Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Put off modern classics

I was sad to read the other day that J D Salinger had died. I don't often comment when well-known writers die because too often, to my shame, I haven't read any of their works. But I did read 'Catcher in the Rye', years ago, and I know it's a modern classic.

Whether I enjoyed it or not is another matter. When I was in my teens my Mum went through a phase of borrowing modern classics from the library for me to read. She thought I didn't read enough good literature (which was true) and that I needed some encouragement to get me away from my comfort zone of Agatha Christie and Georgette Heyer (also no doubt true). Trouble is, I was an incredibly sensitive teenager, I tended to get totally lost in books, and I chose those nice comfortable books for a reason - they didn't make me sob or feel ill.

Unlike the books Mum chose. I can't remember all of them now but I know the list included 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' (I cried); 'Catcher in the Rye' (I cried); Brave New World (I devoured it in two sittings and cried for hours). '1984' I couldn't even finish and as for 'Lord of the Flies', it made me physically ill. After that, mercifully, Mum stopped trying to push literature down my throat and left me to develop my own tastes at my own pace.

Over the years my taste has changed and literate, character-driven novels are my first choice. These days I'd probably enjoy at least some of the classics on the list, especially 'Catcher in the Rye'. Sadly, my experience aged sixteen has put me off all those authors for life, and I'm not sure I could even get past the first page.

I know of friends who were put off particular books (or even the whole concept of reading) at school. I'd be fascinated to hear if anyone else suffered in the same way. Have you managed to overcome it? Or has the experience stayed with you for life?

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