This is not a hugely long analytic post about how to read the classics. This is just to say, I'm reading them. I made a few resolutions for 2012, none of which have anything to do with reading. But the start of a new year is always a good time to reflect on things, even if you don't elevate goals into the elite status of "Resolution," so this year I want to do this, reading-wise: read the classics.
I've been around the classics block. I've certainly read more classic literature than the average American (though less than the average English major, no doubt). I count Les Miserables among one of my all-time favorite books (and I was looking forward to the new movie adaptation...until they cast Taylor Swift...). It's not like my life is completely bereft of the classics...but these days my literary diet consists mostly of young adult.
There's nothing wrong with young adult! I love young adult! I write young adult! But sometimes I want a book guaranteed to push me and make me think. Over the winter holidays I read Emma, and boy did that make my brain hurt in the "I really can't read more than two chapters at a time without feeling my eyes blurring" way. Reading the classics is often difficult, and I like that. I like reading sentences more than once to catch the double- or triple-meaning. I like feeling like I'm soaking in the knowledge of a different era, a different mindset, a different life. I like working for it, is what it comes down to.
So, my goal: to always be reading a classic. Right now I'm mining my own shelves, since I have a number of very nice hardcover editions I haven't even cracked. Having just finished Emma (and I may have to review it here, just to see what you all think of it), I'll be starting The Hunchback of Notre Dame in a few days. I may post thoughts here. Or maybe not. I suppose you'll just have to wait and see.