Advice to Readers Who Are Afraid of Classics (Classic Remarks)

Classic Remarks

What Is Classic Remarks?

Classic Remarks is a meme hosted here at Pages Unbound that poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

How Can I Participate?

Leave your link to your post on your own blog in the comments below. And feel free to comment with your thoughts even if you are not officially participating with a full post!

You can find more information and the list of weekly prompts here.

(Readers who like past prompts but missed them have also answered them on their blog later and linked back to us at Pages Unbound, so feel free to do that, too!)

This Week’s Prompt:

What advice would you give to someone hesitant to read classics?

When people hear the word “classic,” they often think of books that are old, difficult to read, and boring. Many people additionally associate classics with whatever texts they were assigned in school–a sure way to dampen enthusiasm for any title, no matter how thrilling. And some people automatically conjure up images of the Victorian novel–a long-winded tome, perhaps Dickensian in nature. But a classic does not have to mean any of these things. At its heart, the label “classic” simply means an older work that people have thought was worthy to remain in print–perhaps because it has beautiful prose, perhaps because it raises intriguing or complex questions, perhaps because, as some would argue it “speaks to the human condition.”

If readers are hesitant to try reading a classic, I would remind them that “classic” is not a genre. Classics are simply books that have been published in the past (there is no agreement on how far back in the past–ten years, twenty, fifty?) and are still around and being read and enjoyed and discussed. This means that classics come in every genre and in every age range. This also means that you are reading classics today–you just don’t know yet that they are going to become classics! You may also already read and enjoy classics–and you just didn’t realize it.

Here are some commonly enjoyed classic books:

  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (children’s)
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (romance)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (romance)
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis (historical fiction, modern classic, children’s)
  • Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (mystery)
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery (children’s)
  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok (modern classic)
  • Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling (modern classic, children’s, fantasy)
  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien (fantasy)

Classics come from every time period. They represent every kind of writing style. And they encompass every form, from poetry and drama to graphic novels and short stories. Far from being esoteric texts no one can understand, classics were often popular with their masses in their own day–for example, Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare’s works were both popular with the common people.

You don’t have to like every classic. Really, you don’t have to like any classic. However, if there is a particular genre or writing style you enjoy, it may be worth looking into the books that were published in the past. After all, books aren’t inherently better written just based on their publication date; older works can be as intriguing or as enthralling as newer ones. So why not give an older book a chance?

14 thoughts on “Advice to Readers Who Are Afraid of Classics (Classic Remarks)

  1. Michael J. Miller says:

    Thinking about what contemporary books will find themselves in the “classics” category in ten, twenty, or fifty years is the type of question my mind will wrap itself in for hours! But I love thinking about it. Chuck Klosterman wrote a book called ‘But What If We’re Wrong?’ and it’s filled with essays about the future that challenges our presumptions about the present. The question of what books, films, and music will last is in there, too/

    Also, here’s my contribution for this week. I had a lot of fun with this one, too!

    https://mycomicrelief.wordpress.com/2020/06/26/advice-to-readers-who-are-afraid-of-classics-classic-remarks/

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      That sounds like a fascinating read! I sometimes wonder, too, about which works will last. Sometimes it seems so obvious certain works will last, yet there are others who were incredibly popular in their own day–and now they are barely read. I also sometimes reflect back on the person who told me Harry Potter was a fad and would never last. I disagreed.
      He hasn’t proven me wrong yet!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Michael J. Miller says:

        There is something about Harry Potter that just feels timeless, right? The first time I read any of the books I remember thinking they would be like Sherlock Holmes – characters, a world, a story – with people still reading and loving it all hundreds of years later. I can’t imagine the novels ever falling out of favor! So yeah, I’d side with you here, too.

        But one of the more challenging arguments Klosterman makes in the book (which is a fascinating read!) about what will be remembered goes like this, “[Franz Kafka] was not exactly living in a cave and drinking his own urine. But Kafka did not have any semblance of a normal literary career, unless you assume ‘a normal literary career’ constitutes dying poor and hating everything about yourself….I think it’s quite possible that no writer from this era will be remembered at all – yet if someone is embraced by the currently unborn, it will likely be a Kafka-like character. It will be someone we’re not currently aware of, which will allow this person to feel fresh to the generation that adopts him” (35-6). Granted, I’ve stripped the whole scenario down to fit it in a short pull quote, but I think about this ALL THE TIME. And it’s possible! It’s possible all the novels and movies and music and TV shows and comics and everything I love won’t even be a blip on history’s radar 500-1,000 years from now. It’s so weird! So weird!

        Like

  2. Linda I PagesandPapers says:

    What a wonderful idea! As so many others I didn’t really enjoy reading classics in school yet here I am reading them in my free time 😉 I guess my advice would be: don’t let your high school experience put you off, there is a whole universe of classics out there to explore.

    Excited to read everyone’s contributions! x

    Like

  3. mphtheatregirl says:

    I didn’t like many of the classics read in high school and college- the required books are some of the hardest to like.

    I do love the older classics- it helped growing up one of them. A Christmas Carol was watched every year around the Holidays- that movie became a family tradition.

    Definitely love some of the contemporary classics- it is hard to know which ones those are. I do know that Harry Potter, one of the favorite series, does fit that category

    Like

    • Krysta says:

      I liked most of the classics I read in high school. I think it all really depends on the individual! I found so many books I love from required reading and I still reread them today.

      I also love the work of Charles Dickens!

      Like

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