Thursday, January 20, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: Classic I Despised

Literary Blog Hop

Discussion question posted on The Blue Bookcase.

Discuss a work of literary merit that you hated when you were made to read it in school or university.  Why did you dislike it?

Beowulf. I believe the translation was by Burton Raffel. I was assigned this reading by Mrs. Wehrmeister in my sophomore year of high school and I hated every day that we were discussing this horrid little book in class. I hated the guys in my classroom who happened to love this book, and discuss it with genuine zeal even more. Those brown-nosers.

Why did I hate Beowulf? Simple. I didn't care about glorifying war stories, or male heroes or the killing of an oedipal dragon. At that point in time, I was into escapist novels, and for me, Beowulf was another lesson in history. We were learning about cultural differences, and studying the impact of religion on literature. I wanted to read books that I wasn't supposed to be reading--Looking for Mr. Goodbar, one of the many Danielle Steele cerebral-degenerating books, or some insipid Jude Devareaux romance. How much time I wasted on those silly novels! (Although I still read Looking for Mr. Goodbar from time to time.) I spent most of that year dodging other classics-- Julius Caesar, Pride and Prejudice, MacBeth, A Separate Peace-- simply because I refused to read something that someone told me to.

For me, the supreme freedom of reading meant that it was something I escaped to, some path of nonconformation I took, my way of asserting control over my own life, when there was precious little I COULD control at that time. So I skipped out on a lot that year. I ended up going back to those classics either the summer after, or in one case, 4 yrs later (with Pride and Prejudice).

What I still have yet to revisit is Beowulf. It's now tucked into my TBR list, and I actually attempted to read it a couple of weeks ago, but was unhappy with the translation. I've heard Seamus Heaney's translation is by far the best, and I am saving myself for that one. I now marvel at how many classics I am now struggling to read simply because I missed out on them as assigned readings out of immaturity and stubborness.