Thursday, April 05, 2012
I've been meaning to write about Shirley Jackson's 20th century classic, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, for a couple of months now, and this month's topic around book covers from November's Autumn's Classic Challenge is all the incentive I needed.
We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a horror story, not a genre I read much, but it's gotten such rave reviews from fellow bloggers whose opinions I trust that I had to give it a try.
And it's cover? Awesome.
At least I think the cover of the Penguin Classics edition I have is awesome. It's sort of a cross between an Edward Gorey illustration for PBS Mystery and the woodcut illustrations of Fritz Eichenberg that grace my favorite editions of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. It is perfect for this modern gothic tale, and absolutely captures the essence and themes of the novel. The illustrator is Thomas Ott, and I don't think Penguin could have picked a better artist to do the cover of this oh so creepy book.
Front and center we have an image of the novel's extremely unreliable narrator, Merricat, a young teenaged girl, holding her cat and facing the world grimly. Her big staring eyes convey her innocence, vulnerability, and that underlying psychosis she dances around so deftly.
Behind her is her sister Constance, which is apt because throughout the story Merricat continually conveys the impression that she is shielding Constance from the world. However, it's not clear from the cover whether Constance is hiding behind Merricat or is supporting her. Her hands on Merricat's shoulders have a maternal feel that makes the cover reflect the ambiguities of the story Merricat tells and the reality that the reader eventually pieces together.
Behind Merricat and Constance, in the background, are the villagers who shun them after the "accident" that kills the rest of their family and who eventually storm their castle. True to the book, they display a range of emotions from shock and horror to mockery or what might even be interpreted as friendliness.
To be honest, I didn't love the book. I'm glad I read it, and I found it morbidly interesting and the unreliability of the narrator to be fascinating, but I felt a great sense of relief when I finished it and could put it safely back on the shelf. It wasn't a comfortable read, but I admire Jackson's writing tremendously. She really is the queen of modern gothic--her short story, The Lottery, is absolutely chilling and is a masterpiece of American fiction as is We Have Always Lived in the Castle.
Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Guess who won the Penguin Ten Essentials Classics Redux contest? Guess who just opened a box of 24 Graphic Deluxe Classics? Guess who is dancing?
That's right...me!!! As my dear sixteen-year old daughter put, "How nerd-tastic of you!" I can tell she is so proud...
Actually, there were two winners. And since I guessed one wrong--my pick was Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men over Chaucer's Canterbury Tales--I assume my co-winner, Karen Sagun from Books and Chocolate (one of the blogs I follow!) was off by one as well. Congrats, Karen!
The really great thing about the 24 classics that I received is that some are spanking new editions of old favorites, some are entirely new to me, and some are ones that I have wanted to read for lo these many years.
Let's take a closer look...
First off, a Steinbeck I haven't read--namely The Acts of King Arthur and His Noble Knights. That sounds great to me. I read Ethan Frome a year ago, but I remember loving this cover when I was looking for cover art for the blog (it's mostly hidden in this picture), and I've meant to read Dorothy Parker ever since Rory Gilmore couldn't shut up about her. Anybody want to enlighten me regarding The New York Trilogy?
I've been wanting to read We Have Always Lived in the Castle since I read a few reviews of it last year, and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is officially on the 2011 reading list. I absolutely love the covers of Lady Chatterley's Lover and Great Expectations, which I would like to reread in anticipation of the new adaptation. My paperback Jane Eyre has been "borrowed" by my college-age daughter, so a replacement is welcome. Candide has always intrigued me but I never owned a copy. Maybe Canterbury Tales will become my new bedside book.
I love the cover of Pride and Prejudice, and my paperback copy (as opposed to my Annotated version or my Oxford edition) is literally falling apart--not that I will get rid of it, but museum pieces must be preserved! I've been wanting to reread The Scarlet Letter, but the copy I kept from high school has yellow pages and the type is too tiny for these eyes. Little Women is also on my 2011 must-read list, and I've been wanting to read Kafka ever since that Northern Exposure episode where Rob Morrow played him in one of the flashbacks to early days in Cicely. Gravity's Rainbow...dare I? Pynchon intimidates me, but maybe?
Thanks, Penguin. Your books will be treasured.