Monday, December 14, 2009

Save room for one Scottish book in the new year, please - a preview of the Scottish Literature Challenge

Everyone is announcing their 2010 challenges now.  It's too early!  I'm not prepared!  I have not made buttons and whatnot.

So please, Challengists, Challengers, Challenginos, reserve one spot on your reading list for a book written by a Scottish author and published before 1914.  Just one!  I have come up with a device, or gimmick, that addresses my main complaint about challenges.  My idea will either solve the problem, or ruin my life.

Look at the possibilities:

Tobias Smollett
James Boswell
Robert Burns
Mungo Park
Alexander Mackenzie

Walter Scott
James Hogg
John Galt
Thomas Carlyle, God help us all

George MacDonald
Robert Louis Stevenson
Bysshe Vanolis
J. M. Barrie
Arthur Conan Doyle
Kenneth Grahame
George Douglas Brown
Andrew Lang
John Muir

There's something for everyone.  History, adventure, travel, comedy, devils and fairies and pirates and detectives, a bizarre concentration of children's books, and a bizarre concentration of eccentric ranting (see Carlyle, Works of).  I don't have any particular stake in Scottishness as such, but once I made the list, the idea seemed reasonably exciting.  C'mon, one book!

If anyone wants to add to the list, that would be helpful. When I get back from Morocco, in mid-January, I will go into more detail, clothe Wuthering Expectations in tartan plaid, and begin using Scottish dialect words.


  1. Save room for one? Ah, so it's not going to be reciprocal...

    You might want to tighten up your rules, or someone might make you read Hume or something.

  2. The integrity of the concept requires me to accept that risk.

    Have people done this before? I've never seen it - I guess I've seen dare-like challenges. This only goes one way. Am I nuts? Please, don't answer that.

  3. What an excellent excuse for me to read more Walter Scott! I can promise one and maybe I'll even overcome my commitment-phobia enought to try some Doyle or Barrie too.

  4. Well, I'm in fer shure, as long as every so often we can all chant in unison, "If it's no' Sco'ish, it's crrrrap!" I guess I shouldn't count the ones I'd read anyway for my classes. Hey, aren't there any Scottish women writers before 1914? Aha--Margaret Oliphant would do nicely. Or Susan Ferrier, whose books I don't know at all.

  5. Rohan, you've hit right on one of the puzzles of Scottish literature. The contrast to the contemporaneous English novel is pronounced, isn't it?

    Charlotte Lennox belongs on the final list. As does Helen Bannerman - does that make anyone happier? No one wants to read Oliphant, do they? Maybe just the autobiography? Susan Ferrier actually sounds pretty good.

    I'm thinking of making a Mike Myers button, by the way. But those SNL people are bears about copyright. Fair use! Fair use!

    Colleen - I'm reading the first Sherlock Holmes book now. It's painless reading, so far.

  6. Actually, I've read three Oliphant novels and they are pretty good. I recommend Miss Marjoribanks or Hester. The Autobiography is wonderful, if odd.

  7. Penguin Classics has published in one book two of the best travel works of the 18th or any Century-Boswell's The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides and Samuel Johnson's Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland-one of the very best reading life experiences I have had was reading the full published edition of the Journals of Boswell-

    For sure I will read Boswell's account of he and Johnson's trip to the Hebrides again for this challenge-

    David Hume-who horrified Johnson with his views, also writes beautifully-

    There is no better biography than that of Boswell's-it is really long I know but should be on anyone's life time list

    I will also reread Boswell account of his trip to Corsica (a best seller) If I still have a copy

    I am pretty sure Boswell's London journal is in print in paperback and is a lively scandalous read

  8. Well, I could cheat and reread my copy of the _Complete Sherlock Holmes_ again.

    However, a book discussion group I belong to has scheduled Tobias Smollett's _Humphrey Clinker_ for February.

    a friend of mine always argued that one's actions should always serve two or more goals: therefore, read Smollett for the book group and for here.

  9. Very interesting idea! If I participate, though, I'll probably just read a novel you've already discussed here (maybe something by Galt). But that would make it so easy for you. Oh, the conundrums! :-)

  10. I worked on a 17th-century Scottish poet for my MA thesis - Elizabeth Melville/Colville. I dare anyone to give her a try!

  11. Maybe this idea is not so crazy. Thanks for the enthusiasm.

    Rohan - I reread your posts on Oliphant just before you left that comment. She's on the list! I'll link back to you when I do my big write-up.

    Everything mel u says is correct. No other comment necessary.

    Humphrey Clinker is a highly recommended way to participate. bibiographing nicole wrote about it recently.

    Emily - one goal of the challenge is to have one more chance to encourage people to read Galt.

    I do not like the sound of that dare.

  12. I second the Margaret Oliphant rec - I love "Miss Marjoribanks". :) Also I've read "The Curate in Charge" and some short stories (the collection was called "The Beleaguered City and Other Tales of the Seen and the Unseen" - spooky stories! published by Cannongate, don't know if it's still in print) - those were very good also.

    And Susan Ferrier - I've read "Marriage", and the reason why I've read nothing more is because I've not been able to get my greedy little hands on them (she wrote two more novels I think? "The Inheritance" and "Destiny") I'd say she's her own woman, but were I to compare her to anybody, I'd say she could be called a Scottish Maria Edgeworth. (My edition of "Marriage" was published by Oxford University Press - I don't know if that's still in print, either.)


  13. I only have to manage one book for the challenge? I think I can do that :)

    And You made me laugh with your little Carlyle side remark!

  14. The more I learn about Oliphant and Ferrier, the more appealing they both sound.

    Stefanie - a perfect chance to read some Carlyle! Or something a little more friendly.

  15. chuckle...

    Was that a "side" or "snide" remark?

  16. oh what a great list. Whew. There are others I want to read other than Stevenson (which I'm reading right now). I'll definitely join in!

  17. Side, side! I'm a champion of Carlyle. Wuthering Expectation's second post, which is not really worth reading, is on Thomas Carlyle. Still, readers should handle with care.

    Rebecca - I am going to indulge in a long, multipart annotated list in January. I saw that you have been reading Stevenson - Kidnapped just recently, right? A surprising number of Scottish books fit right into your classic children's lit project.

  18. I finished Treasure Island last Monday too! Interesting there is so much children's lit. That's what I was thinking. I hope it's not cheating to not, you know, read Carlyle.

  19. The only Carlyle I've read is "The French Revolution", and I loved that. :)

    I felt it was very fresh - it hadn't been that long since it all happened, after all - and quite deliciously subjective, and alive somehow... it was like being there, and it was all happening right now, this instant, instead of it being some old musty tome of history that didn't concern one at all...

    Also, I think that the two best authors of mob-scenes that I've ever read are Dickens and Carlyle.


  20. And from whom did Dickens learn to write mob scenes!

    The French Revolution is excellent. "Alive" - that's just right.

  21. I love Susan Ferrier -- I really enjoyed her novel Marriage. Surely I can find time to read Stevenson's Donkey book along with you??

  22. I don't want to stop anyone from reading Iaiaiaian Banks, or Ian Rankin, or whomever. But without restrictions, this thing will be unfeasible. Might be anyway.

    All right, my resistance has eroded away. I'm going to read Ferrier's Marriage. See Dorothy's post for details. The donkey book, too, definitely.

  23. Let us not forget Adam Smith-the world could use his advise now! The Wealth of Nations is still a fundamental work of economic theory-

    On David Hume-in truth no one has ever refuted his fundamental theories in a direct refutation of his defense of skepticism about either knowledge in general or religion-There is a famous scene in the journals of Boswell where Boswell is hoping so much Hume will denounce his views on his death bed-he did not-

  24. Smith and Hume definitely go on the final list. Boswell's visit to Hume is heartbreaking - Boswell is so weak, so scared.

  25. "Of all the sufferings to which the mind of man is liable in this state of darkness and imperfection, the passion of fear is the severest, excepting the remorse of a guilty conscience, which however has much of fear in it."-November 11, 1777-a periodically essay collected in The Hypochondriack which is a set of seventy essays Boswell published in the London Magazine from 11/1777 to 8/1783. I have had this collection a long time but have not read it through yet. It was last in print in 1928. I hope this challenge will motivate me to at last read it.