Saturday, December 03, 2011

Change Over Time Part 2 - Rereading Jane Austen

A while back I wrote about the different lens through which we view stories depending on the time of life in which we read them.  I mentioned rereading OLIVER TWIST at that time and promised to take on Jane Austen next.  Well, as predicted, Ms. Austen's work makes a lot more sense to me now, at age 45, than it did when I was in high school.  Not exactly a big surprise.

Specifically, I am rereading PRIDE AND PREJUDICE.  Now, I must confess, the beautifully spot-on adaptation featuring Colin Firth, which my husband and I have watched several times, has perhaps enabled me to catch some of the nuances in the book that might still have escaped me even now.  However, I honestly believe the bulk of my increased appreciation of the humor and social commentary in the story comes from the heightened perceptions and insight that only age can provide.

This leads me to wonder why on earth we persist in assigning such books to read when people are too young to really appreciate them.  In fairness, perhaps there are many of you who became ardent admirers of Jane Austen or Thomas Hardy or D.H. Lawrence or Herman Melville at the tender age of 15.  I wonder, however, if that came about after reading them as assignments or after finding them on your own.

Even in college, so much of what I read became a massive swirling mishmash of ideas, whereas the same sorts of classic literature, explored on my own at my own pace with my own personal purposes AFTER college, resulted in deep insights and a lifetime love of those authors.  That is how I fell in love with Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, Thomas Hardy, DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN, e.e.cummings, and many more.

Are there works of classic literature that, like fine wines, should not be served before their time?

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