I recently read this article about Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, which both meshes with my personal feelings on an excursion to John Adam’s Montpelier plantation last summer, and made me go, “Great! Now I don’t have to feel bad about not particularly liking this novel and not having finished it.”
I know it is ridiculous, but I feel bad when I don’t like a work that is considered classic fiction. Even though this marker is probably thrust upon a book simply by being considered “good” or “meaningful” by a large number of people, and people have a variety of different backgrounds, and the fact that I am not white and don’t have a penis probably means I’m coming from a different place than those who decided this book was “classic.” Even though using the term “classic” probably began as a misuse of a word that denoted Rome and Greece during what is considered the Classical era, since Hellenistic culture has greatly influenced Western culture, and was considered the high quality standard against which other things should be judged for a long time.
It is in the reading of classics that I can be somewhat of a sheep. I am more than willing to give a “classic” novel the benefit of the doubt. In fact, I will exceed benefit of the doubt and stray into self-doubt. By this, I mean that I will sometimes try to convince myself that I actually do like them when I decidedly do not. After all, if I do not like this novel that is considered one of the greatest written (in English, by Western society), then am I, in fact, a stupid reader?
Another novel that I don’t particularly like is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I think it’s really cool that this woman made a name for herself and is one of the founders of modern horror fiction. I know that Frankenstein is the name of the Doctor, and not the “monster” himself. I get the whole “society made him act monstrous, who is the REAL monster?” concept. But at the end of the day, I am not a fan. I think I may just not really be a fan of horror, in general. I also don’t care for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, to the extent that I actually prefer Francis Ford Coppola’s movie to the novel. (Yes, I have been told this movie is not a very good movie. Do I still enjoy it? Yes. Yes, I do.)
Does anyone else feel this love-embarrassment relationship with classic novels? What is a “classic” novel that you hated? Or conversely, what is a “classic” novel that you loved?