Classics - To read or not to read!!!!!
Shalini from Shalzmojo blog and I love to talk about Travel and Books on my blog. I am delighted to be here and hope you will bear with me as I mull over this reading choice of mine.
I began reading books at quite an early age, much to my mother’s delight who nurtured my interest painstakingly over the years. One day she handed me a set of 12 hardbound books declaring that I was now ready for the Classics. I was quite taken by them as never before had I gotten so many books in one go. I was 12 years old at that time.
I wondered at what are Classics?
What is so special about them?
The reverence in my Mom’s voice as she pronounced the word was such that I was quite sure these were hallowed books that I was now the proud owner of.
I began my reading with Black Beauty by Anna Sewell as the blurb called out to me. And I was hooked through Little Women, Heidi, Alice in Wonderland, around the world in 80 days, Gulliver’s travels, Grimm’s fairy tales, Huckleberry Finn, and Treasure Island. Then I struggled through Ivanhoe, Three Musketeers and Kidnapped, till I ended up abandoning them. And they lay abandoned for quite a while as I shied away from more classics for quite a few years.
It was when I watched the movie Jane Austen Book Club that a lust for one such club near to me was born. The comparison of their lives vis-à-vis the Classics the protagonists were reading; was just brilliant. This was 2007 and suddenly all I wanted to read was Classics. I perused through some 50 of them in next few years, including some Shakespearean plays too. So it took me 20 years of reading other stuff before latching onto the classics.
To my joy, I discovered timelessness in the Classics. Don’t get me wrong – they are all books written a good 100 years ago and were quite ancient in traditions, language, thoughts and philosophies as expressed in them.
I found I was not bored by the dated language. On the contrary I thoroughly enjoyed the gentlemanly handling of the English language as it flowered and blossomed on each page. I found them to be quaint literary art and could relate to the themes of love, death, honour, life and faith – these are the more commonly recurring ones.
Shakespearean plays are the perfect literary examples of this era and are treasured to date for their language and themes. They are subscribed not just in school texts but so many of them have been turned into brilliant movie adaptations, world over.
Moby Dick and Black Beauty delved into the animal psyche and made them the hero in a human world. Love and honour reigned supreme in these two tales for me.
Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn were my childhood idols as I sympathised in part and cheered in part at their bravado. Destiny and luck can play such an important role in one’s life so as to turn the world literally on its head. I was very fascinated by these boys and have loved their writers for creating them with such love.
The fantasy that men yearned for is evident in many of the fantastic travel tales that were spun out by Jules Verne. My favourite is around the world in 80 days though 20,000 leagues beneath the sea is an eye opener too. The imagination of the writer is to be applauded at; for without stepping into any of those experiences, he has crafted tales of ingenuity and marvels. And here I must mention Alice in Wonderland for it’s a superbly woven tale of fantastical wonders and thrills.
Oh I did find some of them to be stiflingly archaic and fumed on the behalf of the heroine who had to endure it all. Even while some (seemingly) broke the mould; only to go back to it by choice – this baffled and tortured the feminist in me to the core. So many of the heroines chaffed at their feminine bond, yearning to be born as men to do as they pleased; yet it wasn’t to be.
The concept of hearth and home is shoved down the literary gullet of the readers where it’s the woman’s duty to ensure the family is taken care of. Oh yes! This bit was the dreariest for me to digest and I rooted for the ones who tried to be different like Jo in Little Women or Lizzy in Pride and Prejudice.
Don’t get me wrong! I am not saying it was a bigoted misogynistic world out there. It was a world still discovering many other worlds within it. Human consciousness fought such oppressions even though many were burnt at the stake for it.
Some were thought to be heretics and lunatics for the kind of texts they presented which seemed to challenge the Church. I think I would put Dracula in that category though the writer handled the topic with great reverence. Or maybe Time Machine which was far far ahead of its times too, yet today it’s read with gusto.
There is great literary magic in the Classics and for everyone who loves to read. The vantage point of telling the tale may not be in sync with the world today; either in substance or pace. But the charm of that age – whether in the architecture, language, fashion, courtship – is timeless.
I may not be able to imagine myself living in those times or even relate to the heroines and their meek, weak and chauvinistic heroes. But it does make me realise that my freedom of speech, to choose my lifestyle and to be financially independent didn’t materialise in one day. These heroines were the front runners to champion this cause and to read about it; is my biggest take away from the Classics.
Do you have a favourite Classic book that you treasure to date? What do you think you love most about them?
An interior designer by profession, writing is a passion which coupled with travel love blossomed into this blog where I love to just “do my thing”! Be it recipes, food events, travel jaunts, fiction dreaming or even meditative musings; all of it’s taken up quite passionately on my blog. I am a serious wine guzzler and love to chase butterflies in my free time.
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Note from J:
There's a Classic Books reading challenge.
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