I Don’t Miss the Classics

Are you enjoying October? I love the feel of fall with cooler evenings and the leaves turning pumpkin, cranberry, cinnamon, and goldenrod. I’ve also been having a blast with my reading. So many wonderful books, including Pack Up the Moon (see my review below). Until I landed on my latest read that feels like classic literary fiction and reminded me that I really don’t miss the classics.

Let me explain. When I was growing up and devouring books, classics were all the rage. What I’ve always loved about books from the past is taking adventures with people from faraway lands and different cultures, embracing those time periods and different perspectives. Some of my favorites were Gone with the Wind, Little Women, Robin Hood, Tales of King Arthur, and The Arabian Nights. But I wasn’t a fan of Dickens or Hawthorne or the Russian authors. The stories were way too slow, bogged down by pages and pages of unnecessary background description.

As an author, I slowly—and sometimes painfully—learned that lots of background gets in the way. Stories should flow, like a rushing current, propelling the reader to the next scene and the next. Unnecessary background and description act like tree branches and sand bars, snagging  the movement, diverting the plot, until the reader gives up in frustration. That’s what happened to me with the new book. Chapter 1 had way too much background on the character and barely any action. Chapter 2 did exactly the same thing with a different character. And so did Chapter 3, which I ended up skimming to see if anything happened. Sadly, not much.

I admit I’m a product of the 21st century. When I was little people read books at a leisurely rate. Authors expected readers to spend time with the words. To breathe them in, explore them, digest them. Today, it’s almost a race to see how fast you can finish. As an author, I want to cradle every word, to touch it, feel it, suspend it in space and see how it sparkles. As a reader, I want the story to move and I often speed read if the story is really good because I can’t wait to find out what happens next. No slow books for me!

It’s a conundrum, comparing classic fiction with modern day fiction. I haven’t read Gone with the Wind in many, many years. I’d like to say that it will remain a favorite because it’s so beautifully written. But maybe I’ve been ruined by society and technology. I hope not. Because sometimes a book needs to be read slowly and cherished.

What do you think? Do you like all that background and description? Or is that pace too slow for you?