How Does Something So Boring Become a Classic??

Marilyn the Kindle girl here. Being probably the only romance author in existence who’s never read Pride and Prejudice, I downloaded it to my Kindle so I could remedy that fact. While I was it, I also downloaded The Scarlet Letter, something I hadn’t read since high school, and a few other classics.

Call me common, low-class or just plain dumb, but what yawners!!! I started with P&P but lasted only a few chapters before I went on to something else. Maybe it was just my mood, or the temptation of better books just a click away; I’ll try it again later, though.

 Then, having read everything else on the Kindle, I turned to The Scarlet Letter. 

I’m surprised I was still willing to pick up a book in high school after forcing my way through TSL. Obviously, pacing was not an issue for ol’ Nathaniel, since he spends the first 18% of the book (Kindle doesn’t give page numbers) talking about his amazingly boring years working at the Customs House in Salem, along with the amazingly boring people who worked there with and before him. My only interest whatsoever in this whole dreary section was that I’ve actually been to the Customs House and the description brought it back to life for me.

After we finally get into Hester’s story, I thought okay, it’s going to get better. NOT. Nathaniel sure loved the sound of his words. Big words. Long strings of them. In sentences that had no end. It didn’t help any that this electronic version was in need of a good copy editor — missing punctuation and misplaced words.

I wound up skimming through long, boring, repetitive passages, only to reach the end with a wrinkled brow, a dazed mind and only one thought: “Huh?!?”

So this book is a classic. I just wanna know . . . a classic what??? 

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20 thoughts on “How Does Something So Boring Become a Classic??

  1. Marilyn–
    I have to agree about some of the ‘classics.’
    I still love Jane Eyre, and maybe I’m a bit blind to some of the book’s faults. To Kill A Mockingbird I read parts aloud to Amy and loved it. Could be part of my love of these books are the movies made.

    • I LOVED To Kill A Mockingbird — plan to reread it soon. I haven’t tried Jane Eyre, but I’ll give her a shot.

      I just wonder how many kids learned to love to read from required reading of the classics in high school, and how many were turned off for good. Me, I hated Shakespeare enough to have strangled him if I’d been able to get my hands on his mouldering neck. 😉

  2. I’ve never liked Hawthorne. House of the Seven Gables has all but completely destroyed any interest I had in reading anything else by him. Ever. Pride and Prejudice I did think of as lovely, slow moving, but witty and well constructed. 18th Century British literature, however, is a bit difficult to contend with when one deals with the pervasive modern notions of pacing. Jane Eyre is certainly a favorite of mine as well. 🙂

    • Thank you, Kimberly! I don’t feel so . . . unable to appreciate the greatness. 🙂 I’ve never read HotSG — though I saw it when I was in Salem. I was much more interested in the witchy stuff!

      Okay, two for Jane Eyre. I’ll have to download her.

  3. Never read the Scarlet letter.
    Tried reading the Reader’s Digest CONDENSED version of P & P–BORING. I think that was around the time I picked up a Kathleen Woodiwiss and never turned back.

    • I read TSL in high school and didn’t remember it as being so traumatizing, LOL. Of course, we also read Shakespeare and Beowulf and others too awful to remember. I loved mysteries from the time I started to read, then later moved on to romance and science fiction, and never cared whether I was unable to appreciate the great old ones or not.

  4. LOL, Marilyn. If someone figures out just what kind of ‘classic’ TSL is, they need to let everyone know. Perhaps it was a classic for when it was written. Don’t have a clue as to who would make the determination, though.

    • I was thinking maybe it was a “classic don’t.” All the things NOT to do when you’re writing something you actually want people to read!!

  5. Tell me about it! I read LORD OF THE RINGS back in the sixties…long before I knew a lot about writing. Loved it. When the movies came out, I bought all four (adding THE HOBBET) and started reading it again. Couldn’t finish it because of the pacing. What a difference being a professional writer makes!

    • I never read LotR. I’m coming to truly appreciate the “sample” button for the Kindle. If I’d downloaded a sample of TSL, I never would have gotten the entire book.

      I’m kind of feeling that way about the John Carter/Mars books. Pacing is a problem — they’re very much action-driven, and there’s no downtime to catch your breath. You just can’t go on 400 pages with nothing but action before you wear out.

  6. Oh, I downloaded LITTLE WOMEN yesterday at PT. (I found the Top 100 free downloads for Kindle and burned up the wifi hitting “buy, buy, buy!!”) I read it years ago, too, and I bet it was the same version you read, because I really liked it. Oh, well, the download didn’t cost me a cent.

    I try occasionally to read stuff the world admires because years ago, a “friend” demanded to know how I could possibly consider myself a writer when I hadn’t read or studied any great American authors. She’d made a point of reading many of them and could discuss and debate with the best of them. So I tried Faulkner. Oh. Dear. God.

    I went back to her and told her that I considered myself a writer based on the X number of books I’d published and the million or two copies that had sold at that time, and I didn’t need to read mind-numbing drivel to validate myself.

    Found out later that she did read the great American authors. Then she contacted a mutual friend who’s smarter than any ten people I know and asked her, “What did this mean? Why did that happen?” Then she passed that friend’s opinions off as her own. It really ticked me off that I let someone tap into my insecurity when she was no better read than I was!

    Bet you know both of the ones I’m talking about. 😉

  7. I love Jane Austin and the Bronte sisters. I love the pacing, their love stories, their unique voices. Because they’re from a different time, it’s lamost like you have to consider each word and a sentence may not mean the thing you think it means the first time you read it. Yes, the language and dialogue can be ATROCIOUSLY boring, but the words underneath, the unrequited love, the miscommunication, their the same issues we deal with today only slowed down and with a lot less bump and grind action. 🙂

    The Bronte’s were just tortured…those girls had issues! 🙂 Lovely books, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre. Not so much Agnes Grey, but the other two sisters rocked.

    • I think I have a simplistic view of reading: I want to be entertained. I don’t mind having to think; I don’t mind having to look up words that I don’t know. I like seeing things from different viewpoints. But most of all, I want to be entertained and I don’t want to have work too hard at it. Can we say “lazy”? 😉

      I am definitely not a literary sort of person!

  8. Well, all this talk about The Scarlet Letter makes me wonder if any of you went to see the film, “Easy A” since it was kind of a Scarlet Letter remake…

    Lots of the classics of literature are the most boring books on the planet. I’m not sure how I dragged my way through it to make grades. Only one book I ever didn’t finish and read only the Cliff’s Notes (Moby Dick, put a harpoon in me and call me done).

    I did like Pride & Prejudice but didn’t read it until about six years ago.

    My SIL started back through all the classics about ten years ago, said she heard people talk about these books at cocktail parties and wanted to know what everyone was talking about…. so she went back and read or re-read them all. We chatted about them while she was reading them. When she asked me what I recommended, I told her, “go to better cocktail parties.”

    spw

    • LOL! Great answer, Sandee!

      Haven’t heardof the Easy A, but I well might like it. Loved The Long Hot Summer, based on Faulkner’s The Hamlet, which convinced me that long-livedness has nothing to do with good writing; Romeo and Juliet (back in the 70s, I think) though I hate Shakespeare; L.A. Confidential, though the book made me want to slash my wrists. I’ll have to check out the Easy A.

  9. I have to admit, I loved reading all the old classics…the first time. But not well enough that I felt any urge to re-read, except for Austen. And I flat HATED Wuthering Heights, movie and book.

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