In high school, we are often introduced to the watered-down version of several classics. Many of us hated them and wondered why they were considered to be important or great as we muddled through them for a passing grade.
Now, that I am older and wiser, I would tell students that this is a time to simply be introduced to great books. I would remind them that they will taste better as the students age and mature. They can be revisited later.
Over the past few summers, when I’ve had the extra time, I have picked up some of those laborious reads. I remember my mother and sister having this huge struggle over Wuthering Heights. My sister hated it and my mother was trying to get her to get through it so she could pass. As a child, I thought, “This must be the worst book ever!” And when I did read it? (As an adult, of course.) I loved it! It is one of the greatest love stories ever told along with its twisting and winding parts.
The website, Goodreads, asks its members, “What are you currently reading?” Well, right now, I have just started Babbitt for which Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize in Literature. His choice of words and colorful descriptions are keeping me engaged. Also, it is not ridiculously long and I am enjoying his artistic form which is sprinkled with bits of wit and humor.
I finished A Room with a View by E.M. Forster earlier this week. The pace was quite slow, but I felt as if I was walking along with Lucy and her traveling party when they were visiting Florence and Rome. A lot of the plot centers around a stolen kiss, which must have been a big deal back then and it caused quite an uproar to those who knew about it. Yet, it did help Lucy in choosing the right mate when she dropped Cecil and added George to the equation. Outside of the plot itself, I also looked at Forster’s simplistic writing style and his method of storytelling.
In the last few years, I have caught up on these classics: All Quiet on the Western Front (Remarque); Anna Karenina (Tolstoy); Dr. Zhivago (Pasternak); Les Miserables (Hugo) and spent one entire summer reading Hemingway. That included The Sun Also Rises; Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls. I traveled from the WWI battlefield to the streets of St. Petersburg to snowy Russia to the French landscape on to hanging out with the partying Roaring 20’s expatriates and the running of the bulls in Spain.
Each of these timeless novels has revealed so much about life. They have shown the universality of all people. I could see more deeply into the situations that the writers shared because I had more life experiences. The plots were memorable but I also noted all of the unique writing styles. These have helped me to further develop as a writer. I am happy that I had the time to take an adult look and recognize why these books are considered to be great.
August 21, 2015