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William Haskins
09-23-2014, 04:57 PM
Pursuing a typical Indian middle-class dream of becoming an engineer, my exposure to classic literature during my adolescent years was dismal. It was only later in life that I came across those great names, attempting to school myself as a writer by reading Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Twain, Maugham, Bronte and others. I was awed by the beauty of what I discovered, which was hitherto hidden from me as a casual reader and occasional writer.

But it was with trepidation that I read, with fear of their brilliant writing influencing my own. Books are now written according to calculated formulas of success defined by clever marketers. It is not a good moment to be influenced by classical styles marked by slow-paced, intricate storytelling — or so I thought. Yet the more I read, the more I was convinced that classic literature could and should help me mature as a writer.

The classics illustrate for us the possibilities that language holds if only we were patient enough to look, dedicated enough to try. They inspire us to overcome the sloth that makes us use words carelessly. A modern writer might get away with less under the garb of realism (e.g. “She was a bitch”), but that will not stay with you, not like “Coquetry runs in her blood, blends with her brains, and seasons the marrow of her bones” (Jane Eyre). Charlotte Bronte is no rush to finish her story. She wants you to see and feel and understand these people, her characters.
http://airshipdaily.com/blog/08142014-writers-read-classics

Amadan
09-23-2014, 05:18 PM
I think everyone should be familiar with the classics, but especially writers. However, that doesn't mean modern writers should write like Charlotte Bronte or Charles Dickens.

But I see a lot of books apparently written with no appreciation of the plots and tropes they are rehashing, while the ones in which the author clearly does know his or her classics tend to be better reads. This is true even in genre fiction.

And it's painful reading Goodreads reviews by people who have apparently never read a book that's older than they are.

Hapax Legomenon
09-23-2014, 05:33 PM
"The Classics are Not Timeless" (http://airshipdaily.com/blog/09152014-classics-timeless), a rebuttal by Eric Williams.


The danger of the numinous label of “The Classics” is that it kills texts. It becomes holy writ, studied for its intrinsic rightness, ahistorical and timeless. Nothing is more dangerous. Books are discrete historical objects, written by specific individuals at specific times, and their subsequent histories reflect how people envisioned literature, artistic merit and important ideas in the larger context of their times and culture. By all means, read them for their beautiful language and interesting imagery, and interpret them based on your own private and individual history and perspectives. But at the same time, read them as historical documents, fully aware of the baggage that comes with them and fully cognizant that someone somewhere decided that the book in your hands had more value than other books. Echoing Suryesh, read the classics voraciously — but, I would add, always thoughtfully, critically and historically.

Chris P
09-23-2014, 05:40 PM
The classics have inspired me greatly, and I think they should be read. There's a reason they are classic and have bubbled to the top over everything else published at the same time.

The sense I get from the snippet posted is a mistaken idea that in the past EVERY book written adhered to the same level of quality, and that nothing was formulaic or contrived and that marketing never played a role. That's simply not true. Mark Twain cut a bunch of stuff from Huck Finn partly because the publisher wanted to sell it and Tom Sawyer as a box set and needed to keep the price low, and there has always been bad literature. I think writers should be as well read in the good stuff in their genre coming out today, and there is plenty, as they are in the classics.

shadowwalker
09-23-2014, 05:46 PM
I would recommend reading "the classics" simply because they can give a writer examples of story-telling technique and methods. Certainly more than a few of these books would never get published now because they don't reflect the overall "modern style", but there is definitely something to be learned from reading them. If nothing else, they'll open your creative mind a bit more.

Kylabelle
09-23-2014, 05:46 PM
If one is serious about the field of endeavor one is engaged in, it's a good idea to understand the history of that field. Regardless of their stylistic stature or their potential to enrich one's language, "classics" are the history of the writing craft and a valuable resource for that reason alone.

Jamesaritchie
09-23-2014, 06:16 PM
"The Classics are Not Timeless" (http://airshipdaily.com/blog/09152014-classics-timeless), a rebuttal by Eric Williams.

In my opinion, that whole article is as dumb as a sack full of hammers. It misses the entire point of why we should read teh classics.

Many classics are not particularly well-written, but they most certainly are timeless. They aren't timeless because they're "historical documents", and they aren't timeless because of the beautiful language. They're timeless for the same reason they're classics, which is because they tell a timeless truth about the human condition.

Shakespeare was most certainly brilliant at writing prose, but his stories remain timeless because of what he had to say, because of content. Romero and Juliet alone has probably been told a thousand times, in a thousand ways, and with a tousand variations since Shakespeare wrote it. The language changes, but the story remains timeless because Shakespeare capured young love, and struggle, and corruption, and selflessness as few others have.

It is no historical document, it's a tale still lived today, and that will still be lived by real people a thousand years from now.

How about Shakespeare's sonnet 76?

Why is my verse so barren of new pride,
So far from variation or quick change?
Why with the time do I not glance aside
To new-found methods, and to compounds strange?
Why write I still all one, ever the same,
And keep invention in a noted weed,
That every word doth almost tell my name,
Showing their birth, and where they did proceed?
O! know sweet love I always write of you,
And you and love are still my argument;
So all my best is dressing old words new,
Spending again what is already spent:
For as the sun is daily new and old,
So is my love still telling what is told.

This isn't history, this is today, it's right now, and it sounds a bell any writer should hear loud and clear.

It's content that makes the classics timeless. No one says we should write like Shakespeare, but anyone who says his writing is simply a pile of historical documents with no meaning for writer's today just doesn't get it.

Thinkers in every field, be it a musician, a doctor, a layer, a physicist, or a writer, either stands on the shoulders of those who came before, or he remains a pygmy forever.

Of course the classics are timeless, and the writer who doesn't read them is, and will remain, a pygmy.

Hapax Legomenon
09-23-2014, 06:32 PM
Certainly more than a few of these books would never get published now because they don't reflect the overall "modern style", but there is definitely something to be learned from reading them. If nothing else, they'll open your creative mind a bit more.

I feel like probably the greatest or at least greatest overlooked value of reading the classics as a writer is to give perspective. There's so much going around in writer's circles about what is "good" and "bad" writing and what does and does get published. If you don't read the classics and only read modern literature you'll never know that these standards are ultimately fleeting and ephemeral and tastes in literature are still changing and developing.

WriterBN
09-23-2014, 06:39 PM
I honestly can't imagine developing any writing skills worth having without being exposed to the classics, at least to some degree. As Jamesaritchie said, they're classics for a reason. They've survived the test of time.

Taylor Harbin
09-23-2014, 06:42 PM
I think the classics are important, but for young readers/writers, should be approached with caution. One thing I hated as a child was being shoved a book and told, "You'll love this!" I went to a small high school, so I had the same English teacher. The only books I can remember reading are "To Kill A Mockingbird" "Crime and Punishment" and "The Scarlet Letter." We read the last one more than the others. I hated it each time. I wasn't ready for stories that required effort (but I do like Mockingbird and Punishment).

For me, the classics offer a window into our own history. As a writer, they can help answer the question of transferring one's life experiences into a narrative. My favorite "classic" at this moment is "The Winter of Our Discontent" by John Steinbeck. I would never have liked it if you'd made me read it ten years ago. But it touched upon a truth that resonated with me.

Some of them are famous because the subject matter hadn't been done before. Hemingway showed people the grim reality of surviving a war and what it does to a man's mind. Faulkner portrayed a family struggling to maintain in the midst of a dying social order in the Deep South.

The "classics" are where we get the expression Great American Novel, because these masters had the knack for capturing the essence of their times, how people moved and felt.

jennontheisland
09-23-2014, 07:02 PM
I suppose they might be worth reading so you get an idea of the archetypical stock characters and well-trod story lines that seem to appeal to the plebes.

Amadan
09-23-2014, 07:11 PM
I suppose they might be worth reading so you get an idea of the archetypical stock characters and well-trod story lines that seem to appeal to the plebes.


Do elaborate.

Sophia
09-23-2014, 07:14 PM
After several attempts, over a couple of decades, I have found that I can't read Shakespeare. The words form no images in my mind. I read a line and I can't comprehend its meaning. It is frustrating. I rely on summaries and explanations rather than the original text.

Books are about communicating ideas and knowledge, for me. If something about the writing means that there isn't a clear connection, that content isn't communicated. I hope that there are modern books (written within the past century) that contain as much timeless truth about the human condition as those classics, otherwise I'm stuffed. I believe there are; that using my reaction to the books I read as the way to judge whether they hit that target, has meaning.

jennontheisland
09-23-2014, 07:22 PM
Do elaborate.
An English prof insisted to me that the Classics are worth reading because they were the best sellers of their time.... So, like Twilight?

Amadan
09-23-2014, 07:25 PM
An English prof insisted to me that the Classics are worth reading because they were the best sellers of their time.... So, like Twilight?


.... no.

Toothpaste
09-23-2014, 07:36 PM
James - you and I will have to agree to disagree about Shakespeare. I actually believe the opposite, that the reason he has stayed around is because of his beautifully crafted prose, not his stories many of which have very silly contrived plots. What makes Shakespeare timeless is his understanding of human nature, his ability to share human truths that come across as incredibly modern. He understood psychology before there was psychology. And his poetry is catchy like music. Sometimes I walk down the street and find myself reciting his poetry as if I'm singing a song. So to me, it's his writing not his plotting that makes him still relevant and wonderful today.


As for reading the classics: absolutely yes. You should understand your history. But also I think many writers would be stunned how inventive authors of the past were with their storytelling. Many authors today write very A then B then C. There was a lot more playing around with form in the past. And certainly the works that have survived the centuries tend to be more innovative than likely the ones that got lost along the way.

At any rate, you don't need to emulate the classic authors, but reading them, understanding what they were doing, just acquiring new tools for the tool box. Definitely worthwhile.

(I should add I think people should read plays, poems, graphic novels etc as well)

Toothpaste
09-23-2014, 07:41 PM
After several attempts, over a couple of decades, I have found that I can't read Shakespeare. The words form no images in my mind. I read a line and I can't comprehend its meaning. It is frustrating. I rely on summaries and explanations rather than the original text.



Have you ever attempted to watch it? It wasn't meant to be read after all. You need to hear the poetry. I found when I was studying it the only way I could get through reading it was to read it out loud. I highly recommend renting (or downloading) Kenneth Branagh's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107616/) (with Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves (!)). I think it's one of the most accessible Shakespeares that's still quite period. If you want to go a totally different way, Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO AND JULIET (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/) is another very accessible production.

Kylabelle
09-23-2014, 07:53 PM
I was fortunate that the class I took which explored Shakespeare was a good one, good enough that it allowed me to penetrate the language barrier. I agree that listening to a good reading of the plays is a much more effective way to access their living quality than coming to it cold on the page.

Forsooth!

:D

William Haskins
09-23-2014, 07:56 PM
Have you ever attempted to watch it? It wasn't meant to be read after all. You need to hear the poetry. I found when I was studying it the only way I could get through reading it was to read it out loud. I highly recommend renting (or downloading) Kenneth Branagh's MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0107616/) (with Denzel Washington and Keanu Reeves (!)). I think it's one of the most accessible Shakespeares that's still quite period. If you want to go a totally different way, Baz Luhrmann's ROMEO AND JULIET (http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117509/) is another very accessible production.

great advice. would also recommend laurence fishburne as othello.

Toothpaste
09-23-2014, 08:15 PM
great advice. would also recommend laurence fishburne as othello.

Ooh yes, another good one! And you also get the joy of watching Kenneth Branagh chew marvellous scenery as Iago. :)


ETA: One of the reasons I recommend the MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING is that it is a comedy and so full of life and joy, and therefore as a viewer you can relax and enjoy, not worry as much about the drama and seriousness etc. The opening ten minutes or so for this particular MUCH ADO is one of my favourite openings captured on film (the music is just awesome), it starts soft and quiet but builds into this excited frenzy of amazing :) . And yes, that's a young Kate Beckinsale.

And since I need to share, here it is! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIACPr5XEQM

Oops! Forgot there were some tushes in this, so I guess a NSFW warning :) .

Sophia
09-23-2014, 08:15 PM
Watching them definitely helps in that it gives me a visual context for what is happening. I am relying on the acting (in particular, the actors' facial expressions) to convey the meaning of the words; I've found that my comprehension doesn't increase by hearing either myself, or someone else, say the words aloud. (I am aware that I have comprehension issues.)

If, for whatever reason, the full impact of the classics is denied to a writer, I don't think that that is it, that they are doomed to forever be a pygmy. Language is too varied and rooted in the enormous range of human experiences to say that one particular way of expressing something is the best way to make someone else understand an idea, while this other way is careless and born of sloth.

I think you should read everything you have time to read, and if something conveys meaning to you, then try to understand why. It might be that what others have defined as the classics might not be such to you.

Amadan
09-23-2014, 08:19 PM
I second Toothpaste - Shakespeare is meant to be watched or listened to. His plays can be dry reading, but even an audiobook performance improves them immensely.

Also this is very true:


But also I think many writers would be stunned how inventive authors of the past were with their storytelling. Many authors today write very A then B then C. There was a lot more playing around with form in the past. And certainly the works that have survived the centuries tend to be more innovative than likely the ones that got lost along the way.

All the big, meaty classics - Bleak House, The Way We Live Now, Les Miserables, Crime and Punishment, The Count of Monte Cristo, etc. - went off into numerous subplots and explored multiple themes, dived into the backgrounds of dozens of secondary characters, and experimented in ways few modern writers do. Some of that translates to the modern reader as wordiness and irrelevancy and infodumps (do we really need a chapter about the history of medieval French convents because a convent plays a minor part in the story, Hugo?) but "stock characters and archetypal storylines for the plebes".... no.

Brightdreamer
09-23-2014, 08:51 PM
Probably a tangent, here, but am I the only one slightly saddened at the implication that "the classics" seem to automatically mean "the English-language classics", even to someone from India?

Amadan
09-23-2014, 08:55 PM
Probably a tangent, here, but am I the only one slightly saddened at the implication that "the classics" seem to automatically mean "the English-language classics", even to someone from India?


I mentioned Hugo, Dumas, and Dostoevseky. The original writer did not, but probably would include them.

Hapax Legomenon
09-23-2014, 09:13 PM
Probably a tangent, here, but am I the only one slightly saddened at the implication that "the classics" seem to automatically mean "the English-language classics", even to someone from India?

This is something that's definitely noted in Eric Williams's rebuttal I posted earlier.

DancingMaenid
09-23-2014, 09:31 PM
But I see a lot of books apparently written with no appreciation of the plots and tropes they are rehashing, while the ones in which the author clearly does know his or her classics tend to be better reads. This is true even in genre fiction.

I think this is a good point. One of the benefits of being well-read is that you know what's been done before. While nothing you write is likely to be completely original, knowing how other writers (particularly classic ones) have handled similar plots and themes can be helpful for figuring out how to put your own mark on something.

And in that regard, I think you can extend "classics" to classics in various genres. I think, like you say, it can be helpful to read classics even if you write in a different genre. But it can also be helpful to read the classics in the genre(s) you write in.


An English prof insisted to me that the Classics are worth reading because they were the best sellers of their time.... So, like Twilight?

I wouldn't say that's universally the case at all. Some classics were popular fiction when they were published, yes. But some popular fiction has faded into obscurity, and some classics were "discovered" years after they were written.

For example, I'm not sure how well it sold, but Kate Chopin's The Awakening was controversial and received a lot of negative reviews when it was published. Though Chopin was apparently recognized as a good writer, a lot of people had a real problem with a story about a woman abandoning her family and seeking sexual fulfillment. The book was rediscovered in the 1960's, an era when Women's Lib was becoming popular and feminist literary theory was gaining a foothold.

JustSarah
09-23-2014, 09:43 PM
To me it's important to read in pairs. A classic and a modern. Study how styles have changed over the years.

Obvious example: LOTR and Mistborn.

gothicangel
09-23-2014, 10:04 PM
Define 'classics.'

So Shakespeare, Dickens, Brontes . . . yeah. But I have a wider definition of classics that includes writers like Sarah Waters, Yann Martell, Alice Walker, Robert Graves, Umberto Eco, Angela Carter, Kate Atkinson, Hilary Mantel . . .

Disagree that the classics are what the 'plebs' enjoy. Dickens et al wrote stories that stuck with people, and generation after generation read and bought their books enough to justify them to still be in publication 100 years later. I'll happily bet my salary that the 'bestsellers' of Dicken's days are unknown today.

virtue_summer
09-23-2014, 10:08 PM
Hmm. While I'm certainly not against studying the classics, I do think there's often a shortsightedness with people who become too enamored of them. It's expressed in the original article with:

They inspire us to overcome the sloth that makes us use words carelessly. A modern writer might get away with less under the garb of realism (e.g. “She was a bitch”), but that will not stay with you, not like “Coquetry runs in her blood, blends with her brains, and seasons the marrow of her bones” (Jane Eyre). Charlotte Bronte is no rush to finish her story. That's a strange reaction, to assert that Bronte's prose is better than a contemporary author's because she writes a longer sentence. Also, classics become classics for different reasons. Sometimes it's because they ushered in a movement and inspired the style or content of authors after them. This makes them important in literary history, but doesn't mean they're perfect. And it says nothing about the worth of contemporary literature at all. I do think it's a problem if we enshrine the classics into this category of perfect literature and then see newer writings as inferior. Instead of furthering education and progress, that would be a sure way to kill it. And that's my issue with the article. It sets up a false dichotomy of classic literature as good and timeless and modern literature as lazy.

Amadan
09-23-2014, 10:15 PM
I'll happily bet my salary that the 'bestsellers' of Dicken's days are unknown today.

Dickens was a bestseller.


That's a strange reaction, to assert that Bronte's prose is better than a contemporary author's because she writes a longer sentence.

I don't think that's his point, entirely. But Bronte did put more effort into crafting her sentences, while modern writers trying to write commercially are forever being told that short sentences are better and wordiness is bad.

JustSarah
09-23-2014, 10:23 PM
I'm so many mixed feelings though, like I'd rather call them historical novels. But then there is the hurdle of distinguishing a novel written in an older time contemporary for when it was written, and an actual "historical" novel in actually being written about an older time.

Like the subtle difference between it being the present 1960 contemporary fiction thats not romanticized, and a novel written about the 1960s that admires things like Soda Fountains. Or 90s and birkenstocks for that matter.

William Haskins
09-23-2014, 10:40 PM
I'll happily bet my salary that the 'bestsellers' of Dicken's days are unknown today.

http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/pva/pva90.html

a mixed bag, but plenty of thackeray and brontes mixed in there, with some trollope, along with a smattering of disraeli and george eliot.

i'll send you a paypal account and will accept only half your salary.

kuwisdelu
09-23-2014, 10:43 PM
Probably a tangent, here, but am I the only one slightly saddened at the implication that "the classics" seem to automatically mean "the English-language classics", even to someone from India?

It saddened me.

And definitely something I was going to bring up if you hadn't already. Contemporary English literature is orders of magnitude more diverse than it used to be, and I think it's far stronger for it.

I do think reading the classics are important, but not because they're "better". I'd argue what is being written in English today is as strong or stronger than English literature ever has been. Looking back, it's easy to forget how much crap has been forgotten, and how many classics are remembered for reasons other than their quality of writing. I think a writer would be far better served reading only contemporary works than they would be by reading only classics. Fortunately, most of us don't have to choose: we can read both.

Classics are remembered for different reasons. Sometimes because they were the first to do something, sometimes because they were the best at doing something, sometimes because of historical or cultural importance, sometimes for their political impact, etc. Shakespeare's plays aren't any more timeless than anyone else's: most of his plots were based on story lines and tropes that were already ancient when he used them. The timelessness is in his language.

So why read the classics? Because literature is a conversation. You have to know what has already been said before you can respond or say your piece.

Hapax Legomenon
09-23-2014, 10:55 PM
I don't think that's his point, entirely. But Bronte did put more effort into crafting her sentences, while modern writers trying to write commercially are forever being told that short sentences are better and wordiness is bad.

I think you just need to pop into SYW for a moment to see that short sentences take plenty of effort.

Amadan
09-23-2014, 11:20 PM
I think you just need to pop into SYW for a moment to see that short sentences take plenty of effort.


They do, but too much modern writing advice boils down to "keep it short and simple."

See: Building Great Sentences (https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/730098906) by Brooks Landon.

kuwisdelu
09-23-2014, 11:22 PM
They do, but too much modern writing advice boils down to "keep it short and simple."

Plenty of contemporary writers don't, though.

JustSarah
09-23-2014, 11:25 PM
That also depends on what your writing too. Chapter books for example depend on shorter sentences to be within the 7,000-11,000 word range.

Littlebit66
09-24-2014, 12:03 AM
I was reading a book about what to avoid when writing a novel and it was funny how some of the advice is completely the opposite of classic literature. Some of the classics from the 1800's have overly long descriptions of people or locations (but so does GRR Martin and Tolkien) or have such convoluted plot lines or coincidental plots. I like Charles Dickens and his social commentaries but his plots seem way too much like a soap opera. Mark Twain on the other hand would fit in as a modern writer with fast moving plots and characters that are exciting. I keep wondering if Dickens or Bronte were alive today and used the same style in writing their books, would editors turn them down or insist on a lot of editing?

Liosse de Velishaf
09-24-2014, 12:30 AM
They're just books. Like, maybe generally of higher quality than average, but the hero-worship thing makes me roll my eyes. There are plenty of books just as good being written today.

I think any writer should be widely read, but I'm not going to argue that "widely read" requires some specific set of books as a subset.

rwm4768
09-24-2014, 12:40 AM
Honestly, "She was a bitch" does a whole lot more for me than that Bronte sentence.

Most of the classics I've read have only taught me how I don't want to write. The only classics I've ever enjoyed are classics in fantasy and science fiction. Some classic mysteries too (though not as much as the fantasy and science fiction).

I'd say better advice is to be familiar with the classics, even if that means just reading summaries. Life is only so long. Why spend it reading stuff you don't like?

If you like the classics and gain something from them, great. But this idea that you have to read them to be a successful author is ridiculous.

Now I do agree that you should read the classics in your genre. Fantasy writers should be familiar with Tolkien, Lewis, etc. Science fiction writers should be familiar with Wells, Asimov, Heinlein, etc.

I've learned a whole lot more from these authors (and many who aren't considered classic authors within my genres) than I've ever learned from the so-called classics of the literary canon.

Amadan
09-24-2014, 12:54 AM
Once again, I don't know of anyone who recommends reading the classics who says that modern writers should actually write like Bronte or Dickens. That would be like saying you should read Shakespeare and then write in 17th century English.

NRoach
09-24-2014, 01:00 AM
With every classic and "Oh my god, you have to read this" I read, I become less and less willing to read the next.

I don't care for them, really. Certainly not for Dickens, a man who could only have made it more clear that he was paid by the word if he included a tally of how much he made at the top of each page.

Amadan
09-24-2014, 01:05 AM
With every classic and "Oh my god, you have to read this" I read, I become less and less willing to read the next.

I don't care for them, really. Certainly not for Dickens, a man who could only have made it more clear that he was paid by the word if he included a tally of how much he made at the top of each page.

Victor Hugo makes Dickens look terse.

Also, they were paid by the chapter, not by the word.

Also, don't diss Dickens, man.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 01:09 AM
I must have been just a very strange kid. I liked stuff like Thomas Hardy, for instance, and once I'd been introduced to his books I sought out and read all his novels. In some of them the bathos is quite thick, let me tell you!

I also really enjoyed The Scarlet Letter, for another example. I felt with all of these books that they gave me a chance to peer into another time and way of life and I was utterly, thoroughly fascinated and enthralled.

YMMV and I have no skin in this game at all.

:)

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 01:49 AM
Once again, I don't know of anyone who recommends reading the classics who says that modern writers should actually write like Bronte or Dickens.

that won't stop another dozen or more posters saying just that before this thread is done.

blacbird
09-24-2014, 02:04 AM
I mentioned Hugo, Dumas, and Dostoevseky. The original writer did not, but probably would include them.

Along with Goethe, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Perez Galdos, and the many other 20th century writers who have begun to achieve "classic" status in the estimate of critics and literary academics: Kafka, Hesse, Hamsun, Zamiatin, Solzhenitsyn, Undset, Kobo Abe, Chinua Achebe, García Marquez, etc.

Nor is it only writers who benefit from experience of classic literature. I'd argue it opens the minds of nearly everyone who takes the time and energy to read such material, regardless of vocation.

As for the allegation that the "classics" were the "best-sellers" of their day, analogous to Twilight, that's errant nonsense. Many things in high esteem today as great literature sold poorly, if at all, upon their first appearance. The obvious example is Moby Dick, by Herman Melville.

caw

caw

Hanson
09-24-2014, 02:11 AM
I dont see your name amongst the voters Mr Haskins.

Which makes me feel like an intruder on this thread you started.

Should I just ass-u-me how you would vote and proceed to vote myself, or should I consider you voting preference immaterial, and proceed to vote?


Bit of a Quagmire (Giggity). Wasn't there a 'classic' about that very conundrum?

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 02:23 AM
voting now

Hanson
09-24-2014, 02:30 AM
Normally I'd have voted likewise. But the word 'critical' has different connotations.

Let me say, I do believe 'tis a lesser world for those who have not read as many of the greats as possible.

But even such a loss, may not necessarily result in lesser work.

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 02:36 AM
vote your conscience, yo...

Hanson
09-24-2014, 02:45 AM
After several attempts, over a couple of decades, I have found that I can't read Shakespeare. The words form no images in my mind. I read a line and I can't comprehend its meaning. It is frustrating. I rely on summaries and explanations rather than the original text.


That is truly a great loss.

I suggest you try to discuss that with someone who knows and loves Shakespeare well

I think some people make the mistake of needing to know the meaning of every word, or every expression, every obscure reference when reading someone like Shakespeare.

You really don't. I love him as a kid of 9 onwards. I went with the rhythm, with the dance, with the bubbling sounds.

Later, if fact, each decade, the reading is different, the analysis is different, the joy is still there - it's a different type of joy as I get older, but it's still there.

Don't leave this world without the joy of Shakespeare, if at all possible.

Hanson
09-24-2014, 02:47 AM
vote your conscience, yo...
Ah. Shakespeare. Very good.

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 03:12 AM
They're just books. Like, maybe generally of higher quality than average, but the hero-worship thing makes me roll my eyes. There are plenty of books just as good being written today.

I think any writer should be widely read, but I'm not going to argue that "widely read" requires some specific set of books as a subset.

That's usually the part that bugs me the most. Whether it's a classic or a modern novel, unless your like a super fast reader or reading chapter books, who has the time to read even 50 books?

Possibly more relevant to classics, although I know some classics are in fact novellas. But fifty of those 1,000 page books? Maybe Infinite Jest, but generally I don't have that kind of time. It seems like it would be more productive to pick the best books of either classics or modern ones. Hence why I mention pairing up one of each of the best.

Plus I don't care how dickens write, I care about how I write. With that said, I do think there are plenty of current writers that tend to be a little. Here is how many ways I can describe a candle, under the glow of the moonlight.

I'll also add, reading 100 chapter books or 100 classics could mean the difference between 900,000 words or even 10,000,000 words altogether. I could reasonably see 900,000 words read before you write. But 10,000,000 seems to abrutrary.

Liosse de Velishaf
09-24-2014, 03:22 AM
I enjoy many classic writers and books. I enjoy many modern writers and books. Some I would recommend to everyone I meet, some I would not, despite the fact that I like them myself. The classics are no different than any other books except for the amount of scholarship devoted to them.

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 03:24 AM
yes, because if only scholars paid the attention to twilight that they pay to candide, they would find them equal in quality.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 03:27 AM
Then again, Twilight may "stand the test of time" simply because it's name has been mentioned so very often it will take the collective human mind a very long time to forget about it.

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 03:28 AM
see, your appreciation of the classics has finely tuned your capacity for absurdism.

brava!

Ken
09-24-2014, 03:49 AM
Have read hundreds of classics, several times over. They shaped me as a writer and gave me a sense of what writing is about and what it can achieve. Can't really be more specific than that. As to the authors I revere them like gods. By some accounts they were, sent down from above to give us mortals a sampling of the eternal.

Lillith1991
09-24-2014, 03:51 AM
I enjoy many classic writers and books. I enjoy many modern writers and books. Some I would recommend to everyone I meet, some I would not, despite the fact that I like them myself. The classics are no different than any other books except for the amount of scholarship devoted to them.

This.

Also, I'm getting the impression here that some people think you must read all the classics. Not true at all. Read the ones that birthed your genre, or just ones with interesting concepts to see where some of the original tropes of various types of story came from. Read them for enjoyment as much as for knowledge, if you turn it into a boring school project then it will be. I'm always more than a tad put off when someone tells me all classics are boring and they'd never read them. I have to keep myself from saying such people are just as snobbish as those who refuse to read anything published past 1960, because that's what such attitudes are though on different ends of the spectrum.

You want to write about vampires then read Dracula, Carmilla, The Vampire, Feast of Blood (Varney the Vampire) and read modern vampire stories as well. Be a student of both the classics and the modern. Understand the myths and legends that the people who wrote the classics were familiar with or took the time to look up while creating their stories, and understand how such things influence todays vampire stories as well.

You want to write time travel using a mechanical device, start by reading Time Machine if you aren't already familiar with it. And read some modern takes as well. I could say the same for any number genre/sub-genre of fiction. It boils down to, know where you came from (the you in this case being different genres of fiction), where you are now, and where you hope to go. Nothing exists in a vaccum.

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 03:52 AM
To clarify, my intent may not have shown through.

Reading is valuable to grow as a writer. It's just picking a specifically large number of books for a slow reader anyway is problematic.:/

So like if you write horror, read Dracula as an example? Well, and Frankenstein, and whatever else.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 04:10 AM
see, your appreciation of the classics has finely tuned your capacity for absurdism.

brava!

I suspect my capacity for absurdism may be innate. :D

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 04:11 AM
My absurdism is quite capacious.

Hapax Legomenon
09-24-2014, 04:13 AM
Well no, in 50 years time students will be reading Twilight as a tragedy. Death of the author, etc.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 04:16 AM
To clarify, my intent may not have shown through.

Reading is valuable to grow as a writer. It's just picking a specifically large number of books for a slow reader anyway is problematic.:/

So like if you write horror, read Dracula as an example? Well, and Frankenstein, and whatever else.

It can be daunting! "The Classics" is a vast library and growing with each decade. Thank goodness that for the greater part of the human past we were all illiterate and did other things with our imaginations than write books. ;)

Seriously, I agree with Lillith; the point isn't to read "all" the classics if that is even possible, but rather to be widely read among them.

I can't claim any scholarship at all; I'm really a dilletante (which is not a bad road.) I do know that there is a value in classic literature that is unique and can't be well substituted for by only reading current material. And even reading some in classic lit. that you don't especially like is a healthy exercise for the verbal brain! Aside from the ancient and tremendous moral and philosophic value some of the classics convey, the practice of reading among them exercises one's abilities with language in general, which is useful for most of us.

(I think I just dangled. Pardon me.)

Ken
09-24-2014, 04:29 AM
Well no, in 50 years time students will be reading Twilight as a tragedy. Death of the author, etc.

You never can tell. The future is bound to hold some surprises. Some stuff currently dismissed may become acclaimed. Never read Twilight myself for the record.

Amadan
09-24-2014, 04:48 AM
That's usually the part that bugs me the most. Whether it's a classic or a modern novel, unless your like a super fast reader or reading chapter books, who has the time to read even 50 books?

50 books in a year? A lifetime?


Possibly more relevant to classics, although I know some classics are in fact novellas. But fifty of those 1,000 page books?

Most classics are nowhere near 1000 pages.


Then again, Twilight may "stand the test of time" simply because it's name has been mentioned so very often it will take the collective human mind a very long time to forget about it.

"Have you ever read Udolpho, Mr. Thorpe?" "Udolpho! Oh, Lord! Not I; I never read novels; I have something else to do."
Catherine, humbled and ashamed, was going to apologize for her question, but he prevented her by saying, "Novels are all so full of nonsense and stuff; there has not been a tolerably decent one come out since Tom Jones, except The Monk; I read that t'other day; but as for all the others, they are the stupidest things in creation."
"I think you must like Udolpho, if you were to read it; it is so very interesting."
"Not I, faith! No, if I read any, it shall be Mrs. Radcliffe's; her novels are amusing enough; they are worth reading; some fun and nature in them."
"Udolpho was written by Mrs. Radcliffe," said Catherine, with some hesitation, from the fear of mortifying him.
"No sure; was it? Aye, I remember, so it was; I was thinking of that other stupid book, written by that woman they make such a fuss about, she who married the French emigrant."
"I suppose you mean Camilla?"
"Yes, that's the book; such unnatural stuff! An old man playing at see-saw, I took up the first volume once and looked it over, but I soon found it would not do; indeed I guessed what sort of stuff it must be before I saw it: as soon as I heard she had married an emigrant, I was sure I should never be able to get through it."
"I have never read it."
"You had no loss, I assure you; it is the horridest nonsense you can imagine; there is nothing in the world in it but an old man's playing at see-saw and learning Latin; upon my soul there is not."

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 04:50 AM
There are some really good classics (in my own opinion), like my favorite was always that one by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Though even then sometimes something feel lost in translation, or could be taken differently from the original context. Without spoiling if you haven't read it.

I think that's my thing about classics sometimes.

Hapax Legomenon
09-24-2014, 05:07 AM
You never can tell. The future is bound to hold some surprises. Some stuff currently dismissed may become acclaimed. Never read Twilight myself for the record.

I have. It's a very fast read for such an enormous book. I do think that does count for something.

I also wonder how much modern ideas of style are influenced by the difference in method of editing between when most of these books were written and now.

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 05:09 AM
only voltaire edits voltaire.

BenPanced
09-24-2014, 05:23 AM
I would recommend reading "the classics" simply because they can give a writer examples of story-telling technique and methods.
This. This, this, this, this, OH, THIS! I studied one of my favorites...I mean, studied it...looked at grammar structure, plot, composition, character, dialogue...EVERYTHING...and got a better idea on how to gracefully change scenes and end chapters, especially when writing humorous fiction.

Latina Bunny
09-24-2014, 05:30 AM
I voted that reading classics, especially thoese classics in your chosen genre or topic/trope, is important.

That doesn't mean you need to read every classic. Choose classics whose genre or topics or tropes interest you. As a slow reader, I cherry-pick classics that I think would be interesting or might be useful to read about.

For example, I love romance plots. Jane Austen was a great match for me, even if her writing was hard for me to understand, at times. Reading her stories first, and then watching various adaptations of those same stories on tv or in the movies was a fun and interesting experience. :)

There are some classics that are tricky for me, but I have the internet to research or translate certain parts I don't understand. I love the internet having free public domain classics online, too. :)

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 05:36 AM
http://www.bartleby.com/

yummy.

C.bronco
09-24-2014, 05:57 AM
I took four courses in Shakespeare in college, because, getting past the language, he had an unequalled understanding of the human condition, as does Stephen King, who I started reading in middle school.

I love Melville's short stories, Hawthorne and I enjoyed my Chaucer class. Aristotle's Poetics had a big impact on me in high school. He knew people. That is what literature is about. It is about our human experience, and the insight into it is not a 21st century phenomenom. We can learn a lot by going back.

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 06:01 AM
I think that's my issue, being not even sure of my own genre. What classic would even fit. I guess there is Dracula, though I don't do Vampires anymore. (I lost interest, it just so happens when twilight came out.)

Like even if I mentioned a current book I read, turns out the most current book (for middle grade) I read was like 1970s. (I'm at the moment really really enjoying Katherine Patterson's work.)

CassandraW
09-24-2014, 06:39 AM
Probably a tangent, here, but am I the only one slightly saddened at the implication that "the classics" seem to automatically mean "the English-language classics", even to someone from India?


I mentioned Hugo, Dumas, and Dostoevseky. The original writer did not, but probably would include them.


Along with Goethe, Tolstoy, Cervantes, Perez Galdos, and the many other 20th century writers who have begun to achieve "classic" status in the estimate of critics and literary academics: Kafka, Hesse, Hamsun, Zamiatin, Solzhenitsyn, Undset, Kobo Abe, Chinua Achebe, García Marquez, etc.

Not to mention Balzac, Voltaire, Leroux, Flaubert, Verne, Maupassant, Rilke, Chekhov, Gogol, Pushkin, Gorky...

And if you want to get all ancient about it, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides...

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 06:51 AM
When I think of classics, I think of Rashomon.

RedWombat
09-24-2014, 06:51 AM
I have a whole lotta meh about most "classics" to which I've been exposed. The only one I can think of that stays with me as a signally great writer is Twain. Most of the rest that I've read simply haven't stuck around in my head all that well. I can die without reading another Bronte and feel no particular lack.

The "classics" of my genre...eh. Narnia and Middle-Earth have stuck with me. Heinlein bores and/or infuriates me, Asimov simply bores me. Bradbury was good, but I don't seek out more. All the old foundations of the genre, like 20,000 Leagues and Invisible Man and Time Machine were, I am sure, very cool at the time, but I can find far more gripping things that tread that same ground and which I will have more fun reading than re-reading my way through the Eloi.

Someday I will remember who told me that Haunting of Hill House was a classic and beat them about the head and shoulders with that monumentally stupid protagonist.

It may simply be that it was hammered into me at a young age how wonderful and improving these great works would be. No book can be expected to recover from such a treatment. These days, it's a rare "classic" that is something I'd read for fun and not for a sort of glum sense of doing my genre due diligence, and I have little enough patience for glum and dutiful reading any more.

rwm4768
09-24-2014, 06:57 AM
I voted that reading classics, especially thoese classics in your chosen genre or topic/trope, is important.

That doesn't mean you need to read every classic. Choose classics whose genre or topics or tropes interest you. As a slow reader, I cherry-pick classics that I think would be interesting or might be useful to read about.

I like this approach. I read books that interest me. Most of the non-SFF classics simply don't interest me. For that matter, I don't like most current non-SFF books. I get enough of the real world in my normal life. I want something different in my reading.

I don't even think it's English classes destroying the classics for me. I read The Hobbit for class, and I really enjoyed it. I read 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World for class, and I really enjoyed them. But take me out of my SFF books, and it's just not that interesting to me.

Well, as I said before, I also liked some of the classic mysteries. Arthur Conan Doyle. Agatha Christie. Also some of the noir mysteries. Hammett. Chandler.

Back in SFF, Frankenstein was pretty good (though I didn't care for the writing style). Same for some of H.G. Wells. I liked Bradbury and Vonnegut, too. And I read all of these for school (I took genre classes in science fiction and mystery when I was in college [best literature classes ever]).

Amadan
09-24-2014, 07:02 AM
Oh, now you're dissing Shirley Jackson.

If you go after my girl Jane, we are going to have words.


rwm4768 - I used to be almost exclusively a SFF reader. Then as an adult I started rereading classics, as well as other genres. It improved my enjoyment of SFF immensely, to see connections with other works, other genres, and also to realize that one doesn't need the fantastic for a fantastic story.

C.bronco
09-24-2014, 07:07 AM
I am also picky about what I like to read, but some things I had to read, and liked, were things I would not have expected. Otherwise, I would have spent my high school years reading Lovecraft, King, Poe And Straub.I would have missed out on a lot I grew to cherish.
We all have to step out of our comfort zones if we want to grow.


With that said, Portrait of a Lady put me to sleep the first three times I tried to read it, and I hope I will never have to read it again. I will read Gatsby again, or The Scarlet Letter, anytime without complaint.

Lillith1991
09-24-2014, 07:10 AM
Oh, now you're dissing Shirley Jackson.

If you go after my girl Jane, we are going to have words.


rwm4768 - I used to be almost exclusively a SFF reader. Then as an adult I started rereading classics, as well as other genres. It improved my enjoyment of SFF immensely, to see connections with other works, other genres, and also to realize that one doesn't need the fantastic for a fantastic story.


Amadan dear, any one goes after Jane they will have to get through me before getting to you first. I've had a love affair with her work since I was 16.

RedWombat
09-24-2014, 07:36 AM
Oh, now you're dissing Shirley Jackson.

If you go after my girl Jane, we are going to have words.


Sorry, but Hill House fell hard into the horror trap of "if you are that idiotic, whatever happens to you cannot happen quickly enough for my liking." There are perhaps three stupid protagonists I have ever liked, and that book did not contain any of them. Horrible, catty, DUMB people. Seriously, if the doors in the haunted house shut after you propped them open ONCE, don't say "oh, it must be the housekeeper!" and do absolutely nothing else whatsoever to keep them open. including, say, asking the housekeeper to stop.

Feh, sez I.

Jane whom? Austen? Eyre? I need a last name...

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 09:18 AM
I think the term read widely is the worst. How do you define widely? How wide and how far? I don't view reading a western steam-punk relevant to Japanese Horror unless I'm wanting to combine the two.

I'd rather pick best books and the worst ones in my chosen genre, whatever that ends up being. (I still have no clue.)

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 11:47 AM
Not to mention Balzac, Voltaire, Leroux, Flaubert, Verne, Maupassant, Rilke, Chekhov, Gogol, Pushkin, Gorky...

And if you want to get all ancient about it, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides...

blacbird named a few that don't fit the pattern, but I suppose rather than "English-language classics", I was thinking more along the lines of "white European male classics".

aliceshortcake
09-24-2014, 11:53 AM
I can't imagine life without Shakespeare - a couple of weeks ago I saw my 208th Shakespeare production, I'm involved with an amateur company dedicated to staging all his works and my bookshelves are groaning under the weight of books about Shakespeare and various editions of his plays.

I still love Oscar Wilde, of course.

*hugs Oscar in a sisterly fashion*

Liosse de Velishaf
09-24-2014, 12:13 PM
I think the term read widely is the worst. How do you define widely? How wide and how far? I don't view reading a western steam-punk relevant to Japanese Horror unless I'm wanting to combine the two.

I'd rather pick best books and the worst ones in my chosen genre, whatever that ends up being. (I still have no clue.)



Well, I think there's an argument to be made that if writers only read in their own genre, you get an in-breeding of a sort. Reading widely, especially outside of the genre of a given WIP or even your general genres that you write in widens the gene-pool so to speak.

Lillith1991
09-24-2014, 12:25 PM
Well, I think there's an argument to be made that if writers only read in their own genre, you get an in-breeding of a sort. Reading widely, especially outside of the genre of a given WIP or even your general genres that you write in widens the gene-pool so to speak.

This. And it's as valid an argument as the one about fiction writers should also read non-fiction. It sparks ideas, adds more new blood to the gene-pool, and reading other genres is much the same. I write Spec-Fic and read speculative fiction as well, whether it's SF, Fantasy, or Horror. But I also read Jane Austen, Shakespear, non-fiction books and articles, straight up HF, Thrillers, Mystery, Romance etc. Only thing I don't read is Westerns, because I'm not all that interested in them and refuse to force myself to read a genre I've yet to find something I enjoy reading in. It's how some of my favorite ideas came about too, reading outside of the genre I write. You know, the old "what if I translated this trope into horror or whatever genre?"

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 12:26 PM
When is it worth reading a work you don't enjoy?

When is it not?

Lillith1991
09-24-2014, 12:42 PM
When is it worth reading a work you don't enjoy?

When is it not?

In theory? Reading something you don't enjoy can be eye-opening, and make you want to avoid it in your own work. I've read Twlight and hated it, even tried the second book too. I learned from Twilight and other bad Romances, or even works with a strong romance sub-plot, how not to write a fictional romance if I want to engage people whose tastes overlap with my own. Not to mention, I learned why I liked the kinds of romances I do. I like to think that this means if I write a story where love is important I will treat it with more integrity than the ones I read and hated. Sort of spurs me on to do better if you catch my drift.

As for when it's not worth it. Well, I think that when the prose are so aweful you can't get through it, or when it makes you want to puke just thinking of picking the book up then it isn't worth it. In other words, when what you're able to learn from the work is outweighed by self preservation. Now, Twilight is far from a classic. But as far as I'm concerned the same thinking can be applied to classics as well.

Ken
09-24-2014, 03:50 PM
only English novels can be considered classics
ones in other languages don't count

now there's a perspective to lash out against !

;-)

(irony, just to be clear)
but feel free to take it seriously

Hapax Legomenon
09-24-2014, 04:08 PM
If you're reading for pleasure it's kind of silly to be reading things you don't like. If you're reading for research that's a different matter.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 04:36 PM
only English novels can be considered classics
ones in other languages don't count

now there's a perspective to lash out against !

;-)

(irony, just to be clear)
but feel free to take it seriously

In fact, I have the notion that there are numerous excellent books in non-English languages that we who don't read other languages don't have access to. Some of them because they've not been translated, but many that have been are just not distributed here. I've run into a few over the years that were so good I wondered why I'd never heard of them before. The Atlantic Ocean somehow got in the way.


If you're reading for pleasure it's kind of silly to be reading things you don't like. If you're reading for research that's a different matter.

There are different kinds of pleasure, aren't there? If I want escape and unchallenging entertainment, I won't spend a minute with a book that is harder to engage with. But if I am looking for something or following a lead, I'll lean into it quite a bit more.

CassandraW
09-24-2014, 05:24 PM
If you're reading for pleasure it's kind of silly to be reading things you don't like. If you're reading for research that's a different matter.

Sometimes with greater exposure you can develop an appreciation for things you didn't like initially. It's true with food (I didn't like wine, beer, sushi, and a host of other things I now love the first time I tried them), and it's also true with literature, at least for me. Few of us have the same tastes in books as we did when we were ten years old.

Amadan
09-24-2014, 05:38 PM
Sometimes with greater exposure you can develop an appreciation for things you didn't like initially. It's true with food and with literature, at least for me. Few of us have the same tastes in books as we did when we were ten years old.


I hated Madame Bovary when I had to read it in high school. Hated it.

Read it again a couple of years ago, and while I didn't love it, I was able to appreciate it.

And yes, there is a benefit to reading books you don't like - if you can sort out why you don't like it, and separate craft from entertainment, and figure out what the author is doing.

I wouldn't recommend anyone force themselves to read a book they hate, unless it's for a specific, necessary reason, nor one in which they have zero interest (ditto), but reading outside your comfort zone is something everyone should do.

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 05:46 PM
Sometimes with greater exposure you can develop an appreciation for things you didn't like initially. It's true with food (I didn't like wine, beer, sushi, and a host of other things I now love the first time I tried them), and it's also true with literature, at least for me. Few of us have the same tastes in books as we did when we were ten years old.

I had a lot more patience for boring/difficult/tedious books when I was in high school.

I have far less patience these days.

CassandraW
09-24-2014, 05:49 PM
I hated Madame Bovary when I had to read it in high school. Hated it.

Read it again a couple of years ago, and while I didn't love it, I was able to appreciate it.

And yes, there is a benefit to reading books you don't like - if you can sort out why you don't like it, and separate craft from entertainment, and figure out what the author is doing.

I wouldn't recommend anyone force themselves to read a book they hate, unless it's for a specific, necessary reason, nor one in which they have zero interest (ditto), but reading outside your comfort zone is something everyone should do.


I had the same experience with Moby Dick.

There's a value in pushing yourself to understand why something has stood the test of time, even if you don't personally love it. (And sometimes you might grow to love it.)

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 05:54 PM
There's a value in pushing yourself to understand why something has stood the test of time, even if you don't personally love it. (And sometimes you might grow to love it.)

Once you understand, is it okay to stop reading, or should you finish it anyway?

Amadan
09-24-2014, 06:01 PM
Once you understand, is it okay to stop reading, or should you finish it anyway?

You must read the entire book, or the Committee for the Perpetuation of Dead White Men Literature will come to your home and confiscate all your manga and fan fiction.

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 06:04 PM
Oh I can see the non-fiction bit, definitely. Like I read a bunch of UFO lore, Quantum Physics, and Norse Mythology before writing my first short story. I'm just thinking of genres that bare no relationship. Like Sports and Vampire Western? I don't even have the interest in sports.

I've been relatively lucky though, so far I haven't read anything I don't like for more than a page. Unless I'm finding a book somewhere I cannot possibly understand why it would be rated 1.5 stars on Amazon. Then there are books that, no matter how good it is it's simply to long. I will never make myself read War And Peace. I just don't have the time.

There are better written books like Huck Fin.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 06:08 PM
I have little interest in sports either but the novel Shoeless Joe, a baseball story, is a wonderful thing to read. For example.

And of course, no one HAS to do anything. :)

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 06:14 PM
But I've spoken enough on books I don't like, there are some really great stuff out there I look forward to reading. I still want to read Katherine Patterson and The Book Thief.

Actually one thing I like about historical, it could mean anything from like - 1,000,000 A.D. to like 2013. So you could still have fairly relevant up to date content just about a year ago.

1984 was particularly, memorable of even like accelerated reader books I read. By that, I mean memorably long winded. I had to tell Orwell to get to the point.

CassandraW
09-24-2014, 06:15 PM
Once you understand, is it okay to stop reading, or should you finish it anyway?

Read to the end, damn it. And finish your broccoli, or you can't have any pudding.

I still haven't pushed to the end of Ulysses or On the Road. I intend to give Ulysses another try one of these days, because I like some of Joyce's other work and I do see what it is he's doing in the book. But I have given myself permission to never pick up On the Road again. I don't agree that it's a classic -- I don't see any craft in the damn thing or anything but self-indulgent rambling.

That said, I've found there can be some value in pushing through. I yawned through the first couple of chapters of Tess of the D'urbervilles. But by the end somewhere, I grew to love it. I read it again and saw stuff in those first chapters I'd missed the first time. Now I have more than a dozen of Hardy's books on my shelves. IMO, I'd have missed a lot if I'd put down Tess at chapter three.

As with everything, YMMV.

williemeikle
09-24-2014, 07:30 PM
That's usually the part that bugs me the most. Whether it's a classic or a modern novel, unless your like a super fast reader or reading chapter books, who has the time to read even 50 books?


I've read somewhere in the region of 5000 books at a low estimate, and I've managed just fine, even with a day job, a marriage and my own writing going on at the same time.

NRoach
09-24-2014, 08:07 PM
Victor Hugo makes Dickens look terse.

Also, they were paid by the chapter, not by the word.

Also, don't diss Dickens, man.

I know Dickens is a favourite of a lot of people, but it doesn't do anything for me. Hell, it does less than nothing for me. Everytime I've been placed before one of his works (by a teacher or not) I've been shut off by his first couple of sentences.
Granted, I don't claim to have looked into everything of his there is out there to read, but I've seen more than enough to turn me off from bothering to try and slog through another.
Probably the best response I've ever had to Dickens was a stage production of A Christmas Carol, and I've no doubt whatsoever that is entirely down to the fact that Dickens' voice was prevented from sending everyone to sleep with a hundred word description of a pair of blue curtains.

I am very choosy, though, which explains why I don't read as much as I'm told I must.

Hapax Legomenon
09-24-2014, 08:54 PM
Few of us have the same tastes in books as we did when we were ten years old.

Really? I must be an oddity because I DO pretty much like the same genres as I did when I was ten years old...

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 08:59 PM
I am very choosy, though, which explains why I don't read as much as I'm told I must.

i don't think it's about volume. i think some who become writers attain an appreciation for classics organically at a fairly early age and others who took a different reading path on their way to becoming writers sort of backfill their education after developing a genre affinity. it's a natural effect of intellectual curiosity to want to know what came before.

CassandraW
09-24-2014, 09:20 PM
Really? I must be an oddity because I DO pretty much like the same genres as I did when I was ten years old...

Well, I read and loved Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and Huckleberry Finn before I was ten, so to some extent I might be in that category, too. :) And I still appreciate good middle grade novels (I'm particularly fond of the snarky Lemony Snicket series) and YA books. But I didn't appreciate Shakespeare, Hardy, and tons of other authors I now love until I had a few more years on me. And needless to say, I've read quite a bit more at this point than I did at age 10.

I also see flaws in books that I didn't see when I was ten. One of my favorite books in fifth grade was Little Women. It now strikes me as saccharine (particularly every scene that has Marmee in it).


i don't think it's about volume. i think some who become writers attain an appreciation for classics organically at a fairly early age and others who took a different reading path on their way to becoming writers sort of backfill their education after developing a genre affinity. it's a natural effect of intellectual curiosity to know what came before.

Agree completely.

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 09:24 PM
What I liked when I was ten years old had a lot to do with what was on the bookshelves at home. I read a lot of stuff that was way beyond my comprehension skills but I think that was good exercise. People who don't have early exposure to classics have other developmental paths.

Phaeal
09-24-2014, 09:30 PM
I read classics for the same reason I read anything: I enjoy them.

Anything I try and don't enjoy, bye.

I have absolutely no qualms about this.

And may I add that Amadan gets a whole bunch of bananas for the lovely Northanger Abbey quote.

:banana: :banana: :banana: :banana: :banana:

CassandraW
09-24-2014, 09:36 PM
What I liked when I was ten years old had a lot to do with what was on the bookshelves at home. I read a lot of stuff that was way beyond my comprehension skills but I think that was good exercise. People who don't have early exposure to classics have other developmental paths.


Absolutely. I raided my parents' bookshelves from the time I was tiny, often before I could understand all the words and concepts in the books. (Heh. Mom was HORRIFIED when she caught me with Portnoy's Complaint at around age nine or ten. From then on in she locked up some of her books.)

I started reading very early, and was quite young (I think in second grade) when I read Lord of the Flies and Huckleberry Finn. It was quite interesting for me to pick up those books again as a teenager, and then again as an adult. I'd enjoyed them as stories the first time around, but I got so much more out of them later. But my tastes were shaped by those early forays into adult books. I also think I became a stronger reader at a young age by struggling through a few classics that were allegedly "too old" for me.

And I learned a lot. Especially from Portnoy's Complaint.

Amadan
09-24-2014, 09:40 PM
And may I add that Amadan gets a whole bunch of bananas for the lovely Northanger Abbey quote.

:banana: :banana: :banana: :banana: :banana:


See, that's what happens when you read classics - you have a store of quotes you can use, that all the cool kids will get.

JustSarah
09-24-2014, 09:47 PM
I've read so many classics in accelerated reader, I was quite tired of them for a long time.

One book I wanted to read for it's poetic language, yet the teacher said it was to high a level for me. (I was in seventh grade, and it was college level. I think it was some Kings English epic poem like Canterbury but a different part of England.)

Incidentally I think that influenced by distaste for censorship. Like the first seed of my interest in darker and edgier material. You will be missed fair confusing yet simple book.

I may ask a goodreadser if they know what it is.

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 10:01 PM
What I liked when I was ten years old had a lot to do with what was on the bookshelves at home. I read a lot of stuff that was way beyond my comprehension skills but I think that was good exercise. People who don't have early exposure to classics have other developmental paths.

I enjoyed and read mostly classics when I was younger (middle school and high school) but have since become disillusioned, less patient, and have little desire to read them anymore. Is that weird?

Kylabelle
09-24-2014, 10:10 PM
No of course not. Unless you want it to be. :D

William Haskins
09-24-2014, 10:13 PM
I enjoyed and read mostly classics when I was younger (middle school and high school) but have since become disillusioned, less patient, and have little desire to read them anymore. Is that weird?

not weird, but it suggests an odd sort of categorical view. classics are not monolithic.

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 10:19 PM
not weird, but it suggests an odd sort of categorical view. classics are not monolithic.

They're not, but they do tend to be older, so if you're interested in newer categories of literature, fewer such works tend to be considered "classics". At least, classically.

Amadan
09-24-2014, 10:20 PM
They're not, but they do tend to be older, so if you're interested in newer categories of literature, fewer such works tend to be considered "classics". At least, classically.


pssst... you can like Rock 'n Roll and Mozart.

kuwisdelu
09-24-2014, 10:23 PM
pssst... you can like Rock 'n Roll and Mozart.

Sure.

I still like and appreciate many classics.

I just don't get excited by them or love them the way I did when I was younger.

Now I mostly view them as fodder for continuing a conversation that was started a long time ago.

Ken
09-25-2014, 02:31 AM
In fact, I have the notion that there are numerous excellent books in non-English languages that we who don't read other languages don't have access to. Some of them because they've not been translated, but many that have been are just not distributed here. I've run into a few over the years that were so good I wondered why I'd never heard of them before. The Atlantic Ocean somehow got in the way.

Am sure that's true. Case in point. A year or so ago I read a YA title by a Norwegian author. Enjoyable, I tried to get the sequel. No dice. Never translated. If I was capable of it I'd definitely learn another language. Russian. Maybe others too. That said I'm very grateful to translators, like Constance Garnett, who give us the next best thing :-)

Xelebes
09-25-2014, 03:04 AM
Your classic is not my classic. That is all.

CassandraW
09-25-2014, 03:07 AM
So...what's your classic?

Also, what's your definition of "classic" literature?

William Haskins
09-25-2014, 03:07 AM
Your classic is not my classic. That is all.

precisely and thank you.

and not all classics have to be read by squinting back through the mists of time.

plenty are quite recent and modern in the overall context of literary history.

CassandraW
09-25-2014, 03:13 AM
I'm going by the dictionary definition of "classic":


(1) An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.
(2) A work recognized as definitive in its field.
(3) A literary work of ancient Greece or Rome.

"Classic" doesn't necessarily mean I personally love it. I'm the chick who can't get through Ulysses, yet I think it fits definitions (1) and (2).

Xelebes
09-25-2014, 03:14 AM
So...what's your classic?

Also, what's your definition of "classic" literature?

I will read what I like.

Or with music, don't mind me if I skip the entire era from 1750-1830. I've heard it all and it truly does sound the same. There are only three names mentioned (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven) with the same patrons that get any playtime. They choke the repertoire of the local symphony orchestra to the point that you can't listen to anything else. The only reason why it is so heavily revered was because the piano was invented near 1750 and since the Great Piano Boom in the 19th century, it was used as a measure of skill on that particular instrument.

CassandraW
09-25-2014, 03:24 AM
I will read what I like.

Or with music, don't mind me if I skip the entire era from 1750-1830. I've heard it all and it truly does sound the same. There are only three names mentioned (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven) with the same patrons that get any playtime. They choke the repertoire of the local symphony orchestra to the point that you can't listen to anything else. The only reason why it is so heavily revered was because the piano was invented near 1750 and since the Great Piano Boom in the 19th century, it was used as a measure of skill on that particular instrument.

:Shrug: I can't agree with the second paragraph. But to each his/her own.

As to the first -- you equate "classic" with "what each person enjoys reading"?

For me, there's

"classic" literature (has stood the test of time and is widely acknowledged to have value, regardless of whether I was enthralled with it. It need not have been around for a hundred years, but it's been around long enough for it to be evaluated out of the immediate context in which it was written.)

"good" literature (stuff I believe has genuine merit, but hasn't been around long enough to stand the test of time -- not that it has to date back to 1700, mind you, but something published this year doesn't yet qualify as a "classic," though it may eventually become a classic -- or isn't widely known.)

and there's

"stuff I enjoy reading" (which includes some things I don't particularly think have much intrinsic literary merit but are simply fun)



ETA: And of course, it's possible to fit into two or even all three of my categories. I enjoyed reading Pride and Prejudice, I think it's good literature, and it's a classic. But then there are some "beach books" which I don't think are particularly good literature, certainly aren't classic, but that I nonetheless enjoyed.

kuwisdelu
09-25-2014, 06:01 AM
Or with music, don't mind me if I skip the entire era from 1750-1830. I've heard it all and it truly does sound the same. There are only three names mentioned (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven) with the same patrons that get any playtime. They choke the repertoire of the local symphony orchestra to the point that you can't listen to anything else. The only reason why it is so heavily revered was because the piano was invented near 1750 and since the Great Piano Boom in the 19th century, it was used as a measure of skill on that particular instrument.

I thought Bungie settled this in their latest Destiny commercials.

Classical music means Led Zeppelin.

Xelebes
09-25-2014, 06:18 AM
It depends on where you're from. Led Zepellin isn't aging all that well here.

William Haskins
09-25-2014, 06:24 AM
perhaps it's the humidity?

frimble3
09-25-2014, 06:48 AM
perhaps it's the humidity?

I didn't know there was humidity in Edmonton! They're always telling shivering Vancouverites "It may be -40, but it's a dry cold, so you don't notice it!" I personally don't think that it can get so dry that I won't notice -40 degrees below zero.

CassandraW
09-25-2014, 06:49 AM
oh yeah, humidity is deadly to vinyl. Mildew can totally warp your classic albums.

JustSarah
09-25-2014, 08:10 AM
I'd much prefer a Led Zeppelin Beethoven arrangement.:P

Ken
09-25-2014, 04:10 PM
then again, it's all rubbish
all of it, except a line or two
whatevah
go with the flow
"yeah (author of your choose) yeah" !

Hugh
09-27-2014, 03:13 AM
Will a professor in his ivory tower hold up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey to the class of 2214 and proclaim, "THIS is when they wrote great literature!"?

One of the criticisms leveled against Danielle Steel is that she's a mercenary writer. That same criticism was leveled against Dickens, who's books are now classics, 150 years ago.

Neither Chaucer nor Shakespeare had much in the way of classics to be forced upon them but they both did OK with their works. So to answer the question regarding the importance of reading classics, it is not important - but you will attempt to read them anyway out of your own curiosity to determine why somebody labeled a particular work a classic. I can't for the life of me understand why The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic, I couldn't finish it after three attempts to do so. (But one of the difficulties I had with the book was giggling every time I came across "Danglers".)

Some adult, I don't remember who, gave me a slew of cheaply printed and bound paperback classics when I was a child: White Fang, Silas Marner, Catcher in the Rye and others. White Fang I read so many times that it fell apart, Catcher in the Rye fell apart because I flung it against the wall (Holden Caulfield was nothing but a whiny punk, I wanted to punch his face).

When someone quotes from classic literature, I feel ignorant if I don't know where the quote came from and in what context it was originally written. But rather than take the hours and days necessary to read an entire classic book, I just pop a few keywords into Google or Wikipedia and feel classically literate without actually taking the time to suffer through aged prose that barely makes sense today.

CassandraW
09-27-2014, 03:32 AM
Neither Chaucer nor Shakespeare had much in the way of classics to be forced upon them but they both did OK with their works.

Well, not really. Naturally, neither of them would have read the English "classics" that have been written since their time, but they both got an education and were clearly well versed in the Latin "classics" that came before them.

See, e.g. (http://www.shakespeare-online.com/biography/shakespeareeducation.html):


Although Shakespeare likely had some lessons in English, Latin composition and the study of Latin authors like Seneca, Cicero, Ovid, Virgil, and Horace would have been the focus of his literary training. One can see that Shakespeare absorbed much that was taught in his grammar school, for he had an impressive familiarity with the stories by Latin authors, as is evident when examining his plays and their sources. Please see the article Shakespeare's School Days for an extensive list of the books Shakespeare would have read.

Similarly, while we don't know a lot about Chaucer's education, we do know that he was fluent in Latin and he was also pretty up to speed on the classics that came before him -- indeed, he translated some Roman classics (http://www.notablebiographies.com/Ch-Co/Chaucer-Geoffrey.html):


Chaucer was sent abroad on diplomatic missions in 1370 and again in 1372–1373. The latter mission took him to Florence and Genoa, Italy. There he may have deepened his acquaintance with the poetic traditions established by Dante (1265–1321) and Petrarch (1304–1374).


While he was living above Aldgate, Chaucer completed his translation of Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius (c. 480–524), a Roman philosopher, whose phrases and ideas repeat throughout Chaucer's poetry. He also probably composed some short poems and Troilus and Criseyde, a tragedy. This long poem is set against the background of the Trojan War and is based on an earlier poem by Giovanni Boccaccio (1313–1375), an Italian poet.

Amadan
09-27-2014, 04:23 AM
Will a professor in his ivory tower hold up a copy of 50 Shades of Grey to the class of 2214 and proclaim, "THIS is when they wrote great literature!"?

Vastly unlikely.


One of the criticisms leveled against Danielle Steel is that she's a mercenary writer. That same criticism was leveled against Dickens, who's books are now classics, 150 years ago.

Actually, most bestselling writers have been mercenary, but the main criticism of Danielle Steel is that she's a schlock, formulaic writer, things that were generally not said of Dickens who, contrary to the popular myth, was quite well-regarded in his time.



Neither Chaucer nor Shakespeare had much in the way of classics to be forced upon them but they both did OK with their works.

They were both very well educated and you can be sure they had read the classics of their time.


So to answer the question regarding the importance of reading classics, it is not important - but you will attempt to read them anyway out of your own curiosity to determine why somebody labeled a particular work a classic. I can't for the life of me understand why The Count of Monte Cristo is a classic, I couldn't finish it after three attempts to do so. (But one of the difficulties I had with the book was giggling every time I came across "Danglers".)

I enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo, though it was too long. However, while many people do love certain classics, no one loves all of them, and it's not the entertainment value alone that makes them important.

Also, the character's name was "Danglars."


When someone quotes from classic literature, I feel ignorant if I don't know where the quote came from and in what context it was originally written. But rather than take the hours and days necessary to read an entire classic book, I just pop a few keywords into Google or Wikipedia and feel classically literate without actually taking the time to suffer through aged prose that barely makes sense today.

I suppose one can also Google dates and feel historically knowledgeable, but just as knowing a date doesn't mean one understands history, the purpose of reading literature is not just to recognize quotes.

Hugh
09-27-2014, 05:02 AM
Vastly unlikely.



Actually, most bestselling writers have been mercenary, but the main criticism of Danielle Steel is that she's a schlock, formulaic writer, things that were generally not said of Dickens who, contrary to the popular myth, was quite well-regarded in his time.




They were both very well educated and you can be sure they had read the classics of their time.



I enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo, though it was too long. However, while many people do love certain classics, no one loves all of them, and it's not the entertainment value alone that makes them important.

Also, the character's name was "Danglars."



I suppose one can also Google dates and feel historically knowledgeable, but just as knowing a date doesn't mean one understands history, the purpose of reading literature is not just to recognize quotes.

"The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." - Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey (Mr. Tilney in Chapter 14). You've made me feel as though you find me intolerably stupid as well. Yes, it is Danglars, not Danglers. Thank you, Buzz Killington. Can I go now? I don't want to be accused of pumping up my post count so that I can post in the SYW forum.


(BTW - I found that Jane Austen quote by typing "classic literature stupid" in to Google. I've only read enough Jane Austen to know that I want to dig her up and beat her with her own shin bone.)

(Just kidding. I love Jane Austen.)

(I'm buying a glass of wine for the first AW'er who exposes where I stole the shin bone remark from.)

(But it's Franzia Sunset Blush, don't get too excited.)

Seriously, can I go now? It's my fifth glass of Sunset Blush and I can't find my detective novel.

Amadan
09-27-2014, 05:10 AM
(I'm buying a glass of wine for the first AW'er who exposes where I stole the shin bone remark from.)

Mark Twain was an asshole.

You have a sense of humor, though. You're okay.

William Haskins
09-27-2014, 05:38 AM
though it'd be funny if holden caulfield and the bones of jane austen joined forces and kicked your smart ass.

Hugh
09-27-2014, 05:49 AM
though it'd be funny if holden caulfield and the bones of jane austen joined forces and kicked your smart ass.

You won't be laughing when they are arrested by private detective Kinsey Millhone from the Sue Grafton novels and then prosecuted by a savvy lawyer from a Grisham novel and sent to prison for 20 years to life. I was simply defending myself from English aristocracy and no jury would ever convict me for punching that little punk.

Better luck next time, Haskins.

THE END.

CassandraW
09-27-2014, 06:04 AM
You won't be laughing when they are arrested by private detective Kinsey Millhone from the Sue Grafton novels and then prosecuted by a savvy lawyer from a Grisham novel and sent to prison for 20 years to life. I was simply defending myself from English aristocracy and no jury would ever convict me for punching that little punk.

Better luck next time, Haskins.

THE END.

^ Hey, this new guy might be OK. I didn't start getting into Haskins' face until I was at least a thousand posts in here at AW.

Nicely done, Hugh.

William Haskins
09-27-2014, 06:07 AM
moll flanders would mop the floor with the lot of you.

Hugh
09-27-2014, 06:19 AM
moll flanders would mop the floor with the lot of you.

Modern day Moll and I smoke crack together in a public park after nightfall. Me in drag and her jealous of me because I'm getting all the action. But we remain best of friends. I hustle up twenty to one-hundred dollars per night and share it with her, but only after she asks me and I act like she is imposing on me. We both agree that her dead husband is an asshole and we complain about it in the exact same conversation night after night. I tell her that when I write my memoirs (titled "A Guttersnipe Turns 50) that I will not use her real name. But she doesn't believe me and we fight night after night until we pass out. In 2214, a professor in his Ivory Tower holds up a copy of "A Guttersnipe Turns 50" and says, "THIS is when they wrote real literature!"

Hugh
09-27-2014, 06:28 AM
And tomorrow, I finally install that Breathalyzer interlock on my computer. Mods - please delete all of my posts in this thread.

Time to go dress up and drag and meet my friend Moll...

C.bronco
09-27-2014, 06:28 AM
It depends on where you're from. Led Zepellin isn't aging all that well here.

Led Zeppelin is classic, and Robert Plant is new. I have all of their cds, and can verify the veracity of this statement.


Neil Diamond is also classic, as is Sir Mix-a-Lot. Neither ever go out of style.

Amadan
09-27-2014, 06:31 AM
And tomorrow, I finally install that Breathalyzer interlock on my computer. Mods - please delete all of my posts in this thread.


Oh no, please don't.

Let me know when you post in SYW...

williemeikle
09-27-2014, 03:04 PM
You won't be laughing when they are arrested by private detective Kinsey Millhone from the Sue Grafton novels and then prosecuted by a savvy lawyer from a Grisham novel and sent to prison for 20 years to life. I was simply defending myself from English aristocracy and no jury would ever convict me for punching that little punk.

Better luck next time, Haskins.

THE END.

The fact that you think you need protecting from Jane Austen is cute.

And she was far from being aristocracy. Them you really do need defending from.