Cuckoo For Classics

Is it that unusual to see somebody reading classic literature these days? I mean without having it forced on them by a teacher or professor? The classics are classics for a reason. Because they have been enjoyed by so many people across decades or centuries or even millennia.

I was at a physical therapy session one afternoon about a year ago, and I brought a book with me to read while I was having the heat and electroshock treatment on my back. So I’m laying there reading (the book was A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway), and the therapist comes in and says, “Oh you must be in college.” I say, “No why?” And she gestures at my book and says, “I figured it must be a school assignment. His writing is so boring.”

Ok, so, ignoring the fact that my taste in books was just insulted, lets look at the fact that a person would think its odd that I would choose to read this book. A classic work is valuable, not only as a work of literature, but as a snapshot of the time in which it was written. You can learn a lot about an era by its books and its authors. A Moveable Feast is interesting as a book, but it also gives you an intimate look into the art and literary community in 1920’s Paris, and the expatriate writers who lived there. A time and place which, by the way, I would love to get ahold of a time machine and move to. As long as I can live in a house with electricity. And a toilet. And a bathtub. With hot water. Would wi-fi be asking too much?

But I do love my classics. I have a fairly good-sized collection of classics with authors ranging from Louisa May Alcott to Edgar Allan Poe to the Marquis de Sade. On my shelves you will find Peter Pan and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, Dracula and Frankenstein, Delta of Venus and The Story of O.

I’m also constantly floored by the number of people I run into that haven’t even heard of many of the classic authors. There are actually people who exist in the world who are unfamiliar with the names Melville, Brönte, Milton, Woolf, Dumas, Hawthorne. People who see me reading The Fountainhead while I’m waiting for my shift to start and tell me they’ve never heard of it. People who think Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a completely original work. People who think Dante’s Inferno is just a video game (that I totally want to play). And I’m not talking about immigrants from third world countries, I’m talking about Americans. Grown-up ones.

Interesting fact: If you type Dante’s Inferno into a search engine you will get more websites about the game then about the book. The games sites will even be listed ahead of the book sites. What does that tell you? (Other then that the game is probly really cool.)

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3 responses

  1. I am an Indian and I grew up on the classics .My dad, who is an avid reader himself and taught English lit, would buy me all the abridged versions when I was in school and I grew in love with them, be it Jane Austen, Dickens, Thomas Hardy, the Bronte sisters, -the list is endless! I think the decline in reading books and particularly classics is more of a generational thing rather than a difference in where you come from- we are probably more of an ‘acquired-internet generation’ , the last of the book generations whereas kids today are more ‘born-with-the-internet’ generation and even whatever reading they do has switched from hard copies to the kindle/ipad and the likes- I for one like nothing better than unwinding with a hot cup of tea, my feet under a warm blanket and reading a ‘book’ ..I never enjoy it as much if i am reading a long-ish piece of writing like a book online..it just isn;t the same as a good ol’ book 🙂

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