Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Don't forget the classics.

Back when I was but a cut of a lad attending Saint Malachy's College in Belfast, my English master - well the examinations board really - insisted that I read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in furtherance of my literary education.  Now, being a mere boy, with want to do all and everything except read Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, it is safe to say that I was less than enthusiastic.  I was proved wrong though, because I lapped it up - the depth of the story, the vibrant characters, the just downright brilliance of the writing.

From there on, I progressed to other classics - both accepted and modern - yet, like many seduced by the newness of contemporary fiction, I strayed and it was a good fifteen years before I rediscovered Oscar Wilde, H.G. Wells, Mary Shelley, Stoker, Hardy, and the like.  Now I make it a point to either find, or reread, at least six or seven classic novels every year.  Not a great number, but it keeps my hand in.

Many people disregard the allure of the classic writers, seeing them as old, established, and jaded.  But, in their day, these writers were the revolutionaries, cutting edge writing with cutting edge messages, and I challenge anyone looking at them anew to place themselves in the mindset of the reader of the time - even swap genders if you like - and see them as they were intended.  Not a curriculum book for lethargic adolescents, but dynamic observations of the world these writers lived in.

My first suggestion for those who either haven't read it before, or wish to pick it up again, is Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.  In my opinion, one of the best put together stories of the time, with an underlying current of insurgency and a cheeky little scoff at the inflexible Victorian mindset.

Enjoy the rediscovery ... and have a funky week.

Martin :)

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