revisiting the classics...

Books are my passion. Not only do I love the very feel of them in my hands or the look of them stacked upon my shelves. I love the feathery pages, the crack of a new spine, the faint chemical smell. I love the feel of the first page and the delicious sadness of the last. I like to touch my books to examine them. They are, in my eyes, utter perfection. I have made literature my livelihood in more ways than one.

My mother is and was my greatest example in this regard indulging us in naught but beautifully bound volumes of Dickens, Hans Christian Andersen, Louisa May Alcott and scores of others. We often spent evenings reciting poetry, performing amateurish bits of Shakespeare and marveling at the Greek tragedies. An actor and aesthete by nature, my mother created games for us using clever riddles and obscure vocabulary that we might run to the shelves eager to find a clue tucked within the pages of an old cumbersome dictionary. Our little hands were taught a reverence for books that we have carried into adulthood. Most of my happiest memories were spent in the company of my favorite literary friends. My mom and I would lie in bed on the weekends silently immersed in a small bit of heaven. She would absentmindedly run her fingers through my hair as she read and I would on occasion rest my head on her long legs. We would take breaks to rest our eyes and as I traced with my bony fingers the scars that littered her limbs (she was a tomboy and a tree climber) she would tell me elaborate albeit made-up stories of their origin. I have many reason to worship my mother but the love she gave me for stories is very near the top.

When I met my husband I was a quiet sort of girl who until then had been happily reclusive living mostly among my books and a smallish group of friends. My husband, as a writer, taught me a new appreciation for the written word and I began to love the beauty of type as much as what each precious form represented when expertly united.

It is perhaps because of all these things that I have decided at my current age to pay a little visit to the heroes of my youth. It occurred to me as I spent a solitary afternoon at the bookstore that I'd read many of the "Classics" before I'd reached double digits. Hemingway of course, The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre. How I loved them then. I would meet those dear friends once again in college when I was too sleep deprived to care. But what would I think of them now? I find it odd that most of us who have read these books have done so at an age when many of the themes are least applicable or noticed for that matter. Surely each carries within them fine lessons for young readers, but perhaps the same can be said for older ones. So, as to not miss out, I have decided to revisit the classics**. I intend to begin with the volumes of my youth. Some have been surreptitiously smuggled from my mother's library and other worn paperbacks saved from some earlier union. I have begun in earnest with...The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton...the first authoress to win a Pulitzer. I thought to begin with Great Expectations but discovered it too late. Therefore, it will have to wait until after I finish with Newland Archer.

Join me in this little quest if you are so inclined.

** you can attain a book list from many different sources I use a combination of many. I think this one is fairly standard. I also think that in order to be comprehensive it is wise to include a broader world view, but everyone has their idea of what is considered a "must read" in their lifetime. I say draw from there.

No comments: