¿WHO•WHAT•WHEN•WHERE•WHY•HOW?

WHO is Classic Bitch?

I am! I am a female American. I started this project when I was in my 30s. I am now in my 40s and inhabiting it! Other than reading the classics of literature, I also like walking my dog, driving my sportscar, regular exercise (like snowshoeing, running, weights, yoga, etc), telling stories, playing cards & games, listening to Internet radio, & going to the movies. Drama is my favorite genre, and I'm a sucker for that "true crime" kind of documentary/news programming (but I don't own a TV). I love sci-fi but hate fantasy, so don't talk to me about vampires or zombies; I will glaze over instantly. I find the following three expressions valueless: "Back in the day"; "In any way, shape, or form"; "To die for." I don't have any tattoos, and I don't believe in politics or religion. I could survive happily on sandwiches, doughnuts, and beer...but would admittedly miss things like fine red wine and single malts. Four out of five mosquitoes surveyed prefer the taste of me over other people!

Email Classic Bitch at: bitch@classicbitch.com

WHAT is the Modern Library?

The Modern Library is a division of Random House that has published classic literature since 1917. In 1998, the Modern Library's Editorial Board produced a list of the "100 best English-language novels of the twentieth century." I know...you're thinking that this list is just a marketing ploy to get more people to purchase their books. And it just might be! Although, the novels that made the list, we are told, were selected regardless of publisher. Voting members of the Editorial Board at the time were: Christopher Cerf (Chair); Daniel J. Boorstin (former librarian of the Library of Congress); English novelist A.S. Byatt (the lone female on the panel); historians Shelby Foote, Edmund Morris, Arthur Schlesinger Jr. and John Richardson; Vartan Gregorian (head of the Carnegie Corporation); and American authors Gore Vidal and William Styron (yes, one of his books is on the list). They are often criticized for being ethnocentric & gender-biased, & many say that their list should not be held up as any sort of literary standard. On the upside, there are no two ways about it: The Modern Library is a distinguished publishing house with longevity, authority, & experience, so their opinion is certainly worth something.

Incidentally, did you know that Random House was originally a subsidiary of the Modern Library, formed to print random titles outside of the Modern Library charter? So now you know how Random House got that funky name.

Visit the Modern Library

WHEN do I find the time to do all this reading?

Good question! I don't nearly have as much time to read as I used to, & I miss it dreadfully. Let's just say that I have started this task in the year 2004 at #100, & will plod along, up the list, until I get to #1, whenever that may be. (Yes, I do happen to already know #1 is Ulysses, & I'm bummed.) I am a slow reader, so don't hold your breath, folks! (Infrequently, I may have to stop along the way & read some dreck, so this will also slow me down.) What is it they say? "Reading for a lifetime." Ah yes; ain't it the truth?

WHERE can you buy the classics?

It is interesting to me that one of the criticisms of the Modern Library's selections is that if they indeed did not choose all Random House books (which they did not), they often chose books that were out of print. In so doing, some say that they can recapture these titles under their own imprint & then make money off them because dupes like me are buying them up...because they're on "THE LIST." Well, in my own personal act of civil disobedience, I elect to buy only used books at local, independent bookstores, many of which carry or can locate out-of-print titles. Here are links to two of my favorites. I encourage you to find your local, independent bookseller—wherever you may be—support them, and buy used! (And if you don't want to buy at all—don't forget your local library.)

Rivendell Books
The Country Bookshop

(And to Amazon.com, I say in my best Alex Trebek voice, "Sorry." [Except, of course, that I am not sorry at ALL!])

WHY am I doing this?

I LOVE the classics thanks to an appreciation instilled in me—under much protest at the time—during the junior high & high school years of my private education (also something that critics label ethnocentric & gender-biased). Thank you, Mom & Dad, Mrs. Rust, Miss Quatarone, Mrs. Bresnick, & Dr. Levy. Plus, when a passerby asks you what you're reading, it's just waaay cooler to hold up your vintage paperback & reply, "Of Human Bondage," than it is to sheepishly admit, "The Five People You Meet in Heaven." (I'll also mention that I wear the fact that I've never read any "Harry Potter" books—and never will—as a badge of honor.)

HOW am I doing this?

As mentioned before: slowly. Other specifics... Aside from having scanned the titles in the list briefly over the years since its existence, I do not know, from book to book, which one is coming next. This helps make it more fun & adds to the suspense a little. Plus, I figure if I'm not especially enjoying a book, it is nice to be able to fantasize that the next one on the list will be much better (without knowing anything about it). And, what do I do if I come to a title that I have read before? Read it again! Remember: Control means never having to say you're sorry. (I obsess because I care.)