When people tell me they don’t read for pleasure I feel an acute sense of sadness for them.
Reading has helped me through the sad and bad times in my life, changed my opinions, inspired me, relaxed me, enraged me and delighted me for as long as I can remember.
I have worked in libraries for twenty-three years and I have a very public confession to make: I don’t like most of the “classics”.
There, I said it, and the sky hasn’t fallen in.
I just don’t get what all the fuss is about to be honest. “Catcher in the Rye”, “Catch 22” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” were page turners for me, only because I was waiting to feel something extraordinary. It never happened.
It’s the same with Dickens, Plath and Lessing , and Fitzgerald actually sent me to sleep with “The Great Gatsby”. No, I wasn’t reading in bed, I was sat bolt upright at the staffroom table on my lunch. I was only persuaded to read it by someone telling me I reminded them of Daisy and I didn’t manage to maintain my interest in the story long enough to discover if this was a compliment.
However, I discovered “Wuthering Heights” when I was thirteen and felt like I had been hit by a juggernaut, emotionally. I read it because Kate Bush had topped the charts with her infamous take on the classic. Literary critics and purists despised the song but I think this is just plain old snobbery. If it inspires people to read the book then what’s the problem? And if it doesn’t and people just enjoyed the record, again-what’s the problem?
“Wuthering Heights” has remained my all time favourite book for the past thirty seven years, closely followed by Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”.
I grew up watching Boris Karloff’s portrayal of a monster in black and white films shown late on a Saturday night. Discovering that the original creation had emotional depth and intellect and was not the bad guy after all, was wonderful and heart-breaking at the same time.
So I love two of the many classics I have read or tried to read and I’m OK with that now. It’s taken me a while to not feel guilty about that. I have lost count of the many people who expect me to have read all of the classics just because I work in a library, but some the best library staff I have had the pleasure of working with never pick up any kind of book other than to shelve it or recommend it to a customer. But that’s the subject for another blog.
Lynne Scarles is a Team Leader at Blackpool Library Service.