Opinion | Readers should explore the classics to further supplement ‘light’ contemporary literature
Published: Monday, February 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, February 4, 2013 22:02
Today’s young adults have developed generally mediocre reading taste, with bookshelves now sparsely covered, only containing dust and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight. Although Ms. Meyer’s book is highly successful and entertaining, readers should take note that the novel is written only at a fifth grade reading level.
Reading has always been awarded the connotation of being a stimulating and enriching activity. However, reading can only be considered enlightening when one is presented with a challenging book. And in a society in which $2 billion are spent each year on students repeating grades because of reading difficulties, we need to continue to challenge ourselves.
I propose a simple solution: we should read classic literature once in a while.
Rather than reading Cecily Von Ziegler’s Gossip Girl, one can spend their days sailing aboard the Pequod, wandering the streets of New York with Holden Caulfield, and attending a lavish party thrown by Jay Gatsby. American novelist, William Styron says, “A classic should leave you with many experiences and slightly exhausted at the end. You should live several lives while reading it.”
A classic book provides the opportunity to journey to not only a different place, but also to a different time, a different century, and in some cases, a different way of thought.
French author, Albert Camus notes, “A novel is never anything but a philosophy put into images.” English novelist, E.M. Forster agrees, saying, “What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote it.” Although we many not agree with George Orwell’s view of humanity in 1984 or Shakespeare’s display of the role of sex in society in Othello, we can at least say we have considered or been exposed to the idea.
Classic novels will push readers to actually think for themselves. A book shouldn’t be a simple walk in the park, where shortcuts involve skimming entire paragraphs and only digesting the online website SparkNotes. Good books should make a reader wonder, make them question, make them ask why, and then commence their search for an answer.
Though one will be required to search, process and look beneath an author’s literal meaning, the reward outweighs the struggle.
Deep within the context of a classic, lies a moral or theme, which the proud author generally hopes a reader will apply to their life from this day forward, or at least consider. But the difference between reading about the consequences of spreading lies and petty rumors in Gossip Girl and The Scarlet Letter is that the latter explores the lasting effects of such a rumor upon an entire town, and Nathaniel Hawthorne didn’t need to fill his novel with unneeded sex scenes and innuendos to get the point across.
Numerous city libraries are stocked with the essentials. If only we could truly appreciate this concept, then the world of literature is ours. Puns aside, our reading options are an open book. Yet to truly utilize this privilege awarded to us, we must read intelligently. One must simply make the choice to occasionally transition from Meyer to Melville, Horowitz to Hawthorne, or Picoult to Proust.
We must still take time to read quick, simple literature, but once in a while take the challenge! Grab a well-known Steinbeck or a famed Vonnegut and delve into one of the world’s most celebrated classics.