Tuesday, October 13, 2009

In which I dislike a classic (don't be mad)

I'm very aware that ninety percent of my blog readers are from the U.S., so it almost pains me to write this post. The fact that this book had the words "Modern American Classic" emblazoned on the jacket in bold black letters gives me pause - especially after finishing and hating it so. However, with reading enjoyment being the subjective art that it is, I'm hoping that my offering of the phrase "it's not you, it's me" conveys as much heartfelt sincerity as can come through a blog.

Before I start rambling on like a destitute aristocrat reminiscing about the glory days (what - too late?), I should tell you that I'm talking about Gone With The Wind here. I can't even believe it's taken me this many years to get to it; somehow it kept getting pushed to the back of my list. I haven't seen the movie in years, so I'd pretty much forgotten it, but this summer one of my husband's sisters mentioned it as a favourite, so it claimed a place at the top of my To Be Read pile.

I will say that it was beautifully written (though overly descriptive, but what classics aren't?), in fact I'd go as far as saying it's some of the best writing I've seen for some time, but that wasn't enough to make me enjoy it.

Oh, I wanted so badly to love it! I'm such a sucker for historical fiction, and I love American history. My crush on the deep south goes back as far as I can remember. But here's the thing - I hated the characters. HATED them. How can I like a book when I can't stand who it's about?

Okay, so I shouldn't say I hated all the characters, because I did like Mammy, Pork and Dilcey, and Sam, but as for the white players - ugh! I found Scarlett, Rhett, Ashley, Melanie and the whole bunch completely unsympathetic, with very few redeeming qualities (if any - that's right Scarlett, I'm talking to you, Miss I-do-what-I-want-when-I-want-to-get-what-I-want-no-matter-who-gets hurt).

How can this be a classic love story when the characters aren't just flawed, they're idiotic! Stupid characters drive me nuts.*

Bah! I can't even write about it without getting annoyed - that's how much I wanted to like it and just couldn't! Have you ever had that experience with a beloved classic?


*It's all the stupid people that kept me from enjoying War and Peace too. I read it last summer, and wish I could get that week back...


Roni @ FictionGroupie said...

This movie/book is my dad's absolute favorite. (Seriously, my brother's name is Rhett). I never really got the appeal.

MommyJ said...

Never read gone with the wind, never even seen the movie.

I read Grapes of Wrath and hated it with a purple passion. It took me years to give Steinbeck another chance. When I finally did, I read East of Eden. It was good... Steinbeck is a brilliant writer, but I still think he's a little too pessimistic for me. I don't think he wrote with much hope for the human spirit.. So, while I respect his work, I don't feel so bad about thinking that Grapes of Wrath was the worst, most depressing book ever.

My junior english teacher can put that in her pipe and smoke it.