Read a Classic Month Concludes!

READ A CLASSIC MONTH

November’s over, and so is Read a Classic Month. Here are my thoughts on the book I read, and below it you’ll find links to check out other readers who took part in this fun reading challenge.

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Looking BackwardTitle: Looking Backward
Author: Edward Bellamy
Rating: 4/5 stars

World Without War…

On a night in 1887 Julian West, a young Boston insomniac, is put to sleep in his sound-proofed basement room by a hypnotist. Time passes–indeed, exactly 113 years, three months and 11 days. And Julian West awakes, to his amazement, in the year 2000–to a wondrously utopian world of peace and plenty.

Edward Bellamy’s famous LOOKING BACKWARD is perhaps only by stretched definition a novel; aside from a few story ingredients inserted to attract a wide readership, it has little plot or character delineation. It is rather the portrayal of a “perfect society”–by a humane, romantic 19th century American disturbed by the squalor and injustice of his time. in the year 2000, private capitalism–and war–have been abolished; money has been replaced by credit cards. All enjoy equal rewards for their work, and splendid cultural achievements are everywhere apparent.

If only a few of Bellamy’s prophecies have approached realization, his work remains influential. First published in 1888, LOOKING BACKWARD has been translated into more than twenty languages, inspiring both scholars and laymen with its bright visionary dream.” (description from Goodreads)

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So here’s the deal…Looking Backward is an interesting sort of novel. I actually ended up enjoying it more than I thought I would because at the beginning I couldn’t get into it much. But like most older books, I turned to the world of audiobooks to help me out a bit. I added a twist my audio reading this time: I followed the text while listening. I found this to be a very good decision on my part and I was able to follow along much easier than if I’d done one or the other.

Now, back to the book. The reason I said it’s sort of a novel is because aside from some narrative bits and pieces, this is more like a text explaining a utopian future for the United States, and most of the world, of 2000 viewed by an author in the late 1880s. It amuses me slightly that I found the meat of this book more interesting than the weak storyline surrounding it.

What does the year 2000, which everyone reading this has lived through (unless I have very young readers out there), look like to this 19th century author? With the explanations given, the United States is a very great nation to live in. Everyone earns the same very reasonable wages, works to the best of his/her ability, and best of all, there is no war, poverty, or even crime. To go into detail about all of this would take too much typing on my part, but there’s much to be desired from this year 2000 that I didn’t live through.

Even though there is an appeal to this “perfect” way of living, and I’ll ignore how there’s almost no way to get it to work in the real world, there are a few things I wish Bellamy addressed. Most of the book I was thinking “you keep saying man but what about the women of your society.” Later on in the book this was cleared up. Was I, the modern reader, satisfied? Not completely, but I tried looking at it from a 19th century point of view. There were progressive ideas about gender roles in the book, though not nearly as progressive as I think an author in today’s world would create when writing about 100 years in the future. Similarly, race was an issue I expected to be touched on. It wasn’t from what I recall. There wasn’t a mention of any sort of color, race, heritage in the book and it can be assumed that with the equality of 2000, this is a non-issue. But it’s hard to completely dismiss a 1887 man living in 2000 wouldn’t inquire about this when he inquired about everything else about a society.

If I wanted to be overly critical, I’d point out that the ending…well, almost ending…annoyed me. Luckily, I saw the author’s reasoning for it, even if it irked me.

Overall, I liked this book, and I’d recommend it readers who’d like to explore late 19th century socialist (I think that’s the right word) ideas. That might turn some people off, but I think there are many ideas in here that could benefit today’s world, even if a majority of it is unrealistic.

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VERDICT: This classic read was a good choice. I learned things about my own views of the world. I learned things about my reading habits (listening + reading along = great idea to soak in less digestible text).

Read a Classic Month was a success for me. Was it a success for you? Find out about some other readers’ experiences during this month’s themed read. Check out:

CINTA GARCIA DE LA ROSA

THE SARCASTIC PALMTREE

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