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What the Dickens? It’s Freebie Friday!

Swashbuckling, spying, mystery, adventure, and a love story worth sighing over—why can’t I convince any of my friends to read it?

I count the book The Scarlet Pimpernel in my top five favorites, and yet most people have never even heard the title. Why? It’s one of those forgotten classics, and for the most part, today’s reader won’t touch a book like it. Not because it’s filled with old language, because it isn’t, but because of the old style of writing that is found in most classics.

Writing, like anything, evolves over time. Classics tend to spend the first half of book building characters and elaborate back stories and then the middle picks up with the action and plot.

But today’s reader doesn’t want to be drawn into long sweeping prose, they want action. If the book doesn’t grab them on page one then it’ll be closed and the television turned on. That doesn’t mean a book has to start with a people ducking for cover in the midst of a bomb raid. It means that the first page should already have the reader asking questions: Why is the character doing that? What is the character hiding from? So afraid of? What is their motivation?

If a spark of interest isn’t lit in the first paragraph then the writer has lost the chance to tell their story.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my list of ‘stranded on an island’ books round out four of the top five with classics. I don’t count a year well spent without re-reading Pride and Prejudice. So I’m not slamming the classics, in fact, I’m giving one away today.

Writing has changed. What are your opinions on it? Do you believe we’ve lost something in our move away from the lyrical prose of the classics? Do you prefer new fiction to something from 100 years ago? Why or why not?

Agent Rachelle Gardener wrote and excellent post on her blog about this topic just a few days ago. It’s worth reading.

I’m still in love with the classics, I just won’t be writing like them and trying to submit it anytime soon. Today I’m offering a copy of The Scarlet Pimpernel or The Blue Castle to someone who leaves a comment before midnight.  Both make it onto my island list. Please leave in your comment which book you would rather receive (and also make sure the comment has something to do with the post, not just “I want a free book!”). The book give-away is only open to residents of the lower 48 at this point (sorry to my Dutch and Australian readers).

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About Jess Keller

I'm an author, speaker and chocolate eater who's chasing hard after my dreams.

13 responses »

  1. This is a good obversation, and I find myself mulling over why I love classics like I do. I would have to agree that certain favorites get re-read over and over, while modern titles, though exciting and entertaining, don’t give me that same urge. Interesting. I read both the Scarlet Pimpernell and the Blue Castle at your recommendation, and I love them both. But L.M. Montogomery is a huge favorite, so if I am the lucky winner that would be my choice.

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    • you make a really good point, I never thought about that, but its so true. I can re-read and re-read classics, but most new books are one time reads. The new fiction that I do re-read is usually historical fiction…huh

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  2. I love the classics too, but haven’t read many lately. I read all of the Anne of Green Gables series with my daughter though and would love to receive The Blue Castle.

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  3. I guess I’m the odd one out! I do not enjoy reading the classics. I find them tedious, especially Jane Austen. I just cannot get into her stories and it’s not that I haven’t tried. But like you said, writing evolves over time. I just prefer modern over classic. And Jessica, I think I remember having this conversation with you a long time ago. I think we were talking about John Grisham and Michael Crichton. Give me Jurassic Park over Pride and Prejudice any day! Actually, I got to talk about Jurassic Park with my students today because we were discussing timelines and I brought up the dinosaurs.
    My books that I read and re-read are what I would consider modern classics. Jurassic Park being one. It will remain to be seen which books are still be printed long after their authors have passed on.
    But I also feel like there is just SO much reading material out there! I have a Kindle and just the sheer amount of books and magazines and newspapers and blogs boggles my mind. How can I possibly wade through the muck to find the gem? And I guess that is why classics are classics. They have been read and adored and passed on by so many people, that they will always stand out.

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    • naw, I’m with you classics aren’t for everyone. That’s was what got me thinking actually because the type of writing done in classics is completely not publishable now because the larger population will not read it. It doesn’t hold attention so writers need to evolve. That was my initial point…then I went on a bunny trail because I love the classics 😉

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  4. I have to add to my comment: I just started reading “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.” It’s by the same guy who wrote…wait for it…Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

    That said, I tried to read P&P&Z and I still couldn’t get into it! Ugh, I’m just not an Austen fan.

    I hope you can forgive me.

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  5. I have portions of books that I like to read again, and I will if I feel like it, but I never hesitate to pick up austen, tolkien, lewis, eyre, etc. And what you said about the current authors/books you re-read being historicals is true for me too. My favorite 2 are both set in a different time/world. Sevenwaters by Juliet Marillier and The Thief and sequels by Megan Whalen Turner.

    Reply
    • Ooo, I’ll have to try those. I’m always on the lookout for new books. My fave re-reads are Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding and Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. I can pick those up, open to any page and just start reading.

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  6. I have not read The Blue Castle before but I loved The Scarlet Pimpernel. And I would find it hard to be on an island without Pride and Prejudice. But I would have to have Persuasion as well. Oh how I love that book! But then, if I was on an island, I would also need a notebook, colored pencils and some embroidery. Well, my island is starting to sound rather plush about now, eh? Oh….and I must not forget Little Dorrit…..and Anne Of Green Gables. Ok, my island needs a library…..and my wool blanket, not for the heat, but for the “cozy factor”. Oh, and a teapot……

    Reply
    • Sivje, if you loved Anne of Green Gables you would love The Blue Castle, same author, I actually think The Blue Castle is my favorite by her. And your island sounds nice, I’ll bake some brownies and row on over for a visit

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  7. Recently I read Alexander Dumas’ The Black Tulip (1850) I picked it up at a sale. It was a good story, Dutch history and I had even been to some of the places on my last trip to Holland. I agree classics take some time to get into but once you do you forget it is old fashioned and appreciate the use of language. Thanks for not including us down under in your book offer! Ada in Sydney.

    Reply

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