Don't Judge a Book Reader by her Cover...
I have a confession to make.
I'm not as smart as some of you might think I am.
Okay, I'm generally smart, I guess. I may not know that much about history but I have common sense and that's a more valuable asset to have these days. Also, I kill at Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or Name that Tune or Trivial Pursuit 80's edition.
What I mean is…I'm not that well read. And for a writer, that scares the hell out of me. So I'm going to face it head on. Come clean. Put it out there.
My name is Kelly and I have never read (most of) the literary classics.
The most literary thing I've read of late has been the hugely popular Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Not an easy novel for me to get through but a helluva lot easier to get through than say Pride and Prejudice or Crime and Punishment. I remember having to read Lord of the Flies and hating it. I was bored with Moby Dick. Even Hemingway, I found to be tedious. When I first picked up a novel for pleasure it was Judy Blume. In high school, I discovered the worlds of Stephen King. And I was in love with John Saul and anything Harlequin.
I'm a modern gal with a modern brain. And while I can appreciate the classics as literary works of art, I'd rather read something more contemporary. It's very similar to my occasional loathing for classic rock. I don't think I need to hear anymore Boston songs. I'd be okay and probably die happy if I never heard AC/DC ever again. I'm done. Over it except for Pink Floyd and Supertramp. And early Styx. And maybe Bob Seger. But I swear that's it.
Don't get me wrong, I liked Great Expectations in high school. Even enjoyed trying to figure out what the hell Shakespeare was saying in his plays and sonnets. And by the way, did you know he was married to a woman named Anne Hathaway? Now that I find interesting - the gossip behind the writer, not figure out his unrhymed iambic pentameter.
I have several classics I've wanted to read but after a few starts and stops, I find myself looking for something a little more…fluffy. Not that Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love is fluffy, but I get it. I understand her words, and they move me to the next page. And isn't that the whole goal of the writer? To get the reader to move on to the next page? Harry Potter had me for the first four books. I even read the first two Twilight novels. James Patterson is by far my favorite, with his short chapters and quick moving plot. Sandra Brown mixes romance with thriller and Lauren Weisberger fills her books with fashionistas and fun female characters who I'd like as my friends. Those are books I like to read. But it that enough?
I've been hanging out at a lot of literary events lately. Keeping my mouth shut or nodding a lot and agreeing with whatever the person in front of me is saying about an author or book I've never read but probably should have. The scariest moment of my life was at the NaNoWriMo wrap party last weekend. Each of us got name tags for our backs. The name tag was a literary character and we had to ask questions and figure out whose name was on our backs. A guy comes up to me and says "Am I an adult?" The tag on his back said Boo Radley. Crap. I'm screwed. I saw the movie To Kill a Mockingbird over twenty years ago, obviously I never read the book, and all I could think was I should know this. I couldn't tell you if Boo was the kid, or the adult. I guessed that Boo was the child character and said "Yes!" I guessed wrong. The guy next to me said "No, you're an adult." My heart sunk and I immediately saw the image of Robert Duvall in the movie. Crap. After a barrage of questions that I had to dig deep for, I finally figure out my character was Scarlett O'Hara. After breathing a sigh of relief that I wasn't a total moron, my first thought…wait, that was a book too? Just kill me now.
My Kindle app is filled with 121 books. 70 of them are romance or contemporary works of fiction, some paranormal/fantasy, horror. 34 are resource books for writing. And a measly 7 are classic literature. The rest are health related like Yoga for Dummies.
My point is: I like to read a certain kind of novel, and I like to write a certain kind of novel. So am I missing out on not trying to trudge through a few classics? Maybe. But is it better for me to read my competition? And actually enjoy myself doing it? Probably.
So next time I'm out and someone starts spouting about the greatness of Chaucer or the brilliance of the Bronte sisters, you might see my eyes glaze over as I try to link Anne Hathaway - not Shakespeare's wife - the actress who was in Les Miserables with Hugh Jackman who was in X-Men First Class with...Kevin Bacon.