Saturday, 17 June 2017

Reading Classics

Before starting my Arts degree, the only ‘classic’ book I’d read was probably Pride and Prejudice (after seeing the brilliant 2005 adaption). I’d always felt a bit apprehensive about reading older books, assuming they would be too difficult to understand or incredibility boring, perhaps both.
However, studying English literature somewhat forces you to read older literature and, thankfully for an English major like myself, I discovered it’s not as difficult or as boring as I feared. In fact, older literature can be just as entertaining, moving and interesting as contemporary fiction.

Classics and other older books that have survived long enough that you can still borrow them from a normal library have done so for a reason, because they’re actually quite good. The novel has gone through various incarnations, but at a fundamental level, it’s stayed the same for hundreds of years. Realism is still the gold standard, as my lecturer put it, and Victorian (and I’d argue earlier) realism is actually quite similar to the current realist genre (normally just called ‘fiction’). Different eras preferenced different subgenres and styles, some of which can be confusing (post-modernism, for example), however that can also be part of the fun as it allows you to see what people enjoyed reading.

Reading older books can also be a great way to get a sense of how people lived and thought at a particular time and, especially with realism, an authentic view of the world as a particular writer saw it. Books are such a marvellous way of getting to understand a different way of seeing or thinking about the world and that’s what makes reading books of every and any age, but especially classics, so interesting.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

The Language of Books

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern // Burial Rites by Hannah Kent // Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

There are many different ways a book shows you that it is well written, the construction of plot, witty dialogue, the way it makes you completely invested in the characters, the list goes on.
But there are some books that make their craft visible in the very language of the text, the way things are described. They’re beautifully descriptive, often with surprising imagery that also feels incredibly accurate. These three books have brilliant stories and characters as well, but they are examples of books whose language is so finely and intricately woven that the pleasure is as much in the fine language as the compelling story.

The Night Circus 

Morgenstern’s prose is laden with descriptive detail, which, rather than making the book heavy and slow, makes it rich and enthralling. The Night Circus is one of my favourite books because of its beautiful story and the way the prose creates a world both like and unlike our own. The enjoyment of reading the novel is almost as much in the detail threaded through every chapter as in the story itself.

Burial Rites 

Burial Rites is a wonderfully evocative tale of the last woman to be executed in Iceland. The way Kent tells the story through jumps back and forth in time is clever and compelling. The harsh, beautiful Icelandic landscape is described in believable and captivating detail, creating an otherworldly atmosphere that transports you to that place and time. It’s not a happy tale, but the way Kent creates such a captivating, convincing atmosphere is skilful and absorbing.

Mrs Dalloway 

My first experience with modernism, I approached Mrs Dalloway with apprehension, but Woolf’s language and style is not as difficult as it first appears. Woolf allows you into the heads of characters to see how their thoughts shift from musings to memory to what is happening around them, all in a seamless fashion. The thoughts of the characters are convincingly realistic and provide moments of both profound and relatable thoughts. While there isn’t much plot and it’s a bit sad, that’s not really the point. The point is to explore how people experienced life at that period of history.

 And those are three of my favourites for their descriptive detail, I encourage you to read them all!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Quote | Worrying means you suffer twice

Currently in the black hole of final assignments, I’m hanging out til Wednesday when two out of three will be done. For now I’m just popping up to share one of my favourite quotes/life mottos, it can be hard to follow but it does help my anxious, worrying mind to remember this piece of advice.

Now, back to those essays…

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