Lately I’ve been reading Anna Karenina, a novel by Leo Tolstoy, and just like anybody else reading a book they enjoy, I’ve been fanatically discussing it with people I know. What I’ve been noticing, however, is the lack of people knowing the book and the disinterest that some have in regards to classics. (Note that by classics I mean the upheld novels rather than Roman/Greek myth. Also, please note that this is merely what I’ve found in relation to people I know and talk to, rather than the general population.)
I must say that because it is a classic I sort of expected for people to at least have heard of it, reading it no, but to know of the book I felt reasonable (or maybe that’s just me). What surprised me the most was that even my mum hadn’t heard of it! But then again my dad had so maybe I’m asking too much.
In regards to people’s reactions to classics, it’s generally negative. Many see classics as difficult and boring, something studied purely for exams and school rather than one’s own enjoyment. And although this isn’t my personal view I can understand where they’re coming from. Classics are by no means an easy read, they can be harder to follow, literary wise and plot wise, with terms being outdated and dictionaries brought out they’re not designed for the faint hearted. Anna Karenina, being more modern, isn’t so much of a challenge, but it is still definitely more time consuming than the YA fiction which I’m more used to.
On the other hand, I do have several friends who do enjoy them and know of them. They have opinions on more widely known classics such as Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre (which annoyingly not many liked) as well as reading potentially more modern ones such as To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Anna Karenina is probably a lesser know classic, which would explain the lack of readership. If I were to read Frankenstein or Moby Dick then I’d probably receive a different response, and as Anna Karenina isn’t on the GCSE or A Level specification (to my knowledge), it receives a lot less exposure.
Overall, although I find classics difficult to digest at times, I think they’re worth it, as they’re not classics for nothing. The authors poured hours into their novels in order to have this glamourous title, so don’t dismiss it to be an empty phrase.
What do you think about classics anyway? Worth the read or time wasters?