Thursday, February 23, 2017

au revoir classics!

A reason to do the 100 book challenge is to reduce my ever increasing TBR pile. The largest number of unread novels in this pile are classics. Flaubert, Balzac, Sartre, Stendhal, some Chekov, some Dostoevsky and many others. Whenever I decide to reach out for any one of them, I find myself gravitating to some other book and they remain untouched.  

So yesterday, after much hesitation, I picked up Flaubert's book, Sentimental Education. A young man in love with a married older woman seemed an interesting enough plot. The introduction by the translator was promising too with hints of an outrageous ending. Thirty pages in and all I wanted was to put it right back on the shelf. I even considered donating the whole lot but the thought of empty shelves was a bit disconcerting so I abandoned the idea, for the time being at least. 

But why did I feel this way towards this great writer? Was it the language? Was I not able to relate to the setting or the time period? I dismissed the latter as irrelevant because it is always the story which pulls you into the novel no matter what the setting or the time period. I mean, we've all practically grown up on Enid Blyton novels where usually the kids did stuff which was completely alien to us. Drinking tea at 4pm and having cucumber sandwiches was never a part of MY lifestyle while growing up!

It seems a bit silly but this recent aversion to classics was really bothering me. So I put this question to two bibliophile friends today and one of them simply said, “Life is too short to waste on books you don’t want to read. If you don’t feel like completing a book, don’t. There are so many other good books out there.” 

Now you might not agree with this but it makes SO MUCH SENSE! Why read something which doesn’t excite you, interest you or is unrelatable? Books are an escape. We inhabit another world when we read and it takes our mind off reality for a while. A good book is one which engages you at such a level, you don’t want to come back to reality! And at this point, classics are definitely not doing that for me. 

So with a spring in my step and a light heart, I place the Flaubert back on the shelf. The hunt for a new book begins!