Return of a Classic

While I was contemplating Wednesday’s entry about the politics of book clubs, I was talking with my friend Vivian and she revealed something to me that was so shocking and upsetting that I almost dropped the phone. Vivian is one of the most well-read people I know, so I was a bit speechless when, after I confessed to never having read Salinger, she dropped this bombshell on me:
“Well, I never read anything by Judy Blume.”
[uncomfortably long silence]
“What? You’re joking, right?”
“No, I just never got around to it.”
“Come on, Viv. You must have read something of hers. Every girl under the age of 18 has read at least three of her books.”
“Not me.”
“Uh uh.”
“Okay, I know you read Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. You had to have read that.”
“Jenny, no. None of them.”
“Well, then how did you know what to do when you got your period?”
“I read lots of science books, mostly. And Nancy Drew.”
So this got me thinking – maybe the new theme of my bookclub will be “Something old, something new.” We’ll read a classic that we’ve never read before, and a classic that we have already read. But all the classics we have already read will be Judy Blume novels.
I’ll have to strategically partner up the old books with the new, for optimum reading enjoyment. At some point, I’ll have to expand beyond Judy Blume, but this should keep us going for at least a few months.
So with that, my completely non-Thanksgiving themed Thanksgiving day Opinion Poll is this:
Q: Which of the following book pairings would make you most want to join my new and exciting book club? (Alternate suggestions are welcomed. Seriously, folks, what the hell am I going to read? Okay, fine – you don’t even have to pair your suggestion up with a Judy Blume novel. My only requirement is that you not suggest James Joyce. Seriously. I’ve had Ulysses sitting on my bookshelf for over ten years and have never made it past page 50.):

  1. Moby Dick / Blubber
  2. Romeo & Juliet / Forever
  3. The Scarlett Letter / Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.
  4. Mrs. Dalloway / Wifey
  5. The Great Gatsby / Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great
  6. Catch-22 / Then Again, Maybe I Won’t
  7. Other (please explain)

PS – Thanks, Christine for suggesting an opinion poll!
PPS – Happy Thanksgiving, everybody! Honestly, I think you are some of the coolest, smartest, funniest, kindest people I’ve never met, and you make this so much fun for me! And that’s not just the pre-Thanksgiving scotch talking, honest!

27 Responses to “Return of a Classic”

  1. asia Says:

    Wait… you never read Salinger? Are you f*ing kidding me?? Seriously?
    You know, there is an expiration date on his books. Like, you have to be suffering early-post-adolescence-exhistential-spiritual-crisis and your best friend gives you a copy of FRANNY AND ZOOEY and rapps you in the head with her knuckles and takes you rollerskating after peeling you off the carpet. If you read if later in life it resonates *wonderfully* but it does not alter the pattern of your heartbeat like it would have.
    Jen, Jen, Jen….
    And really, the same can be said of Judy Blume. Can one menstruate without having read Judy Blume? OMG.

  2. asia Says:

    Um I forgot to vote. I say #6. Yossarian was one of my very few literary crushes, Yossarian and Holden.
    But I feel limited by those choices. Tell me you read Love and Rockets (all of them).

  3. Darby Says:

    It doesn’t help my “Nerd Digs Smut” case that I’m planning on reading Ulysses in December, huh……
    In any case, I’m gonna vote for Dalloway, because I like a good party, and a book about a party must totally rock, right?

  4. jenny Says:

    Asia – So not having read Salinger is what’s responsible for my heart arrhythmia? Dang. You know what, though? Maybe I didn’t need to read about all these people because I was too busy living life. Yeah! I didn’t need to read about Huck Finn because I was Huck Finn. I didn’t need to read Kerouac because I was Kerouac. I didn’t need to read about Lolita because I was Lolita. Oh wait… scratch that. Anyway. I did read all of Judy Blume, and have had regular periods ever since. (Please don’t ever use the word “menstruate” on my blog again.)
    Asia Redux – Um… isn’t Love and Rockets the name of a band?
    Darby – Oh, man. And you’re probably going to finish Ulysses in like, two weeks, aren’t you? Well, just tell me where the good parts are and I’ll flip to those.

  5. nina Says:

    My daughters got Judy Blume VERY EARLY in life because once having discovered her, I wanted to read aloud to them the next one and the next. I cannot imagine what they must have thought of it all. They could have reacted by joining the convent or leaving their mark in strip tease clubs as they grew up but, surprisingly, they opted for more conventional lives. GOd, I loved her, Lois Lowry and Phyllis Naylor!
    As for the pairings — I like the ones where the adult classic is nice and short so we can get to the good stuff.
    I do think you should stick with one book club though. Sounds like you wouldn’t survive with more than that.
    One last note: it’s fun enough to tell others what to read in these clubs, but it’s awful to have to read their stuff in the other months. Basically, book clubs suck.
    Happy Thanksgiving Jen! Which way should I look to wave at you — south? west? (I’m in Evanston at the moment)

  6. TCho Says:

    I vote for The Great Gatsby.

  7. Dave2 Says:

    I’d join a club that had “Tarzan of the Apes” and “John Carter of Mars” in the itinerary! Total classics.
    I never read Judy Blume (those books were for icky girls!), but do remember liking Enid Blyton’s works… like “The Secret Seven” and “The Famous Five.” Donald J. Sobol’s “Encyclopedia Brown” was a favorite too.

  8. mainja Says:

    i’m gonna go for 2…

  9. teahouseblossom Says:

    Definitely #3.
    I was disappointed in Wifey.
    Hooray for Judy Blume!!

  10. jenny Says:

    Nina – good idea, maybe I’ll just have a Judy Blume reading group. And hey! You’re in Evanston? I just drove right past you on my way to my parents’ house in Wisconsin. I’ll wave on my way back home this weekend!
    TCho – duly noted!
    Dave2 – Oooh! Encyclopedia Brown mysteries were my favorites! Maybe I’ll add those to the list, too.
    Mainja – Okay, you totally just want to read Forever, don’t you? That’s a dirty sex book! Yeah!
    THB – Okay, so I’ll skip Wifey. Her adult fiction was always less appealing to me anyway.
    Okay, gotta go eat some turkey now.

  11. Christie Says:

    7. Anna Karinina / Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.
    Anna is still sitting on my shelf with it’s reading guide bookmark from when I DIDN’T read it with Oprah. Best intentions.LOL Then we need a short, sweet, hilarious book.

  12. jaymarie Says:

    #3 because i love them both.
    #7 read wallace stegner, because he writes so masterfully. he draws you in and keeps you reading with beauty all around, but it isn’t pretentious in the least. (“angle of repose” is my best reccomendation.
    i love book clubs because i grow and learn so much through hearing alternative perspectives over the book being discussed. and i actually like being “forced” to read something i would never choose on my own, i think it helps diversify my tastes. (unless they ask me to read danielle steele or something like that – then i start my own group;)

  13. brando Says:

    I guess I wouldn’t mind reading ‘Then Again, Maybe I Won’t’, just for the wet dream descriptions. And Catch 22 is the all time greatest book ever. You should pair Blubber up with She’s Come Undone, though. Happy T’Giving, Jenny

  14. patricia Says:

    I read Wifey when I was in junior high and man I thought it was hot stuff. I’ve had fleeting thoughts of rereading it but I’m afraid of being disappointed.
    Can we just skip the “classic” and just read 2 Blume books? I’m all for Forever and Are You There God. They rock and, also, I own both of them. :sigh: As a 32 year old woman, maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to admit that huh?

  15. number4of5 Says:

    Catcher in the Rye might be the most overated piece of crap ever written. Not that I have an opinion of it. Be glad you never had to read it.
    My Judy Blume choice is: The One in the Middle is the Green Kangaroo. Why? Well, mainly because I am a Green Kangaroo, but it is also a short read, and you can discuss it real quick before America’s next top model starts. When you get through all of Judy Blume you can go onto Beverly Cleary, because Ramona is the ultimate female heroine.
    As for my serious suggestions: East of Eden (Steinbeck) or Things Fall Apart(Achebe). Two of my favorites.

  16. StationeryQueen Says:

    I second the vote for Steinbeck. As for a Judy Blume book, you must include my fave, “Tiger Eyes.”

  17. peefer Says:

    Every girl under the age of 18 has read at least three of her books
    … as well as every boy with an older sister. I’m still waiting for my period though.
    My vote is for #4, but only because I JUST finished The Hours (by Michael Cunningham), which happens to revolve around Mrs. Dalloway.

  18. dee-dee Says:

    i believe this whole entry is an elaborate scheme to get the focus of our bookclub off of reading any period pieces so in that case…i think we should read the entire jane austin collection.

  19. kilax Says:

    Definetely #5. The Great Gatsby is a wonderful novel.

  20. McMonkey Says:

    I have a simple solution that will save time and still give you about the same satisfaction…

  21. shari Says:

    I’m going to try to cast off my usual Type A assertiveness here, and proclaim loudly that I will read whatever you want, Jenny. Because this is your blog and you call the shots. I just want to be in the club, whatever club you suggest. And I have learned from Asia’s mistakes, and will never, ever use the word “menstruate” on your blog, either.
    ***head exploding***

  22. Bobby Says:

    I’d like to recomend on for the contemporary side of the pairing – because I was on a classics kick and had lost faith in anything new but was amazed and pleasantly surprised by the following:
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon
    Of all of the numerous reviews you’ll find (by very notable reviewers) one word will continue to crop up: Empathy. It is a Rainman kind of story. You will not stop reading until you reach the end of it. No joke.
    Mark Haddon worked with autistics, and his ability to tell this story through the eyes of an autistic and still carry the story in such a gripping and humorous way . . . morbidly humorous at times. Definitely, positively emotional and fun and funny.
    Great Gatsby is a good one to talk about – so much so that it might be all talked out. I guess you risk that with any of the classics though.

  23. katietimothy Says:

    I second the Beverly Cleary suggestion. Maybe add in some Box Car Children and round it out with a little Madeline L’Engle.

  24. Junebug Says:

    How about “A Separate Peace” (John Knowles) and “Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing” (Judy Blume). I would definitely join if those were paired. :) Although basically any Judy Blume book would get me hooked.

  25. gillespie Says:

    Two words: Lost Horizon (author James Hilton).

  26. romy Says:

    i second brando’s idea ! the JB books about girls are fine and all, but there’s just something about the boy stories.
    also, i read wifey when i was about 13 and thought it represented the way NORMAL ADULTS behaved. including the sex scenes. remember the penis dance ? in terms of modelling behavior for the readership, i think her coming-of-teenage books are more reliable.

  27. spinner8 Says:

    It’s not just girls that read Judy Blume. And Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Q. is a role model for people of all genders.
    I’d say read all of them. And, at the risk of adding a book that someone in the middle of the comments already mentioned, I’d add Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.