Recently I've been doing a lot of reading on my Kindle. It's funny, as an English major I feel like I read Jane Eyre at least four times, but there were a lot of classics that I missed. In an attempt to better myself (and not bring shame to my degree) I've been trying to alternate each best seller or beach read with something my former English professors would be a little more proud of. Little Earthquakes (Jennifer Weiner), was followed by The Great Gatsby, which went to I've Got Your Number (Sophie Kinsella, Queen of the Shopaholics series), which was followed by Great Expectations.
I got off to a slow start. My typical reading choices are rarely narrated by young men, particularly those who live with their sister and her blacksmith husband in the early 1800's and spend their days running off to marshes to find escaped convicts who demand that they bring them food and supplies. I pressed on because even though I had a hard time relating to Pip, Dickens' writing is wonderful. Poetic even.
That said, it was slow going. For those of you who have a Kindle, you understand that it never tells you how many pages there are in a book, just what percentage of the book you have completed. After a week and a half of reading before bed, I was barely at 20%. I felt like I was slogging along. Then I Googled Great Expectations and discovered that the book is in fact, 542 pages. That made me feel a little better.
It also made me realize how much things have changed since this book came out in 1860. With no TV, iPods, iPads, laptops, internet, Facebook, On Demand, DVDs, podcasts, blogs, or you know, electricity people were happy to spend hours on end reading a 542 page book. Things moved at a slower pace. People got their news in the newspaper. People wrote letters.
Now we expect our books to be like our movies--short and sweet and full of action. We don't have time for a scene to be painted for us, we want to know what happens next. We expect births, deaths, scandals, tragedies, heartbreak, and all of the drama that goes with them. We are inpatient. We want to be constantly entertained or we'll declare something boring and give up. We want the satisfaction of saying we read a book without the work of actually having to think while we do it.
All of this made me wonder what else I've missed in my hurry to finish something and move on to whatever is next. What have I lost out on because I wasn't patient enough to wait for the reward? What have I deemed not worthy of my time or effort because I was too stubborn to give it a chance? When have I given up too soon because something didn't instantly meet my own great expectations?
For now I'll keep on reading. By page 542 I think I will certainly have earned a happy ending!