Wow, it has been so long, damn. Far too long I’d say! Forgive my forgetfulness, will you? Though I come bearing exciting news.
So I am applying for my MFA this year, to begin next year (in costume design!), and since January, have been taking a costume design class at my nearest community college in order to get into shape. I need a portfolio that will make heads explode, so I thought a bit of guidance would be helpful, since most of my experience is in construction, rather than rendering. Still, I’m finding the class very helpful, and it’s exciting really. I love knowing that I’m working towards something that I enjoy wholeheartedly, and I finally feel like I am going somewhere. I have a bit more direction.
But it is still me, after all, and I can’t be consumed with only one thing at a time, naturally. I received a lot of great feedback from my Wuthering Heights post from a while back, more feedback than I’ve received on any of my posts. Many a time have I said aloud “I wish I could get paid to read/talk about books.” While I’m still not getting paid to do either, I decided to take my mini reviews a step further.
I started a podcast. About books! It’s called Pretend You Read It, and I specifically focus on “classics” from the 1920s and prior. Maybe you’re wondering why the specificity (or maybe not) but I’ll tell you anyway.
I have always been a reader. Since I learned how to read, I was gobbling up books left and right. I even got to the point, in elementary school, where I had literally read all of the books at my level in the library. When I was a freshman in high school, I was tasked with reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens for my English Honors class, as we had to do a detailed report on it.
I hated it. I could not stand to read it. I thought the author was so long-winded and dreary, and I found it so unpleasant that I actually stopped 1/3 of the way through and refused to read anymore. I used SparkNotes for the rest of the project (and got an A, turn up). I just could not understand why people thought Charles Dickens was such a legendary writer, or why that book was considered a classic. It occurred to me that, like traveling perhaps, what one person feels is the best book they’ve ever read, another might consider to be a special level of hell. And that could apply to any book. Romeo & Juliet? The Bible? Amelia Bedelia? Great Expectations…
Since that freshman English class, I have made it a personal project to read as many “classics” as possible. I very rarely read contemporary fiction (but I’ve managed a sprinkling over the years). Perhaps that’s why I’m so interested in historical costume. I do feel that by reading books from the past, I am somehow connected to the past. I imagine the authors, hunched over a desk, scribbling out the words on parchment, or on a typewriter for hours. I wonder if they could imagine a 26 year old Latina costume designer would be reading those exact words on an electronic book, 100, 200, 300+ years later? And still, I enjoy looking at the books through a contemporary lens. While I enjoy the connection to those who came before me, I enjoy more seeing how much has changed (or not, often times).
So I decided to do my podcast on just that. I remember throughout my education, how often my peers would dread Shakespeare or Beowulf and the like, the “classics”, as it never seemed to be very relatable. It is always presented in this shroud of “oldness”, in language that often serves as a barrier to that relatability. That’s what I hope to achieve somewhat with this podcast. Simply put, I’m going to read books, talk a bit about their authors, walk through the book, and then throw in some of my personal thoughts on it. Perhaps that will encourage people to step into the past, and see how present it all really is.