Friday, February 3, 2012

Rereading the Classics- for Free (or very cheap)

I have been reading books on my laptop for a long time.  I just finished rereading George Orwell's Homage to Catalonia on the day I went into the regional hospital for knee surgery.  An hour before my ride arrived, I was with Orwell, who fought on the Republican side, as he scrambled to escape from the closing bloodbath of the Spanish Civil War. He made it and so did I.

I soon ran out of books at the hospital and while recuperating  at home.  I put down the last one with a sigh. It was  Antanas Sileika's marvelous novel, Underground. However,  I was not worried because the Kobo was at hand, and now, with an e reader, one is never without a book.

But,  I was in a mood to revisit old friends, rather than to plunge into something new. I started to surf the Chapters site, noting free books and really really cheap books, many of them classics.

So, of course, I downloaded my favourite bit of literature, James Joyce's book of short stories, The Dubliners, which contains my favourite short story, The Dead.  I never tire of rereading this story.

I added Wind in the Willows, just the antidote to a gimpy leg and a dull winter day.  What fun to visit Rat and Mole and the irrepressible Mr. Toad who I had forgotten for years.  I was impressed with the simplicity and originality of this most beloved book. A children's book, you say? Yes but one of those that never ages or clings to any easy category.  A book that ages with you.

But now for a complete change and on to Jack  Kerouac's On the Road, still, after all these years, a strange story, wandering and pointless and completely mesmerizing.  After that I stumbled on Willa Cather and reread My Antonia, surely one of the great classics of the 20th century.  Young Antonia, the child of an immigrant family, grew up in pioneer Nebraska and faced the hardships of her time. All Cather's stuff is worth reading.  I hunted around various sites to see if I could find Song of the Lark, another of my Cather favourites, but I did not find a copy for the Kobo.

I have not read all of Johan  Le Carre's cold war books although I have enjoyed his later books, especially The Constant Gardener and Absolute Friends.  So here was his first best seller, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, at an absurdly low price.  Then I downloaded Smiley's People as well.

By this time, I could hobble around the public library and there, front and centre, sat the new book on Trudeau by his wonderful biographers Max and Monica Nemni. Trudeau Transformed: The Shaping of a Statesman relates Trudeau's changing philosphies as he travels the world, goes to Harvard and the London School of Economics, returns to found Cite Libre and gets involved in the struggles of Quebec unions.  This volume follows a most revealing book on Trudeau's younger years as a student in one of the fascist-leaning Jesuit academies of Quebec. 

 So here I am back reading history but with a good feeling; the classics area always there. 

PS Google Books have lots of free stuff as well as the Kobo site.  There are many other sites on the net as well.

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