Monday, May 4, 2009

You really got me thinking

I'll admit your question had me thinking, Jason. Which "classic" author did I think was the most overrated?

The whole idea of the "classic" author reminds me of school and of teachers who seemed determined to suck the enjoyment out of reading by touting authors as "classic" rather than focusing on their stories.

(As an aside, I didn't have any of these teachers, but I know a lot of people who did. I still have nothing but fond memories of Sister Angele. She would assign multiple books to be read at any given time. Some we never discussed at all. Others we would be asked to write an impromptu essay on in class. Still others would be dissected for a week. I loved it!)

So, back to your question...

I'm not claiming to have read every work considered a classic or even any work by every author considered a classic, by any stretch.

I guess, if forced, I'd have to say Ernest Hemingway.

For the simple reason that while I have read several of his works ("The Old Man and The Sea," "A Farewell to Arms," "The Sun Also Rises")I don't remember anything that stands out.

Granted it's been a while since I've read them, but I haven't read "Jane Eyre" in more than two decades and I still recall Charlotte Bronte's description of the moors and the moody Rochester. It's been the same amount of time since I read "Madame Bovary" and I still remember feeling sorry for Gustave Flaubert's Emma even as she annoyed me.

In fact the only thing I recall about Hemingway is that my 10th-grade English teacher (not Sister Angele) made a comment about an observation I made in an essay I wrote on "The Old Man and The Sea." (Such moments were among the highlights of my high school years, what can I say.)

As I've said before, Jason, for me it's all about character. I like a good plot too, don't get me wrong, but that's not what sticks with me. I have been known on more than one occasion to read a book jacket and think that story sounds appealing. Then I get a chapter in and meet the characters and realize I've already read the book.

The best part of this whole exercise has been that I now want to go back a reread some of the classics.

So thanks, Jason.

- Tricia Ambrose

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please tell me you will reread Ernest Hemingway. Saying he is overrated is an terribly bold statement to come from someone who claims to appreciate writing and words.

His characters are as strong as there are in literature.
He didn't always use flowery descriptions to tell you about them. But his writing made you feel.

The greatest short story writer (talking about pure writing) in the English language.

This story goes without repeating, since it's everywhere. But it serves as an example of what I mean. Once in a bet with fellow writers at dinner, Hemingway said he could write a short story in six words. They called his bluff, and he scribbled:

For sale: Baby shoes, Never worn.

That story is steeped in lore, but generally accepted to be true. Even if it is not, it is only a writer of Hemingway's talent that could make us believe it.

May 7, 2009 at 3:07 PM 
Blogger Amanda D. said...

I’m going to have to agree with chfwahoo15. Hemingway is not overrated, he’s understated. Like a cashmere sweater his prose are elegant and classic. I don't remember detail by detail what happens in his books, I can barely do that with the book I'm reading at the moment, but I remember the sadness I felt after Henry loses Catherine, and I remember the insurmountable tragedy as Santiago drags the decimated corpse of the giant fish back to the dock. ~Mentor's Reader

May 8, 2009 at 9:52 AM 

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