Essentials

Books of note and influence. These books have either influenced the genre they have created or the literary sphere as a whole.



Letters to a Young Poet

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Interwar

Reading correspondence is not quite the same as reading a novel, obviously, but it can be just as valuable when it comes to understanding a writer, their work, literature of the period, or the general customs of the time period. Writers writing about writing can be a very enlightening read. This is a review of Letters to a Young Poet.


The Bell Jar


Contemporary

When Greenwood is asked to list her symptoms, she keeps repeating that she can’t read and she can’t sleep. She is studying English for her post-secondary education, and reading as well as words define her life. When she can no longer read, what’s left of her world falls apart, and it drives her to attempt suicide. This is a review of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.



Barometer Rising


Wartime

It’s a book about many things: Canada’s struggle for identity as a sovereign nation with a complex relationship to Britain and British politics, the psychological and physical impacts of war, the differing attitudes of different strata of society towards the war overseas. I always find Can Lit particularly provides an atmosphere where this kind of multi-layered complexity flourishes. This is a review of Hugh MacLennan’s Barometer Rising.


Pride and Prejudice


Romantic Era

I’ve been reading classic literature since I was very young, but the work of Austen was a blind spot for me. Mostly, that had to do with the way acquaintances pushed me to read them. Bright. Sparkly. Light. Romantic. Those are not the words that draw me to literature. They also weren’t the entire picture of either the novels or the author. This is a review of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.


Eugene Onegin


Romantic Era

Live-streamed opera is where we first saw Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, which is based on the Pushkin novel. Even though we weren’t provided with subtitles to the Met’s production from 2007, the imagery and the music were capable of conveying the story in and of themselves. Whenever I see fall leaves in piles on the ground, I’m reminded of the set design. This is a review of Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin.



Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, Shamela, and Joseph Andrews

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18th Century

This November, I want to celebrate that with a month dedicated to essential romance novels from classic literature. Romance is not a genre I often read, but these books have made a profound impact on literature in general, and as such deserve their due consideration and analysis. This is a review of Samuel Richardson’s Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded and two books best read with it Shamela and Joseph Andrews, both by Henry Fielding.


The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman


18th Century

The little details and techniques matter, and can be the difference between a good book and an unforgettable one. This book changed the way I saw font, style, technique, and it showed me the power of humour to be as immortal as literature itself. This is a review of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy.