The Thing About reading literature of any kind is – are you doing it for study or for pleasure? The reason why I ask this is because I have recently endeavoured on reading a range of classics from Shakespeare all the way to Dickens during my summer holidays. How successful have I been? That’s debatable.
On the one hand I have been partially successful by reading half the books on my list – on the other hand, I have been completely successful in realising something very important. I have a passion for studying both contemporary and classic literature. I gain great pleasure and satisfaction in taking a text and unpicking it, dissecting it to its very core. There’s something very tender and quite seductive about the different ways we view a text and then write about it, forming thousands of different interpretations and conclusions by picking up on hundreds of different authorial methods and techniques.
However, while enjoy the seduction of unpicking classic texts, they are from a completely different time written in completely different ways to what we have grown up with now. We are now used to a more modern form of writing. As a writer, I believe that it is important to study the classics to see how writing has changed, learn the different authorial methods used and the beautiful way narrative is constructed. Why do I find this important? It helps to refine your own writing- a better understanding of the literature you are constructing.
So, when I read for pleasure I’d never pick up Hardy, Austen or even Dickens really, to be honest (well maybe A Christmas Carol). I would pick more contemporary authors – with the exception of Shakespeare, that’s always enjoyable – and even then my true passions for reading comes in the form of children’s and young adult literature. This where the only limit to writing becomes the imagination of the writer and is something that isn’t done enough in adult literature. I’m talking from Grimm’s Fairy Tales to Barrie’s Peter Pan, Baum’s Oz, Roald Dahl’s marvellous world and J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter.
In a way, even though Pride and Prejudice or Great Expectations are novels that I would most definitely classify as being parts of the greats, they are novels I would love to study and learn from. Not novels that I would pick up on a summer’s day in a park, a rainy day sitting by the window or when I’m in bed before sleeping.