Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Free or Cheap Classics "Classes" on the Internet

I must say that I have never been so interested in so many truly classic books as right now. My interest has been piqued by various bloggers and podcasters whose discussions are so interesting that I swim in the wake of their enthusiasm. With such guides as these, I am diving deep into the classics and having a grand time.

These are all underway but it is easy to track back and start at the beginning:

The Flannery O'Connor Summer Reading Club - blog
For a simple reader like me, some help is necessary to understand O'Connor's short stories. The reading club has been looking at a different short story each week and I have been enjoying it immensely. Blogger and club host Jonathan Rogers has a book about O'Connor coming out soon and, based on this, it is definitely worth reading.

The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot - blog
I've always been so intimidated by this poem. Its reputation looms large for complexity. Plus, I'm not that into poetry. However, Melanie Bettinelli loves poetry, Eliot, and this poem. She's going through it a few lines at a time which has been very good for helping me digest it. Oddly enough, often my personal feelings about the lines lead to completely different interpretations of Bettinelli's but that is all to the good in this case. Because it means I'm engaged with the poem and her discussion is making me think about it more than I would just sitting down and reading it through.

The Canterbury Tales by Chaucer - podcast
I've also always been intimidated by Chaucer. (Yes, if it is an old classic then I'm intimidated ... let's not discuss Beowulf, please). However, I am now going to get it spoon-fed with some of the best help possible ... from Heather Ordover at Craft Lit.

If you support the Craftlit podcast by subscribing for $5/month, then Heather gives all sorts of delightful goodies which are CraftLit Originals. One is that her husband, Andrew, is narrating his book Cool for Cats, and a wonderful narrator he is of this mystery which I much enjoyed. The other is that she is offering Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. Having just gone through the introductory episode I can say that my anxiety is eased already. Heather is an experienced teacher who truly loves Chaucer and she's recruited a fantastic reader. She is also offering an enhanced version which will have the text, images from that time and much more.

CLARIFICATION: you must subscribe to receive the Chaucer podcast. Here is the link to Heather's explanation and her PayPal spot.

The Odyssey - podcast
Jesse and Scott at SFFaudio have been working their way through The Odyssey four chapters at a time. They're close to the end, but that doesn't mean you can't catch up. I've been reading along in time to their discussions and it has been a good way to experience the entire thing.

Classic Fantasy and Horror Authors - blog
Kindle Review is a great place to find free and discounted Kindle books. There is a list every day, sorted by category. Recently, there has been an extra bonus for those of us who like fantasy and horror. Using the Ballantine Adult Fantasy Series as a guide, there has been a series of posts briefly covering various authors and linking to some of their major works that are free for the Kindle. The Ballantine series, which began in 1969, showcased fantasy and horror writers who had long been long out-of-print or only published in pulp magazines such as Weird Tales.

I know, these aren't the true classics such as the other listings, but they are classics in their own right and difficult to find sometimes.


  1. Thank you for The Wasteland blog. I went through them all and caught up. It's one of the great poems.

  2. The Waste Land is one of my favorite poems (and I have about half of it memorized. I highly highly recommend listening to Eliot read it aloud. When I was a freshman in college my first big paper was a 20 page analysis of The Waste Land. When I first read it, I was in love with the language but completely despaired of ever understanding it. But a classmate gave me a recording and I would listen to it on my walk, once on my way out, again on the return. And by the end of a week, I was in love. BY the end of the month, my mind was buzzing with his language and images. And by the end of two months, I had my paper.

  3. Margaret, thank you for that suggestion. I'm going to look for a recording. I don't know why that didn't occur to me before. :-)

  4. Margaret and Julie

    Eliot's readings of his poems are not the greatest. He was not a great speaker. He reads montone. I have it but I don't go to it any longer. If you are able to find this Paul Schofield reading of The Wasteland and The Four Quartets, buy it. It's worth it and far better than Eliot's readings. However, apparently it is hard to come by and Amazon appears to have run out.

  5. Julie, Thanks so much for the link. I feel like a turtle, writing updates to the series at a rate of a little more than one a month. At this rate I'll take years to get through the poem. But I'm very glad to have people join me on the way.

    I also heartily agree about listening to a recording. When I was working on Eliot I did the same thing. Our college library had LPs of him reading and I listened to them all over and over. I agree that Eliot's reading is monotone; but I found that rather fascinating. His interpretation of his poems is not mine at all but that rather freed me from my own readings. It would be nice to hear a variety of readings, to hear how different readers interpret the poem. I haven't yet checked it out; but there is a Waste Land app for the iPad that looks interesting and does have a selection of readings as well as one dramatic performance of the poem (!). One of these days I'm going to steal Dom's iPad and spend some time playing around with it.

    And please do leave me comments, especially if your readings disagree with mine. It's what I miss most about being a student and teacher, having that dynamic interplay of minds, the way different readers bring different perspectives to a text and how the process of sharing and trying to reconcile those perspectives brings new insights for everyone. When reading a poem with a group I always walk away so much richer than reading it by myself.