Books, Family, Fiction, Humor, Life, Memory, Read, Reading, Real Life

Classically Ignorant

Do you need a laugh today? Have one on me. The other day, for no reason I could discern, I thought of a book I read long ago. I couldn’t remember the title or names of any characters. I couldn’t even remember many details of the story. I could picture the entry hall and main staircase, and a room or two on the upper floors. I saw a young woman in 19th-century dress. The book was not illustrated; these images were only what I imagined.

I had no exact recall how I felt reading the book, but I thought maybe I enjoyed it. Not remembering anything more, I pushed it out of mind. A few days later, during a conversation with my son Daniel, who will soon defend his dissertation for a PhD in literature (Victorian emphasis), it occurred to me he might recognize the book. I told him what I remembered: a young woman is hired as governess by a man who keeps his insane wife secretly locked in his home … and I think a fire figures into it.

Are you laughing now?

My son’s initial reaction was silence. I’m sure he hoped I was joking. After a moment, he said, “Uh … Mom … that’s Jane Eyre.”

Oh, my yes. I am ignorant of the classics. Or possibly, just ignorant of having read them. Maybe I’ve read all the classics, but don’t remember.

Be kind, please. Look away. I’m going to go slink back into my cave, but I’ll understand if you want to pretend you don’t know such a lowbrow.

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