The Obscure Reading Group discussion

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message 1: by Ken (last edited Feb 28, 2020 02:32PM) (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
The first fifty or so posts here are people introducing themselves for our initial discussion of Jude the Obscure, but now that we have evolved into a three-times-a-year reading club called (in honor of poor old Jude) "The Obscure Reading Group," newcomers are welcome to read our introductions, then add their own.


message 2: by Carol (new)

Carol | 172 comments Which edition will we be reading?

message 3: by W.D. (last edited Jan 21, 2020 06:17PM) (new)

W.D. Clarke (wdclarke) | 4 comments I'm Bill, from Ontario, and my only experience with TH has been with the Mayor of Casterbridge in grade friggin eight, and I'm here to write this wrong because Ken invitted me here. Plus I am coming up to the chapter on Hardy in my Eagleton History of the Novel, so the serendipity-do set in :)

message 4: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments I’m Fergus, also from Ontario - and I talked about J the O with my classmates in 1964. I never saw the thrust of H’s argument, and this is why I’m signing up. Loved the prose, and ID’d with J the O himself, cause he was, and still is, me!
Yes, which edition indeed? I’m OK with any if it’s cheap!

message 5: by Carol (new)

Carol | 172 comments I’ll be reading on the kindle, if it is available for the edition that is picked.
Oh by the way I am Carol from SoCal. I joined because Ken Is an awesome leader . I did another read like this and it was successful.

message 6: by Sue (new)

Sue | 129 comments Hi, I’m Sue from Massachusetts. I live just north of Boston. I haven’t read Jude since either Freshman or Sophomore year of college. I am sure I had profound thoughts about this and other Hardy novels back then but I don’t recall the details of either. I’m looking forward to reading this. I will be late starting as I have some surgery scheduled on February 6th. I plan to join in when I can. I plan to read on my kindle too.

message 7: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Sue, my memories are a blur too! But something in it moves me like no other Hardy. I compare it to James’ the Americans: a one-of! Carol, I’ll read in Kindle, but I’m been shut out by Amazon over my password, and so prefer Google Play.
In a pinch I’ll use Print, though, so no problem.

message 8: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 166 comments Mod
Hi. I’m Sandy from Madison, Wisconsin. We are experiencing cold and snow! I read Jude on my own the summer between 1964-65 when I was nineteen. It was one of my favorite books back then, and I am eager to read it again, especially with all of you.

message 9: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Carol, the Kindle option is fine. I purposely based the reading schedule on Hardy's six "Parts" so we wouldn't have to worry about pages, just parts. So cool that you're here!

Bill, it so happens that The Mayor of Casterbridge was the last Hardy I read, only (he says) twenty years ago. The rest I read in a rush more like forty years ago. All except Jude, which somehow escaped my enthusiastic Hardy phase.

The first one I read? The Return of the Native. Reason? Holden Caulfield recommends it in The Catcher in the Rye. He loved that Eustacia Vye!

Fergus, glad you're here and giving it a second look. As I said to Carol, any edition works. I have the Signet Classic paperback from the library. It has an introduction by Jay Parini that I started reading, but then stopped once I realized he was giving away a lot of the plot. WHY DO INTRODUCTIONS DO THIS? They should be AFTERWORDS, not intros (sigh).

Sue, all best on that surgery and if you get here, great. If not, understood. Jude or no Jude, we just want you to get better! (BTW, you and Fergus read some good stuff in school. When I was in school, Hardy was never on the table.)

Hi, Sandy. Not sure I recall this as being one of your favorites. Hope it holds up! You know how rereading favorites from our younger days can be hazardous. We are different people now, after all. But sometimes, we love them just as much!

message 10: by Diane (new)

Diane Barnes | 159 comments I'm Diane, and live just outside Charleston, SC. Like Sue, Ive got some things going on this month, moving from one home to another, a mid-month trip to Savannah, etc, but will definitely join in. Ive read some of Hardy's lesser novels, but not the biggies. Tess, Mayor and Return of the Native, along with Jude, are all on my list though, so this is a good start. Thanks for the invite, Ken.

message 11: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Great to see you here, Diane! The notice we gave people was admittedly short, so its gratifying to see that you and a few others can actually join in.

Moving! I just did that last July, from Mass. to Maine, so I know how how chaotic things can get. If I don't see another packing box or packing tape or packing paper for the rest of my life, I'll be a happy man.

(And funny, certain boxes always seem to find their way unopened either up in the attic or down in the cellar. It's a natural migration, like with salmon. At some point, though, you'll be unable to find something important and forced to revisit some of these boxes.)

Good luck with the move and with Savannah (which always wakes me up when Amtrak stops there).

message 12: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 166 comments Mod
Ken, thanks for organizing this group. Also, I love that you read Hardy because of Holden! Catcher in the Rye was the book to go to when I felt like a misunderstood teenager. I even included a chapter about it in my childhood memoir. Tess and Jude and Hamlet all tied for second place!

message 13: by Carol (new)

Carol | 172 comments I chose this edition, mainly it is unabridged and was $0.99 for the kindle. It also has the illustrations.

message 14: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Sandy: Back in the day, most all teens were beholden to Holden. These days? Not so much. I found out when I taught the book in high school and hit rough sailing.

Carol, those pictures (I clicked amazon's "Sneak Peak") are purdy, as they say. Very Olde English (note superfluous "e" in "Olde").

message 15: by Carol (last edited Jan 22, 2020 08:52AM) (new)

Carol | 172 comments You know me always interested in a purdy picture.

message 16: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Getting into the drift of the story again after 52 years, Ken, it now rather seems to me that Jude was the selected novel of my senior year, and - to correct myself - Return of the Native two years before that. These various novels, of course, sharing each semester with some rousing Shakespeare.
An education in 60´s Ontario was determined by its long-prevailing conservative government! But it was a very good grounding, much at variance with wild pop culture...
Guess who won? Hahaha!

message 17: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Good grounding is right! Three cheers for the conservatives on that count.

And I suppose it better explains your Hardy experience and my lack thereof, a schooling in Ontario vs. a schooling in New England. We got Shakespeare, all right: first Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice (now considered politically-incorrect), and then Hamlet and Macbeth.

But no Hardy.

Junior year in HS was American Lit. Senior year was British Lit., showing you that the Brits were considered "tougher." Weird how little I remember of the titles we read senior year, though. I was already "drifting," I think, toward college.

message 18: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 170 comments Thanks for the invite, Ken! I'm Kathleen from California, and I am ashamed to say I have never read Hardy. I've meant to, really, but just haven't got around to it. I have no idea if I'll have time for this one, but I can't resist trying--especially with you Hardy-experienced folks to see me through it.

The reviews for this book just cracked me up. Recommended for people on the verge of suicide, the bleakest of the bleak … all this just makes me want to read it more! It may test my love of all things dark and melancholy, but I'm excited to try it, and wouldn't be surprised if Hardy becomes a favorite author.

message 19: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 166 comments Mod
So Kathleen, think of Jude as a comrade to Heathcliff and you will understand the “darkness!”

message 20: by Carol (last edited Jan 22, 2020 04:48PM) (new)

Carol | 172 comments Heathcliff was beyond dark. Jude is a friend in arms , so to speak? That should prove interesting.

message 21: by Kathleen (new)

Kathleen | 170 comments Sandra wrote: "So Kathleen, think of Jude as a comrade to Heathcliff and you will understand the “darkness!”"

Okay, this clinches it for me. :-)

message 22: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 166 comments Mod
Carol, of course I read Jude so many years ago that it will be interesting to rediscover why I was drawn to him. I have to agree that Heathcliff is beyond dark, but for reasons I have tried to analyze, I always sympathized with him—his being an orphan and “lower class” and all.

message 23: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Welcome, Kathleen. Good to have a complete Hardy newbie on board!

I think I can identify with "dark." I tend to write dark myself. Maybe I'm a Hardy avatar or something. Anyway, I'm interested in meeting this Jude dude myself.

message 24: by Laysee (new)

Laysee | 36 comments Thank you, Ken, for the invitation. I am Laysee from Singapore. I read 'Jude the Obscure' years ago as it was a required text. I am glad to get re-acquainted with Jude again. I have never joined any GR reading group. This is a first and I am thrilled.

message 25: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Welcome, Laysee! I think you're our first group member from Singapore! Now that's long-distance participation! We look forward to your thoughts as you reread it. For me, it will be the first time.

message 26: by Sandra (new)

Sandra L L. | 166 comments Mod
Layse, how wonderful you are joining. My son and his wife live in Singapore!

message 27: by Laysee (new)

Laysee | 36 comments Sandra wrote: "Layse, how wonderful you are joining. My son and his wife live in Singapore!"

Hi Sandra, thank you! I hope your son and wife like living in Singapore. Well, they have warm and balmy, albeit rainy, weather this time of year.

message 28: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Small world. And upside-down world at all times, with the seasons flipped on either side of the equator.

We're in the dog days of winter here. This morning, though, it is a balmy 18 degrees Fahrenheit (Negative 8 Celsius). On Tuesday morning it was 5 degrees (Neg. 15).

In the words of the prophet, though, this too shall pass.

message 29: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments You betcha it’s going to pass, Ken! 15 to 20 cm of snow is forecasted for us Ontarians this weekend... You lucky guys in Maine miss most of our winter storms, but we catch whiffs of your fall upsets for sure.

message 30: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments And Laysee, welcome! Nice to have another GR Friend on-board😊❗️

message 31: by Laysee (new)

Laysee | 36 comments Fergus wrote: "And Laysee, welcome! Nice to have another GR Friend on-board😊❗️"

Thank you, Fergus. What larks to be in a reading group with GR friends and friends of friends (whose names I recognize)! I've been wanting to read Thomas Hardy again and this is the perfect occasion.

message 32: by Angela (new)

Angela | 34 comments I, too, read it years ago, in Miss Austen’s Victorian Novel course my last semester at Penn State. She loved it, and I did as well. We will see how years of life experience affects the “read.” I have Maine and Massachusetts roots but have lived in Pennsylvania most of my life. I blog for fun and help my daughter in her wine business (yes, I am always well stocked), but am mostly retired. Great getting to know you folks!

message 33: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 13 comments Thank you, Ken, for inviting me. I’m Cathy and I live north of Boston. I count Thomas Hardy as one of my favorite authors, and although I’ve read Jude the Obscure, it’s been awhile. I first read it as an undergrad in a Victorian literature (lecture, no discussion) course and a few years ago, but I’ve never discussed the book with anyone, other than a passing comment.. I’m looking forward to reading and discussing with everyone.

message 34: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Great to see you here, Angela. I didn't know you had Maine / Mass. roots. For those who don't know, Maine itself has Mass. roots. Until 1820, it was actually part of Mass. (or, as I fondly call it, "North Massachusetts). This year Maine is celebrating its bicentennial. (And how well I remember when the seemingly-sane and still united USA celebrated its bicentennial in 1976!)

You had an English professor named Miss Austen??? First name wasn't Jane, I assume.

message 35: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Hi, Cathleen. North Shore, is it? When we moved and downsized last summer, we actually looked at Ipswich and environs. Used the Crane Estate B&B as a home base, but there wasn't a lot available and what WAS available was pricey, so we opted for the ultimate north shore --- Maine.

I'm impressed with how many of you read JUDE in HS or college. And I remember, too, university lectures where the professor droned on and on as the only one enchanted with the sound of his own voice.

I did take a Dickens seminar, which was foolhardy (heh... little Hardy plug there) because reading six GIANT books in four months is ridiculous as I found out.

message 36: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Finally, regarding invitations, you are all free to invite any GR friends you have if you think they are big Brit Lit or Hardy fans. There are still six days before we start reading (though I will start reading as soon as I finish Night Boat to Tangier).

The reading schedule works out to about 125 pp. per week, depending on the book version you have, of course, and its font size, so Feb. 1-7 is reading of the first two parts and then the first round of discussion begins as we simultaneously delve into Parts 3 and 4.

message 37: by John (new)

John Hughes | 24 comments Mod
John from Dublin, reporting in.

Late to the show but looking forward to February! I have only read Far from the Madding Crowd. But I had my eyes on conquering both Tess and Jude, so here’s to The Obscure.

I’m of a school that likes to associate the work with the author and their time, so apologies to the “only look at the work” purists beforehand.

message 38: by Angela (new)

Angela | 34 comments Ken, her name was Debra and she was from Maine. Maybe Livermore Falls. A poet as well. I wrote about her in a blog post. One of my very favorite teachers ever.

message 39: by Cathleen (new)

Cathleen | 13 comments Ken wrote: "Hi, Cathleen. North Shore, is it? When we moved and downsized last summer, we actually looked at Ipswich and environs. Used the Crane Estate B&B as a home base, but there wasn't a lot available and..."

Hi Ken,
I love the North Shore. We’re northwest in the Concord area. It seems like everywhere is pricey in MA, so we were lucky to get our house back in the 90s. I can’t imagine trying to find a house around here now. From that Victorian lit course, I remember the professor saying that he thought Jude the Obscure was a masterpiece (or some sort of superlative like that). A whole Dickens seminar—lucky you! :)

message 40: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Just searched for and found Angela's blog post on Ms. Not-Jane Austen. Nicely done! Here it is:

Her poetry collection, Paradise of the World, is out of print. She spelled her name Deborah Austin, by the looks of that sadly out-of-print amazon page.

message 41: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Cathleen... just a few years back, I spent a luxurious day at Walden Pond and environs. Still remember it fondly. Not too crowded with tourists, either!

And what a bio I read of the man a few years back:

message 42: by Angela (new)

Angela | 34 comments Thanks for correcting me, Ken. I can’t believe I spelled both of her names incorrectly. I will blame a coffee deficit. I had the book once, alas...

message 43: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne S (revyvonne) | 69 comments Hi all, and thanks for the invitation, Ken. I’ve read two or three Hardy novels, I think, decades ago; can’t remember which, other than Tess. Maybe Madding Crowd too? Looking forward to Jude.

Am thinking 2020 may turn into a Year of Reading the Classics for me, as I’m about 2/3 into East of Eden at the moment, with only three days left on my OverDrive library copy, so racing to finish it.

All best from SF Bay Area in NorCal where it is 60s and sunny today; pretty perfect.

message 44: by Yvonne (new)

Yvonne S (revyvonne) | 69 comments Oh meant to add a p.s. asking about which edition. Any recommendation for or against? Want Kindle format but there are several choices.

message 45: by Ken (last edited Jan 24, 2020 12:05PM) (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
Hi, Yvonne. I cannot speak to Kindle editions (though I think Carol is going to go with one, so maybe she'll jump in with some advice), but no matter what edition, you don't have to worry about pages because we are reading two parts each week. Those "Parts" are Hardy's divisions, as seen in the book's Table of Contents (and in this group's READING & DISCUSSION SCHEDULE link seen below).

As for warm temps, I'm happy to say the southern coast of Maine is up to 46 F today. My wife and I just got back from walking the lonely beach, in fact.

Me, I prefer the winter beach to the summer one. More gulls, fewer people.

message 46: by Carol (new)

Carol | 172 comments Yvonne wrote: "Oh meant to add a p.s. asking about which edition. Any recommendation for or against? Want Kindle format but there are several choices."

I went with the unabridged edition with illustrations.

message 47: by Ken (last edited Jan 26, 2020 05:02PM) (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
I know I technically don't have to start reading until Feb. 1st, but being a slow reader (esp. of rich language, as you'd expect of a late 19th-century book), I'll probably begin to mosey on into the novel this coming week.

I see from TH's preface that this came out in serial form, month by month in Harper's Magazine.

It reminds me of Chuck Dickens, paid the same way (by the word) and published in the same manner (by the month). We don't know how lucky we are these days to be able to stay up all night every once and a while and read a book we just can't put down.

Back then, you had no choice but to cool your jets while Little Nell took her time about dying or not.

Hope everyone is able to chase down a copy by next ready-set-Saturday!

message 48: by Jan (last edited Jan 30, 2020 03:49AM) (new)

Jan (janrog) | 271 comments Ken wrote: "If you wish, tell us a little about yourself and why you're into Obscurity this February. You may also engage in a little back and forth (no spoilers, though) as you wait for the first discussion t..."

Hello, All,

5:30 in the morning musings. . . .

I'm a composition and literature teacher at Metropolitan Community College - Longview in Greater Kansas City. As a teacher, I'm always encouraging students to read with new perspectives, challenge themselves to learn something new or to revisit an earlier lesson at a deeper level. These directly influence my first reason for participating: an academic challenge. I've never read this work before, so I look forward to the new surprises within each chapter.

I've been a life-long reader, so this leads directly into my second reason: a book? A reading group? Why, yes, of course I'll join!

Finally, I find myself in numerous transitions right now, just like so many others. Reflecting on many of my favorite books, I think of the journeys of Don Quijote, each discovery of The Little Prince, pilgrims on a trek in the Canterbury Tales, and the rugged, fatigued travelers from The Grapes of Wrath. All of these characters were moving forward as best they could, sometimes weaving and sometimes scraping together whatever talents and strengths were needed so they could reach their goals. What were those goals? Sometimes they didn't know. Right now, that's what I'm discovering again. So, why not start with a lively group of readers, a classic novel, and those open questions.

Well, it's now 5:45, and this schoolmarm will now begin her daily work.

My Best, Jan

message 49: by Ken (new)

Ken | 553 comments Mod
It's 7:10 on the right coast (Down East Edition) , and I just wanted to say, "Welcome, Jan!"

Your post reminded me of myself in my teaching days (which ended but six months ago). Ever the insomniac, I found myself up at the thin hours when for some reason I did my best thinking.

Anyway, it will be interesting trading thoughts with you and others on the Obscure One. I am in the early going now, but will have Parts One and Parts Two read by Feb. 7th, when I will open the thread a day early (by my lights) so people who get a jump-start on the 8th (Singapore, Dublin) can jump in the water if they want to.

Looking forward to it!

-- Another Guy in Transition

message 50: by Fergus (new)

Fergus | 67 comments Welcome, Jan - and thanks for your wonderfully trenchant comments! They have given me clarity and motivation in this new day. 7:40, Eastern Ontario, Canada...

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