to a dusty shelf i aspire



Ah, spring. What a wonderful time of the year. Flora is appearing again after a long Winter, as are the many species of fauna. The sky is permanently blue, the scents are enough to plaster a perpetual smile across your face. Spring represents new: new beginnings and a fresh perspective (at least for me). It’s not a coincidence that in the past I’ve always written/read more in the spring and summer months: I love reading outside in the sun. I loathe winter and it just makes me grumpy. It’s noted that I’ve had a hard time lately getting into books let alone finishing them but so far this week I’ve read The Women of Trachis by Sophocles, Mumu by Ivan Tugenev, and I finally finished Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (all reviews will be coming this week) and it’s only Wednesday. I finally feel passionate about reading again and writing reviews. I am so relieved, it was pretty dark there for a while.

Usually I outline what I want to read each season as it gives me something to work towards. For the past year I haven’t done this as I just kept not reaching my goals and it bummed me out. I finally feel like I have the motivation to list books I want to read and actually finish them so without further ago these are a few books/goals I want to achieve over the next two and a half months:

  • Turgenev Project: Late last year I decided I would make my way through Turgenev’s body of work, which is no easy task let me assure you. So far I’ve read Fathers and Sons, On the Eve (both before I embarked on this project: I want to reread them eventually), Mumu, Song of Love Triumphant and I’m currently reading Asya. This spring I want to read Spring Torrents (how appropriate), First Love, Diary of a Superfluous Man and King Lear of the Steppes which brings me to my second goal:
  • King Lear by William Shakespeare. I haven’t read King Lear for many years and since Turgenev’s King Lear of the Steppes is inspired by Shakespeare’s King Lear I want to read them in conjunction to each other. Possibly read another Shakespeare if I can fit it in, maybe As You Like It or another comedy.
  • Complete Poems by Samuel Taylor Coleridge: I know this will be something that will take a lot of motivation for me to get through but I’ve had this collection of Coleridge poems for years and he is one of my favourite poets (if not my favourite) of the Romantic Era. I want to write about many poems as possible but there are over 300 of them in the collection so obviously I won’t be able to write about them all.
  • Ancient Greek Challenge: I’m hosting this event and I haven’t read nearly as much as I would like. I’d like to finish Sophocles Plays (I only have three left: Philocetes, Electra and Ajax) so that’s an achievable goal for this Spring.
  • JANE EYRE: I have never actually finished this novel. Sometimes I’ve read the start, the middle or a few pages here and there from the end but I’ve never made it through the entire book. I’m not fond of Charlotte Bronte and the Professor soured me even more towards her but I KNOW I’ll love this book if I read it and I just need to read it.
  • As I mentioned above I FINALLY finished Sir Gawain and the Green Knight so this frees me up a bit for a step reading/step reviewing project. I’m still not sure what I’m going to choose: perhaps One Thousand And One Nights/Arabian Nights/whatever you choose to call it, The Divine Comedy (I’ve read Inferno before) or the Decameron. That’s TBD.

So those are my plans. It’s a lovely day and I have some free time so hopefully I’ll (start) finish Asya today and this afternoon I’m going to a second hand bookstore to see if I can find some rarer books that they dont stock in Dymocks or online stores. I know they have a massive collection of Ancient Greek and Russian Literature so I’ll probably spend five hours in there. Couldn’t imagine a better way to spend an afternoon.




Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Anonymous / Old Review


Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Sir Gawayn and þe Grene Knyȝt) is a 14th century Arthurian chivalric romance, written by an unnamed writer who is often referred to as the Pearl Poet, which is split into four parts called FITS. In each fit there are many short stanzas which all end with a rhyming bob and wheel (the “bob” is a short line, usually not longer than two syllables and the “wheel” is made up of longer lines with internal rhyme). The poem follows Sir Gawain, one of the Knights of the Round Table, as he takes up a “beheading challenge” forced on him by the Green Knight, a mythic figure whom is said to be an allusion to Christ or a representation of the Green Knight of Welsh folklore. As said in another post last week I will be splitting up my Sir Gawain and the Green Knight reviews into four parts (Fit I, II, III, IV) and a general concluding post. This post will review FIT I. 

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The Song of Love Triumphant by Ivan Turgenev / Old Review

It’s not much of a secret that Ivan Turgenev is one of my favourite writers. I decided late last year that I would make my way through his novels, short stories and plays. I chose to start with one of his short stories, The Song of Love Triumphant, because I read somewhere he dedicated it to his dear friend (and another favourite writer of mine) Gustave Flaubert and it did not disappoint. It’s quite a different piece of writing compared to Turgenev’s other short stories, very experimental, but it’s a really fascinating insight into Turgenev’s state of mind later in his life.

The Song of Love Triumphant (sometimes referred to as the Song of Triumphant Love) was written in 1881 which was two years before he died. It’s a work that splits critics and the general reading public alike. Some think it’s a creative masterpiece and some dismiss it as a purely imaginative story with no real substance. I saw it as somewhere in between those two extremes. It’s not Turgenev’s best work but it is very moving and creative and different. The story is heavily based on his life long love for Pauline Vardot, an opera singer and their unique connection that spurned decades. Pauline was married at the time they met but it seems they all come to some arrangement as Turgenev followed them around Europe and lived close to them for a very long time. At one point he lived in a room in their house and at another point built a chalet in their garden and lived there for a while. It was even said Pauline’s two children were Turgenev’s children – a popular public theory that was never proved.

Louis Viardot after reading The Song of Love Triumphant

The Song of Love Triumphant is set in Ferrara during the Renaissance and is both a look into Renaissance Italy and the fascination in the West with Oriental culture. It follows the story of two friends, Fabio and Muzzio, who were a painter and a musician respectively and their love for the same woman, Valeria. Valeria eventually chooses Fabio and Muzzio travels around the East for five years to recover from the disappointment. When he returns he stays with Valeria and Fabio which is really where the story starts. Muzzio has aquired ‘supernatural’ instruments while he has been in the East and at night he plays a tune on his new violin ‘The Song of Triumphant Love’ which mesmerisies Valeria and she has an erotic dream which Muzzio has as well. The next night Muzzio plays the tune again but this time Fabio follows the tune and ‘fatal’ events ensue. Muzzio somehow survives the attack (its implied he was brought back to life by his attendant) and they quickly leave Fabio and Valeria to live their life peacefully. The story ends with Valeria feeling the “stirring of life” in her womb and the narrator ends the story with an unfinished question.

The Song of Love Triumphant is a funny little tale. It’s very experimental and not like Turgenev’s usual stories which is why I found it so compelling. As with all of Turgenev’s stories and novels I’ve read so far this story was exceptionally well written and the writing evokes emotion in you in a way that takes you back to a time or a person or a place in your own life. Turgenev was said to be a very gentle person, someone who was attached to nature and light, and you can really feel that in this story.

Ion, by Euripides // Old Review

                                        “When our oppressor is all powerful, where shall we fly for justice?” 


Ion, an Ancient Greek play by Euripides, was supposed to have been written between 414 and 412 B.C and is defined as a tragedy, although it’s definitely not as tragic as a majority of Euripides plays. Ion shares common themes with other plays written by Euripides such as religious scepticism, the clash of God’s and men, the injustices suffered by women, and features Greek Gods (Hermes, Apollo) which is another common thread that is weaved into not just Euripides plays, but plays by other Greek playwrights as well.

Ion opens with Hermes, a Greek God, detailing how Apollo raped an Athenian woman named Creusa in a cave under the Acropolis. Creusa, not being able to live with what Apollo did to her, left her son (Ion) in a basket in the cave where Apollo raped her, expecting that the child would be devoured by beasts. I’ve been an avid reader of Greek Mythology for a long time, and I knew of this story, but I was still horrified with Apollo raping Creusa, and Creusa leaving her child to be eaten by beasts. Later in the play, Euripides put doubt in the mind of the reader/viewer that Apollo raped Creusa, and subtly suggests that something just as dark happened (Creusa being raped by another man) but he leaves it up to the reader to decide which of these events they want to believe.

After this opening, the play moves to Apollo’s temple in Delphi where the child of Creusa lives and works. Ion is sweeping outside the temple when Creusa arrives, having made the journey to Delphi with her husband to pray to Apollo to give them children. Creusa meets Ion, not knowing he is her son, outside the temple and talk about various subjects, including the injustices women suffer at the hands of men and God’s. Cruesa expresses her outrage to Ion about how women are viewed and judged:

“Life is harder for women than for men: they judge us, good and bad together, and hate us. That is the fate we are born to”

The injustices women suffer is a major theme in Ion, as well as several of Euripides other plays (Women of Troy, Helen, Medea). For an Ancient Greek play, it’s rather progressive for it’s time from a feminist standpoint. Euripides, oddly, has a reputation as a misogynist, but perhaps I just haven’t gotten to his misogynist plays yet. It’s a sad fact that, two and a half thousand years after Ion was written, women and minorities still suffer similar injustices as they did in Ancient Greece. Forget sad, it’s rather horrifying.

Another major theme in Ion is religious scepticism, which I imagine was rather controversial in Ancient Greece. Through Creusa and Ion, Euripides expresses his outrage at how hypercritical the Gods are and at how immoral they are, yet they hold humans to a high standard and punish men for committing similar acts:

“If you are to pay to men the lawful indemnity for every rape you commit, you will empty your temples to pay for your misdeeds. It is unjust for you Apollo, and Poseidon and Zeus, to call men bad for copying what you find acceptable.”
Although called Ion, this play is more about Creusa and her plight. I truly loved this play, and felt very sympathetic towards Creusa and her tragic life. It is, like all of Euripides’ plays that I have read, very well written and is packed full of raw emotion. I really felt what the characters were feeling and those kind of plays are the ones I love the most. The plays that make you feel right down to the marrow in your bones. I would definitely recommend this for anyone who loves the play form, Ancient Greek plays, Greek Mythology and texts about women and the injustices they suffer.

Hansel and Gretel by the Brothers Grimm [Old Review]


Hansel and Gretel approaching the gingerbread house

Hansel and Gretel was first published in the two volume set of Fairy Tales Kinder- und Hausmarchen, composed by Jacob and Wilheim Grimm, in 1812. The Grimm brothers heard of the tale of Hansel and Gretel from a family friend but it’s certainly not an original tale. It possibly could have originated during the Great Famine in 1315 as there were reports of parents abandoning their children because they couldn’t afford to feed them and people resorting to cannibalism. Since then the familiar tale of Hansel and Gretel has appeared across different cultures and times. Tales by Charles Perrault and Madame d’ Aulnoy bear striking resemblances to Hansel and Gretel. The Grimm brothers themselves identified these two stories as being parallel stories to Hansel and Gretel. Hansel and Gretel was revised multiple times over the course of 40 years and the original story that appeared in 1812 is quite different from the final version published in the 1850s. Hansel and Gretel is one of the most recognisable tales recorded by the Brothers Grimm and has been adapted countless times for film, opera, plays, etc.

Hansel and Gretel opens with a description of a poor woodcutter who lived with his wife and children. They have always had little to eat and when a Great Famine strikes the land the woodcutter is unable to even supply their bread. The woodcutter’s wife, a selfish and horrible woman, comes up with the idea of giving Hansel and Gretel a small piece of bread each and leaving them in the woods to be devoured by animals. The father is extremely weak and agrees, although he’s not very happy about it. Unbeknownst to them Hansel and Gretel overheard the plan and Hansel quickly went outside and gathered pebbles so they could find their way home once they were left in the woods. When daybreak hits the family go out into the woods and the parents leave Hansel and Gretel next to a fire. They ate the bread quickly and fell asleep. When they awoke it was dark but the moon shone brightly in the night sky and they were able to follow the pebble track Hansel had left behind them. They eventually returned home safely much to the mothers chagrin.

A few days or weeks later (its not specified) they run out of food again and the mother decides they have to try and leave Hansel and Gretel in the woods once more. Hansel and Gretel overhear this plan again and Hansel decides to grab some more petals but the door is locked and he can’t get out. Hansel then decides to use the bread to leave crumbs behind. The next day the mother and father leave them in the woods again but when Hansel and Gretel woke up from their nap they discovered the bread crumbs were eaten by birds. They wander around the woods for three days until they come to a house made of sweets. Hansel decides that he will eat the roof made of cake and Gretel will eat the sugar windows. Suddenly they hear a voice from inside:

“Nibble, nibble, little mouse,
Who is nibbling at my house?”

Hansel and Gretel answer:

“The wind, the wind,
The heavenly child” 

A while afterwards an old woman appears, who is described to be as old as the hills themselves. Hansel and Gretel are frightened but the woman invites them inside and gives them a good meal and a place to sleep. Hansel and Gretel are immediately content and their worries disappear. However, the next morning the old woman (who is actually an evil witch) locks Hansel in a cage and makes Gretel become her slave. The witch had designed her sweet house to lure children so she could eat them. She feeds Hansel every day to fatten him up and only gives Gretel claw fish. Hansel realises what the witch is doing and sticks out a chicken bone every morning so the witch will think he hasn’t gained any weight. Eventually the witch grows impatient and decides she will eat Hansel anyway. She makes Gretel boil water so she can cook him the next day. When the day arrives the witch asks Gretel to test the oven out and see if it’s hot enough. Seeing what the witch has planned Gretel pushes the witch in the oven, lets Hansel out and they escape from the house just as the witch is being burned to death. But not before they take jewels so they’ll never be hungry again. Eventually they find their way home, with the aid of a swan, are reunited with their father and discover their mother had died. All’s well that ends well, right?

Hansel and Gretel was much darker than I remember. Cannibal witches, selfish parents who leave their children to be eaten by wild animals, etc. I absolutely love Hansel and Gretel and being older than when I read it the first and second times I can appreciate it for what it is. A story about two incredibly brave and smart children who outwit those who would wish them harm. They deserve the world and they eventually got it. A truly wonderful story that is quite inspiring.

Hello, again.


Lost. Forgotten. Astray. Lack of bearing. Misplaced. They are the words that come to mind when I try to describe my state of being lately. And by lately I mean for the last couple of years.  Being a reader has always been part of my identity for as long as I can remember and I’ve lost that in the stream of obstacles that have been thrown my way over the last two years. Books were always my safe place to land and they were my escape. For a long time I haven’t been able to get lost in a book, I can’t concentrate, I have to push myself to read at the moment and I’m just…lost. Reading isn’t just a hobby for me – books are how I understand the world and myself. I’ve lost that access and in doing so I’ve kind of lost myself. Of course there is a reason for all of this, for feeling lost and not being able to get lost in a story. It’s something I haven’t been comfortable with discussing in the past but I think it’s time. Maybe if I write it out I’ll be able to find a way to push through it or at least understand it a little more.

Along with several other things I have been diagnosed with chronic pain and fatigue which directly affects what I am able to do in terms of concentration. I’m a university student and all of my energy is directed at trying to get through all my work and classes, or what energy I can muster, and not a lot is left for anything else. It’s frustrated me, angered me, made me sad and most of all has isolated me from people and things I like doing. I’m exceptionally stubborn and I’ve tried to fight through it but that’s just made everything worse. I do read but it’s at a slow pace and I usually have to read a passage more than once as well. It’s something I’ve had to get used to and I am used to it now but it’s so frustrating for me. I can’t begin to explain how frustrating it is. It’s like something I love is in my sight but just out of my reach and I’m close to reaching it but each time I get close it jumps back. Reading is just so much effort and it’s hard to force myself to read when I used to love doing it. I still love books and stories and reading it’s just become a chore. But I think there is a solution…

Pressure. That’s my main issue. I put too much pressure on myself to read fast or read a specific novel or finish a book I am not able to get into. I’ve always done this but more so now. My life is so chaotic, so many things are beyond my control, but I can control what I read. Lately I’ve been reading bits and pieces of novels or essays or poetry and it’s something I’ve really been enjoying. I haven’t finished a book in a while (other than texts I have to read for my studies) but I’ve been reading so much. I’m regaining that love little by little. I may not be able to read as fast or as much as I used to be able to but I’m slowly finding a way to love books again. This couldn’t come at a better time. I’m not doing too well at the moment and when I fell into dark periods in the past I was always able to rely on stories to get me through. I haven’t had that for the last two years but I think I’m regaining it. Possibly. Hopefully. Oh, god, I hope so. This brings me to the second purpose of this post…

In the past, having this blog made me even more passionate about reading, it made me think about the texts I read a lot more, it gave me access to opinions of others and I really benefited from it. I did change to a different blog but I’ve been drawn to this one for the past few months. I can’t quite explain it but as I was reading over past reviews on here and past general posts I regained a little of the passion back. So I think it’s time to embrace it and come back to this blog. I want to engage again, I want to write reviews (even if they are tiny ones, a sentence here or a paragraph there) and I want to set mini goals for myself which I think will help me regain more of that passion and love for reading back. It might not work but I think it’s time to try. And maybe, just maybe, if I regain that passion for reading and writing back I’ll regain some of my passion for life again. I’m also not going to only talk about classic literature. If I have thoughts or something else to talk about I’ll write up a post about that. I don’t want to limit myself too much.

We’ll see. For now I’m going to look at my shelves and pick out whatever speaks to me. I’ll be transferring a few reviews from my old blog here over the next few days and fixing up my pages etc. If anyone still follows this blog and reads this, thank you. I still read and comment on some of your posts and you all inspire me.

xo, Keely

Le Morte D’Arthur

Oh, Le Morte D’Arthur. I’ve been reading Thomas Malory’s take on the Arthurian legends for about four months now (it was my Classics Club Spin read back in June) but haven’t really been able to make it very far. I’ve read the first three books which totals about 117 pages but I can’t seem to get back into it. I actually have really enjoyed reading the first three books and have even typed up draft notes on the books I have read but for some reason I put it down and have never picked it back up. I’m determined to finish it by the end of this year, which is why Jean’s Le Morte D’Arthur group read-a-long couldn’t have come at a better time. Since I read the first three books a few months ago, I think I’ll start over so I can jog my memory.

*the copy I’ll be reading from is The Penguin Classics edition, edited by Janet Cowen, and is split into two physical books: Volume 1 and 2. Volume 1 covers Books 1-9 and Volume 2 covers Books 10-21.

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More Than Words

This year has probably been one of the most tumultuous of my life thus far. I’ve spoken about this before so I won’t venture into that sad territory again. Probably due to the tumultuous nature of the past six months, I haven’t been reading at the pace that I usually do. Actually, I haven’t really been reading at all, which is sad. Usually, whenever I have gone through difficult periods in my life, books have been my only solace and my escape, but for some reason that’s not the case this time. I’ve just lost complete interest in doing things I used to enjoy doing. Or at least I did for a few months.

Over the last three weeks I’ve been steadily reading the Harry Potter series. I’ve just started the fifth book in the series, Order of the Phoenix.  Each time I’ve gone through difficult periods of my life I’ve read this series and it’s pulled me back. Saved me, one might say. That might sound cliché, or cheesy, but it’s true. Now, in my biggest reading rut of my life, it’s pulled me back again. Looking around my room, I can see a few books I have a sudden urge to read, or read again. I haven’t had this feeling for a while and feeling that again is such a relief. I can’t even put into words what a relief that is. I haven’t really felt like myself for a while and that, in part, is because I haven’t been reading.

Now on to the point of this post: my reading plans for the next few months. I simply cannot believe it’s almost October! Where has the year gone?

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Austen in August ’14

Austen in August


Ah, Jane Austen. Enchanting, delightful, beautiful, creative, brilliant Jane Austen. Oh what I would give to sit down with you and pick your brain. We would talk about the many, many layers of your novels, your heroines, your heroes, social etiquette, gender roles, romantic idealism, satire and family vs individuality in the 18th and 19th centuries. Unfortunately I’m 200 years too late but that doesn’t mean a girl can’t dream, right? 

Unbelievably there was a time in the not so distant past when I would scrunch my face up in distaste whenever anyone asked me whether I was a fan of Jane Austen’s work. No, I am not, and I never will be, I used to tell people. That was during my modernist phase. Woolf, the Beat Generation, Fitzgerald. They were the only names I cared for. The next phase was the Romantic Poets. Keats, Byron, Shelley. Then it was Shakespeare and Ben Johnson. Then the Brontes. I still refused to pick up a Jane Austen novel. 

One day I found myself staring at my bookshelf. I owned four Austen novels. I had read none of them. I just had them there to fill out the A-C section on my bookshelf. Suddenly my eyes wandered over to my copy of Pride and Prejudice. I read the back. I still wasn’t convinced. I put it back. I picked it up again. My day was empty. I wanted something new. I was restless. I opened Pride and Prejudice and read the first sentence. My life was never the same again. When I finished it was in my top five books I had ever read.

I read all of her novels over the next few months. Pride and Prejudice is no longer in my top five but Emma and Persuasion are. Whenever I doubt myself, whenever I need to feel, whenever I need to be cheered up, I pick up an Austen novel. She taught me more about life and who I was and who I want to be than any other author or person ever had. I reread a couple of her novels a year. It’s a love that will last a lifetime. 

This year I decided to read all of her novels within a twelve month period. It’s been a difficult couple of years. I kind of lost myself and once again she was there to remind me how beautiful life is. I’ve read Persuasion, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey and Emma so far this year. I finished Emma two days ago. It was my first Austen in August read. Which brings me to the point of this post.

I’ve decided to join Austen in August, which is being hosted over at Lost Generation Reader. At the beginning of this month I had three Austen novels left to read this year: Emma, Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park. I just finished Emma and I’m starting Sense and Sensibility. Also this month, if I can, I want to read Mansfield Park. That will complete my 2014 Austen Project. The last two months have been difficult. It’s just what I need. Couldn’t have come at a better time.

I’m currently working on my review for Emma and it should be up over the next couple of days. I hope to also write a small detailed post about why I love Jane Austen’s work and why they get better each time I read them. Perhaps I’ll watch some of the movie and/or television adaptions and review a couple of them too.

Top Ten Tuesday – Books This Year

Since it’s the start of June and almost halfway through the year (!) there couldn’t be a better time for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic, which I’m going to use as a kind of recap of this year in Literature. I’ve read a lot of great books this year so this Top Ten Books I’ve Read This Year list will be rather easy. Well, hopefully…

In no particular order my Top Ten are:

Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev

Poor Folk – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Rubicon – Tom Holland

Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

Inferno – Dante

The Plague – Albert Camus

Animal Farm – George Orwell

The Theban Plays – Sophocles

The Book of Sand – Jorge Luis Borges

Persuasion – Jane Austen

I won’t add descriptions since I did a major post about most of these but I will say that so far this year I have read books that I will carry with me for a lifetime. I’ve enjoyed every book I’ve read, some more than others, but I have enjoyed them all.