Friday, March 18, 2011

The Literary Blog Hop Wants You to Consider Your Own Mortality

UlyssesDebbie Nance over at Readerbuzz apparently had quite the St. Patrick's Day because she's thinking about death.  And as a green-blooded Irish-American, I can tell you that a Jameson-soaked contemplation of The End is often the unwanted byproduct of the hours of Guinness-swilling jubilation that precede it.  But I give her credit--what could be more Irish than to tie a contemplation of one's own mortality to a work of great literature?  Here's to you, Debbie.  Slainte! 

The question Debbie posed over at the Literary Blog Hop is the following: What one literary work must you read before you die?  Like everyone else that's weighed in on this topic, I'm pulled in ten different directions at once. 

The Decline and Fall of the Roman EmpireIf I'm recommending to others from the books that I've read over the course of my life, I think I'd have to go with Ulysses by James Joyce.  The fact that Joyce was Irish is merely a happy coincidence, but I'll toast him just the same.  Slainte!  Though it was a struggle to get through, I think I've never been as intimate with the characters of a literary work nor have I ever seen such mastery in Joyce's playful manipulation of the English language.  Ultimately, it is hands down the most rewarding work of literature that I've ever read.   

Now, if we're talking about the one literary work that I feel that I must read before I die, I'm going with Gibbon's The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.  There's something about the decline of an entire civilization that makes your own mortality just a little bit easier to contemplate.

Thanks to Debbie and the girls at the Blue Bookcase for a great topic.

Literary Blog Hop


  1. I'll raise a toast to Joyce with you, but not a great fan of the Guinness (prefer murphy's Stout) so will raise a glass of Connemara Irelands (I believe) only Peated Malt, and as for the decline after several rounds yelling Slainte!, an Empire's decline will seem trivial.

  2. I like your idea of reading Gibbon using the end of a civilization as a mirror for the end of one's life. It is also some of the most beautiful almost soothing prose in its sonorities that I have ever read.

  3. I'm impressed that you could feel intimate with the characters of Ulysses -- I disliked them all.

    The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire does sound like a good read to complete before you die.

  4. Is The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire really literary? Or is it just history? Just a thought. Not that it really matters. Also, I need to get to Ulysses soon. :)

  5. I am taking my hat off for you. Anyone reading Ulysses and liking it, deserves that.

    I am all for poetry reading before I die. (I am a poet myself!)

    I read more than one book at a time, sometimes three, sometimes five!

    I read varied genres, have a truly eclectic taste in books. Feel free to explore my blog, browse mt reviews.

    Here is my Book Blog!

  6. Hats off for making it through Ulysses! I feel like that's a work I will continue to put off for a LOOONG time to come.

    Thanks for joining us in the hop!

    --Connie @ The Blue Bookcase

  7. So...I chose Ulysses as the book I must read before I die.

  8. I'm also not a great fun of Guinness, though it works well in a hearty pot of beef stew! I agree with your choice. I hope to read Ulysses before I die. I chose The Odyssey.

  9. New follower! I love your choices. I haven't tackled either of them yet, but they're surely essential. Looking forward to perusing through the rest of your blog. So glad to have found you!

  10. great selections-I want to read the Gibbons also-

    I would like to invite you to consider participating in

    Irish Short Story Week-3/14 to 3/20
    Now extended until March 23

  11. I think that being forced to read Ulysses might hasten the end of my life-I believe I probably hate, hate, hate it the same way you appreciate it. Gibbons Decline and Fall is an interesting choice. Isn't it quite lengthy? I suppose that making it your goal to finish before death could keep the reaper at bay quite a while :)

  12. @parrish lantern - Thanks for the tip, as always. I'll have to pick up some Connemara, then we can all decline together.

    @James - Thanks for the comment and the confirmation. I've heard that Gibbons is a master and I look forward to experiencing it for myself.

  13. @Suzanne - Thanks for the comment. Both Bloom and Molly have their faults and idiosyncracies to be sure, but I really felt that's what made them the most human characters that I've ever read. Was there something in particular that made you dislike them?

    @IngridLola - i thought about that before I threw it out there. But I think I consider any work that employs a creative use of language to be literary, whether fiction or non. I do realize, however, that many consider only fictional works to be properly literary. This sounds like good fodder for another post! Thanks.

  14. @guatami - Thanks for the compliment and for stopping by. I've enjoyed your blog for some time now.

    @ConnieGirl - Thanks for hosting the Hop! I really appreciate all the bloggers of great literature that you've put me in contact with.

    @ TonyD - Fantastic! You won't regret it (I hope) and there's no time like the present. I actually even inspired myself to pick up Finnegans Wake last week. It's tough going, but rewarding.

    @kinnareads - Mmmmm ... beef stew and Guinness. Now you're talking. The Odyssey is a great choice (and one I considered putting down for myself, as I haven't read it). If you read The Odyssey just before you read Ulysses, I have a feeling that you'll find them both more rewarding.

  15. @ What Book Today - Thanks for stopping by! I hope you liek what you find. I like your choices as well, especially Thomas Wolfe - I'm a sucker for a good southern storyteller.

    @ mel u - Oh no! I missed it. I was out of the country for a few days and returned only yesterday. I would have loved to participate. I read Dubliners last year and loved it. Next time?

    @ Heather - I completely understand. As much as I like it, Ulysses is definitely a book that is capable of eliciting hatred. I'm on to Finnegans Wake now, which may be even worse (better?). In any case, I'm not sure that I'll ever look at the English language the same way again.