The Classics, Easy or Hard?

21 Oct

Well I’m currently reading The Ambassadors – Henry James as part of a reading circle, and this is probably one of the few classic books that I have read.

But, the problem is, I’m struggling. I can’t get into the language and I can’t actually follow the plot at all.

So, I’m wondering if all classic books are like this, or whether it’s just this one. I am hoping not, because i WANT to enjoy these books but i cant get into it. Also, i know many people who regularly  read the classics, but maybe I’m not clever  enough for them.

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3 Responses to “The Classics, Easy or Hard?”

  1. Briana October 23, 2011 at 1:32 am #

    I’ve only read a couple of Jame’s short stories, but he’s certainly an interesting author. His writing can be a little cryptic at times, and I’m pretty sure the point of one of the stories was that nothing ever happened! I wouldn’t be discouraged from reading other classics just judging from his work.

    Keep in mind that “classics” come from a wide variety of time periods, countries, and genres. Reading a modernist classic is a completely different experience from reading an English Romanticism classic. And H. G. Wells is different from reading Arthur Conan Doyle because one wrote science fiction and one wrote mysteries.

    Try finding classics in a genre you like to read contemporary books, or find one classic you like and try other authors from that time period. (But don’t judge 1800s American literature by James, either. Mark Twain, for instance, was only a little earlier and his books are much more straightforward.)

  2. Briana October 23, 2011 at 1:44 am #

    As a side note, you seem to have read a lot of books you’ve categorized as “chick-lit.” So if you want classics with strong female protagonists and a bit of romance, try something by Jane Austen or Charlotte Bronte.

    And I know you liked The Lord of the Rings, so if you want something more in a “fantasy” vein, you can read some of the works from the Middle Ages that inspired Tolkien. Tolkien himself published very good translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Orfeo.

    If you have a different genre or interest you want me to attempt to come up with a classic for, I’ll be glad to help.

  3. mywordlyobsessions October 26, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    No. Not all classics are difficult and stuffy. I must admit Henry James is a bit dry. I wouldn’t go for him and I’m a classics nut.

    Briana pointed out some very good ones. I recently read ‘Dune’ by Frank Herbert which is considered a sci-fi classic and thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t know what’s on your list to read but ‘Cold Comfort Farm’ by Stella Gibbons is hilarious as hell and easy to read. ‘Heart of Darkness’ by Conrad is about the only one I have read so far that is accessible. ‘Frankenstein’ is also extrememly good. Surprisingly so, as is ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ and even ‘Dracula’. All solid classics mind you. If you really want to go old school you might want to try ‘The Monk’ by Lewis. Very old gothic novel that is surprisingly racy for its time. Choderlos De Laclos’s ‘Dangerous Liaisons’ was a fantastic read too. A real page-turner.

    I better stop there. Too much!

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