Right. This might actually be construed as a serious blog entry, here goes.
I’ve just finished watching the Culture Show special by the superb Sue Perkins on books and literary habits. In the programme, she discusses the merits and fan bases of thrillers, crime novels and romantic fiction, meeting people such as Ian Rankin, Sophie Kinsella and Ruth Rendall along the way. It was very insightful, well presented (it’s Sue Perkins, so…) and interesting, and has caused me to believe that the time is right to make the following admission, which may come as a shock to some people.
I, Liz Duncalf, am 21 years old, female and an avid reader. But, I have never read Pride and Prejudice. I’ve never read any Bronte novels and I have read no Jane Austen works.
…I’m just gonna let that sink in for a moment.
I can hear the female readers of this blog recoiling in horror. I am awaiting the gasp of shock from my housemate when she reads this (Steph – I’ll put the kettle on and we’ll talk about it) and I know I’ll get abuse for the next few days.
Consulting the BBC Big Read list, there are quite a few other books I haven’t read which puts me in a minority. From the top 20 alone, there are 13 books I haven’t read (the 7 I have include The Lord of the Rings, Hitch Hikers and Winnie the Pooh, just for the record…) The rest of the top 100 is similar, according to the majority I am not as well read as I thought I was.
It’s not that I haven’t ever had the opportunity to read them, anyone who has visited my home down South will realise that we have an extensive book collection courtesy of my Dad, and I even studied English Lit at AS Level. As part of that I read Frankenstein, A Streetcar Named Desire and Hamlet (and a lot of poetry.) Hamlet I love, Frankenstein I didn’t get on with and I have written essay upon essay of the imagery and metaphors of Streetcar (basically, she just wants to be loved and he’s a bastard). Earlier years in school I read To Kill A Mockingbird, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men and The Hound of the Baskervilles to name but a few. Love Baskervilles, hate the Shakespeares and am a bit “…meh” about the Steinbeck. Naturally, being a teenager of the Noughties, I’ve read every single Harry Potter book. I have never had, nor have I any inclination to do so, read anything by Stephanie Meyer.
I’ve also read half of 1984. I read half of it before someone told me what happens at the end, so I stopped reading. And I started reading The Phantom Tollbooth at primary school when a teacher took it off me for reading above my literacy level. My Mum told me to read it, what was I supposed to do?
The latest book I read was Thanks Johnners by Jonathan Agnew, before that were two more cricket autobiographies, and I’m reading James May How to Land an A330 Airbus at the moment. I’ve also been reading a Bernard Cornwell book for what seems like a lifetime. I will finish it one day.
I often feel I should read Pride and Prejudice just to say I have, but where is the fun in that? I want to read something because I want to read it, I want to be entranced by the characters and sucked into the world they’re in. I think of reading as being something you do to escape from Real Life for a few hours, not to tick off something on the list of classics to give you more kudos with your peers. Should I prove I am worthy of being a girl by being into reading P&P? I’m quite happy having not read them, and I’m not judging you if you have. I understand why girls love them (apart from the obvious wet shirt scene in the TV adaptation, which I have seen bits of) and why my friends soak up any period drama going.
I guess some people can imagine themselves roaming the grounds of a country estate and taking high tea and larking about in that manner. The character I most identify with from fiction, and I’m still not sure why, is Ford Prefect. I guess we’ll never know. I probably will read Pride and Prejudice one day. I might wake up one day and find myself purchasing the Downton Abbey box set. I’ll one day prove myself worthy of the female sex. Meanwhile, give me cricket autobiographies, science fiction and motoring journalism and I’ll be a happy person.
I’ll still never read Twilight.