Friday, February 22, 2013

Classics I Regret Reading Young

I'm kind of pretentious. Not dressing for dinner and turning down cheap wine kind of pretentious, but must watch all the Oscar nominee, talks a lot about Mad Men and wears a necklace with a Fitzgerald quote on it pretentious. I'm a culture snob and I'm really okay with this self knowledge. I've been this way since at least middle school and as a result have read a lot of Classics. Some are ones that my parents would have probably taken away had they been readers themselves, or really even monitored what I was reading (thanks Parental's!), some I probably should have waited a few years on. For Instance:

Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
I was in a magnet drama program in high school and the year before I started they had done Les Miserables. Everybody RAVED about it. Constantly. It was like gossip you couldn't escape. As I can't sing and wasn't there to have worked on this legend of a show I took to reading the book. I gave myself one month to finish it. And finish I did. I was so happy to have read such a tome in such a short amount of time that I let the content fall to the wayside. To this day I can barley recall anything from the book, aside from realizing that the Abridged version has a one page chapter on Waterloo and my doorstop version has about 40 pages. Maybe if I had read it later, or waited until I was actually interested I would have retained more, or been able to think more critically about it.

Ernest Hemingway -
I wanted to be a romantic and decided, at the tender age of 15, that A Farewell to Arms was the quickest way to get there. Clearly this is a very skewed notion of romance, and after all of Arms and the majorty For Whom the Bell Tolls I lost interest, even if I proclaimed my love for Hemingway all through high school.  Even with a renewed interest in the Lost Generation and repeat viewings of Midnight in Paris I can't seem to finish another Hemingway novel.

Catch 22 - Heller
Another book I read in high school, only I read it with a friend (really, I think I was assigned maybe five classics to read all of high school.) and was able to at least think about the world Heller was creating. I loved Catch 22, I thought it was funny and deep and very important. I felt cool for being able to quote the titular passage. Into college I would still site Catch 22 as one of my favorite books until I realized all I really cared about was the memory of reading it. I remembered very little of the actual plot and while I liked sounding smart and well read it felt more like an act to continue siting it as one of my favorite books.

The major theme that shadows all of my high school "pleasure" reading is that I can't seem to bring myself to read these authors, or works again. I can't get more than 4 pages into Hunchback of Notre Dame, the last time I picked up Catch 22 was to find a passage I highlighted 8 years ago and even though I bought a copy of A Movable Feast in a fit of jazz age love, I found it dry and it joined the rest of my unfinished Hemingway books. Maybe I should have waited until I found my own bookish style, or more likely I should have been more concerned about content than what ever made up prestige I thought I would get. In the end it was a determined to myself.

Am I the only one who has done this? Did you speed through anything at school at you wish you hadn't? Let me know!


Melody said...

I've be re-reading a lot of high school reads in the last couple of years...I think I'm finally at enough of a distance that I can approach them with a somewhat fresh frame of mind. Some of those were required books (Gatsby), and some were big classics I read before I was really able to understand & appreciate (Anna Karenina). For the most part they've done well upon re-reading, but some I simply don't need to save mental-regret-space for any longer. Both are good results!

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

You perfectly described my kind of pretentiousness. Wow. I have a few books I read in high school that I don't think I got as much out of as I could have. The Great Gatsby and The Odyssey are both ones I want to re-read as an adult.