One of the nice things about using an e-reader is the abundance of free Public Domain books. There are a lot of them. I always had access to them even before I got my Kobo, through Project Gutenburg, but really, who wants to read a book off a computer screen?
I chose to tackle Paradise Lost because it’s one of those books that “everyone has read,” which is to say, it’s a book that everyone makes reference to, whether they’ve read it or not and whether they realise it or not. The book is written in the kind of beautiful and florid prose that would be absolutely pretentious if someone tried to copy today, but because it’s Paradise Lost, Milton can get away with it.
The most interesting thing to me was discovering famous clichés in the work that I didn’t know beforehand were famous clichés from Paradise Lost. The most famous example is probably the phrase “all hell broke loose,” which now appears in Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules for Writing Fiction. It’s number six: “Never use the words ‘suddenly’ or ‘all hell broke loose’. This rule doesn’t require an explanation.” An angel is mocking Satan for leaving hell and he asks why the rest of the fallen angels didn’t come with him when he left.
Another unexpected one for me was finding the phrase, “His Dark Materials,” the title for an anti-Christian children’s book trilogy in Paradise Lost. I knew that Pullman had a literary background and that he drew from a number of religious sources to write his books, but it was still a bit of a shock to see that.
One last thing that I noticed: Eve was a Parselmouth. Possibly Adam too. Like they say, “Everyone knows that’s the mark of a dark wizard.”