There are books that every English major is supposed to read and admire. You don’t have to love them (even though that is preferred), but you do have to appreciate their literary merits and recognise why they are a part of the canon. These books are supposed to validate the entire English major experience, but frequently they leave me cold. Here are three books that every English major is supposed to love that I am NOT crazy about.
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
It’s the longest of Shakespeare’s plays and I feel every word. I almost feel like I’m committing a crime by admitting that I don’t find Hamlet interesting. It’s great that every other line in the play is now an everyday expression like, “to thine ownself be true” and “The lady doth protest too much, methinks. And the “To Be or Not to Be” speech is kinda cool, but the whole time I’m reading it, I’m thinking, “Hamlet, lighten up!” The man spends too much time in his head. Then there’s the whole “Let’s stage a play to find out if he’s guilty” thing. It just seems like such an odd way to try and find out if your uncle killed your father. I have tried so hard to love this play. I’ve read it four times, but I just can’t seem to get into it.
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
I have met only one student who like this short story/novella and she was a political science major. None of the English majors I talk to like this thing. I think it’s because we have to read it so often. I’m reading it in two classes this semester and it is torture. I used to hate it because of the blatant racism. I’m African so I took it personal. You can tell me all day about how Conrad was a product of his time, but racist is racist period. When we read Heart of Darkness in my sophomore British Literature class, it was paired with Achebe’s “An Image of Africa: Racism in Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’” and that got me so riled up that I was ready to stage book burnings of the story. Eventually I calmed down, and now I can say that I can look past the depiction of African as if they aren’t humans and all there is past that is boredom. People say it’s a fascinating study of human nature and what we become when the rules society has given us are suspended, but to me, the dude goes up a river to get Kurtz who dies on the way back and all that is left is “the horror! The horror.” I will never need sleeping pills as long as Heart of Darkness is around.
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
This probably shouldn’t be here. It’s not that I don’t like it. I just can’t remember it. I’ve read it 3 times, but I still can’t remember the names of the characters. I enjoy myself while I’m reading it, but once I put it down, it’s all gone. I last read it in my first semester of college. Maybe I should try it again and see if living in America for 4 years makes a difference in how I read it.
There you have it, classics I don’t like. Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against the classics. I read more classics than modern books. It’s just that with these ones, I would survive if I never read them again.
What about you? Do you have any classics that drive you up the wall with boredom, or just don’t interest you?