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The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside; narrated by Derek Jacobi and Cast

• Audiobook: 0 pages

• Publisher: NAXOS Audiobooks, 2001

• ISBN: 9626342218

• Genre: Nonfiction–Literary History and Analysis

• Recommended For: Anyone looking for a quick overview of the entire history of English Literature, from Chaucer to Ishiguro, in an easy listening audiobook format.

Quick Review: Quick and easy listening to a very, very brief synopsis of the history of English literature. Highly recommended for its quick access to authors and tidbits of English history that one might have forgotten or overlooked. Is also brilliantly read by Jacobi and the rest of the cast, who read snippets from the classics expertly.

How I Got Here: I was returning a book to the library, and decided that I wanted an audiobook for the car. There wasn’t much of a selection, but then I spotted this title and decided it would be perfect for my driver’s short attention span.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

The remarkable story of the world’s richest literary resource, the story telling, poetry, the growth of the novel and the greatest histories and essays, which have informed the language and the imagination wherever English is spoken.

My Analysis and Critique:

This audiobook was perfect for my quick drives to and from work each day! Each track focuses upon one writer from a certain time period, providing a bit of history of the author and the world around them, and then usually providing a reading of a snippet of one of their most notable works. So, usually, I could learn about three to five different authors and works on a one-way trip to my work, and not have to think/listen too hard.

Each disc is also separated into two to three different literary movements/time periods. Being a history, the text obviously moves chronologically. Thus, it is set up as thus:

Canterbury Tales

1. The Age of Chaucer (Middle Ages: Chaucer, Gower’s Sir Gawain, The Bible, and Langland’s Piers Plowman)

2. The End of Chivalry (Mid 15th Century: John Lydgate, Mallory, and Skelton to Sir Thomas More’s Utopia and Le Morte D’Arthur to Wyatt’s love lyrics and Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer)

Queen Elizabeth; The Faerie Queene; Elizabethan Age

3. Triumphs of Oriana (Elizabethan Age: Spenser, Raleigh, and Sydney to the trio of Marlowe, Shakespeare, and Jonson, and the poetry and essays by Donne and Bacon)

William Congreve The Way of the World Restoration

4. Puritan’s Progress (Restoration: religious metaphysical poetry by Herbert and Vaughan; Cavalier poetry by Lovelace and Herrick; the epic works by Milton; Marvell; Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress; the first English novel in Defoe’s Moll Flanders; Dryden’s poetry; and finally, Congreve’s The Way of the World)

Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift

5. The Augustan Age (Age of Enlightenment: Pope’s poetry and essays; Swift’s satirical Gulliver’s Travels; Samuel Johnson’s criticism and Dictionary; the novels of Fielding, Richardson, Sterne, and Smallett; and Gray’s “Elegy on a Country Churchyard”)

The Eve of St. Agnes by John Keats

6. Romantic Revolution (poetry by Blake, Wordsworth, and Coleridge; Shelley’s Gothic Frankenstein; Austen’s novels; and the poetry of Shelley, Byron, and Keats)

7. Faith and Doubt (The Victorian Age: Dickens; the rise of children’s literature and the detective novel; the Brontes; Arnold’s “Dover Beach”; the novels of George Eliot; poetry by Tennyson, Rosetti, and Browning; the works of Kipling)

Modernism War Literature

8. The Age of Anxiety (Turn of the century/wartime: Hardy’s novels; Houseman’s poetry; the works of Henry James (?!); Conrad’s Heart of Darkness; Wells’ science fiction; controversial D.H. Lawrence; the war poetry of Wilfred Owen; the Irish writers Yeats, Shaw, Wilde, and Joyce; Woolf’s To The Lighthouse; the satire of Evelyn Waugh; Orwell and Huxley; and the poetry of Eliot and Auden)

Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis

9. Post-War, Post-Modern(Multitude of voices and styles, as genres mesh: Cecil Day Lewis; Keith Douglas; Dylan Thomas; Ivy Compton Burnett; Jean Rhys; Doris Lessing; Muriel Spark; Iris Murdoch; William Golding; Angus Wilson; Anthony Powell; Kingsley Amis; Philip Larkin; Ted Hughes; J.G. Ballard; Salman Rushdie; Kazuo Ishiguro; Carol Ann Duffy)

While obviously this text is just a brief skim, a tiny overview of the great expanse of British Literature, I appreciated it for its providing me with some authors and works that I need to check out in the future. I also appreciated that it flowed so nicely together that it sounded like a story–the story that is English literature.

I also relished the lessons learned on the evolution of the novel, as well as the information provided in the Post-War, Post-Modern section (I am shockingly poorly read in modern literature! This needs to be remedied!)

Overall, I highly recommend this to anyone interested in gaining some insight on the history of English literature and listening to some classics read expertly by various voices. I’m not sure how easy this audiobook is to come by, as I just happened upon it at my library, but if you can find it, I recommend it!


Goodreads Reviews


Post-script Note: I get a little daydreamy when I listen to music, and I wrote this last night in a music trance. Forgive me if it comes off a bit spacey…

The well has been a bit dry the last few weeks. I’m reading a very long book, and haven’t finished anything that I’m particularly enthusiastic to write about. I haven’t had much to say here on the blog, but I’ve been desperately wanting to write. Blaming it on a lack of time, I decided yesterday morning that I would devote this weekend to filling up the well, using some strategies learned during my quest to be a “writer” (will I ever have a good idea for a novel?).

So, when I got home from work yesterday, I sat down on the couch, pen in hand, waiting for ideas to spring forth from my head like my least-favorite goddess sprung forth from Zeus’ noggin. Didn’t happen. After an hour or so of brainstorming and internet-reading, I decided to step away. Try a different approach.

Now, before I stepped away from the internet, I was pondering music and playlists, thanks to an ongoing conversation with SJ from Snobbery on good music. SJ has some playlists to share with me, per my request, and I decided to hit up one of my old playlists for inspiration. This is how I used to always spur on writing in college. When I had to come up with a short story by noon the next day for my Creative Writing class, I would simply turn to music as my muse. Lately, I’ve been in a dry spell with music, so I haven’t really listened to much of anything but books on tape.

I know they’ve been praised many times before~ Hornby’s High Fidelity was all about them~ but mixed tapes (predecessors to the playlist) have power. Mixed tapes tell a story. The playlist I picked yesterday was from the few on my rarely listened-to iPod. It was simply titled May. May when? Last year? Two years ago? I do this a lot with my playlists–name them after the month in which they were created.

May playlist:

1. “Bring It on Home to Me” — The Animals

2. “Hand in Glove” — The Smiths

3. “Candy’s Room” — Bruce Springsteen

4. “Milk” — The Kings of Leon

5. “Steppin Out” — Joe Jackson

6. “On Call” — The Kings of Leon

7. “New Amsterdam” — Elvis Costello

8. “Wrapped around Your Finger” — The Police

9. “Square Heart” — The Blackheart Procession

10. “Reap the Wild Wind” — Ultravox

11. “Misfit” — Elefant

12. “The Happening” — The Pixies

13. “You Did It All Before” — Milla

14. “Tender” — Blur

15. “Everything I Cannot See” — Charlotte Gainsbourg

16. “Remedy” — The Black Crowes

17. “War” — The Cardigans

18. “Reptile” — The Church

Before I started blogging, you could say that making mixed tapes and playlists was my chosen form of writing. Writing via song choice and order, based upon my mood for the time period.

I’ve got loads of burned cds from the past ten years. Many playlists saved on my iTunes library. And nearly all of the mixed tapes from the ’90s, of which there are a lot!

Much like Shakespeare’s play within a play, mixed tapes have stories within stories. The list itself tells a story about where I was, what I was thinking about at the time I created it. Each song has its own history embedded within it. Then, of course, there are the stories that the songs tell themselves.

Looking at May, I think I was in a rather lovey-dovey mood. I think I was also very nostalgic. Every song placed on this playlist has some back story associated with it, and I can remember a certain key moment with each.

For example, “Reap the Wild Wind” reminds me of being 18, driving home from the city with my best friend Julia, back to the ‘burbs, after our first night on the town as legal adults. I had snagged one of my Dad’s compilation cds, and this song was on it. The sun was rising, and we raced down the empty freeway in her Ford Escort. The song encapsulated our youthful energy and excitement at exploring the world as women–free from curfew, free from the stifling microcosm that is high school. I still feel that excitement when I hear this song.

Meanwhile, another road song is “Milk”. I had just bought the new album by The Kings of Leon, had never listened to it, and brought it along for an all-night haul to Sacramento from San Diego. I was bringing Jesse, my new boyfriend, home to meet my parents for the first time. The moon was full and shining over the hills bordering the 5 freeway, somewhere around Fresno. “Milk” came on, and the moment was perfect.

Listening to my old playlists is like flipping through a photo album. Moments locked away for all time in song.

Listening to May didn’t exactly give me a bunch of blogging ideas, but it did make me think about stories. My stories. Which, while this is a blog mainly about books, it’s also about me, and my stories–the stories created while reading others’ stories and the stories created while living my life. So, in that sense, it was a pure spring.

I did, however, get an idea for a character sketch of Denna (a character from Patrick Rothfuss’ The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man’s Fear) as well as inspiration for posts on the literary qualities of certain songs.

So, I’m not sure if my well is completely filled, but I’m glad I rediscovered these songs, these moments, these stories.

Reading Update!

What I Am Currently Reading:

The Wise Man's Fear

The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Collected Stories and Poems of Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

The History of English Literature by Perry Keenlyside

The Portable Dorothy Parker

The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker

What I Recently Read:

Mrs. Warren's Profession by George Bernard Shaw

Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw (read review here)


I Want My MTV

 I Want My MTV by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum (read review here)

What I Am Reading Next:

The Waste Lands by Stephen King


The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy

I’m a big fan of early punk and new wave. I’m also a huge fan of classic literature. Here are ten punkish (my husband is forcing this disclaimer: I KNOW these don’t all fall in the “punk” category, but they are in the same vein) theme songs that remind me of some of my favorite literary works.

1. The Catcher in the Rye–“Walk on the Wild Side” by Lou ReedThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

This was an easy one. Holden’s adventures in New York City connect evenly with Lou Reed’s.

2. Hamlet–“Digital” by Joy Division

Oh Hamlet…so paranoid.

“I feel it closing in, I feel it closing in, day in, day out, day in, day out…”

3. Wuthering Heights–“Mother” by Danzig

Heathcliff. Mothers. Fathers. Lock your daughters up and away from the diabolical Heathcliff.

“Father. Gonna take your daughter out tonight. Gonna show her my world. Oh father.”

Heh, heh…Glen Danzig even kinda looks like Heathcliff.

4. Romeo and Juliet–“What Do I Get” by the Buzzcocks

If they hadn’t died tragically, I think Romeo would have tired of Juliet eventually. He just wanted a girlfriend–he was in love with love. I think Friar Lawrence told him that. But, before Juliet, he was unlucky in love. This is Romeo’s pre-Juliet theme song.

“I just want a lover like any other, what do I get? […] I only get sleepless nights, alone here in my half-empty bed,”

5. The Age of Innocence–“Pale Blue Eyes” by The Velvet UndergroundThe Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

The sad affair of Newland Archer and Countess Olenska:

It was good what we did yesterday.

And I’d do it once again.

The fact that you are married,

Only proves, you’re my best friend.

But it’s truly, truly a sin.

Linger on, your pale blue eyes.


6. The Portrait of a Lady–“Reptile” by The Church and “Gut Feeling” by Devo

Gilbert Osmond is truly an evil snake, and Isabel Archer doesn’t realize it until she is trapped into marriage with him! These two songs encapsulate what I think that must feel like.

Too dangerous to keep.

Too feeble to let go.

And you want to bite the hand.

Should have stopped this long ago.

I looked for sniffy linings

but you’re rotten to the core

I’ve had just about all I can take

you know I can’t take it no more

Got a gut feeling

7. Bleak House–“I Love Livin’ in the City” by Fear and “That’s Entertainment” by The Jam and “Boredom” by The BuzzcocksBleak House by Charles Dickens

The nastiness that is London is perfectly set to music in the gritty “I Love Livin’ in the City” and the bitter “That’s Entertainment”. Dickens would’ve approved.

Bodies wasted in the street,

People dyin’ on the street,

But the suburban scumbags, they don’t care,

Just get fat and dye their hair!

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots –

An electric train and a ripped up ‘phone booth –

Paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat –

Lights going out and a kick in the balls –

that’s entertainment

And for Lady Dedlock, “Boredom” by The Buzzcocks. Certainly her theme song!

8. Sense and Sensibility–“Ever Fallen in Love” by The BuzzcocksSense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Another Buzzcocks tune, this time for Marianne Dashwood and Willoughby. Theirs was an unfortunate love affair. The fast pace of this tune reminds me of their mad dash love affair.

 I can’t see much of a future

Unless we find out what’s to blame

What a shame

And we won’t be together much longer

Unless we realize that we are the same

Ever fallen in love with someone?

Ever fallen in love? […]

You shouldn’t’ve fallen in love with

9. Washington Square–“Shakespeare’s Sister” by The SmithsWashington Square by Henry James

I admit that I haven’t read this book yet, but I saw the movie, and this song, particularly a certain part, reminds me of the young heiress trying to get past her father so that she might run away with her fortune-hunter(?) suitor.

But I’m going to meet the one I love

So please don’t stand in my way

Because I’m going to meet the one I love

No, Mamma, let me go !

10. The Portable Dorothy Parker–“Love Like Anthrax” by Gang of FourThe Portable Dorothy Parker

I’m pretty sure that Dorothy Parker would have been into punk rock had she been alive. Surely, she would have approved of the lyrics in this song, which takes the same sardonic view of love:

“Love’ll get you like a case of anthrax

And that’s something I don’t want to catch.”

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King Dark Tower 2

The Drawing of the Three (Audiobook) by Stephen King; narrated by Frank Muller

• Audiobook: 463 pages

• Publisher: Penguin Audio, 2003 (originally published in 1987)

• ISBN: B0000T7YX2

• Genre: Fantasy/Horror

• Recommended For: Any serious Stephen King fan who wants to truly understand the Stephen King universe via reading the Dark Tower series; fans of fantasy.

Quick Review: Earns an 96 %, or 4.8 stars out of 5. Check out my rubric for my detailed assessment. The Drawing of the Three Review Rubric

This book truly kicks off the awesomeness that is the Dark Tower series. Action-packed, full of quirks, the best characterization, and engaging narration by Muller. Highly recommended!

How I Got Here: Well, I just finished The Gunslinger, so obviously I had to continue on! This book satisfies tasks for The Dark Tower Challenge and The Stephen King Project.

The Book: Goodreads’ Synopsis

While pursuing his quest for the Dark Tower through a world that is a nightmarishly distorted mirror image of our own, Roland, The Last Gunslinger, is drawn through a mysterious door that brings him into contemporary America. Here he links forces with the defiant young Eddie Dean, and with the beautiful, brilliant, and brave Odetta Holmes, in a savage struggle against underworld evil and otherworldly enemies.

My Analysis and Critique:

I forgot how much I loved this book, the second in the Dark Tower series. The plot is just so well done! As I mentioned in a previous post, I love so many of the plot elements–the horrific lobstrocities, the mysterious doors, and Roland’s attempts at understanding our world. On top of that, this story is just so action-packed! There are scenes in this novel where King literally keeps you on the edge of your seat (I know that’s cliché, but it is true!).

King is one of the best character writers in fiction today, and he proves it in this novel. Roland develops into less of a stoic loner as he befriends Eddie Dean. Eddie Dean, the heroin junky, develops cleanly throughout the novel and will grow to be a gunslinger in his own right as the series develops. Odetta is a multi-faceted character (boy, ain’t that an understatement!) who has much development ahead. Along with these main characters, King creates a bevy of diverse, well-drawn-out characters to support them. The hoods at Balazar’s Tower bar, the creepy Mort, the pharmacist who encounters Roland near the end–all are life-like and come to life through King’s writing.

Other notable highlights of this novel include the expertly illustrated settings–I saw the beach, I saw the interior of the plane, I saw Balazar’s office, I saw everything! Also, King made good use of symbolism and parallelism between characters. Finally, ongoing themes in the Dark Tower series surfaced here with the ideas of continuity/connectivity between our world and Roland’s, addiction in Eddie and Roland, and different forms of weakness and strength.

Overall, again, I highly recommend this book and the entire Dark Tower series! Don’t forget that The Wind through the Keyhole, the new Dark Tower novel, is coming out on April 24! If you haven’t read these, get on it!


Goodreads Reviews

So, I’m not sure why, but I’ve been in a funk all week. Apathy. Didn’t want to do anything. Came home from work on Monday, no motivation. Watched Reality TV (I never watch Reality TV…I prefer stories). Watched Smash (not impressed, but it didn’t take any brains, so it served its purpose). Tuesday–same thing, except I read I Want My MTV and watched 80s videos on YouTube while I read about the making of the videos (wow, I  forgot how much I love the videos for Gypsy and Hold Me from Fleetwood Mac. And Total Eclipse of the Heart was a really weird video!). Wednesday, see Tuesday. Thursday– I spiced it up after a pep-talk from the wonderful GreenGeekGirl from Insatiable Booksluts and a poetry recommendation from the poetry buff Amy at Lucy’s Football. I read 20 Dorothy Parker poems THAT I LOVED, as recommended for my mood from Amy. Thanks girls for your advice and support!

I’m sorry—I have to interrupt myself with one of my favorite 80s videos—the boys from Journey talk so much shit about this video in my book, but I have always loved Steve Perry in it. He was my FIRST crush. My parents joke about how I would stare at the tv back in ’82/’83 when this video came on–

I’m totally rocking out as this is playing in the background. I’m typing as if I’m playing the keyboard. Have you ever done this? Try it with The Eurythmics…that totally helped me get through late night typing sessions in college. My typing speed went WAYYYY UP. Man, I am loving this. I Want My MTV is helping me find my love for music again. You might see more music talk on here now as I rediscover my love for Joe Jackson, The Cure, The Smiths, and whatnot. At one time I was known as a music geek and not a book geek. Random fact for you. Totally free. I think Amy is rubbing off on my writing style. Off on a tangent…

Now, it’s Friday and I feel a million times better! It might have to do with the fact that my students proved that all of my hard work this week paid off–they nailed their persuasive essays today (they wrote 5 paragraphs in 60 minutes). These are all ESL and Special Ed. kids who have never written more than a book report in their life, and today they totally wrote thesis statements, topic sentences, transition words, addressed counterarguments, and explained their reasons. I am so proud!!!

Also, it’s the weekend, and while I have a ton of grading to do, it now doesn’t seem so daunting. Sure, I haven’t gone to the gym all week, and my house is a mess, but it’s all gravy baby! Everything will work out…it always does.

Anyways, I know we’ve all been there, and I’m just glad it’s over.

Locke and Key vol. 1On the positive side, I did read! Since my last post, I finished The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King, and volume one of Locke and Key by Joe Hill. Also, I’m about a third of the way through I Want My MTV  by Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum and half-way through Mrs. Warren’s Profession by George Bernard Shaw. So, at least I’m reading!

I should have a review of The Drawing of the Three in the next few days, and a review of Locke and Key subsequently. So, I’m getting back into the groove.

I really want to give away books too, I just need to announce it. Perhaps, I’ll officially announce it tomorrow. Well, let’s just say that I have a bunch of books to give away–Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and A Visit from the Goon Squad among them–and I will announce that shortly. I’ll do a raffle for a week or so.

Well, it’s good to be back! I’ve missed you all, and will be more active in the upcoming week!

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King Dark Tower 2So, I’ve been sucked into the Dark Tower addiction. I started reading book 2 at the same time as George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession, but by the end of the prologue, I was hooked! Now, I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop!

The Drawing of the Three begins with some of my favorite parts of the Dark Tower series. Instead of simply discussing the opening lines of The Drawing of the Three, as I usually do on Fridays with the books I am currently reading, I thought I would share a few of my favorite things from this book. I’m only a quarter of the way through, but I am delighted all over again with some of the plot elements and the narration by Frank Muller. Here are some of the parts that are tickling my fancy:

The Lobstrocities

The Drawing of the Three opens with Roland laying on a beach in a daze. He’s a little bummed over the choices he made in the last book, The Gunslinger. Suddenly, he is approached by some lobster-like creatures.

The horror was a crawling thing which must have been cast up by a previous wave. It dragged a wet, gleaming body laboriously along the sand. It was about four feet long and about four yards to the right. It regarded Roland with bleak eyes on stalks. Its long serrated beak dropped open and it began to make a noise that was weirdly like human speech: plaintive, even desperate questions in an alien tongue. “Did-a-chick? Dum-a-chum? Dad-a-cham? Ded-a-check?”

He disregards the creature until it attacks him and then he begins a fight for his life with what he later calls a “lobstrocity”.

I love this scene. I’ve always loved this scene and consider the lobstrocities to be one of my all-time favorite King monsters.

The Doors Are So Cool

It was a door. […] It stood six and a half feet high and appeared to be made of solid ironwood, although the nearest ironwood tree must grow seven hundred miles or more from here. The doorknob looked as if it were made of gold, and it was filigreed with a design which the gunslinger finally recognized: it was the grinning face of the baboon.

There was no keyhole in the knob, above it, or below it.

The door had hinges, but they were fastened to nothing. […] This door. This door where no door should be. It simply stood there on the gray strand twenty feet above the high-tide line, seemingly as eternal as the sea itself, now casting the slanted shadow of its thickness toward the east as the sun westered.

It sounds like a normal door–but it’s not! It is standing, free of any building, on the beach! When you walk around to the other side of the door, you no longer see it, as if it disappears. When you lean close to it, you can hear a thrum coming from the other side. This, and the two other doors play a major part in the story, and I just think that they are the coolest!

I would insert a picture here of some art I found on google, but I don’t want to infringe on anyone’s creative license, so check out this link to someone’s awesome artwork of the door.

Frank Muller’s Eddie Narration

I’ve always been a fan of Eddie, the heroin-addicted New Yorker that we first encounter in The Drawing of the Three. However, I am really loving Eddie via Muller’s accented narration for him. I’m not sure whose voice I would compare it to, but it’s wonderful. So far, I am a huge fan of Muller as narrator. He’s doing a great job!

A tooter-fish popkin!

Roland’s Malapropisms and Other Things Lost in Translation

Roland comes from a different world than ours. So, when he begins to encounter our world in The Drawing of the Three, he doesn’t recognize the words we use for a lot of things, and sometimes supplants his own interpretations. A few of my favorites are:

-tuna fish sandwich = tooter-fish popkin, as in “the gunslinger had no idea what tooter-fish was, but he knew a popkin when he saw it, although this one looked curiously uncooked.”

-rustle vs. russel

She gave him a professional smile. “I’ll see what I can rustle up.”

Russel? the gunslinger thought dazedly. In his own world to russel was a slang verb meaning to take a woman by force. Never mind.

-aspirin and astin

For whatever reason, Roland simply cannot say “aspirin”! It’s astin.

Roland’s Idea of Clearing Customs at JFK Airport

He must Clear the Customs, the gunslinger thought.

The answer was so large and simple, so close to him that he very nearly did not see it at all. It was the drug the prisoner meant to smuggle in that would make Clearing the Customs so difficult, of course; there might be some sort of Oracle who might be consulted in the cases of people who seemed suspicious. Otherwise, Roland gleaned, the Clearing ceremony would be simplicity itself, as crossing a friendly border was in his own world. One made the sign of fealty to that kingdom’s monarch–a simple token gesture–and was allowed to pass.

This just amuses me.

So, needless to say, I am thoroughly enjoying The Drawing of the Three, and am very excited that we’re getting the ka-tet back together, starting with Eddie Dean. Two more to go!