What classic do you tell everyone to read, and why?
Whatever it says about me being an angsty teenage girl, it’s got to be The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Without being flowery or obscure, it reads like a poem. In one part, Plath captures the sensation of nausea. In another, she pins down the loneliness of being excluded from a conversation where the other two people are so (figuratively) far up each other’s arses (or asses as the book is American) that you practically drop off the face of the earth to them. Some of the problems facing the narrator are still relevant to woman today – she is only taken seriously by the girls in her dorm when she gets a male admirer (see the film She’s All That).
What’s the most overhyped classic?
She may have been a trailblazer for female authors, but the ‘razor-sharp wit’ of Jane Austin in Pride and Prejudice doesn’t come across to me. All the excessively long paragraphs and dense prose of your classic Victorian novel without the grittiness. Everyone ends up happy; it is wish fulfilment, centred on marriage and men. Elizabeth Bennet is essentially a “cool girl” (see Gone Girl) and every other woman in the book apart from Jane (who doesn’t really have a personality anyway) is an airhead/boring/imperious. Eventually, Elizabeth settles for an emotionally-stunted man-child, who looks down upon most women, and spends the better half of the books sulking and pouting. For some reason this is hot in a man but not a woman; everyone shits on Mary for doing exactly what Darcy does.
What classic do you lie about having read?
Technically, I haven’t ever lied about reading any books. However, I used to skim rather than closely read books when I was younger; I could say His Dark Materials. Looking back I seem to have zoned out on major parts of the books which involve angels and scenery and zoned back in the parts which involve food. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what happened in the second book.
Snog, marry, kill the characters in the last classic you read.
All Quiet on the Western Front. Probs snog Müller as he’s a cynical shit who might just need a little lovin’ in his life. Marry Katczinsky for sure, that man can sniff out a meal anywhere and has the perfect balance of warmth and pragmatism. Although, since I’m pretty sure the soldier narrating the book (Bäumer) has a massive crush on him, I’d have to fight Bäumer first. Considering he’s a World War I front line soldier that might not be my finest hour. I’d personally sign the order that sends Kantorek to the front line, him being the schoolmaster who, through his jingoism, sends most of his pupils to their deaths whilst avoiding army service himself.
From two different classics, what is your likely ship?
If I must cross-ship it’d be Tess from Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Martha from The Secret Garden. Both of the characters are extremely kind, roughly the same age and come from rural, salt-of-the-earth backgrounds; Tess from Wessex and Martha from Yorkshire. The happy-go-lucky, no-nonsense attitude of Martha would be a good foil to Tess’s more melancholy, semi-philosophical nature. Plus, I reckon Martha would treat Tess like an actual person with a past as opposed to putting her on a pedestal and then tearing her down (fuck you, Angel!)