Hi there blog readers! I have a question for you: what’s your take on the classics?
I mean classic novels. The kind you read in High School (and/or college) English class and have to write essays about. The Great Gatsby. Frankenstein. To Kill a Mockingbird. War and Peace. Shakespeare. Dickens. Austen. Steinbeck.
Have you read any (any at all) since graduating? And if so, was it by choice, or under duress?
I read classics now and again for various reasons.
Largely, I feel obligated to. I feel like I should enjoy them. And sometimes, I do. I read Hawthorne’s The House of Seven Gables not all that long ago (and certainly after graduating both high school and university), and liked it. I finished it without any difficulty, understood it, enjoyed it. I read Shakespeare for fun (when my full book collection is unpacked, at any rate). Dickens’ Christmas Carol is a semi-common read, too.
But sometimes, I hate the classic book I’m trying to read. (I’m not even going to approach Great Expectations. That was the one novel for an English class that I can say with 100% certainty I did not even come close to finishing. But then, I was in AP English, the class was 6 students strong – a rarity in my high school of 4,000+ students – and we alternated chapters and explained them to each other. I suspect the teacher figured we were learning it better than if we’d each pretended to read the whole thing. We also had tea in class on a regular basis. We were spoiled, and we knew it. That was an awesome class.)
Anyway. Some books are just not to my liking, and now that I have no assignments on them, I can’t bring myself to read them all the way through. Steinbeck is notable for this. I just don’t like his writing style. Surprisingly, Austen has so far fallen into this category. I want to like Austen because I like the movies made from her novels, but the writing style has never fit my reading preferences yet. Perhaps I shall try again soon… either after reading the next Parasol Protectorate book (I just read and enjoyed Soulless) or after attempting one of the Austen-zombie/vampire/sea monster mashups.
Another reason to read classics is to understand the cultural background in which we live. When I started reading the vampire-centric paranormal novels, I re-read Dracula as a reminder of the genre’s past. (Loved it. Especially the beginning bit that’s so suspenseful.)
All of this is on my mind at present because I’m currently reading The Picture of Dorian Grey and am not sure how I feel about it. I want to like it, and I intend to finish it whether I do or not, but I’m not yet sure about it. Granted, it has barely gotten started even by modern novel standards, and it seems classic novels have a longer set-up period than the modern ones do. We’ll see, and I’ll keep you posted.
I am curious, though, how other readers feel about classic books.