Monday, 16 September 2013

Is it possible to read too much?

“You get a little moody sometimes but I think that's because you like to read. People that like to read are always a little fucked up.” - Pat Conroy.

This quote describes me so perfectly it's actually a little depressing. It might be the completely-out-of-proportion, never-going-to-come-true expectations that pretty much everyone who reads have at some point in their lives, particularly when it comes to romance. Or maybe it's the many weird and wonderful characters who, when you read a book, can become almost like friends. But most likely for me anyway, I think it's probably the amount I get confused between what is real life and what is fiction that makes me "a little fucked up". I mean, it took me nigh on a year to convince myself that, no, Jean Valjean never existed, and will never exist. (*sob*)
I also find that I can get so completely lost in the world of a book that the lives of the characters in whichever book I might be reading start to become more important than my own. And I know I'm not alone in this, mainly because Carrie Fletcher (YouTuber and the West End's current Eponine) frequently says she has the same problem. And maybe it really is a problem. 
For example, last year, when I was supposed to be revising for exams, I decided to pick up A Tale of Two Cities, just to read a few chapters - BIG mistake. 400 pages and many, many tears later, I had no idea what to do with myself. That book destroyed my mind. I was inconsolable for LITERALLY weeks, and it's seriously not good to keep having your mind drift to complex characters like Sydney Carton when you're supposed to be writing about Plato, or the Crusades, or whatever exam that was, I can't even remember.
But then, reading is clearly a good thing to do: it develops the imagination; reading other people's writing is supposed to improve your own; and reading offers the escape from reality that everyone needs at some point in their lives. So maybe the question that really needs to be asked is this: can you become too emotionally involved in the books you read? ... and the answer to that, as much as I want to say otherwise, is probably, yes.

“Isn't it odd how much fatter a book gets when you've read it several times?...As if something were left between the pages every time you read it. Feelings, thoughts, sounds, smells...and then, when you look at the book again many years later, you find yourself there, too, a slightly younger self, slightly different, as if the book had preserved you like a pressed flower...both strange and familiar.” - Cornelia Funke

And then you read quotes like that; writing that is so beautiful, and so true, it makes me want to sob for a reason I'm not quite sure of. And so, maybe, yes, you can get too emotionally involved in books - and I'm sure my friends have told me too many times that nobody else cares about the book I'm reading, and I should let it go just a tad. But I don't want to. And maybe it's okay to take your chances, and read books to learn as much as you can, both about writing, and about humanity. Maybe one day I'll realise that it's better to simply live my own life, but I don't really see why I can't do both; why shouldn't I let 'The Book Thief' make me cry, or 'Crime and Punishment' make me want to throw it across the room?? And the great thing about books is that they can show you how you grow - while I HATED 'Anna Karenina' when I first read it two years ago, when I've grown up a bit maybe I'll have a different opinion. Just like a few years ago, I'm ashamed to admit it but I liked 'Twilight', and now I pretty well loathe it. 

Books will always have an important place in society and I can't really imagine life without them. And maybe I'll find out in a few years that I did become too involved in the books I read, but for now I'm going to continue to let books be a big part of my life, and be glad that I have something to be enthusiastic and fangirl about when I see people everyday who don't have anything to get excited about. And, right now, I'm going to go make some tea and carry on reading 'The Mill on the Floss'. 

Happy Monday! :)

Sunday, 15 September 2013

He is more myself than I am...

So much for becoming a regular blogger, it's been a month since my last post... oops.
Right now I should be doing history homework but I've already written two essays today and so I'm taking a break to talk about, of all things, Wuthering Heights. Hence the soppy title.
Wuthering Heights was my first re-read of 2013 (leaving it a bit late I know) and I'll be honest, I mainly picked it up because I have to study it for my English A level - I'm so happy about that I can't even explain. This book makes me fangirl an embarrassing amount, and most of the time that happens in the worst possible places - like when a friend mentions the book in the common room and I suddenly become unable to use proper words, settling instead on making noises and flapping my hands around. 
Anyway, Emily Brontë is such a brilliant writer, even though I hated pretty much every. single. character, I loved the book enough to make it one of my new favourites. I first read it when I was about 13 so I didn't really understand much of what was going on. But this time, Heathcliff completely came alive, jumping out from the pages every time he spoke, Cathy was about the most hateful character I think I've ever read about (ugh, I can't even explain how much I hate her), and lovely Edgar Linton made me want to grab him by the shoulders and shake him out of his stupid love for Cathy. 
This is the most quotable book I've read in a long time, and I think Cathy was the only character I hated the whole way through. I felt a lot of things for Heathcliff: pity when he was first taken into Mr Earnshaw's hands and mistreated by Hindley, sympathy when Cathy married another man despite her love for him, and anger when he became basically a cruel psychopath by the end of the book. 

“Be with me always - take any form - drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! it is unutterable! I can not live without my life! I can not live without my soul!”

It's definitely Brontë's beautiful writing that makes this book the classic that it is, well that and the somewhat depressing, confusing, but ultimately passionate plot. You can tell that, with all Brontë writes about the soul, and if the soul exists, her writing certainly comes from there. It's one of the most passionate books I've ever read, and it's that which makes her loathsome characters anywhere near relatable. Reading it makes you realise  that there's a part of every character you read about in books within you, even if those characters are slightly strange, like Heathcliff. And so I've come to the conclusion that Emily Brontë was a genius.
Maybe the way to judge whether a book is good or not is to decide whether or not you would re-read it. And although I'll HAVE to re-read it for my exam next year, I think I can safely say I would re-read this book out of choice, although I might leave a bit of a bigger gap in between reads if I had a choice.
There were only two characters I actually liked: Edgar Linton and Hareton Earnshaw. Both of them were lovely, and in a book with mostly nasty characters, I almost had to latch on to the 'quite nice' ones to stay sane. Mostly Hareton and Edger are the characters you feel sorry for whilst both generations of Cathys basically tear them to pieces. What I did like about Wuthering Heights was the contrast between Heathcliff and Cathy's destructive love (or should that be lust?) and the happy love presented at the end of the novel. Brontë definitely makes it clear which love she thinks the most healthy, although if she led the secluded life we are all lead to believe you can't help but wonder if she was dreaming of her own Heathcliff somewhere in the world, waiting for him to save her from the apparently boring life she was leading. 
So no, I'm not now in love with Heathcliff as many women are who read this book are, apparently. Although, having said that who wouldn't want to say that their boyfriend is "more myself than I am"? 
Wuthering Heights is such an amazing book, if you haven't read it yet, seriously go read it now, it's so, so good. But be prepared to feel like Martin Freeman at the beginning of 'The Hobbit' when you start out - i.e. yelling "I'm going on an adventure" whilst running off into the hills; you'll probably have no idea where the book is going most of the time, but it's worth it when you finally work out who everyone is, and how everyone is related to everyone else. It honestly will be one of the best books you will ever read. Have a happy Sunday! 10/10