Not many people know it but, I'm partial to the classics. My first ever introduction to a classic was when a teacher made us read Animal Farm. I hated it. I remember I couldn't stop thinking how overdone it had become. And yet, when my wife and I were at a Borders, she recommended 1984; I sat down, read two chapters and automatically loved it. It just goes to show that you never know what a good classic can do for you.
Then there was The Time Machine and The Invisible Man, both very good H. G. Wells books. they weren't hard to understand and they introduced and produced many books and movies dedicated solely to the mad scientist and time travel genres. Yes sir, I'd have to say that Wells created the science fiction genre. A lot of people say that Poe was the one who introduced it but I still stand by Wells.
But both of those novels could not compare to War of The Worlds, my favorite of the bunch. The first three opening paragraphs set the scene perfectly. I still get chills whenever I read the line: Across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us.
God, I love that line. But it's not just the three paragraphs that caught me. Granted, now I use this as a basis for picking up a book to read, scanning the first three paragraphs to see if it will draw me in, but also, the rest of the book is so perfectly worded it's almost like poetry. I could imagine Wells, then a teacher in 1898, writing one perfect sentence a day.
In college, it was my rhetoric professor who introduced me to the textbook, The Story and It's Writer, a valuable compilation of short stories with some added essays and thoughts by the authors. He also introduced me to Joseph Heller with Catch-22. I remember I hated the book when I first started it, but he suggested, "Read past chapter five. It gets much better when you pass that chapter." He was right. It opened me up to the world of Heller and I found myself quickly on a hunt to devour his books, reading Portrait of an Artist as an Old Man, Catch as Catch Can: Stories, and No Laughing Matter. I own Something Happend, his second novel as well as Good as Gold and Closing Time, the sequel to Catch-22 but I'm waiting for a rainy day to tackle those.
At one point or another, I've been given suggestions on what to read next in the classic literature category. But, I have to say, the one I currently have my eye on next is Jane Eyre.
When my wife and I had a friend over, one that she studied with in France, she played a movie trailer on her laptop for us. Apparently, someone had made a recent adaptation of the book. After the trailer ended I was completely knocked off my socks. I mean, wow. And here I thought that it was nothing more than a snobby tale of a woman growing up in an orphanage. I was dead wrong. "I had no idea the story was that supernatural," I said to them both. "Oh yeah," my wife said. "It's very Gothic. You should read it."
I'm sure I will.