How about that cover. I scanned in the cover of my 1940s vintage budget “pocket edition” (complete and unabridged). This cover seems ripe for some Photoshop hi-jinks. For one thing, I can’t figure out who the people on the cover are supposed to be. Both Cathy’s had blond hair, as did the nancy-boy Heathcliff. The Evil Heathcliff and Hareton were huge guys. So who does that leave us? As you can see on the cover, the book was $0.25 in 1940, and I got it for $0.16 sixty-five years later. If you factor in inflation, I made $25.
Reading this book arose directly from the comments/discussion on Nitro’s review of The Book of Salt. While I don’t agree with her assessment of the “type” of books I/we tend to read, there was no denying that virtually all of the books that I read are of the type of books that I always read, if you follow. So maybe, in her misguided way, she was onto something.
But wait, there’s more. In this month’s Believer Magazine, author Nick Hornby talks about being in a similar rut in his monthly Stuff I’ve Been Reading column(link goes to teaser partial column). The article begins with Hornby being confronted by an interesting looking book about peregrine falcons, which is exactly the kind of book he never reads. He later determines that he will force himself out of his reading rut, and he will read some books that are exactly the kind of books he doesn’t normally read. At the end of the article, a friend of Hornby’s suggests that the kind of book he really never reads is web-site fan-boy non-literary sci-fi/fantasy. So he’s kicking himself for not getting that falcon book.
The prevailing mood then, as I read it, seems to be that it is high time we break out of our collective reading ruts. In a response to Nitro, I had thrown out Wuthering Heights as just the type of girly book that I was unlikely to read. So that seemed like a good place to start. If nothing else, it was a good opportunity to read a “classic”. My edition declares, “Wuthering Heights has been called the greatest book ever written by a woman” ( ! ). So it had that going for it as well.
I was not forced to read Wuthering Heights in high school, so what I new about the book was based entirely upon the Kate Bush song and prejudice. I assumed it was going to be a Victorian book that featured lots of courtly love, strict manners and social mores, fainting, huge manors, etc. I suppose I could have been more wrong about this book, but it’s tough to see how. My first clue that I was on the wrong track was when I read the hype on the back cover, beginning with “The Strangest Love Story Ever Told” – that ended up to be very true. Later on it says, “Wuthering Heights is a powerful story in the tradition of Dracula and Frankenstein“. Dracula and Frankenstein? WTF? Well, that part turned out to be true as well.
Wuthering Heights is one wacky story. It is a very twisted love/revenge story where virtually everyone is miserable to the limits of human endurance for most of the book. I won’t go into a huge plot summary, since I assume most of you had to read it in high school. Plus, it is not within my powers to describe the story without making it sound stupid.
However, I will tell you about a few things that I’ve learned from my “out of rut” experience. First, I felt that it was initially harder reading a book that was not written in the modern style that I am used to, and I found myself reading much slower than I normally do. That was a little annoying – but not the book’s fault. Second, the $0.16 that I paid for this book may have been too much. I later found out that old school classic literature that is now clearly in the public domain is readily available for free/no pay as an e-book download compliments of those internets. That’s cool, but how would I bring it on the bus? I certainly don’t want to read anything of length on my Palm. On the other hand, it could be an excellent way of getting some reading in at the office. Nice.
Those same internets provided some interesting back story on Emily Brontë. This was her only book of fiction, published in 1847. It was written before she was 30, and she soon after died of turberculosis. One of the reasons this book is “all that” is that it was among the first pieces of English literature to experiment with non-linear structure. Who knew?
Overall, this whole experiment was a success. I learned that I was completely wrong about my suppositions of a classic, and its a pretty good book to boot. Cool. I leave you with Kate Bush(not one of the Bush twins)….
Too long I roam in the night.
I’m coming back to his side,
to put it right.
I’m coming home to wuthering, wuthering, Wuthering Heights,
Heathcliff, it’s me–
I’m Cathy. I’ve come home.
I´m so cold!
Let me in-a-your window.
AHHHHHHH YAAAAA YAAAA OHHHH YAAAAAAA