thinking out loud

Weekly Geeks 2009-03: Focus on the Classics

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don’t get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it!

To me, classic literature are just more books to read – some I’ve enjoyed immensely, some I’ve hated. Some I’m sure I’d love, and some I know I never want to read. When I was a kid I didn’t have anything else to read, so I read a lot of the classics – the books were all over the house as my mother used to study and teach English Literature. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the reading I did when I was a kid – I know for a fact that I read most of Dickens, for example, but other than sketchy memories of the plot and a dislike for some parts/characters, I really know as much about the books as someone who have only watched the movies. (I’ve never watched the movies, though!) I enjoyed Mark Twain, but didn’t love him that much and didn’t retain much from my reading of his books, either.

Some books I remember reading and loving very well, like Mary Shelley’sFrankenstein, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray as well as The Importance of Being Earnest and Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows. I was obsessed with the Bronte sisters (I only ever read Charlotte, though) when I was a kid, having read about them in my children’s encyclopedia, which was really my favourite thing to read back then because of all the folklore and mythology I could look up and read about. And of course, Jules Verne and Lewis Carroll and Tolkien and H.G. Wells. And Beatrix Potter. Does Beatrix Potter count? Haha. Oh, and how could I forget L.M. Montgomery or Frances Hodgson Burnett? I absolutely adored the Anne and Emily books by Montgomery, as well as The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. I had liked Kipling very much, but I’m pretty sure I’ve only read the abridged versions. And E. Nesbit. I still haven’t readThe Railway Children, but Five Children and It was one of my favourites. I remember that my mother even borrowed the videotape of the BBC televised version; I watched it over and over! I heard about a more recent movie version, but I haven’t watched that. And Dodie Smith’s A Hundred and One Dalmatians – how I loved that book! Now that I think about it, how could I think that I didn’t have children’s books growing up? I had wonderful books. I just wasn’t raised on Goosebumps or Sweet Valley, that’s all. I did get into a Sweet Valley phase in high school, though. That’s when I started reading all the stuff I’ve missed out on – Enid Blyton and Roald Dahl and Sweet Valley and Christopher Pike and… well, you get the idea.

Nowadays, I don’t read the classics much. Or at all. I barely read contemporary literary fiction now. Probably something in me screamed that I had enough when I was a kid, or the reading in high school had put me off, I’m not sure. There were authors that I remember not liking – Jane Austen, for example – that I re-read as an adult and found myself loving. I’ve only re-read Pride and Prejudice, but as soon as I get myself nice editions of Austen’s other books I’ll be re-reading them as well. A couple of my colleagues seem to love Dickens, another author I hated as a kid, so I wouldn’t mind re-reading him in the future. I might change my mind. In fact, I probably will.

4) As you explore the other Weekly Geeks posts: Did any inspire you to want to read a book you’ve never read before—or reread one to give it another chance? Tell us all about it, including a link to the post or posts that sparked your interest. If you end up reading the book, be sure to include a link to your post about it in a future Weekly Geeks post!

Well, the entry at Puss Reboots made me want to read Don Quixote, which I only read an abridged version of. Chris at Stuff As Dreams Are Made Onrecommended Charles Dickens to anyone who wants to start reading the classics, so I take the suggestion as a sign that I really should re-read Dickens. If I’m making a recommendation, though, I would probably start people off with Austen (despite hating her on my first try) or Charlotte Bronte – re-reading Jane Eyre together with Wide Sargasso Sea for college lit theory class had spoiled the book for me just a little, but it’s still one of my favourite readings from my younger days! Another book I’d recommend is Poe’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, which unfortunately I read for the first time in college. I would’ve loved that as a kid.

~ originally posted on blogspot

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