The more I read of literature, the more I am dissatisfied with it.

Long time, no blog. I know. Unfortunately I seem to be having something of an existential crisis at present. Not on behalf of my own life, thank goodness, but rather on behalf of my blog. ‘In my good books’ I named it, although I have to say I’m beginning to think that ‘In my boring books’ might have been more accurate. I set out to read books that others had hailed as ‘classics’ and have, for the most part, been a little disappointed and a lot uninspired. I love reading, I chose to study English at Uni because of this love. I had anticipated, therefore, that beginning this blog and undertaking to read more ‘classic’ books would be something of a treat, lately, at least, it hasn’t been. I seem to be reading less and less as time passes.

Since the low point of Madame Bovary, I seem to have got rather stuck in a rut. I have not found any new characters, especially heroines to aspire to or admire. I had assumed that there were a few more Elizabeth Bennets out there but am beginning to conceive that perhaps she is, after all, a flower amongst weeds in the garden of literary heroines. One thing that this blog is at least affirming to me is my love of my old favourites. I am gaining a greater insight into what exactly it is I love about the books I have cherished for so many years. Take Pride and Prejudice, for example. Previously I’d thought that it owed a great deal of its charm to the period in which it is set and the manners of the time, although having read Middlemarch I am not so sure. No, I think, where my love affair with Pride and Prejudice is concerned, it is not the period that makes it for me, or even, shock horror, Mr Darcy…it is Elizabeth. If there’s anything I love about that book it has to be her. Sure she has her faults…pride and prejudice are not the reserves of Mr Darcy, but her wit and vivacity (as Mr Collins puts it) are in my reading so far unparalleled.

Now, where the book I am currently dawdling through is concerned…where to begin. The Catcher in the Rye does not seem to be a bad book, although it is, for me, not the holy grail of literature. I haven’t finished it yet, so am aware that I am in no way fit to pass comment, but I have certainly developed a general air of apathy where reading this book is concerned. Thus far my reading of it has only commenced on trains, not a good sign. Instead, in the evening, I find myself drawn to the charms of sweeping….Minesweeping, that is; and can now boast the richest Sim I’ve ever played. Yes, it is that modern trapping, the computer game, that has robbed Salinger of my perusal. The Catcher in the Rye is by no means a doorstop of a book, in fact, compared to the likes of Middlemarch it is but a minnow in the pool. In fact, if I felt so inclined, I could probably sit down and read the whole thing in a couple of hours; and perhaps that is the way I’ll have to go. Maybe the quick short burst, like the ripping off of a plaster, will be my solution for The Catcher in the Rye. Maybe by the end of it I’ll even find I enjoy the sensation. But finishing it is not my main concern at present. It can be done, if I set my mind to it. No, what concerns me is my need to rip off the plaster and read in such a forced fashion. I’ve only encountered this sort of reading when studying academic texts and course books when revising. This is not the way I would choose to read for pleasure, as it confers little pleasure at all.

But how to solve the problem? The answer seems clear, read better books. But how to find them? I am, after all, currently reading my way through texts that have, for years, been ranked amongst the best. The pinnacle of literature. If they are not satisfying then where to turn next evades me. I’m not even so fussed when it comes to plot, all I want, as I’ve said from the start, is a heroine to be proud of. To be honest, even a hero would suffice. The perfect escapism, for me, is to wander into the life of a character I admire, to view the world as they do and to learn of worlds different to my own through their eyes; but where to find these characters? Again, I turn to the wisdom of Elizabeth Bennet, ‘The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the little dependence that can be placed on the appearance of merit or sense’. Perhaps I just need to be grateful that I have found books that I do love, and be content with the pleasure I have had in reading them.

What about  In my good books…? Well, I will trudge on, turning pages, scouring for that heroine to be proud of. After all, hope flames eternal…perhaps there is another Lizzie out there, skulking amongst the dross of boring characters, waiting to be discovered and truly loved. I just wish my course to find her would run a little  smoother.

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16 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction, Novel, Uncategorized

16 responses to “The more I read of literature, the more I am dissatisfied with it.

  1. Bookish Hobbit

    I’ve been trying to read more classics myself over the past few years and some of them that people seem to positively love, such as Wuthering Heights, leaves me wondering, “WHY???” But as with everything there’s a lot of not so good stuff to wade through in order to find those gems that make us fall in love with reading and literature again.

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    • I’ve always felt that way about Wuthering Heights too, I had the misfortune to have to study it on three seperate occasions at school/uni and couldn’t make myself like it. After three reads, I now see some good points, but I’ll never read it for pleasure. Thanks for the comment, it’s always good to know others feel the same way you do!

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  2. I love old favourites too – before I joined Goodreads, I pretty much used to re-read, re-read, re-read and stick to those I knew. I do miss that, you get so much out of re-reading.

    Have you read North and South? I prefer that much more to Pride and Prejudice – and it is sort of a Victorian re-write of Pride and Prejudice. Only, the female character Margaret is much more of a Darcy then Mr Thornton.

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  3. I’m curious what your thought are about Fanny Price – I feel like most people have solid feelings about her, and that she’s the most contentious of Austen’s leading ladies.

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    • If I’m honest, it’s been a very long time since I read Mansfield Park – I think I was about fourteen at the time. Along with Sense and Sensibility it’s always been my least favourite of Austen’s novels and I think Fanny has a lot to do with this. From what I remember, I found Fanny rather uninspiring and a little predictable – not in the same league as Elizabeth Bennet or Anne Elliot as heroines go. I think it is a novel which deserves a re-read from me though, maybe I’ll have to make it my re-read for the Classics Challenge.

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      • Interesting – I think that’s why I’m clearly in the minority. I definitely don’t think she is on par with Elizabeth or Anne, but I feel so many people don’t give her credit for being a product of her environment or for her internal journey of self discovery. Who knows it’s always interesting to ask (and that’s why I do :-D).

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  4. This headline caught my eye, as I wondered if it was a twist on Lizzy’s line 😀 Indeed, she is unparalleled. My other fave Austen is Persuasion. A cruder way to put your analogy is that 95% of everything is #*&%^ so the challenge is finding that 5%. And your 5% might not be someone else’s as you discovered with Catcher in the Rye. Keep searching!!

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  5. I have to agree with you about this one – I love that I bothered to read it. I just can’t help feeling sometimes, even with a “classic”, that if you’re not enjoying it, the book isn’t doing what it is supposed to do – engage you – so put yourself out of your misery and move on to the next! Good luck with your reading. I hope you found/find something better soon.

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    • Thanks, Emma. Thankfully my faith in literature has been partially restored by reading ‘Jamaica Inn’ and ‘One Day’ – it would seem I’m back on the right track, :-). Looking forward to reading your blog in future, nice to find another Brit on WordPress – we seem to be something of a rarity here! :-).

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  6. I just signed up for email and on Facebook to keep up with your blog.
    Really a lovely blog!
    When I feel as you do it usually means I need a break from that particular genre of books, so I switch to something else, later I’ll go back to that same type of books, but I just needed a break.
    I love history and historical fiction. I will read mega books in a row on the Holocaust or WWII, but then start having nightmares, anyway I have to then take a break.
    Enjoyed visiting in your little part of blogosphere!

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  7. Good luck, good luck 🙂 I tend to think that with the vast amount of writers and their individual points of view that may somehow clash with our own–or worse, fail to interest us–it’s sometimes a miracle that we get to read anything that takes our breath away. I’m sure there are more books out there for you, though! I really like being on Shelfari (although I think any social reading site would do well here) because I can find people who love the same books as I do and may have new recommendations for me.

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    • Thanks, 🙂 . I’m sure you’re right, there will be more brilliant books out there! Think I used my last post to get my annoyance off my chest, the adult-blogger equivalent of stamping your feet when you don’t like your bedtime story. I’ve enjoyed reading your blog, it’s got character, 🙂 . I will check Shelfari out, I’ve not come across it before – not sure how popular it is in the UK – but it sounds interesting.

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      • Thanks 😀 I’m also unsure how popular Shelfari is in the UK, but I do know I have people all over the world in my book group, so I’m guessing there are at least some international users? ^_^

        I will be checking back in to see if you’ve found anything else worth reading! 😀

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