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Costume Drama Thursday Thought Provoker

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Well, after giving it a shot for three or so months, I’ve decided to retire the Costume Drama Thursday feature. Besides the fact that there’s been little response on the posts, they take me two to three times longer to write/research than I normally allow for any other kinds of posts. So no more dedicated posts to costume dramas. (Though, with Downton Abbey and Upstairs, Downstairs in PBS Masterpiece Classic’s lineup in the spring, there will still be plenty of posts about costume dramas in the future.

I’m thinking of replacing it with Thursday Thought Provoker, a day when I pose a question and we get some discussion going.

For example:

A writer friend of mine set as a goal for herself to read all six of Jane Austen’s novels before she turns 30 next summer. I thought this was a great idea and fully supported it. But here’s what she had to say after finishing Pride & Prejudice:

I read Pride and Prejudice and am afraid the rest will be as painful. But I’ll keep it at it.

I responded in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way that she should skip reading the books and just watch the movies (and gave her recommendations as to which versions she should watch—if I were at home now, I’d just take them all over to her!).

Someone else responded that she thoroughly disagreed with me and that Liz should “try try again! Jane Austen will grow on you!”

Well, of course, I was a little upset because I obviously came across to this other commenter as someone who doesn’t like Jane Austen (insert horrified gasping noise here). So I tried to explain myself by sharing a little of my academic background/connection with Jane Austen, as well as Persuasion serving as part of the inspiration for the Ransome Trilogy. I ended with this:

As a lover of Austen (just search my blog for “Jane Austen” if you don’t believe me), I would like nothing more than for everyone to love her books as much as I do. But life is too short to force yourself to read authors whose work you don’t enjoy just because you “should.” I went through more years of that than I wish to remember in high school and college.

Thought Provoker: When not under any obligation to read something for school/work, are there books we “should” read, that we “must” read? And once we’ve tried and didn’t enjoy it, must we force ourselves to continue to read that book/author simply because it’s a classic or it was recommended to us as something we “should” read?

  1. Audry permalink
    Thursday, December 16, 2010 7:40 am

    I am a voracious reader, and very much a recreational reader. While I do read non-fiction, it’s always topics that interest me, not things that I think I “should” know, and I read novels the way many people watch TV – when I need to take a break from the world. I agree with you – life’s too short to read books you don’t enjoy. I’ve abandoned plenty of books anywhere from 50 pages in to 3/4 of the way through because I just didn’t care how they turned out or wasn’t enjoying them or whatever. (I do try to give a book at least 50-100 pages though – I have also changed my mind about plenty of books that didn’t hook me in the first few pages once I got into them)

    Now, I know Christians (or people who at least say they are Christians) who claim that they “can’t” read the Bible… they don’t understand it, don’t enjoy it, whatever… I think they really do need to keep at that, regardless. But as far as fiction goes, why force yourself to endure “entertainment” that’s really a chore?


    • Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:25 pm

      There are so many different versions/translations of the Bible available, that most people should be able to find something that suits them. I think the problem is that most people pick it up and try to read it straight through and get stuck in Numbers and Leviticus.


  2. Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:49 pm

    I don’t know if we should say they’re “must read” items but I think someone who wants to be well-rounded will force themselves to at least experience a book, author or genre that seems to reach large groups of people even if they find it difficult. For example, I think most Christians should read Mere Christianity by CS Lewis. I know a lot of folks who said they don’t like Lewis based on what they know about the Narnia series and it’s hard to say they “must read” Mere Christianity when they have such a negative view already.

    It’s a good question, Kaye. I wish I had a better answer.


    • Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:27 pm

      I totally agree that we “should” expose ourselves to different/classic/recommended authors—that we should take a chance on the experience and knowledge (and/or entertainment) we might gain by reading those authors. Lewis isn’t one of my favorite fiction authors, but I love his books/essays on literary criticism and fiction writing. So I’m more apt to be one of those people who would take a chance on his other nonfiction.


  3. Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:50 pm

    I’ve never been an Austen fan. Can’t stand the movies or the books.

    With the way our homeschool curriculum did literature I never had to slog my way all the way through a boring classic. The ones I’ve read I read because I wanted to. And there are so many that I want to read! I got a Nook for my birthday, so I’m collecting the B&N Classics as they’re offered for free. Picked up Scarlet Letter last week.

    My list of things I think every person in this country needs to read is short. The U.S. Constitution is at the top of the list.

    I’ve had a hankering for a long time to read Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America. Found a free ebook of it the other day, so it’s on my Nook now. It may take me forever to read it, but it’s something that I want to finish.


    • Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:31 pm

      I HATED The Scarlet Letter every time I was forced to read it in high school and college. But I love many of Hawthorne’s other works, most of all his short fiction—my favorite being the short story “Young Goodman Brown.”


      • Friday, December 17, 2010 6:19 pm

        Since it was free, I’m not losing any money on it if I don’t like it. I’m much more apt to try a book if I get it for free.


        • Leslie permalink
          Monday, December 27, 2010 11:00 am

          Oye – The Scarlett Letter – I read it in 11th grade – was that teacher’s aide in 12th grade so I had to grade tons of quizzes and tests on it (and listen to some of the discussion again) and then read it again my Freshman year in college. I actually enjoyed it – just got completely burned out on it.


  4. Thursday, December 16, 2010 12:59 pm

    I admit, I tried to read “Pride and Prejudice,” because I loved the story, and loved the miniseries. I couldn’t get through it. It hasn’t stopped me from watching other Austen stories on film, though. In fact, I gravitate toward them. I do NOT think one should feel obligated to read anything that isn’t required, if you’re looking at it as recreational reading. If I don’t enjoy a story, or like the characters, I agree with Audry. Life’s too short, and there are too many great books out there to waste time on one you’re not enjoying.

    When I think of becoming a well-rounded reader, I think more in terms of reading unfamiliar genres, new authors, or authors I somehow missed at some point. I read little nonfiction, but occasionally I’ll find one that catches my eye. I’ve not read much Lucado, but I read “Cure for the Common Life,” and loved it. I think God helps us gravitate toward those kinds of things when we need it, much like He helps scriptures stand out when we particularly need it.

    As for the Bible, when I think about how patient God is with ME, how can I be impatient with parts of Scripture? THAT is a must-read.


    • Thursday, December 16, 2010 2:38 pm

      After falling in love with the 1980 BBC/Masterpiece miniseries of Pride & Prejudice as a teenager (had never heard of it/Jane Austen until my junior year of high school in British Lit), I tried reading the book. And I struggled with it. I tried to stick with it because I’d loved the movie so much, but at that age, having grown up on a diet of YA and general market (adult) romance novels, Austen’s language was too difficult for me to get through.

      After slogging through a few literature courses at LSU, when I went back to college in my late 20s/early 30s and started developing an appreciation for the development of the English language (mostly from the History of the English Language course I took my first semester back), I decided I was going to read as many of those “should read” literary classics as I could. And I started with Jane Austen . . . and fell in love—not because the stories had changed, but because my appreciation and understanding of the way English was used two hundred years ago had changed.


  5. Thursday, December 16, 2010 3:40 pm

    I’m going to miss your Costume Drama posts and want to thank you for having them as long as you did.

    As far as what we “should” read…I think we need to be true to ourselves and read what we desire. At times that might encompass must reads if it is our desire to learn something or be entertained by a certain author, or whatever. But being compelled to read because we feel like we “should” because others are doing so or society dictates it(a well read person must read this and such) is a poor reason to read anything.

    I hope you are healing and find a little bit of encouragement in each day. How is your writing coming along while you are away from home?


  6. Friday, December 17, 2010 12:51 pm

    If you’re a writer, you owe it to yourself to read widely in your genre. That includes current books so you know the trends as well as classics in your genre. For me as a children’s author, that includes books that have won the Newbery, Prinz, National Book Award, and other genre-specific awards like the Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction. I try to read as many as I can. Do I like them all? Not by a long shot. If I don’t like an author’s Newbery Honor book, do I feel obligated to read her others, even if they were also well-received? No. But I can say I tried and that I learned something about my own writing and the business in my genre.

    On the other hand, do I feel the need to force myself to read classics in genres I don’t write, like sci-fi, horror, or thrillers? If one of these appeals to me at a particular time, I may give it a shot, but I won’t push through it like I would something in my own genre. As many have said, life’s too short for that. But I will add that I have learned from those books when I did push through (like when I went to residencies at SHU). I just only have time to learn so much 🙂


  7. Saturday, December 18, 2010 2:39 am

    I will miss the Costume Drama Thursdays as well–what’s not to love about someone who puts in so much effort to discuss my favorite vice in life! They were well appreciated but I completely understand the need to reduce blogging time. I’ll just have to find another way to elicit your opinions. I’m so looking forward to Downton Abbey and a new Upstairs/Downstairs. They seem to be the bulk of the new season plus a new mini-series. Matthew McConneaghy? Am I correct?

    My solution to reading the books is listening to them via audio with a great narrator. I’ve listened to most of the Austens, Dickens, Gaskells and currently Tess of the D’urbevilles on my commute. Despite having kindle and a towering TBR pile, this is the way I get most of my reading done, as I don’t really have time to sit and read while trying to complete edits, and work full time, (I was going to say and ‘have a life’ but having a life currently means those few hours a week where I watch a video while making dinner)

    My last effort to read an Austen faltered but I was able to really enjoy the same book when it was read TO me. Thank God for the public library systems.

    Thanks Kaye, for all your truly enjoyable costume drama posts!


  8. Leslie permalink
    Monday, December 27, 2010 11:14 am

    I agree – just because you “should” doesn’t mean that you “should” (with everything except the Bible, of course) – I actually really enjoy the Jane Austen movies – they are among my favorite movies of all time, but I’ve only read about a chapter of one of the books.


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