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Challenges: Greek Classics, 2012 Classics, Gender in Fantasy and SciFi

November 22, 2011

Soooo…remember when I swore off challenges? I was so clever, thinking I’d just do book lists without external prompting, as my whim took me. Let’s see how that worked out, shall we? Later that month, I posted one list. In all of this year, I’ve posted three, including my 2010 round up. Um, how pitiful is that? Even with all my blogging breaks, it’s rather depressing (and detrimental to my self image as a list addict)! So clearly, my clever plan wasn’t terribly clever. Not to mention, I miss <strike> my command, which makes me feel all happy and powerful and nerdy all at once, which is pretty much my favourite combination of feelings. All of this is a build-up to the fact that I’m planning on joining a few challenges again in 2012. Who me? Change my mind? I won’t tell if you won’t. ;)

Time will tell if I’m a better participant than before, or if I’m just looking for an excuse to make lists and <strike> books of them. But for now, I can revel in making lists! Of old books!
In chronological order, Howling Frog’s Greek Classics Challenge comes first. Isn’t that a gorgous button? Who can resist a multi-millenia year old owl? With the exception of Homer, Plato, and Aristotle (all of whom I read regularly in high school for fun…yes, my nerdiness goes way back), I’m a newbie to the Ancient Greek scene. Earlier this year, I read Anne Carson’s unorthodox Oresteia and loved it. I especially loved Aeschylus’ “Agamemnon”, so then I went and read Fagles’ translation of his three-play Oresteia cycle. Guess what? I loved it. Euripedes’ “Orestes” was my least favourite of Carson’s cycle, but I wanted to give him, and Carson, another go, so I checked out Grief Lessons, which includes “Herakles,” “

Hekabe,” “Hippolytos,” and “Alkestis.” And, shockingly enough, I loved all of them too. Conclusion? I need more ancient Greeks in my life. Here’s my pool of potentials:

  • Robert Fagle’s The Three Theban Plays by Sophocles (“Antigone,” “Oedipus the King,” and “Oedipus at Colonus”), because I loved his “Electra.” And I’d like to see the story from a non-Freudian point of view, please. Yay for a pre-Freud world!
  • If Not, Winter : fragments of Sappho translated by Anne Carson: I’ve loved Carson’s other two translations, and it’s nice to see a Greek woman for a change! Sadly, she will be the token on this list.
  • Lattimore’s  Aeschylus II, which includes “The Suppliant Maidens,” “The Persians,” “Seven Against Thebes,” and “Prometheus Bound”:  I’ve decided I can’t have too much Aeschylus.
  • “Medea” and/or “The Bacchae” by Euripedes (I haven’t decided on a translation yet, since my library doesn’t offer Carson, Fagles, or Lattimore as options. If you have a preferred one, let me know!), because of Grief Lessons.
  • “The Clouds” by Aristophanes (I’m learning towards the Harvard Uni Press edition translated by Jeffrey Henderson, which also includes “Wasps” and “Peace”.): I’m tickled by the idea of a satire of Socrates.
  • “The Poet and the Women” also by Aristophanes (I’ll probably go with David Barrett’s translation, published by Penguin, which includes “The Wasp” and “The Frogs.”):  having seen “Lysistrata” performed, I’m very interested in his depiction of the position of ancient Greek women.
  • “On the Nature of Things” by Lucretius (no idea which translation to choose): I’m thinking about returning to my roots and reading more philosophy next year, and I’m curious to learn more about Epicurism. Also, my library catalogue files it under ‘didactic poetry.’ Who doesn’t love didactic poetry?
  • The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories by Robert B. Strassler & Andrea L. Purvis: because I am insane. But not too insane: if I’m going to read 700+ pages of ancient Greek history, I want the book with 300+ pages of supporting notes. I’m not committing to this for certain, but I am very tempted. It makes me feel better about not including any more philosophy.
  • The Odyssey by Homer, trans. by Robert Fagles: it’s been too long since I’ve caught up with the wily trickster! I’ve suggested that my library purchase the unabridged audio narrated by Ian McKellen, and if they don’t follow my suggestion I’ll pout a lot. But I have high hopes: they have the audio of Fagle’s Aeneid.

I’m not actually sure what level all of this would put me at, because I don’t know if I should count each play separately or just count each book/collection as one. So, depending on that and my stamina, I’ll either end up at Herodotus (8-10) or all the way at Thucydides (11+). Speaking of whom, I’m hoping my library also pays attention to my purchase suggestion of The Landmark Thucydides, because I’m not going to read a 1952 edition whose translation apparently includes errors. Anyway, the only one that makes me at all nervous is the Herodotus, which is why he’s there: it’s good to pop out of the comfort zone every now and then! Also, I might include some Plutarch, but the translation question seems so vexed. Really, why didn’t my college-self study Greek as well as Russian and French?! If only my college hadn’t separated the majors into modern languages and classics. And if only I could be a perpetual student. *sigh* If anyone has any opinions on Plutarch translations, please share them.


Then there’s the Classics Challenge at November’s Autumn. It’s a kind of challenge/event/meme mash-up, but the gist of it is to read seven classics in 2012. I tend to think of classics as books written before 1950, and I read quite a few of them on my own. But I thought some structure would be fun. The seven books put me in mind of seven continents, so I’ll be reading one from each inhabited continent, plus a bonus. (Unfortunately, I had to stick with more recent classics for most of the continents, due to book availability/existence, so this is more heavily geared towards the first half of the twentieth century than I would have liked. Expect to see some lists of older classics, primarily European, soon.)

  • South America: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (1944) or Dom Casmurro by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis (1899)
  • Africa: Rhadopis of Nubia by Naguib Mahfouz (1943) or Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (1948)
  • Asia: I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki (1905)
  • Australia: Bring the Monkey by Miles Franklin (1933)
  • North America: Hetty Dorval by Ethel Wilson (1947) or Wild Geese by Martha Ostenso (1925) or The History of Emily Montague by Frances Brooke (1769)
  • Europe: La Princesse de Clèves by Madame de La Fayette (1678) or Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes (1605/1615) or The Tattered Cloak and Other Stories by Nina Berberova (1930s-ish)
  • Bonus: Helen by Maria Edgeworth (1834)

Finally, for now at least, is another challenge with a pre-made list: Cynical Bookworm’s Gender in Fantasy and SciFi Challenge. When I envision my reading next year, I definitely see myself exploring more imaginative/speculative books. And I’m always interested in gender issues! So this book list is like waving candy in front a baby…my will power lasted about two days. Challenge participants have all of 2012 to read (or reread: I’ve read six of the twenty-two before) six to twelve titles from the list. I’ve already mentioned this on Twitter, because I think a lot of my bloggy friends would be interested in this! And I’m all about the peer pressure. ;)

The nicest thing about these challenges is that each of the hosts are bloggers I hadn’t run across before, and now they’re all in my feed reader! I’ve subscribed to a couple of the participants from these challenges as well. I’m always delighted when I find inspiring new-to-me blogs; it makes me all warm and fuzzy. It’s been a good week for that!

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34 Comments leave one →
  1. November 22, 2011 7:04 am

    Argh! Must…not…cave…to…peer…pressure ;) Your experience this year is making me rethink my decision to swear off challenges next year. Then again, I did join a few in 2011 and did terribly, so maybe a year off would do me good. But the gender in SF/F one is so tempting! Decisions, decisions.

  2. November 22, 2011 7:10 am

    Very good choices, Eva! I’ve been thinking of joining A Classics Challenge for a little structured classics reading. I also like the multi-mashup formula.

  3. November 22, 2011 9:01 am

    All of these challenges sound amazing! I’m just starting to think about what I want to join next year and I’m already overwhelmed since, of course, I want to join everything. I’ve just started reading fantasy again after many years so the Gender in SF/F Challenge is particularly tempting. And I’m thrilled any time you post a book list! I think everything from your Greek Challenge list is going straight onto my TBR list.

  4. November 22, 2011 9:12 am

    Oh, you have me intrigued. I managed to keep my challenges under control this year so may have to add one or two of these to my 2012 challenge page!

  5. November 22, 2011 10:43 am

    Woohoo, welcome to the challenge! We are going to have fun. Also I may need to go buy some Fagles instead of my old paperbacks.

  6. November 22, 2011 10:53 am

    I am very tempted by the gender in SF/F one. I am not planning to do any challenges next year because for the first time ever I did terrible with the ones I joined this year, but I am very tempted!

  7. November 22, 2011 12:29 pm

    I’m kind of at the sworn off challenges place right now. Good luck to you!

  8. November 22, 2011 1:04 pm

    Listmaking is crazy fun. :-) I sympathize with the desire to swear off challenges, but also the desire to sign up for them. Hopefully a modest number will treat you right in 2012.

    And I know I’ve probably talked it up to you before, but If Not, Winter is one of my favorite volumes of poetry of all time. So I hope you like it! I haven’t read Grief Lessons yet but I own it and I’ve loved everything Carson has ever touched, so I’m looking forward to reading it.

    • December 15, 2011 11:57 pm

      You have told me how much you loved If Not, Winter! It’s a big part of why it’s on the list. :)

  9. November 22, 2011 2:05 pm

    I do like challenges even though I have not done too well with the one’s I joined in 2011. All three you mention sound very interesting and I’m very much tempted to join them all! :). I got very interested in Greek classics earlier this year. I read and loved the Fagles translation of The Iliad and also If not, Winter (which is a very beautiful book). I also would like to read more classics & gender issues have always been close to my heart. I guess, I just have to go & check out those challenges in more detail now…

  10. November 22, 2011 3:42 pm

    You know when you first swore off from reading challenges, me and Dewey stopped too? You’re a bad influence! ;-) But luckily I started participating in challenges again though I often forget about them. Gender in Fantasy and Sci-fi sounds like an interesting challenge. I’m going to look at the list before I decide to join.

  11. November 22, 2011 3:50 pm

    LOL–I loved this!!! I really thought I was done with challenges (except for Carl’s, of course), but even though I’ve always sucked at completing them, I’ve found myself really missing them lately.

  12. November 22, 2011 4:14 pm

    I’m (mostly) trying to stay away from challenges myself, but I do love a good list. I keep debating the Greek Classics Challenge (despite trying to avoid challenges) simply because I am currently planning to read more Greek classics next year. I recently purchased the Fagles translation of the Sophocles plays, and I’ve had Iliad around for ages, so I’m hoping to get to both.

    Some of the titles in your Classics list actually line up with some of the ones I’m planning to read next year: Ficciones and, hopefully, finally reading all of Don Quixote.

  13. November 22, 2011 4:51 pm

    I really need to do the Greek Classics challenge! There are so many I have not read yet, and others I just really want to reread.

    Thanks for the heads up about these challenges. Since The Classics Circuit will be on hiatus due to my baby, etc, I’ll have to bring these to the forefront so people know.

  14. November 22, 2011 5:13 pm

    I hope you enjoy your challenges. It is hard to resist making those lists!

  15. November 22, 2011 7:23 pm

    That Gender in Fantasy and SciFi Challenge one… so, so tempting! We are hosting a general Speculative Fiction Challenge next year and I can see them going together nicely… *attempts to resist temptation*….

  16. November 22, 2011 7:31 pm

    Oh, I want to read If Not, Winter SO BADLY! I’ve joined a challenge on Goodreads and that’s one of the book’s I’ve put on my list.

  17. November 22, 2011 9:23 pm

    Ooh, the Gender in SFF Challenge is awfully tempting. I’ve only read four of the books, too, so I’d have a lot of new-to-me ground to cover. Hmm…

  18. November 22, 2011 11:18 pm

    I can generally talk myself out of joining challenges (no matter how tempting) as I am so awful at following through, but I am an inveterate list maker and love them! Now whether I actually ever read all the books on those lists (I don’t…) is another thing entirely. I’ve done an appalling job (even by my own standards) of reading books that I planned on reading this year, but then…they’re more like guidelines anyway! :) That said the Greek Classics challenge sounds especially tempting as I just recently bought a few Greek Classics (including The Oresteia) not that long ago. I love your classics list by the way!

  19. November 23, 2011 3:44 am

    I think you’ve sworn off challenges more than once, no ? Glad to see that you are back because you always find the most interesting ones. I like the Greek one. I need to read more classical Greek lit so perhaps I will sign up. Thanks!

    • December 15, 2011 11:58 pm

      Nope, just the once! (That I remember, anyway, lol.)

  20. November 23, 2011 4:28 am

    Happy you’re interested in Gender SFF challenge! I’m waiting for many fascinating posts on fascinating reads! ^__^

  21. November 23, 2011 10:07 am

    The gender in sci fi list sounds really interesting, may have to check out some of those titles that I’ve not yet read… Though I think the list should include Okorafor ;)

  22. November 23, 2011 12:06 pm

    thanks for bring this to my attention Eva I ll have a think about it but I m terrible at challenges just to flighty a read to stick to plans ,all the best stu

  23. November 23, 2011 2:13 pm

    Gahhh I had more or less talked myself out of challenges for next year (I am doing miserably in the ones I entered this year) but that Gender in SFF sounds so interesting, particularly since I am considering writing a doctoral thesis in that area…must not cave.

    Also you should definitely pester your library to get Fargles translation read by Ian McKellen. I got it from Audible and it is awesome.

  24. November 24, 2011 1:25 am

    What a great idea, I love how you’ve chosen from the seven continents! Thank you for joining, Eva. :)

  25. Tanya permalink
    November 24, 2011 12:04 pm

    I have the Modern Library version of Plutarch’s Lives, which is a Dryden translation updated (in 1864 – har!) by Arthur Hugh Clough. I haven’t come across another translation of the Lives, but I will say this one is lucid, poetic, and all-around lovely! And it was the translation carried by the snobbiest bookstore I’ve ever been in, so it must be credible to some degree :)

    • December 15, 2011 11:59 pm

      Ohhh: thanks Tanya! :) I’m happy I’d be able to get that one on my Nook for free too.

  26. November 27, 2011 10:27 am

    Can no one alert my mother to the Greek Classics Challenge because she is an obsessed classicist and if she learns of it she will demand I do it. I am a slight let down to her that I have never read any of the great pieces of ancient greek literature.

  27. Jillian ♣ permalink
    December 1, 2011 8:03 pm

    I went a little crazy on challenges for 2012. :-) I love your twist on the classics event, as well as your picks for the Greeks Challenge! I included Beowulf on my list because I assumed a Greek must have written it… Apparently not. :lol:

    • December 15, 2011 11:59 pm

      LOL Nope, a little further north. ;) It’s a fun read though!

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