Friday 11 July 2008

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'...

hich 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.


  1. 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'.

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


  3. 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.)

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

  5. 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...

  6. 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!

  7. I forgot to add - I didn't like The Bell Jar either.

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

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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...


I've now moved to, and all my old posts are over there too - do come and say hello :)

I probably won't see your comment here, I'm afraid, but all my archive posts can also be found at