Crushing on Classics

For the longest time I could not put my finger on what about classics made me love them so much. As far back as I can remember I’ve been a fan of the classics, starting with stories like Anne of Green Gables and The Wind in the Willows. Eventually I graduated to works such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and made my way through high school readings like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and various Shakespeare plays. Of course like every other 13-year-old of my generation (probably. I’m just making that up), I became obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

While I take pride in having a fondness for the classics, I know I’m not a literary snob. Classics are obviously not the only worthwhile books to consume, and I’m certainly a fan of cheesy fantasy/scifi novels as well as comic books and mystery-thrillers. I read across genres frequently, but I always come back to the classics.

I think part of my love for them is the language. Since becoming a kindred spirit with my dearest Anne Shirley, it was the first time I ever read a character that sounded like me. She was a young girl like me and she spoke in earnest and with what the adults and others around us like to call “big words.” I always felt so strange being the kid with a sophisticated vocabulary, but trying to speak the way I was expected at my age felt wrong. It wasn’t until Anne came along that I found a repertoire of characters and people that spoke like me. The flow of the language, its poetry and drama, all spoke to me on an unidentifiable level.

It wasn’t until recently after I started watching Jane the Virgin (great take on the telenovela btw) that I realized why classics called to me. Remember that part I said about the drama? Well, growing up in a house with parents that watched telenovelas, and having been a huge fan of Aguamarina myself, I know a thing or two about drama. The classics spoke to me because even though they were written in English by Europeans (most of the ones I’ve read, anyway), they reminded me of home and my culture’s way of storytelling.

Everything is life or death. Love or hate. Joy or sorrow. Nothing is in between. Apathy does not exist in classics the same way it goes by the wayside in novelas. Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s toxic romance is something straight out of a show on Telemundo. And when Edna Pontellier makes her stand against the men who think they own her, I see glistening eyes, perfectly arched eyebrows, set crimson lips and an icy glare so piercing it makes the room go quiet.

It’s easy now to see the connection between what are considered the classics and my experience with passionate, dramatic storytelling. The language is big and over the top and emotions run high, because whether it’s Aguamarina or Pride & Prejudice, rich people got first world problems that suck everyone into their drama. And I am up front and center with popcorn in hand.

Advertisements

The DNF Doubt

First of all, I only learned what the acronym DNF (did not finish) stands for within the last year. I had to look it up because I’m at that awkward age where I’m a millennial but I don’t know all the lingo the kids are using these days. Anyway, DNF hadn’t been a part of my vocabulary not only because I didn’t know what it meant, but because I used to be the type of reader who couldn’t fathom not finishing a book (except Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood…sorry Ms. Tucker!) Ok, there were two others that fit the rare DNF category, but in my defense they were Jonathan Swift and Nathaniel Hawthorne and I was 8-years-old. My mom was a proponent of letting me pick up books she knew I wouldn’t understand and letting me figure out for myself that I was not smart enough yet to get them.

Other than those three rare occasions, I was never a DNFer. How could I possibly put down a book I’d started without giving it a chance? How could I truly judge its quality without reading all the way through? And what if even after 100 pages of nothing, I missed something truly incredible? I couldn’t not finish a book, no matter how boring or bad it was. Besides, what did it matter if it wasted my time? I had time to waste.

Alas, I am no longer the carefree student with time on my hands and a dwindling bookshelf. Now I’m a responsible adult who has to divide my time carefully between all the things I want to do, read, watch, listen to, etc. And my bookshelf? Double-stacked from top to bottom and I’ve barely made a dent in the last five years. Time can no longer be wasted. Therefore, I decided to no longer waste time on books that just don’t do it for me. I can proudly say in the past year I’ve DNFed two books! And one I stuck around with because “well I already started it and I’m more than halfway through and it’s for my reading challenge I might as well finish it.”

I did it again. I let the DNF doubt drag me down into another non-enjoyable book that I gave nothing but excuses. It’s like I’m in a bad relationship with my book boyfriend. Take my advice, readers. Don’t do this to yourselves. If a book isn’t sparking your interest, or if it’s making you mad or any other negative feeling, don’t hate read or try to give it the benefit of the doubt. Just let it go. There are so many good books out there waiting to be read, and we do not have time to waste on those that do not give us joy.

Set a standard if you have to, whether it’s determining how many pages in you can go before you decide enough’s enough, or taking notes and reviewing how it makes you feel. Just figure out a way to let yourself know it’s time to get out and move on.

Audio Books! Can I Get An Amen?

I started listening to audio books a little over a year ago, hesitant to take on the endeavor because I thought, “I can’t possibly pay attention to a story if I’m listening to it.” Of course, that logic is flawed because that’s how I used to take in stories when I was a kid, before I knew how to read. What opened me up to the idea of audio books was actually podcasts. Once I started listening to things like Limetown Stories, Welcome to Nightvale, Wolf 359 and a plethora more, I realized I did in fact have the capability to multitask when it comes to paying attention to stories audibly.

I started with re-reads, as I figured it’d be easier to listen to a story I was already familiar with, so if I miss a line or two, I wouldn’t be totally lost. Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series is where I dove in to the audio book scene. While I recovered from my LASIK eye surgery a couple of months ago, I voraciously ate up Pride & Prejudice through Spotify and listened to Amy Poehler narrate her memoir Yes Please on Overdrive through my library. Slowly I became more comfortable with listening to audio books and taking care of such tasks as scrolling through Twitter and catching up on emails. Long car rides are also an ideal setting for audio books.

I started a new job last month and I can only listen to so many podcast episodes before I’m all caught up and have nothing left to listen to. I ventured into Playster and decided to give new books a try, now that I was a more skilled multitasker with enhanced listening abilities. Once again, Cassandra Clare came to my rescue with Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy and The Bane Chronicles. Honestly, I marvel at my ability to write about traffic school and listen to the enthralling voices of Chris Wood and Keahu Kahuanui all at the same time. Also, hearing the chilling encounters in World War Z helped me get through the day writing about vital records (it’s a thing; go look it up).

Now as I work I am finally getting into another classic that’s been on my TBR list since 10th grade: Jane Austen’s Emma. British narrators are possibly the best, in my opinion. The wonderful thing about audio books, and I’ve saved this best part for last, is I can add them to my Goodreads count of books read! Why is this so exciting for me? Because on top of starting a new job last month, I also started grad school, which means I’ve had no time whatsoever to do leisure reading. Audio books have changed the game though.

I used to be one of those people who thought, “Audio books don’t really count,” because I had that notion that one can’t really pay attention to them. I have been proven wrong and seen the light. Listening to audio books is just an enhanced way of reading. It’s engaging, entertaining and it definitely counts. Audio books are a full-time worker grad student’s best friend. Hallelujah!

Busy As a Bee

I was absent all through the month of March as I was caught up in a whirlwind of new experiences. I traveled to Ireland (hopefully a post on that is coming soon), started grad school and started a new job. Needless to say, I’m adjusting to the new overflowing schedule of responsibilities and work. The next two and a half years will be interesting to say the least and I’m sure I’ll have my own little personal meltdowns when no one is watching. Anyway, all this to say to anyone who cares or follows me, bear with me, guys. I’ll be posting less frequently but I will try my best not to abandon this blog, as I’m sure my new life will be filled with stories to tell. Until then, know that I am not gone, just busy as hell.

❤ Meagan Kimberly

Wanderlust: North Carolina

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting North Carolina three times with my a cappella group for a conference called SoJam. The first two times, if I remember correctly, were at Duke University in Durham. I didn’t spend a great amount of time there because it was mostly spent on campus at the conference, but I do remember my awe at seeing orange leaves.

Durham, NC in November 2011
Durham, NC in November 2011

As a Florida girl, I’d mostly seen palm trees and varying degrees of green and brown, but never orange. It was like a candlelit forest, and their delicious crunch under my feet as my boots crackled over fallen piles satisfied me like a precisely executed harmony.

I always forgot to pack a chap stick with my things, so I can’t tell you how many I’ve bought on all my travels, but most of them came from North Carolina. The cold, still atmosphere that captured my breath mid air reminded me within an hour of walking around outside that chap stick was a necessity. My fingers would get stiff and achy without gloves, so I finally caved and bought a pair of those too. My hair loved the freezing temperatures though.

Okay, it wasn’t freezing. It was really only in the mid-40’s. That hardly counts as snow conditions, but it did delve deep into the bones. Good thing there were plenty of coffee shops to grab a hot cup of tea or cocoa, because at that time, I didn’t drink coffee yet. I remember one shop had board games and puzzles for patrons to pass the time indoors before venturing into the cold once more.

My favorite part of all these trips was always the nightly visit to a local Cookout. Late night treks with the crew to the little stand, putting in our orders at the window and sitting around on the dirty ground just really hit the spot. Gourmet milk shakes, hush puppies and delicious, greasy fast food is exactly what a college kid needs after a 10 hour bus ride into North Carolina.

There’s a lot of local flavor in the city, and I wish I could have seen more (and remember, but it’s been a few years now). I have these flashes of memory of a strange bull in the city center, restaurants lined up side by side serving chicken and waffles in one and exotic salads in another, world-famous ice pop joints even though I’d never heard of them, and a flurry of oh my god did we get on the right bus?!

Oh, and of course I can’t forget that North Carolina is where I learned about a certain turtle flavor of chocolate. Yeah, it’s called turtle and I was hella confused when the waitress asked me if I wanted it. (Just chocolate and caramel, guys, relax.)

I wouldn’t mind heading out that way again someday, with more time to devote to the scenery and local sites. I will say this though, as cold as the climate was, it sure felt like a warm welcome everywhere I went.