Inspired by and featuring Carol Hedges!

Carol Hedges: Hard Joyce or: Why I have Never Read Ulysses.

I am endlessly amazed by the number of times I find my blog inspiration from conversations on FB.

file0001954031868Today’s post by Carol rolled me up because although many of us are authors, or studied (or even taught ahem) English Lit, there are those books we just can’t handle.

One of the reasons is probably the boring, dull books that were chosen for “English” lessons in schools, certainly back in my day. Even if the books themselves were great, the method of studying was uninspired. I was lucky. My English teacher was way ahead of her time and used to use the book reading lessons as a half-drama class (which she also taught). She’d pick the girls who wanted to, rotten show offs like me, and assign them a character in the book. We would read that characters “lines” all the way through. I always got funny ones or people with silly accents like Spiros in My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.  Those who hated reading aloud or were dyslexic could follow the book with their finger under the line and sometimes various girls would take turns in reading bits of narration.

Even though I studied English in University and taught it, many years had to pass before I realised that I was allowed to NOT finish a book. That is the “mountain to climb” syndrome that effects many folks, but then as an author I feel that if I haven’t engaged the reader by half way through they are perfectly entitled to give it up and say “Not for me”.

However there is a form of snobbishness about having to have read certain classics or “like” certain authors. It’s the same kind of intellectual snobbery that still divides “published” and “self-published” in some readers’ minds. It’s highly unfashionable and not politically correct to say you like Rudyard Kipling – well sod that, I love his work.

I fought my way through Ulysses but, like Carol, switched off the radio when BBC Radio 4 devoted the whole day to it.

big book
How “War and Peace’ looked to me

My own “have to bluff my way through it” list are – Jane Austen (no I know I’m a woman I must love her but I don’t), Dickens because I could never forgive him for “Uncle Pumblechook” although I do quote him on a regular basis “Wot larks, Pip, eh? Wot larks!”

War and Peace defeated me  by being too long and the names being non-memorable. I had to keep flicking back to the list of characters and so gave up once I realised I was going “Cavalry Officer name sounds like salad”.

Anything that is a rip-off of anything else is a no-no with me – Tolkein wrote Tolkein and did it better. Sir Terry Pratchett is doing just fine on his own so don’t please try to copy him, you won’t succeed.

I’m also allergic to anything that is “this week’s must read” because they are usually badly written trash …I’ll just mention the number fifty, shall I?

Being something of a Maverick I’ll admit to liking airport novels (Dan Brown, Wilbur Smith etc) because sometimes we do just want a ripping yarn. Mostly I’ll try anything once (yes, that has got me into trouble in the past but the older and fatter I get, the less chance there is of that happening!) You must remember that I was stuck for months on end on Shell Tankers where the ship’s library was so sparse that one ended up reading the back of cereal packets in foreign languages just for mental exercise.

Grab my attention and you’ve got me! In this house we just read…Baggy with Alchemy

8 thoughts on “Inspired by and featuring Carol Hedges!

  1. D’accord, Ailsa (is that how you spell it?) I’m not pals with Jane Austen either, although I did give it a good go. The language was just too flowery and dated and I was too busy working out the meaning to take in the actual story. Wish I’d had your English teacher, that sounds like fun. I’d have paid a lot more attention. I had to attend night school in my early 30s to sit my higher. Novels are for enjoyment, or should be. So keep writing!

  2. You too! I was immensely lucky considering the lady was coming up for retirement and this was back in the early 70s. She even predicted that I would have a career as either an actress or writer…ended up doing both eventually.

  3. I agree almost completely! So many English language tomes are unreadable by anyone with imagination (or a short attention span) My only exception is Austen. Never thought I’d like her, but I’ve read P&P at least a dozen times. Love that novel! Anyway, great blog. I’ll be back!

  4. I’m with you all the way here. I find mist reads a real turn off and almost missed a couple of very good films – Master and commander and Gravity – because they were lauded for their special effects… Like the truly piss poor Titanic (shivers).



    1. It is a sad fact that few books, films or TV shows (are we playing charades here?) live up to their hype. I think the worst bit of publicity I ever saw was for “A Fish Called Wanda” – the funniest film you’ll ever see. Well humour is a matter of taste and while it WAS funny, I find the Marx brothers funnier but then I am old and daft. I also find the Goon Show funnier. I rely on word of mouth – I trust the “my mate likes it” yardstick.

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