Over the past few years, I have made an effort to try and read more classical literature than I used to. While this is a good thing, for the most part, there are a few downsides as well.
Now, it isn’t really the fault of the book but sometimes while a reading an older story there are for lack of a better term, cringy elements.
For example, one of my favourite writers is Agatha Christe. I love crime fiction so of course, I had to read her work. Perks for me, my family is a bunch of bookworms including my Grandmother so she gave me a chunk of her sizeable collection of Christe. In fact, the header image is just that, my Christe collection.
I realise how it might sound considering what I am about to say, but keep in mind that I do enjoy her books. She is called the Queen of Crime for a good reason. I do recommend her books overall.
With all that being said, while I love her work, some of her stories have less than politicly correct passages. Now I know that it’s because of the time period when it was written but it still makes reading it a bit awkward in this day and age. The Hallowe’en Party is the best example.
For what feels like the first half of the book almost every character suggests or comments on the idea that the 13-year-old victim was killed by a sex-crazed person with mental issues (I’m wording this differently as I do not what to repeat how it is written in the book, you can guess why)
As an Autistic myself, reading some of the above upset me so I had to keep putting the book down and taking a break from it before I could continue.
Also, the woman was a bit on the racist side. The most famous example of this is that one of her books, a rather good one too, is now known as And Then There Were None but as you might have guessed that was not the original title. It used to be Ten Little N-words. Yes, really.
The reason for it is because in the story there is a poem by the same name, through the story the characters keep being killed one by one as described in the poem found around the house they are staying at on a remote island.
In the version you can get now, the slur is replaced with Soldier Boys and the title was changed into one that fits the story better anyway if you ask me.
While she (somewhat) had an excuse, H P Lovecraft doesn’t.
Lovecraft was ridiculously racist even for the time period. This was due to his upbringing in New England as his bloodline was of great importance to him. Because of this, his antagonists are more often than not anyone who isn’t a well-bred white person.
Again, I do like his work, The Shadow over Innsmouth being my favourite, but it can be a bit of a slough to get through at times. For crying out loud, he was so terrified of progress he wrote a story about how an air conditioner could be used to keep a dead body ‘alive’. No really, It’s called Cool Air.
I could not take that one seriously.
I would go on but there is an amazing video by Overly Sarcastic Productions that discusses Lovecraft in general better than I could. Please check it out!
I do think that we need to read older books as they are not only helpful to understand the past but some have helped to shape the society we live in today, for better or for worse. But it can be hard to get past some of the problematic parts.
I know folks who stopped reading certain books for this very reason and that is more than understandable. However, I do try to power through the problematic parts myself and I would encourage others to do the same.
You’ve raised some very interesting points here. I agree that older works of fiction exposes the ignorance many people had in the past but I think one can still enjoy them or if not at least learn from them.
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I wholeheartedly agree 🙂
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