I realise I may be a little late to the party with this one but I was recently delighted to discover that some of the greatest literature classics of all time are available for free as e-books. I hastily downloaded the entire works of the Bronte sisters, along with other wonderful works by Woolf, Hardy, Fitzgerald, Shaw and more. For the kids I came across some lovely Hans Christian Andersen, Robert Louis Stevenson, Grimm’s Fairy Stories, and Aesop’s Fables. Just like that, I had updated my library with out of date literature. Which got me thinking. I already have quite a few old tales gathering dust on my book shelf, some of which I either haven’t read or at least haven’t read since childhood, so why do I look around for new titles before I have fully exhausted the greats?
So, I put down a brand spanking new copy of ‘Girl Least Likely To’ by Liz Jones (review to come soon) and picked up my hardback Jayne Eyre. In doing so I was struck by the beauty and complexity of the language in the old book, compared to the whiny self centered chit chat of the new. To be fair, Liz Jones isn’t trying to create a classic – I hope – so to compare the two is naughty of me, but still. Jayne Eyre is a girl from another time but her voice still resonated with me as a modern woman, in a way that the other book simply couldn’t. I haven’t opened it since. Don’t get me wrong. I love contemporary literature, I like edgy urban characters, and finding new authors I can invest in excites me. However, it sometimes saddens me to see the supermarket and book store shelves packed full of quick, easy reads that dumb down the elegance of the written word and the essence of good story telling. Sure, they have a place and purpose, and everyone should have access to books no matter what style or level of writing they enjoy, but I hope they don’t replace quality writing in the way that fast food threatens to replace home cooking.
So what do you prefer? Classics or contemporary fiction? Join in my poll below, then leave a comment to tell me your favourite classic or contemporary book title.