The Red Badge of Courage

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So I may have mentioned that January was  a month consumed by work.  I did, however, manage to complete the first month of my New Year’s Resolution.  My first stop on what I have affectionately coined my “dude lit” trip was Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage.

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Download it for free on your Kindle, or pick it up at your local library.  This was a quick read.  This famous Civil War classic is about a boy named Henry who, overcome by patriotism and fervor, enlists to fight for the Union in the bloody, prolonged war between the states.

The long and short of it? Henry’s internal battle with cowardice proves to be as dangerous as the real-world battle raging around him.  I’m no spoiler, so I’ll skip straight to my take on this classic.  It wasn’t for me.  I was glad to turn the final page.

I just kept thinking to myself.  “Buck up, Henry.  Get on with it.  What are you doing?  Stupid!” kind of in a recurring round.  I lost patience with Henry.  Could it be that I’m just short on patience in general as of late?  Sure.  Should I some day discipline myself to re-read this classic?  Maybe.  Will I? Nope.

What was good about the book?  Crane’s prose bordered on poetry. Some of his description-specifically of the natural world providing the stage for his wartime drama, was beautiful and placed you at the scene in a most effective and gratifying way.

Not surprising that Crane was heralded as one of America’s “earliest examples of Realism and Naturalism.”  If I had read that statement prior to reading the book, I would have been better prepared.  I hate that period of literature (no offense to all the good people who enjoy it).  No wonder I had hallucinatory flashbacks to Sister Carrie and my 400-level Realism and Naturalism literature class.  Yuck, I say! Not for me.

I’ve read several reviews of the tale where the reviewers cited how remarkable it was that, having never fought in war, Crane was able to capture the emotion, and ultimately, the changes wrought by  battle.  When I read that he hadn’t experienced battle, however, I was relieved to hear it.  The narrative hadn’t registered as realistic to me. (not that I would know) It just seemed to validate my overall impression of the book to find that Crane hadn’t lived the experience first hand.

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Criticism aside, however.  Crane was a hottie, and his biography was actually more interesting to me than his book.  A contemporary of Joseph Conrad and H.G. Wells, he worked as a war correspondent, kept company with known prostitutes, and died of tuberculosis in and German sanitorium at 28. Kind of looks like a young Tom Selleck there, doesn’t he?

Sorry-be patient with me.  I am trying to expand my tastes and experiences.  I think I may go read Persuasion again, though,  to blot out the lameness poignancy of Henry’s story.  Let’s just call it a palate cleanser-kind of a literary sorbet, if you will.

Have a wonderful week! I’d love to hear what you’re reading.

Resolution #2 and New Year’s Miscellany

Happy 2013!

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At my house today, we have napped and eaten, eaten and napped.  I have two very lethargic and slightly fussy rascals due to a New Year’s “Lock-In”.  Little brother came home at 1am.  Big sister stayed the night. Hubbie and I rang in the New Year at the grocery store.  We laughed-did not kiss-and enjoyed the fact that we were at least grocery shopping together.  (What can I say?  We had time to kill between our  movie and picking up the little man. and we needed milk.)

I found a great and “non traditional” recipe for black-eyed peas yesterday at Simply Recipes.  Well, scratch the non traditional piece-apparently it’s traditional in Greece.  It’s a black-eyed pea salad, and we had it for lunch, ensuring good luck in the new year.

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A Greek medley of black-eyed peas, spinach, kalamata olives, feta and sun-dried tomatoes-I cut the sun-dried tomatoes in half and added some beautiful red and yellow bell pepper.  Festive and delicious! We’ll have our cabbage (for prosperity) this evening.  I even picked up a head for the chickens!  Goodness knows, they deserve it.  We’re having our brief but very chilly Texas winter, and those little rascals are still laying like champs!

Finally, I’ve decided that two is the perfect number for this year’s Resolutions.  The reality is that I have so many self-development concepts underway already, I don’t want to dilute their progress or add undue pressure with additional formality.  It’s all about self-discipline after all.  They all utilize the same muscle.  So I picked one resolution that’s somewhat personal and supercilious (i.e. Great Literature I’ve never Read), and one that’s truly for the greater good. So, number two on my very short list of 2013 New Year’s Resolutions

Improving my kiddos eating habits and nutritional intake-limiting their access to junk

I cut back on their junk and increase the number of home-cooked meals consumed at table, ergo I cut back on my own junk and increase the number of home-cooked meals consumed at table.

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This will be challenging for three reasons.  1) They’re nerds  2) They’re picky nerds with texture issues 3) Their father and I are often weak-willed due to fatigue and stress.  I’ll even add an unofficial fourth-their dad and I have wicked travel schedules this spring and we tend to utilize the drive-through pretty exclusively when the other parent is away.

Guilt is a powerful motivator, however, and I’m committed to turning the tide on their junk food habits.  May the force be with me….I’ll certainly need it.

What are your resolutions? How are you taking your black-eyed peas and cabbage this year?

Resolution #1: Great Literature I’ve Never Read

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It’s a long and shameful list. Made more so by the artful dodging it required for someone with a B.A. in English. There are books on this list that I should have read in grade school. There are books on this list that were required reading. I took tests over these books, turned in papers about these books, and waxed pretentious on occasion about them. What was my problem? They were downers. They were downers and I knew they were downers. And well…I don’t like downers. I like stories that aren’t big fat downers. I like some tumult, with a sprinkling of crisis, book-ended by humor and happiness. I don’t like unrelenting tragedy or pathos. There you have it.

So I’m a grown up now. Supposedly. And it bothers me a little bit-all these years later-that I dodged the bullet on some of these stories. So here is number one on my very short list of 2013 Resolutions….

I will read one bypassed tome of “Great Literature” per month in 2013.

For a total of 12, which doesn’t even begin to cover the list of great literature I’ve never read. Let’s face it, life is too short and too full for a book like Moby Dick. No offense to those who love it. It’s a crazy dude and a whale. It ends badly. Gotcha.

So here they are in no particular order:

1. Bleak House…Charles Dickens 2. Treasure Island…Robert Louis Stevens on 3. The Three Musketeers or the Count of Monte Cristo….Alexandre Dumas 4. The Red Badge of Courage…Stephen Crane 5. The Grapes of Wrath…John Steinbeck 6. The Call of the Wild…Jack London 7. The Good Earth…Pearl S. Buck 8. Johnny Tremain…Esther Forbes

I’m stopping there.  It gives me four to play around with.  If you have suggestions, I’d love to see them. If it’s great chick lit, I’ve probably read it.  It’s the more masculine or primitive tales that were diligently avoided.

What are your resolutions this year?

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