Thursday, April 10, 2008

More thoughts on Camilla and Classics in general...


I don't know if anyone is interested in reading my further thoughts on Camilla, a novel by Fanny Burney, which I reviewed just a few hours ago. But it's still on my mind.

And I thought I'd approach it a bit broader, and possibly open it up for discussion about classics in general.

Can you compare classics with modern literature? Modern books? Meaning, is it fair to hold classics up to the same standards and judgments as modern literature? Or are classics in a field, a category all by themselves. If classics are in a field by themselves, a field that is ever-incorporating new titles as decades go by, and eliminating other titles that have fallen out of favor because no one is willing or able to 'prove' their relevance to today's readers, what should that standard be?

Should a classic be as pleasurable, as entertaining, as enjoyable as other types of books? If it doesn't, does that mean it's not as 'good' a book? Does a book have to be a page-turner to keep you reading? Can a book be 'good' and fail to keep your interest at times?

Reading is subjective of course. Interests vary from person to person. And even just in one person, interests change from month to month or year to year. The mood and timing has to be just right, there has to be a certain chemistry for a reader to connect with a book.

I'm all for books staying in print and staying available in some shape or form. I was very happy that Camilla was a book-book. I didn't want the hassle of reading the book in its entirety as an e-book or online. I wouldn't have done it. Couldn't have done it. So I'm all for having these obscure little books stay in print. They're not obscure to some people, but for the general hypothetical readership they are obscure. It's only if you've immersed yourself in literature--whether on your own or in a classroom setting--that you come to be on familiar terms with other writers. The more you read, the more aware you become of other books, other authors you might enjoy as well.

I read Camilla for two reasons really. One, I had read Evelina back in college and found it completely wonderfully delightful. And two, Camilla is one of the books mentioned in Northanger Abbey. I know that Jane Austen was a fan of Fanny Burney. So many of the women writers of the day were fans of Fanny Burney and Ann Radcliffe. They looked to women who had gone before, led the way.

Camilla, according to what I've read, was a HUGE HUGE hit when it was published. It was popular in the 19th century. Which shows me that it is taste and expectations that have changed through the centuries. Books are always always a product of their time. For the original audience, Camilla and Edgar and the like were the best of the best. For modern readers, however, I doubt people would be as quickly impressed. For one, I don't think people have the patience to deal with Edgar. They don't have the stamina to watch Camilla exclaim away page after page.

With the internet, with television, with movies, with video games, how is a book that is over 950 pages going to compete???

Camilla is a book that requires time, energy, commitment, and patience. You've got to think of it as an experience. A journey. A long journey. You've got to be in it for the journey. If you think of it as what is the quickest way to get from point a to point b, Camilla will frustrate you to no end. Camilla is in some ways like playing Chutes and Ladders. Sometimes you move up, but a lot of times you go sliding back down and you're practically back where you started. Every time the plot advances where it looks like there might be resolutions in sight, you go hurdling back down and everything is a tangled mess again.

Is it a bad thing or a good thing for a book to be complex, challenging, requiring diligence and patience? Do you have to have immediate satisfaction to keep reading? Do you have to approach it with the what's-in-it-for-me attitude?

I stuck with Camilla obviously. It was both frustrating but enjoyable at the same time. Eugenia was probably my favorite. But Camilla wasn't a bad heroine. I just kept wanting to shout at her. In the words of Super Grover's Super Mommy: DON'T DO IT!

Reading Camilla is like watching a soap opera. Every chapter, or more likely every few chapters, there would be a rising climax. You'd reach the point where you'd think SOMETHING would happen to further the plot, to move the action along, to change the course of the character's lives. But a good majority of time, those all fizzle out. The big reveal doesn't happen. The exciting scene you thought would happen, just doesn't. Nothing comes of it. Or if something does come of it, it's not the something you would have wanted. The story line goes a way you wouldn't choose. The writer takes it in a direction you really didn't want it to go. And you get frustrated.

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Review Policy

I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

I also review adult books.

I read in a variety of genres including realistic fiction, historical fiction, mystery, romance, science fiction, fantasy, literary fiction, and chick lit. (I've read one western to date.)

I read a few poetry books, a few short story collections, a few graphic novels, a few nonfiction books.

I am especially fond of:

  • Regency romances (including Austen prequels/sequels)
  • Historical fiction set in the Tudor dynasty
  • Historical fiction and nonfiction set during World War II
  • Jewish fiction/nonfiction
  • dystopias
  • apocalyptic fiction
  • science fiction (especially if it involves time travel and alternate realities)
  • fantasy
  • multicultural books and international books

I am not a fan of:

  • sports books
  • horse books
  • dog books if the dog dies (same goes with most pets actually except maybe fish)
  • westerns (if it's a pioneer story with women and children, then maybe)
  • extremely violent books with blood, blood, and more blood

I am more interested in strong characters, well-written, fleshed-out, human characters. Plot is secondary to me in a way. I have to care about the characters in order to care about the plot. That being said, compelling storytelling is something that I love. I love to become absorbed in what I'm reading.

If you're interested in sending me a review copy of your book, I'm happy to hear from you. Email me at laney_po AT yahoo DOT com.

You should know several things before you contact me:

1) I do not guarantee a review of your book. I am just agreeing to consider it for review.
2) I give all books at least fifty pages.
3) I am not promising anyone (author or publisher) a positive review in exchange for a review copy. That's not how I work.
4) In all of my reviews I strive for honesty. My reviews are my opinions--so yes, they are subjective--you should know my blog will feature both negative and positive reviews.
5) I do not guarantee that I will get to your book immediately. I've got so many books I'm trying to read and review, I can't promise to get to any one book in a given time frame.
6) Emailing me every other week to see if I've read your book won't help me get to it any faster. Though if you want to email me to check and see if it arrived safely, then that's fine!

Authors, publishers. I am interested in interviewing authors and participating in blog tours. (All I ask is that I receive a review copy of the author's latest book beforehand so the interview will be productive. If the book is part of a series, I'd like to review the whole series.) Contact me if you're interested.

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