Monday, October 3, 2011

I want to know what people are talking about when they reference classic novels.

I assume the title speaks for itself. Allow me to clarify why.

You know those moments where you’re talking about a great book and someone says they haven’t read it yet?  I could imagine if I went down the list of books I’ve never read to you, you would be doing the same. It’s one thing for it to be a newer book, like Twilight (I have read Twilight though, but it wouldn’t be like a huge shocker if someone said they hadn’t read it), but it’s another thing for the classics. You know, the pre-2000’s/pre-1990’s/pre-1980’s type books.  The books written in the earlier 1900’s, or the 1800’s, or even earlier than that.

Let’s get specific.

Up until now, I have not read a single Jane Austen book. I am a huge, HUGE fan of the movies, especially Persuasion. I probably would have taken much longer to read one if not for my book blog. I haven’t read anything by either of the Bronte sisters, or Thomas Hardy, or Louisa May Alcott, or Mark Twain. I did read Romeo And Juliet on my own and A Midsummer’s Night Dream (that was a requirement for High School), but no other Shakespeare plays. The only classic I took the time to read was Cyrano de Bergerac, and that was because of Wishbone! (Side note: Wasn’t Wishbone awesome?) I started to read The Count Of Monte Cristo, but didn’t have the patience to read THAT MANY PAGES. I tried to read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories, but probably only got through four at the most.

As far as more modern books go, I never finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird. I haven’t read The Catcher In The Rye, 1984, The Great Gatsby, The Grapes Of Wrath, Slaughterhouse-Five, Of Mice And Men, Rebecca, A Clockwork Orange, or The Bell Jar (I did buy this one though).

I feel like I am SOOO far behind a lot of other readers. It seems unnatural to not have read more of these classics and call myself a serious reader. Not that I’m saying you have to read a bunch of classics to BE a serious reader. I just feel out of place  not being well read. Especially now that I’m getting serious about writing my own novels, I need to have the knowledge of these timeless stories to be able to diversify my work. I want to refer to them in more than just title and author.

Not only that, but as the title suggests, I want to get the joke when it’s made on TV or by another reader. Sometimes I get the gist of the joke, but not fully. Dan on Gossip Girl made a reference to Judy Blume’s Forever in season 3 that made me roll on the floor laughing because I knew what he was talking about. it made my day.

It’s not only books either for me. It’s movies too. I just recently saw Soylent Green for the first time, and I only did so because of hearing it was a dystopian society and that intrigued me. After seeing Disturbia and seeing a parody on The Simpsons, I finally saw Rear Window a few years back. I’ve never seen The Birds, One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest, My Fair Lady, Gone With The Wind, Some Like It Hot, or West Side Story.

It’s honestly pathetic. I blame my impatience and my moodiness. You know, when you’re looking through the movies at the rental place or library and you see one of those movies but don’t pick it up because you’re not in the mood for it or you know that nobody else in the family will watch it with you (last time I rented movies, I noticed Vertigo and The Birds, sent a text to my mom, she wasn't in the mood to watch either of them). That’s part of the reason why I decided to cancel getting Netflix, because I kept getting movies that only I would watch and I struggled to find something that my mom and brother would enjoy. The ironic thing is that I’ve found like five movies since cancelling that we all want to watch.

How about you? Did you get the chance to read a lot of the classics years ago? Or did you miss out like I did and are trying to read them now? I’d love to know if I’m the only one.



  1. I was mostly inspired to start reading the classics after I majored in English for university. One professor (who is the most amazing woman in the world!) totally opened my eyes to a slew of amazing books from the Victorian era...and since then I've been hooked! It takes a little more effort to read the classics sometimes, because the language is so different and its sometimes hard to catch the symbolism, but the extra effort is worth it!

  2. It's definitely easier to read "light fast" YA books but these classics are usually all so amazing and worth the time. I'm horribly behind in reading a lot of them too but there's some I absolutely hate and think have no redeeming qualities (Jane Eyre) so I'm not rushing into them.

  3. When I was about 17, I suddenly got into a mad panic that I'd wasted my life reading Sweet Valley and Babysitters' Club and nothing of real substance, so I started reading classic after classic. Some of them I really enjoyed and I think when a book is famous and has been for hundred of years, you are glad to have read it, if only to be able to say you've read it and to have an opinion on it. And, of course, later I did and English degree.

    I did a similar thing will movies, as well. Of course there are still lots that I haven't read/seen. Sometimes it feels like you couldn't possibly get to them all!

    I don't think you have to read the classics to call yourself a serious reader, but I think it is important to read them if you want to have a true sense of writing and storytelling. You've got to go back to the beginning and see how literature developed, I think, to really understand where the character types and story conventions you take for granted come from.

    I admit since I started blogging, classics have fallen by the wayside. Hell, stuff that was published more than a year ago gets pushed aside for the latest releases. Maybe you should start or join a challenge, Jess? I'd do it alongside you.

  4. I'd like to read more classics as well. I've only read a handful though I own more. Keep getting distracted by the ones I *want* to read and forgetting about the ones I feel I *have* to read, I guess.

    I like TG's idea of a challenge. I definitely join in! ;-)

  5. Darn, I don't have enough time at the moment to write a proper response. The short of my answer is this: There are way way too many classics and reference books for one person to read in a lifetime and then there is the problem of reading a classic simply because it's a classic. It's impossible to be so well read that you will always get what a reference is because depending on who you're with, the context always changes. Say you spend all your time reading the classic classics and the people you're with/show you're watching references something like Twilight and you haven't read it because you're still reading stuff published centuries ago. I only get the jist of a lot of references as well but if I can understand what the Simpsons are on about then I am happy. Better to pick up the books you are interested in and then watch the rest as movies :) I am being super slack.

  6. Natalie: The extra effort is worth it even though it's hard!

    Jenny: Definitely easier to read the light novels. I worry about not being able to get into some, and then being irritated in the end. But I know a lot of them are amazing for a reason.

    TG: Same here when it comes to BSC and SVH! And OMG, the idea of a challenge for classics--I love you! I've been wanting to hold some sort of challenge in 2012 but I couldn't come up with anything specific that isn't already done by someone else. THIS IS PERFECT. Thank you! I would love to read the classics with you and anyone else interested. :)

    Jennifer: Exactly! There's so many that we're waiting on and waiting on and then we forget about a bunch of others that have been here. I would love it if you would join in on a challenge for the classics!

    Lan: There are so many things that we could never even finish in our lifetime. I just want to make sure I get some of the good ones in and not waste too much time on the ones that aren't worth it. Movies on some, absolutely. I've even Wikipedia'ed some things just so I understand what stuff is.

    Thanks everyone! I'm gonna go work on the challenge idea now. ^_^

  7. When I was a kid, my parents used to buy me books from the publishing Great Illustrated Classics - basically abridged versions of classics that had illustrations, to get children interested. I loved them so much, and I've since been trying to find the "adult" versions of them all so I can read the more complete stories.

    But I definitely have those moments where I feel like I should have read a particular book, but haven't - like Catcher in the Rye, Fahrenheit 451, 1984...I never had to read these for high school, like I supposed most people did. I also haven't read any Bronte (I have attempted Jane Eyre and gave up, but I am determined to try again and finish, haha). I also haven't read as much Dickens as I would like. I haven't read Little Women, but I love the movie.

    This is not even a complete list, but thinking of classics I haven't yet read when I consider myself an avid reader since the time I could pick up a book, it is like a dirty secret, lol.

  8. Colleen: Some of those books would probably have been required reading if I went to public school. Since I was homeschooled, I only read a couple of novels for Literature: A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Call Of The Wild. It does feel like a dirty secret! :P

  9. I felt EXACTLY like this a couple years ago, so I started a classics project of my own. I've read many since then, and I can tell you the classics get easier -- much easier -- the more you read them. Very best of luck to you in your own project! If you haven't seen it, you might like this project, in addition to your own classics project. :)


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