My English Major Secret

I Didn’t Read The Classics – And That’s Okay.

When I tell people I have a BA in English, I get two questions:

1. What do you do with a degree like that? (Answer: ummm…everything? nothing? At least I graduated?)

2. Oh, you must love all the “classics!” Which Austen is your favorite? (Answer: Austenland by Shannon Hale. What do you mean that doesn’t count?)

Here’s my dirty little English major secret:

I managed to go through four years of college and get a degree in English without reading anything more classic than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I purposely avoided classes with  Dickens, Chaucer or Austen in the description. I read a lot of American writing. I read a lot of British writing. I even took a class on Native American Literature. I didn’t avoid the classics because they’re bad, but because they have never interested me. I read Oliver Twist and Great Expectations in high school. I attempted to read Jane Eyre. I found them to be boring, stuffy and too full of themselves for my taste.

They were books I just didn’t like. There, I said it. I don’t like them. They’re not my style. And I read a lot of books from a lot of genres, so it’s not a matter of limiting my options. And, quite frankly, there is a lot of amazing writing out there. Too much awesome writing, in fact, to spend time reading something I just don’t enjoy. Given the choice between Dickens and Fleming, I choose Fleming. Want me to pick between Austen and Gabaldon? I pick Gabaldon. I will choose Harry Potter over the Dashwood sisters every time.

There used to be a bit of guilt when I would explain to people that I didn’t take those classes. Apparently that meant I wasn’t a real English major and that I didn’t love books as much as I claimed. After all, any English major worth her salt can wax eloquent about the prose of classic literature. I can’t even tell you the main characters in most of those novels, much less what they’re about. And I don’t want to. You can tell me how much you love those stories. Good for you! But don’t expect me to join you in your enthusiasm. And don’t expect me to suddenly decide to pick up a copy of the The Tale of Two Cities for fun.

Now, pass me my copy of Saturday. I’ve got some reading to do.

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