Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Where Have I Been All My Life?

by Tamara Passey

Not reading the classics, that’s where.
Don’t worry, this will not be a travelogue of my misspent youth
(I’ll save that for another post).
Only a lament, maybe you’ve heard before? “So many books, so little time.” I liked English in high school. I loved the library. (Yes, I was the nerd hiding under big 80’s hair.) But the classics intimidated me. I’m having trouble remembering one I read on my own, you know, that wasn’t assigned.

Imagine my surprise a few years ago when a dear friend invited me to join her book club 
To read, what else? Classics. I finished the selection each month and wondered, “What else have I been missing?” I was eager to pick up the next sleeping volume from the shelf and wake up to a new world I had been too afraid to explore in my younger years.

Which brings me to where I am now. Dividing my precious reading hours between great living authors (lots of them LDS) and wanting to tackle a book by an author that lived, oh, say, two hundred years ago. I love reading for so many reasons – like all the great ones Christine mentioned yesterday. Now that I’ve been seriously writing, or rather– taking my writing more seriously, I love reading for new reasons. I feel like every book I pick up can be a ‘how to’ – for better or worse. In fact, it’s become hard to read a book without my ‘writer’s eyes’. I love books where I’m at least a third of the way through and realize, hey- I haven’t even been paying attention to pacing or plot because the story is just that good -or maybe the characters are so compelling.

I came across the book, The 101 Most Influential People Who Never Lived: How Characters of Fiction, Myth, Legends, Television, and Movies Have Shaped Our Society, Changed Our Behavior, and Set the Course of History a few years ago. It's written by three people and they admit it is not scholarly work. However, what they have put between the covers of their book is a list of fictional characters from books, movies, ads, legends, myths, etc. and describe the influence they've had on our culture. Not the most popular characters, mind you, but the ones whose influence was seen or felt in grand or deep ways. My writing brain has loved it for a few reasons. It offers insight into why fictional characters play an important role in our culture -good to know if you are trying to write fiction yourself. It also offers a good beginning or overview of the stories and characters that might be influencing the piece you are writing. Unless you took one of those fun speed-reading classes (anyone?), it's hard to find the time to read every classic or book. This has been a handy little reference. It's also thought provoking - check out #1 on their list. Also who is not on their list. (The book was published before Twilight hullabaloo  - so yo won't see it discussed.)  It might just be me, but I think they maybe left out some influential women characters. Or could that be because there are too few of them, historically speaking?

Before I take off on another tangent, let me end here by saying whatever it is you're doing - reading a classic or maybe writing the next best one --have a great day!


  1. I love it when I'm more caught up in the language rather than the story. It's a remarkable talent for people to love reading what you wrote and not just because they can't wait to see what happens in the end. I don't write that way now, I'm not that good. Maybe someday I will be.

  2. Wow! You mean there's another writer that didn't devour the classics in her youth? I thought I was the only one. LOL

    I definitely need to get this book. I love books that are character driven. Regardless of how good the story is or how good the writing, if the characters don't jump off the page, I'm bored.

    Great post, Tamara.

  3. Yeah I wasn't a big classics girl when I was younger, and I guess I still find myself reading mainly authors of the living sort. But you post makes me want to curl up with a classic.



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