Category Archives: Little Black Classics

Penguin Little Black Classics – 46 New Titles

  

Hi everyone! 

Hope you’re all wonderful on this Thursday morning. 

I’ve kind of spoilt this post by the title – bit of a giveaway! Nevermind. But, Penguin have released 46 new titles to their Little Black Classic collection. Some of you may remember I bought all my year 11 students a copy of The Yellow Wallpaper from this collection last year. Therefore, I wanted investigate and to buy more of these to add to my original collection. I thought you’d all like to see too! (If you haven’t done so already of course.) 

I was very excited yesterday as I was able to pick up my latest titles from my local Waterstones. I’ve got one outstanding – Oscar Wilde’s Only Dull People Are Brilliant At Breakfast which I’m waiting patiently for. Oh Oscar. Anyway… 

I love the fact that they really are affordable fiction; small snapshots into a variety of literary worlds by a selection of fascinating writers. There’s a number of writers that I know nothing about, or have even heard of, and these little gems are a perfect way of reading new things you may be unsure of. 

The latest ones are a little more expensive than the original 80 at 80p (at £1-£2 each) but they are also a tad larger. Bonus: more reading material. 

  

I may set myself a challenge of reading them all, but this may be unrealistic. Some aren’t my cup of tea at all. Nevertheless, I may give it a bash. What do you think?

The complete collection of Little Black Classics are now as follows: 

  • Mrs Rosie and the Priest GIOVANNI BOCCACCIO
  • Bawdy tales of pimps, cuckolds, lovers and clever women from the fourteenth-century Florentine masterpiece The Decameron.
  • As kingfishers catch fire GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS
  • The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue
  • On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts THOMAS DE QUINCEY
  • Aphorisms on Love and Hate FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
  • Traffic JOHN RUSKIN
  • Wailing Ghosts PU SONGLING
  • A Modest Proposal JONATHAN SWIFT
  • Three Tang Dynasty Poets
  • On the Beach at Night Alone WALT WHITMAN
  • A Cup of Sake Beneath the Cherry Trees KENKO
  • How to Use Your Enemies BALTASAR GRACIÁN
  • The Eve of St Agnes JOHN KEATS
  • Woman Much Missed THOMAS HARDY
  • Femme Fatale GUY DE MAUPASSANT
  • Travels in the Land of Serpents and Pearls MARCO POLO
  • Caligula SUETONIUS
  • Jason and Medea APOLLONIUS OF RHODES
  • Olalla ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON
  • The Communist Manifesto KARL MARX & FRIEDRICH ENGELS
  • Trimalchio’s Feast PETRONIUS
  • How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher’s Dog JOHANN PETER HEBEL
  • The Tinder Box HANS CHRISTIAN ANDERSEN
  • The Gate of the Hundred Sorrows RUDYARD KIPLING
  • Circles of Hell DANTE
  • Of Street Piemen HENRY MAYHEW
  • The nightingales are drunk HAFEZ
  • The Wife of Bath GEOFFREY CHAUCER
  • How We Weep and Laugh at the Same Thing MICHEL DE MONTAIGNE
  • The Terrors of the Night THOMAS NASHE
  • The Tell-Tale Heart EDGAR ALLAN POE
  • A Hippo Banquet MARY KINGSLEY
  • The Beautifull Cassandra JANE AUSTEN
  • Gooseberries ANTON CHEKHOV
  • Well, they are gone, and here must I remain SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE
  • Sketchy, Doubtful, Incomplete Jottings JOHANN WOLFGANG VON GOETHE
  • The Great Winglebury Duel CHARLES DICKENS
  • The Maldive Shark HERMAN MELVILLE
  • The Old Nurse’s Story ELIZABETH GASKELL
  • The Steel Flea NIKOLAY LESKOV
  • The Atheist’s Mass HONORÉ DE BALZAC
  • The Yellow Wall-Paper CHARLOTTE PERKINS GILMAN
  • Remember, Body… C.P. CAVAFY
  • The Meek One FYODOR DOSTOEVSKY
  • A Simple Heart GUSTAVE FLAUBERT
  • The Nose NIKOLAI GOGOL
  • The Great Fire of London SAMUEL PEPYS
  • The Reckoning EDITH WHARTON
  • The Figure in the Carpet HENRY JAMES
  • Anthem for Doomed Youth WILFRED OWEN
  • My Dearest Father WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
  • Socrates’ Defence PLATO
  • Goblin Market CHRISTINA ROSSETTI
  • Sindbad the Sailor
  • Antigone SOPHOCLES
  • The Life of a Stupid Man RYŪNOSUKE AKUTAGAWA
  • How Much Land Does A Man Need? LEO TOLSTOY
  • Leonardo da Vinci GIORGIO VASARI
  • Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime OSCAR WILDE
  • The Old Man of the Moon SHEN FU
  • The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon AESOP
  • Lips too chilled MATSUO BASHŌ
  • The Night is Darkening Round Me EMILY BRONTË
  • To-morrow JOSEPH CONRAD
  • The Voyage of Sir Francis Drake Around the Whole Globe RICHARD HAKLUYT
  • A Pair of Silk Stockings KATE CHOPIN
  • It was snowing butterflies CHARLES DARWIN
  • The Robber Bridegroom BROTHERS GRIMM
  • I Hate and I Love CATULLUS
  • Circe and the Cyclops HOMER
  • Il Duro D. H. LAWRENCE
  • Miss Brill KATHERINE MANSFIELD
  • The Fall of Icarus OVID
  • Come Close SAPPHO
  • Kasyan from the Beautiful Lands IVAN TURGENEV
  • O Cruel Alexis VIRGIL
  • A Slip under the Microscope H. G. WELLS
  • The Madness of Cambyses HERODOTUS
  • Speaking of Śiva
  • The Dhammapada
  • Lady Susan JANE AUSTEN
  • The Body Politic JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU
  • The World is Full of Foolish Men JEAN DE LA FONTAINE
  • The Sea Raiders H.G. WELLS
  • Hannibal LIVY
  • To Be Read at Dusk CHARLES DICKENS
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich LEO TOLSTOY
  • The Stolen White Elephant MARK TWAIN
  • Tyger, Tyger WILLIAM BLAKE
  • Green Tea SHERIDAN LE FANU
  • The Yellow Book
  • Kidnapped OLAUDAH EQUIANO
  • A Modern Detective EDGAR ALLAN POE
  • The Suffragettes
  • How To Be a Medieval Woman MARGERY KEMPE
  • Typhoon JOSEPH CONRAD
  • The Nun of Murano GIACOMO CASANOVA
  • A terrible beauty is born W.B. YEATS
  • The Withered Arm THOMAS HARDY
  • Nonsense EDWARD LEAR
  • The Frogs ARISTOPHANES
  • Why I Am so Clever FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE
  • Letters to a Young Poet RAINER MARIA RILKE
  • Seven Hanged LEONID ANDREYEV
  • Oroonoko APHRA BEHN
  • O frabjous day! LEWIS CARROLL
  • Trivia: or, the Art of Walking the Streets of London JOHN GAY
  • The Sandman E. T. A. HOFFMANN
  • Love that moves the sun and other stars DANTE
  • The Queen of Spades ALEXANDER PUSHKIN
  • A Nervous Breakdown ANTON CHEKHOV
  • The Book of Tea KAKUZO OKAKURA
  • Is this a dagger which I see before me? WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
  • My life had stood a loaded gun EMILY DICKINSON
  • Daphnis and Chloe LONGUS
  • Matilda MARY SHELLEY
  • The Lifted Veil GEORGE ELIOT
  • White Nights FYODOR DOSTOYEVSKY
  • Only Dull People Are Brilliant at Breakfast OSCAR WILDE
  • Flush VIRGINIA WOOLF
  • Lot No. 249 ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE
  • The Rule of Benedict
  • Rip Van Winkle WASHINGTON IRVING
  • Anecdotes of the Cynics
  • Waterloo VICTOR HUGO
  • Stancliffe’s Hotel CHARLOTTE BRONTË

I’m off to enjoy my lovely little books. I may start with a little Nonsense from Edward Lear; perfect for a Thursday lunchtime. Thanks Penguin. 
  

Big love xx

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Filed under Literature, Little Black Classics

The Figure in the Carpet – Henry James 

Back in February, Penguin released 80 little black classics to celebrate their 80th birthday. Naturally, I went out and bought a number of these. They are cheap (only 80p each!) and they are perfect for a quick read covering a range of writers and topics.  

As you may, or may not know, getting teenagers into reading for pleasure is a big passion of mine. Therefore, with these inexpensive and short reads, I was able to persuade some of my students to buy some of these for themselves. Being as they weren’t faced with a 200+ page novel, some of the resistance towards reading was removed. Thank you to Penguin for such a brilliant idea to celebrate their birthday. 

So, I’ve broken up from school for summer and I’m feeling incredibly tired. I decided to read another little black classic because that way I’m still reading, despite feeling exhausted. Henry James is a fascinating writer I discovered when I was at university. The Figure in the Carpet is a gripping little read with a thought provoking title. 

Henry James is one of the masters of writing Victorian mysteries, and this story is no different. It features an unnamed literary critic, who feels he has reviewed the latest work of Hugh Vereker, a distinguished novelist, as a successful masterpiece. However, when the unnamed critic meets the author in person, Vereker informs him that he whilst he sees the review as being an intelligent piece of writing, he feels he has missed the hidden underlying issue which informs all of his writing. The narrator pushes him into revealing the nature of the mystery, but Vereker adamantly refuses, claiming that it will be self-evident in any close reading of his work. 

The narrator is unable to let the mystery lie, so he enlists the help and support of his friend, the writer George Corvik and his fiancée Gwendolen Erme. However, Corvik’s mother is strongly opposed to the match. They all fail in trying to uncover the secret pattern, but, when Corvik visits India with a commision for journalistic work, he excitedly writes back to announce that he has worked out the secret. 

Corvik then manipulates this power, and refuses to reveal the secret until he has married Gwendolen. He then decides to visit Vereker in Italy on his way back to London. We are then given every reason to believe that Vereker confirms Corvick’s solution to the mystery. Corvick decides the time is right to write the definitive interpretation of Vereker’s works. 

In a turn of events, Gwendolen’s mother dies, Corvik’s wedding takes place, but he is sadly killed in an accident when he is on his honeymoon. When the narrator, rather emotionlessly, appeals to his widow for the key to the mystery that pins the whole plot together, she refuses to reveal any information she may have. It is then revealed that Corvick’s study of Vereker’s work is actually no more than an introduction, which reveals nothing regarding the mystery of the hidden underlying message of the original works. 

The narrator is adamant that Corvick would have revealed the secret to Gwendolen that he contemplates marrying her to gain this information. Despite this intention, Gwendolen publishes another book of her own and marries a fellow novelist, Drayton Deane. He is perceived as a literary and social rival on all levels. This obviously is displeasing to the narrator. 

Gwendolen then dies in childbirth, leaving the narrator to appeal to Drayten Deane. The narrator asks if she had passed any information to him regarding the key to the mystery. Sadly, she has not, and they are both left to contemplate the fact that they may never find out. 

“It stretches, this little trick of mine, from book to book, and everything else, comparatively, plays over the surface of it. The order, the form, the texture of my books will perhaps some day constitute for the initiated a complete representation of it.” 

A punchy little read, with a detailed and mysterious plot. I’ve only selected one quote because I don’t want to ruin it for you, and the story is incredibly short anyway! I was left feeling like I wanted to know the mystery too and frustrated that I didn’t know or work it out. It raised the question of what is the intention of the writer? And why? 
Thank you Penguin for these excellent little black classics for your birthday. 

Big love x

  

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Filed under Book review, Little Black Classics, Victorian Lit