It's been a while since I've done a meme from The Classics Club. Why, you ask? Um...I plead the fifth.
Do you read forewords/notes that precede many classics? Does it help you or hurt you in your understanding/enjoyment of the work?
When I was younger, I felt a strange obligation to read forewords and introductions. I'm not sure why. I guess I felt like if I didn't read them, then I didn't really read the book. Nowadays, I usually skip the forewords, notes, introductions, etc...anything that wasn't written by the author him/herself.
The main reason I skip them is because they're often boring. I'll admit it. Especially if I haven't read the book yet. I honestly don't think those things are written for new readers to the book (which begs the question, why do they put them before the content instead of after?). I rarely care about the author's life or the themes in the book until I've actually read the work.
But I have another, better reason for not reading forewords: They usually try to lay down the law for what the book means. If I read someone else's opinion before reading the work, it will always color my own reading. Even if I disagree, I'll be forever disagreeing whenever I think about the book. (For instance, I can't think of Wuthering Heights without thinking about my disagreement with all the people who say that it's a story about redeeming love. I just can't.) I prefer to go into a classic without an interpretation all laid out for me.