Friday, 5 June 2020

Paperback's Pondering's: Why I Hate Classics


Before I begin my rant, I would just like to call attention to something that has been happening in the world as of late:

As pretty much all of you know, across the world people are fighting with Black people to put an end to police brutality and racism. So, even though I will be going on a humorous rant about my hatred towards classics, I did want to highlight some amazing books by Black authors, that I would be proud to call classics in the future:

The Hate U Give by: Angie Thomas: harrowing novel about police brutality
Nervous Conditions by: Tsitsi Dangarembga: the experiences of a young girl growing up in colonial Zimbabwe
Homegoing by: Yaa Gyasi: chronicles the life of a Ghanaian family from the 18th century to present day.
Let's Talk About Love by: Claire Kann: fluffy contemporary with an asexual lead.

I guess for a lot of people "hate" is a strong word. But, I can't deny that I pretty much hate classics. I have been talking about this a lot with many people recently, so I figured I should get a post out and fully discuss my gripe with classic novels. Also I'm really sorry if my language is kinda harsh in this, but it's all in good fun! If you like classic novels, then honestly I really envy you. I just can't get into them, ok?!

Also sidenote, I define classic as a book published before the 1950's, because The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton was published in the 60's and it is easily one of the best books I have ever read. But, I consider it to be too modern for my definition of a classic.

If you've ever been in an English class, then chances are you've had to read a classic before. I have had to explore the likes of Pride and Prejudice, Paradise Lost, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and countless others. The thing is though, I really didn't enjoy any of them!

If you follow me on Goodreads then you may see that I tend to rate classics way lower than other books. And even if a book is higher rated, I usually say it's "good for being a classic." Truth be told, I honestly just find classics to be the most boring things you could read. The characters are dull, lifeless, often not diverse at all, and the plots are overly complicated and not easy to understand. If I have to read a sentence over and over again to decipher what it means, then reading becomes a chore. And I never want reading to be a chore.

The truth is, I don't think I have ever read a classic where I have fully understood the story and I haven't skim-read. Most of the time I have to google the plot beforehand to actually understand what is going on in plain English, and then I will skim the story. I have to be totally familiar with the complete plot of a classic before going in, otherwise there is no way I will comprehend anything that is going on.

I find classics tedious and uninspiring. There is often an absence of action that I like, and because the characters all talk in ways we don't, I just end up finding them pretentious. I was in a class last year where the professor was an Austen scholar, and she and the other students would talk for hours about how dreamy Mr. Darcy is. I just kept thinking: how do you guys find him even remotely interesting? Have you READ Crazy Rich Asians?! Nick Young, now there's a heartthrob.

Like I said, this isn't to bash anyone who likes classics. I understand that they hold a lot of significance in the world of writing, and they have stood the test of time for a reason. If I could sit down and truly be engrossed in Little Women, I totally would! I often feel left out of the conversation when everyone around me is gushing about classics. But alas, my mind is just not built for them. Maybe it's my attention span, maybe it's because I just haven't found the right one yet. I figured it was time to rant because some of us just aren't built for classics. And that's ok! I can say Pride and Prejudice sucked. The world won't end.

So I want to know, what is your opinion on classics? Do you have a vendetta against them like I do? Or, what are you favourite classics? I'm willing to chat!

Emily @ Paperback Princess

16 comments:

  1. This was so interesting to read! I wouldn't say I love or hate classics, like with modern book, it really depends on the book for me. I loved Pride and Prejudice, but then Northanger Abbey and Persuasion were massively disappointing. Everyone was raving about Little Women, even people who don't love classics, and I was excited... but it's one of my least favorite novels this year. (The movie was meh too, imo, so I think it's the story itself, not just the book, that I can't get into.) I do, however, love Dickens, Shakespeare or Daphne du Maurier, as well as many other authors and titles.

    I feel like we hold up classics as these massively great books, and a lot of the times the narrative is that if you don't enjoy one, you didn't read it right, which is ridiculous. I understand that something may have been an important and innovative piece of literature at its time, but I'm not sure why that means we have to enjoy it. On a side note, nearly all classics I read for school (before uni, I mean, for uni we read lots of great books) were horrible, with the exception of Doll's House by Ibsen. It felt like the teachers were choosing the most irrelevant books possible, which obviously won't make kids and teens interested in learning. *sighs*

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    1. I definitely agree that we hold classics to such a high regard! With a modern book, if you don't like it, people just accept it. With classics, people always try to provide an excuse as to why a novel didn't work. Why can't a classic just suck? Lol.

      I enjoyed the movie Little Women to a certain extent. It was cute and fluffy. But I think Great Gerwig needs to expand her casting horizons a bit more. All of her movies are quite un-diverse, and so I want more from her in terms of intersectionality.

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  2. I have to admit that I love classics (not Jane Austen though - unless it's the zombie version!)

    I think that people don't take classics in the spirit they were meant to embody. Dickens was a best-seller, and radical. Yes! Dickens = radical.

    Because he talked about people who the literate classes thought shouldn't be talked about - street children, exploited workers, criminals, sex workers.

    Yes, a lot of his stuff is problematic, and involves stereotypes and language which aren't OK - but were considered OK in the 18-whatevers (doesn't make it OK, but makes it understandable; Dickens was a product of the society he lived in,) - but talking about the poor - as people! - was revolutionary. And a lot of people *hated* it!

    Meanwhile, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker were trying to give the Queer folks what they wanted without getting themselves arrested ;) - which unfortunately didn't work out so well for Wilde.

    Classics get hijacked by the establishment. And yes, some of them were always establishment. But today's establishment were yesterday's renegades. Maybe today's renegades will be tomorrow's establishment ;) <3

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    1. I really loved this comment, Cee! Forgive my ignorance about Dickens, but I have honestly never read anything by him so I had no idea he was so radical. But I think that's awesome :)

      I definitely agree that it is understandable why some language is the way that it is. Unfortunately like you said, a lot of these progressive authors who were trying to make change were also products of environments that tried to tear them down. I have such respect for Oscar Wilde, despite me skim-reading Dorian Gray. Sorry, Oscar.

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    2. Dickens made it his job to put uncomfortable truths in front of people who could actually do something about it - which they didn't always like. That's why some of his books lay things on so thickly - in order to get well-off people to care, he had to hit them over the head with the truth.

      I rec. A Christmas Carol - it's shorter than a lot of his books so doesn't have chance to go off on one so much! :)

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  3. I have a very weird situation because I actually loved classics when I was a teenager. I had to read a SLEW of them in my high school English classes, and I remember really enjoying them and actually reading extras for fun. Maybe it was because I had really good teachers who made discussions engaging?

    But the weird part is, I don't really like classics anymore. Any time I've tried to read one as an adult, I get bored or I find it fine but not amazing (that was P&P for me) or just ... there. I can't quite figure out why the classics appealed to me so much more when I was younger but just don't anymore. Guess I've gotten less refined in my old age. LOL!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

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    1. Haha, that's really interesting! I always hated classics. Oddly enough, I had to read more of them in school in university than in high school. But I have just never been able to connect with them. I guess it's good that you had some enjoyment for them when you actually had to study them!

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  4. It takes guts to say you hate classics haha. I can't even say I hate them, because it's been so long since I read one, and my relationship with books has changed through the years, so 1) I can hardly remember if I did like some back then and 2) I'm sure I would have issues with them now. I can't even read adult fiction these days (except some quirky sci-fi and such), because I don't enjoy reading about stuff like sex, romance, family or work - I want adventure and magic from my books!

    E.g.: I remember reading and liking The Mill on the Floss, but now I'm not sure if the main character was supposed to be a heroine or the epitome of a fallen woman. It should be the first of course, and I'm sure the book is supposed to criticise women's condition in the second half of 1800, but damn - I wanted her to WIN somehow in the end.

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    1. I definitely agree that bookish opinions change overtime! I really enjoy re-reading old favourites to see how I perceive them nowadays. No shame in changing an opinion! I'm glad you think I have guts, lol. Just a little tired of being left out of classics related conversations I guess!

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  5. I do enjoy classics, but you're right, I tend to skim-read classics and I always need to read a Sparknotes version before I can fully understand it. I do enjoy it after I understand though - I liked The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (though I never finished Picture of Dorian Gray).

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    1. Sparknotes is my lifesaver lol! I did have to read The Importance of Being Earnest as well, but like the rest of them, I didn't really get it.

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  6. Interesting blog post. I like unpopular opinions! I really enjoyed all of the classic novels I was forced to read in high school (#nerd) 😅 I can't say that I love or hate classics on a whole. Some I like, and some I don't — it really depends on if I'm interested in the story and if I like the writing.

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    1. Thanks Lectrice! I wouldn't call you a nerd for enjoying classics in high school haha! I admired anyone who was able to understand any of the books I had to read in high school. I guess I'm just a modern soul.

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  7. As someone who is actively still reading classics, I cannot say that I hate them. But, I find more and more people who do. And up to a point it is understandable. The language is far off from what we speak today and yes, the stories sometimes get confusing. The characters overreact about things that today we'd laugh about.

    But, you've mentioned Pride and Prejudice. I love this book (even though it's not my favourite Jane Austen one). I keep bumping into characters in modern fiction that are based on Darcy. I will agree with you that I cringe every time I hear someone talking about how dreamy Mr.Darcy is. What makes him compelling in the first place is that he also has flaws.

    Setting aside Pride and Prejudice, there are so many things to discover. For example, E.M. Forster has one of the easiest writing styles I've ever read. You can find traces of feminism on Jane Eyre. Kafka's books are filled with sarcasm and the paradox of life. When I try to find inspiration for the things I'm writing, I'm picking up a classic 7 times out of 10.

    Of course, everything is about taste. Even though I like classics, there are plenty of them that I didn't like (Wuthering Heights, and As I lay Dying) and even one I didn't finish, which is odd for me. Anyway, great post :)

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    1. Thanks for sharing your insights, Konna! I can definitely see the impact that Pride and Prejudice alone has made onto modern literature. There are so many retellings out there!

      I think for me, if I can't understand it, then the theme is just lost on me. I'm happy to hear that E.M. Forster has an easy writing style!

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