Great Expectations – perhaps little read anymore, but a great book
1981. My 9th grade English class. The assignment was Great Expectations.
It was a time when reading and literature was my enemy. Books were stuffy old furniture. Reading conflicted with my life goal of being a slacker. It threatened to tame the animal nature that was serving me quite well, thank you.
I remember this about my youth, that I did not know I was ignorant. I did not know I was missing out on anything. It was not intentionally thumbing my nose at intelligence, because I did not know any better. In the beastly nature of my youth, I did not have the adult perspective that I have now to look at myself and think, “You animal! Rise up out of the dust and use the brain God gave you.”
And reading required effort.
And it necessarily meant interrupting me from other things I would rather be doing.
What a difference 30 years makes.
Parents, I hope you will take heart from my story. It wasn’t until my mid twenties that I began to read any serious literature. I think I started with The Brothers Karamzov. It was a tough start.
From my 9th grade class, I only remember the scene where Pip is meeting Estella and Miss Havisham for the first time, in the dusty, cobwebby old house sitting there around the decrepit wedding cake. I doubt if I actually read much of the book then.
Now my book club, The Austin Athenaeum, is reading GE for its December meeting. I’ve barely started (I’m in chapter 4) but what a fantastic book! I have not laughed out loud at a book in a long time.
It reminds me of P. G. Wodehouse or G. K. Chesterton. The British humor is so delightful. It is not the absurd humor like Monty Python, but in those opening chapters where we are learning about Pip’s every day life living with his sister and her husband, his poverty and difficulties, which is other books are fairly heavy and black, in this book are side-splittingly funny.
I know the book goes on to more serious and dramatic themes, but so far it has been a page turner.