Thursday, 1 October 2009

'Sensible' literature

I am unlikely to forget that 'episode' in one of my earliest English classes with Mr. G______, when he set us the task of naming pre-20th centuary 'books of fiction', in an attempt to get us appreciating 'the classics'

"Pinocchio" I suggested, those four syllables prompting an erruption of hysterical laughter.

"Sensible books of fiction, Stanley" remarked Mr. G_____ once the tide had subsided, and he'd wiped away a tear.

This being the world that we populate, it is likely that those I entertaining that day were under the impression that Walt Disney created Pinocchio. I cannot describe the pleasure I would take nowadays in shoving a Penguin edition of the latter - with an introduction by Jack Zipes - under their noses.
I am happy to say that that episode has in no way deformed my appreciation for Pinocchio in his many forms. The is one of my golden books. I could outline countless ways in which it can be called 'sensible', despite it's Voltarian randomness (I like to keep Pinocchio and Candide alongside each other). But I might argue that the sheer fact it is far from 'sensible' is the reason why it is still regarded as a 'classic' today, loved, appreciated and capturing the soul of the world like many other 'classics'.

We have thus come full circle - and what can I now ask myself? Does this shed greater light on the extent of Mr. G_____'s knowledge of literature, or did he know I was right all along? I'd also like to add that the boy sitting next to me that day - who laughed as heartily as everyone else - the following week was pouring over a pictoral edition of Alices' Adventures in Wonderland, another 'sensible' 'classic' that is under continual threat of being mistaken for a Disney original. I needn't say anything more.