Wednesday, August 22, 2012

My Favorite Classic

I've been pondering the monthly prompt from The Classics Club, waiting to see if any other classic could top the one that instantly claimed first place.  That hasn't happened.  In fact, the more I think about it the more sure I am.  There are many classics that I adore, and fewer that I'm passionate about; but there's only one that I could reread yearly and still be in love:  Jane Austen's Persuasion.


What makes this book so incredibly dear to me?  It's a combination of things, of course, but it boils down to how understood it makes me feel.  I am not alone when I read this book.  It's how Austen expresses the balance between passion and duty, it's the emphasis on the value of deep feeling and true friendship, it's the desire to be interesting and special & fearing you are not, it's the gift of hope when all hope is gone.  So many observations and commiserations seen through Austen's characteristic wit make this book a perennial reread.

This is one of those books whose worth, for me, is greater than the sum of its parts.  When I take apart the story individually, I don't find elements ensuring a perfect fit.  There's the love story, which I think is a rather good and true one, especially considering the times, but outside my choice of genres all the same.  There's the bit of intrigue with her cousin that wasn't fully developed, and there's the classic Austen abrupt ending, (which worked for me okay here, but didn't so much in her other books.) But it has that spark of literary magic - of human understanding - that speaks to me whenever I read it, and that's what it's all about.

Another classic that affects me the same way is Willa Cather's Song of the Lark.  It is so much more than just a story to me.  No matter how much I adore Tolstoy's philosophy or Wilde's humor, it's those deep, personal connections that make a book come out on top.

17 comments:

  1. Yes, so true -- it really is about the deep, personal connections. My second favorite novel is Austen's Sense & Sensibility -- because "it makes me feel understood." (My first favorite is Gone With the Wind, because it has been with me through everything, and it gives me courage.)

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    1. I love how a book can do that - one person (author) can feasibly reach through time and give another person (reader) courage or comfort. Pretty incredible!

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  2. I'm burned out on classics due to my college reading list. I sincerely hope that someday I will rekindle my love for them. They just have too much of a feel of required reading for me these days.

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    1. I hear you! I tend to go through phases where different types of books are more interesting. I didn't read many classics last year (at least it didn't feel like it compared to other years) but even that was more than I'd read in the 10 years or so after high school (I blame that on raising babies for the most part, though.) Hopefully you'll hit your stride sooner than I did mine. :)

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  3. I'm sad to report that I've never read Austen :( Yes, I'm an English major too. I think like BookBelle I burned out on the classics, and by the time I was in graduate school, I had a lot of professors who were damned and determined not to teach them bc of the well known canon hoopla. Don't get me wrong; I've read a lot of good work...just not Austen. I will remedy this though...I will!

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    1. Austen is the author who effectively got me back into classics, so I have a bit of a soft spot for her...even after the ensuing popularity craze and all that. Persuasion is definitely her most introspective, which I love (obviously) but Sense & Sensibility would be a terrific book to start with. They're definitely a different pace to get used to, but when you do it can be like a nice vacation from the typical. :) Hope you get back there someday!

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  4. Persuasion was the last Austen I read, and I really liked it. I'm still not sure which my favourite would be, it's been years since I read Pride & Prejudice or Sense & Sensibility so I think I'd have to do a re-read, but I totally agree with you that it's the personal connections that make you really love a book, especially a classic. I'm the same way with Little Women.

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    1. It's been years since I've read Little Women! I've watched the movie (with Susan Sarandon) about a million times - it's perfect fall/winter comfort viewing - but I don't think I've read the book all the way through since...I don't know when. I should do that!

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  5. Snap!
    I love your comment about being understood. As Anne of Green Gables would say Jane Austen/Anne Elliot is a "kindred spirit" to me too.

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    1. I find myself using the "kindred spirit" idea (from Anne of Green Gables) all the time - such a perfect way to describe that connection!

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  6. I think my favorite kindred spirit is Jane Eyre. I so love that she is true to herself in the end. I probably would get swept off my feet too; but she reacts the way I hope I would in the same situation.

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    1. I agree, Heidi, Jane Eyre is a wonderful character (actually she feels more like a real person than just a character.) I love how she struggles with herself, it's such a true portrayal.

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  7. "It's the gift of hope when all hope is gone." - I love that, well said. I have trouble parting with P&P as my favorite Austen novel, but if I could tie it with something, it would be Persuasion. I wrote about Jane Eyre being my favorite at my blog, but Persuasion is definitely up there.

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    1. Jenna, P&P is an Austen favorite for good reason! To be honest, I watch the P&P adaptation much more often than I watch the Persuasion film because it has that perfect funny/serious balance. I'm going to pop over to your blog and read what you wrote about Jane Eyre - another wonderful book!

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  8. Anne is not a kindred spirit for me, but I really, really like Captain Wentworth :D But seriously, even if one doesn't identify with her, it is hard not to sympathize with Anne. Austen creates that scenario where the slights and injustices pile up and you just want the good & overlooked character to get her happiness. Great choice for a favorite classic!

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    1. I know, how can one not like Captain Wentworth?? I agree that it's a book where you just want to reach in and fix everything. On one hand, it was nice of Austen to supply a happy ending, on the other hand, Austen describes her world too clearly enough to allow full belief that there won't be any more problems.

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  9. I'm just getting started on Austen! I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of her works in general, not just the two on my list. I love how this makes you feel - that connection. So important when not just reading, but falling in love with a book. -Sarah

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