Friday, January 12, 2018

A letter to people who tell me I should read more classics

Dear Friends Who Think I Should Read More Classics,

You'll be pleased to hear the first book I read in 2018 was a classic. You will be disappointed to hear I did not like it. At all. I admit, I was a little disappointed too. I had been meaning to read The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie for years. It sounded like a classic I actually would like. It's very short (132 pages). It's written by a woman. It's about girls coming of age. What could go wrong? I found it annoyingly dated and quite dull.

I can understand why it would have been a powerful, moving novel when it was written. At that time, a character like Miss Jean Brodie might have been a revelation. In 2018, she's not. Or at least, she's not to me, because I'm drawn to portrayals of complicated women in fiction. I know it's not fair to blame the book for being of its time. I'm not blaming the book or Muriel Spark. This reading experience perfectly illustrates why I don't typically read classics and reminds me why I didn't major in English. It took me four days to read this book because I avoided picking it up. When I did, I often found a reason to put it down after two pages. On the fourth day, I decided I would sit and finish it because I couldn't abandon a book this short. Also, I was tired of having my 2018 list of books read be blank.

So, my dear, well-meaning friends who I always tell me I should read more classics, I'm glad I made time for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, even though I didn't like it. Instead, this book reminded me of a valuable lesson: I don't really like the classics, and that's okay. I much prefer to read about the past from historical fiction and history. I learned this lesson in college when I tried to major in English and struggled to read the required books as I longed to read from the giant piles of newer books from the library that surrounded me.

In closing, I'm not saying I'll never read another classic. I hope to finally read Pride and Prejudice this year (and maybe a few more of Jane Austen's novels too.) I still want to read Nathaniel Hawthorne because even though I didn't name my child after him, I feel like as the parent of a child named Hawthorne, I should at least have an informed opinion of him. I will probably never read Moby Dick or the Russian classics. It's okay because you won't read of the most books I recommend to you either. I want you to read what makes you happy.



P.S. I do want to watch the movie to see Maggie Smith play Jean Brodie. Want to watch it with me?

Rating: 2 out of 5
Length: 132 pages
Publication date: 1961
Source: library
Want to read for yourself? Buy The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie from Amazon (Kindle edition.)

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1 comment:

  1. I remember I also felt very meh about it. Yes for P&P - wonderful main character, but Hawthorne... I only read The Scarlet Letter, but it was my first and last. Moralistic, heavy-handed...

    Count me in for the movie!


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