The Classics Club: October Meme Question #3 is — Why are you reading the classics?
I’m reading the classics for sheer, unadulterated preference, pleasure, and delight. The classics are what I gravitate toward naturally. For me, a guilty pleasure is rereading David Copperfield or Jane Eyre. When my well-meaning aunt or a coworker lend me one of those hot books that everyone is reading, they usually bore me (or make me feel like I’ve been eating potato chips. A few are nice, but they certainly don’t satisfy my appetite).
I’ve always been this way. Remember those summer reading lists from school when you were a kid? Yep, I’d happily devour all the books then read them again for good measure. My mother didn’t know what do to with me, so she would buy me the thickest books she could find. I read War and Peace, Don Quixote, and Anna Karenina this way! I didn’t understand any more than the plot (and I blame my mispronunciation of so many words on reading them and never actually hearing them until years later!) but they fascinated me. These big, ambitious, human nature and beauty and horror encompassing novels set my tastes for life.
I have this very clear memory of reading Romeo and Juliet in 5th grade, and falling in love with the play and the language. That Christmas Eve I spent at my great aunt’s, and I spied the Zeffirelli film being shown on television. Most kids would be stuffing themselves silly and awaiting their presents, but I creeped away to her bedroom to watch Romeo and Juliette by myself! Everyone was like, “Where is Jacqueline?!?!” (You would have thought my experience with Shakespeare in 4th grade might have put me off — we performed Julius Caesar and I was Caesar’s wife. I tripped, and both Caesar and I smashed to the ground in a tangle of bed sheet togas! I still loved the play, but it made me never want to get on stage again!)
I also remember being thrilled with the classic novels we had to read in high school (The Scarlet Letter made a big impression on me) and I am still that girl who did her senior project on Sylvia Plath. I can picture myself in the grandeur of the Philadelphia Free Library’s Central Branch and feeling like lightning bolts were coursing through my body when I first read Daddy, standing in the stacks (Sylvia, I still feel like lightning bolts are coursing through my body when I read Daddy).
It’s no surprise that I became an English Major in college (I already told that story). My first job out of college was working in circulation at the Scott Memorial Library, in the evenings (4-midnight). Despite it being a medical library, it had an amazing general collection. It was like I went to college two more times in those eight years (and I got to set my own curriculum!). I literally had thousands of Great Books (and some very cushy reading chairs) at my fingertips. I used to love when all of our shelving work was done by 10pm and we’d have a good two hours to read before closing, with everything quiet and still.
…and so it has remained. Reading the Classics is just…what I like! I don’t have to force myself, or do it to improve myself, or anything of that sort. It’s just like…wearing dresses! …and adoring my cat! …and drinking tea! …and making my own stuff! A preference, pleasure, and delight.