Earlier this week, I finished re-reading Pride and Prejudice (this pretty edition here). I also received my copy of Lauren Willig’s newest book and started re-reading the first book in Willig’s Pink Carnation series as a refresher. The books are set in almost the exact same time period (Jane Austen even makes a cameo appearance in one of Willig’s books). However, the writing styles could not be more different, and to be perfectly honest, I think I know which I prefer – and it isn’t the old stuff.
I would say I’ve spent at least half my life with my head buried in some book or other. I’ve read a LOT. But classics…they tend to lose me. I try to make myself read them because I know as a writer it’s important. But even if the story line is good, I get bogged down and lost in the writing style. It took me 8 months last year to finish The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Some people think the old-time language and wording are what make these classic stories so wonderful. I don’t know about that. It’s hard to connect with the characters because they seem so remote, lost in a barrier of formal speech and weirdly placed commas. Maybe in 200 years language will have evolved so much that people think today’s books are difficult and miserable to get through. Maybe high school juniors will be moaning about having to read The Help. At the rate teenagers are going with the constant text-speak, it really wouldn’t surprise me. But I digress.
I am not bashing the classics. There are some that are very dear to me. I LOVE Gone With the Wind. To Kill a Mockingbird was my favorite book I had to read in high school. I adore Shakespeare. And I will undoubtedly re-read Pride and Prejudice many, many times.
Literary classics do have their place in history (and even on my bookshelves). But the older I get, the less free time I seem to have for reading. Those precious moments when I can fully devote myself to a book are fewer and further between. So when it comes down to picking a book to get lost in, to immerse myself in someone else’s story, I want it to be amazing – and contemporary. So just hand over The Help, and nobody gets hurt.