Why do I always forget to mention Thomas Hardy?

John Purcell reflects on the frustrations of drowning in honey.

It occurs to me that I never mention Thomas Hardy. When I rattle off the authors I love, my mind runs to George Eliot, George Meredith, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens quite easily and then I realise I have mentioned only nineteenth English authors and I quickly add Christina Stead, Willa Cather and I may if I have time throw in Thomas Mann and Ernest Hemingway. And there I stop. I know I have said both too much and not enough.

While I pause for breath I remember Clarissa and think of Samuel Richardson, Tom Jones and think of Henry Fielding. The name Richardson makes me think of Maurice Guest and I find myself moving from Henry Handel Richardson to George Johnston and Xavier Herbert. And then I realise that I haven’t been paying attention to the conversation I have been engaged in.

tess-of-the-d-urbervillesAnd I find myself exhausted. Because it occurs to me that although I have been afforded the opportunity to read some of the finest writers of the last few centuries I cannot easily share or express the enjoyments and lessons of this reading in any meaningful way. I can enthuse – I have a passionate relationship with literature. I can list the titles and authors one should read – I have a good memory for these things. I can quote or read a passage aloud – I have noted down many impressive scenes and quips. And I can encourage others to read as I have read – I have a teacher’s zeal. And in doing these things I quickly become a bore to myself and to others.

In the end there is always silence and bitterness. And I turn away.

And suddenly there he is, Mr Thomas Hardy. He stands so close beside me I forget he is there.

However, by then the moment has passed. The opportunity to mention him has gone.

But I am secretly pleased about this really. Because he doesn’t fit in with the other great names. He is an outsider amongst outsiders. And I know that those who really appreciate him, those millions who have devoured all of his works and taken him into themselves probably discovered him on their own and at the right time – I have learnt that to recommend Hardy is to damn him.

I’ve been told Hardy is too dark. That he is humourless. Dull, unrealistic, pessimistic and cruel. And in these moments I wonder if they have been reading someone else. So I now forget to recommend him.

When I first read Hardy much of the world’s ugly scaffolding fell away. In Return of the Native, Far From the Madding Crowd, Jude the Obscure, The Mayor of Casterbridge and the others it was his great love of nature and humanity and the beauty each possesses which shone brightest for me. And though the shadows this bright love cast are deep and very dark they only serve to accentuate the good, the worthy, the beautiful.

So where some see pessimism I see great optimism. Hardy asks us to cut through the fog of day to day life so we may recognise and cherish what is good in our environment, in others and in ourselves.

So I won’t recommend Thomas Hardy to you. I will just point out that he is there on the shelf ready to be read. When you are ready, that is.

Taken by John’s love of the classics? Find more classics he loves here

Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Final Round of Voting

There is only one more week of voting left to decide who is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

This is the longlist as voted by you, congratulations to all the novelists for making it onto this extraordinary list.

But the job isn’t finished. We need your final vote to decide the order of the top 50.

Vote for all your favourite authors, and spread the word, tell your friends and family to get voting! The poll closes 5pm Saturday.

Next week we’ll announce the Top 50 as voted by you and decide who, in 2014, is Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

 

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 5

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

This is it folks. Your last chance to push your favourite authors into next week’s final round of voting. Last year’s winner Kate Morton is also in this heat!

Next week we’ll have the top 100 authors from all the heats for you to vote for!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 4

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Heat 4 is full of some huge names and exciting newcomers. Who will you vote for?

Thanks to everyone who has voted so far, the response has been incredible! And thanks to all the wonderful authors and publishers for spreading the word!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 3

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Today’s list is full of the most popular writers in Australia today, it’s a tough one!

Remember you can select as many authors as you like with your vote and give them the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 2

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

Yesterday had some big surprises as Australia searched their hearts and bookcases, will today be the same?

A reminder that this is only Heat 2, so you might see some of your favourites missing today. Don’t worry, over the week you’ll have a chance to vote for all of your favourites in their respective heats.

Today’s list includes Nobel, Pulitzer, Orange and Miles Franklin Prize-Winners!

Vote now to see them advance to the final round of voting next week and have the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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Vote For Australia’s Favourite Novelist 2014 – Heat 1

January is the month of Australian Stories at Booktopia, and to celebrate we need your help to discover Australia’s Favourite Novelist for 2014!

We’ve taken your nominations and today is the day to put your votes forward. You can vote for as many novelists as you like.

A reminder that this is only Heat 1, so you might see some of your favourites missing today. Don’t worry, over the next 5 days you’ll have a chance to vote for all of your favourites in their respective heats.

Today we have brilliant bestsellers, acclaimed award-winners and exciting newbies! Vote now to see them advance to the final round of voting next week and have the chance to become Australia’s Favourite Novelist!

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