I was over the moon when I heard that my swap partner is the lovely Rebecca from Rebecca Reads. I have long been a follower and fan of her blog, so I feel incredibly honored to be partnered up with her. It is also great fun to interview someone who made the same short list I did (Rebecca and I are both up for "Best Classics Book Blog") and someone who I look up to immensely.
Rebecca is a true driving force among classic book bloggers. Before I even started blogging, she created the Classics Circuit, one of my favorite things to participate in as a book blogger. It is a great opportunity for all of us to dive into new classics by authors we already love, as well as authors we're scared of. It is a great way to meet other bloggers, and Rebecca is the mastermind of it all. I know that I am very grateful for her time and energy for such a wonderful event!
Additionally, Rebecca writes a great deal on her own blog (linked above). In addition to focusing on classics (especially the Victorians), she also reviews children's books as well. Her reviews always make me want to revisit my childhood and the memories I have of being read to. She also has a son she reads to often, and another little one on the way! I am looking forward to hearing more about their own reading adventures in the future!
Anyway, enough of my rambling and on to the important stuff-our interview!
Shortly after this, I started blogging. Then I came across Madeleine L’Engle’s quote; I adopted it as one of my mottos because I was finding it was true. You know when you’re reading great literature. Steinbeck’s novel did that for me; other books also have taught me that. Books that are good are simply good: they aren’t trying too hard, they aren’t forcing a point or a plot. They simply are great, and I can tell, normally, from page one.
It is not hard to apply the same principles to children’s literature. I know when I pick up a picture book whether it will work for me and my son. Do the illustrations balance the text? Are they attractive illustrations? Does the text read well? Does the story work for a young child? As with the fiction I choose to read myself, picture books can simply be great.
I’ve also read Raisin some other full-length classic novels when he was one and two years old, like Charlotte’s Web, Peter Pan, and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. We’re in between full-length novels now that he’s nearly four; he’d rather reread favorite picture books, which of course is also wonderfully fun! When we do get back to longer books, I look forward to revisiting those books, as well as reading other favorites of mine by Beverly Cleary, or Mr. Popper’s Penguins or The Wizard of Oz, and so forth. I remember that one day when I stayed home sick, my mom read me The Secret Garden. That book has a special place in my memory because it came to me first on a day my mom took the time to read to me (and only me)!
I hope my son will treasure similar memories. I intend to encourage the classics by introducing them to my son when he’s young. I’ll have them nearby in case he is decides he’s ready to give them a try. Tom Sawyer, Kipling’s Just So Stories, Treasure Island…the list goes on and on.
There are many other authors I really can’t wait to read more of, and once I’ve read through their backlist, I’ll probably be craving more: Jane Austen (only one more major novel left), George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell, Virginia Woolf, John Steinbeck, Edith Wharton, the Bronte sisters (Jane Eyre is one of my favorite novels), Shakespeare. Also, this isn’t a particularly author, but I do look forward to reading more of the women authors of the Harlem Renaissance. Many of them have written only a few books, so it will be sad to reach “the end.”
I could go on. There is a wealth of literature available to be enjoyed. While I’m sure I will be sad to come to the end of the backlist for some favorite authors, I will remain happy with an abundance of other literature awaiting my read. Besides, I absolutely love rereading favorite books. If worse comes to worse, I could reread favorites for years. Each reread is a different experience from the last.
4. What do you believe is the biggest misconception about classics by modern-day readers?
I think some people believe classics are boring or wordy or just not their style. To be completely honest, I too think some classic works are boring! In my college Victorian literature class, we read essays by Ruskin and the novel Wuthering Heights (which I didn’t like). I found “Victorian literature” very boring indeed. I was surprised when I later discovered the Victorian author Wilkie Collins, a sensation fiction writer, and I also have fallen in love with the plot twists and conveniences in the Dickens novels I’ve read, not to mention the women Victorian authors I adore. I’m finding Victorian literature is my favorite literature to read.
That said, other readers simply may not be able to get over Dickens’ writing style, or may find Wilkie Collins too melodramatic. That’s okay! Wuthering Heights isn’t my style, and neither are Ruskin’s essays! To each his own. Readers are individuals, so each reader has their own expectations when they pick up a book. Is reading for being entertained? Is reading for a story? Is reading for humor? Is reading for beautiful language? Readers provide their own definitions for “good” when they pick up a work, and it may be different every day. The wonderful thing about classics is that there is an abundance of options to choose from.
5. What books or authors would you recommend to anyone looking for a wonderful, enriching read?
I struggle with giving recommendations simply because, as I mention in the previous answer, everyone is looking for something different when they pick up a novel. Here are some suggestions, but keep in mind that not every novel is going to work for every reader!
If you want a novel about human nature, good and bad, as seen through the eyes of a growing child: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
If you want a romantic novel about love that turns out right: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
If you want an intense and complex psychological novel about guilt and innocence: Crime and Punishment by Feodor Dostoyevsky
If you want a lighter modern novel that helps you appreciate math even when you normally hate it: The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa
If you want a Victorian gothic novel with romance: Jane Eyre by Charlotte BronteIf you want a modern novel in the Victorian gothic tradition: The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
Thank you so much for the interview Rebecca! You all need to go check out her blog at Rebecca Reads and see for yourself what an amazing woman and blogger she is!