I have always loved to read. I can't remember a time that I couldn't read (thank you Mom) and I have always loved a good story. This summer I've been reading a few classics. I read To Kill A Mockingbird again since I found the book at a garage sale for $.10. I had no idea it was the 50th anniversary of its publishing so it's been wonderful to hear some reviews and information about the book and the author on NPR.
I decided that this might be the summer to indulge in literature and I've wanted to read Howard's End by E.M Forester for some time. Truth be told, I own the movie and have never quite liked it. I've always attributed that fact to the fact that I've not read the book. I always think that the philosophy of literature is often lost in translation of the movie adaptation. After reading the book, I do believe the movie is very true to the book but I hated the book as well. I think I have real trouble with the ideals of the British bourgeoisie trying to reconcile themselves to the poorer classes. I must re-watch the movie. At the very least I adore the costuming and the scenery. I do love Mrs. Wilcox (the first) and Meg has her charms but I'm not clear about her affections for Henry. I adore that she loves him, warts and all, but am not sure I can reconcile myself to her philosophy of life. Howard's End (the house) is gorgeous and I'd live in it in a SECOND! Apparently the house in the movie is the very house E.M.Forester wrote about in the book. I love that.
So I began to ponder literature. Is it Britain that I detest? No. For I love Jane Austin and Emily Bronte (I have no idea how to do umlauts on the computer). I guess they are gorgeous to me because they don't attempt to deal with the classes other than the differentiation in the gentleman's class. So....on to American lit.
I began reading My Antonia by Willa Cather. Love, Love, LOVE. I adore this book. It's like Little House on the Prairie for grownups. I understand these people. I wish I could see the sunflowers scattered upon the Prairie. To see the owls and the prairie dogs digging underground. The time is gone. The land is changed. Oh, to see it as it was. Oh, longing.....
So, the question is.....what makes us love one book and not another? Is it the setting, the characters, the philosophy, the understanding? In 9th grade I had a drunken English teacher. I sat in the front row and held my breath the entire class. He was a hideous man. But......we read Silas Marner. I can remember the ecstasy of that book. Of being helped through the difficult sections and understanding the plot, the history of England at that time. Oh, the JOY that was mine!
In 10th or 11th grade we read John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Oh rapture, oh joy, oh Heaven. I had hated English class until that day. I had no idea that English class could transcend grammar. My teacher told me to major in English in college. I think he was thrilled to have a student love the books he was assigning. I was not in the advanced class.
Books have spoken to me since that time. I still am learning. I guess this is one of the reasons I love homeschooling the boys. I get to read the books that they are reading. I get to offer them the books that no one offered me. Of course, only one of my boys is joyous about this. But, one is better than none, right?
So back to my original question: What makes us love or hate something? With literature, I am guessing that I love My Antonia because I understand her characters. I come from a family of farmers who have worked hard for their living. I still love the land and the animals. As for the British Imperialism, that I do not care for. It is not part of my life. Perhaps this is why I hated the book.....for it's philosophy.
It is only July 6th. I've got more summer reading ahead of me. Any suggestions? I do have The Picture of Dorian Grey awaiting me after My Antonia. I have a longing to re-read all of John Steinbeck, too. But, I'm open for suggestions.