When I wake up in the morning, after hitting snooze a few times on my alarm, the first thing I do is pad to the kitchen to turn the kettle on. While my coffee brews, I stretch, open my curtains, and make my bed the same way I have a million times and will do so a million more. sip my coffee, slowly, while I sit, legs curled under me, on my blue armchair. I remain glued like that, reading a few chapters of whatever novel is captivating me at the moment. Texts and emails come much later, once I reach campus. This is my favourite part about living without social media: noticing every sweet detail.
Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany’s is often cited as the original LBD. This offends me, personally, since Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina was published a full century before that movie came out. Indeed, fans of Russian literature—or, let’s face it, of Keira Knightley—will recall the iconic black dress Anna wore to the ball where she first danced with Vronsky, breaking Kitty’s heart. But what makes Anna’s dress, and Tolstoy’s novel for that matter, so memorable that we still care about it nearly 150 years later?
In a system where productivity is everything, it’s hard not to treat the books you read as just another item to check off your never-ending “To-Do” list. For a long time, I’ve noticed this tendency in myself and in others to read books for the sake of being able to say we’ve read them. This is especially true of literary classics, the names of which are known to anyone who has existed in this world long enough to come across a “Top 100 Books” scratch-off poster in the home of some bibliophile or other. As a lover of classics, I can personally attest that To Kill a Mockingbird, Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre are all fabulous books, worthy of their places in our high school curriculum. Still, something about the way we treat classic novels really rubs me the wrong way. It’s as though we place these books on a pedestal so high that we dare not reach out our arms to really grab ‘em.
With the holidays come and gone, a new semester underway, and a fresh lockdown, I find myself in a bit of a slump. It’s too early to dream of spring flowers, yet too late for any more gingerbread or mistletoe— January, for me, felt weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.