This blogpost was inspired by Classics remarks, a meme posted weekly on Pages Unbound review. Last week they posted the meme: What is a classic you loved when you were younger, but feel differently about now? And this week’s meme is What is a classic you loved when you were younger, and you still love now? This post is a response to both memes.
Each year in Norway the national station NRK has an advent calendar series for children. This is a series with 24 episodes that count down to Christmas eve, which is the day we celebrate Christmas in Norway (for those that celebrate Christmas). They usually make a new one every other year to keep things fresh, and sometimes you get one of the “classics”. When I say classics I mean series produced in the 60s. One of the most known series was Jul i skomakergata which first came out in 1979, and I remember seeing it when I was a child and loving. Then when I was in my late teens NRK chose Jul I Skomakergata as that year’s advent calendar. I remembered the series fondly from my youth, and I was looking forward to feeling nostalgic. It was a train wreck. I managed to view two episodes. I was so disappointed because now in stead of being swept away by the magic I saw all the production cracks. This made me very weary about seeing or reading books I loved as a child, because I did not want to ruin my experiences by pointing out to myself that I’m no longer a child with the strengths and weaknesses that entails.
Then I started my studies as a kindergarten teacher, and suddenly children’s literature became a tool to do my job. I had to write essays comparing the Norwegian literary tradition represented by Anne Cath Vestly whom wrote about the romanticized childhood in contrast to the Swedish literary tradition represented by Astrid Lindgren about the realistic childhood. My personal relationship with the works of Anne Cath Vestly or Astrid Lindgren did not matter, nor did my personal taste. My job was to approach books based on their place in the kindergarten; the children’s reading enjoyment was just one among several jobs literature has in kindergarten.
I’m writing all of this because I’m wondering why it was so difficult for me to answer Pages Unbound’s memes. Even one of my favourite books, Matilda by Roald Dahl, is still in this weird position of being more than my own experience, yet fiercely protected by my now cynical nature.
Why did/do I love Matilda? I think I loved Matilda because it was the first book I read where I saw someone who loved reading as much as I did. I felt a special identification with the character. Today I don’t need the same identification. On the contrary, the “well read” girl character is on the verge of becoming such a trope that I’m sceptical to female characters described as “well read”. I felt different growing up because my peers didn’t read. Considering so many books trying to tap into the girls that feel different because they read demographic, we clearly aren’t sparkling unicorns. Why do I love Matilda? It is a children’s book that encourage girls to be active. It is a book that talks about just because you are special doesn’t mean you’re the only one who can do something to change the world around you. Why I loved it and why I love it are mutual exclusive. I loved it because it made me feel special, and I love it because it points to how I’m not special. I don’t know if Matilda is old enough to be called a classic. I usually would say Matilda is too new to be called a classic, but as I have said, I have a really strange relationship with classics I read as a child and therefore Matilda was the best I could do.
This blogpost feels a bit like a therapy lesson (which means it were two great memes, thank you Briana and Krysta). Have you answered these memes? I know a lot of book bloggers work with literature in one way or the other, has that changed how you read the books you loved as a child? Leave your comments down below.