themselves. Both books and people are simply vessels in such cases. It is the ideas that are essential.  And Bradbury is bemoaning a society, although set in the future, which is already at hand. How do the ideas in the books change us? When did we start to allow others to think for us?

As the scholar and drifter, Granger, says at the end of the novel, “even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them. We went right on insulting the dead.” What good are all the ideas if we simply read and do not act on them, do not allow them to challenge us, to penetrate us, to alter us. It is ironic, and Bradbury no doubt lived to see this, that his own work would likewise be distorted and misunderstood. It is not about books. It is about ideas and people and their need to interact.

For those not familiar with the book, or like me have about 30 years since the last reading, a quick summary. Montag is a fireman in the not so distant future, but not a fireman we would not know. He does not put out fires, he creates them. In a world of fireproof buildings his job is to burn books (which burn at Fahrenheit 451) in a world where books are not allowed. He is 30 years old, good at this job, and should be happy in life. Of course, he is not.  His wife has tried to commit suicide, a common problem at the time, and there is really no strong emotional tie to her. Most relationships at that time are bereft of emotions, which instead get channeled into interactive tv-like walls which can serve as your world. These walls appear often and hint at an early and well-placed concern about how television (and expand that out today to any number of electronics) robs people of substantive thought, making them passive bystanders in a world of their own creation.

Montag meets a teenage girl who simply questions his life and thus sends him reeling. It turns out he has hidden some books away, and finally watching an older woman burn herself with her books pushes him over the edge. He seeks the hidden mysteries of the book, which brings him into conflict with his fire captain, a suspiciously well-read man for someone who burns books.

To say more would be to give away too much of the ending, and this is a plot driven story which features a climatic ending. What is interesting, in today’s electronic world (and I read this on my Kindle), is how clearly implausible such a plot would be today. But the book does not suffer from age since the vehicles for reading are not as important as the ideas behind the books. Bradbury’s exploration of a life well lived in a web of relationships is not held back back by a nearly 60-year-old imagining of the future.

As such, it is worth a return visit if you have not read it in many years. Or a first visit if this is all new. But do Bradbury a favor. Do not value the book. Value what you take away from it.

The Invention of Morel

Why is this a classic and musings on what makes a classic
…an ongoing dialogue

If we base a classic on what others say, then Casares’ novel is a classic simply due to the comments by Borges and Paz you see below. Anytime some says a novel is “perfect” it is likely worth a look; when legendary writers say a novel is “perfect” it is almost required reading. This novel has also stood the test of time not only in that it is still read (and available), but that after 70 years it still reads as a fresh work. A classic which is considered such simply because of its influence on others is not, in my mind, always a classic. The muse is not the writer and if some people’s work serves best as muse, let it be noted as such.  If it both inspires and stands on its own, we are in the right realm. The flippant litmus test? If you have to read the editor’s introduction to figure out why it is a great book, it may not be that good of a book.

The Invention of Morel
Review the same at “the chilling, enduring odor of bear” blog

Sometimes a great novel is easy to pass over for its simplicity, its small size, its apparent lack of a grand vision. A large, tumbling novel filled with a plethora of characters and intricate plot can pull a reader in and offer a variety of avenues to explore.

Thus the temptation to quickly read Adolfo Bioy Casares’ The Invention of Morel as a short, shallow work of science fiction. Instead, it is a cleanly written exploration of such major themes as immorality, love, friendship, and our purpose in life. It weighs in at around 100 pages.

The novel was written in 1940 and received lavish praise from no less important figures than Jorge Luis Borges (“To classify it [the novel] as perfect is neither an imprecision nor a hyperbole”) and Octavio Paz (“The Invention of Morel may be described, without exaggeration, as a perfect novel”). It is labeled as a science fiction novel, but it does not fit any stereotype which that label brings. Instead, the little used genre of “fantastic” literature, which is part of the title of a work Casares edited with Borges (Anthology of Fantastic Literature), fits better.

The basic premise is that an escaped prisoner, our narrator,  finds himself on a deserted island, which after some time no longer appears deserted. A building falling into disrepair is suddenly reborn in its splendor and populated with people. The narrator works to avoid detection and watches from afar, even falling in love with one of the women. Throughout he tries to understand what role he is playing in this new world around him.

To avoid spoiling the plot, allow that short summary to stand. But what the story’s emerging resolution raises are questions of what constitutes immortality and conversely, what gives life its purpose. Can a god-like person truly have control of our life and if so, do we desire that? Are we actors in a larger play or do we determine our direction? This also brings about questions concerning relationships and love. Can we love from a distance? Is there not a need for interaction?

In other words, many questions without moralistic answers. The narrator does wrestle consciously with some of these issues while others seem to elude him. But in the end the reader is left to ponder these issues alone.

While short, the book is not a quick read. It is translated and at times feels clunky, but that also fits the narrator’s thinking and confusion as the story emerges. I’m not going match Borges and Paz in their praise (although if they were alive I would not want to argue with them either!), but this is an important book to put on your reading list if you have not already come across it.

The List

 [Crossed off ones are read and have a blog entry]

Austen, Jane: Complete Juvenilia

Austen, Jane: Sanditon
Austen, Jane: Selected Letters
Austen, Jane: Lady Susan

Austen, Jane: Pride and Prejudice
Austen, Jane: Sense and Sensibility
Austen, Jane: Emma
Austen, Jane: Northanger Abbey
Austen, Jane: Persuasion
Austen, Jane: Mansfield Park

Borges, Jorge Luis: Ficciones
Bradbury, Ray: Fahrenheit 451
Bronte, Anne: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall
Bronte, Charlotte: Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily: Wuthering Heights
Casares, Adolfo Bioy: The Invention of Morel
Cather, Willa: My Antonia
Crane, Stephen: Red Badge of Courage

Dickens, Charles: Great Expectations
Dickens, Charles: A Christmas Carol
Dickenson, Emily: Collected Poems
Dostoevsky, Fyodor: Crime and Punishment
Dostoevesky, Fyodor: The Brothers Karamazov
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan: Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Eliot, T.S.: Murder in the Cathedral

Faulkner, William: The Sound and Fury
Fitzgerald, F. Scott: This Side of Paradise

Greene, Graham: The Power and Glory

Hardy, Thomas: Tess of the D’Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel: The House of Seven Gables
Hesse, Hermann: Steppenwolf
Homer: The Iliad
Homer: The Odyssey

James, Henry: The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry: The Wings of the Dove

Kinnell, Galway: Selected Poems
Kinnell, Galway: The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ

Lawrence, D.H.: Lady Chatterley’s Lover
Lee, Harper: To Kill a Mockingbird
Lem, Stanislaw: Solaris

Maugham, W. Somerset: Of Human Bondage
Maugham, W. Somerset: The Razor’s Edge
Morrison, Toni: Beloved

O’Brien, Tim: The Things They Carried
O’Conner, Flannery: Wise Blood

Poe, Edgar Allan: Collected Stories and Poems

Remarque, Erich Maria: All Quiet on the Western Front
Robinson, Marilynne: Housekeeping

Saramago, Jose: Blindness
Shakespeare, William: King Lear
Shakespeare, William: Hamlet
Shakespeare, William: Macbeth
Shakespeare, William: Twelfth Night

Tolkein, J.R.R.: The Hobbit

Vonnegut, Kurt: Slaughterhouse Five

Woolf, Virginia: To the Lighthouse