|Boston-based author, Armand Inezian|
A pain free way to start tackling classic authors!
If you're like me, you take the idea of being smart and literary seriously. Yet so many of us dread the idea of approaching classic writers of past centuries.
Hamlet. Jane Eyre. Moby Dick. The Great Gatsby. We feel like we should get to know and respect these famous tomes. If we are at a social event, we want to be able to hold our own should the conversations take a literary bent. We don't want to be the only person in the room who hasn’t read Othello (Okay- I admit it- I didn’t read Othello). We want to know more about the great books of the past, books that are considered classics for a reason: They were inspired by philosophy and rich creativity and have something to say about the human condition.
But there is another side to the coin. We are also PUT OFF the by great books! On a most basic level, they are long and require our attention. The language is sometimes archaic if not dense or confusing. Many of the classics were not written with entertainment in mind. We may have been forced to read some of them for school, associating them with taking notes, exams, and book reports. If so, you’re not alone! I teach English, and to this day, I still get nervous about reading anything from before World War II. Familiar questions come back to haunt me. Will I have trouble relating to archaic characters, concepts, and language? Will I be smacking my head into my desk and crying from boredom? What if a great work of literature doesn’t inspire me at all? It’s all a bit intimidating.
But I also want to deliver some good news! There is an alternate way to build a background in the classics, and I can explain it in a six simple words: short stories, poetry, essays and letters. If you want to get familiar with the past masters, why not start with a shorter works? You may have already heard of some of them, like Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven, or Nikolai Gogol's famous short story, The Overcoat.
But the list goes on beyond that, and includes people whom we usually associate with novels. Maybe you don't want to read Edith Wharton's novel, "House of Mirth"? Why not check out one of her short, ghost stories? Not ready to tackle Hamlet? Read some of Shakespeare's beautiful love poems instead. Daunted by Henry James’ novel The Wings of Dove? Consider introducing yourself to him via Daisy Miller, his classic short story. This is the literary equivalent of speed dating.
Give it a try! Take a lunchtime to read over Mark Twain's, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. Take a few evenings to read James Joyce's story of lost-love The Dead, or the letters that Jane Austen wrote in the very early 1800's.
Reading short works from the past can give you a new and less intimidating window into history, and allows for fresh perspective on modern life. Beyond that, you might find yourself building a tolerance for archaic language and dense narrative; heck you might even check out a novella or two ...and maybe next time you're at a fancy party and someone starts talking about literature, you can look them in the eye, and say, "You know, I just read something totally interesting..."
|Courtesy of Banchick Illustration © 2012 and Greyhart Press|
Armand Inezian is the author of the dark fantasy thriller, VampCon, a novel containing thousands of bullets, hundreds of vampires, two gateways to Hell, and one impossible quest for forgiveness. Available via Amazon (paperback or Kindle), or for Nook, or for iPad via Smashwords.