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Kate's Klassics by Kate Camp

Kate's Klassics

by Kate Camp

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A collection of ten essays, each about a different classic. A fun read, and one which celebrates the classics as books we read because they are enjoyable, not (only) because they are classics. It was a joy to catch a glimpse of another reader's honest reactions to books I've read too, and I find that Camp's essays rouse a desire in me to reread some of the books she addresses (Moby Dick and Wuthering Heights), encourage me to read ones I've never touched (Middlemarch and The Odyssey), and, in one case, affirm my decision to quit a book after the first fourth or so (Crime and Punishment). Recommended. ( )
  lycomayflower | Jul 7, 2009 |
I bought this for two reasons – firstly Kate Camp is a New Zealander (who comments monthly on the National Radio about books), and secondly, her selection of classical books here is excellent. (The Odyssey, Moby Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Crime and Punishment, etc – you get my drift). The choices do not disappoint.

Kate provides ten essays, each devoted to a classic work. What sets her critique apart from the masses in this game is her unapologetic bias. She gives a contemporary slant to many of her observations, making her analyses accessible and often humorous. Aside from that, she is very intelligent and has obviously a great knowledge of her subject. The reader does not feel they are attending a dry University lecture, but rather being grandly entertained and amused. Knowing all the books does not lessen the enjoyment either.

Literary purists may not linger on this book and may even take offense at some of the apparent trivialising when explaining her gut reactions. But I thought it really worked – she did not bog the reader down with literary theory or devices, a really big turn off for the reader looking for an entertaining analysis. I really enjoyed her light-hearted, emotional reactions.

For example, when Elizabeth tells Lady Catherine De Bourgh to take a flying leap in Pride and Prejudice, Camp exclaims: “Ha! Take that you old bag!”

And when Helen dies in the orphanage, despite her goodness and her great friendship with Jane Eyre, Camp remarks, "I have to admit, I’m never sorry when Helen goes down with the disease; I’ve always found her calm self-sacrifice and Christian certainty rather irritating".


The essays are peppered with such comments and yet she remains respectful to the literature through-out.

She reacts in an emotional intuitive and intellectual way to the texts, as a woman and an enthusiast. Here is her take on Heathcliff.

"Heathcliff is a rapist, a bully, a kidnapper, a wife-beater and quite possibly the world’s worst father. He is also, despite my best efforts to grow out of him, irresistibly sexy. I still want to marry Mr Darcy, and Middlemarch’s Will Ladislaw looks great in a long maroon coat, but I’d give them all up to be tearing Heathcliff’s hair out on one dark and stormy night."

So this one goes on the recommend pile. And I say that proudly, aligning myself to Kate as a fellow Kiwi! ( )
4 vote kiwidoc | Jan 28, 2009 |
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"In her monthly "Kate's Klassics" sessions with Radio New Zealand National's Kim Hill, Kate Camp takes a fresh look at classic literature. Here she discusses ten of the world's most famous books, from the Old Testament to Wuthering Heights"--Back cover.… (more)

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