I loathe Hemingway. The only times I have read his work has been when required to do so for school. I had to read The Old Man and the Sea way back in the dark ages of time, when I was in elementary school (yes, really. Look, I was homeschooled, and my mother was perfectly well aware my reading level was sky high), and then recently for a college class was assigned a… I can’t even call that thing a story, a vignette, maybe. I also despise Hawthorne, and Joyce, and… I could go on and on. So can others, evidently, as a thread discussion on my facebook page showed last week.
So why do we hate “the classics” and what makes those books/authors classics, anyway? I can’t see any real reason, except that teachers have them on lists handed down for generations without questions, and so it must be. But why can’t we read things that we enjoy? No, I don’t mean light reading, or ‘popular’ books, necessarily. But wouldn’t it be better to assign books and then look at what it is about them we enjoy? Character, plot, setting… not some obscure societal message. I about lost my mind when I looked up the wiki on the Hemingway story I’d read. There is no way to read that message into that… thing. Unless you really really want to, because it says what you want it to. Ugh.
Correia on the Classics: “True story. A friend of mine is a successful fantasy novelist. He was asked to speak to a creative writing class about his first book. The teacher asked him what it “meant.” He gave her the plot synopsis. No. What does it “mean”? It is a fantasy, about magic, and– NO. What is the real “meaning”? You see, college English is the only place where Freudian psychology is still legitimate. Everything has to have a deeper meaning. A book just can’t be a story. It has to be an analogy for some social commentary. And heaven help us if it wasn’t, because then all those no-talent hack English professors wouldn’t be able to write 1,000 page commentaries on what the whale in Moby Dick REALLY represented.” Larry Correia
Now, I really enjoy Larry Correia’s work. I did a review back when on Monster Hunter Legion, and I need to do one on Warbound, but I haven’t read it yet. Spending too much time reading the school stuff, sadly. What I don’t try to do to Larry’s work is analyze it deeply. It’s not that I couldn’t find something in there, I probably could. It’s just that it’s *fun* to read, and hard to slow down enough to nitpick at it. I’d rather find out what happens to Earl and Holly, who seem almost real to me, than search for some societal subtext. I like characters. I enjoy action, and well-constructed worlds. So I’m going to find some good reads with those in them, rather than beating my head against more Hemingway.
At the very least, it will serve as mental mouthwash to get the taste of the required ‘classics’ out of my head. Which ought to enable me to write, as I can’t when I am all grumpy about being beaten over the head and shoulders with the societal message from class. Which reminds me…
One of the things I realized after thinking about the other stories we read/discussed in class was how, er, “classist” they were. America is not a society of classes, per se. Yes, there’s Middle, Low, and High, but the unique thing about our country (and yes, I am unabashedly proud of our nation) is that you can start out one, and wind up another. In any order. So why are we reading stories about the very poorest of poor as though we are studying some foreign culture? I grew up poor. I didn’t know we were poor, but we were, in part my parent’s choice, and in part just the way it was. But it didn’t matter. I was given the best education Mom could muster (and that, by the way, was part of the poor, my parent’s choice to sacrifice one income to make sure the kids got the attention we deserved) and reading was a huge part of that.
In class, we read stories about the urban poor, both written by minority authors, and I can’t help feeling that it’s misrepresenting. They were poor, so? They also went on to have successful lives (or they would not be read in a Lit. class) and maybe that is what we need to be reading about. How they succeeded, not how they were poor, look at the poor people but don’t poke them through the bars… One story seems to advocate theft to rise out of poverty – or, that PC version, stealing from the rich. Because, after all, if you have more money than me, I deserve it. And again, Ugh.
Sorry about the long and disjointed rant and ramble. You’re likely to see more of this in the coming few months. I am in not one, but two Lit. classes. As a writer, and even more, as a reader, they tick me off.