Last year, I began tracking my reading. Finished 2009 with a lot of books under my belt, and maybe a clearer idea of how I read. It was interesting to see the months take on trends; I think it was July and August, those hottest of months, that had some of my heaviest reads, novels that left me thinking and remain with me still.
This April came to a close the same day I finished the last page of a novel, and so I began May fresh with Daphne DuMaurier’s classic Rebecca, a book I can’t believe I’ve never read. It got me thinking, too, that maybe a theme month would be interesting, as well as serve to fill in some gaps in my reading. Sure, I’ve read my share of classics; everyone I know is tired of hearing me blab about Jane Austen. I’ve spent many hours with the Brontes, with Steinbeck, Hemingway, Victor Hugo. Done time with Thackeray, Eliot, Fitzgerald, Salinger, Wharton. Don’t even get me started on classic children’s literature because you likely don’t have all day to read my list, and I don’t have all day to type.
Most embarrassing of the haven’t-reads are probably some of the most beloved-by-women classic tales of tragedy. Anna Karenina? Ahem. Madame Bovary? Umm... Next you’ll think I’ve never even cracked the copy of Women in Love a friend sent me years ago. Oops; I haven’t. I’ll even admit to having a big fat hole in my life-log named James Joyce.
And I'm thinking, why not make a month of it? Visiting some of these cultural touchstones would make a lot of sense. For one thing, Rebecca is just a good story, and had me in its grip. Moreover, though, the novel walloped me with some of those ever-in-need-of-refreshing lessons about story and plot and writing, about pacing and keeping things going, keeping the reader guessing, engaged, and always entertained. There’s a reason this book, first published in 1938, has never been out of print. Its lessons parlayed right into my daily writing, and my WIP is showing its influence. New information, keep the reader guessing, engaged, and always entertained. Scenes will be slashed, new ones written, and this book, like so many novels I’ve read, will make an impact on my own writing.
Those other books that have somehow escaped my hungry eyes? So yes, May is officially Classics Month 2010 for me, and the aforementioned Anna and Emma and yes, if I get to them Ursula and Gudrun as well, will join the second Mrs. De Winter on my 2010 log. Something by the famed Irishman, too.
First up and on my nightstand now, Sir Thomas More's Utopia. It's already reminding me that good writing is pretty timeless. Of course, it was written in Latin, but the translation feels fresh and modern, reminding me that all of us live at the height of modern times; no one, not even the Tudors, considered themselves bundled into history. For someone who loves and writes historical fiction, that's important to remember.
May is a long month, and I’m a fairly fast reader, so those might not see me through to the end. Plus, I'm not averse to putting down a book after twenty pages or so if it's sending me to snoozeville. I might need fresh horses before the 31st. I’m open to suggestions.