Is Classic Literature All It’s Hyped up to Be?

Perhaps I’m odd, but I love many classic works of literature. I trust the rating that a piece is a classic, read it, appreciate what earns its title, and try to acquire a good copy for our home library. I feel that almost all are written well and/or demonstrate some extraordinary aspect that sets them above other literature.

Then again, some classics are boring.

Some are wordy.

A few have something that ruined the book as a favorite for me -and I do not speak of glaring grammatical sentences.

One of the first classics the public education system forced me to read was Silas MarnerThat one is in the Boring category, its primary failing. Even to this day, I do not know a redeeming characteristic of it. If one wants a good bite of rambling sentences, there’s James Joyce. If one needs historical literature, there are many alternatives. A treasure hunt? What about Treasure Island?

Silas Marner could also win for wordiest, but I’m more inclined to bump the phone book-sized The Three Musketeers to that position. To be fair to this assessment, I have not yet successfully gotten past the first third of the novel. Not even whilst I was on bedrest with my second pregnancy and had nothing better to do than stare at the walls and hope my previa moved was I able to get through it. Many, many classics are horribly wordy, yet the words are valuable. They are worth it. Instead of Three Musketeers, try The Count of Monte Cristo.

Last but not least is the failing category I am most interested in discussing: some thing that really bothered me in a classic. Sometimes in these cases, people hyped up the book. Others liked it; it’s acclaimed; it’s a classic. Surely it must be good, right?

One of my top entries in this grouping is The Great Gatsby. My criticism? I could not relate to any of the characters. At all. They were so unreal in behavior, thought, and action that I could never get into the story.

A second is The Screwtape Letters. I love C.S. Lewis. I wanted to love everything he wrote. As I read this famous work of his, however, I felt disappointed. I realized I expected Screwtape to be more insidious, more clever, more devious. Perhaps my experiences have been with a smarter and more subtle fiend?

A third and final classic for my chopping block is Wuthering Heights. I’m not a romance fan, in case people didn’t know, but I do read stories with romance in them. I like Jane Austen, for example. Wuthering Heights seemed far-fetched, perhaps. Mostly, like with Gatsby, I had little interest in the characters.

In retrospect, much of the reason I’ve found distaste with some classical literature is that I had to read them. That’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem, though, because I doubt I’d have chosen to read them on my own.

Also, disliking a classic can have its benefits. Before The Grapes of Wrath in my senior year of high school, I’d never fallen asleep whilst reading.

As always, I am curious what others think. Are you a defender of all classical works to the bitter end? Are you one to agree with me, and nit-pick a few for failings? Do you not care so long as you can watch Colin Firth dive into a pond?

As my mother says, “Inquiring minds want to know.”

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I most certainly did not get wordy this week. Here’s what I did:
Wednesday, May 22: Wrote “If You Could Be Any Mythical Creature, What Would You Be?

Thursday, May 23: Nothing.

Friday, May 24: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations, again, to Bruce Goodman!

Saturday, May 25: Announced the 27th Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is epic book or film series. PLEASE ENTER!

Sunday, May 26: “The Gatehouse,” in response to Sue Vincent‘s prompt.

Monday, May 27: Answered Peregrine Arc‘s prompt with “The Cell of Snares.

Tuesday, May 28:  Also nothing.

Wednesday, May 29: Today.

I also posted some at my motherhood site. I wrote “Mom, What Can I Do?,” and “Happily Ever After Is Possible, but It Requires an Epic Journey.”

 

Photo Credit:
Image by klimkin from Pixabay

 

© 2019 Chelsea Owens

Picture Books Are Always in Season

“So …have you read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub?”

“No.”

“Hmm. What about The Stinky Cheese Man?”

A sound of polite, incredulous aversion comes from the backseat. “No….”

I’m driving my male horde home from elementary school, plus the three children of a family friend. Their children and mine share a few interests, the main one being a love of reading.

The older girl pipes up, “We don’t read picture books.”

Her sister: “Yeah; I’m reading chapter books now.”

Which is fine, of course, seeing as how she is in second grade. She is the baby of their four children and they are all precocious. The only boy has already moved up a grade and is 2-3 grades ahead in mathematics.

Still….

Our Books

“I love picture books,” I say. “There are a lot of really good ones out there, so I like to go back and read them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” the older girl acquiesces. I often feel I’m sitting at a British tea party with her, although she’s midway through fourth grade.

My boys, meanwhile, are each immersed in reading something educational like Captain Underpants or Magic Pickle. I’m not a fan of the graphic novels, but am fine with their perusal if mixed with a range of literature. That, and graphic novels include everything from less-than-desirable illustrations and potty humor to really well-done works like The Cardboard Kingdom.

I drop the friends off. Their mother comes out for a quick chat. “Your girls say you don’t have any picture books around anymore,” I say, in a friendly way.

“Oh. Yeah.” She laughs. She’s extremely intelligent, an excellent quilter, and one who does not seem to mind being a stay-at-home mother. I’m always in awe of her. “I unintentionally donated ours to the classroom and haven’t replaced them.” She sighs a bit, which is usually her way of segue. “They don’t really seem interested, so I probably won’t.”

To each her own, of course, but a little bit of me cries inside to hear it. Like my music preferences, my reading tastes cover many genres. -Except romance. Ugh.

Besides that, my collection of books is …sizeable. When I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, I wanted to be the old lady with the enormous library. I would feel torn between saving myself or my books. I …have a bit of a problem with control whenever I shop the book department in thrift stores.

D.I. Books

After a recent thrift store trip.

Which leads me back to picture books. I love picture books. I cannot imagine not having any in my house. I read to my children from them, and then from novels as they age (time permitting).

I also enjoy reading to other children. Last year I offered to read to my son’s fourth grade class once a week, to give the teacher a few minutes of preparation time at the end of the day. What did I read? The Jolly PostmanThe Sweetest FigBark, George; and Oh, Were They Ever Happy!

I remember visiting with the teacher once after we finished up. “Thank you for coming in every week,” she said. “It gives me time to get ready and I really appreciate it.”

I smiled. “Oh, you’re welcome.” Then, I hesitated, knowing most of these kids were beyond the target age for the books I shared. “Are you okay with me reading picture books? I know they might be a little young for them.”

“Of course!” she said. “They love them! I don’t think they’re too young for them at all.”

Our Picture Books

Most of our picture book library.

You may think I will ask whether you agree or disagree, but I know you are all smarter than that. Instead, what are a few of your favorite children’s stories? They can be picture books, graphic novels, beginning chapter books, or Harry Potter-sized novels. Which do you love, and why?

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After fondly reminiscing, read what I posted this past week:
Wednesday, April 3: Encouraged cathartic ranting over bad bosses in “Just Another Perk of Working.

Thursday, April 4: “The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 5: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly Stevens!

Saturday, April 6: Announced the 21st Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is parodies of famous poems. PLEASE ENTER!

And, answered Peregrine Arc’s writing prompt with “Smells Like Reanimated Spirits.

Sunday, April 7: “Olympic Achievement,” a poem response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, April 8: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine.”

Tuesday, April 9:  An inspirational quote by Jodi Foster.

Wednesday, April 10: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. Highlights were “Just Don’t Buy It?,” “Moderate Momming,” and “Bedtime, a poem.”

 

Photo Credit:
Me