Thursday, 24 September 2015

Classics - And Why We Love Them!

By Gillian Hamer

Do you have your own favourite Classic? A book that moved you or signified a particular period – good or bad / happy or sad – in your life. Classic novels have played a big part in a lot of people’s life stories, and for authors a big part of their careers.
Here, a few fellow writers reveal their favourites and answer three questions:

1. Your favourite Classic – and why?

2. Your favourite quote from above novel.

3. How the book has influenced your writing.


1. Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. My favourite Hardy novel. I adore novels where the landscape is an important character and the landscapes of Tess are so central to the story - Tess is also a wonderful invention - an intense and heartbreaking character. I have pondered over her role as a woman for years and I expect I will continue to do so for many years to come!

2. “...our impulses are too strong for our judgement sometimes.”

3. I think what I find most satisfying about the book is the intensity of feelings the characters have. They really live and breathe in Hardy's pages. If I have taken any influence from this book it is both Hardy's love of the natural world and also a sense of trying to create in my own novels, the kind of intensity and truth that he evokes so well in his characters.


1. My favourite (modern) classic is Kleinzeit by Russell Hoban.

2. "Summer, age something. Before a thunderstorm. Black sky. A piece of paper whirling in the air high over the street. Harmony took place.
I remember, said Kleinzeit."

3. It made me want to write about that moment when harmony happens, when we 'remember' (re-member. become unified), and that has been the motivating force for most of my novels - reaching the moment when everything just is.


1. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. The beautiful women, the handsome men, the glam period costumes and a fiery Civil War backdrop. The drama and romance!

2. “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”

3. Inspired a love of historical fiction, epic dramas based on fact, things I tend to write about in my own fiction.


1. Little Women by Louisa May Allcott

2. “Every few weeks she would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and 'fall into a vortex,' as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul, for till that was finished she could find no peace.”

3. Remembering the excitement and anticipation of entering the world of Jo March and her sisters, and to realise at a young age I shared Jo’s passion for language and writing. It was a very exciting time for me.


1. War and Peace by Tolstoy.

2. “We can know only that we know nothing. And that is the highest degree of human wisdom.’ OR “Because of the self-confidence with which he had spoken, no one could tell whether what he said was very clever or very stupid.”

3. In 1972, the BBC undertook the massive task of dramatising Tolstoy’s War and Peace in a 19 part TV drama. I started watching it with my family and immediately fell in love with Pierre (and incidentally with Anthony Hopkins). About halfway through, I found I couldn’t wait any longer for the net episode. I borrowed a copy of the book from the school library and went on renewing it week after week until I finished reading the same week as the TV drama reached its final episode. I am not sure I could have tackled a book like that at such a young age (or even now) without the visual images from the series to help me distinguish the multiple characters with their complicated Russian names and keep track of the multi-layered plot. But I loved it, and it taught me never to be put off by the length or the daunting reputation of a book, but to have a go and enjoy it on its own terms.

I’m not sure I’d say the novel specifically influenced my writing, but devouring an early diet of classics a) made me ambitious to tackle big subjects in my writing and b) in a less positive way made my early writing hopelessly pretentious – something it took me a long time to get over!


1. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

2. “It takes great personal courage to let yourself appear weak.”

3. It affected my writing by making me want to give up. And by making me more truthful.


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