Monday, September 22, 2014

The Confounding Challenge of Charming Calvin

Calvin : This time I shall do it!
Paul : Sounds ominous. 
Calvin : I shall read the books listed on the Big Read!
Paul : A lil heavy don't you think? Why not try something easier first?
Calvin : Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, then Catch-22 by Joseph Heller!
Paul : Yeah, I don't think you should do that. 
Calvin : Have to read it! Then I can say that I have done it. 
Paul : You want to do that, you should read War and Peace. 

After scarcely managing to complete his adamant resolution to read five books the year before, Charming Calvin has decided to scale another unsurpassable mountain! This time the daunting challenge before him is to finish as many books as he can on his own ambitious list, that counts several heavy classics such as the ones mentioned above to a few easier reads such as Persuasion by Jane Austen and Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott. Both amongst my favourites!

As an avid bibliophile, I guess everyone would reasonably expect me to sing endless praise of such laudable high-brow literature - especially since quite a number generally get on the must-read lists - but they would be erroneous in that particular assumption. Yes, most of these books might be held up as wonderful literary works worthy of any great library centrepiece, and quite deserving they are too, but generally very few would merit a second, or even a third look.

As a fledgling reader back in lower secondary, I marched steadily through the deepest trenches of all the required classics from Austen to Shakespeare, from Dickens to Poe. Not forgetting the works of the foreign writers such as Tolstoy which included the dreadfully intimidating War and Peace. At the end of a miserable week of endlessly battling the Bezukhovs, Rostovs and Bolkonskys, I almost put up the flag of surrender myself, refusing to even be curious about what happens to these troubled Russians. Really, Tolstoy? I plodded through the foolish Anna Karenina hoping to dropkick her onto the train tracks only to find myself being tortured with bickering Russian aristocrats again?

Not even the charming Vronsky could keep me that interested in the affairs of Anna Karenina

Important works of literature, yes - but would you honestly read it again for pleasure? Perhaps the occasional Dickens or Austen but really, would you seriously pick up Catch-22 for a reread on the fly? Some literary works are great for pertinent discussion but not so great for a weekend read!

Reason my personal list always has books such as the endlessly engaging novels by the little-known yet well-loved author Georgette Heyer - most whom I've read probably a dozen times from cover to cover. Wonderful reads on those chilly rainy evenings, goes really well with a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket. Wherever I go, you can be sure I have several copies of her novels littered all over the house, these days I even have them on e-publications.

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