A classic challenge
Are you perhaps acquainted with William, Emily, Jane, George, Henry, Louisa and Charles? No - I have not confused the names of the Von Trapp children or Enid Blyton’s Secret 7. I am referring to the names of some of literature’s most well known and classic authors; William Shakespeare, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen (my personal favourite), George Orwell (I have yet to read), Henry James, Louisa May Alcott and Charles Dickens.
Even if you haven't read any of these authors - I am assured you would be able to list some of their titles. That is how influential their stories are. Everyone is acquainted with them.
′A Classic - a book which people praise and don't read.’ [Mark Twain]
I am ‘afeared’ (classic literature lingo) that many do not appreciate the long paragraphs, excellent turns of phrase, far-removed contexts and well-crafted societal commentary that make these stories what they are.
One cannot, however, deny or disregard the influence classical literature has had, the role it has played, or the historical insight it offers. Some classical novels trigger a longing for idyllic bygone times and the winsome rules of social etiquette, while others make us appreciate how the world has moved on from narrow-minded stigmas and prejudiced thinking.
So when it comes to the classics - how do you get someone to appreciate what should be appreciated?
Here are 2 suggestions:
The revival of classical fiction through the medium of film and movie series is a wonderful and opportunistic way of re-introducing these stories and their themes into our modern age - delightfully affecting captive audiences.
You might be surprised how many movie-goers, after watching Emma Watson, Hugh Grant or Keira Knightly in period costume, will rush to a second-hand bookshop to find a vintage version of these classics - perhaps not to read, but merely to add to their bookshelves or coffee tables. That is the power of the classic.
If you are granted the opportunity to travel across the waters, take the opportunity to pencil in the villages and towns of classical authors as part of your itinerary. There is nothing more enjoyable and inspiring than stepping back in time, into their worlds, to appreciate their talent, lifestyles, challenges, and the times in which they lived and wrote.
If you are in Bath in the UK, spoil yourself with a visit to the Jane Austen centre, or include the village of Chawton, and wander through her home. Pop into William Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon, or Agatha Christie’s home in Greenway, Devon. Go off the beaten track and let these worlds of classical authors come alive.
Here’s my classic challenge...
The movie adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel, ‘Little Women,’ will be hitting the South African movie theatres on the 21st February, 2020. We can’t wait!
That means you have 1 month to ‘beg, borrow or steal’ (or buy) a copy of Little Women to read (or re-read) before the movie is released. Challenge a friend to do the same and get them to challenge a friend. Then, go ahead and buy the movie ticket and a box of popcorn, and immerse yourself in the visually beautiful world of classic literature.
You will not be disappointed (either by the book or the movie) - because a classic will never disappoint - no matter how you choose to enjoy it.
Karen Swallow Prior’s excellent blog: How ‘Little Women’ re-reads the original novel, is also definitely worth a read.
For now, I leave you with Spencer Baum’s perspective on the reading of classic literature: ‘You should read the classics to unlearn the shallowness and impatience you are learning in your hyper-accelerated 21st century life.’
See you at the movies (or the second-hand bookshop)!