Put simply, life is just too short to bother. ‘The Classics’ are those books that everybody thinks they should have read. Everybody means to read at least one in their lifetime; everybody nods profoundly when they’re mentioned, but has anybody actually enjoyed one? No. ‘The Classics’ are books that appear in lists of the top 10 greatest novels of all time, lists we scan through knowledgably, yes, yes I must read more Dickens, then discard as we realise that actually, struggling through a book purely to say we have, is a waste of time.
Why do we insist on dragging ancient novels, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century? ‘They’re works of art!’ ‘A testament to real writing!’ A load of shit! Those novels, to their contemporary audiences, may well have been controversial, groundbreaking stuff, but to a class of 30 teenage students, (who took English, let’s face it, because they didn’t want to do Maths) the storylines are confusing, the language is baffling, and the whole process is a pain; from the unnecessarily descriptive start to disappointing end, where the majority of the characters will no doubt have coughed themselves into inexistence.
Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is the perfect illustration to my point. This book, is awful. Studying it for a year took me close to tipping point, I too felt as mad as Heathcliff; my copy is tear stained from silent sobs of joy as one by one the characters perished and I drew closer to the end. A whole year, wasted on one supposed ‘classic’; a novel that the majority of people will admit they never even finished, begging the question – why start it in the first place?
Because we feel we must. We feel like we can’t just read trashy romance novels, crime thrillers, or dare I say it...biographies. No, there must be substance in our reading lists, there must be classics! WHO CARES. Who cares whether or not you’ve dipped into Shakespeare or finished the complete works of F.Scott Fitzgerald? Do you read for pleasure? Do you read to escape the dullness of reality? Yes? Then you’re doing it right! YOU GRAB THAT FLIMSY PAPERBACK AND YOU READ THE SHIT OUT OF IT.
And at the end of your life, upon pondering whether it was as fulfilled as possible, do not dismay that you never got round to One flew over the cuckoo’s nest, no, be thankful that you spent your time reading books you enjoyed. Books that made you laugh or cry, think hard or zone out. Books that weren’t soul destroying Everests of anticipation, crushing your love of reading in an avalanche of disappointment and bad metaphors.
The same principle applies to music. Did you know that if you can’t name more than 5 Rolling Stones songs, you die? Yep, Mick Jagger will literally eat your soul. Plus I’m fairly sure the proportion of Nirvana t-shirt wearers is not direct to Nirvana fans. Why do people think that listening to The Smiths on repeat will make them a cooler person? I have one Smiths album; just because I can’t recite their entire discography does not mean I’m not a fan! Don’t know the lyrics to every Pulp song? So what? You probably know Common People and that’ll be enough to get you through a night in with hipsters. The artists themselves know their music is not for everyone, so why do we assume it must be?
While life is short, in comparison to, oh I don’t know, the UNIVERSE’s existence, it really isn’t that swift. You’ve got plenty of time to listen to all the music you want, read all the classics you can, and do so at your leisure. But if you’re not that bothered about the supposed elevated status that only comes with finishing a Hardy novel, then I would stay clear. They’re not worth it; there are better structured Mr Men books.