Monday, June 1, 2015

Did I change...or did the world change?

Mary Connealy
I had occasion (let's say it's because I am a madly devoted reader of the classics, not because I wanted to make a lame joke in an email) look up some classic literature.

The Man in the Iron Mask
The Count of Monte Cristo
Jane Eyre
Les Miserables 

Okay this is not my usual pass time. Victor Hugo is rolling over in his grave. Charlotte Bronte is fainting with shock. Alexandre Dumas, well he's a little scary, I'm sure he's fine. Rolling his eyes while mentally locking me in a horrible cell for a decade.

But, while I am not a devoted reader of the classics, I have read a few. Jane Austin, comes to mind. the Brontes (Hint, Wuthering Heights, downer much?) I've read Nathanial Hawthorn (a person can hardly come back from The House of the Seven Gables, for heaven's sakes) and James Fenimore Cooper (Trust me, Daniel Day Lewis is nowhere to be found) 
I will summarize this book, RUN! That's go into more detail, Run! Run away from things, run, run toward things, run through beautiful green forest, which are described in excruciating detail all while running!!!!!!!! 
I promise you'll read and read and read and come away with NOTHING ELSE! Give up on Danial Day Louis, he's not there!

I have long had this theory that it was not hard to get published in the 17th, 18th and even 19th Century.


#1 few people could read--that knocks out a LOT of the competition.
#2 even fewer people could afford large quantities of paper and ink.
A lesser known quote from the Hawthorne Family

Here's your acquiring editor. "Hey, look at this gigantic stack of pages. Here, Nathanial, a contract."

So have you READ The House of the Seven Gables? Here's a hint for first, just read the first sentence of every paragraph, then later just read the first and last sentence of every chapter.

You'll pretty much get the general idea.

Jane Eyre? Every time Jane talks, it's a sermon. "That's a sin and she's against it."
There I just saved you seven hours.

I will duck my head on this one but I thought I'd read two Jane Austen books, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. But I picked up one of them the other day thinking I hadn't read it and....I as I read it, I realized I had already read it. So I may have just read one of her books twice, but I can't remember which one. Pride and Prejudice I think. Unless they are super alike. Then I've read two. Maybe.

I did dearly love The Secret Garden. Written for children. Very embarrassing to admit. And there was one I loved with a princess (or maybe she was just rich) at boarding school who lost her father and her money and was forced to cook and clean. Then her father came back somehow and saved her from cooking and cleaning. (this is NOT the way my father was, we both knew he was completely alive and somehow I still had to cook and clean. Weird)

But I digress. 

These books are so WORDY. Even Huckleberry Finn which I loved, but c'mon!!! 
Wasn't the cliche, "To make a long story short..." invented yet?

Here's another cliche. "To make a long story INTERESTING."

I remember reading one once and, at the end, the book MADE A POINT. And I closed the book and stared at it in shock and thought, "Huh, who'd have dreamed this was going anywhere?"

So the title of this post. 

Did I change...or did the world change

What I mean by that is, was paper truly expensive and very few people owned enough of it to crank out a book?

Or are these books truly ... oh, let's don't say BORING. That would be rude. And no doubt mark me as a savage. (which might be fair?!) And if you watch the movies they really AREN'T boring, but I suspect they have been drastically edited for the silver screen.

But they are SLOW. Let's say they LINGER. Let's say they SAVOR EACH MOMENT.

I mean Huck Finn floating down the Mississippi River, well I loved that. I could feel myself floating, feel the stars in the sky. It's mostly lovely, in a slow motion kind of way. But ultimately, it's just a series of sketches really. 

And then they floated
And then they met these guys. 
And then they floated
And then they had this experience. 
And then they floated

The end is fantastic (once Tom Sawyer shows up and brings it to life--I always have suspected Mark Twain loved Tom Sawyer best) and I really like the floating, but wow, man. couldn't we have an occasional flood or something? Let's pick up the pace!

So when I write, I am looking for ACTION. I really work hard to make my books MOVE. And the books I read MOVEWe get told all the time we have to grab readers from the first line, right? Is it the fault of TV or Video Games? 

If my characters are floating on a river, there's better be a waterfall around the next bend and someone shooting down from the banks at them, and maybe some kissing. 

So yell at me for dissing your favorite if you want. I can take it. But seriously, The House of the Seven Gables? There are chickens who are like.......inbred maybe??? And the house needs to be painted. I don't remember much else. This Hawthorn guy is alllllllll about being able to afford paper. There can be no other explanation.

I know there are Jane Austen fans here. And of all of the classics I mention she's the least guilty of this. 

I'd give the Bronte Sisters a break too, but then I'm a romance nut. Except mostly I like the hero and heroine to end up alive. And to not have mad wives locked in the attic. (Being a slightly mad wife myself, I have some sympathy for Mrs. Lunatic Rochester)

Now and Forever
Defend your favorites.
Tell me why I'm wrong.
Convince me to read the Complete Words of Nathanial Hawthorne and Alexander Dumas and James Fenimore Cooper.

Have you read Alexander Dumas? Mr. Torture-the-Hero-While-Putting-the-Reader-to-Sleep?

Leave a comment to get your name in a drawing for a signed copy of Now and Forever.

Shannon Wilde is the middle sister--and the one who loves animals. She's established her own homestead and is raising sheep for their wool. Things are going fine...until Shannon gets swept over a cliff by Matthew Tucker! And things go downhill from there.  
And I've got a new SERIES GUIDE on my website that I think is super fun. Go see if it makes sense. Mary Connealy Series Guide


  1. Mary, Mary, Mary! I loved you before, but I love you even more now for having the courage to say what I've often thought. Many of the so-called classics seem to be rather wearisome reads. Seriously, some of yesteryear's writers are so verbose they make wordy writer me seem succinct by comparison. I've heard Dickens was paid by the column inch, so it makes sense he used five words when one would do, but those of us writing today can't afford to indulge in such voluminous undertakings--unless we're out to run our readers off.

    OK. I've made my point, so I'll stop--even though my fingers want to keep right on going and going and...

  2. Keli, I just want to say that every time I see your profile picture I think two things.

    1. She is so darned cute and perky.

    2. Eshew. (Not achoo.)

    That's all I want to say about Keli.

  3. As for Mary,

    I woke up from a bad dream and came here to read the blog.

    I think I am still having a bad dream.

    I'm confused and don't know what to do.

    You said Jane Austen was the least of the boring. Yet you still called her boring.

    The only plus I can see is you maligned the Americans and the Brits.

    But you missed a few other countries..

    You want boring, try reading Beowulf or anything by that dude Homer.

    I'm going to go have some warm milk and pretend none of this happened.

    Am I still dreaming?

    Where is Vince when you need him??

  4. So I've only read some of the authors you mentioned so I'm not full of opinions.....but sooooooo agree with commenter above about Beowulf!!!! Uggg! And I only read selections in high school!

    And I love YOUR river scenes! Especially in Now and Forever!

  5. I haven't been here for awhile partly due to health issues and being tired. (now countering insomnia.) The book about the princess at boarding school is "The Little Princess" and a cool book. I read that one and The secret Garden but haven't read most of the to others (none of the English ones although I had to read Lord of the Flies at high school and really hated it. I did read an Aussie classic "Seven Little Australians" by Ethel Turner. Oh and loved Little Women. Another Aussie classic is the Billabong series by Mary Grant Bruce. Does Heidi count as a classic and also Pollyanna?

    If the draw is for an ebook option I would love to be in the drawing otherwise don't enter me (I struggle with print books) I am happy to read pdf as much as kindle.

    (really hoping tonight I sleep as 2 weeks of little to no sleep isn't fun) But on a plus side while the nerve block I recently had in my neck made the pain a lot worse I am back on a med that is keeping it back down to 5 or lower most of the time. downside is the insomnia.



    Go to sleep, darling, you've missed nothing here! :)

  7. Oh. My. Stars.

    Oh. My. Aching. Stars.

    What have you done????

    Thank you Jenny for pointing out "The Little Princess" one of the most delightful sweet stories of childhood, along with its very good best friend ever "The Secret Garden". Cinderella stories of childhood redemption, charming beyond words! Frances Hodgson Burnett!!!!

    Okay.... at least you king of liked them in an off-hand, mock-the-cradle way.


    Surprisingly, I AGREE. I love Pride and Prejudice more than chocolate, but I always felt like the other books were thin copies of her best work. Like muted shades of nothingness in comparison.

    And I know folks will think me MEAN.... What else is new??? But I've tried to read Last of the Mohicans like 5 times: EPIC FAIL.

    I did love Wuthering Heights, but I was an over-dramatized, hormonal teen at the time. I would be less impressed now.

    And Seven Gables? You're making me frown, and then I have to buy more pricey anti-wrinkle cream. Shame on you!

    But unlike Tina, I do love Homer. The weird fantasy of it all, I love it!

    Loved and still love Jane Eyre, but that's because I'm always giving sermons too, so I just realized WHY!!! Mary, I'm Jane Eyre, plain and bossy and shaming folks left and right.

    And btw, Mr. Rochester could use some shaming, the old GRUMP. That should have been a warning to all these young things marrying older, richer men: THEY GET GRUMPY. GOOD LUCK.

  8. And may I add that we welcome Keli Gwyn to this side of the desk tomorrow with the best post I've ever read about anything... I mean she actually worked on it, and that alone is HUGE!

    Not that Mary didn't work on this, I can see that you did, darling. :)

  9. Hodges has set up our morning repast in the breakfast room. Pray, join us!

  10. Hey Ruthy it was about 5pm when I posted a bit early for bed. its now 7.45pm still a little early!

  11. Welcome to Seekerville, Denise Hershberger! What a way to turn a teenager off to reading. Make them read Beowulf or Dante's Inferno. Help. Help!

  12. Jenny, you were missed. Brewing up some chamomile tea for you.

    (Do you have any clue who Hodges is?)

  13. I will agree on Dante and Beowulf.... But leave my Iliad and Odyssey alone...

    Jenny, you're right it was too early, forgot the severe time difference... Hey, I think some Tim Tams are in order.

  14. There's a literary agent who regularly posts about how self publishing is ruining literature forever. Eventually someone sees it, notifies all their indie friends, and they ALL rush over to debate and defend self publishing. His blog posts always end with a little advertisement for a new book his clients have out, or something he's got coming up.
    I mention this for no reason whatsoever. *cough* CLICK BAIT *cough*
    I'm afraid Janeites just aren't that rabid (even though you did your "how to annoy Miss Jane's fans" homework and misspelled it Austin, which usually brings the slobbering hordes). If you want, I can go post on the JASNA boards and see if we can up the page views. :) Also, I think Homer's fan club is so small that they're not likely to show up here, either.

    Anyway, in seriousness, I loved and read (and re-read) all the books you mention. And poetry. And all wordy books. And I don't think I've ever made it through anything that had a carriage going off a cliff. Or into a flood. Or getting shot at on the first page.

    Isn't that the beauty of reading? We're free to love and revel in our favorites. To each his/her own!

  15. I almost spit out my first sip of coffee on the laptop screen, and I'm sure some shot out of my nose. Not because I disagree with you, Mary, but because you had the guts to say what the rest of us are thinking. For the life of me, I can't figure out why I thought a bachelor's and master's degree in English would help me become a better writer...or editor. Beats math, I guess, and I did make a living as an editor, although I could have done better as a flight attendant. Have you ever read the first chapter of Tom Sawyer? Hint. It didn't start with fence painting. Give me a good shoot 'em up on a raging river anyday. Read any good Dostoevsky lately? :-)

    Just bought your book so no need to put me in the drawing.

  16. P.S. Ruthy, There's a great series of books by Robert Rodi called "Reclaiming Jane Austen From the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps". It's very educational... but more than that, it's HILARIOUS. He goes through each book, chapter by chapter, and explains all the inside jokes and cultural references in a style like David Sedaris's This American Life.
    Not many people are Regency experts, so they read an Austen book and just barely scratch the surface. They're all very different works (from Northanger Abbey, a Gothic mystery, to Mansfield Park, an anti-slavery treatise) but a modern reader may not get the jokes, feel the outrage, or see where Austen was headed with her social commentary. If you ever find yourself with a month or two with nothing to do, you should grab those books and re-read Austen. :)

  17. Tina, did you know there's a super popular multi-player Xbox360 game based on Dante's Inferno that came out a few years ago? My librarian friend told me they had to order TEN copies for the collection because the teens are reading it, trying to get the cheat codes from the story.

  18. Nothing like stirring up some controversy on a Monday morning! LOL Thanks to Jenny for mentioning The Little Princess (same author as The Secret Garden.) Adore those two books. And she mentioned Little Women too, another favourite classic of mine. In fact I love all of Louisa May Alcott's books. Yes, definitely a slower pace than today's novels, but there's still something magical about the way she tells a story. I'd add Anne of the Green Gables into the classic literature mix, though L.M. Montgomery put a lot more action into her books than the norm of the day. But there's still some life lessons and 'preaching' going on within those pages. I'm in absolute bliss when I read them. Can you tell my classic reading tends to be in the juvenile fiction category? LOL

    No need to enter me in the draw, Mary. I just ordered your book early this morning. Yawn. I'll blame you when I get sleepy midafternoon. :-)

  19. Wow, Mary. You confirmed it for me. You aren't afraid of anything.

    I work hard to keep my stories moving, and after reading your post today, I'll work even

    Have a great day!

  20. Wow. Mary, that was brave to admit. Not the "wordy" part, most of us have been advised that the modern reader won't put up with that, but the "boring" part. I am stunned. And relieved, I don't read the old stories any more either. My late father read just about every one of Dickens' novels through every five years, but I never had the patience for Dickens. That was an interesting post and I will be thinking about it today.
    Kathy Bailey

  21. Mary, when I read the title of today's post on the June calendar I thought it was referring to novels from the 80's. They were so heavy on the descriptions of settings and well, everything else.

    Now and Forever sounds like fun. I like Shannon already! Those middle siblings. And she's an animal lover. : ) I loved this part of the description:
    " Shannon gets swept over a cliff by Matthew Tucker! And things go downhill from there."

  22. Good morning, Mary!

    I've always loved classics--which started with my mom reading to me an abbreviated version of "Black Beauty" when I was in early grade school and then Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in its full form. On into junior high through high school, I DEVOURED classics, both American and British. (I even loved reading Shakespeare's plays.) I still have many of those classics on my bookshelf--and now on my Kindle! (Yes, I DID read House of Seven Gables--and, by the way, it's NOT on my bookshelf or Kindle if that tells you anything.)

    But I do have to admit that without the leisure time to read that I had growing up, it's definitely harder to get into those old favorites and savor the beauty of their words as I used to. With limited time, I tend to want to "cut to the chase" so to speak. I don't quite know why I'm gathering those classics on my Kindle--maybe it's in hopes that someday (after retirement?) I'll again revisit them without the need to rush rush rush. :)

  23. Ah, yes, Tina. Beowulf. And have any of your read Canterbury Tales?

  24. Looking forward to your post tomorrow, KELI!

  25. Can anyone tell I'm walking on air? My next book (spring 2016) sailed out the cyber door to New York City at 5:12 a.m. Arizona time this morning. :)

  26. Mary, I love you for your courage. I've longed to diss the classics and not have tomatoes thrown at me. Well, maybe not diss, but certainly not endorse and recommend! Wuthering Heights tops my list of books that could have been an awesome romance if not for the darkness surrounding every step.

    As far as modern day goes, I went to see the movie, The Longest Ride (shocker, right? The bull riding put the yeehaw in my step for days!!!). So, being the conscientious writer that I am, I bought the book written by Nicolas Sparks. Ol' Nick, people love him...or not. I have to say, I preferred the movie to the book. Was that because of the visual of Scott Eastman (oh, be still my heart), or because Hollywood pulls out the core attraction of a book, embellishes it, adds beautiful people and voila! The author gets credit for a screen writer's mastery??

    I'm with you, Mary. Whether it's a classic or modern day paperback (or digital download), action, movement, emotion is the key!!!

    Loved this post! I'll be thinking on it all day...

  27. I can't think of anything to say. I'm just laughing now.

  28. Barbara Scott, I believe a bit of coffee shot out my nose at your comment...let's editor or flight attendant? Hmmm, I'll have to think on that, too. LOLOLOL!!

  29. YAYAYAYAY, Glynna! I know New York loves getting mail from Glynna Kaye in AZ!!! Good for you!!!

  30. I so don't belong in this conversation. I've never read any of the classics.
    I must've been forced to read something in high school, but I don't remember what. It was none of these I'm sure.

    For arguments sake, let's just say I agree w/Mary.

  31. Welcome back, Jenny! But I'm so sorry that you're in so much pain. I hope they can get that under control for you. I'm going to have to check on Amazon to see if they have any of those Australian classics available in Kindle. I'd love to read some!

  32. Tina, I liked Dante's Inferno! But you're so right about Beowulf.

    Kathy, I don't read old classics either. Of course in high school I plowed through a lot of them and I even enjoyed a few. But not James Fenimore Cooper or Thomas Hardy, among others. I had no patience for excessive wordiness. But high school was a long time ago, the world was slowed paced (at least mine was) and most of the classics and modern novels were slow. I was used to thick, descriptive books and the writing didn't bother me too much.

    Now everyone's running to keep up with each other and action-packed books reflect our culture. I'd like a happy-medium. But I doubt it will happen.

    I used to love Jane Austen. But the last time I read Pride and Prejudice I thought it was a tad too long-winded. So I watched the movie. Hanging my head.

  33. I agree with Jackie,

    I may or may not agree with you, but I'm not as brave as you, lol.

    Mary wrote "When I write, I'm looking for action", after writing this post, you'll get plenty of "action" from this hornets nest stirred up. I'll be smiling all day after reading it. Thanks for a great start to a new week!

  34. You Know I'm Serious here. If you LOVE James Fenimore Cooper (yes, Daniel Day Lewis was gorgeous in the Last of the Mohicans, that does NOT COUNT) then tell me.

    If you were deeply moved by The House of the Seven Gables then, well, maybe I skimmed too much. (that's possible)

    And the Austen books, well, once you are in love with her than nothing else counts so maybe I need to try and fall in love.

    Also I once read the BIOGRAPHY of the Bronte sisters. That is FASCINATING reading. Now THAT was a good book.

  35. Keli, Dickens was paid by the column inch. Now I'm laughting.

    I've read A Tale of Two Cities and it has moments that are so heroic, so movie, so powerful and I started reading it three times before I could power on.

    I've tried to read Shakespeare, too. Seriously, his work is unreadable. It's almost a foreign language. And the handful of memorable quotes (and there are a lot) are all the quotes there are.

    Did you know the movie Twins with Arnold Schwartenegger and Danny Devito is based on a Shakespeare play? Also the movie Big Business with Lily Tomlin and Better Midler...both are about trouble with twins separated at birth and are loosely based on 'A Comedy of Errors.'
    Of course all the boring parts are removed. I do think Shakespeare is meant to be watched as plays not read as books.

    PS let me ruin Hamlet for you. Everybody dies.
    Let me ruin MacBeth for you. Everybody dies
    Let me ruin Romeo and Juliet for you. Everybody dies.

  36. Tina, I looked up eschew. It means SHUN! And yet you seem to like Keli????????????????

  37. I love Jane Austen (well, really just P&P and S&S - the others not so much) and Jane Eyre, but I'm with you on the rest. I once read another book by Charlotte B that was absolutely awful. (My word of warning - never rack the covers of a book named Villette!) Hawthorne is depressing, Dickens is Ok if you can get through all the nothing pages to finally get the plot. Yeah, I'm more into authors like Mary Connealy with action from page 1. Yay Mary, courageous and to the point. Agreeing with you from Kansas!

  38. I've read Beowulf. There's 15 hours of my life I'm never getting back.

    I can see myself of my death bed thinking, "If Only I Hadn't Read Beowulf, I could have gotten in 15 more hours of living!"

  39. The Little Princess! Jenny! That's it!
    Aw, I do love Little Woman.

    And To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite (or at least a contender) but that's too new, it doesn't count.

  40. Ruthy are you saying you LIKE The House of the Seven Gables?

    Well, now honey, I respect you hugely. So now I'm wondering if possible I skipped to much.

  41. Ruthy is feeding us. Or wait, she's making a dead author from a zillion years ago feed us.

    Which, considering this is cyberspace, why not, huh???

  42. You know Tina, what you said about teenagers and making them not love reading, again I'm a savage I know. But I read A Lantern in her Hand in highschool and just begrudgingly plowed through it. Boring.

    And then years later, as an adult, reread it! IT IS IN THE BALL PARK WITH TO KILL A MOCKINBIRD. It's the story of a little woman living in a sod house in Nebraska. And yet, at it's heart it is this SOARING powerful book about dreams and motherhood and the life of a woman in all it's phases.
    I absolutely adore that book.

    I sometimes wonder if high school couldn't figure out something better. I mean, let them read Harry Potter. Do SOMETHING to try and instill a love of reading rather than force them to trudge through the classics. Even if those classics are fantastic many teenagers are too young to appreciate them.

  43. I did love The Secret Garden, deeply chilling and life affirming. Just brilliant.

  44. Now you see, Virginia, I am going to get MANY people defending Austin (<<note spelling, I'd go fix the blog but that would ruin you comment!!!!)
    But who will stand up for Victor Dumas, hun?

    Seriously folks there is NO SINGING!

    How many have READ A Christmas Carol, you know Scrooge, Ghosts, Tiny Tim?

    Well it's mighty hard to plow through. Trust me. And yet that book has been remade so many times (dozens, maybe hundreds, every sitcom has done Scrooge) But the book is tough reading. But honestly I consider Dickens to have almost been written in a foreign language. It's very difficult reading.

    A Tale of Two Cities??? How many of you have actually read it? "It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before."

    Finding that line in it's INTENSE, VICTORIOUS NATURAL SETTING, is something I cherish, seriously. But oh, so hard to read.

  45. Barbara Scott! Dostoevsky? Don't tell me Russian editors don't by books by the pound.

    This was earlier in life when I was determined to class my reading up a little.


    Then finally I got done and just shook my head. That made NO SENSE!!!!!! I took it back to the library (what they're going to charge me overdue rates on Anna Karinina? I don't think so, especially since i dusted it for them.)
    I went back to the bookshelf to look for another classic and I FOUND VOLUME 2 OF ANNA KARININA. Well, I'm thinking THAT'S why it didn't make sense, the ending I mean. So, through my tears, I got volume 2 and in the far distant future, I finally finished it and IT STILL MADE NO SENSE.

    I think Anna died but honestly, by that point, I was ready to kill her myself. What? Leo, do you expect me to MOURN?

  46. 43 comments and I haven't even finished my coffee yet! What are y'all trying to do... write a CLASSIC?????

    I haven't read any comments yet, so this might have already been said, but I wonder if since they didn't have television, part of the beauty of these books WAS the sweeping descriptions to paint a picture for the reader.

  47. Virginia, I like gothic. Maybe I'll give Northanger Abbey a whirl.

  48. Barbara I don't remember the first chapter of Tom Sawyer.

    And I've read it many times.

    But we had the Readers Digest Condensed Verion. Maybe the bright folks at Readers Digest cut the first chapter. (I has since read it all but not for years)

  49. Anne of Green Gables. Yes I loved those books. 1908, too, so pretty old.

    But do any of you think these authors could get these books published today?

    And if you love these books then what's wrong? What happened? Is it ME that's wrong and changed and dumbing down the world by keeping the action going, avoiding and minimizing backstory???

    Virginia you know a lot about classics. Keep talking. I can take it. I could even dare to LEARN something.

  50. I was a crazed reader as a child and I mean many many many books, and I read them over and over.
    Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, Trixie Belden, The Happy Hollisters. Every book I could get my hands on.
    The first book I remember reading and afterward, checking who the author was, because I loved it so much and I wondered, "How did he do that? How did he drag me into this book?" Was Walter Farley and The Black Stallion. That man made a book come truly to life. He grabbed me and dragged me into those horse races. I cared so MUCH!

  51. Jenny, so good to have you back, and so sorry for your health issues. Praying for you, friend!

    I read Heidi, and liked it. The description of them going up the mountain made this US of A Mississippi girl wonder how they stayed on the mountainside, and Ioved Heidi's little loft room where she could see the stars (okay, it's been 40 years, but I think that's right), so there's some description that stuck with me.

    Maybe TV, the internet, photography (i.e. Nathional Geographic) really has ruined us for the long, flowery descriptions of people and places that we've never seen. Because now we can easily see all that, so now the story itself has to really make us sit up and take notice.

  52. Jackie, I know that's what sells today, the movement, the action. And I love reading books like that and I love writing books like that. BUT WHAT HAPPENED!?

  53. I keep hunting for Melanie Dickerson. Jane Austin's #1 fan. C'mon Melanie, let me have it.

    Virginia has already helped me a little.

  54. KayBee...I started A Tale of Two Cities at least three times.

    The first sentence, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...." almost makes your palm sweat because you know you are in the presence of a true landmark book.

    But I just couldn't get the LANGUAGE. It was so difficult.

  55. Glynna, you are so much cooler than me.

    I suppose I should buy a stack of classics and just put them on a shelf. So when I die I can hopefully trick people into believing I have culture and depth.

  56. Ahhh...Barb and Virginia hit on another reason... the hidden barbs, word choices, turn of phrase, political and social poking the authors were doing in these books. Some of their success could have been because what they were saying might have been pretty scandalous to society at the time. Uncle Tom's Cabin comes to mind.

  57. JENNY'S BACK!!!! Yay!!!! Sorry about the sleepless nights, though. They can really wear you down!

    Little Women has always been one of my favorite classics. I think reading it as a child is one of the things that made me want to be a writer. I wanted to be cute and spoiled like Amy, but even more, I wanted to be brave and impulsive like Jo.

  58. Donna you mean the 1980s?
    Well we can save that for another post. LOL

  59. Mary, your Anna Karinina comment was to die for!

    Pun intended.


  60. YAY GLYNNA!!!!!! You work so hard and it's always pressing you but you ALWAYS SUCCEED!!!!!!

    And succeed brilliantly and get to be a finalist in contests (sometimes TWICE!!!)

  61. I haven't read House of the Seven Gables, but I've visited the ACTUAL house in Salem, Massachusetts. Honestly, it's no wonder Hawthorne wrote such a depressing story about it. The house is dark and gloomy, and you can hardly stand up straight in some of the rooms.

    Mary, I actually have read A Christmas Carol. Also read A Tale of Two Cities at the same time my daughter had to read it for high school English. I figured I ought to know a little about what she was supposed to be learning from it. Can't say I remember a thing about it, though!

  62. Janet Ferguson, laughing WITH ME OR LAUGHING AT ME!!!!!

  63. AUDRA The thing about Nicholas Sparks is, I do believe he's a brilliant writer, but he makes me CRY. And I just do not want that from a book. Oh, a few sentimental tears during the book are wonderful. But to end the book in some tragic way?

    It's brilliant how he wrings emotion out of me but it's just NO FUN.

    Besides, if I want to cry I don't have to read a whole book. I can just go step on the scale!

  64. Connie have you ever read The Secret Garden? It's for kids I suppose but it is fantastic.

    Then you can say you've read the classics (and pretend to like them)

  65. Cara, I've never read Dante, so I can't even comment but way to culture yourself up, girl.

    And here's a question, how many books from those olden days have vanished? WE talk about the ones that survived but I wonder if the ones that fell by the wayside were more fun and somehow that eliminated them from a long life.

    I mean, Gone With The Wind, would that have lasted like it did with a Happily Ever After between Scarlett and Rhett? There's a lot of power in tearing people's hearts out.

    Thus Romeo and Juliet endures

  66. Tracey, you'll be SMILING??? Like you enjoy watching me be swarmed by a hornet's next?????


  67. I haven't read the Secret Garden, but maybe I'll try it.

    Honestly, when I think of the Secret Garden I picture Miss Honey (or is it Honeycutt?) and Matilda in the flower garden in the movie Matilda.

    Now I keep hearing "you uncultured swine!"

  68. Cindy, this may sound odd, but ever since I read the biography of the Bronte Sisters, I've felt a strange kinship with them.

    I always wonder if their lives were MORE tragic than the biography said.

    Oops, I went to Amazon trying to remember the title of the bio and it's The Tenants of Wildfell Hall. And it's FREE on Amazon CLICK HERE TO BUY FOR NO MONEY

    Anyway, here's the kinship.

    I grew up in a tiny house with a lot of brothers and sisters and NO MONEY.
    We had parents who loved us. We were incredibly BOOKY people. My parents were farmers but in many ways unsuited to that life. Both college graduates. Both big readers. Both loved music and God. Both incredibly mild mannered people who would have been better suited to a job where they took orders than to a farm where they were in charge and had to be self-directed.
    But my dad came home to farm with his father and there we stayed, pretty much living on garden vegetables and the milk from our own cows. You can thrive on that honestly.

    But out of this house, not unlike the Brontes, came all these interesting and accomplished adults. All educated, hard working, honorable Christian people.

    8 adults, all married, so out of 16 adults there are two doctors, two pastors, one incredibly talented pianist, though many who love music, four master's degrees. 14 college degrees and ONE published

    It's just an interesting family and honestly I have no idea exactly what caused it.
    Much like the Bronte Sisters, trapped in Wildfell Hall (we weren't trapped, trust me, mom and dad kicked us out the first possible moment). And out of that hall came all this creativity and all these dreams. A passion to write.
    Where did it all come from????

    Read the bio.

    And I admit I was haunted by Wuthering Heights but then I've never read it a second time.

  69. Hey Mary! Your transparency/snark is a breath of fresh air! Thanks for keeping it real....

  70. Connie, if you qualify as uncultured swine LOL then I'm right there with you baby.

    The Secret Garden MOVES. It's eerie and charming by turns. Incredibly life affirming. I think you'd like it. (and if you don't, feel free to tell me right out in public.)

  71. As a literature professor, I've read (and taught) all of these. And I'm with you, sister. I'm an unabashed fan of popular, modern fiction. I like it fast and furious! I like it filled with angst and lots of dialogue and only a little description. I like when it makes me laugh or cry or think about it while I'm weeding the garden. So HIGH FIVE Miss Mary. And thanks for the cute post.

  72. Caryl, snark is my middle name. Mary Snark Connealy

    Oddly, my mom slapped it right down on my birth certificate and I hadn't spoken a word yet.

    What do you think is wrong with me!!!!!! (the eternal question!)

  73. Yes. Yes. AND yes!!! (Thus the exclamation points.) Thanks for speaking aloud what I've thought for years.

    I had a friend in college who carted a (transparent/see-through) backpack to every class. It was stuffed with all the great and "appropriate" classics and--it weighed about 58 pounds. One day I asked her why she did that.

    "So the profs will think I'm brilliant, of course. It's all about the illusion."

    Hmmm. I think my jaw dropped. Because she was dead serious.

    Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. To read classics for enjoyment or even the literary merit, yes. But to create a fake persona of who you really are so you'll look "smart"? Not so much, in my opinion.

    Loved this today! (And I laughed so hard, I needed a bathroom break.) :)

  74. Vannetta! I've always thought Vannetta was your real name. But clearly it's not.

    You will have a job tomorrow right?

    I'm afraid for you!!!!!!!

  75. Hey Cynthia, my sister was walking around (hiking) with a volume called The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. The reason? She needed weight in her backpack to burn calories.

    Yet, I think it made her seem more cultured. LOL

  76. This post was priceless, Mary! I love your instructions for reading The House of the Seven Gables. Many of the classic I enjoy, but then there are the ones I couldn't get past the first page. Like yourself, I want action!

  77. Mary, I think you're on to something. Russian editors bought by the pound. My personal nemesis is Tolstoy's War and Peace. I try to read it about once a decade because I think it's one of the few I didn't read from one of my high schools "must read" lists for college. I actually finished The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky) the summer after my junior year in high school. We had just moved and I was depressed. Russian literature is depressing. Ergo, the reason I liked it at the time.

  78. Pam that's a good comment. I'm going to go find that book Virginia mentioned " Reclaiming Austin.

    I'd be interested in that.

  79. Pammy, you know that could be right. Without TV (and Daniel Day is he gorgeous) the reader did need the scene set more thoroughly. Not only that but maybe they could afford ONE BOOK A YEAR!

    So it'd better last.

  80. Try reading 'The Sound and The Fury' by William Faulkner.

    At first I thought I was missing something, but then I decided the geniuses who hailed it as a masterpiece were the ones missing something.:-)

    But, MaryC, don't mess with Jane Austin! Although the only two books I really like of hers is the famous P&P and S&S.

  81. Barbara, I can really relate to your expectations about majoring in English. I also thought it would somehow, someday make me a pubbed writer. But all we read were the classics and a few crazy moderns. All that reading ruined my eyes and didn't help me write. It WAS better than math, but only because I could never do math.

    Mary, I did read Anna Karinina (can't spell) and I really liked it. I'd never read Tolstoy etc. again because I enjoy modern books so much better.

  82. Before I sound too non-erudite, let me say I'm a huge Dickens fan. I love Dickens. I've read all of them, they're on my keeper shelf.


    Sure I skim somewhat, but I love those stories. And I love The Scarlet Pimpernel and Les Miserables.... And I love The Crucible, Arthur Miller.

    But I'm clearly not worldly enough to get all of Austen... :( My bad, surely!

    But I do love and read and write poetry, so I have my introspective side, too!!! ;)

    I could not read all of War and Peace, but I love Herman Wouk's works... Talk about a man with wisdom and introspect.

    Aren't we a funny bunch????

  83. Anna Karenina....

    Okay, yes, that one could have been done in 1/3 the size and been possibly effective.


    I read it once and went gray. And then someone was singing its praises and I marched to the library, determined to become a smarter, more intuitive person because it was clearly my fault that I missed the point the first time around.


    But then Jan Drexler sent me this AWESOME BOOK from South Dakota, "Land of the Burnt Thigh" written by a woman pioneer, and I LOVED IT. What those women faced, from a woman's POV made all the difference, and I'm doing a series of historical novellas based on that wonderful courage I saw in that book.

    So it's not tales of struggle I mind, I love 'em! It's monotonous tales of the same struggle to an infinite exponent that I find taxing. :)

    (note I inserted a few SAT-type words to make myself sound less simplistic.)

  84. Myra, I think I identified most with Beth.

    She's the dead one, right?


    Mary 'In need of Intense Counselling' Connealy


    Wow, now I need to go find it online and read for an hour. Thanks a lot Myra.


    I've read The Winds of War, and War and Remembrance, those are newer but they are crazy long.

  87. Great post Mary...great comments everyone! Love this discussion!

    Perhaps it's time to declare some NEW CLASSICS! Cast the former designated standards into the category of "Historical Classics," and create a new list...."Modern Classics!!"

    But, uh oh, can we agree on a time-line?

    When does historical end and modern begin...should we use a publishers definition?

    And who gets to decide what goes where? Shall we take a vote? Or should it be by number of books sold?

    What's the criteria for nominating a book as a "classic" anyway?

    And, for the record, my forever- how-to-live-life-with-laughter- favorite, favorite "classic" is Winnie-the-Pooh....not Disney...but A.A. Milne straight-up!

    “When late morning rolls around and you're feeling a bit out of sorts, don't worry; you're probably just a little eleven o'clockish.”

    Oh, bother! I think it's time for tea! (Oh, yeah, one more thing, I'd love to be in the drawing!)

  88. Here you go, Mary.

    Yes, it is a real place. The house that inspired the story.

    I read Winds of War and War and Remembrance too. Long, but I bet way more readable than War and Peace (which I have NOT read)!

  89. MARY HICKS--I admit I hesitated about Jane Austin.
    I know she is beloved.

    Notice NO ONE jumping in to defend Alexander Dumas. And I saw a movie of The Man in the Iron Mask and it was CHILLING. Really good. And my daughter loves The Three Muskateers, as a book. So she'd defend Dumas at the same time she'd admit some of these books are serious downers. BORING downers.

    And Les Miserables, I've never seen the movie (I'm sure singing perks it up some!) but that book is just brutally sad.

  90. Kathryn I don't know if we can go by numbers.

    I'm afraid Fifty Shade of Grey would top the list and that's kinda sad.

  91. William Falkner, oh yes, there's a man who goes perfectly in this discussion.

  92. Jill, I know. I don't mean to be completely sweeping in my criticism.

    There are wonderful classic books.

    Okay this is taking too long.......I'm trying to think of them.

  93. Barbara you read War and Peace once a decade???????

    I'm so impressed I'm getting a little weepy! Way to Go Girl.

  94. Great comments!!!

    I've read most of the books mentioned...but I was young and had time to read long tombs. Now I like action packed novels that hook me at the beginning and take me on an exciting adventure. Not so with the Classics.

    I did like Dante. Don't know if I would now. Took an honors English class my Freshman year of college that was all Dante. Got an A+. The prof thought I should be an English major. I went into medical science instead. Perhaps it was Dante's fault.

  95. Now see? Cara loved Anna Karenina. Well that just proves there is something for everyone.

    It's a wild and wonderful world.

    I have a vague memory of Anna getting hit by a that right?

    HEA, much?

  96. Jenny, we missed you!

    Sorry you're still having medical problems...and fatigue!

    Sending hugs and a huge WELCOME BACK TO SEEKERVILLE!!!

  97. I think I read The Scarlet Letter, that sounds vaguely family. Nathaniel Hawthorne again. That was probably pretty racy for it's day.

  98. I went to the House of the SEven Gables website.
    Just sayin' anyone with common sense would expect there'd be pictures such that we could see all Seven Gables, and yet all I see are one side.

    Hello? Two pictures, one of each side!!!!!

    Master of the Obvious.

  99. Myra, I loved WINDS OF WAR and REMEMBRANCE. Yes, read WAR AND PEACE too, but those long names always slowed my progress.

  100. "...but I was young and had time to read long tombs."

    Um, DEBBY, was that a Freudian slip?

  101. Dickens is just to hard to read. I do love the meat of his books but that sort of almost Old English writing is a real tough nut to crack for me.

  102. Ruthy, have you read A Candle in Her Hand.

    Seriously so amazing, so powerful. (also so SHORT)

  103. I read LES MISERABLES in French. Another college class. Loved it!

    Have seen the play many times and love it, as well! In fact, it's my all-time favorite!

  104. Debby G, you always class this joint up.

    Way to Go. You've read all of these and liked them.

    I loved Stranded by the way, Debby.

    I've never done a really good tornado, I don't think.

  105. The Winds of War and War and Remembrance were very long, but so exciting — at least to me.

    Many of the classics could be exciting too if they were a lot shorter. Lots of them have great plots and characters. But some os them are so depressing. I don't like that because life can be depressing enough without reading about it too. The authors are probably writing about the time and place where they lived so their books are a reflection of their lives. I'm glad I live now in a great country much as I might complain about high taxes.

  106. Aw, Debby IN FRENCH??????? Now you're just showing off.

  107. LOL, Myra!

    A typo!!! Your Grammar Queen eye caught me! Thanks!

    Tome...not tomb! :)

    Must mention A TALE OF TWO CITIES, another favorite. I loved anything to do with France in my younger years!

  108. Hey, Mary, you're the one who brought up the subject. How many times do I get to mention reading LES MIZ in French? Usually it doesn't come up in my day-in, day-out conversations!

  109. Thanks for your comment about STRANDED, Mary C.

    Glad you liked the tornado. We've had so many passing through GA recently that it seemed a good opening for a story.

  110. Here's a serious follow up question. Did Anna Karenina get hit by a train on purpose? Or did Tolstoy just run out of paper???

  111. Debby, glad I could provide you with a forum for mentioning that you're a polyglot. (Hey Ruthy, I can use SAT words, too)

  112. Now see, Cara, I agree with you there.

    I mean A Tale of Two Cities has a RIVETING, IMPORTANT, POWERFUL story, if you can just dig it out.

    Again I can give Dickens a break because I really do have trouble reading that old English. Shakespeare qualifies, too.

    That's on me that it's almost foreign and I'm not willing to tackle it.

    You know Twain is hard to read in Huckleberry Finn. I read once how hard he worked to get all the different slangs and idioms, all different, as they floated along and met new people with new accents. But it can be hard to read at the same time it's incredibly deliberate on Twain's part.

  113. Mary, they have a bee keeping mask on Amazon for $2.65 with free shipping, not kidding, had I known where you were going in this post, I would have sent you one, haha, no stings allowed :)

  114. I've read a fair number of Michener. And I liked it. Went through a spell with him.

    Hint about Michener. When he starts a book about Hawaii, he starts with the volcano that formed the islands. I mean it's the VERY beginning.

    London by Edward Rutherfurd is written in Michener's style.

    I read Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet. About building cathedrals in Europe. My very smart and hard reading sister says it's her favorite book of all time.

    I'm like, "Are you kidding me? Except for Flying Buttresses I got NOTHIN'"

  115. Tracey, so far I feel like I'm coming out of it okay.

    But then I had 4 teenage daughters at the same time. I spent YEARS because the focus of all there "Mom You're Embarrasing Me" Angst.

    Add in ten years of rejection from editors, agents and contest judges and I'm so tough it's hard to really imagine it.

    Mary "Rhino Hide" Connealy

  116. I've read most Michener books...again in my youth.

    Would like to read POLAND, after traveling there, but not sure I have the time. Perhaps I could get the Cliff Notes. :)

    I've heard Rutherfurd is wonderful, but haven't ventured there yet. I like Follet's earlier books, his shorter reads. Anything three inches thick is too long for me now.

  117. Oh what sadness!

    There is a saying in acting: "There are no small parts, only small actors."

    I think there is a corollary in reading: "There are no dull classics, only dull readers."

    Think of the world of 1805. No tvs, no movies, no photography, and no recorded music. Most people did not travel very far from their homes. Most people never got to see how the other half lived, never went to balls, were never invited into the homes of rich people, and never really had much in the way of entertainment.

    Books back then were today's tvs, movies, photography, music, travel tours, tickets to parties, and acted as a practical escape from the drudgery of everyday home life.

    People wanted long books with lots of description. It was all they had. It is still said today that we read so we can life other's lives. This was much more the case in the past. Novels were meant to be published in three volumes at about 750 pages total. These books were rented one part at a time so three people could be renting the same novel at the same time. One chapter a night might be read to the family by the best reader.

    Books were meant to savor, enjoy, educate, and delight readers. They were not things to be done with as soon as possible' so as to free up time to attack the ever growing TBR pile.

    Why would people today need a description of the Eiffel tower? Millions have seen it in person and almost all have seen it many times in pictures.

    Mark Twain got into serious trouble with his publisher. "Tom Sawyer" was sold by subscription by sales people who worked the countryside door to door. People paid a lot of money up front for Twain's books. They were sold with a prospectus. His most popular book, "Innocents Abroad" ran 685 pages. These many pages represented a lot of travel and scores of hours of reading enjoyment. A book was meant to last and be shared. When Twain submitted "Tom Sawyer" at under 300 pages the published and salespeople were horrified. Who'd want to read such a thin book? Buyers would demand their money back! Twain was told to make the book longer.

    If you want to really enjoy Jane Austen, or any classic, read it as a person who was living at the time the book was published. If you read with this mindset you will begin to understand the work's true greatness.

    (As far as floating along and having an adventure and then floating along some more, and having another adventure, well, as a theme, that worked fairly well for Homer with his "Odyssey". : ))

    Great selling writers create enjoyable reading experiences that exceed their readers' expectations. Great writers of classics manage to do this with universal appeal that tends to transcend time.

    However, it's not an author's fault that future readers may need to put on their 3-D time adjustment glasses to fully appreciate their work.

    The much loved painter, Georges Seurat, once told Vincent van Gogh that he painted too fast. Vincent answered: "You look too fast".

    Perhaps one should not look too fast at the classics. Don't measure them by today's yardsticks. Go native!

    Long life Jane Austen! The greatest!

  118. Wow Mary you must have touched a nerve or something. It's barely past 11 and there are already 115 comments! Not sure how to respond. As an English major and former English teacher, I do have a great appreciation for the classics, but I certainly agree that the writing is dull and ponderous. I am an Austen fan, and a few years back I reread all of the books, actually reading Emma for the first time. That was probably my least favorite of hers. It took me forever. My son looked at me one day and asked "Are you still reading that book?" He even noticed it was taking me forever. What always strikes me is wondering if people actually spoke that way. I just can't imagine it. By the way, if you want to read some fun modern day versions of Jane Austen, Christian author Debra White Smith wrote one for each of the books.

    I read House of the Seven Gables after we visited the house when I was in high school. That was over 40 years ago, so I can't remember much about it. I agree about James Fenimore Cooper.

    I skimmed through comments so don't know if anybody mentioned Moby Dick. That is my least favorite novel ever. But then I really get bored reading about the sea. I also hated Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea.

    As for difficult books to read, what about James Joyce's Ulysses. The first sentence is about 2 pages long. Apparently the man did not like punctuation. I have a brother who has read it and another brother who vainly tries to no avail. I have decided I don't even care to try. On the other hand, I have downloaded Don Quixote in Spanish as that has been a reading goal of mine. Don't know if I will ever actually get through it but it was free. I also have a goal of reading all of Charles Dickens. I'm guessing that is not your goal Mary! :)

    My favorite classic novel is The Great Gatsby.

    Please enter me for the drawing. I also just downloaded Swept Away. Yay!

  119. Mary, I will stand firm on Jane Eyre. I love that novel. I love Huckleberry Finn. Though I couldn't get my grandson to read it.

    I vaguely remember parts of My Antonia that had do with a pack of wolves and a dogsled. Think I blocked what happened.

    You didn't mention Great Expectations. I remember dying of boredom. Perhaps because my high school English teacher dissected the novel after lunch and I was sleepy. Wasn't the novel veryyyy long, too? Pip is a name that I can't get out of my cluttered mind. Anyone know why I vaguely dislike him?

    I loved Michener's Centennial.

    My dh loves Ken Follet.




  121. Jenny, we missed you! Glad you're back. I've been wondering how you were doing. I'm still praying for your pain and insomnia.


  122. Vince I am sure you're right.
    THANK YOU! I think my original question...have I changed or has the world changed, is answered in that one comment from Vince. The truth is, both have changed.

    Readers no longer need to linger over a description of the Eiffel Tower, the words Eiffel Tower are an immediate picture in your head.

    So then what does it mean though? I have to UNCHANGE? I have to try and set myself in that place and time? But I KNOW WHAT THE EIFFEL TOWER LOOKS LIKE! So do I have your permission to skim?

  123. Sandy! Another English teacher!

    I had probably better go hide under my porch until the slings and arrows (HAH Shakespeare) die down.

    LOL, no honestly I have LOVED this discussion. What I especially love is how different every one feels about particular books.

    I think A Tale of Two Cities...well, I'm so glad I read it. Sidney Carton. True heroism. True sacrificial love. Incredibly powerful and the story of the French Revolution told with very clear eyes I think.
    So I'm glad I have that in my mind but again, it's just so hard to read.

  124. My Antonia...NEBRASKA AUTHOR WILLA CATHER. To me it's not HALF the book A Lantern in Her Hand is, Bess Streeter Aldrich, also a Nebraska Author.

    But when you talk Nebraska Authors all you get is Will Cather and John Neihart.

    Every year Nebraska picks a Book Of the Year..or maybe it's called The Year of the Book, maybe. or wait, I think it's One Book/One Nebraska. The chosen book must be by a Nebraskan or about Nebraska.

    Willa Cather just won for the fifth time. Okay fine, could we please stop acting like no book has been written in Nebraska by anyone who is ALIVE.

    Hey, bummer, we haven't had a book published in Nebraska in 100 years, let's go with Cather again.

    Grow up, Nebraska!

  125. Vince, thanks for reminding us of the times the classics were written when books opened a door to a world most readers would not otherwise see. Excellent points and a delightful quote from van Gogh. In comparison, we modern readers are an impatient bunch.


  126. I know nothing about Pip, Janet.
    Tell us more.
    Is he in Great Expectations?

  127. I love that Vince chimed in! I love that Vince chimed in! I love that Vince chimed in!!!

    This is too funny.

    Okay, I love Michener. And Wouk. I love that Michener went to the creation of the land and sea and then the hapless and self-serving bi-peds that claimed both as their own.

    Love it!

    Janet, I'm with Mary on Huck Finn, I liked Tom Sawyer much better, but then when I was older I saw the depth of Huck Finn and really liked that. AND... I loved Great Expectations.

    Pip, oh Pip.

    Misguided, bemused.

    We're all so different.

  128. I also love Willa Cather. I know a lot of people think she is boring, but I think she really shows Nebraska of that time period. Have you ever visited her home in Red Cloud? That is the best way to really know Willa Cather.

    Tale of Two Cities is actually the Dickens book that is first on my to be read Dickens list as I have never read that and it is probably one of the most referenced outside of Christmas Carol.

  129. Great Expectations? Yes! Freshman English! A friend and I did a skit based on the story as part of a class project. I think she was Pip and I was either Estella or Miss Haversham.

    Why can I remember FOR CERTAIN that my friend was Pip and I can't for the life of me remember who I portrayed????

    (Autocorrect wants to change Haversham to aftershave!!!)

  130. Sandy, I promise that if you read A Tale of Two Cities it will be a far, far better thing you do than you have ever done before.

  131. Sandy, I agree anything by James Joyce/stream of consciousness is difficult reading. I had to read it for school but it was torture. Give me an entertaining book and I'm in it until the end.

  132. No, Mary, I TRY to read War and Peace once every decade. I've never made it past the first 100 pages. LOL

  133. Brave post. The only classics I've read from your list are from Jane Austen and of course, "Jane Eyre" (my favorite!). I agree that classics are very wordy and descriptive. You might like Austen's "Persuasion," though. There is some action...a girl falls and hits her noggin. I really don't understand "Wuthering Heights," though. I've read it once and watched like 4 movie adaptations. I still. don't. get. it. Someone needs to explain that book to me. Congrats on your new release!
    garfsgirl AT hotmail DOT com

  134. Myra that is so interesting isn't it? That you have that vivid memory.

    And I guess that's sort of what stays with me with classics (I act like I read them a lot but I don't! But I had a spell or two where I tried to culture myself. (better I should take a shower in Yogurt, y'know??)

    But perfect moments like, "It's a far, far better thing I do than I have done before."

    And the strange way the Little Women called their mother Marmie.

    And the Amazing Nonsuch from Huck Finn.

    And the fire that so conveniently killed the mad Mrs. Rochester in Jane Eyre.

    And Catherine and Heathcliff running away to spend a ghostly eternity together.

    (I'm making myself a little weepy)

  135. Yes, Mary, Pip is in Great Expectations. Perhaps I'd like him better if we got to read without dissecting what every thing meant. But high school lit was a long time ago. Ruthy likes Pip. So he probably deserves another chance.


  136. Cara I think I read something by James Joyce once.

    I remember it being very unpleasant.

  137. I feel badly for Mrs. Rochester but her family did palm her off on Mr. Rochester when they knew she was going mad.

    You know in times past, if you wanted to get rid of a woman, you could declare her insane, even if she wasn't, and just dump her in an asylum.


  138. Myra, sometimes we repress things. A whiff of aftershave may bring your part to mind.

    This summer we're taking our three older grandchildren to a live production of Bye Bye Birdie. Our idea of exposing them to culture. :-) They don't know it yet, but we have the tickets so we're committed. We'll just pile into the car for a surprise jaunt. Kind of like the morning I left home at age five and came back without tonsils.


  139. Oh, boy! I've missed quite a morning. :) It'll take a while to read all the comments!

    I'm not as well read as many of you, but I loved some of the ones you mentioned, Mary! Especially Jane Austen's books! And Charlotte and Emily Bronte. They're some of the books I go back to and re-read every so often. And I'm with Kav on loving the Anne of Green Gables books.

    So, YES, there's something out there for everyone! And personally, I like to change the pace every so often, mixing in the classics with the genres I read regularly. Overall, I need to read MORE. When I get on a writing kick, it sometimes falls by the wayside.

  140. well I just read the whole Wikipedia page of Great Expectations.

    If you don't like Pip you're not going to like this book. He's the main character.

  141. Vince, you made some excellent points!

  142. Jenny, it's good to see you back!

  143. Janet LOL a 'surprise jaunt' and you get a tonsillectomy?

    Your parents really were trying to break it to you gently.

  144. Hi, everybody. Peeking out of lurker-mode to stick in my two-cents worth. :-)

    I think the oldest classic work of fiction I've read is Swiss Family Robinson. It was written a year before Pride and Prejudice which I've also read. Unfortunately, I prefer the movies to the books.
    I know.
    Terrible thing for a librarian to say. But I much prefer Georgette Heyer's romance titles to Jane Austen's. (ducking)

    Speaking of classics... Thomas Hardy's Far From the Madding Crowd has been released as a new movie and a few weeks ago, I had a patron ask for a copy of the book. She wanted to read it before seeing the movie and said she thought it was an older book. :-)
    I chuckled and said yes it was. When I showed her to the shelf holding Thomas Hardy's books, she blinked, looked at me. "Oh. These are old."
    I nodded.
    She picked up a title, read the back then gave me a disgusted look. "These are really old!

    I giggled for the rest of the day.

  145. Okay I just bought Northanger Abbey for the incredibly reasonable price of FREE.
    And also Persuasion. Both Jane Austen.

    I will not enter into culture.

    As soon as I get Ruthy's latest read.
    And Missy's.
    And Audra's.

    But then I will get with it. I promise.

  146. Okay I just bought Northanger Abbey for the incredibly reasonable price of FREE.
    And also Persuasion which had also a price tag of ZERO. Both Jane Austen.

    I will now enter into culture.

    As soon as I get Ruthy's latest read.
    And Missy's.
    And Audra's.

    But then I will get with it. I promise.

  147. Hoo boy. I also bought (I apologize for this title) "B^^^h In a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen From the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps (Volume 1)"

    Volume 1? What" Virginia if you've gotten me into another Anna Karenina situation I will be coming after you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Also the title in your above comment wasn't complete NOW WAS IT!?

  148. The second book B!$*h In a Bonnet: Reclaiming Jane Austen From the Stiffs, the Snobs, the Simps and the Saps (Volume 1) cost 99 cents. So I risked it.

  149. Glynna, you just reminded me of the Reader's Digest Condensed Books my parents used to subscribe to! That was probably in the 1970's. I used to read some of those.

  150. Oh, I wish I had time to read through ALL the comments! I only made it to around 45 and had to stop. I wish my boss would give me a longer lunch hour.

    Wait, I'm my own boss. Sigh. I'm such a slave driver.

    But I have to say my piece:

    I love Beowulf. What's not to like? Monsters, Vikings, Dragons, and a dragon hoard! Good vs. Evil, Order vs. Chaos, Christianity vs. Paganism. 'nuff said.

    Homer. "Arma virumque cano..." It makes my chest swell just to read the first lines of the Illiad. By the way, my high school boys LOVED the Illiad. There's so much gore in the battle scenes!

    James Fenimore Cooper. I could live in "The Last of the Mohicans." Did that primeval forest ever truly exist?

    Hawthorne. I had a professor in college who tried his hardest to ruin Hawthorne for me. But you can't ruin "The Scarlet Letter," not even with post-modern interpretation.

    And then there's Dostoevsky. I fell in love with his writing in "Crime and Punishment." The insights that man had into the human condition!

    But Austen? I've never been able to finish one of her books. Sorry.

    And I have this theory about high school students reading the classics: Unless you thoughtfully prepare students to read the classics by educating them properly, making them sit through Beowulf or any of the others will be a waste of time and energy.

    Okay, I'm off my soap box now. :)

    And I just received my copy of "Now and Forever" in the mail today! But still put me in the drawing. If I win an autographed copy, I'll give someone else a nice gift!

  151. Dying laughing at Lis K's take on Persuasion.... hitting the noggin'. Mary, it's up your alley, you and Jane have something in common!

    I knew there had to be a connection somewhere.

  152. Lovely points about books past, Vince.

  153. Mary told me about A Lantern in Her Hand a few years ago. Beautiful, beautiful story. I'm read Willa... My Antonia.... but like "Strawberry Girl" it held no emotion for me.

    I think as authors and readers styles and voices and words will relate to some... and a few will relate to most....

    Reason enough to be mad at Harper Lee right there!

    Now there's a modern classic.

  154. LIS K, I remember as a teen just really, really getting into Wuthering Heights I think it was just the depressing angst of it all, and imagining Cathy and Heathcliff pining away for each other on those dreary English moors.

  155. Jan Drexler you are the most cultured person I have ever known. Thank you so much for hanging around such a humble reader as I. God bless you.

  156. Lis K, eager to read Persuasion.
    Can't wait for the action!!!!!!!

  157. Virginia, I could use an education, for certain!

  158. Clari did she take the book though? Is she going to read it? (Or try)

    I have a VERY firm rule, almost as firm as my Read a Series in Order rule. (Tina has heard me rant on that one!)

    My other firm rule (well that sounds like I only have too, but moving on....) is read the book before you see the movie.

    Ex. I have read everything John Grisham has ever written (Up to and not including A Painted House) and the only one I skipped was The Firm because I'd already seen the movie.

    It just affects my level of engagement. Now I can only see the hero as Tom Cruise. There's something about it that just makes the reading experience much more shallow to me when all the mental images are supplied.

    I read the book and can still enjoy the movie. But if I see the movie it's far less likely that I can even get through the book.

  159. Mary, I wallow in culture.

    Of course, that's just another term for something being a bit off, isn't it? Like milk that's gone a little further toward the dark side than just plain sour?

  160. Ruthy did A Lantern In Her Hand make you weep for days?

    I used to re-read it all t he time but I don't anymore. I can't handle the tears.
    And the weird part was on each re-reading I could tell the heroine had reached the same stage of life I was in because different parts would make me cry.

    I saw a movie of A Lantern In Her Hand once and it was a TRAVESTY.

    For one thing in the movie Abby Deale didn't love her husband, she endured him.

    But in the book, yes there were hardships but Abby's love for her husband is almost a helpless thing. Like, "My whole life changed when Will Deale came walking down the road. I had no choice but to follow him wherever he wanted to go."

    That's one of the bedrocks of her life.

    Okay now I'm tearing up and I do NOT have time!

  161. Mary, she did finally decide to take it. Whether or not she read it, I don't know. It was returned in the drop box a couple of days later. Maybe she's a really fast reader...

  162. A Lantern in Her Hand is what's helping with my perspective on leaving my hometown of San Diego for my husband's hometown of Nebraska so we can actually afford to buy a real house with a yard and more square footage than a postage stamp. Of course he has to get a job there first, but the courage of Abby Deale is so inspiring and has helped me overcome my fears.

    I agree that the old classics are way too wordy, so for me it's a badge of honor to finish one :)

    Definitely put my name in the hat for your book! Can't wait to read it!

  163. Mary said: "Thank you so much for hanging around such a humble reader as I."

    Yes, YES!!! Mary has used the proper pronoun to refer to herself!!! Grammar Queen is beyond delighted!!!

    Now, dear, if only we can pound into your culturally edified brain the difference between lie and lay!

  164. Mary, the answer is, the world has changed. Life was much slower when Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and Mark Twain were writing. There were certain things that were understood. And people had MUCH LESS to entertain themselves with. Their lives, yes, I will dare to say it, were BORING.

    This is the conclusion I have come to as to why the classics were so popular. And I can tell you why I loved them as a child. I have recently thought this through. I read these classics and LOVED them as a teenager, and the reason being--my library, my only library, was my school library, which was tiny--miniscule--and contained almost nothing but classics. I had nothing else to read. I did not have cable. There was no internet. So I hung on every word Jane Austen said. I savored every word Jane Eyre sermonized. I loved them. I ate them up. They were breakfast lunch and dinner. My life was BORING. I had nowhere to go, nothing to do. I lived in the boondocks of south Alabama. These books were the closest thing to adventure I had.

    So, you're welcome. I have answered your question. I--and all the English teachers and book critics and Pulitzer Prize judges of today--were bored as children and young adults and still have VERY fond memories of these books. That's why we make students and children read them. Not because they're good or exciting or fun. Not because they are fast-paced, because they so are not. It's because we were bored as children.

    Again, you are welcome.


  165. Personally, I HATE Jane Austen. As an English professor at a nearby university, I agree that we should be allowing students to read great books to allow them to spark a love of reading. In my undergraduate classes, I had to read soooo many boring classics books that I hated. I love Frances Hodgson Burnett, Alexandre Dumas, and, Arthur Conan Doyle. Have a good week!

  166. Well, the truth is, I do still love some of these classics, especially Jane Austen. But the language is really hard for me to read now. I understood it so much better when I was a teen. I think my brain has gotten lazy and doesn't want to decipher all those old English-isms. And the long, LONNNNGGG, Convoluted sentences. Still, Jane Austen's stories themselves are awesome. I want more movie versions. Actively lobbying for someone to remake all the Austen stories in full, glorious detail with GOOD-LOOKING heroes, please. Not those whey-faced guys like they usually cast. Just sayin'. :-)

  167. I don't know why blogger isn't accepting my TOO LONG comment, so I'll try to split them up and see how it goes. ANd I wasn't even done reading all the comments yet!

    Oh, oh oh.

    Hmmmmmm. I read only a few genres. Christian Historical, YA historical, classics, and nonfiction that deals with three topics, religion, education, parenting. Outside of that, you have to be a big word of mouth, intriguing premise sort of book for me to read it.

    Jane Eyre was my first love. IT CANNOT BE SUMMED UP WITH "THAT'S A SIN AND SHE'S AGAINST IT" Oh, oh, I can't even.....

    But in 12th grade I was required to read the House of the Seven Gables and it is the ONLY D+ I ever got on an essay test. One of the essay questions was "What did the fountain symbolize" and I was like, you mean that book meant something???????

  168. But yes, classics are wordy. I mean, what else did those people do for entertainment? Especially if you were an introvert back then, going to Bath and walking around the Pump room with everyone in town does not sound like my idea of fun! Give me Count of Monte Cristo any day. (Though the screenplay for CofCM is FABULOUS, they added romance, which it needed and of course cut down all the endless description. IF you haven't watched the movie DO SO!)

    I mean, people back then had a whole genre of travel literature where it was the job of the writer to describe every little detail about where they were traveling so people could go there through words. Now you just hop on youtube and watch a 5 minute clip and feel like you know enough about the rain forest to argue with people on facebook about the right way to protect the rainforest....for the love...

    And strangely enough, my sister hated reading. (I think Mom must have dropped her on her head or something....) But when she was required to read BEOWULF in 12th grade, she loved it and started picking up other monster/horror stories. I don't think Beowulf is bad at all, but that definitely wouldn't have been the one to get me excited about reading.

    And my 8 year old loves Shakespeare (Yes, I am making her read it, the child's version anyway.) Maybe these puppet shows she watched afterwards might appeal to you. :) But anyway, puppet Shakespeare is definitely more palatable. And the reason why Shakespeare is "unreadable" is because he is at the end of Middle English, which technically is almost foreign language, so you're right to feel that way. It's also the language of The King James Bible. Maybe you should pick up a modern version. Beowulf is in Old English with is definitely a foreign language.

    Don't don't don't say that Dickens writes Old English! This is Old English: Listen to this video of A reading of Beowulf in Old English. If I could spend my money on college educations learning to read Old English and speak it would be high on my list of things to do. Unfortunately, I need to spend money on things that will make me money.

  169. Thanks for the free book, Mary!

    What is a classic? Who's to say that Swept Away isn't a classic?

    I have read an odd mix of 'classics.' Like JAN DREXLER, yes to Beowulf.

    In my opinion, the change between old classics and our current writing style is brevity. Flowery Victorian language will lull you away. Soon you are sleeping, awakening after two hours only to discover you're still on page two. Sleeping in the lounger with an open book spread across your chest - now THAT'S classic!

  170. You know, when I read Christy in high school I was like "how many boring ways can you describe rainbows and mountains on every. single. page.! I reread it a few years ago.....I have no idea why I thought it was filled with boring description. Sure it was more than I like in my modern stories, but the last 2 pages are worth reading through hundreds of pages of rainbows...but I didn't think so then.

    I also read Emma in college since I liked Jane Austen and thought it was boring and gave it to the resale shop....years later I watched the movie and wondered why I had been so bored. I found myself a copy a few years ago, reread it and I'm like "my college self was a dolt."

    There are bad ones and good ones. And I loved Anna Karenina. (I took a semester of Tolstoy and had to read everything.....yes, all of Tolstoy in a semester, that was not smart working a job, doing 20 hours of college, planning a wedding, and taking a Medieval and Rennaisance course along with a European literature course, my backpack weighed a ton and all I did was read every spare moment) Believe it or not War and Peace is something I want to reread when I don't have to read it like a tazmanian devil on steroids to get it done by deadline. There's this one chapter that all he's describing is how the people mowed the grass, but it was beautiful, and there is a great story in it. I'm sure modern editors would be all like "Just say they mowed the grass and move on" but I'm sure glad they didn't. However the editor telling Thackeray to cut out the chapter about the silverware would have been nice.
    I remember in school that the first classic I was forced to read that I thought "Wait a minute, this isn't a classic, this is a freaking good story" was Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier.

    And Ruthy, I'm not sure I can forgive the "muted shades of nothingness" comment. Did you read the comment by Munoz about the Rodi book? I don't go around recommending it because of the swearing in it (It has a swear word in the title even) but it definitely gets you past the "Jane Austen is about nothing" thought!

  171. But if you can get past the wordiness (Like in Vanity Fair there is a chapter about a very small secondary character where you even like learn where his silverware was inherited from. Details! Details!) there are great stories in them. Well some of them, I don't know what happened to it in The House of the Seven Gables.

    But yes, the world changed. It's called technology and a new term called "short attention span" plus we've made literature easier to read. They're writing on a harder reading level. So if you have a steady diet of sugar, it's harder to digest fiber. Not that fiber makes things taste better, but it's better for your brain in regards to exercise.

    The Inferno is good, I enjoyed "torturing" my senior English class with that one. I had too much fun with it. And I think I finally convinced my husband that I was weird by reading Plato's Republic at night for fun.

    And yes, there are older more "fun" ones, those dime novels. But they aren't considered "good" literature with deep meaning etc. etc. so they didn't get reprinted. But you can find them on Project Gutenberg or people who voluntarily have put them up on kindle. Deeanne Gist said she enjoyed one that I have yet to read, but I bet you'd like it if you're looking for the fun literature of yesteryear. Wired Love a Romance of Dots and Dashes Here's it's 2 star review="Love via the telegraph was interesting at first but the plot became a very old good fashioned comedy of errors after while." Sounds like a book you might enjoy!

  172. P.S. And I'm not trying to be mean but reinforcing my point that things have changed. In the 1800's, I daresay writers thought adding a carriage going off a cliff or a raging flood would sensationalize the novel and make it something like those sordid novels that Jane Austen spoofed in Northanger Abbey. Things have changed, and they will change again if Jesus doesn't come back too soon.

    P.P.S. I hope I am making sense and will not be ashamed of my words when I no longer have steroid brain. Sigh. Contracted Bell's Palsy two weeks before I'm supposed to speak at a conference--this Saturday. Then had awful side effects from the steroids. Stopped taking them. Then got 1000 times worse, because, apparently, everyone (but me) knows that you can't stop taking steroids cold turkey or your side effects will get infinitely worse and you will think you are dying. Hard, hard last few days, people. Pray for me. Still go back and forth between feeling sort of okay and feeling like I'm dying inside a sauna of death on the side of the road after getting hit by a truck.

  173. You will LOVE the B*** in the bonnet series if you can handle some curing, brings all that day and time culture to light. You'll get all of Austen's jokes and laugh. I don't think I've laughed harder at any books I've read lately than those.

  174. Tina wrote(Do you have any clue who Hodges is?)

    No don't think I do.

  175. Jan I think being a little bit OFF is sort of required for authors.

    So you're surrounded by kindred souls (although maybe not when it comes to the classics) But there are enough of them to keep you going. :)

  176. Clari she is obviously a library AMATEUR! Everyone knows if you take out a book and don't read it you should keep it for a 'plausible deniability' length of time.


    I need details girl. When and where. We have an Nebraska author ACFW group. We will drag you into it! :D

  178. Grammar Queen. Thank you so much for stopping in!!!!!!

    And I was so sure your second part of advice was going to be, "Stop being a caveman and read a quality book, dork!!!!!!"

    But instead you stayed true to yourself and criticized my grammar weaknesses.

    I respect you more now than ever before!!!!!!!

  179. Mary have you read The Virginian? While I'm glad I read it, I felt like I was due an award for endurance when I closed the book for the final time. Interesting that a novel generally credited with shaping the western genre in literature probably wouldn't stand a chance in today's market.

    Nancy C

  180. Melanie I am so sorry you're sick! I've been following your ordeal on Facebook and I am frowning like you wouldn't believe as I type.

    So sorry you've got the speaking engagement coming, just because you don't need the added stress.

    Maybe you could change your speech to WORKING THROUGH ADVERSITY!

  181. And I don't agree that you try to shove literature down student's throats because you had a boring childhood. LOL

    Instead I think if you found a love for Jane Austen in your youth, than deep in your heart you're hoping to awaken a similar love in the hearts of a student. And it's very possible you have done that.

    So YOU GO MEL!

  182. Melissa, well, I've got book #1 so we will see how it goes.

    I'm looking forward to it.

    I read Regency romance but I suspect that, when it's written by a current human being it would be almost impossible (and maybe even unwise) to capture the subtext of the day. Because who would GET the subtext, right?

  183. Haha! Mary, I've had a couple discussions like this with some of my book nerd friends. Were the classics really the best? Or just the best of their time? How would a modern novel--one we'd consider excellent--fare if someone tried to sell it or get people to read it back in the day. Fun discussion!

  184. Jenny did you ever sleep? How are you now?

    I'm sorry you're struggling.

    I'm going on about a two week jag of insomnia that is maddening. :( So I know how tough that is, but then to deal with pain on top of it...I'm just so sorry.

    God bless you, sweet Jenny

  185. Nancy C, well, I've read the first few CHAPTERS of the Virginian. It was weird, I thought. Not a truly Western voice at all.

    First Person.

    And the person who's POV it was in was NOT The Virginian.

    Strange. And again, I should have read on. Except your comment makes me think NOT!

  186. So Natalie this is random ... inspired by your comment.

    I remember a Gilligan's Island Episode where they acted out...I don't know...Hamlet I think.

    And this director who's been cast away on their island and was directing their play said something like, "If Shakespeare was alive, I'd have him working on a complete re-write."


  187. HEY KELLY! If Arthur Conan Doyle counts as a classic (and why not, huh?) then I am back in the game. Big Sherlock Holmes fan.

  188. Mary Connealy said...
    And again, I should have read on. Except your comment makes me think NOT!

    Good -- that means you have more time to write! :-)

    Nancy C

  189. Heidi and Mary, that's the kind of story I love. One that stays with you forever. Of course I'm a ROMANTIC SAP.

    In a meany-pants body.

  190. Melanie here's what came to mind with Pride and Prejudice.

    At the very beginning they are at a party and someone tells Elizabeth that Mr. Darcy is (something like....) a snob or he looks down on the Bennet Family or something like that. Someone who knows better correct me.

    But Elizabeth takes an immediate and deep dislike to Mr Darcy and they spend the whole book finally figuring out that the gossip she heard was wrong and he's a very nice man.

    But how many times have we heard in rejection letters and judges comments, "You can't have a conflict between two characters that can be solved with one friendly, honest conversation. The conflict needs to be deep and real and substantial."

    Well, isn't the simple lack of one friendly, honest conversation all that's really keeping Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy apart?

    It's like she decides to hate him and makes it pretty clear she does and he spends the rest of the book mostly avoiding her and when he can't trying to painstakingly re-earn her respect.

    But of course (especially after today) I realize that the romance isn't even the main point. It's a humorous look at the times they lived in.

  191. I have watched The Man in the Iron Mask and it's fantastic.

    Also I called Alexander Dumas....Victor Dumas in a comment or two back a ways.

    Sorry. I figured it out but those comments will remain.

  192. Melissa, remember I loved Pride and Prejudice... everything just paled comparatively!!!!

    And I love Rebecca, that's been on my keeper shelf since I was 16! SO WELL DONE!!!!


  193. Well, Melissa I just LOVE IT that you thirst of a college education in Old English.

    Now you are in fierce competition for most classy person here.

  194. Lyndee I've been struggling with insomnia. Maybe Beowulf is the answer to my prayers.

  195. Ahhhh! Rebecca! Can we count that as a classic. I loved that book.

  196. You know, Melissa, Louis L'Amour made frequent references to Plutarch and talked about the cowboys and pioneer families that could only carry one or two books, so they picked great ones and had a Bible and a copy of Plutarch or Plato ... a few others ... in their saddle bags or in their homes.

  197. Melanie so did you start taking them again? Now that you say it, I guess I've heard you have to wean yourself off them but after only a couple of weeks? That seems weird and scary.

    Frowning again.

  198. Mary, you won't regret those purchases. I actually ordered signed copies and gave them as Christmas presents one year. I figure anybody who can get past the title will love the books. And although I mention David Sedaris, the author is probably a good five steps down the shock factor ladder. Enjoy!