jack kerouac

Courting Classic Literature.


(Source: La liseuse by Jean-Jacques Henner)

Hark, something is afoot. Wilt ye lend me thine ear? Oh, do not fret–tis not a matter of great weight, but tis a fullsome subject worthy of note. Friend, I shall address classic literature, of which time hath wrought much to discuss. I beseech thee: trow thine language, reflect upon what thou hast read…

Now that you’re having violent flashbacks to reading Romeo and Juliet in school and scrambling for No Fear Shakespeare, I’ll cease speaking like I have a time machine. (Although, I wish I did have a time machine; I would give the Doctor a run for his timelord money.)

ANYWAYS…

In case it wasn’t clear in mixed-period English, I’ve been delving into classic literature lately. Alright, alright, I saw that flinch; please, just give me a chance to explain.

I studied English and I’m an unrepentant book fiend, but with all of that said, I still didn’t get classic lit until about six months ago. So, after my TAMUCT courses forced me to read enough of it to fill a small library and the lightbulb finally flicked on, I got a bit excited.

Don’t misunderstand: before college I read a few classics. I fangirled over On the Road, loved watching my senior English teacher act out Hamlet, and used a bisexual flag to represent Whitman for “book in a bag.” But, I didn’t stop hiding in the young-adult lit section and learn to love the classics until college.

After all the old English fear, I can now quote Austen and my bookshelves are a bit beyond burgeoning. That’s what brings us to this post.

You see, as a relatively new classic lit lover, I feel that I need to declare my love, rom-com style. Since holding a boombox outside my love’s window is logistically impossible, this blog post is my declaration…and also my encouragement of everyone to be a bit more, shall we say, polyamorous with the lit they love.

Give me just a couple minutes and maybe you’ll want to disappear into Austenland or wish you could befriend a dead poet…

——

In general, there are two objections to classic lit: it is hard to read and it is boring/irrelevant. Well…

It may be difficult at first to get used to older language and styles, but there is a lot buried within all of those thee’s and thou’s.

For starters, Shakespeare has some of the most blatantly sexual and legitimately amusing scenes that I’ve ever read (*cough* Shakespeare, Sonnet 151 *cough*). Plus, Shakespeare has so many brilliant insults and dismissals.Wouldn’t you feel smooth if you called someone a “scurvy companion” (Henry IV, Part 2) or said someone’s “abilities were too infant-like for doing much alone” (Coriolanus)?

Plus, if Eric in Boy Meets World can act out Shakespeare, the least you can do is read some of it!

Let’s also not forget the great moments within other works like Don Quixote and A Modest Proposal though. I mean, Jonathan Swift responded to poverty by sarcastically suggesting that people sell and consume small children…what’s not to enjoy?

But, in the end, if the language is a problem, annotated editions are your friend.

As far as objections to the old-fashioned or “boring” plots in classic lit go, I have to say that is merely a false impression of the genre.

The Great Gatsby is about love, money, and the Jazz Age, with a storyline full of excessive partying, maudlin observations, and tragic deaths.

1984 deals with omnipresent government control, personal freedom, and the past, or essentially being tired of pretending that everything is peachy keen.

The Canterbury Tales follows a group of people headed to the same place for different reasons. Think of it as an old Love, Actually (2003) or Valentine’s Day (2010).

And, let’s not even get that far into The Odyssey. It has war, creatures, and heroism. Plus, most people don’t even realize that dozens of the most popular video games, shows, and movies were based upon it.

Precisely what part of all of that sounded uninteresting and irrelevant? Nothing, it is all amazing! Those books/collections are all amazing!

In essence,

No matter what you’ve previously been told, classic lit is enjoyable, relevant, and quite entertaining. Books transcend time and those within the classic lit genre are no exception. That’s precisely why I’m courting classic lit and calling you all to do the same.

If the Doctor offered to take you to another planet, wouldn’t you go? Of course!

Books are

So, why not take a trip by cracking open a new, old one?

——

Have I convinced you yet? Well, if anyone decides to venture into the classic lit world, or has already discovered it (you sir or madam, are a smart duck), let me know. Perhaps we can have a chat and start a ship war–I’m happily sailing Katherine/Petruchio, Emma Woodhouse/Mr. George Knightley, and Fanny/Edmund. Or, we can just have virtual tea and become Goodreads friends, it’s your choice.

Regardless, best of luck in the world of literature and always remember:

Note:

The introductory paragraph of literary torture–I mean, fun–via mixed-period English was brought to you by this delightful little resource: I Bequeath Thee.

Also, the inspiration for this post and my newfound appreciation of classic literature was this wonderful little lit-nerd tidbit: Disgruntled English Major.

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New Favorite Quotes

With the passing of time comes the passing of many words. From brain, past lips, to ears, and other brains, words transform our world. Words hold power that we cannot even wholly comprehend. Strings of sounds and connecting pauses, whole phrases can define our lives and our world. As humans, we need words to communicate, allowing our gestures and emotions to take on new and more complete meaning. I, for one, find the power of words to be quite extraordinary in such a way that I cannot even begin to express my love of words. Without further adieu, here a few more of my favorite strings of words though the list could be endless:

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.” (Mother Teresa)

“There is that in me…I do not know what it is…but I know it is in me.” (Walt Whitman)

“After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” (Aldous Huxley)

“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time…” (Jack Kerouac)

“You can close your eyes to the things that you do not want to see, but you cannot close your heart to the things you do not want to feel.” (Unknown)

“In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” (George Orwell)

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness, and nothing is so gentle as real strength.” (Ralph W. Sockman)

“Love is a devil: there is no angel but Love. Yet was Samson so tempted, and he had an excellent strength; yet was Solomon so seduced, and he had a very good with.” (William Shakespeare)

“In short, I’d rather be truthful than correct.” (Sir Thomas More)

“They’re quite gentle really, but people avoid them because they’re a bit…different.” (Luna Lovegood, character of J.K. Rowling)

“Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?” (Rose Kennedy)

“Now I pierce the darkness, new beings appear.  The earth recedes from me into the night; I saw that it was beautiful, and I see that what is not the earth is beautiful.  I go from bedside, I sleep close with the other sleepers each in turn.  I dream in my dream all the dreams of the other dreamers, and I become the other dreamers.  I am a dance–play up there! The fit is whirling me fast!” (Walt Whitman)

“There is no exquisite beauty…without some strangeness in the proportion.” (Edgar Allan Poe)

“Hating our actions is the first step to our redemption. Hating ourselves, however, is the first step to our destruction.” (Albus Dumbledore, character of J.K. Rowling)

“Cowards die many times before their deaths; the valiant never taste of death but once.” (William Shakespeare)

“I wonder how many people I’ve looked at all my life and never seen.” (John Steinbeck)

“The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.” (Walter Bagehot)

“Constantly talking isn’t necessarily communicating.” (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)