Conquering the classics shelf

27 Nov

I somehow managed to grow up in America and yet never read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Likewise, I managed to graduate from college with a degree in English without ever having taken a class on Shakespeare. Shameful, I know. While perusing the classics section at Barnes and Noble, I am astounded at all that I have not read, especially the books that it seems everyone should have read by now, like Alice in Wonderland. Doesn’t every kid read that?

I do not want to read more classics simply because they’re classics. That’s stupid. I read books that I enjoy and that I feel more alive and part of this world after reading. But I’ve found often in books labeled “classic,” ones that are often chosen and taught in literature classes, that there’s some pocket of pure wonder hidden inside, and it’s the reason the book has survived all these years. Perhaps the characters are buried in ridiculous, flowery language, but they are the most wonderful, “I would give anything to meet you” character you have ever encountered in anything you’ve ever read. Or perhaps the descriptions are marvelously precise, but the characters, deathly dull. I guess every book could be like this: eaten chicken wing style, take what you like, leave the rest. But I believe in classics there’s always something excellent guaranteed, one feature that distinguished it from all the rest and destroyed all its competitors, like survival of the fittest.

My house is filled with books. Every room has some. It’s something my mom complains about, always shaking her head when another bookshelf somehow finds its way in. But she won’t get ride of any. That’s what happens in a house full of readers, the books just keep accumulating and everyone secretly loves their presence. Upstairs, in the hallways is a shelf full with classics, and as I looked at them I realized how many I haven’t read. So this is why I am setting out to read many of the classics on that shelf, starting with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I figure I’ll read sprinkle modern books in so as to not lose my appetite, to refresh the palate every now and then. It’s a tad early yet, but perhaps this will be my New Years Resolution: Conquer the classics shelf. So I picked the Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which I began reading yesterday. It’s ironic that its author, Mark Twain, disliked classic books, and his is now included in the cannon of great American literature. Already I love the story like someone might love a puppy. It’s so perfectly wonderful, so playful and mischievous, like the boy version of Anne of Green Gables.

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2 Responses to “Conquering the classics shelf”

  1. Grayquill November 28, 2010 at 7:06 pm #

    Mark Twain hated the classices? okay maybe not hated but didn’t like them all that well? I never knew that.
    I am with you – read because you enjoy it. My rule is – if the author can’t grab and hold me within the first 5 pages, he lost his chance. That sounds a bit arrogant I suppose but it’s the truth.

  2. slippedink November 28, 2010 at 8:25 pm #

    It doesn’t sound arrogant. There’s so many books out there that why bother reading ones you don’t like? Sometimes I’ll keep reading because I feel like maybe it will get better, but not often. Thanks for the comment.

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