Take it away Faberge...
What I read and what I like –
Point 1: Say aaaaaaah –
All those things that were shoved down your throat as a teenager that had to be read to get you through exams - I hated that. So I left school and my teens knowing that Jane Austen and Dickens were distant lands I would never go near, having managed to blag my way through without actually reading a word.
Apart from Alexander Pope’s Rape Of The Lock – I loved it. No-one else seemed to. I still don’t understand what it was about it that touched me, but I stole the poetry anthology it was in from the school library and I still have it – as well as on my Kindle. And that was the end of literature for me... or so I thought.
And when I say ‘blag my way through’, I mean I was expelled but, well...
Point 2: a Kindle lit my fire –
And then my reading platform (anyone guess that I’m also an IT consultant?) changed: getting a Kindle revolutionised my reading.
Up until then I was a creature of habit – and a very limited habit at that. Comfort reads that went from the Hobbit to the Odyssey were my staple diet. Occasionally I’d grab hand-me-downs from Mrs Nostromo’s book group and because of that I read The Help, which is excellent, The Poisonwood Bible, which is great and The Red Tent which really is up there as possibly the best book I’ve ever read.
Now I have a device that fits in my pocket and on it I have all of Shakespeare, all of Sherlock Holmes, the Bible, the Quran, Milton, Jane Austen, Dickens and two dozen Breathless Press books (one of which I wrote).
Point 3: Paradise not so lost –
Someone dared suggest I read Milton. Don’t they sterilise baby milk, I asked? Anyway, it was cheap on Amazon so I thought, why not?
O M actual G. How amazing is that language? It’s like a rare steak, in the richest cream sauce; it’s the deepest, widest sticky toffee pudding ever on a sea of custard. It drips with words and phrases that have to be re-read and then again out loud, savoured and then swallowed, eyes closed and sighing.
And what a paradox – Satan is resolute, determined, a role model of tenacity and true grit whereas the other guy is a spoilt, whining, elitist, soft boy riding high on daddy’s clout and with nothing of his own to offer. And the absurd punishment dished out to a woman who dared ask a question!
And I now know what an iambic pentameter is. Thanks, John.
Point 4: It is a truth not properly universally acknowledged –
That Jane Austen is wickedly funny. The biting wit, the scathing social observations, the slow burning sentences that draw you in and then once they’ve got you deliver a knockout punch. And again with the language – fabulous.
Then I realised that all the TV and film adaptations smothered in period costumes and enormous sets were missing the point. At no point does Jane Austen describe a single frock, hairstyle or drawing room decor. She’s writing the sharpest soap opera ever. She’s not interested in Mr Darcy’s tight breeches or Elizabeth Bennett’s expansive empire line – she is mercilessly deriding the pride and prejudice she sees around her and, oh lord, is she a minx.
You know the saying - if you haven’t got something nice to say then... come and sit by me? Then read Jane Austen.
Point 5: If you thought that was funny –
Charles Dickens – possibly the funniest writer ever. With knobs on. I had very low expectations of Pip and Miss Havisham but more or less straight away I wanted to run out and shout ‘Why did no-one tell me? This is brilliant – I am actually laughing out loud’.
Who the Dickens thought that it was best to force feed this to kids as something proper and worthy that must be read or you will not have had a decent eddycayshun, young man?
I didn’t want no decent education. I wanted a laugh. I wanted someone to parody the nonsense all around me, who I could laugh with at the absurdity of it all.
And he was there all the time on the bookshelf. Cheers, Chuck - sorry it took so long to find you.
Point 6: never judge a book by its film –
I thought Gone With The Wind was an epic. The width and splendour of it, the houses, the costumes and sets, the burning of Atlanta... then I read the book.
The film is a titchy little cartoon compared to the enormity of Margaret Mitchell’s creation. The book is a mile wider than the film, a thousand fathoms deeper and packed with more colour than Mr Technicolor could handle.
That’s when an enormous penny dropped with me. Films just can’t hack it when it comes to plot and characters that live and breathe and leap off the page and into your heart.
Treat the film of the book as a teaser for what the book may actually be about.
I’ve just finished The Great Gatsby. I love Baz Luhrmann’s films – I adored Strictly Ballroom and could watch Moulin Rouge over and over – and, yes, the sweeping aerial shots of a CGI New York and are impressive but, sozz Baz – the book is about the prose, the gorgeous, edible prose. The visuals you create in your head, yours aren’t the same as mine.
Faberge Nostromo is the author of His Secret Dancer, available from www.breathlesspress.com