Friday, 26 November 2010
However, in most cases, our first encounter with these beloved books is during English Literature class - we pick over every word, analyze them to death, write essays ad infinitum on the character motivations and WHY the author used that particular word at that point.
And the classics are thereafter pretty much destroyed for you. That first experience often colours your desire to read anything else deemed to be a "classic".
I've read woefully few classics. I'm yet to read anything by Austen OR the Bronte sisters, can you believe? I haven't read Wuthering Heights or Crime and Punishment or any book by Charles Dickens. It is a huge gap in my reading.
The two novels particularly ruined for me were Tess of the d'Urbervilles and A Handmaid's Tale.
I was interested in whether other people had the same experiences as I, and asked Twitter which novels had been destroyed for them. Here are a selection of the replies:
@Laughablefellow - A-Level ruined A Handmaid's Tale for me - picking over its corpse for 6 months!
@benhunt - All of Hardy. It was The Woodlanders specifically but since then I can't bear any Hardy.
@Pallekenl - Not so much destroyed as squeezed dry: Pride and Prejudice. I loved that book, must have read ten times. And after writing an essay on it I just never could read it for pleasure anymore. Kept analyzing.
@Danacea - Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". Was like wading through swampy treacle. Blech!!
@JonCG_novelist - A Level English utterly destroyed Hardy, G Elliott and Chaucer. Shakespeare survived, just...
@sfbook - Animal Farm, I still shudder when that book (or even the author's name) is mentioned.
@ghostfinder - School totally destroyed Shakespeare for me. Utterly loathe anything to do with it now.
@trukkle - Of Mice and Men, Lord of the Flies, Shakespeare. Many poems I thankfully can't remember right now were ruined forever too.
What are your experiences with the classics? Do you love them? Loathe them? Are you disgusted at the gaps in my reading? If you were to nominate just one classic I should read, which would it be?