20th August 2020
Why I Don’t Read Classics
Yup that’s the title of this blog post, it’s the truth and I’m not alone in thinking it. I simply hate reading classics! It’s possible that you, dear reader, are nodding along. Many readers may agree with the sentiment. I for one, simply don’t understand how others can proclaim that classic literature is enjoyable, that you would voluntarily want to read them. But why do we feel this way? What aspects of the genre have alienated such a substantial group of people? I think it’s expectations. Yes, those great expectations (sorry I couldn’t resist a cheeky pun).
When I first started trying to read pieces of classical literature, I guess I hadn’t put too much thought into how different they were. I was naive in thinking they were going to be like any other book I had on my shelf. Sure the time period and setting was going to be in contrast to our society today, but I’ve read plenty of historical fiction – how different could it be? The answer is very. You see the problem isn’t that the time and place are foreign, or even that the dilemmas faced by characters are nowhere near related to the struggles you and I face, the problem is the writing itself…
In today’s society we’re accustomed to films and tv shows which place an emphasis on plot, dialogue and action – preferences which have altered our reading tastes as well. But classical literature is more about the actual writing itself, those fancy similes and profound metaphors. As a writer, I can appreciate the work, but as a reader, I just wish I had known what I was getting myself into.
I wish someone had told me an entire chapter in A Tale of Two Cities was going to be dedicated to describing a field of grass. It was a little dry for my taste if I’m being honest.
Or maybe if someone had just warned me that The Hunchback of Notre Dame was basically an architecture textbook. Maybe if I had adjusted my expectations beforehand, I wouldn’t have felt like these household names just missed the mark.
But it isn’t only our own personal expectations that shape our experience with classical literature. When the entire world oohs and aahs over how amazing Shakespeare is, no one wants to be that one person who says otherwise. So, I’ll say it – I’ve read Romeo & Juliet, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Macbeth – I didn’t like any of them! The movies were great and the ballets are fantastic but I just… don’t enjoy reading them. But maybe that’s OK, because they were intended as theatre anyway. Perhaps if more people were honest about not liking classical literature, then we wouldn’t feel like there is an expectation we have to and it wouldn’t feel like such a chore trying to get past the first page.
The reality is that all readers are different; some people enjoy Fifty Shades of Grey, other people enjoy To Kill a Mockingbird.
Realistically, not everyone is going to like the classics and that is perfectly okay.
So if you are one of those people who avoids the classics like I avoid avocado (yes I know, I’m basically a fake millennial) then I have the perfect solution for you. Thankfully for us, there are plenty of authors who take classical stories and reinvent them, creating relatable and more palatable novels in the spirit of the original. So why not give these a try instead! Remember – you should never be ashamed of your reading tastes!
Modern Recommendations and the classics that inspired them
- The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski [HAMLET]
- Emma by Alexander McCall Smith [EMMA]
- The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White [FRANKENSTEIN]
- No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige [WIZARD OF OZ]
- Cinder by Marissa Meyer [CINDERELLA]
- Alice in Zombieland by Gena Showalter [ALICE IN WONDERLAND]
- A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer [BEAUTY AND THE BEAST]
- Catherine by April Lindner [WUTHERING HEIGHTS]
- A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley [KING LEAR]
- Going Bovine by Libba Bray [DON QUIXOTE]