Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When Classics Leave You Cold


I saw Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby last weekend and... not my favorite movie.

Partly I think the problem is that I love the book so extremely much. I've posted previously about how much the book moved me when I re-read it as an adult, and I don't know if it's quite possible for a movie to capture the subtleties of the book (though for the record, I'm not sure Luhrmann really tried to do that).

As the movie release approached and passed though, I had lots of conversations with friends and acquaintances who confessed they really, really don't like F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. The book, not the movie.

This is closely related to a question reader Drew Turney asked me:
How do you manage your relationship to a book that's an accepted classic which everybody seems to love but which did nothing for you?
There are many classics of varying level of sacredness I really didn't like: The Scarlet Letter, Little House on the Prairie, A Wrinkle in Time... 

And of course there are plenty of of people who don't like some of my favorites: Moby-Dick, The Great Gatsby, The Sound and the Fury...

How do you manage your feelings and react in polite company when there's a classic that everyone loves that you just don't? Why does it stir your emotions and get you a little crazy when a book is canonized and you can't stand it?

(And admit it. You judge people a little when they love a book you hate...)






56 comments:

Stefan said...

I try having a discussion about the book in question.

That is, if the opposing party doesn't decry me as a loin cloth wearing barbarian.

Which I feel is a bit unfair since I really like my loin cloth...

Dawn Malone said...

Yes, I'm guilty of judging others tastes in books though it's ridiculous of me, especially as a writer who has plenty of experience with the subjectiveness of this business! And I have been embarrassed to admit many times my like/dislike of many classics which others openly rave about or trash. For me, some of Dickens's work is tedious to read and I didn't care for The Catcher in the Rye either. I feel flush just typing that.

ZERO said...

for example 50 shades of grey. i refuse to read, and i really dislike the books. when i hear people talk good about it i simply just bring up other titles that pale 50 shades of gray in comparison. i love talking books and writing.

Susanna said...

Little House on the Prairie?!! What??!!

But to answer your question - I tend to feel a teeny bit superior when I love a classic-y book that someone else hates, but I try not to feel inferior when they love something I hate. Often I make a little note - for instance, Moby Dick is the one classic book we were assigned in school that I simply could not read, and even resorted to Cliff's Notes (at a time when William Faulkner's entire oeuvre was my light airplane reading, 1/10 out of pretentiousness and 9/10 out of love). So I keep thinking I should go back to try it again. (Same with Middlemarch.) I can't think of the specific book, but I know I've had people crack a book open for me by explaining why they love it.

Michele Brenton said...

I atarted reading Moby Dick this week for the first time. I cannot force my way through the first chapter. I think I'll look for the film - I haven't seen that yet either. I don't mind other people liking things I don't like as long as they don't mind me not liking the things they do like.

The New Englander said...

I've always suspected that people are sometimes afraid to admit they don't care for a "classic" book or movie because they've been conditioned to see it as some kind of cultural high-water mark.

How can we separate the stuff we really like with the stuff we make ourselves like because we think we're *supposed* to?

I can't make my way through many of the titles already mentioned on this thread, and can barely sit through most movies made before 1985. The latter makes me look like a troglodyte to the black turtleneck crowd, but it is what it is...I just can't help it.

jeffreyricker said...

I ask them what they like and what they like about it. There are too many books in the world to spend time arguing with someone about something they didn't like, and neither of us is likely to change the other's opinion. I have friends who love Twilight, for example. We talk about Jane Austen instead. :)

(For the record, The Great Gatsby is my favorite novel.)

christotaylor said...

I like to let them talk in these situations. I learn a lot from listening to them, even if it doesn't change my mind. It's always interesting to know why someone likes something I don't. Often after I hear their reasoning, I'm inclined to agree that the book is a good fit for them even if it didn't do anything for me.

Maya Prasad said...

I think when we're talking about classics, it's easier to accept each others tastes than with recent books. We've all been forced to read certain classics at school, and some of them bored us to death. However, it's hard to argue that there is no redeeming value in almost any classic because it so obviously became a classic for a reason. I think it just comes down to personal taste, not intellectual significance.

Matthew MacNish said...

I've read Ulysses twice, and I still don't get it. But ... as a lover of literature, I felt it was my duty to at least try.

L. Shanna said...

I pride myself on being pretty diplomatic... except when it comes to books. I can't tell you how many awkward conversations I've had about Barbara Kingsolver (most overrated author ever!) and The Book Thief (I'm sorry! I know everyone loves this book but I didn't!). That's the great thing about books, though-- great discussion!

Anonymous said...

"You judge people a little when they love a book you hate"

Actually, I judge them even more when I love a book THEY hate. I become very condescending :)

I didn't bother seeing the Gatsby film, and won't watch it until it's on cable. I liked the book too much to sit through a film like that.

Kim said...

With a degree in English Language and Literature and a teaching license, I felt I HAD to enjoy the classics, but then several years ago, I realized that I can choose to read or not read any books I want. Just because someone else insists something is a classic doesn't mean that everyone has to find that spark in it. There are many great modern stories that get pushed to the bottom of the reading pile because we are "supposed" to read this or that. As long as someone is reading something, then he or she is getting what reading is all about. I refuse to place silly notions of what is or is not literature on anyone else.

Anonymous said...

The first time I read Moby Dick because it was a classic and had to keep telling myself that I was experiencing something great. Later, I thought about certain passages and read the book again. I fell in love with it, and my infatuation grew with other readings. It was the same with Gatsby. It seemed okay the first time, but after thinking about it, I returned to the novel and gained a genuine respect for Fitzgerald. I don't always judge book correctly with my first encounter. It's good that I'm not a critic.

abc said...

I can't think of any classics I didn't feel deserved the honor (although there are heaps I haven't read), but there are quite a few I wouldn't read for pleasure (certainly The Scarlett Letter was a painful senior year requirement).

And unless it is a political foe (Ann Coulter, etc) or someone is trying to sell me o Atlas Shrugged, I begrudge no one their favorite reading material. I also don't feel in any way uncomfortable or belittled when someone disses mine. I long ago decided to be comfortable with my tastes and interests. It's just too much of a subjective world and I'm too tired.

ADominiqueSmith said...

I don't judge those who dislike books that I love. However, I will get defensive if people get up in arms about why they don't like something. In fact, it tends to make me feel bad for enjoying it.

I think it's best to agree to disagree and go no further. If I'm the person who doesn't like the book I keep quiet. If someone likes something, it isn't my place to rain on their parade.

lora96 said...

I try not to come on all fierce about a book in conversation (that being said, State of Wonder by Ann Patchett just pissed me off something terrible), because sometimes I've listened to someone defend a classic I didn't care for (I'm talking about you, The Good Soldier) and rethought it. It didn't make me love the book, but it changed my perspective on it a little bit. I saw how other people might love it even if it's not my scene. I, for example, gave up two chapters into The Catcher in the Rye and have listened politely to many a discussion about how it is practically consecrated.

I think Gatsby's as gorgeous a piece of prose as there's been. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and, (ducks to avoid rotten vegetables) East of Eden are two of my favorites.

askinnygirlinside.com said...

I felt that way about Catcher in the Rye. I know it is supposed to be the penultimate teenage agnst ridden classic, but I found him to be a petulant and unsympathetic character not to mention a wholly unreliable narrator. In short, I just did not care about him or his opinions.

Nicole said...

It doesn't really bother me when people like a book that I don't like. If I'm lucky enough to have the time to ask them why they like it, then I can sometimes find something to redeem a book I otherwise didn't like. The only book that hasn't benefited from that is Wise Blood, which I hated beyond words. If I met someone who loved it (how could anyone?), I'd have a hard time not judging. But really, I judge people when they dislike a book I loved. I suddenly feeli like I have no common ground with the person and might as well be talking to a Martian. Then I politely avoid all subjective topics like books, movies, politics, or anything interesting and talk about the weather or the price of milk.

Anonymous said...

I love books and I love to read. And it is the last line in your post: "And admit it. You judge people a little when they love a book you hate..." that keeps me out of book discussions and places like goodreads. Who wants to deal with that kind of attitude?

To me, most classic literature and contemporary literary fiction is inscrutable. A few people here have raved about how brilliant Cormac McCarthy is, so I borrowed the book from the library. To me, it looks like it was written by a 6th grader who hasn't got a clue how to tell a story. And yet the people who adore McCarthy are going to look down their noses at me because I "don't get it." Really? Look! The emporer has new clothes!

However, there are a few classic books that I have enjoyed reading. Even one or two that I have read more than once. I did enjoy reading The Great Gatsby, The Catcher in the Rye, Pride and Prejudice, Gone with the Wind, and a few others.

People who have an attitude and give someone grief about what they like to read are not worth anyone's time. And they should be ashamed of themselves because they discourage people from reading.

Anonymous said...

Try being the one person in the room who couldn't get through 20 pages of The Hunger Games. I actually threw the book across the room. The fact that I write dystopian fiction just makes it worse.

I don't look down on anyone for what they read. Everyone has different tastes, likes, and dislikes. And I certainly don't feel superior because I read different genres than other people. I only feel superior when I run into someone who says they don't read at all. ;)

Heather Button said...

Wuthering Heights. I am a huge Jane Eyre fan, and I just can't like that book.

Also, the Narnia series. Mostly because CS Lewis totally takes the reader for granted. "One should never lock oneself in a closet!" UGH!

Ginny at Random Acts of Momness said...

Welcome to my reality (I'm a high school teacher). I wish I had a nickel for every time a student has complained about one of the books we read in class. I've found a good way to respond is to mention one of the broader thematic topics or less-obvious Cool Elements underneath the story ... as in, "I know Hawthorne has some pretty boring passages at times, but isn't it amazing how he shows that plotting elaborate revenge actually hurts YOU just as much as it hurts the person you hate?" etc . That usually makes the student in question say, "Yeah, I guess ...."

With high school students, too, I often remind myself that they may hate the book now, but in ten years when they re-read it, it will change their lives. The first reading is not the final chapter.

Neurotic Workaholic said...

I saw the 3-D version of The Great Gatsby; I didn't really get why it had to be 3-D in the first place, and I disliked having to wear the 3-D glasses the whole time. I did like Leonardo DiCaprio's performance, though, and I thought Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan were really good too. I liked the book too. I did not like The Scarlett Letter. If they took out all the pages describing Dimmesdale's guilt, the book would be much shorter.

Christine Monson said...

I don't judge people by the books they like or dislike because we all have different opinions and ideas when it comes to all art forms.

I think we all have little guilty pleasures we don't want to admit to anyone because we don't like being judged. So for you Nathan and faithful followers, I'll admit something I don't go around telling people--- I enjoy picture books, especially the illustrations, and coloring and singing loudly in my car. Please don't judge me. :)

Doug said...

Different people like different things.

Jonathan said...

Okay, deep breath here, but almost all 'Great American Literature' leaves me cold. There is something aboutFitzgerald, Melville and others that comes across to me as 'I am writing something great here, pay attention' in a very self conscious way. Acher in the Rye in particular pained me.

I loved Hemmingway's autobiographical works, but even his fiction seemed just a bit pretentious. Orwell, Borges,Burgess, Dante, I can talk about, Great American Lit, I just have to leave the conversation.

Laurie said...

I think everyone relates to different themes in the books sometimes different themes throughout our lives), which is why one classic that focuses on pride may leave one person cold while he might always lean instead toward "revenge" stories. My son, for instance, loves "courage" themes, where a young man has to prove his courage somehow (A Separate Peace, Catch 22, to movies like Saving Private Ryan). My girlfriend loves "wrongly accused" themes for some reason (Crucible to Shawshank Redemption). I tend to love unrequited love stories, which is why I'm a huge Gatsby fan. I think what we're all responding to in our favorite classics is themes in the books, not so much the way they're written or even the voice. The classics your friends love or hate can tell you more about your friends due to the themes than their writing tastes!

Mary said...

The Great Gatsby is one of my favorite books as well. Movie wasn't bad, but a little long. I absolutely love Leonardo DiCaprio, though.

I don't really get upset when people don't like the same classic novels as I do. Most of my peers were forced to read them in high school or college, and being forced to read something tends to turn people off to it. But I always feel sort of weird when someone mentions one of the classics that I don't like. I almost feel like I'm *supposed* to like it because it's obviously a classic for a reason.

Arlene said...

I totally just judged you when you said you didn't like "Little House on the Prairie," one of my best-loved books of all time.

And I'm not a huge Gatsby fan, though I admit I read it once, in high school (on my own, not for class), and probably didn't really "get" it.

Guess we'll have to agree to disagree. That's what I tend to do with people who don't like the same classics I do. No point in arguing when everyone's opinion is set.

Cynthia said...

I don't know if I'd go as far as to say I'd immediately judge someone who loves a book I didn't really care for. Even if I don't share similar reading tastes with someone, I might just use information about what that person likes (e.g. formulaic romance novels with goofy covers) to derive an understanding of what unspoken desires they might have. So I guess instead of quietly judging, I'd be quietly assessing.

Liz Blocker / @lizblocker said...

The New Englander said...

"How can we separate the stuff we really like with the stuff we make ourselves like because we think we're *supposed* to?"

YES. This rings so true.

I've actually found it very freeing to admit that there are classics I don't like ("Robinson Crusoe", for example), and while I might freak out at people who hate the classics I love (how can you dislike "A Wrinkle in Time????"), in general, I agree with a lot of the comments, here. Anything that gets us talking about writing, that heats us and inspires us to debate literature, can only be a good thing. This is how books continue to live, and thrive.

Anonymous said...

as best you can, and this may sound trite, but try for a "teachable moment"....not a debate or an exercise in persuasion, but an honest exchange. nobody will likely to be changed by this type of encounter, but hell, you might learn something!

Rick Daley said...

I take to fisticuffs to settle a classic dispute. That or a good old fashioned duel.

Lucy said...

There's some books I can be all grown up about and say 'Each to her/his own' and discuss in quite a sensible fashion, and there's others I just loathe beyond all reason. My absolute least favourite would have to be John Banville's The Sea. It's like being made to eat a bowl of whipped cream. Too much is nausea inducing. I felt so much better when I read the NYT review. Someone said to me once that we hate in books that which we hate in our own writing. That certainly pulled me up. I must admit I do have a slight (I'm not admitting anything more) tendency to overwrite. Love Gatsby, absolutely love Moby Dick (I'm Australian so I was able to discover it in an innocent way, not because it was compulsory).

Sally M said...

Wasn't it Mark Twain who said "A classic is book which everyone wants to have read but nobody wants to read"...

My literary bete noir is Patrick White's Voss, considered THE Great Australian Novel but I couldn't get past page 6.

AvilBeckford said...

This shows how tastes vary. I read The Great Gatsby as an adult, and I know that it's a staple on many of the must-read lists, but I can't say that I have a strong feeling about the book. I deliberately have not seen the film because the last three films I saw that were based on books were major disappointments to me.

I read a Wrinkle in Time a few months ago and loved it. I have never read Little House on the Prairie, I watched the series on TV when I was growing up.

vastimaginations said...

My tastes in books are quite flexible (non-fiction on nuclear fusion today, Diary of a Wimpy Kid tomorrow). Most of the classics I've read, I read in high school and I wonder if I liked them because they told me I had to.
As for the question posed, there's so much more to it than like and dislike. I love to dialogue about books. What is it about a particular book that moved you? That's what I really want to know and what I can learn from as a writer, whether I liked the book or not.

Cathy said...

Okay, I'll admit it: I HATE Dickens! Which is both politically and literarily (yeah that's a word) incorrect.

Anonymous said...

I keep my mouth shut while people praise The Chocolate War to the skies. People I respect love that book, so it mystifies me why I don't, but it just didn't reach me. But hey, we don't all love cauliflower either.

When I tried Lady Chatterley's Lover, I wondered how it had gotten to be a classic in the first place. Agonizingly long and slow-paced, with bizarre ideas about womanhood and relationships.

I think Little House on the Prairie is the weakest book in that series (even though it's the one they named the TV show after). I would recommend any of the others first.

Deniz Bevan said...

I reread The Great Gatsby but probably won't see the movie. I liked it a lot better than back in high school, when I preferred Tender is the Night.

But I'm commenting here mainly to see if anyone else thinks Shane is as worthless as I think it is... Not that it's considered that much of a classic, but still...

Bruce Bonafede said...

I live in Southern California so I don't know anybody who reads books.

OK seriously, if somebody loves a book I hate or hates a book I love I ask them why, then give them 30 seconds or so to offer any sort of rational reason. Often they can't, but if they can I actually appreciate it since I often learn something about the book.

One thing I don't agree with is forcing high school students to read "classic" books they have little chance of truly appreciating because they weren't written for 16 year-olds. Ridiculous. We should be forcing people to read books when they are adults.

Anonymous said...

I have to admit it--I, a normally mild-mannered individual, become nearly rabid in my hatred of Keira Knightly's "Pride & Prejudice." What a stupid portrayal, not only of Eliza Bennett, but also of Austen's classic novel. Knightly is a stick figure, and that final scene--don't get me started!

Vicki Orians said...

Books are always better than their movie counterparts. Always. Even the Harry Potter films - movies that were done extremely well - are better as books. But I do agree with you that there was something missing from The Great Gatsby. I, too, love the book. And I love Baz's Moulin Rouge movie. So I was hopeful. But I don't think he captured the heart of the book either. He made it too...creative. If that makes sense.

Bonnie McKernan said...

This discussion could easily be expanded beyond the classics--to any category of highly lauded books.

Take The New York Times Bestseller list; I recently read #20 and am ASTOUNDED it was even made into a book, let alone a "bestseller". Sure, it was lovely prose. Sure, the author is well-respected. But an uninteresting plot and torturously slow pacing had me dreading every page turn.

Maybe like one of those artsy movies that keeps the camera on a breezy field of wheat for 5 minutes with no dialogue, I just didn't grasp the deeper meaning. OR. Maybe I don't like it when a writer indirectly tells me what should be important to me. Either way, it's okay to admit that it's just not working.

Kristy Gillespie said...

Fitzgerald is one of my fave authors & I love The Great Gatsby novel and movie. I loved it since high school but there are some classics that were required reading that I couldn't get through then but really enjoy as an adult, for example- Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. (Can't wait until the movie comes out!) Then there are those that I couldn't stand then and still can't stand now for example- John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy for Dunces.

Lisa Shafer said...

Considering that I've got both a BA and an MSc in literature and 25 years of teaching literature under my belt, I'm quite confident in letting people know when a classic isn't to my taste.

On a side note, how did you feel this new movie compared to the old Robert Redford version of Gatsby? just wondering....

wendy said...

I think Baz has lost his film-making touch. His work on Moulin Rouge was - for me - sublime. It had everything that appealed including my favourite cast. However the movie Australia seemed atrocious...even with the same actress who appeared in M.R. Therefore, I'm not surprised to hear this movie didn't tick many of the boxes for some people.

Another thing is that Baz, being Australian, might not have as good a handle on the American culture and mores as those living in the U.S. And The Great Gatsby appears to me to be the very embodiment of American mores, isn't it? I've not read it, so that's just an impression and speculation. Even though our two cultures are similar, there are deep differences not apparent to those outside the country. I mean, it seems to me, over here, that most over there are trying to get into the entertainment industry as the panacea of all ills? This is probably way wrong, but living on the other side of the world and only seeing the people and country through a glass darkly is how it appears to me. I speculate, too, if people living in the U.S. could have an accurate handle on the Australian way of life and our attitudes and beliefs. For example, one thing that doesn't appear obvious, I don't think, from the way Aussies are presented in the media is that for the main part Australians are a very earthy race and aren't much into the supernatural, the seemingly way out or the fantastic. Of course there are always exceptions of which I'm one but I'm always considered different because of my leaning towards fantasy entertainment and combined with New Age and spiritual beliefs considered so out there by others who are more prosaic I was once considered a witch. So not true. Actually a born againer. But I like watching/reading stories involving these fantastic type of characters.

But as far as classic literature goes, I tend to enjoy most titles with a fantasy aspect while not enjoying the more earthy ones. Exceptions are some of the novels by great U.S. author Pearl S. Buck and the Aussie classic, For Love Alone. I found these works timeless yet compelling and relate-able.

John "Ol' Chumbucket" Baur said...

I have gotten to the age where I stopped caring about the great literature I'm supposed to have read and loved. I read what I like, constantly, and if someone tries to deliver a load of shame because I have never read Moby Dick or Faulkner, I just refuse delivery. Like my dad always said, that's why they make more than one flavor of ice cream.

Nathan Bransford said...

wendy-

Yeah, I agree, I also see "The Great Gatsby" as a thoroughly American novel, and I wondered if an Australian director and so many British/Australian actors could really capture that Americanness. I feel like Luhrmann reduced "The Great Gatsby" to material excess and puppy dog love without capturing the sense of striving and the sinister edge.

wordwan said...

I think that's one of the reasons why I'm glad I never focused on English literature as a subject. It's just a clique group, just like a lot of things school/education/society presented us with before we knew what else to think.

"What? Read just cos you want to, not because someone TOLD you to?"

So much of our culture squeezes the joy out of ordinary things.

My dad had quantities of books. I think that's why I was a reader. I read what I liked and went to the library to discover books. I don't remember having a lot of discussions with people as to 'what to read.'

I think if we could 'remove' the stigma and somewhat elitist culture that 'reading classics' has wrought, more people would be discovering these books..

and simply reading them.

A new internet process? I wonder.

Heather
wordwan

James said...

I think this topic begs a different question entirely.

Why is it not okay to have a differing opinion?

Seriously... What happened?

Seems to me we live in an age that when enough people say something is good (or something gets positive word of mouth early enough) -- it is then declared unequivocally "good."

I mean, our ranking systems for novels and movies aren't even systems of any real value -- they're a homogenization of opinion. An average value of a gazillion different opinions melted down into a single number.

We live with the illusion of critical value without actually having to think about what we like or dislike.

I read to be entertained. To be transported to another place. To look at the world a little differently. To spend time with some characters I care for.

If a story doesn't work for me -- for whatever reason -- why is that up for debate?

I'm sure I like stuff you hate and vice versa. It's kind of one of the luxuries of being an individual.

Very Highbrow said...

I didn't like the movie either, but then reread the book and I think that helped me appreciate what Lhurmann was trying to do in the film. I agree a good film should stand on its own, but he tried to stay faithful to the book...a little too faithful: http://www.veryhighbrow.com/2013/05/pop-culture-blather-great-gatsby.html

When someone loves a "classic" book I can't stand or just can't get into, I really try and listen to them and understand something about the book maybe I'm just overlooking or being too narrow to see. Being open-minded has led me to actually enjoy a lot of the books I otherwise would have passed over...

Shaunna said...

For me, at least, a number of outside factors influence whether I like a classic or not: my age, whether it is required reading or not, how the teacher presents it (if it is required reading). For example, I disliked "Heart of Darkness" and "Lord of the Flies" the first time I read them, probably because I was too young. My sixth grade teacher had us read "Lord of the Flies." Who does that?

But when I re-read them later, I appreciated them both. Then again, I loved "A Wrinkle in Time" when I was young, but having read it aloud to my kids recently, realized that it was no longer as magical.

In the case of requid reading,, I believe a gifted teacher has a great opportunity to influence his or her students. I loved "Paradise Lost" because I was guided through the entire poem by a very talented professor. My second time reading Milton, in grad school, was not as inspiring.

And I must admit that one of my proudest moments teaching Intro to Literature was the class period I spent on Yeats's "Leda and the Swan." My students started the class in total confusion and ended it by admitting they actually liked the poem, now that I had explained it to them.

I have one personal exception to all of this, though: Joyce's "Ulysses." I do not believe I will reach an age or find a teacher inspired enough to induce me to appreciate that novel. Nor would I ever force myself to read it again. I respect that other people like it, but I give myself permission to hate it until my dying day.

Gayle said...

I just don't get the Catcher cult. Whiny. Self-absorbed. Tedious. Likewise, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I don't like Haruki Murakami, but I read him! Mainly because I studied Japanese literature at uni and am interested in reading it in English. However, it leaves me cold. It's surreal and masterful, I know, but it feels soulless. I admire it, but I can't love it. If someone else loves them, wonderful; I can't begrudge anyone their literary loves. I saw someone on this thread doesn't like Kingsolver or The Book Thief. The Poisonwood Bible and The Book Thief are in my top 10 list of favourites. As is Jane Eyre (but I can't stand Wuthering Heights...). I feel naughty just writing this.

Gayle said...

Oh yeah, I'm wondering. Is there anyone who DOESN'T like John Steinbeck's work? I'm yet to meet anyone who does not like his novels. Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men, etc. I love pretty much everything. (I was given those when I was about ten, not forced to read them at school.)

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