Saturday, January 23, 2010

Waiting to read

When I was growing up we had works of classical literature on our standard school reading list. For example in junior year of high school we had to read and analyze War and Peace, among others. This always bothered me because, let's face it, there aren't many 16-year-olds who would willingly read the huge volumes let alone relate to fictional characters from some other century. A brief examination of the YA shelves at the local Barnes & Noble shows that unless it's fantasy or adventure young people simply aren't interested and the amount of shelf space devoted to classical literature is so miniscule in comparison to the fantasy, romance, sci-fi, crime and manga that even specifically looking for the section I almost missed it. 
So why do the educators continue to force Tostoy, Kafka, Hugo and Dickens on our poor minds when we don't even possess the maturity to understand half of what the authors set out to tell us? Are we supposed to be so grown-up by the time we graduate from high school to grasp what adults with grey in their hair spent countless hours putting on paper? They might think that if they don't make the kids read these books now they never will. They also might think that the teenagers are ready to process and learn from these stories.  If they're old enough to have sex they might as well read One Hundred Years Of Solitude. As if. 
The fact of the matter is majority of stories that we know as "classics" were written by adults brimming with realizations and understanding of life they gained through years worth of experience and I suspect they didn't write for fresh-faced youths whose main concern is whether a particular someone likes them. They shared excerpts of new chapters with their friends, not the friends' children. 
I dutifully read what the teachers told me to read in my school years but don't remember a third of it. The deep moral lessons I'm afraid are also forgotten. Sounds like wasted time and effort if it left no trace at all. Wouldn't I have been better off reading something more age-appropriate? At least I would remember it!
War and Peace is on my list, as well as a hundred of other books that are considered classics worthy of admiration. I figure if so many generations praise these works there must be something to them. Will I tackle them this year? Probably not. I'm waiting for the right time and mood and a glimmer of confidence that the works of great minds won't be wasted on me once again. As the saying goes, art is long, time is short. I'll add "especially if it's wasted". In the meantime, I'll spend my hours on lighter reading, surely the bowing shelves of my book case will appreciate that. 

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