Let’s Talk about Classics | Relevance, hierarchy and all that lovely stuff…

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I was watching a rather old video that Jess (ReadByJess) uploaded over a year ago about whether classics were overhyped and it got me thinking about some of the points she raised. So, if you like, this blog post is a response to/in conversation with that video which I shall link here.

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Now, classics.

I do love reading the occasional classic from time to time. I’ll admit they do intimidate me and I have plenty of classics on my shelves which remain unread. Reading what is generally considered to be a classic takes more time for me because extra attention is required in order to take in every detail on the page.

Obviously, for university, I am required to read quite a few classics and I consider myself so lucky to be able to go in every week, discuss these books and develop my understanding of them. I definitely feel that I wouldn’t enjoy these books as much if I didn’t have that opportunity to discuss them.

One of the topics Jess brings up in her video is about the relevance of classics in the 21st century. I agree that, for many of the issues raised in books from the 19th or 18th century, we have moved on and developed so those problems are certainly less prominent now and I continue to believe that we should celebrate this fact. However, sometimes when I read a classic/discuss it at uni, I find myself thinking “but that could, and does, happen now” and it’s painfully heartbreaking. Sure enough the setting and the background to the stories have changed, but they are still happening even if that is in less extreme ways.

Another thought that came into my head whilst on the topic of relevance is that these books have shaped the literature we get today. Some of these books acted as stepping-stones for newer writers. They open doors for people who previously would have felt they didn’t have the chance to tell their stories. One of my favourite things to look at when I’m at university is how different literary movements influenced a new one, but that could be the history nerd within me.

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Another very valid point that Jess brings up in her video is about the hierarchy that there is within the genre of classics. Most of the classics which are held up on a pedestal were written by straight, white, well-off men – in fact the vast majority of them were. It’s so important that we acknowledge this. There’s nothing else I can really say about this other than using this fact to make sure we change so the majority of the books we get now and written by a variety of authors who represented all the minorities who have previously gone without a voice. 

Jess also brings up the hierarchy around genres of literature and quite rightly says that generally speaking, classics come at the top. Firstly, I think having a hierarchy of what is to be considered is more literary is a tad ridiculous and secondly, just read what you wan to read! Never force yourself to read something because “you feel you should as a reader.” If you have a feeling that you aren’t going to enjoy a classic (or a book from any genre if we’re honest), don’t waste your time on it. Read something you’ll enjoy!

So whilst I agree that classics aren’t the be all and end all when it comes to literature and that whilst I enjoyed Jane Eyre when I read it, it hasn’t stuck with me like a book perhaps should, I do think classics still have their place. There is a lot to learn from the collection of books we consider to be classics even in the 21st century.

Please let me know your thoughts on this discussion. Do you like classics or do you tend to stay away from them? I’m super intrigued to find out your thoughts. 

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The Way of All Flesh by Ambrose Parry | Book Review

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Goodreads Link | Book Depository Link

Edinburgh, 1847. City of Medicine, Money, Murder.

Young women are being discovered dead across the Old Town, all having suffered similarly gruesome end. In the New Town, medical student Will Raven is about to start his apprenticeship with the brilliant and renowned Dr Simpson.

Simpson’s patients range from the richest to the poorest of this divided city. His house is like no other, full of visiting luminaries and daring experiments in the new medical frontier of anaesthesia. It is here that Raven meets housemaid Sarah Fisher, who recognises trouble when she sees it and takes an immediate dislike to him. She has all of intelligence but none of his privileges, in particular his medical education.

With each having their own motive to look deeper into these deaths, Raven and Sarah find themselves propelled headlong into the darkest shadows of Edinburgh’s underworld, where they will have to overcome their differences if they are to make it out life.

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Recent(ish) Favourites | good stuff from September and October…

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I’ll admit that the last two months have flown by, especially October due to settling back into university. Although in September I read ten books, but by the time we get to the end of this month, it is likely I will not have read any more than four or five. Unfortunately, out of these fifteen or so books very few of them have been particularly memorable and therefore I won’t be writing a ‘Best Books of 2018 So Far’ for the last two months.

So, instead, I am writing a little bit of a favourite post which will include a couple of books I’ve enjoyed as well as some other stuff – be warned, there is going to be a very loose structure to this post.

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Poetry in the 21st Century | does it belong?

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Since going back to university my life has been consumed by poetry. One of my compulsory Creative Writing modules is Poetry and quite a few of my English modules have started off by looking at poetry. I can’t move without a poem being somewhere.

I’m never been someone who outright hates or dislike poetry. I think when I was younger I just didn’t quite understand it fully. To me, poetry was just words on a page which conveyed a message – occasionally I would notice a simile or metaphor – but other than that, it was just okay. However, as I grew up and began studying literature more, I was introduced to poetry which I could appreciate and even enjoy. That’s not to say however that I am an avid reader of poetry.

Recently at uni some points have been made about poetry which really made me think and started a conversation in my head. Why do people not necessarily appreciate poetry in 2018? And does poetry have a placed and in what forms?

Let me explain what I mean by this.

When talking to people about writing poetry for my uni course, I seemed to get a lot of “well it can’t be that hard” or generally making fun of poetry (think very poor and immature rhyming) and I believe this is a common misconception. I think poetry has a reputation of being easy to write and a matter of pouring your feelings out onto the page. However, I believe that effective poetry is A LOT more than that.

Poetry, to me, is about getting a meaning or a story told in a concise way whilst also using effective imagery etc, and therefore, a lot more than just spilling feelings onto a page. To me, every word in a poem has to have earned its place. I’m not one to enjoy poetry with a lot of natural imagery (it just isn’t for me) and with a lovely message at the heart of it. The more “real and raw” a poem is the more likely I am to enjoy it. One of the fascinating features of literature in general is the way in which it can comment and critique society and poetry is a fantastic way to do it.

But, does the kind of poetry I like have its place in the 21st century? I mean, obviously my answer to this is yes – of course. I don’t want it to die out but I have yet to find some recently published poetry which achieves this. I have read Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur and The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace and I didn’t enjoy them. Sure there were some poems in there which I thought were more than “alright” but those poems were few and far between. 

Maybe I need to search a little bit harder to find the kind of poetry I do enjoy in 2018 and maybe in the future I’ll come back with a blog post screaming “Look! I found some!” but until that day my mind will be an endless discussion on whether poetry should be as hard to write as it is or whether it should be as simple as feelings on a page? 

 

Second Year of Uni | some first thoughts and impressions…

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On 1st October 2018 I started my second year of Creative Writing and English at university. If you asked me a few years ago I would have told you that I absolutely was not going to university, so part of me is pleasantly shocked that I have gotten to this point.

Already, however, there have been a few changes – big and small – to university life both on the course side of things and living. Basically there have been changes that I have acknowledged which I thought would be interesting to discuss.

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Bookshelf Tour | …but it’s only one of my shelves…

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I have been debating whether to do a bookshelf tour for months and I understand these usually come in the form of YouTube videos but alas, I do not have a YouTube channel so a blog post will just have to do.

As the title of this blog post suggests, this is only one of my shelves as the other one is currently very messy and unorganised. There are also books currently floating around my room in each and every corner so it would take me a while to get them all together and sorted – I’m not even sure I would have the space for them all. I’m not entirely sure how this post is going to work out but let’s give it a shot.

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