Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Guinea Pig Report: Classic Pickle

As a wannabe publishee, my dream, like many others, is to write the next classic. The book that defines our era, that stands the test of time and (of equal importance), sells millions of copies worldwide! And why not? So many great authors before us have done so. Just like my 9 year-old son who plays Rock Band and imagines himself the next Steven Tyler, I fall prey to thinking I'm the next Jane Austen or Augusten Burroughs.

I try to balance my writing with my reading. With each book I read, I attempt to analyze each little nugget of goodness, dissecting the sentence structure, and contemplating the timelines the author chose, even examining how she moves from scene to scene. It is the author's choices in writing a book that intrigue me. I want to know what was edited out as much as I want to read what was kept in.

In my book club, we take turns hosting and the host chooses the book. Last month, we all agreed, the next book should be a classic. I attempted to send out telepathic signals to the chooser by repeating the mantra "Please not Wuthering Heights. Please not Wuthering Heights. Please not Wuthering Heights...” I think I had a short in my signal transmission however, because all she must have heard was the "Please" and the "Wuthering Heights" portions.

"How about Wuthering Heights?"
“Oh, God!” I accidently blurted out. “I mean… Oh, God! I’ve always wanted to read Wuthering Heights!”

That statement was true up until about 5 years ago when I actually attempted to read Wuthering Heights. I got about halfway through and packed it in. Now, I know there are many of you out there thinking “What? Wuthering Heights is a classic! One of the greatest romances of all times!”

To that I can only say this. Write your own damn blog about it then.

Let me start by saying that as far as structure, timing, editing, I can attest to the fact that this is a sound story with a beginning, middle, and end. My problem with Emily Bronte’s famed, no… REVERED novel is that I hate everyone in it.

But I was younger 5 years ago, and maybe I could approach it with more optimism this time. I opened the book with an open mind knowing that my friends were off enjoying their experience with Bronte. Surely, I could find some redeeming qualities about these two people.

Nope. I made it to chapter 21. I couldn’t take it anymore.

On the back cover of my copy, the last sentence of the description reads: “Heathcliff and Catherine remain in the mind long after the last page has been turned.” Yep. That’s true. Heathcliff and Catherine remain in the mind the way a popcorn hull remains wedged between your teeth, or the way the smell of skunk remains in your car miles down the road after you pass it’s bloody, mangled carcass.

I’ll give Emily credit. She wrote a novel in her 20’s. I’m in my 40’s and just now getting to page 78 on mine. She grew up the fifth child in a poor family in the early 1800’s and was self-educated. She only lived to be 30 years old. This is a woman who made the most of her short time here on earth. But let’s approach this without the sympathetic props, shall we?

I ask you, are there two more unsavory, nasty, self-absorbed characters in all of literary history? How is one supposed to root for their hero when your hero is a pair of bleedin’ asses?? Here’s the ending I propose instead that would be a little more fitting for these characters:

Heathcliff is buried up to his neck by Joseph who pours honey all over him and lets him get eaten to death by ants. All the while, Catherine’s ghost searches the moors for the rest of his rotting body.

And what about “the moors”?

Exactly. What about ‘em? Oy! Nothing like two people who tick me off to the point that I don’t care if they end up at the bottom of the English Channel, living in what the dictionary describes as “a tract of open, peaty, wasteland”.

This book left me with a sort of “good riddance” attitude. I can only imagine that what the author chose not to put in might have been moments of niceties between Heathcliff and Catherine. Moments I would have considered a nice relief from all the foul behavior we were bombarded with.

Have at it Emily Bronte fans. I think I’ll pick up a nice Austen next time.

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