Astonishing discoveries!

So like I said a couple of months back, I’ve been on a book-reading spree. Nothing fancy, nothing new. Just catching up on good old classics.

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Right from my childhood, I’ve abhorred Classics. I’ve always loved books which are fast-paced, cover multiple countries across the globe, use at least 3 different languages, and don’t let me put them down. Which explains why Sidney Sheldon is my favourite author!

All the same, I couldn’t just keep reading Sidney Sheldon forever. I used to have this mindless desire to read all the “famous” books – Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, Catcher in the rye.. you name it, I wanted to read it! And so I did read them all.

However, I hated the slow-paced writing style, the obscure words and sentences that made no sense to me whatsoever. Well, I read them when I was in middle school, when my vocabularly was far less developed, and my knowledge of people and the world was extremely limited. Bad idea. I ended up not understanding a word, and hating Classics without knowing what they were about! 😦

However, persistent as I am, I tried reading Emma 5 times.. but never got past the first 30 pages! As I grew up, that mind-block against Classics continued, until I slowly stopped reading them altogether. New authors were waiting to be discovered, new “famous” books waiting to be read and reviewed – The Shiva trilogy, Ashwin Sanghi’s books, Chetan Bhagat and the like.

Until suddenly one day, I downloaded the Kindle app on to my phone.. the Kindle Store offers Classics free of cost – and I wanted to try out the Kindle experience without spending any money *classic Indian mindset* 😛 I picked ‘Three men in a boat’, having heard that it is a very funny book, and if nothing else, I may have a few laughs after all…

Boy, was I wrong! I enjoyed reading the book immensely! 🙂 True, there were still parts that made my eyes glassy and vacant, but there were also many more parts that made me laugh, some that made profound sense that I wanted to incorporate as life lessons, and no lack of understanding whatsoever. Towards the end of the book, I realised that I may have just grown up enough after all!

And so I decided that I wanted to try my hand at one more, just to see how far I can push myself. So I re-read Pride and Prejudice, enjoying it a lot more this time around, and empathising a lot more with Elizabeth Bennett (the first time around, I thought she was a bit of an arrogant idiot :P). And then I re-read Little Women, was transported to a magical old-world American society and immersed in it joyfully.

And here comes the cherry on top – I bravely downloaded Emma. I started reading it, and with every page, my mind kept threatening to give up, because the story just wasn’t going anywhere. But I decided to power through the book, and somehow I did. And then came the best surprise – as I progressed, there came a point in the book after which I wasn’t able to put it down! 😀

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And then realisation hit me like a lightning bolt (excuse the cliche).. Jane Austen is never going to write like Sidney Sheldon, and she shouldn’t! She most definitely has an extremely boring style of writing:

1. The setting is very small – the entire story takes place in a single small village consisting of probably 5 families in total.

2. So it is just the people who carry the story forward. There are no interesting places/descriptions to entice you.

3. She writes in chronological order of events – like this: “Once upon a time there was a girl called Mary who lived with her father…”. There is nothing in this sentence that would make you want to read the next sentence. At least the first 100 pages of Austen’s books are usually like this.

4. Hers are novels of manners – describing the manners of upper-class English folk in the early 19th century Georgian era. Who can relate to that? Seriously?!

However, despite a good many flaws, the one strong point of Austen’s writing is the strength of the depiction of her characters. Only when I got really hooked to Emma, of all books, did I realise that what was making me religiously read the book inspite of the insipid writing style, was the characters.

I am not saying I like Emma Woodhouse, but the way her flaws were portrayed and her character depicted got me hooked to know how life was going to turn out for her after all. Ditto with Elizabeth Bennet.

I’m not going to presume to be arrogant enough to decode Jane Austen, but this was just my humble discovery of myself – what works for me in a book, and how I should never ever trash a book or an author based on reading a gist or a single page. Each book has a million wisdoms to impart, and at the very least, all I can do is endeavour to read them. 

Anyway, this post wasn’t meant to be about Jane Austen. It was supposed to be about me rediscovering Classics. So next on my list is Sense and Sensibility. And then PG Wodehouse. And then Atlas Shrugged. And then we’ll see.

But even I got a little tired of 19th century English, and had to take respite in a modern-day vampire fantasy novel full of fangs and thrills. Once again, #lessonlearnt – I, who usually don’t try new authors unless someone recommends them very strongly, tried reading Richelle Mead, and fell in love with her writing style in the very first chapter!

So yeah, life has been full of such surprises of late – just that they’re all happy surprises! 🙂 Even the fact that I’ve managed to write such a lengthy post is a huge surprise!

On that bookish note, toodles! 🙂

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One thought on “Astonishing discoveries!

  1. It’s been a while since I read an Austen novel, not because I didn’t like her works (or classic in general for that matter), but simply because there is so much to read even if one does not commit oneself to re-reading things. I am glad you have rediscovered classics, though. My own favourite novel of all time is a classic – Anna Karenina.

    And I think one needs to adopt different temperaments/mindsets while reading books – and you seem to be learning that, which is great. After all, as Francis Bacon famously wrote, “Some books are to be tasted; others swallowed; and some to be chewed and digested.” Of course the books one tastes, another may wish to swallow; and the books one swallows, yet another may want to chew and digest.

    Just one final point: I think every kind of story has a pace that its author feels is optimal. For example, a love story set in pre-revolution Paris would obviously have a certain thrill to it, whereas one set in the England of the twentieth century labour unions may not. But, yes, we all have been confounded by the never-ending sentences and the heady vocabulary of the literature of the yesteryear, so I can empathise with that.

    Like

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