We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
I liked that essay. I have re-read classics throughout my life and never failed to be re-impressed by the writing, and grateful to be able to appreciate them better as my own years advance.
I read my first grownup book when I was about 8, taken from the bookshelves of a rented beach house during a rainy week. "The Wreck of the Mary Deere", by Hammond Innes. It opened the vast, boundless chamber of the imagination for me. From then on, I was hooked on reading.
I certainly read plenty of them in my younger days but wouldn't even consider doing so again. Dickens was certainly a good writer but the style back then was so long-winded and stilted that it's almost impossible to stick with it. Right now I'm reading Incidents of Travel in Yucatan, Vols. I and II which is a great adventure on a subject I'm really interested in but it's still a slog in places due to the style.
Like most people who went through school when it meant something, I was forced to read several of the classics as part of the curriculum and answer all kinds of questions which made them anything but enjoyable. Then, later when I was in my late twenties, I happened to pick one to read and found it quite a different and enjoyable experience. (I didn't have to answer any questions about it). Then I decided to see if the others that had been so boring to me as a teenage student were maybe quite good as well. They were.
I too read many of the classics in school but I continued to read them picking and choosing after I finished school.
There used to be a culture or clique or "class" of people who were well read. They could quote famous authors and talk in depth about the plot and characters. You couldn't fake it, either you had read the popular classics or you had not and you wore it with pride, a tweed sports jacket helped too. But that is not as true today. The majority of people you are likely to meet have not read the classics and will give you a blank stare when you throw out your best quote; it's like a tale of two cultures. And now it's hard to tell which class someone is in because the sports jacket has been replaced by jeans and famous quotes have been replaced by memes.
I have made it my life's work to read all of Louis Lamour, LOL. Yes, of course, the author of many cowboy stories. But he wrote a few "deep"er books too. I can recommend "The Walking Drum" as one of his "classics".
I had to read many of the classics in high school in the early 60s. It was a chore as I was a slow reader. Later in life I began to realize they gave me insights into the lives of people that came before me and some of the history happening at the time. I went through a relatively poor district but now I see what a good education I was able to get in that old system, especially compared to what some of the younger generations are getting with all the required twisted specialized classes. I spoke with friends' daughter that teaches English literature at a private school who told me she doesn't make them read the classics as the kids aren't interested in such books. So what, they can learn from them!
Thanks for treat: reading an essay by Italo Calvino, one of my favorites from my youth. From my favorite magazine in the '80s, as well. You and your blog are bright spots in my cubicle-bound existence.
They were largely wasted on me in grade school. I didn't have the imagination or empathy to enter into characters so alien to me in culture. I did better with folktales and science fiction or fantasy, where the adventure overrode the strangeness. Or books like 1984, which appealed to my teenaged angst about control and disaster.
By my college years I was getting better at reading more broadly, though I still enjoyed best the soap operas like War and Peace or Jane Austen stories, or the flamboyant misery of Faulkner. Now I read with pleasure things that simply whooshed over my head when I was a teenager. I never did acquire a taste for Dickens, though.
To this day I read and re-read the six Austen novels regularly.
I remember reading "The Great Gatsby" as a very young man and wondering what the fuss was all about. I re-read it a few years ago, in my sixties, and I was struck with how sad it was. It had gone completely over my head the first time.
Most young people are not equipped to appreciate what is great in great literature. It's not their fault, it's a matter of time and maturity. But you have to start somewhere.
Reading the ancients now (Thucydides, Marcus Aurelius, etc) I am struck by the clarity of their thinking, and how human nature has remained the same over time and distance, and how men of their stature have always been rare. There is comfort and perspective in that recognition.