I love the classics.
It’s rather an addiction. I try to stay up to date on what’s hot in
the book world, but I always come back to the classics. There are a
few great modern writers, but most of them just don’t stand up to
snuff when compared with Shakespeare, Dickens, Austen, Hugo, and the
Brontes. Or Woolf, Hemingway, and Fitzgerald. Or…
Anyway, you catch my drift. The choice is pretty clear for me when it
comes to classics versus the most recent bestsellers. A year or two of
books that may have been sold because they were awesome, or maybe just
because a bunch of tweeny-boppers and middle-aged women crave fluffy
vampire romances? Or hundreds of years worth of books that have not
only delighted many different audiences from around the globe, but
have been lauded by the most educated people in our society as
compelling and life-changing?
Gee, that’s a tough choice.
Anyway, you can relate. (At least, I hope you can, and if you can’t
then you need to get off that couch and read yourself some Elizabeth
Gaskell or Robert Frost.) It’s not that I don’t love any modern books;
it’s just that classics always seem to fit the bill. They’re always
thought-provoking, beautiful, and enjoyable.
…Or are they?
When I hear some idiot (or read comments from idiots, as is becoming
increasingly popular with the Internet) talk about how stupid
such-and-so classic was and how much they hated it and how it’s
completely worthless, I start to inwardly seeth. How can this
(obviously uneducated) person have the nerve to say that a classic
book, that has been recognized as a classic by intelligent people for
centuries, is worthless? How can they even think such a thing?!
If you’re starting to feel uncomfortable reading this after how you
blasted Ulysses the other day, don’t worry: The truth is…there are
some classics that I don’t like, either.
I cringe just typing that. Am I turning into one of those idiots on
the Internet who have never so much as cracked open a dictionary? Am I
even allowed to say that I don’t like a classic book? Will the
classics police come and arrest me?
This is a question I’ve struggled with since the day I started reading
classics. I mean, I know I’m no literature expert. I don’t feel
qualified to say that a classic is bad. I would be contradicting
millions of readers, critics, and high school teachers who have loved
and defended that book! I’m just a lowly student in my early 20s. Who
am I to argue with so many intelligent, experienced people?
I’ve finally concluded that when it comes to literature, nobody can
say that a book is bad. It’s a book–an experience. Every single
person who reads it will get something different out of it, and I
can’t criticize anyone else’s experience. But that doesn’t mean I have
to like the book.
When it comes to classic books, which truly have been praised and
studied by intelligent people, I tend to believe that they deserve as
good a shot as I can give them. They’re not necessarily meant to be
entertaining; they’re meant to provoke deep thought, and I try to
approach them that way. There are some classic books that I have
approached that way, finished, and then decided afterward that I
didn’t like them. I don’t like The Catcher in the Rye. I just don’t. I
wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. I will probably never read it again.
But I’m never going to say that it’s a bad book.
I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to love
every classic that I read, and that’s okay. But I do think it’s
important to give the classics the reading they deserve. I really,
really wish I had finished Little Women as a teenager, because I think
I would have really loved it. (I thought it was boring? Really??) Even
when I don’t like classics, I try to finish them, and I’m always glad
when I do, whether I end up liking them or not.
…But I am still a little afraid of the classics police. I think they
might really exist….*hides*