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I Can Say, “I Read That Book”

Why write a review on a book that has been around one hundred years? Great literary geniuses have studied the book, students have been required to read the story to receive a grade, and scientists have torn it apart looking for truth in the prophetic writings. Yet, I have the audacity to sit down and read the book and then write a review for all to see. Eek.

 

I never read many of the classics in high school and did not avail myself to them during college. As an adult, I felt dumber than my acquaintances because I hadn’t read the “great works.” Crazy right? So, I created a list of books that were touted as must-reads by friends, spouse, and family. I even went so far as buying many of aforementioned books. They gathered dust on my shelf. Do you realize how many of the great classics are great in size as well as literary prowess? I typically choose to spend my sparse spare moments for reading on something quick and easy (brain candy or, as my dear partner in life calls it, soft-core porn for housewives). I grab an easy book that I can ignore or read but that the story is quick and I like the characters. I do regret my hours wasted on characters with little depth, or lost chance on a story that lingers once the book is finished. I didn’t realize how bad things were until I picked up a real novel and thought, “Wow, that’s a great word to use.”

Hence, my journey 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.

I admit I had high expectations. This was supposed to be a “great” book. It started off well enough: A mysterious attack on ships and drowning men saved. Then the author dove into detailed description of the world under the ocean. Details, details, and details. Where was the action? I wanted blood shed, love, fights, and a chance at happiness. Didn’t Ned deserve that? (Animal rights activists would say no.)

Six chapters into it, I wondered, where was the climax? What is the true plot to this story? Don’t all stories have to follow that pattern? Yet, I kept trudging on, I had to finish. I had to persevere. How could this book endure for so many years as a great work and I couldn’t finish it?

Then it happened, just shy of finishing the entire literary compilation I came across action, emotion, a sense of danger, and a moment that made my endurance worth all the while. I actually experienced the sensation of not being able to put the book down”¦or close the book app. The story finally engaged me. Phew.

My journey with 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea allowed me to cross off a book from “the list.” I can now watch the movie, appreciate the rare references that crop up in our culture, and say, “I have read that book.” Good for me.

By Trulybst

Pursuing life to its fullest. A woman, a mom, wife, and struggling teacher who knows the importance of treating myself right.

6 replies on “I Can Say, “I Read That Book””

I almost feel the opposite way when reading Charles Dickens – in the context of knowing he released his stories one chapter at a time in newspapers, and that people would typically gather around the someone reading the installment out loud to hear what happens next. Man, that guy can describe characters, human foibles, points of view. To be honest, I read most of “Bleak House” on my smartphone while on bathroom breaks, and it was kind of freeing to be able to say, “I’m going to read only one chapter, I am not going to plow through this book in a week, and I’m going to roll the words through my mind and take the time to smile at his loving descriptions of human strengths and weaknesses.”

There are few things I hate more than wanting to reply to a post, but having no idea how to do so without sounding like a literary snob. So I’ll just keep typing, and see what happens, hoping that you understand my misanthropy is not directed toward any of you.

The main problem with reading classics in school is that many teachers are not adequately prepared to teach them in an engaging, relevant way. A lot of universities just don’t focus on that. But I was lucky; several of my teachers would give assignments that were in line with the philosophy of a specific movement (reflection journals for transcendentalism, skits for Shakespeare). That, as well as discussion of the work’s historical context and the author’s personal life really make the books come alive.

But teaching style isn’t the only problem.

Some books are classics because they are truly well-written, always relevant, or teach us something important about the time in which it was written, or the human condition in general. And some books are classics because elderly, pompous, wealthy, white men decided they should be canonized (luckily the Western cannon has gone through a lot of important revisions lately).

Anyway, 20,000 Leauges is not an easy read, so kudos! If you haven’t already read it, may I recommend Gulliver’s Travels? It isn’t necessarily bursting with action, but if you are even vaguely familiar with British society and imperialism of the time, Swift’s scathing satire will have you peeing your pants with laughter.

I found it interesting, while struggling though the 20,000 leagues Mr would say “that is a good book.” But once I finished it, he said “I never really liked it.”  I think it was his way of encouraging me to finish.

As a teacher, I would agree with your perception on educators.  Many of us don’t have the knowledge for teaching the classics with great enthusiam. I feel that having information on life at the times and the culture of the author lends to a better appreciation of the literature.

Kudos to you! I don’t see myself ever reading any Jules Verne.  For whatever reason, I have taken a fair amount of classes where I was supposed to read something boring and somehow I got around doing it.  I believe I started all the books…just never finished Heart of Darkness (terrible), or anything by Thomas Hardy (sick dude).

I have caught up on some of the classics I missed though: Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Brave New World.  My next one to tackle is the Great Gatsby.  Who knows when that’ll happen.  But I actually do want to read it.

It’s an interesting phenomenon with the “classics” out there; it feels like there’s really annoying snobbery from many sides on the books that people “should” read. Literary merit is a weird, weird thing. I was bored to tears in my 17th Century English Non-Dramatic Poetry class, but now I can make obscure references to it and think “my, what a witty thing I have said!”

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