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Member Musings – Our Love of Books

A Modern Day ‘Coming of Age’ Tale

by Mirah W. (mwelday)


Years ago, I was a book snob.  Sort of.  Here’s the deal: I liked fiction.  The general, contemporary fiction you find on the bestseller lists: Jodi Picoult, J. K. Rowling (I wasn’t a snob against adolescent lit, give me some credit), Lisa See, Charlaine Harris, Daniel Silva…you get the picture. I loved books, but not classics.  Then one weekend my friend Sara came to visit and wanted me to watch the newest movie version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’ with her.  (Insert eye rolls and some choice sarcastic language here)

I allowed myself to be persuaded and watched.  And I fell (hard) in love with classics. Where had they been all my life?  I know what you’re thinking: Chick, you read classics in school, don’t act like they’re a new invention.  Yes, it’s true.  I read classics in school and I actually appreciated some: ‘A Separate Peace’ by John Knowles, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne, ‘Jane Eyre’ by Charlotte Bronte and ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee were all excellent.  But the trudging through Shakespeare, Steinbeck and Hemingway made me want to claw my eyes out. After the required reading in high school and college, I turned my back on classics and didn’t look back. That is, until I saw Darcy clench his hand after helping Elizabeth into the carriage in the 2005 version of ‘Pride and Prejudice’.  After that, I was on a mission to read classics, and especially Jane Austen.

I jokingly tell people I read classics so I can appear more educated but that’s not really it. The truth is this: I love the language and careful weighing of words.  Why don’t we speak like that anymore?  Just a few words can say more than most speeches given by people today.  Words had more meaning and depth then and were carefully chosen. I mean, have you ever heard anything more condescending than Lady Catherine’s, ‘Are the shades of Pemberley to be thus polluted?’  Ouch, that lady has some venom and there’s not a curse word in the mix.

I like the beauty and complexity of stories about a simpler way of life.  Lives without the distractions we have today.  I seriously doubt Huck would have gotten on that raft if he had a Wii or the internet to occupy his time.

I adore the love stories that are told with stolen glances and plays on words rather than casual sex and mindless flirting.  I can’t even imagine some of my favorite heroes stuck in the modern world.  Poor Mr. Knightley would be fit to be tied at some of the horrible things we say to each other. He thought Emma said bad things but, given today’s society, she’s an angel.

And, at the heart of most really good classics (good in my opinion), the story can be transplanted into any period of time and the plot is still just as moving and appealing.  I see what our world is turning to for entertainment and I cringe when I think what Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte would think of what we’ve become.  Snooki had a bestseller, for crying out loud.  I bet Jane and Charlotte are rolling in their graves.

Now I’m slightly obsessed with classics, with Jane Austen especially.  I’ve started to sprinkle classics amongst my other reading in an attempt to make up for lost time, I suppose. In some small way, I believe it keeps me grounded.  I get to escape this modern world and I relish it and, at times, I think I was born in the wrong century.

And, while I’m making admissions, I’ll admit sometimes I just don’t have what it takes to finish a classic…darn you, Dickens, I just couldn’t hang with ‘Hard Times’.  But most of the time I see a whole new world and appreciate my life in a whole new way; like when I read ‘North and South’ by Elizabeth Gaskell. Sometimes I just learn a lot about Russian farming like when I read ‘Anna Karenina’ by Tolstoy. The point is, I’m learning.  And if I’m ever forced to live on the land in Russia, I’m prepared.

This is my ‘coming of age’ tale.  Perhaps it’s not as tragic or uplifting as Jane Eyre’s or as scandalous as Becky Sharp’s, but it’s mine and I’m proud of my self-realization.   I’ve realized the error of my childish ways and I’ve learned my lesson.  Classics are good. Reading classics is good for you.  I highly recommend it.




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11 Responses to “Member Musings – Our Love of Books”

  1. Kristi R. (kristony222) , says:

    Hmmm… Makes me think about classics in a new light… Maybe I should pick one up and read it!

  2. Lori B. says:

    Very well said, Mirah! The classics are named so for a reason. You picked a tough Dickens to start. Try David Copperfield, Dombey and Son or Great Expectations-which is on PBS now, starring Gillian Anderson. Great Blog!

  3. Sharon D. (dulcimer42) says:

    I recently picked up “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” a garage sale for 10 cents. I was glued to the pages until I finished!

  4. Laurie VanderZee says:

    I think the appreciation of the classics comes with maturity (not necessarily age 🙂 ), as I am now enjoying them more now than I did as a teenager. Enjoy the experience.

  5. Mirah says:

    Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

    I just finished watching ‘Great Expectations’ yesterday! I am addicted to British period dramas! lol I really enjoyed ‘Bleak House’, also with Gillian Anderson. I’ve downloaded both books for my Kindle and they’re on my ‘to read’ list! 🙂

  6. Dianne says:

    I enjoyed this very much, Mirah. I have read very few classics, although I have seen some movies based on some…The Scarlett Letter, Pride and Prejudice, for instance. I love historical fiction and find myself transported into whatever time period a book is based in, if the book is a good one. Unfortunately, when I consider reading a classic, I find myself feeling VERY hesitant and almost afraid to pick one! I did start reading Anna Karinina a few years ago but I didn’t make it all the way through. I have read one or two others over the years, but if you asked me which ones, I wouldn’t remember. Perhaps I’m afraid that I am just not able to fully appreciate the classics, hence my fear of opening one and reading it all the way through…and enjoying it. Maybe now I will be inspired to read a couple!

  7. Deanna Bain says:

    I totally agree, I do not remember reading any books in school, although I must have, youth is wasted on the young, too old too soon, too late smart. Now in retirement I can appreciate them

  8. Mirah says:

    I love historical fiction, too, and love watching movies based on classics, especially from BBC and Masterpiece. I have a suggestion for you, if you’re interested. Check out the Ruth Wilson/Toby Stephens adaptation of ‘Jane Eyre’ and read the book along with it. I think it’s a great adaptation, it really captures the essence of the characters and, I think, it made my enjoyment of the book go up a couple of notches. ‘Jane Eyre’ is one of the classics I’ve read many times and this movie version makes me love it even more! 🙂
    Happy reading!

  9. Debbie says:

    Nice blog, Mirah! Like Mirah, I read classics in high school, but abandoned them after that. I liked reading Hawthorne, and I liked Poe’s short stories. In recent years though, the thought of picking up a classic didn’t sound so appealing to me. Mirah sent me my very own copy of Pride and Prejudice though, so I decided to give it a try. It took me a while to get through it because I had a new puppy in the house, and I found myself reading some sections twice because of the language, but once I got the hang of it, I thoroughly enjoyed both the story and the language. I found myself using some of the words that I liked from the book and, like Mirah, wondered why we don’t speak like that anymore. How did we get so far away that? Can you imagine our Facebook pages being filled with such language? It makes me smile to think about it. So, I have to thank Mirah for my introduction to Jane. While I haven’t read another one yet, I have a couple downloaded on my Kindle to try out soon…as soon as I finish this Hunger Games trilogy. 🙂 Thanks, Mirah! I love reading your stories. I’ve always said that you should write!

  10. MIRAH W. (mwelday) says:

    It took me a minute to figure out who this ‘Debbie’ person was! lol
    I’m so glad I was the one to re-introduce you to Jane Austen and her timeless stories. I’m sure Jane will make an appearance again in one of my blogs, she’s absolutely fabulous. And, please, take your time with The Hunger Games trilogy, it’s well worth the time!
    I think facebook should have a ‘talk like you’re a character in a classic novel’ day…they have ‘talk like a pirate’ day so I don’t see it as being an unprecedented suggestion. I already try to throw in the occasional ‘mayhaps’ and ‘felicitations’ in conversations whenever I can, just to spice things up.
    If only we could figure out how to get men to wear cravats again!

  11. Dianne says:

    Thanks, Mirah, for your suggestion of “Jane Eyre”. I vaguely remember reading it once a long time ago (I think), but will be sure to look for that adaptation. I downloaded “North and South” onto my Nook Color today and am going to start reading that in a few days…with the hope of enjoying it. Sounds like a good one…then I’ll try “Jane Eyre”. I have learned many words over the years from reading and some of those have migrated into my vocabulary as a result. A joke in my family has been that I say some “fancy” words that no one knows what they mean, or at the very least they would never use! LOL After reading them so many times, it is natural for me to just include them when I talk. I rather like it! 🙂

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