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

Which Side Will Ye Choose?

Introspection has left me a bit concerned.

It comes from Disney movies, really. Those seemingly innocent graphical displays for children planted a seed in my developing years, one that was never really meant to flower or even grow. This is because the packets I was attracted to, amid the vast array of smiling Princess Tulips and Prince Charming Roses, were always those meant to shrivel and die.

I speak of The Villains.

Just think: if they were to be represented by some sort of vegetation, would it be a healthy variety? A pleasant green thing? A flower?

Rafflesia
“The Rafflesia is considered one of the ugliest flowers in the world and on top of that, it smells like rotting meat… It feeds on other plants to survive.”

Maybe the sort of healthy, living thing that could EAT YOU.

No, villains are the scapegoat. They’re the blame for good, noble characters ever needing to do something questionable. Unfortunately, they must also suffer the worst typecasting, character motivations, and evil characteristics.

Does one really need a maniacal laugh to be considered for the job?

Strangely, I am not attracted to villains because of concern for any of these things. I’m not out to get them sympathy, a decent backstory, and equal rights. I’m pretty sure I like the dark side because it’s awesome.

I threw Disney under the bus initially because those are the earliest memories I have of being drawn to the films’ antagonists instead of the ones I’m supposed to like. I’m talking Maleficent, Snow White’s stepmother, or Mad Mad Mad Mad Madam Mim.

Maleficent of the 1959 animated film is so purely cliché, but this doesn’t phase me. I can only respect a villain who is clearly evil for evil’s sake; bestowing a curse, cackling, destroying her own minions, and transforming to a dragon to finally kill that pesky prince.

As one can imagine, my aberrant obsession has just gotten worse over the years.

I’ve been drawn to The Goblin King of Labyrinth, Cardinal Richelieu in The Three Musketeers, and Darth Maul of Star Wars, Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Really, though, one can’t blame me when it’s David Bowie, Tim Curry, and Ray Park we’re talking about.

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Darth Maul, himself

I like Qui-Gon. Really. And I knew Obi-Wan was supposed to live long enough to instruct a whiny Luke in the future. But couldn’t Darth Maul have lived longer than a few double light saber scenes as well?

I think I’ve gotten distracted.

Ah, yes: my distractions. In my defense, I am not drawn to lame villains. You can keep your Ursula, Jafar, Gaston, Yzma, Prince John, Governor Ratcliffe, Judge Frollo and the like. In adult films; I just can’t enjoy Raoul Silva, The Merovingian, or Richmond Valentine.

Are you thinking of pointing out a redeeming characteristic of mine? One that involves me clearly thinking a bad guy is cool only when he is? Maybe I like the ones that have something likeable so that is my motivation?

If so, thank you. BUT, the problem is that I do not like the hero in most films. If it’s likeability that draws me in, shouldn’t I extend that attribute across to the brighter side of things? I’m sorry; good guys just aren’t that interesting to me. Woohoo, they did the boring thing and saved the day -right? Yay.

As such, one might bring up Ocean’s ElevenThe Italian Job, or Batman in general. No luck. Even “heroes” who break the law, and are therefore villainous, don’t quite do it for me.

I can’t help but feel a fangirl crush at the sight of a depressed, conflicted, powerful soul. He or she destroys the weak, one-sided protagonist with a cleverly-contrived trap. Then, he turns to the camera and intelligently delivers his Monologue of Evil with a British accent.

Maybe I just need to watch more foreign films?

Or, maybe I am -as I suspect- slightly evil?

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unsplash-logoPeter Forster