There are a lot of prejudice in this world and literature, as it`s integrate part, is no exception. Curious thing about prejudice is, although they make things more simple and easier to comprehend, they also hurt us, keeping us in a glass cage.
Throughout my life I heard many of them regarding literature, but here are my favorite 6:
- Classical novels are boring
TV, radio and of course the internet are new media. If entire human history were condensed into 24 hrs, they would probably fit in last 3 minutes. All the time before that – their role was played by more classical arts: literature (stories), theater, arts…
Just think about it – amusement, sharing information and stories, shaping a nation trough culture, it was all done by art. Ordinary people without much education absorb it. Even people who didn’t know how to sign and never went to school. So it has to be interesting!
In ancient Greece all men had to go to the theater. Educated and not so. Thus writers had a big challenge – amuse the audience and win the best play award – a message and a package together. Same goes for the Shakespeare and many others.
- Artists are poor and miserable people
Somehow we imagine writers as poor people in cold apartments. Yes, it did happened to some of them, but Van Gogh’s story is far from standard.
Many of them were aristocrats, were protected by a ruler, or had other occupations that provided income. Greek poets, Shakespeare, Voltaire, Goethe, Tolstoy they were all well-respected or had outstanding society roles.
Another curious thing – classical literature writers appeared in countries of great economic strength. When we look at the list of western world classics we see they come from countries that shaped European`s history, at precisely those times.
Correlation between wealth and art, philosophy is well-known and dates from the beginning of the civilization.
- One has to have humanistic education in order to understand classics
Writers wrote for audience, not for critics.
Dostoevsky, for example, lived out of his works. He would go to the publisher and sell the pages he still didn’t write. Then a publisher would sell them to the audience. Audience, on another hand, read Dostoevsky for amusement. So, the work had to be full of life! People in conflict, love, betrayal. Everything that comes on top of it, all scholar layers, are additional values. Literature is first of all interesting!
- Long books are harder to read
Put in front of a choice to read one of two books, students tend to pick a shorter one. It`s because they think it is going to be easier to read and understand. Simple lack of experience.
If someone would give you 1 piece of paper to write about your first love, that would be enough for all important points. But if given 30 pages, you could describe that other person’s look in the eyes at just the moment you realized your story begins, how night smelled that night on a bridge, and how different whole world seemed when it all stopped. We could get to know you both and feel that emotion, being taken away and be sad in the end. We could relate and live our first loves.
How much better that sounds?
In all honesty: did you ever hear someone complaining about Lord of the Rings being too long?
Same goes with classics.
5. Contemporary books are easier to understand
This is hypothesis from which many new classical readers jump in a reading adventure. When it comes to classics (or serious literature) this is not very much true.
The reason is that literature no longer has that amusing role. Social media and television took lead in that field. Therefore literature turned more to discussing burning issues of today – identity, cultural diversity, loosing belief in progress…
This doesn’t mean new awarded novels are not of interest, but simply that it is a good idea to give a chance to older ones. And be surprised at times.
6. People who love to read are nerds with glasses and poor social skills
When people imagine someone who loves reading they picture a quiet person with glasses and not very developed social life. This prejudice comes from belief that reading is escaping from reality.
Well, it is more that reading is emerging in it!
Life is not simple. To explore it we need more than just our experience. We need mentors, friends, history… Human physiology, dilemmas, wars, progress, disappointment – it is all in a dazzling stories we call literature.
And those who want to explore it are those who love life. And people.
We can find book worms in marketing, business, movie making industry, on a stage with their bands. We can see them shaping our reality and thoughts.
Really far from old image we might have.
In my opinion these are 6 sides of a glass cage that keeps us away from joys of reading and deeper understanding of the world through stories. Just keeping them in mind can set us free.