Posts Tagged ‘a tale of two cities’

I always feel kind of bad thinking this. I mean, I’m an avid reader, AND I’m a writer. Shouldn’t I be completely in love with the classics? It’s like an art history student going up to a painting by Michelangelo and saying, “Meh.”

Some people are going to look at you funny.

But I can’t help it! There are a few “classics” I do enjoy. 1984 is one of my all-time favorite books. I love Lord of the Flies. But beyond that? There are maybe only a few others.

1984 George OrwellIf you read my post about audiobooks on Monday, you’ll know I’ve been using them to listen to the classics because it’s a lot easier for me to get through them that way. I’ve read both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass, and I’m just about done with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

And you know what? I didn’t really like them.

Okay, so they’re imaginative, and they’re inspiring and they’ve launched TV shows and movies and toys and a million other things. But I found the writing to be juvenile and the descriptions, in a lot of cases, to be pointless.

Now, this isn’t totally the fault of the author. And this is sort of the point I want to drive home. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written in 1865. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was published in 1900. These times are a world away from ours. Certain things were expected in stories – things that would be looked down upon by today’s standards. So many descriptions go on for pages and pages and pages. Nowadays? That’d land your MS in the circular file.

So, okay. The classics are hard to relate to. The writing is not the same as we’d expect if we were to pick up a contemporary novel. But what about the story? Wouldn’t that be its saving grace?

Yes, I think that’s where a classic is saved. If you can get through all the junk and read for the meaning of the story, that’s where the love for the novel comes into play. Let’s face it, if you actually enjoy reading A Tale of Two Cities, you might be a bit of a masochist. The writing is so roundabout, so dragged out, that I found myself able to get through only a few pages at a time. (This was before I discovered the joy of audiobooks, which probably would’ve brought this story more to life than my imagination was able to.)

But once you read the words and reflect back on the story, the love for the character arc and journey the characters went on becomes apparent. It’s only after the fact that the story becomes what we treasure. While we’re reading it? It’s torture. At least, that’s how I feel.

And sometimes I think people love the classics just because they’re classics. And I don’t get that. Maybe that’s why I feel so guilty when I say I have a hard time getting through them – shouldn’t I love them all if reading and writing are such a big part of my life?

Maybe. But maybe not. I think everyone should read the classics and try to understand them. But you don’t have to like them. A like for those stories, just like any other story, is subjective. And it isn’t required. Just because you don’t like Macbeth doesn’t mean you haven’t read it and doesn’t mean you don’t understand it. It just means you didn’t like it. Plain and simple.

Or, at least, that’s what I’m telling myself to ease the guilt.

What do you guys think? Are you advocates of the classics, or do you have trouble with them too? Are there any that you absolutely love? Are there any that you feel guilty about not liking?