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True confessions

By Dalene Rowley

Today’s post was inspired by one of Justine’s thought-provoking posts and the interesting comments that ensued. (Not to mention just a little egging on by Deborah and Sue.) I especially loved Justine’s fabulous rant about “Moby Dick.” It’s going to make my Comment Hall of Fame.

I have a confession to make. I graduated with a degree in English from a reputable private university never having read “Jane Eyre.”

Can you believe it?

I can’t.

I hadn’t read “Pride and Prejudice” either, and I thought that was a prerequisite. (Shhh. Don’t tell. I don’t want them to revoke my degree.)

Since then, of course, I’ve read both and here’s where my next confession comes in.

While I practically consumed “Jane Eyre,” I don’t love Jane Austen. (Except when someone totally hot is cast as Mr. Darcy in a film version.) Sue claimed such a statement was heresy. (Although I’m sure she loves a hot Mr. Darcy as well as the next girl.) And she may be right; but it’s the truth. In fact, the first (and only) time I read “Pride and Prejudice” I got through most of the book believing I’d read it before but wondering why it wasn’t turning out like I expected. Finally I realized what I had read before was “Sense and Sensibility.” I thought the two were the same book, except for the ending.

Coming out of the closet about my dislike for Austen was so freeing, I thought I’d offer all of you equal time to rant and rave.

Here’s what I want to know:

1). Tell me what classic work you absolutely loathe.

2). Name one of your guilty pleasures (It’s kind of like when I admit out loud–but only in certain company–that I really love the movie “The Wedding Singer”). I want to know what non classic you absolutely love. Because, as Maralise pointed out, escapist literature definitely has its place on the nightstand and sometimes we pick up a book because we simply want to be entertained.

Now it’s your turn. It’s already been established that what is considered “classic” is somewhat subjective–I promise no one is going to judge your definition. So give it to me straight.

Do tell.

About Dalene Rowley

Began blogging as a legitimate way to avoid housework and to keep a journal of sorts. In her other life she wants to be excellent at a number of things, but in this one she's settling for baking a mean sour cream lemon pie, keeping most of the points on her quilt blocks in line, being a loyal friend and aspiring to moments of goodness as a wife and mother.

64 thoughts on “True confessions”

  1. I am assuming that "Anna Karenina" is a piece of classic literature and it is the one that I really don't care for. I read it maybe 15 years ago so maybe if I read it again I would like it. I think my main problem was with the character of Anna. I didn't like her at all. My guilty pleasure is any novel set in the middle ages. I'm not a "festival person",(what my husband calls people who wish they were born in medieval days and go to various Scottish and Renaissance festivals all dressed up in their hand-made chain mail . . . )but I did love studying Medieval art back in my Art History days and I think that is where the interest comes from. I pretty much feel guilty spending my time reading anything that isn't a classic or "real" literature. I feel like I shouldn't waste my time on things that aren't great when I probably won't have the time in this life to read all of the great pieces out there. I am reading a bit of fluff right now though, and wondering why I am spending time on it when I have so many other "important" novels sitting on my shelves (and my nightstand, and my floor) waiting for me. And, I like The Wedding Singer too, I even cry!

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  2. I also loathe Wuthering Heights. And most of Dickens. I don't mind Dickens' stories, I mind his writing. I'm not sure if "Catcher in the Rye" would be considered a Classic (what with it being fairly contemporary and all), but I HATED that book.

    Guilty pleasure? The Twilight Series and Austenland (Shannon Hale). Oh, yes. I liked Austenland!

    P.S. The Wedding Singer is one fab movie that all should be proud to love. 😉

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  3. I guess one of my guilty pleasures would be the movie "Wild Hogs". I have watched it more times than I care to admit because it makes me laugh. Especially the scene where the who works for the Firm has to fix a plugged toilet at a gas station.

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  4. I can't stand Moby Dick. After being put to sleep countless times as I tried to read it, I finally gave up about 2/3 of the way through. And I love the wedding singer too.

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  5. I'm all in favor of admitting to classic books (also made into movies) I can't abide. I hated Dr. Zhivago, and I know so many people who see it as a great love story. I don't. But if you do, I won't hold it against you.

    I've been on a reading binge lately, putting away a book or two a week (square meal books as well as candybar books)and after reading something deep, a literary snack is great. My latest favorite? The Secret Life of Bees.

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  6. I'm starting a PhD program in Comp Lit this fall, so I definitely feel the pressure to like "classics". I actually really don't like Jane Eyre and I never have. I also really dislike Little Women (I know!). I study Lit and Film and write papers on classic film, but one of my favorite guilty pleasures is Top Gun. I love that movie and could watch it over and over again.

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  7. Moby Dick drove me CRAZY! And I can't abide William Faulkner. I think he was TERRIBLE writer.

    That felt good to say. And my guilty pleasure? Anita Stansfield's Gable Faces East and Gables Against the Sky. They're so comforting to me.

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  8. I loved reading Pride & Prejudice and have read Little Women to my daughter (is that a classic?). But here is my true confession. I bet you will be surprised…..that's where my classic reading has ended…I'm reading, just not the classics. (hiding from the judgement.)

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  9. "Space Camp." Love it. Want to live it.

    But then, Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book — if I had to list ten favorites, P&P would fill seven of them — so who am I to judge?

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  10. will not read dickens at all. tried to read jane eyre and hated it. love louisa may alcott and her books. love L.M. Montgomery and every anne book written. love little house on the prairie. i also cannot stand william faulkner. senior year english was torture between as i lay dying and heart of darkness by james conrad. YUCK!! i LOVE LOVE the great gatsby. LOVE. and breakfast at tiffanys. (both book and movie) gosh i could go on and on about books….i'll stop now.

    one of my favorite movies is Mean Girls.

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  11. I'm loving this!

    Here's more:

    Hate: "Great Expectations." I had to start it four times before I willed myself to complete it.

    Love: Jasper Fforde (Brilliant. But sometimes downright silly. Oh I love a delicious pun and his books are full of them.)

    Secret Crush: Billy Idol

    As for "Moby Dick," I loved it at BYU when my professor essentially translated it for me. I got it. But I picked it up a few years ago and it went right back over my head. It smells like the left wing of the day of judgment.

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  12. I hated A Tale of Two cities because we read it in 9th grade and my English teacher was obsessed with finding symbolism in everything! A girl's yellow hair ribbon meant freedom… or maybe it just matched her dress that day!!
    I watch Beverly Hills 90210….I love how cheesy it is and it reminds me of my high school and college days, that's when I watched it, not how I acted!
    I must admit that I like the classics more now that the pressure is off. I can just enjoy the story.

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  13. Tried to read Catcher in the Rye but couldn't get past the numerous "GD's" per page (I think I stopped at page 20 but tried REALLY hard to read it because it was highly recommended by a trusted friend and it's a "classic" – whatever THAT means).

    I have The Canterbury Tales next to my bed because I loved Paul Bettany in A Knight's Tale (he played Geoffrey Chaucer), but I haven't been able to finish.

    I don't read classics but watch them instead… sad, isn't it? Though I ADORE the Colin Firth version (6 days long but he's divine), I have watched the 2005 P&P (guilty pleasure) three times in one day before (my back was out and the kids were taken care of somewhere else, for those who gasped at the idea I spent six hours straight in front of the tube).

    Of course, the Twilight series is my favorite at the moment, but I still hold Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl close to my literary heart (it's about the author growing up with food to become a NY Times food critic).

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  14. I despise "Gone with the Wind." I remember watching the 4 hours of drama as a kid and hating the ending. I received the book as a present that year, immediately turned to the back page, saw that it ended the same way, and shelved it. I was just talking to a friend last night about how I should maybe give it a chance. Maybe.

    However, I secretly love the Shopaholic series by Sophie Kinsella.

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  15. I hate Don Quixote. It took me way longer than it should have to finish and is one of the few "classic" books that I haven't been able to say anything nice about.

    Alexandre Dumas is my current favorite, but I can't watch the movies they have made from his books because they change the story too much.

    My guilty pleasure? I'll watch anything that has dancing in it…including all 3 "Bring it on" movies. (Yes there were 3.)

    I'm so ashamed!

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  16. I read more than 500 pages of stinking Moby Dick before I gave up and threw it against the wall in protest. Other books I hate? Other things I should like but I really hate? Anything by Tolkein, and most literature written before the 20th century. I know, that sounds scandalous coming from a former English major, but there's enough good new stuff out there to keep me from wasting my time with musty old classics. I'm glad I read them and have the perspective of cultural history, but now that I read mostly for fun, if you give me the chance to read The Heart of Darkness or, say, the Hearts of Horses (which I haven't read, but might now, after searching amazon for a title that sounded good with The Heart of Darkness :P), I'd read the newer book every time.

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  17. I'm going to have to read Heart of Darkness. I saw the movie at a midnight showing in which I kind of fell asleep of and on (not because I wasn't interested but because I was bone tired) so I kind of mixed my dreams with the movie and came up with something even more dark than the movie. It was so bizarre.

    Shelah–Time isn't so much my issue as location. I have a strong preference for American Lit and Russian Lit (love Tolstoy and Dostoevsky) over British Lit. I also got a kick out of the French existentialists, but that was 20 years ago. I wonder how I'd feel about them now.

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  18. Most of the classics I have read are foreign classics. I absolutely LOVE most of what Victor Hugo wrote, but with every fiber of my being, I HATE the book "Les Miserables"! Even thinking about it brings on what feels like the beginning of a panic attack, so I will stop there.

    And oddly enough, I read Jane Eyre in a 400-level GERMAN class at BYU. I loved it so much, and this is why: we had to write a paper using some literary theory to explain stuff in the book. The group I worked with decided there was a vampire living in the attack. All signs point to vampire. We had so much fun reading that book and writing that paper together that I will forever have a deep love for Jane Eyre.

    And while I don't like Wuthering Heights, the book, I do LOVE Wuthering Heights, the Kate Bush song, which may be way weirder than the book. But I dare anyone to listen to it a few times and not be hooked!

    Guilty movie pleasure… Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

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  19. Classics? – Never read them in school – tried to read them on my own from time to time but couldn't get very far in them. I still love to read a lot of books but my all time burst out laughing love to read books are by Janet Evanovich (One for the Money, etc.). Yes – guilty pleasure – but one of the most funniest series I've ever read. But then I also love Harry Potter.

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  20. I have a really hard time with Hemingway, and recently found out that I will have to teach A Farewell to Arms to surly juniors…girding my loins…

    Guilty Pleasure? As a terminal singleton, Bridget Jones' Diary, of course! Guilty pleasure movie? Blue Crush. Watch it all the time. Wish I could surf.

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  21. (Can you tell I took the day off of work today? I bribe myself to clean the house by promising myself blog time every hour or so. And sometimes, admittedly, I cheat.)

    Julie R.–One of my favorites is the short story, "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." It's brilliant.

    I do love Anne Tyler. Which book was it Justine? I remember reading "Ladder of Years" when my children were very small and thinking "Huh? How could she do that?" Then I reread it when I had teenagers and thought, "There are days when I feel like doing the very same thing!" One of the most telling parts is when the police ask for a description of Delia and her family has no idea what to tell them. Oh yes. I understand Delia.

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  22. i hated the scarlet letter with all my heart…HATED it. all my friends say this is one of their favorites and it drives me crazy!

    guilty pleasure? US weekly and america's next top model..can't resist either!

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  23. I just finished Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. But everything she writes is golden.

    But is Anne Tyler a guilty pleasure? I dunno. I really like The Devil Wears Prada. That's absolutely a guilty pleasure.

    I also just started Thirteen Ways to Look at the Novel, by Jane Smiley. It's fascinating. I'll let you know.

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  24. Ooooh, look at me, late to the party. I hate Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. I hate any book with a mopey hero or heroine. SNAP OUT OF IT, I always want to say to them.

    Henry James books bore the living daylights out of me – Wings of a Dove (snore). Five hours of my life that I will never get back.

    I read Les Mis and wished I hadn't – turns out that in the book? There's no singing. Great Expectations (snore).

    Guilty pleasure? I barely have time to read anymore, and when I do it's mostly blogs. (I'm working on becoming increasingly less well read and more shallow each year.)

    But, um, {{whispers}} I used to love Jack Weyland books

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  25. Jen– I used to have a subscription to Star, which is just about as low as it goes with the celeb magazines. On the day it arrived in my mailbox, I didn't do anything, ANYTHING until I read every single word from cover to cover. Of course, it only took about 15 minutes, lol, but it was a true guilty pleasure. When the subscription ran out I didn't renew, but I often wish I had. Star is more fun than People, because People at least pretends to have "real" articles, while Star recognizes that it's pure trash.

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  26. No, Anne Tyler is NOT a guilty pleasure. She's the queen, IMO. But Stephen King is a guilty pleasure, I suppose, especially if you're an upstanding Mormon woman as I am purportedly striving to be (and have yet to achieve.) He's really a good writer when he doesn't get carried away with himself. Some of his short stories are fantastic. Plus I like the scary stuff every now and then. I know. Something must be wrong with me.

    And I also HAAAATED Herman Melville. I had to read Billy Bud in 12th Grade English and wanted to jump out the nearest window to relieve the suffering. And even though Henry James has some beautiful stuff, The Golden Bowl was a real slog. Don't even get me started on Beowulf, Sir Gawain et al. The Early English Lit course for my English major was a killer!

    Julie R., I also have a hard time w/ Hemingway. I had to teach The Old Man and the Sea when I taught 11th grade English and found it incredibly boring. The funny thing was, though, that a lot of my male "reluctant readers" actually liked it. Guess that's why they have the saying "Whatever floats your boat!" (and yes, pun intended.)

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  27. Dalene, I am glad you mentioned "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber". It is the first short story in my "Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway", which I've been working on for over a year. When I read it I was actually giddy I thought it was so amazing.

    I want to add a secret crush too! My husband thinks I love Brad Pitt and Jude Law but I really love John Malkovich.

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  28. D. How are the rest of those short stories? I've been wanting to read more short stories because 1). I love them and 2). That's about all I have time for these days.

    Oh–and this isn't a guilty pleasure, but I do love Poe. I think I have a dark side.

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  29. I HATED Catcher in the Rye. I wanted to slap Holden Caulfield. Also hated Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre. Detested (that's even worse): all the Bewolf, Canterbury tales and Dante I had to read as an English major.

    I actually like Hemingway. His short, muscular sentences are such a refreshing change from all the wordy, silly English novels.

    Guilty pleasure? Can't narrow it down. Right now–Fritos with a side of mindless chick flicks.

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  30. I can't think of any books in particular, but I'll just admit that i can't stand poetry. I don't understand why some people can't just say what they mean. Why do poets have to be so obtuse?
    I also like movies way more than plays.

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  31. Dalene,
    Some of the short stories are better than others. "Short Happy Life" has been the best so far in my opinion and none of the others have had the same impact on me, yet. However, regardless of whether I have liked the story or not, I have appreciated Hemingway's prose. It's amazing to me what a good short story writer can do in so little space.

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  32. Hated "Les Miz". Even went to the play and stood up at intermission to leave, thinking it was over. (uh, yea, I was really paying attention)

    Love, love, love "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure" – best quote of all time came from that movie. "Be excellent to each other".

    I secretly always wanted to be Madonna.

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  33. Guilty pleasure: People Magazine, other 'quality' celeb magazines.

    I hate short stories too. I try, I really do but by the time I get to the end, I'm always looking for the second chapter. Always. I don't want to have to think about what might happen next, I want to be told.

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  34. I loved Jane Eyre (which is a Bronte, not an Austen, by the way…your original post was a little misleading on that). It was made into a musical, which I thought improbable until I saw it, and I fell in love with that too.

    I absolutely hated Wuthering Heights. It still haunts me. How anyone can say that Heathcliff and Catherine have one of the best love stories in history is beyond me. They are codependent, cruel, abusive, and unredeemably selfish.

    I love the Jane Austen books-made-into-movies (guilty confession, since I've heard that some of them miss the mark terribly), but I can't seem to enjoy the books themselves. I read Pride and Prejudice years ago, and I remember liking it, but recently I determined to read all of Austen's work, and could only get through Northanger Abbey and the beginning of Persuasion before I gave up. Granted, I was consuming them as audiobooks, and perhaps it would be different if I read the books themselves.

    Very guilty confession: I used to read (and like!) Harlequin Romance novels. After about a dozen, I could swear they were all written by the same person (undoubtedly a man), and they were all the exact same story, with the same plot elements and character traits, just set in slightly different countries.

    This is by no means a complete confession. It barely scratches the surface. But I don't want to take over your blog entry. 🙂

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  35. Even though I love Austen movies (except Mansfield Park and Becoming Jane), I get irritated by her writing style.

    Would Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants count as a guilty pleasure? I LOVED the first book and am looking forward to reading the rest.

    I also feel compelled to confess that I have never read Harry Potter or The Work and The Glory. And I probably never will. Even though I enjoyed the movies. I think I know I will be missing out for not reading Potter, and possibly not missing much by not reading W&G.

    Bill and Teds, Wedding Singer . . . most definitely!!

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  36. Hate: Hemingway and "The House of Seven Gables." Love Faulkner, Austen, Dickens, Dostoevsky and Fitzgerald.

    My hatred of mainstream guilty pleasure that I fear may earn me a stoning: The "Twilight" books. There aren't words to describe my nausea, especially at "Eclipse" which earns a top spot as one of the worst books I've ever read ("Twilight" was fine, but it went downhill from there).

    Guilty Pleasure: Meg Cabot books, especially "The Boy" books. I confess that against my better judgment, I started watching "Gossip Girl" and ended up watching the whole season in one week. iTunes is a great enabler.

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  37. Wendy,on Work and the Glory? You are not missing ANYTHING.

    (If we're talking TV now, pretty much the whole Bravo contest lineup – Project Runway, Top Chef, Shear Genius, Top Design. ADDICTED.)

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  38. I apologize if I was misleading, but I was having way too much fun playing with the Jane names. Lest anyone doubt: I do know who wrote "Jane Eyre" and that it was not Jane Austen. I love the Bronte sisters.

    Speaking of Janes, unless you have read Jasper Fforde as enthusiastically as I have, you may not know that in his first book, "The Eyre Affair," the protagonist (who name I love–Tuesday Next) is a detective solving the case of poor Jane (Eyre, not Austen) who has been brutally abducted from her book. The one she is in. Not the one the other Jane wrote.

    Wendy–I've been wondering if I should read the sisterhood book–so thanks for the rec.

    Melissa the Librarian (I love your name, by the way)–"Holes" and the entire Harry Potter series. Love, love, LOVE them!

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  39. Dalene, I was surprised at how fond I became of the characters in traveling pants. The little bit of crassness that threw me at the beginning was not a strong element throughout. I loved how the author handled teenage sex and that it wasn't graphic. Besides enjoying thoroughly myself, it seemed like a good book to read with teens and discuss.

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  40. RE Short Stories — have you tried Jhumpa Lahiri's "Interpreter of Maladies"? LOVE! They hold together enough that it feels like a webbed novel of short stories.

    The only book I refused finish in college English (I'm a wee bit compulsive about finishing books — especially "assigned" books): Confessions of an Opium Eater. Boring. Oh yeah — and Spenser's Fairy Queen. Yawn. And I'm not sure I finished Paradise Lost (though I did kinda like it, I think — at least I like the ability to quote a line occasionally)

    Guilty Pleasure: Blogs.

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  41. Never did finish Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling and the Sickness Unto Death, though I wrote the mandatory report on it so that I could check it off the reading list and graduate with honors (though maybe not with honor?).

    Guilty pleasure: Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Very, very funny.

    And, no, Justine, Anne Tyler is not a guilty pleasure. Just a pleasure, pure and simple.

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  42. I gave up after trying repeatedly through wallace stegners- angle of repose and tolkein…

    guilty pleasures: (as an former early childhood instructor) the happy hocky family and cowboy and the octopus- childrens lit that is quite sarcastic

    and what is this disparaging of the short story- lahiri is a master interpretor of maladies is amazing and so are the basil & josephine stories by fitzgerald 100 x better than his novels

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  43. Buffy The Vampire Slayer is my guilty pleasure. It took me a long time to even admit to anyone I spent any time of my life watching it.

    I dig Jane Eyre AND Wuthering Heights. Moby Dick is a snooze fest.

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  44. I hate Hemingway and everything about him – his style, his books, his personality, his death, his children.

    Guilty pleasure would definitely be Barbara Cartland. They're just too funny.

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  45. I hated reading shakespeare in high school…most especially MacBeth in my 11th grade english literature class. Our teacher made us memorize the "tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow creeps in this petty pace" or whatever it is paragraph. I just remember wanting to beat my head against the wall. I've gotta wonder if I sat down to read it again, if I'd have the same experience.

    Guilty pleasure? I could watch Father of the Bride 1(with Steve Martin) over and over again…maybe because it reminds me so much of my own courtship/wedding experience, except my mom was the nut and my dad was the calm one.

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  46. Becky, your "tomorrow and tomorrow" remark reminded me of my Shakespeare-quoting semester when I worked as a janitor at BYU's library: "Out Out, damned spot!"

    Sometimes a little Shakespeare can be fun! 🙂

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  47. I really hated reading all the Janes in college. snooze fest!! I'm hiding my head as I admit that me and classics? Not so much. snore. (yes. I'm an English major too!)

    Laughed when I read one of the commenter's secretly loved the Shopaholic series by Kinsela… me too!
    I also loved the Traveling Pants Series. Cute and mindless fluff. I also love Kingsolver! She is brilliant!

    Guilty pleasure: Jodi Picoult. Guilty pleasure movie? Ferris Buehler & Three Amigos. There are a plethora of one liners in those 2 flicks!

    Thanks for letting me join your party!

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  48. Wow this was fun.
    I hate Animal Farm too. Wierd.I also did not care for Anna Karenina. Some Russian writing is so bleak. Ok I am going to be way controversial and tell you that I do not love the Twilight series. (I know its not a classic) The story line is great but way too much mushy romantic angst for me.

    My latest favorite read: Snowflower and the Secret Fan. And sorry but P&P is still one of my all time faves.

    My guilty pleasures — I do love all those teenage girl movies. (I know this contradicts with my statement about the Twilight series. I could also watch the movies "Becoming Jane" and "Dirty Dancing" over and over. I also really relish banana splits.

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  49. I read Jane Eyre as an adult and loved it. Never could get into Jane Austen, but loved the movies: Emma, Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice.

    Guilty pleasure: Rob Roy – r-rated movie, but love the noble character.

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  50. Just a few more thoughts: Deborah–I'd forgotten about reading Jhumpa Lahiri. I did enjoy "Interpreter of Maladies." Heather O–I loved the few episodes I caught of Buffy. I pretty much like anything in which the females are real fighters (Pirates? Yes!).

    So now I need to check out the Shopaholic series and the Traveling Pants.

    And finally: Geo, I love your conflicted soul.

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  51. The Sound and the Fury. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Faulkner was trying so hard to show off he forgot to tell a good story.

    I got an English degree without reading Hamlet. Every teacher I had picked a different Shakespeare play because surely we'd all read Hamlet a hundred times already.

    As for guilty pleasures, I've got lots of TV and movies ones, starting with American Idol and lots of movies like Better off Dead and Bill & Ted's.

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