As I’ve discovered in my old age of 24 years (that’s almost 25- I might as well round up to 30, right?) with age comes wisdom and acceptance. Speaking of which, my mother said to me (out of the blue) during a phone conversation the other day, “I’m ready to be a grandmother now. Whenever you’re ready…” I asked how she came to this revelation, and she replied, “I never felt old enough before, but I do now.” Thanks, Ma. I’ll get right on that as soon as possible (as in, when we actually have a house that will accommodate children (read: more than one spare bedroom…where the dog currently sleeps)). Meanwhile, I’ll just keep building my stash of cloth diapers for when that day comes…
Speaking of being old…here’s a weak segue into the topic I really wanted to get to…I believe that it takes years for art forms to become truly worth remembering. I can’t tell you how many times I say, “What stinks is that during (his/her) lifetime, (he/she) didn’t make squat from writing (title of famous classic novel or poem here). (His/Her) genius wasn’t recognized until long after (his/her) death,” each year as an English teacher. Yet, something that always surprises me (which shouldn’t) is how much I enjoy reading classic novels.
I pick them up- for one reason or another- and always seem far more interested in the plot than I thought possible. It’s like my brain is astounded that “WOW! THIS IS INTERESTING! WHO KNEW THIS WOULD BE SUCH A GREAT BOOK?!?!?!?!” Um, hello? “They” as in, “they who decide what stays in the literary canon.” Duh.
For instance, the first time I read Pride and Prejudice in high school, I didn’t like it very much. Mainly, I think it’s because I didn’t understand a lot of the vocabulary used, but not having a lot of background knowledge on Romantic British literature or late 18th century social customs probably didn’t help either. When I reread the book in college, it was much more understandable and thus more relatable and enjoyable to read, too. 1984, Catch-22, and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest contained similar problems for me until I read them in college.
The childhood notion that anything old must be boring (old movies, books written before 2000, museums, art, old people) seems to invade my subconscious every once in a while, but I’m glad I’m able to ignore such a ridiculous notion, not just with novels, but all of the aforementioned “old stuff”. The “old stuff” (as with music: hello, Beatles!) is the best!
I just finished reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. I picked it up because not only do I have to teach it in the fall, but I found out during college that I love Jane Eyre, written by Emily’s sister, Charlotte. During the first few chapters, I was incredibly confused while trying to get a handle on what was going on and the complex web of relations and marriages between cousins. I kept saying, “I can’t believe I have to make seniors in high school read this. They are so not going to get it! The vocabulary alone will take a day of front-loading!” Once the story started to unfold, however, I found my pacing and finished it in a few days. The themes are relatable enough, and I think that after they’ve learned some of the reading strategies I picked up at conferences this past year, they will be just fine. I hope. I highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet. I also recommend…
A List of My Favorite-Old-But-Awesome Things:
- Jane Eyre
- Wuthering Heights
- The Fountainhead
- The Great Gatsby
- Pride and Prejudice
- Emily Post: Ettiquette
- Adam’s Rib
- The Parent Trap ( Hayley Mills version)
- The Wizard of Oz
- Mary Poppins
- To Kill A Mockingbird
- The Great Gatsby
- The Sistine Chapel ceiling
- “Swans Reflecting Elephants” Dahli
- “Starry Night” Van Gogh
- “The Birth of Venus” Botticelli
- “Singing Butler” Vettriano
- “La Promenade” Monet
- “Nighthawks” Hopper
- “Primavera” Botticelli
What would you add to the list?
Here’s to hoping that I can age as gracefully as the literature, films, and art I so dearly admire, read more surprisingly intriguing classics this summer, and give my mother grandchildren before she feels too old.