Monday, January 26, 2009

Weekly Geeks- my first!


Here are the questions I chose from this week’s topic:

1) How do you feel about classic literature? Are you intimidated by it? Love it? Not sure because you never actually tried it? Don’t get why anyone reads anything else? Which classics, if any, have you truly loved? Which would you recommend for someone who has very little experience reading older books? Go all out, sell us on it!

3) Let’s say you’re vacationing with your dear cousin Myrtle, and she forgot to bring a book. The two of you venture into the hip independent bookstore around the corner, where she primly announces that she only reads classic literature. If you don’t find her a book, she’ll never let you get any reading done! What contemporary book/s with classic appeal would you pull off the shelf for her?

I love the classics. I loved reading them in school and it's a treat nowadays. My favorites are Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, Persuasion by Jane Austen and Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I would recommend someone new to "classics" start with Jane Austen, because she is very approachable and her work will feel familiar to readers of light contemporary fiction.

For Myrtle I would choose a recent Booker Prize winner, like Life of Pi or Oscar and Lucinda, or something like All the King's Men or Breakfast at Tiffany's or Possession or The Name of the Rose. These are all modern literary classics.

Oftentimes I hear people say "I want to read what regular people are reading- not the 'classics'!", as though certain kinds of books are reserved for cappuccino-sipping cultural elites, and others are reserved for "Joe Six Pack." This argument seems to be more about social class than books per se. First of all, people from all walks of life read all kinds of things, and it's not fair to stereotype books by who you think reads them. Secondly, the books that we call classics nowadays- Dickens for example- were often bestsellers in their day, read by thousands and thousands of "regular people" all over. It wasn't just highbrow types who read Great Expectations when it came out- it was everybody. And that's what makes a lot of these books into "classics"- that they're really good books that a lot of people have loved over the years. They may reflect a different style of writing than what we see today, but that's only because styles change and those books are from a different time.

So that's all for my first Weekly Geeks.

14 comments:

caite said...

I agree that people should not be turned off by the 'classic' title. Many, many of these books are just rip roaring good stories and very accessible. Dickens is a perfect example..

candyschultz said...

Yes but when Dickens was a bestseller there was still a high rate of illiteracy which was to some extent class defined.

Classics are just that for a reason because people continue to love to read them. I would recommend anything by Ian McEwan and the four books you mentioned are all wonderful. For the most part Booker winners are always fun to read. And I would recommend Harry Potter to anyone (I know you disagree on this one). I can't think of anything more perfect to read on vacation than Harry Potter. I would be willing to bet that the Potter books will be classics.

Andi said...

Welcome to Weekly Geeking!! Enjoy! It's a great time. :)

naida said...

Great WG post :)
I love the classics too, especially Jane Austen.

'books that we call classics nowadays- Dickens for example- were often bestsellers in their day, read by thousands and thousands of "regular people" all over'-exactly!

http://thebookworm07.blogspot.com/

candyschultz said...

The Lace Reader arrived today and I am already completely engrossed. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Lo said...

Jane Eyre is my all-time favorite book. I love anything Jane Austen.

I have long been a classic bibliophile. :)
~~Lorri

Serena said...

well said about the books for joe six pack and the cultural elite. LOL I loved that answer!

bkclubcare said...

A terrific defense for the classics. Well said. Happy Weekly Geeks!

mattviews said...

I always incorporate classics into my reading. I have this nostalgia of the artistry of the prose in classics, a sense of aplomb and staidness that modern literature lack.

Ali said...

Thrilled to have you as part of Weekly Geeks! The Classics can be intimidating to some of us because the voice and vocab is different from what we're used to, but I agree with you that they're worth making the adjustment.

An Anonymous Child said...

You make a good point about wanting to read a "normal" book versus a "classic" one, but it works both ways, too. I know that people don't like to bring comfort/silly books to places where intellectual readers will see it. It's a lot more impressive to walk around reading "War and Peace" than a floppy paperback. Obviously these are silly considerations, from the direction of reading "normal" or from the direction of reading "classics", but the way people will perceive you is sometimes important (you know... in an entirely self-centered way).

But ultimately you're right. Classics of today are the most popular and/or best of generations past (but some "classics" kind of suck, so... even bad things trickle down). In general, though, it's probably easier to read "modern" books, just in terms of writing style. Either way, you're right.

Lana said...

I definitely agree that Austen is a great place for someone 'new' to classics to start. Twain or To Kill a Mockingbird would also be pretty high on my list!

I do think, though, that a lot of people judge based on what someone is reading. I don't mind reading classics now and then, but I also don't want to be seen as not approachable or snobby in a coffee shop! I'm always wary of approaching people reading classics because I'm never sure if they're reading them because they're enjoying them or because they think it's what 'smart' people 'should' read...

Marie said...

Lana, what difference does it make what someone else thinks? Read what *you* want. As for why someone is reading a book, again, what difference does it make? If you want to know why, ask them! :-)

Maggie said...

Another Austen fan here, and I would especially recommend her to a female reader. Also anything by Agatha Christie [does she qualify as a classic?]. For an open-minded aunt, there's always "Lady Chatterly's Lover." And you can't go wrong with Mark Twain and Zane Grey.