Classics vs Modern

FullSizeRender (6)I have never denied that I enjoy trashy books. Show me War and Peace and watch me use it to hold down the piece of paper on which I’m  writing the list of trashy novels people have recommended to me. I’m not talking Mills & Boon-trashy – although I’m not averse to reading one of those every now and again, but just one… after that the heaving bosoms and chiselled looks get a little boring – more like popular fiction kind of trashy.

The middle bookshelf in the passage is filled with the classics, well-thumbed, many with notes in the margins. Paradise Lost snuggles up to The Faerie Queene who sighs into the poetry of Keats next to her. Looking at that particular shelf you could easily think that I was a studious English Major at varsity.

You’d be wrong, though. While I did go to a couple of English lectures, I went with a beautiful, dark-haired boy with whom I had a sweet, short-lived love affair in my first year. He smelt like books and played me Leonard Cohen in his res room. I went to some of his English and Philosophy lectures. Don’t tell my parents, but I may have missed some important Organic Chemistry lectures. I can, however, grasp Venn Diagrams for Categorical Syllogisms. Well, I could, then.

No, the books belong to my friend, Leigh, who did major in English. The thumbededness is from her thumbs, and the notes are in her beautiful script, and I have read very few – possibly none – of them. They live here while she lives in Australia, that upside-down place.

My point (and I realise that I’ve waffled on most vaguely) is that I read I Capture The Castle this week, a book I’ve always put up there with those that are above me. How wrong I was. My lovely friends Victoria and Nico, who own the book shop in the Karoo town that holds my heart, gave me a bag of books for my birthday (how fabulous a present!) and it was amongst them. I loved it. Couldn’t put it down, and was reminded of the delight of reading the classics.

There’s a lot to be said for gentle naivete. The humour is there, even the bawdiness that fills ‘modern’ fiction is there, but it’s less in your face, it’s left more to your imagination, and there’s something really lovely about that. Is it obvious I’ve been hanging out in the 1930’s? I just used ‘bawdiness’ in a sentence.

And she uses the phrase ‘She goes into a decline’, a term my mother uses regularly. Isn’t it just ridiculously perfect a term? And to live in a castle in the English countryside, all falling down and romantic! Sigh.

I have moved on to Paige Nick’s Pens Behaving Badly, which is very funny, and very blatantly ‘bawdy’. Maybe I’ll pay a visit to the Faerie Queene after that, while I listen to ‘So Long Marianne and reminisce of dark little res rooms with dark little boys who smelled deliciously like books, way back in the 1990’s.

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