Monday, 2 February 2015

My Thoughts On...Classics

So one of my Bookish Resolutions for 2015 is to read at least 1 classic a month, and this month that has really got me thinking. I started this month with the intention of reading Emma, so I started it and then put it down, intending to come back to it, which wasn't something I got round to this month, and I read Tales of the Jazz Age by F Scott Fitzgerald, which got me thinking again.

Classic literature is an obscure genre if you think about it, I mean really what is classed as a classic? Well according to About it is:

  • a book that ususally expresses some artistic quality (apparently this means expressing life, truth or beauty)
  • a book that stands the test of time
  • a book that represents the era in which it was written
  • a book that has universal appeal, mainly through the themes explored
  • a book that has clear connections and links to other influencers
Which actually I don't think really helps me to define a classic. In the case of my challenge though I'm planning to stick to well agreed classics anyway...which brings me back to the point. 

I don't know how it works in other countries, but here we have English Literature as a subject. For me it was compulsary up to GCSE level (age 16), though I chose to do English Literature as an AS Level (age 17) and A2 Level (age 18), part of me wishes I'd done it at Uni as well. In English Lit we often studied 'classic' literature, which included (so you can have an idea of what I've actually read): 
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (prose)
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding (prose)
  • The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald (prose) 
  • Macbeth by William Shakespere (play) 
  • Romeo & Juliet by William Shakespere (play) 
  • Hamlet by William Shakespere (play) 
  • She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith (play) 
  • Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake (poetry)
  • A fair few Sherlock Holmes stories (though I can't remember which collection we read)
Those are just the ones that I consider classics (and even then I debate that for the poetry and plays), we also studied works such as 1984 by George Orwell, Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, the Poets Robert Browning and Christina Rossetti, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, and another play that I currently can't remember the name of. I personally don't consider those books classics, though some people would. Other classics I have read include: 
  • Dracula by Bram Stoker (this is one of my favourite books ever!) 
  • Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen 
  • Little Women by Louisa Alcott (I actually used this as my chosen book for a piece of coursework)
  • Good Wives by Louisa Alcott 
  • Jo's Boys by Louisa Alcott 
  • L'Avare by Molière (if we're considering the French playwright in this!) 
  • Alice in Wonderland by Louis Carroll 
  • Alice Through the Looking Glass by Louis Carroll 
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Fellowship of the Ring by J R Tolkein
  • The Picture of Dorien Gray by Oscar Wilde 
  • Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
  • Lolita by Vladamir Nabokov (if you can include Lolita that is!) 
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux
I'm sure there are more. I have also read 3/4 of Les Miserables, but I take that as an achievement considering how big and how boring it was. One day I will finish the last quarter though! 

While I was reading Tales of the Jazz Age I couldn't help but think 'is that it?' I wasn't really impressed by it. It's not the first time, I didn't actually like The Great Gatsby either, so I have now come to the conclusion that it is F Scott Fitzgerald's writing that I don't like. Though I can appreciate the artistry that he uses to create his settings and the magic that that does actually bring. Which kind of makes me think 'yes this is a classic'.  Though at the same time, I probably shouldn't have read it all things considered. 

Don't get me wrong there are some classics I have absolutely loved. Dracula is one of my favourite ever vampire books, I like the darkness that is created by many of the gothic authors, and Dracula is the one that really stood out (as opposed to Frankenstein which I didn't like). If we're counting poems then I also really liked Songs of Innocence and Experience by William Blake, I liked the juxtaposition between the two sections and the imagery he created. Plus the plates he presented his poems on were absolutely stunning! 

Another one that I particularly disliked though was Lord of the Flies, which personally I'd now count as dystopian in genre, though at 14 when I was first introduced to the book I don't think I knew what dystopian was, and it certainly wasn't as wide spread a genre as it was. Being a blogger now has given me a bit of insight into why I didn't like Lord of the Flies though; I think it's because I didn't find any of the characters relateable. Plus let's face it its a bit disturbing really. 

There are a couple that have been a let down as well. In most cases I read a book before watching an adaption, I don't like doing it the other way around (one recent example of me not though is Stardust, which I loved both versions of!) but with two of the classics on the list this isn't the case; The Phantom of the Opera and The Fellowship of the Ring. I went into Phantom knowing that it was going to be weird, and I think in the end I came out of it thinking it was even weirder, and for the record I much prefer the stage show! The Fellowship of the Ring is one that I felt I should read, particularly with the film being so action orientated in a fantasy world, yet I just found it really slow and kind of difficult to get through. 

After consideration I decided that in general my classic reveiws are going to go through Goodreads, mainly because I find I have a lot less to say about them, simply because their writing style is so different from what I'm used to now. I read a lot fewer classics, and part of me is glad that I've challenged myself to read more. 

What about you? Do you read classic books? Do you like them?