You win some, you lose some

I made a post earlier about shaming, in particular classics shaming – for those of you who haven’t read it, I’m essentially talking about those few individuals who feel it’s their duty to ‘shame’ other people for not having read certain books. For example, what are considered ‘classics’, or the canon etc etc. We’re talking Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice, Great Expectations, and so on.

As a Classical Studies with English student, I feel ridiculously guilty for not having read some books. Which is stupid, because there are millions of books and who the hell can read every single one? Anyway, I decided that I’d gradually make my way through (and by gradually, I mean gradually) a few certain books deemed ‘classic’. I started with Wuthering Heights and, thanks to a well-timed university module, I’ve just finished Frankenstein. Neither were what I expected.

I’m a sucker for a good romance. Don’t you deny it, a little mush is good for the soul (and the heart, surprise, surprise). So I chose to start with Wuthering Heights, knowing very little other than the fact that Heathcliff is a hunk and there is a fantastic Kate Bush song (and let’s not forget the dance).

What I read was not this. I did not read about a gallant male lead who was wonderful, attractive and who incites me to say ‘Oh, I love you, Heathcliff‘. No. I read about an abusive arse of a man who is shown to actually beat a girl. Beat. And he also beats a boy. Beats. He locks Cathy’s daughter in a room and refuses to let her leave until she does what he wants. He is horrible, abusive and, I’m sorry, but just plain awful. WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS GUY? This isn’t romantic! This is barely friendship! When is a man who beats people romantic? No, I’m sorry, but this is one classic that I just couldn’t enjoy for that sole reason. I went in expecting a love story, and left with a tale of abuse. The writing is beautiful, I can’t deny that, but Heathcliff is not.

I approached the next classic with trepidation. Frankenstein. Oh boy. I know the stereotype images of a square headed monster coloured green all stitched together. Once again, I had no clue what to expect. Once again, how I felt at the end was the exact opposite of my expectations. Wuthering Heights wasn’t a good time for me. Frankenstein was one of the best. I adored every page. The writing, the story, the later analysis I did in class on the relation to the myth of Prometheus. It was pure class and I wish I had read it sooner so I could have gushed about it sooner. Frankenstein and his monster, his creature, were so complex and interesting and just so different. They had motives that I could understand; the wish to create, to discover, to find love, to find a place to belong (cue music from the Disney Hercules soundtrack). It was just perfect.

So, you win some and you lose some with classics. You might feel like you’re obligated to like them, but I’ve discovered first hand that this isn’t the case. Wuthering Heights wasn’t really up my street, so what? Frankenstein is one of my favourite reads of this year – and not just because it meant that when I read Vicious by V.E Schwab I understood references to it.

Moral of the story (/stories), try something different and you might find that you like it – or hate it, but then you can write a blog about it and get out all those pesky feelings.

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Book Shaming

I love reading. I think we’ve established that. I love books, I love talking about them to the point I’ve set up a blog about it and I want to one day write them. When other people talk about loving books, I love that even more. Sharing your love for a book with someone is so wonderful it’s hard to describe, but it fills me with joy – it’s one of the reasons why I love working in a bookshop. Books to me mean happiness and lots of good, positive vibes. This is why I absolutely hate it when people create a negative out of them.

Book shaming. You’ve probably done it without thinking about it, but the two most common sorts of book shaming are classics and Harry Potter. I’ll start with Harry Potter – a fantastic series, no one can argue against that, but not everyone has read the books for reasons of their own. However, this series has a following of millions of passionate people and, unfortunately, when they meet someone who hasn’t read the books, they start an argument. It can be lighthearted teasing or full out scolding. ‘You haven’t read them? What the hell are you doing with your life? You need to read them!’

You can probably guess what I mean by book shaming now.

Shaming someone for not reading a certain book just isn’t right, to me. And, hell, I’ve had this happen to me more times than I care for. I read all kinds of books, and it started with horse books and Judy Moody, then went into teenage and contemporary, and now I find myself reading more fantasy than ever. For university, I read ancient Greek and roman plays, poems and history books along with a few selected books for English. Harry Potter is a series that I just never read. My brother read them all, and I remember a time when I wanted to be so independent that I refused to read them just for that fact – the amount of times people asked me whether I was always trying to be like him had me very sensitive. Then I remember trying to read the first one towards the end of primary school, and I just couldn’t get into it past the first chapter. So I put that book down and tried something else – I just never picked it up again. When they came out, I went to see the films and enjoyed them. I liked the world, the fantasy, the references to classical mythology – but I just didn’t read the books. I also don’t have any plans to read them, but that doesn’t mean I deserve abuse from peers, friends, colleagues or strangers just because of it.

Ok, enough about Potter shaming and on to classics shaming. You probably have an idea of what counts as the classical book ‘canon’ as such. It’s books like Pride and PrejudiceJane Eyre, The Great Gatsby, Little Women, Of Mice and Men etc, etc. You get the idea. Now people absolutely love to shame those who haven’t read these books termed as ‘the classics’. Reading these books have become a chore for some people just so they can say they’ve read them, rather than out of enjoyment. I am desperately trying to read as many classics as I can, because reading them before has never interested me. In secondary school I was more interested in books like the Hunger Games and, sadly, Twilight in my earlier years. Yet, now that I actually want to read these particular books, all I get is grief. ‘You call yourself an English student? What do you mean you haven’t read them?’ blah, blah, blah-de-bloody-blah. Everyone seems to have an opinion, and if they’ve read the books then they feel automatically superior. I read Wuthering Heights all the way through for the first time a few months ago, after many failed attempts to finish it when I was younger, yet when I happily told someone they immediately started the shaming spiel.

It’s a shame, excuse the pun, that these particular books have been so much adored by some people that those who haven’t read them are deemed failures immediately. Or even if people do love them – say someone saw an adaptation of Jane Eyre and now idols her, or if they’ve watched the Potter films and consider themselves a fan – that people still tell them off for not reading the books. Tell them that they don’t truly appreciate them because they haven’t read the books, so automatically their love for them should be revoked.

It’s not good, people. Not good.