Overrated Classics Meme

Kirsty at Other Stories has tagged me for a meme about classic literature (of the famous-and-good rather than Greek-and-Latin variety)…

What was the best classic you were “forced” to read at school, and why?
I never know why people complain about books they read at school, at least not for the most part. But I suppose my English degree pays testament to the fact that I like analysing literature as much as giving it a quick read – two very different activities, one rather more difficult than the other, but love them both. I think the best must be either Much Ado About Nothing by Billybob, or Hard Times by Charles Dickens. Both incredibly funny, though I must confess having a brilliant teacher for Hard Times gave it a good leg up.

What was the worst classic you were forced to endure, and why?
The only one I really didn’t like – and couldn’t respect, because it was more or less trash literature – was Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. But I don’t think anybody would call that a classic, would they? I didn’t think a huge amount of Of Mice and Men, though I don’t regret having read it. I do think they start students on Shakespeare far too early – Macbeth was my first, when I was eleven. What other Renaissance writer would they dole out at that age? Or anyone pre-Victorian, for that matter. Much though I revere Billybob, I’d like to see a wider range of authors from the 16th-19th Centuries. And by that I don’t mean a cursory mention of Marlowe…

Which classic should every student be made to read?
I suppose this invites the obvious retort that students shouldn’t be *made* to read anything, but let’s sweep that under the carpet for now. I don’t think you can truly appreciate the structure of a novel, or the potential for character and language, until you’ve read Pride and Prejudice. And perhaps they’d be able to hammer into people’s heads that it’s not a ‘girl’s book’…

Which classic should be put to rest immediately?
That’s a bit tricker. Whilst I don’t like Ulysses, for example, I think it stands as an interesting idea and shouldn’t be destroyed. I can’t quite see the point of The Catcher in the Rye, or why it’s been hailed as such a great book, nor The Bell Jar. Hmm. Can’t think of any I’d like to see put to rest immediately, but I daresay something will rear its head before long.

11 thoughts on “Overrated Classics Meme

  • July 12, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Oh, thank you *so* much for not liking Captain Corelli’s Mandolin!!! I thought I was the only person in the world who didn’t think it was wonderful. It is *such* a relief to hear someone openly describe it as ‘trash literature’!

    On the other hand, I was ‘forced’ to read Ulysses as part of my degree and will be forever grateful that I was. I would never have read it otherwise, and I will probably never read it all the way through again. But I do dip into it from time to time and would certainly never wish to see it ‘put to rest’.

  • July 12, 2008 at 8:02 am

    I am another that has struggled to read Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. My bookmark has remained midway through the book for over a year.


  • July 12, 2008 at 8:34 am

    Every charity shop you go into has a copy of Captain Corelli’s flippin’ Mandolin and personally – I think that speaks volumes! (No pun intended.)

  • July 12, 2008 at 8:42 am

    I too was not overly impressed with CCM. Love this meme and am off to do it myself right now!

  • July 12, 2008 at 1:11 pm

    I can only assume you got your answers to questions one and two the wrong way round.
    Hard Times ‘incredibly funny’? I must have read a different book of the same title. By the same author.
    Sometimes I feel I mess up the demographic of this blog…

  • July 12, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    My comment disappeared! It was something like I’m so glad I’m not the only one to dislike Capt Correlli – I only read a few chapters and gave up – I thought it was just awful.

    Hard Times is funny (in parts) – did Monty Python base their Four Yorkshire Men sketch on part of it – when they were lucky to live in a corridor – used to dream of it – going on to a shoebox and thena paperback!

  • July 12, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    I forgot to add – I didn’t like The Bell Jar either.

  • July 12, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    I *did* love The Bell Jar, but in my defence I was fifteen. Capt. Corelli? Yuck.

  • July 12, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Relieved to find someone else underwhelmed by The Catcher in the Rye. It just passed me by with very little to linger on. Felt like I’d missed the point.

  • July 13, 2008 at 9:56 am

    The Heart of Darkness was my school horror, but I was compensated by lovely, lovely Lark Rise, and Good Morning, Miss Dove, (can only remember the name Paton for the author

  • July 13, 2008 at 10:38 pm

    I’m afraid my answers are going to be the least like yours imaginable (I think I mess up your demographic as much as Colin). The best book we had to read was probably Othello – tightly plotted, powerful characters, and a villain who is not only eminently hissable, but is also strong and well-rounded.

    The worst was undoubtedly Emma. I found it incredibly dull. There’s practically no plot, and what gems of dialogue there were got entirely buried by filler. When Mrs. Weston gave birth I had to comb madly back through the previous chapters for the slightest hint that she was pregnant.

    No opinion of CCM, having not read it. I quite enjoyed the first few chapters when I flicked through it, though…

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