Fall-Time Classics

woman_reading_romanticIt’s getting to be that time of year where I start to think about fall.  I know, it’s barely even August, but where I live; these mountain homes; autumn comes early.  We can have a freeze in three weeks. (and we just got out of one in June…..) And for some reason, this year autumn is making me think of the Classics. You know… classic books?  Jane Eyre (which I’ve not finished…), Jane Austen, Hemingway, and others.

This Classics thing is on my brain so much that I want to suggest to my librarian, whom I talk to regularly, that we need to have “The Autumn of Classics’ to get people reading them. Start pulling the classics from the scrunched in shelves, and making people sit up and take notice. Set them all around and have covers out.

It’s apple weather, it’s sweater weather…. It’s classics reading weather.

But that’s just me.

What time of year do you think the Classics fit in? See I was always a springtime early summer Jane Austen, but now… Do you read the classics at a particular time? Don’t they fit in with apples, tweed, fox hunts, plaid, straw, pumpkins and falling leaves?

Signing off

Kate

Reading Classics to Learn About Character Development, and Please Don’t Say We Don’t Need Them

Disclaimer: This may irritate or annoy younger writers. Proceed only if you want to hear my honest opinion.

I started this morning off reading a reaction post to The Ten Most Haunting Male Literary Characters.  See the original article for this story HERE  I was actually quite fascinated with the list and could understand why many were put on this list, specifically, and I stress this, because it was done by the British.  They have their own tastes and ideas and it was a decidedly British list.

What struck me was the reactionary post.  It was written by a blog I follow, from a young author  and I won’t name names because I’m not out to irritate people, but this thought came to me.  How can you give honest criticism about why certain characters are not on the list, if you have not read most of what is on the list? How can you judge whether or not a character from a book you like should be on the list just because you think the character is haunting?

First off, let’s take the word Haunting.

:  that haunts: such as

a :  lingering in the consciousness :  not readily forgotten <the cathedral organ and the distant voices have a beauty — Claudia Cassidy>

b :  having a disquieting effect :  disturbing <from two handsome and talented young men to two horrors of disintegration — Charles Lee>

Let’s take the second definition.  We are not talking villains exactly. Because while Mr. Rochester could be described as the antagonist in the story of Jane Eyre, he is not exactly that.  Nor is Caliban the villain in The Tempest. These characters have a more in depth point to the story. It’s not merely good or bad, but technically grey.  They are not Good vs. Evil.
That being said, some of the characters on the list are evil, but not necessarily so. The word definition is crucial here.
So where am I going with all of this?
I’m finding that younger writers who have not read a lot of classics, nor have they lived unique lives, don’t have a grasp of what makes a character evil, haunting, disturbed, manipulative, psychotic, complicated or whatever adjective you want to address a character. If you have lived within the sheltered pages of life going from high school to college and that is it for your age, really, you have not lived.  And if you haven’t read the classics, or at least a couple of them, I don’t think you have a grasp on some really good character development.
Now don’t get me wrong, I have not read a ton of classics, but at age 13 I read The Three Musketeers and from there on, I’ve attempted to tackle more in depth books.  Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion, Scaramouche, Jane Eyre (though I have not finished it yet, but saw the film), The Great Gatsby… I’m blanking on others.  But in the past 10 years, I have learned a lot, and I stress LOT, by reading those types of books. You learn that characters are complicated. Sometimes there is no right or wrong, but there is something about a character that is thought provoking. Heck, even Mr. Darcy could have been considered haunting. (not really, but guys need to read P&P to understand why women adore Darcy….though there is Mr. Knightley…)

I don’t see how anyone can really write without reading some of the more famous works. I never thought I would say that you need to read the classics.  My father would kind of shoot me, but I honestly think you need to read some to get even the slightest grasp on character development and depth.  And if you haven’t read most of the classics, don’t even try to complain about why Voldomort is not on a list but Heathcliff is.  Don’t even go there.

And Haunting doesn’t mean evil.  People, remember that!

Side Disclaimer: I have not nor will not ever read A Clockwork Orange, anything Stephen King or anything really disturbing.

 

Whew! Now that I’m done ranting, I want your input. Are you someone who thinks you need the classics?  Do you think I’m off my rocker?  How do you get your character development? And what do you think of the list of Haunting Male Characters?

Signing off

Kate

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Really, Was Darcy and Rochester Any Better Than Today’s Romantic Life?

Reality is so depressing.

Why is love so awkward and unstreamlined in real life? Can’t we all just be as brave as Mr. Darcy, or Mr. Rochester, or Jane Eyre or Lizzie Bennett?

I read this recently on Tumblr when I was hunting pictures of Mr. Rochester, aka Michael Fassbender.  I sat there for a while, thinking, oh this is a great line.  Why isn’t love like those books.

Then I got thinking.

It wasn’t really so clean cut.  In both Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre, everyone is so vague.  No one just comes out and says, “Hey, I like you, wanna go get a cup of coffee?”  They talk in riddles and vagaries.

It takes Darcy forever before he actually tells Elizabeth that he wants her and he prefaces it with an insult .   Granted, it’s not the world’s worst statement, but a woman would take it as an insult, and I kind of think she should.  I would take it as an insult.  Yes, I would want to be told: “His sense of her inferiority–of its being a degradation–of the family obstacles which had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, but was very unlikely to recommend his suit..”

Okay, sure, what he’s saying is that despite all of those obstacles he still wants to marry her, but really, do you want a man that is going to insult you?

And after watching Jane Eyre, and enjoying the film, though I thought there was much that they could have from the book, I found Mr. Rochester  a bit of a jerk.  Now, I have yet to finish the book, though I find I am enjoying it, and I have a feeling there will be more ‘meat’  than the film which seemed to leave much of the conversations out.

While I don’t doubt that Rochester loves Jane, he’s cruel at times, insulting, abrupt, and well, deceitful.  You want him and Jane together, because you can see the purity in Jane’s love, but you know she really needs to leave.  It’s heartbreaking for Jane because she has to leave the man she loves.

When she finally returns to Rochester, a woman grown instead of a somewhat starry-eyed young governess ; a woman who doesn’t need a man to take care of her, the love has changed.  Matured in some ways.   Of course  it took some extreme circumstances, but it’s better.  But the fact that it (the story)  had to go through so much ‘drama’.  And they say people have drama now.  What about Jane and Rochester?  Now that is drama.

Don’t get me started on Emma.  Why, if Mr. Knightly loved Emma, did he wait forever to tell her?  You almost think he’s never going to tell her.  You get so anxious that it’s not going to turn out okay.  I’ve yet to read Emma, it’s on my list, and I’ve not finished Pride and Prejudice, but I have finished Persuasion. Thank goodness for the films, otherwise I might not have gotten through them. The films are the only reason I actually read Persuasion.  Had I gone by just the book, I might not have finished it. Same with Jane Eyre. I had to see the movie to see what I was struggling to get through in the book.

I can relate though to that feeling Meg Ryan says in You’ve Got Mail.  “Confession, I have read Pride and Prejudice two hundred times. I get lost in the language, words like ‘Thither. Mischance. Felicity.’ I’m always in agony over whether Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are really going to get together.”   I feel that way with all of the Jane Austen stories. I felt it with Jane Eyre as well. You really are in agony over whether or not it’s actually going to work out okay, even though you know!

Well, I’m sorry, life is confusing enough. I don’t want a love where I’m in agony over whether or not it’s going to turn out okay.  I was in a relationship like that.  It wasn’t fun. I want to know when a guy likes me. I don’t want to have to sit and guess.  And it wouldn’t hurt if he’s kind, loyal, trustworthy.

So, do I want a Mr. Darcy.?  Only sort of. I would much prefer a Mr. Darcy that won’t insult me. That being said, I still get a delightful thrill thinking about both Darcy and Rochester.

Signing off

~Kate