Steph reads the classics!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lately I have been attempting to read older, very well-known books that everyone references a lot and most people studied at school. This is for a number of reasons:
1. So that when those '100 books you must read before you die' lists go around on Facebook, my answer is not in the single digits (oh! The Facebook shame!),
2. So I can converse with people about how much I love such-and-such dead author's work in an informed manner, when in fact I secretly believe them to be overrated (Let's not even talk about The Catcher In The Rye, guys. The Catcher In The Rye is dead to me. Kidding! I liked it.), and;
3. So I can act like I read books other than books for teenagers. Because I am a grown-up now. Apparently.

So these are some books that I recently read:

Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
I am going to be really incredibly honest here: I am not sure why so many modern readers are so enamored with J.D. Salinger's work. I can see how it would have been great for the time, and the writing is nice and all, and the ideas are certainly interesting... but all of the character's are insufferable. I encounter enough self-important, pseudo-spiritual people in the real world. I have no desire to read about a couple of twenty-somethings being privileged and psycho-analysing each other in the fifties. (This book feels kind of teenager-y, despite the main characters being twenty and twenty-five.)

Which is not to say I didn't enjoy it - because I did well enough. But it didn't have any sort of impact upon me, really. I think if I read it fifty years ago, it might've, but I didn't exist then. That's probably fortunate. I so want to find my one dramatic, formative, favourite-of-all-time book, but nothing is really coming anywhere near The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Please, if you love The Catcher In The Rye or Franny and Zooey with all your heart, please tell me what I am missing. Are you just socially obligated to give it five stars on Goodreads or Amazon or wherever, by virtue of the fact that it's a classic, goddam!?

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte 
(there are some funky dots above the e in Bronte but don't ask me how to put those in)

It seems I am the last person in the world to have read Jane Eyre. I keep trying to pronounce that as Jane Eye-arrr. (I think it is my brain. It only thinks of things as they are written. As a result I mispronounce words frequently.) I am still desperately confused as to why she loved Mr Rochester so much. Is this one of the books Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey (they are interchangeable) references in order to seem 'literary'? (Perhaps I am confusing it with Wuthering Heights. Which is what I am reading next!)

I did not find the romantic aspects even vaguely pleasant (I never do. Romance is gross, always), but the plotline was glorious. His crazy first wife is locked in the attic, and escapes in the night and sets fire to things? FIVE STARS. Also, the coincidences were amazing. I would've hated it, if I'd had to read it for school, though. I think studying a book intensively sucks all the joy out of it, unless you have a Dead Poets Society Robin Williams-type teacher, which no-one does. I will perhaps read it again at some point (I am being optimistic, of course. I never reread things, because there are always way too many new things to read).

I would actually watch 'The Farmer Wants a Wife' if the farmers were all previously married, and their first wives had gone crazy, and were still lurking about on the property (possibly in various attics), waiting to set fires while the potential new wives slept. I should really pitch Channel 9 with this. They could feature ominous cackling laughter on the ads.

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
I've noticed I have a lot less to say about the books I really, really enjoy. Except the obvious you should read it. You know when a book is really great, but also insanely depressing, and you both hate and love it? (The fact that everything actually happened makes it infinitely more depressing.) Nothing works out well for anyone in this book. So perhaps not one to pick up if you are looking for a lightweight read? But it is terribly interesting. (I do not usually enjoy true crime, either.)

Breakfast At Tiffany's by Truman Capote
Even though it's quite true to the novel (novella? short story? It's a very thin little book), the film version was much more uplifting. I think this is one of those instances where I preferred the film to the book, as lovely and brief as it is. Audrey Hepburn makes Holly Golightly a sweeter and more agreeable character. You should read it (and it's nowhere near as dark as In Cold Blood, very much removed from that), but there's no real conclusiveness to it, as there is to the film. I don't think there's much growth on Holly Golightly's part at all. It's so short a novel it's more a snapshot than anything else, and we hardly know a thing about the narrator.

The Lady In The Looking Glass by Virginia Woolf
I read this little book of five short stories by Virginia Woolf, one of those Penguin modern classics, and it had a picture of her on the back of it. And I was just thinking how sad she looked. I mean, they're sad little stories, too. I should perhaps read Mrs Dalloway. I feel like the experience of reading all of these books and stories and whatever else would be so much purer if reading them when they were originally published, and they were different and new and the writers weren't yet renowned/dead.

Recommend old, classic-type books I must read! Please. I probably won't understand them anyway. (If you love them then that is even better.)
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