Uncle! I am crying Uncle!

Close readers of My Porch will know that I really rebel against expectations, even when they are my own. Well, I am beginning to rebel against my self-imposed goal of reading all 20 of the Penguin English Journeys volumes in the month of April.

In terms of page count it really isn’t all that oppressive, but in terms of content it is. I have really liked some of them so far, the one of food, and the more pastoral, nature filled ones seem to be far more interesting to me. And thankfully there are several of those coming up. I am quite looking forward to the Gertrude Jekyll. But ye gadz, some of these are just so tedious. Part of the problem may be that it is too much of one thing all at once. And reading them in number order may not have been the best plan either. I realized that they are are numbered in alphabetical order by author’s last name. It might have been smarter to mix and match so that there was more contrast from book to book.

I am still going to try and read the rest of them, but you are all on notice that I reserve the right not to finish any that I find too tedious to bother with, and to keep my “reviews” of those down to the bare minimum.

Call me a poseur, call me a loser, I don’t care. I have too many other fabulous books waiting for my loving caress. And now, back to our regularly scheduled program:

These are the seventh and eigth of 20 volumes of the Penguin English Journeys series. I plan to read all 20 in the month of April.

A Shropsire Lad
A.E. Housman

I feel like I said all I could about poetry in my last post. Well, that isn’t true, I could say a lot about Walt Whitman and some other poets who really speak to me. But alas, A Shropshire Lad, though perfectly pleasant, didn’t do too much to elevate my mental plane whilst I read it.

Cathedrals and Castles
Henry James

I am not a big James fan to begin with. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t dislike him, but I never like his books as much as I think I should, and I think Edith Wharton kicks his literary ass. And though James describes some very special places that I have visited (Wells, Chester, Salisbury, etc.) he just makes it so darn boring. Maybe I am hankering for pictures or maybe his language is so prolix and dry. In any event I found myself skimming so much I just had to chuck it to the side.

Despite my current state of annoyance, I am indeed looking forward to the next two titles in the series:

Walks in the Wheat-fields by Richard Jeffries
The Beauties of a Cottage Garden by Gertrude Jekyll

Hopefully I won’t be disappointed.

15 thoughts on “Uncle! I am crying Uncle!

  1. Ti April 20, 2010 / 11:13 pm

    It's been years since I've heard the term “poseur.” It brings back memories for sure and got a chuckle out of me.

    Thomas, you do as you see fit. I thought it was quite a bold goal when you first posted about it. I am enjoying the reviews though.


  2. Susan in TX April 20, 2010 / 11:22 pm

    Why do we do such things to ourselves? I'm feeling your self-imposed pain and chuckling with you at the same time. Hope to be off on the “book trail” that you sent me soon — thank you again!


  3. verity April 21, 2010 / 3:58 am

    Oh dear! What a disappointment after all of the anticipation. I think they are probably more volumes to dip in and out of rather than anything else. Here's hoping that the good ones are left to come :)


  4. Elise April 21, 2010 / 4:46 am

    You're doing well!! I don't think I would have the patience!! I need my books to vary a lot between them. I'm thoroughly impressed that you're doing this!


  5. Frances April 21, 2010 / 7:02 am

    Isn't it funny how we all get these ideas that strike us as fantastic in a moment, and then prove harder to live with than we expected? Several of us devoted this month to getting through two or three of the same chunksters, and are all just about fried right now. So, yes, give it a rest. Wouldn't call you anything but smart for doing it.


  6. Jeane April 21, 2010 / 11:12 am

    It's an admirable goal, but now that it's dragging you shouldn't force yourself through it. Maybe give it a rest for a while and come back to the Penguin books later?


  7. Thomas at My Porch April 21, 2010 / 12:10 pm

    Mlle: I know, right?

    Ti: Well, if you hung out with “punk” kids in the 1980s like I did, it got thrown out a lot. I was never accused of being one because I never tried to be punk. In fact I had a punk guy call me s9Simon LeBon, which I did NOT appreciate.

    Susan: I want to hear all about the book trail trip.

    Verity: I think you are right about dipping in from time to time. Almost like English countryside reference materials.

    Elise: I read 20 pages of a novel last night and that was kind of like hitting the reset button.

    Frances: I have been keeping track of your progress. I think one chunkster a month should be the legal limit.

    Jeane: The odd thing is I picked up the next one this morning and 23 pages in, I am quite enjoying it. So things are looking up.


  8. Mrs. B. April 21, 2010 / 6:56 pm

    Ha, ha Thomas…I was wondering if you could really do this for a month. Lovely little books but I can imagine you're dying to read something else by now. Hmmm….how about some Margaret Atwood?

    (P.S. I answered you comment at my blog on the Year of the Flood so check it out)

    (P.S.2 I loved Simon le Bon growing up! That's quite a compliment. Surprised you didn't like it.)


  9. madbibliophile April 22, 2010 / 9:04 am

    This is why I always manage to fail to complete any challenges no matter how easy they may sound. Psychologically, I begin to feel really oppressed by being dictated what I should read.


  10. Thomas at My Porch April 22, 2010 / 11:09 pm

    Madbibliophile: You described it perfectly. Why do we do it to ourselves?


  11. AnswerGirl April 24, 2010 / 7:04 am

    I think Edith Wharton v. Henry James is one of the identifying distinctions for hardcore readers. Count me on the Edith Wharton side, too.


  12. mary April 25, 2010 / 8:18 pm

    I had a feeling this might prove too much of a good thing. A Shropshire Lad, I think, can only be appreciated by uptight Englishmen who still define themselves by the schools they went to. The rest of us would howl with laughter. (There is a very good parody if you look on Wikipedia which might cheer you up!)


  13. Thomas at My Porch April 26, 2010 / 2:57 pm

    AnswerGirl: Yay Edith. I think the biggest distinction is how accessible Wharton's writing is and how difficult James makes his.

    Mary: I think you may be right. I am continually amazed at the centrality of Oxford and Cambridge in British literature. I understand why, but I am still amazed by it. Maybe it is because I tend to read older British fiction when diversity in background was less likely?


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