Saturday, November 10, 2012
November Meme: Intimidating Classics
Today I'm going to answer the November meme question from The Classics Club:
What classic piece of literature intimidates you, and why? (Or, are you intimidated by the classics, and why? And has your view changed at all since you joined our club?)
Oh, dear. There are really quite a few classics that intimidate me.
First of all, War and Peace. I know that's on basically everyone's list of intimidating classics, which might be why it intimidates me. It's not so much the length that's frightening; it's Tolstoy. I don't have a great history with Russian literature. I ended up putting down both Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina after getting a good way through them (although the main reason was time constraints, not so much boredom). I'm not sure at all how I'll fare with War and Peace.
Second, The Divine Comedy. I know next to nothing about it, honestly, and there is just nothing that interests me about it. I'll read it someday. But who knows when that day is...
Third, pretty much anything from the modernists. I'm just starting the modernism unit in my British Literary History class, so I can't really escape it now. I'm excited and intimidated at the same time. Mrs Dalloway is sitting on my bookshelf, waiting to be picked up and read, but I'm afraid I won't like it... I mean, I have read some modernist classics, of course, but I feel far from any understanding of the period.
What books intimidate you?
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I should have put Virginia Woolf on my scary list! I'm not a big modernist person anyway (I actually do like the Divine Comedy, not that I understand it or anything), and Woolf was such a snob that I'm prejudiced. Yep, I should read one of her books...I hope you like Mrs. Dalloway!ReplyDelete
Everybody seems to love Virginia Woolf, but I agree that she seems a bit snobbish. But she WAS a literary critic, so I guess it was her job to be a snob...? Ha, ha.Delete
And as far as understanding books...I think that if we're able to enjoy a classic, we've already come to a much better understanding of it than someone who hates it. (That's the way I like to look at it, anyway...I guess I need something to validate my reading the classics...)
Who needs validation? Read them because you want to! :) But you're right, enjoyment is a big part of understanding. (I guess it can be the other way round, too. I just read the first couple of chapters of A Clockwork Orange to see what it's like. I understood it just fine, but enjoy it I did not, what with all that violence, so I think it's going to disappear from my Classics Club list.)ReplyDelete
Woolf was an awful snob. Just look at her horror over "middle-brow" things, which is just her way of saying "anyone who isn't upper-class trying to educate themselves, as if those silly proles have any business reading." I suppose they all were, but ick.
I'm sort of on the fence about Woolf and her snobbery. I actually just read "Mr. Bennett and Mrs. Brown" by her and I have to admit that's not the impression I got at all. To me it seemed like she was saying that anyone, really, can and should be a literary critic because we can all accurately judge whether an author has truly captured human nature. Have you read that essay? I'd be interested to know what you think of it. She did pass a lot of harsh judgment on classic authors, from what I hear.Delete
In any case, this has revealed to me how desperately I need to read Virginia Woolf--both her fiction and her criticism. This is really just my amateur opinion (at this point, I'm not even sure I ought to have an opinion at all yet).
I have not read that work, so I guess I'd better! Really, I am terrible at moderns and (also) have no business having opinions about them. E. M. Forster is the only one I can claim to know anything about.Delete
I may put off a Classic because of the length and so War and Peace might be daunting after all.ReplyDelete
There are a lot of scary things about War and Peace, but a lot of people really love it. One of these days I'll have to just take a deep breath and take the plunge!Delete
War and Peace is one of my favorite books! I didn't like Anna Karenina that much, although I do love Tolstoy's writing in general. I just fell in love with the characters in W&P. However, I'm a big fan of Russian literature in general, because I'm interested in 1800s Russian culture and know a bit of the language.ReplyDelete
I'd like to make more of a study of Russian literature someday. I think understanding the history of the country and culture would probably help me out a lot.Delete
It is quite fascinating. At the risk of sounding stupid and obvious, I find Russian literature so uniquely Russian. There's just something very particular about the Russians that I can't quite put my finger on, the only way to describe it is Russian! Can't wait to hear what you think about War & Peace!Delete