This year Katherine Cox of November's Autumn is hosting a Turn of the Century Salon where you read authors' works from 1880-1930. It's an era I'm not familiar with, but I'm looking forward to reading a new era. Anyway here's an introduction::
What draws you to read the Classics?
To get a sense of an old time, to sympathise with well-drawn characters, and to escape into a new world.
What era have you mainly read? Georgian? Victorian? Which authors?
Victorian definitely. For the early Victorians: Dickens, Thackeray, the Brontë sisters, Mrs Gaskell. The mid-Victorians: George Eliot and Anthony Trollope. The late Victorians: Thomas Hardy, Oscar Wilde.
What Classics have you read from the 1880s-1930s? What did you think of them?
I've read quite a bit of Hardy. The Woodlanders, Tess of the d'Urbervilles and Jude the Obscure would be in this period. I think this era bleak and pessimistic, far more so than their early Victorian counterparts. There's a more acute emphasis of the individual and social concerns involving the working-classes. Basically a great deal of suffering. There also seems to be a great deal of adultery, which I find rather boring. Sons and Lovers should be in this period and it put me off erotic fiction for ever. Screw you, DH Lawrence. Also, a sense of community, the stuff in Mrs Gaskell and Trollope and George Eliot, is gone in these works. No happy neighbours, people who know each other well and help each other out, everybody is friendless blah blah blah. I tried reading Clayhanger and found it dull. On the brighter side, I do like Freud. He makes me laugh. Evelyn Waugh is not too bad either.
Name some books you're looking forward to read for the salon.
I don't know ... EM Forster? There's still Howards End to finish. I wish I could say Ford Madox Ford but that would be a lie. I would like to try Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks and perhaps more poetry. Wilfred Owen for starters. Perhaps I should try the cryptic TS Eliot. Siegfried Sassoon and Gerard Manley Hopkins would be good. And Algernon Swinburne if he is in this period.
Which authors do you hope to learn more about?
The poets. Thomas Hardy (who also wrote poetry). Algernon Swinburne.
Which literary characters are you most akin to?
The Victorians, naturally. I think I've got Molly Gibson's bluestocking tendencies (from Wives and Daughters), Dorothea Brooke's crazed idealism, some of Maggie Tulliver's restlessness (from Mill on the Floss), Caroline Helstone's thoughts on literature (from Shirley), and Lucy Snowe's acid cynicism and need for quietness.
Which authors do you love?
Charlotte Brontë hands down. I love Mrs Gaskell for Wives and Daughters and Ruth (her famous industrial novels were rather rushed I'm afraid), and the Victorians in general.
Is your preference prose? poetry? both?
Well, my most favourite works are all novels, which would indicate prose. But I only love prose from the Victorian era. From the Romantics, I prefer their poetry, for the modernists, I read very little. But their poetry is a better read than their novels. I must however, confess a weakness for Freud's (non-novelistic) works, because they make me roar with laughter. In fact my dad and I even created a universe where Freud does things like set up a hospital in a bamboo grove (don't ask why) and diagnoses everyone of phallic delusions, uterus delusions, etc. And the hospital becomes The place for the cream of society to go to. It's still a running joke between us.