Thursday, June 3, 2010

Classics or bore?

As I grow older I have tried to expand my horizons as much as possible. Things from the past that I had neither the time nor interest in seem to hold a new allure. Sainted Mother had in her collection an incomplete set of books titled 'Collectors Club'. They are reworks or translations of classic literature. (Obviously, something no self-respecting thirteen year old would be caught dead reading.) In her own hand the earliest date I have seen inscribed on the inside cover is circa 1942. There's something about just seeing her handwriting that makes me smile.

I have begun to read the books of her collection. I started about two years ago, reading one of these, then moving to a contemporary book, then returning to one of these works. To date I have read five in total with one that will likely not be finished.

The works completed are: The Iliad and The Odyssey, both by Homer; Two Years Before the Mast by Dana; Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe and lastly, Essays and New Atlantis by Francis Bacon. The allure of Iliad and Odyssey are easy to understand as they both hearken back to adventure and my days as a youth. As a youngster I always had trouble remembering what gods were whom and were they Greek or Roman. These gave me a better understanding of their history. (No quizzes allowed to see what I retained). The third was Two Years Before the Mast. I had never heard of it and was intrigued simply by the title. It is a seafaring adventure set in the New World and life aboard a sailing ship. I tackled Robinson Crusoe to see how the work translated to the movies I had seen growing up. These four were insightful to some extent though the style in which they are written is difficult to read as modern writing is in the current vernacular and style. Reading too quickly will inevitably cause one to go back and reread. Essays and New Atlantis was more difficult as the translation was plodding and structure hard to follow. However, I managed my way through and would see the insights the author was working to espouse though much does not translate to modern life although some kernels of truth remain. Lastly, I have tried to get through Poems and Paradise Lost by Milton. I believe I will be giving up on this as it is about as boring a book as I have ever read and I am convinced I will gain nothing from it.

I have decided that most of these works are not worth the time of the average reader. The Iliad and Odyssey are often taught in school because they are classics. If you want to hold the students attentions I would rather have them read something contemporary. You won't learn anything from something that bores you to tears. It won't make you think which is the reason you are in school to begin with. Classic works should be left for college English majors and other scholarly pursuits. If one wants to read them later in life, as I, let them do it at their own leisure.

One last attempt I will be making is a work titled Old Goriot by Honore De Balzac. I had never heard of either the title or author. So far the first ten pages have promise. I'll let you know.


  1. I love classic novels. I have a small colection started. They are often more difficult to read, but I'm facinated by the pollitical and social issues that were important in the time periods the books were written.

  2. That is a keen insight. Many of the political intrigue and social issues are the same ones we face today. We haven't come as far as we think we have.