Monday, June 07, 2010

Reading Project, Great Expectations

The biggest worry I have in doing this project is that all I'll say will have been said before or is painfully obvious. These are books that just about everyone has read or heard of and some have a personal library of commentary and criticism on them. But I started this project for various reasons, such as to get back into the habit of reading and to get a grounding in the classics. I might read criticism after but I'm going to try to read these books with as fresh eyes as possible and respond to them as stories first.

A fitting first title, Great Expectations is wonderful. Earlier attempts at Dickens where hobbled by sentimentality and a bramble patch of prose, Great Expectations is surprising me by just how funny and sharp it is. I'm over a 150 pages in and I've reached the point where I'm starting to want to give the narrator a cold slap but a slap that comes from a painful recognition of my own behavior.

A quote from Italo Calvino, "A classic is a book that has never finished saying all it has to say," could be the unofficial motto for this project and it's true. This project is also to help keep me awake. I'm finally swimming out of what I'll euphemistically refer to as my lost decade. I lost my way back in 2002, where I went from being able to knock back a book in a week to not reading for months and months and it showed, did it ever. You can be a wild overgrown garden but you're going to still have to have a regular supply of rain and sunshine or you'll wither.

Art is so important, books were the first to show me that and Pan's Labyrinth might have saved my life (but that's another story). And the arts are all connected. Reading about Miss Havisham I get the strangest deja vu to "Mrs. Bates" in Psycho, and falling in love with a persona created to destroy you looks ahead to Vertigo. Books have an uncanny magic, I'm looking forward to places I'll be going with them.


MTimonin said...

I've been looking forward to the beginning of this project since you announced it on Slacktivist. I'm not a huge fan of the classics, but might join you in reading some of the Austen, perhaps. (I don't like Dickens. Not at all.)

Jessica R. said...

I wasn't too wacky, or at least I thought I wasn't, about Dickens either, but I've been loving GE. Pride and Prejudice will be coming up as I go along.

MTimonin said...

I've started GE, and also Tale of Two Cities, and also The Pickwick Papers (I got fairly far into that one, actually), and, I think, David Copperfield. I don't even like A Christmas Carol. Something about Dickens rubs me wrong.