I have only recently gotten back into reading current literature. I spent so many of my college years reading the classics that I failed to pick up the new releases. I dubbed them beneath me since I was reading the truly great works of art. I filled my head with all the “important” writers from the Western and American canon, from Beowulf to Virginia Woolf. I was living and breathing classics. I turned my nose up at all the contemporary authors- believing them to be redundant since all the great themes of life had been so thoroughly explored by the greats. What a snob, I know. I am so glad I came back to them.
When I was a teenager I soaked up what would be considered current at the time. I remember going to the bookstore and buying The Perks of Being a Wallflower. I fell in love with that cast of characters because I felt like they mirrored my life. That’s what I missed the most in reading the classics because they were from a different time. No amount of footnotes or time lines could truly sum up a moment in history. There are just some phrases that we can’t understand because the minutiae of life gets lost from generation to generation. I am currently reading Middlemarch for the book club that I run and, trust me, it gets lost in translation sometimes. I am pretty certain that I miss some of the satire because the lives of these 19th century is so different from my 21st century existence. The larger themes remain intact but the small attacks on the daily lives of people does not hold up across time and we should not expect it to.
The first current, or relatively current, author that I picked up in recent years is John Dunning. I was drawn in by the title of the first book, Booked to Die. His mysteries are so intriguing and exciting. The first was published in 1992 and have come out every few years since. I read the first and consequently bought out the rest of the collection. They deal with an ex-cop-turned-rare-book-dealer, Cliff Janeway and I can read them in a few short hours. But the twist is shocking and the crimes updated. While I love Edgar Allan Poe some of his crimes are quite out of date. I mean, an orangutan? Forensic science has made most of his “crimes” a little absurd. Oh, who am I kidding? They’re totally absurd.
Another author who saved me is John Green. I just finished The Fault in Our Stars a few weeks ago and I loved every word of it. It was as beautiful as anything written by Marquez or Fitzgerald. I was as moved by its tale of loss and love as any Shakespearean drama. However, it affected me in a different way since the language and setting were so realistic to me. I feel very removed from some of the tragedy in the classics because I could never live them. The world that Green creates is filled with technology and slang that I am very connected to. While I love Marquez or Fitzgerald, the love stories that they describe never feel tangible in the way that the story of Hazel and Augustus felt, even if I have never been sick or loved someone that was. Though, I suspect much of that success is due to the nearly flawless prose of John Green, but that is a post for another day.
So, I will always read the classics. I will always love the writers that created them. When I make suggestions a lot will still be classics. However, do not be surprised if a lot of what I review is more current. I am just getting back to my time period and it feels so good.
Tell me how you feel the classics fit into your life in the comments below. Maybe I’m alone in this but I suspect many feel the same way about our beloved classic writers.
See you later, see you soon.