Tag Archives: companion literature

Whaling Woes

Crime and Punishment is eating up all my reading time, and the titles are starting to pile up on my nightsand.  As soon as I close the book on Raskolnikov, this is what I’ll be reading …

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick

You remember Philbrick.  He wrote Why Read Moby-Dick?  He was a featured expert in the PBS special “Into the Deep”.

I am not a huge fan of nonfiction.  When we finally finish the WEM novels and dive into autobiographies and histories, I’ll be as lost at sea as Ishmael was after the sinking of the Pequod.

But, I did read Why Read Moby-Dick?  and I enjoyed Philbrick’s style of writing.  I also liked watching/listening to him on the PBS film.  Months ago I put In the Heart of the Sea  on hold at the library, but library books have to be returned, and I have a five hundred page novel I’m supposed to be reading.  My husband saved the day when he picked up a used copy for me.  Maybe I’ve talked enough about whaling to interest him in the topic.

In the Heart of the Sea…  It’s what’s on my nightstand.

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Posted by on August 18, 2012 in Moby-Dick


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Choose your own Austen Adventure

Oh, this next book is a fun one.  I picked it up at a used library book sale early this spring.  It’s been sitting on my nightstand ever since.  A few nights ago I picked it up so I could give it a quick perusal and write a post about it.  I never got as far as the post.

Do you remember “choose your own adventure” stories from grade school?  You would read a little and come to a choice:

If you choose the river route, turn to page 37.
If you choose the meadow path, turn to page 49.

Weren’t those fun books?  Here’s a “choose your own adventure” book Lizzy Bennet-style.

Lost in Austen: Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure
by Emma Campbell Webster

Here’s part of the book’s description from the back cover:

Create Your Own Jane Austen Adventure begins in Pride and Prejudice, but your decisions along the way will lead you into the plots of Austen’s other works, and even newly imagined territory.”

The book suggests dividing a piece of paper into five sections with the following headings: accomplishments, intelligence, confidence, connections, and fortune.  As you read, you add or deduct points from certain categories.  Why do this?  Well, the books says, “While you can gain points, you can also lose them, which could harm your chances of marrying happily and affect the outcome of your adventure.”  I want to be happily married, so I’m keeping track.  What’s that you say?  I’m already married?  Oh, you know what I mean.  I’m a rule-follower, so I’m keeping track of my points.

RIght now I have 220 points in confidence but only 70 in fortune.  The heading “accomplishments” is divided into two parts: accomplishments and failings.  My only accomplishment so far is that I learned the Boulanger dance, but the book tells me this skill will have no effect on my marrying well.  Under failings I have no style, no taste, and no beauty (Thanks a lot, Miss Bingley.).

It’s been a hoot to read.  I’m still in the Pride and Prejudice section, but it will be fun to continue reading into other Austen tales.  When I need a break from Crime and Punishment, this will be the book I choose.

Lost in Austen… It’s one of the books on my nightstand.


Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Pride and Prejudice


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Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter

Why am I only on chapter 3 of Crime and Punishment?

I blame this book:

Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter
A Novel by Paula Reed

Last week when I should have been reading Dostoyevsky (That’s the spelling I’ve decided to use.  If it’s good enough for SWB, it’s good enough for me), I was speeding through this book.

Here’s a paragraph from the book’s flyleaf:

Upon the death of her demonic husband, Hester Prynne is left a widow, and her daughter Pearl, a wealthy heiress.  Hester takes her daughter to live a quiet life in England, only to find herself drawn into the circle of the most powerful Puritan of all time, Oliver Cromwell.

In this story, Hester’s “A” has given her the ability to see sin and hypocrisy in others.  I enjoyed how the author took Hawthorne’s characters and tucked them into the history of England.  Having read The Scarlet Letter, I knew things about Hester’s past that other characters did not.

Admit it.  You’ve wondered what happened to Hester and Pearl during those years in England.  What brought Hester Prynne back to Puritan New England?  What about those letters she receives with the royal crest?  Author Paula Reed answers all those questions.

Hester: The Missing Years of The Scarlet Letter… it’s what’s on my nightstand.

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Posted by on July 24, 2012 in The Scarlet Letter


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Her what?!

For my first installment of “What’s on my nightstand?” I’d like to share a book with a great title.

Madame Bovary’s Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature

Oh yes, classic novels interpreted through the lens of science.

The book was written by a father-daughter team: David P. Barash and Nanelle R. Barash.  Dad is an evolutionary psychologist and, at the time of publication, his daughter was an undergraduate student.

It’s disclosure time.  I am a Christian who believes God created the world in six days.  Soooo I’m not buying into Darwin’s theory.  But, what I’ve read so far in Madame Bovary’s Ovaries (the intro and one chapter) has been interesting.

Each chapter focuses on a different subject commonly found in literature: jealousy, love, family relationships, etc.  Each chapter also uses examples from literature to support the evolutionary argument.  Or maybe it’s that evolutionary theory is explaining the classic literature?  The chapter titled “Madame Bovary’s Ovaries” discusses “The Biology of Adultery”.  There’s another chapter titled “The Key to Jane Austen’s Heart: What Women Want, and Why”.

Here’s what the authors have to say about their work.

“Our basic premise is simple enough, although oddly revolutionary at the same time: that people are biological creatures and that as such they share a universal, evolved human nature.  Add to this our second basic principle: that evolutionary psychology, a decidedly nonfiction science, has been discovering why human beings behave as they do, and that it offers a raft of refreshing, rewarding, challenging insights into the world of fiction no less than that of fact.”

Madame Bovary’s Ovaries… it’s one of the books on my nightstand.


Posted by on July 18, 2012 in Madame Bovary


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What’s on my nightstand?

You mean besides the alarm clock, chapstick, bobby pins, and box of tissues?

Books related to classic novels I’ve read.
Lots of books that I’ve been trying to read so that I can write blog posts about them.

How’s that extra reading coming?

Not well.
Have I mentioned that this reading group is starting Crime and Punishment, and I haven’t gotten far enough in Dostoevsky’s novel to read about crime or punishment.  As a result, the companion literature has suffered.

Maybe you are as interested in these companion books as I am.
Maybe you are looking for a book to read in the car as you travel for your vacation.
Maybe you’ve been curious about what Hester did during her years in England.
Maybe you’ve missed the Bennet sisters.
Maybe you’ve wondered about the whaling tragedy that inspired Melville.

Maybe you’ll read one of these books and tell me about it!

So, I bring to you… “What’s on my nightstand?”

It’s a shorter title than “What I’m trying to read while not getting terribly behind on the current novel.”

Stay tuned for my first installment
Madame Bovary’s Ovaries.


Posted by on July 17, 2012 in The Blog


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Read Anything Interesting Lately?

Lest you think we’re total nerds here at A Classic Case of Madness, I thought I should clear up a little rumor:  We do read things other than the classics.  Just this year I read Death at Pemberly and The Eyre Affair.

Fine, whatever.  We’re nerds.  I own it.

Our good friend Norma, you’ve read her intelligent comments I’m sure, gave me this wonderful mystery by P.D. James as a Christmas present to share with our “classy friends.”

The novel is set at Pemberly, (duh), after Elizabeth and Darcy’s marriage.  I don’t want to give too much away, but, there is a murder.  Don’t worry, all the Bennet girls are fine.

If you like mysteries, and you want to test your ideas of life after P&P against this wise, aged author’s, then you should give it a read.  Seriously, P.D. James is 91 years old and still writing novels.  If nothing else, you should read it to remind yourself that you are not too old to do anything.

The Eyre Affair is a book I picked up on the handy-dandy display of adult books that our local library sets out in the kid’s area for those of us stroller-tied to the bottom floor.  We had just finished up the actual Jane Eyre, and there was no way I was leaving this paperback for some ritzy, Peg Perigo pushing mom to snatch up without understanding the deep Brontë influence.

It’s the first in a series about a female detective named Thursday Next.  The book, by British author Jaspor Fforde is, well, um, let’s see . . .maybe the front of the book says it best:

Yeah, it’s sort of unusual, but in that great, “Are you smart enough to get his sense of humor” kind of way.  He makes you earn your laughs, and that I can appreciate.

Plus, four of our WEM books were mentioned within the first 14 pages.  See?

I will definitely be going back to read more of this time-travel, literary mystery fantasy, but maybe after we’ve gotten a little further down our list.  After all, I don’t want to miss any more of the jokes than necessary.

So, what other companion books should I add to my library queue?


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