Books like Tolstoy’s War & Peace, DH Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby are all classics which have entered into the popular consciousness as cultural touch stones of literary significance. With many people these days’ simply struggling to read a book, it is common to find yourself asking a simple question: why should I read the classics? In this blog posts we will attempt to address this issues and provide a relatively straight forward for giving these literary classics a good thumb through.
A Larger Vocabulary
When you read older books written in times gone by you quite often come across words that aren’t commonly used anymore. Figuring out what these words are and how they fit into the English language gives you a fuller arsenal of to use in when expressing yourself. This makes you more interesting to talk to and gives you greater scope to describe your concepts and ideas.
Improved Writing Ability
It’s a common cliché that the best writers are the best readers. This is because when you expose yourself to the best writing you subtlety learn how to use language more effectively. If you find yourself being swept up in exquisite prose then you are more likely to want to follow this style of writing in your on works, rather than rely on common tropes and worn expressions.
Becoming a Conversationalist
Nobody likes a dullard. Being able to carry a conversation in an interesting and engaging manner is not only a benefit for you, it’s also a great experience for those around you. If you are a better speaker, writer and speaking then fundamentally you are going to be a superior thinker. Being able to articulate yourself will make you stand out amongst your peers and hopefully make you a thoroughly more interesting person to be around.
Some might consider it ironic, but going through the classics is a brilliant way to both create and be exposed to new ideas. The reason these books have become classics is because they changed the way people thought when they were first published and to this day resonate with a modern audience. They express timeless ideas and relatable concepts that keep them constantly fresh and relevant. Some call this being in touch with the sublime, which is one of the most powerful things that you can expose yourself to. This is why going back to the tried and true can be a great way to find new ideas.
Do you remember growing up? If you do in any detail then you’ll most likely remember how strange the experience of being a teenager was. Not only is your system flooded with hormones significantly altering the way you think and your physical appearance, there is also the budding sexuality and as yet unexplored romantic emotions beginning to surface. Not only this, but then there are kids out there who grow up different, and during this time finding literature that offers them not only validation but also escapism can be a literal lifeline. This is part of the reason why Young Adult fiction plays such an important role in our society.
What is Young Adult fiction?
Young Adult fiction (or YA as it is colloquially know) is generally defined as novels and other works of fiction aimed at individuals between the ages of 14-24. However recent research has shown that over 50% of YA books are purchased by those over 18, which goes to show the universality of the themes this genre generally expresses. One of the most popular narratives explored in YA is that of the ‘problem novel’. These novels generally engage with some type of personal or societal struggle in the form of a realistic fictional cannon. The themes addresses are generally problems that Young Adults themselves might be struggling with such as, drug and alcohol abuse, sexuality, social isolation, family difficulties and many more.
The Function of YA
In this day and age it is common for people to point to the wide variety of inclusive television and movie characters that represent a huge cross section of adolescent experiences. However there is only so much depth that a character can develop over a 30 minute television show or a 2 hour movie, the novel on the other hand offers a far broader and deeper exploration of issues and themes. YA then can function as a type of reassurance that what someone is experiencing is valid and offer not only a means of identification but also function as a means to help them with their own personal struggles.
By being able to identify and read about characters that are dealing with issues similar to their own, young adults can identify and deal with some of their own personal struggles. This can sometimes be a real lifeline for those who are feeling isolated, and it can even change their lives in a really positive way.
Books don’t have to be arranged in a traditional format – there are many writers looking to change the traditional sentence and paragraph structure. For a very long time, much writing has been arranged in a paragraph-by-paragraph format, which is easy to read and what most people are used to. However, if the text itself is concerned with breaking traditional rules of storytelling and narrative, it fits that the way the story is visually told to the reader would change as well.
Many would see traditional methods of laying out print on a page to be too restrictive and traditional – and would also see breaking with these conventions similar to how a film-maker can alter traditional methods of visual storytelling and narrative to approach viewers in a different way. When one thinks about it, there’s much less for a writer to do visually than there is for a director or film-maker. It’s often been considered the case that a writer has to work within the paragraph and sentence format seen (with the exception of footnotes) in every book, and use their writing itself to alter the ways in which a story is told to the reader. Just as a filmmaker has to display their film in the traditional projected-on-to-a-screen, square format, a writer has to use sentences, paragraphs and traditional book typeface layout to tell their story – no matter how unconventional it is. However, there are some writers who are choosing to buck these conventions.
The book ‘House of Leaves’ subverts a lot of these conventions by arranging paragraphs all over the page, beginning and ending sentences in odd places, and making odd formatting decisions throughout the novel. It all adds to the book’s sense of claustrophobia and things not being quite right.
The work by William Gibson, ‘Agrippa’, is a poem that exists entirely on floppy disk within a larger book that does not actually contain the poem. The book itself has type that is designed to fade and decay as it is exposed to light, and the poem is part of a program that essentially deletes itself once the poem has been viewed once – it self-encrypts and cannot be accessed again. This is a way of highlighting the possible transitory nature of memory, and removing the ‘concrete’ nature of movable type by creating a ‘one-use-only’ kind of work that denies the reader the usual