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!
(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:
Why do you read classics? (Or why don’t you?)
I’ve loved reading classics for as long as I can remember, even when I was a child and had no real sense of the fact that some books are classics at all or that they had been written years and year ago, while other books are newer. When I think back to some of the earliest books I read and loved, they were classics: The Secret Garden, Charlotte’s Web, Anne of Green Gables, The Chronicles of Narnia. In that sense, once I did become aware that there are “classics” and “non-classics,” I knew I was someone who “liked classics.” I sought out more and more to read, trusting I would enjoy them, and generally I did.
But why do I enjoy classics? Why do I keep reading them? To be honest, I’m not sure I’ve thought deeply about this question before. I do think there’s something to the argument that these are books that have stood the test of time; they’re interesting (even when I dislike a classic, I can often see why it’s interesting or how there are themes that can be discussed in it), and they’re often complex. I like a fast-paced, exciting novel with a gripping plot as well as anyone, but the books that I remember long after I read them aren’t books that have fun plots; they’re books that raise interesting questions or make me think about life or people or philosophy in a new way. I find these questions often in classics.
I also like that “classics” is a wide and varied category. I can decide I want to read “a classic” and end up reading anything from a medieval romance to a Shakespeare play to a Victorian novel or an H. G. Wells story. I love reading things from different time periods and seeing how much things in the world or human nature have changed, as well as how much things have stayed quite the same. I also love different writing styles. When today’s novels start sounding all a bit the same to me, I can pick up a book from 50 or 500 years ago and find something just a bit different.
The short answer, then, might be that I do generally find classics to be of good quality: they explore interesting questions, they tackle tough topics, they span a variety of genres, and they often have excellent prose. Not every classics is a winner, of course, but as a whole I do find them worth reading.