Posted in Books

To Read, Or Not To Read… Wait, Whaddaya Mean Read?

Okay, so apparently being authentic when reading classic literature that takes place in England is looked down upon among teens today. Note taken.

My AP English teacher decided to take one last stab at actually doing work before graduation whisks us out of her classroom and into a lazy summer vacation before college. So yesterday, she passed out the classic play Pygmalion, which was later adapted into the musical My Fair Lady, which is very similar to Cinderella. We started reading Pygmalion today, and it was a total disaster.

I was reading for Eliza Doolittle, which meant I had lines that looked like this:

“Ow, eez yə-ooa san, is e? Wal, fewd dan y’ də-ooty bawmz a mather should, eed now bettern to spawl a pore gel’s flahrzn than ran awy athaht pyin. Will ye-oo py me f’thm?”

(Yes, that took several long minutes to type correctly)

which translates to:

“Oh, he’s your son, is he? Well, if you’d done your duty by him as a mother should, he’d know better than to spoil a poor girl’s flowers and then run away without paying. Will you pay me for them?”

Well, needless to say I could hardly make it through a single Cockney sentence without the entire class dying with laughter. Of course, the English accent I was attempting didn’t help much… I’m an actor, what can I say? I wasn’t the only one who attempted, either. One of the candidates for Prom King went a bit overboard with his portrayal of  the Sarcastic Bystander, and the guy playing Henry Higgins took English accents to the next level. Instead of appreciating our attempts at authenticity, though, the classes chalked them up as attempts at comedy.

It wouldn’t have been terrible. But the laughter took most of the class period to die down, since it was renewed by the strange sounds the script held for my character. The lack of focus that’s plagued my class all year certainly interfered with the study of a vintage work of art, yet again.

Granted, I’m not saying that reading the classics for fun should be one of their favorite hobbies. But we have AP tests coming up, and I’m sure that some of these books will be requirements in college. So why not be prepared? I mean, there is some enjoyment to be found in reading Shakespeare, at least from a high school point of view. Look a bit closer at those confusing puns, and voila! You’ve got yourself dirty jokes and sexual innuendos. And who doesn’t like talking animals that can run a farm? Thank you, George Orwell, for your easy-to-read satirical fable. There’s a novel that everyone can find a connection to, get a laugh out of, or actually want to buy.

One last question. If you have to read a book, why not learn something from it in the process? There’s a concept… But we do it all the time. By reading Facebook updates, keeping tabs on Twitter, and surfing the web, we read learn virtually every second of the day. Reading for school may not read as well as “Going to the beach with my boo today :),” but IT’S A HECK OF A LOT MORE INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATING!! Come on, people. Think about those brains that do hardly anything productive all day. You’re losing the connections between neurons by letting them sit around on a couch in front of a  T.V. all day. Don’t you know that’s how Alzheimer’s and dementia set in when you’re old? Are books really so horrible that you’re willing to avoid them and risk not only a sore thumb from flipping through channels, but also the possibility of brain deterioration later in life?

Yes, I read Shakespeare and Orwell and Dickens for fun every now and then. And yeah, I’m probably the weirdest person you’ll ever meet in your life. But so far, it hasn’t served me wrong. Most of them are classics for a reason, sometimes even two, and in a select few cases, more. The messages, the style, and the fact that many are about the rather static human condition common to most generations make them enjoyable and applicable well beyond the original publication date. They’re so good they even make modernized movies out of them because they can’t think of anything better than the worn out paperbacks your school forces you to read (Ever heard of Ten Things I Hate About You? Sorry to break the illusion, but that’s Shakespeare; he finally got his time machine working and jumped into the twenty-first century).

So whaddaya say? Why not take that boring-looking, heavily battered book out and actually crack the spine (figuratively; many probably don’t have spines anymore…)? You’re sure to find an engaging adventure or a shocking point of view that will leave you yearning for more oldies.