Is It Possible to “Hate Classics?”

Is It Possible to Hate Classics

It’s a common statement: “I hate classics.  They’re boring and old and difficult.  I only read [age range or genre].”  However, a classic is not a specific type of book.  It does not mean one written in old-timey language, nor does it mean literary fiction.  A classic is a book that is considered to have stood the test of time.  That’s it.  That means in a few decades The Hunger Games, Twilight, or Divergent could be considered if they last long enough.  We’re all constantly in the act of reading potential classics!

However, since we cannot predict what will be considered a classic years from now, we can still take a look at the wide array of books considered classics.  It’s quite possible that most readers have read and enjoyed at least one of these books–scary classic status aside!

Fantasy Classics

  • The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  • The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
  • Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie
  • The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
  • Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin

Science Fiction Classics

  • 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  • The Time Machine by H. G. Wells

Romance Classics

  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  • Villette by Charlotte Brontë
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë
  • Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • North and South by Elzabeth Gaskell
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot

Modern Classics

  • The Chosen by Chaim Potok
  • My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok
  • Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling
  • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison

Adventure Classics and Swashbucklers

  • The Three  Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Scarlet Pimpernel by Baroness Orczy
  • The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope
  • The Call of the Wild by Jack London
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas

Mystery Classics

  • Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Father Brown by G. K. Chesterton
  • Hercule Poirot series by Agatha Christie
  • Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie
  • Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene

Children’s Classics

  • Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
  • A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild
  • Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Conclusion

Classics encompass every time period, country, and genre.  You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that, even if you thought you were a classics hater, you’ve read and loved some of these titles!

 

Classic Remarks: L.M. Montgomery Recommendations Beyond Anne of Green Gables

Classic Remarks

Classic Remarks is a meme 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. We look forward to seeing your responses!


Tell us about your favorite L. M. Montgomery work, aside from any of the Anne of Green Gables books.

Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat

I love just about every book L. M. Montgomery has written, but I have always had a special place in my heart for Pat of Silver Bush and its sequel Mistress Pat.

Anne Shirley is famously imaginative and garrulous. Emily Star (from the Emily of New Moon series) has a reputation for being a bit odd; she has “flashes” and borders on interacting with the supernatural.  Pat Gardiner, in comparison, is one of Montgomery’s more “average” heroines–and I love it.   She’s quiet and fond of her home and her cats and somewhat adverse to change.  In short, she sounds like someone I might actually know.  And someone whom I would like if I did.

Montgomery can’t help but add some of her romantic touches, however.  Housekeeper Judy is Irish and firmly believes in fairies and the wee folk, and she’ll probably make you believe a little bit, too.  And then there’s the romance. I talked about why Jingle is one of my favorite Montgomery heroes in a previous Classic Remarks, so I won’t rehash it at length.  However, he’s friendly and earnest and kind and all the great things a strong love interest should be.  And he has an adorable dog.

Pat is sometimes overlooked because she’s quieter than Anne, but she is definitely worth knowing.

If you are participating this week, please leave us your link in the comments!

Briana

The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

The Maltese FalconInformation

Goodreads: The Maltese Falcon
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1930

Official Summary

A treasure worth killing for. Sam Spade, a slightly shopworn private eye with his own solitary code of ethics. A perfumed grafter named Joel Cairo, a fat man name Gutman, and Brigid O’Shaughnessy, a beautiful and treacherous woman whose loyalties shift at the drop of a dime. These are the ingredients of Dashiell Hammett’s coolly glittering gem of detective fiction, a novel that has haunted three generations of readers.

Review

The Maltese Falcon is known for introducing readers to Sam Spade, the epitome of the hardboiled detective.  But the book is a classic for many other reasons, ranging from the engaging mystery to the vividly defined characters to the sharp prose.  I don’t generally read detective novels, but this one kept me turning page after page.

Admittedly, Sam Spade is kind of a jerk.  He plays by his own rules, never minces words, and routinely plays around with women.  (Seriously, he’s always cozying up with his secretary and with clients and apparently previously made some passes at his business partner’s wife.) This did not deter me from enjoying the book.  I think, like the police who constantly hound Spade to fill them in on what he knows, the reader can acknowledge that he is obnoxious while still respecting that he’s very good at his job, and while still being invested in his story.  He’s infuriating but extremely competent.

The plot kept me on my toes, as Spade meets a various of characters who tell him a variety of stories, and it’s on the reader to figure out how they’re all connected and who is telling him the truth.  There’s a fair bit of action and danger, as well, and it’s clear that being a private investigator can be extremely demanding.  It’s mostly about brains, but brawn doesn’t hurt.  (Though people also pull a lot of guns in the novel.)  I also enjoyed that, at least once, the book casually mentions that Spade takes on a smaller, more routine case while all of this is going on, so it’s not as if the world has just stopped for the one case.

All this is told in engaging prose.  My copy of the book quotes a New York Times review that states: “Hammett’s prose [is] clean and entirely unique.  His characters [are] as sharply and economically defined as any in American fiction.”  I agree with this statement in general.  However, Hammett does has a penchant for describing in-depth what people look like and what they are wearing.  The first paragraph of the book is just a detailed description of Spade’s face.  I get it in the sense that detectives should notice details, so maybe the book should mention details–even ones that are not directly related to solving the mystery–but I found some of the description tedious and do not think that “economical” is always the right term.

What I love most about the book, however, is that Hammett just straight narrates the action.  He describes what Spade says and does, but rarely what he thinks; there’s no pontificating or narrator’s explanation for the reader.  Rather, the reader has to interpret the text.  Why is Spade doing what he’s doing? How will it help him solve the case?  Is what he said to another character true or a lie?  What are his motivations?  Maybe it’s because I read a lot of YA, but I found this utterly refreshing.  YA books are almost overwhelmingly written in first person, present tense, so the reader has a continuous run-down of the character’s thoughts and motivations. Everything is explained, and there’s little to guess at.  I liked being left to my own devices while reading The Maltese Falcon.

The Turn of the Screw by Henry James

turn-of-the-screwInformation

Goodreads: The Turn of the Screw
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1898

Summary

A young governess accepts a new position on a grand but isolated estate that comes with but one condition: she is never to contact the guardian of her charges about any circumstances that may arise while they are under her care.  All goes well until the governess believes she is seeing the ghosts of two former employees and that it is up to her to save the children from their malicious intents.

Review

For many, The Turn of the Screw is a captivating, heart-pounding Gothic mystery that keeps readers glued to the pages.  For me, the story was a total bore.  Often I feel I can see something worthwhile and interesting in classics, even if I personally don’t love them., but Henry James is really making me struggle to do so here.

The story revolves around some mysterious figures that a new governess believes she sees hanging around her new charges on an isolated estate.  Who are they?  What do they want?  Are they really there?  If something sinister is happening, what exactly is it?  But as fascinating as these questions sound in theory, I thought James dragged them out, and the final payoff was hardly worth the trouble.

Add to this the fact that James has an extremely convoluted prose style, and it just makes every point even harder to get to in the narrative.  Now, I read a lot of old literature: Milton, Shakespeare, texts in Middle English.  All these texts are frequently labelled as having complicated prose, but James can give them a run for their money.  His issue is not that he has an unusual word order (older texts aren’t always straightforward with the subject-verb-object arrangement in sentences).  Rather, the problem is that he tends to start a sentence, stick a couple clauses with fairly extraneous information in the middle of the sentence, and then finally get to the actual main point of the sentence several lines’ worth of writing later.  It makes it hard to even find the main point of the sentence at times.

There’s probably something in here for people who like mysterious and Gothic literature, but I’ve read better Gothic literature.  This one is pretty much a pass from me.  It’s fairly short, but feels enormously long.

2 stars Briana

The Promise by Chaim Potok

the-promiseINFORMATION

Goodreads: The Promise
Series: The Chosen #2
Source: Purchased
Published: 1969

SUMMARY

Reuven Malter’s world is changing.  The neighborhood is filled with men and women who escaped from the concentration camps.  His best friend Danny Saunders has chosen not to become a rabbi like his father but to pursue a career as a psychologist.  And Reuven is struggling in school to gain recognition for his abilities.  Then his life becomes entwined with that of Michael, a teenage boy trapped by his own fear and rage.  Can Reuven and Danny help Michael escape?

Review

Chaim Potok always writes a memorable story.  Perhaps it is no surprise then that he manages to follow The Chosen with a book just as sensitive and raw.  Now that Reuven and Danny have grown, they are following their own paths.  The way is still difficult, however, and the past can never truly be forgotten.  As Danny struggles to save Michael, a teenage boy who suffers from a secret inner rage, he and Reuven may discover that they are not so very different from this boy.

Told through Reuven’s eyes, The Promise unfolds the story of Reuven’s neighborhood as it fills with men and women who escaped from the concentration camps.  Their experiences have removed them from him and their concerns and fears to him seem sometimes overbearing.  His new teacher, in particular, sees only one right one for a person to be a faithful Jew and a scholar of the Torah.  And Reuven who wishes to use a different methodology is faced with the choice of remaining true to himself and losing all the fruits of his hard work, or lying to graduate.

Danny meanwhile lives the tiring life of a grad student as he trains to become a psychologist.  The others secretly whisper he is a genius, but Danny fears to fail since he walked away from his old life to pursue this career.  If he cannot save Michael with his unorthodox treatment, it will mean that everything he did was in vain.

Their stories gracefully intertwine with that of Michael, the son of a scholar who hates all the academics who attack his father.  He is troubled and violent, but refuses to speak.  Danny knows what it is to live in silence.  Reuven knows what it is to wonder if you can hate your own father.  Together, the three of them must find a way out.

The Promise is a subtle book.  Its story is quiet and its narrator reserved.  But it is a work that will haunt you.

5 starsKrysta 64

If You Like The Scarlet Pimpernel, Then Read…

If You Like, Then Read is a feature where we offer reading suggestions based on books you already like, scheduled once a month. If you have more suggestions, feel free to tell us in the comments! You can check out the rest of these lists here.

If You Like the Scarlet Pimpernel Then Read

Rook by Sharon Cameron

Sophia Bellamy lives in a world without technology where the Sunken City once was called Paris and the Commonwealth was England.  But even though technology is outlawed to prevent the devastation it once caused long ago, history repeats itself.  The people of the Sunken City die each day by the Blade–unless they are fortunate enough to be rescued by the Red Rook, a mysterious savior who empties the prisons and leaves only a red-tipped feather behind.

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund

In a post-apocalyptic world, revolution has broken out on the island of Galatea.  The revolutionaries, once captured, seek escape through the plots of the mysterious Wild Poppy–in reality, Persis Blake, a high society girl from Albion.  But then Persis falls in love and her entire world may be in danger.

The Laughing Cavalier by Baroness Orczy

Diogenes, a soldier of fortune and a mercenary, finds himself in the Netherlands in need of money.  He therefore accepts the job of kidnapping a woman who accidentally overheard plans to assassinate the ruler.  Unfortunately, even the best of plans can go awry when one’s heart becomes entangled.  A story of the Scarlet Pimpernel’s ancestor.

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

On the eve of the coronation of Rudolf of Ruritania, he is drugged and imprisoned by his brother Michael, who wishes to seize the throne.  Fortunately, his distant English cousin Rudolf looks strikingly similar, allowing Rudolf to impersonate the king and attempt to restore him to his throne.  But things get complicated when Rudolf fall in love with the king’s betrothed.

Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

When his friend is killed by an aristocrat, an unknown lawyer leaves his life behind to join a band of travelling actors and seek revenge.  Set during the French Revolution.

If You Like This Classic, Try This Middle Grade

classic-and-middle-grade-book-match-up-1

If You Like A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett

Try Cartwheeling in Thunderstorms by  Katherine Rundell

Cartwheeling in ThunderstormsWilhelmina Silver loves living on a farm in Zimbabwe. But then she receives the news that little girls must not grow up half-wild, but instead go to boarding school in London.  The girls in London do not understand Will, however, and they do not like what they do not understand.  Alone and tormented, Will must learn how to turn the bravery that allows her to face down wild animals into the kind of bravery that can overcome spiteful classmates.

If You Like Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Try The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place by Julie Berry

Scandalous SisterhoodWhen the headmistress of St. Ethedreda’s School for Girls and her younger brother are poisoned at Sunday dinner, the seven boarders know just what to do.  Hide the bodies; convince the town that Headmistress Plackett is alive and well; and continue to live at the school as independent women.  But can the girls identify the murderer before he or she attempts to strike a second time?

If You Like Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Try Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor the OverlanderGregor’s father disappeared years ago and thus has to spend the summer caring for his baby sister Boots.  The two find adventure, however, when they fall through a grate in the laundry room into the Underland, where humans live uneasily alongside giant roaches, rats, bats, and spiders.  The humans believe Gregor to be the warrior named in an ancient prophecy, but Gregor wants nothing more than to return his sister safely home.

If You Like The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Try The Girl Who Circumvented Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

Girl Who Circumvented FairylandOne day the Green Wind catches up September and takes her to Fairyland—but all is not how it should be.  Fairies are scarce, winged beasts are forbidden to fly, and the Marquess has stolen the spoon the witches use to see the future.  September agrees to travel to the capital and retrieve the spoon, but somewhere along the way she realizes that her quest has grown bigger than she anticipated.

If You Like The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis

Try 100 Cupboards by N. D. Wilson

100 CupboardsWhen Henry moves to live with his aunt and uncle in Kansas, he doesn’t expect to do much exciting besides perhaps learn to play baseball.  But then he sees a short man in the house, who disappears into a room that has been locked for years.  Can it be that the cupboards in the attic really lead to different worlds and that his grandfather knew the secret?

If You Like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

Try Leepike Ridge by N. D. Wilson

Leepike RidgeEleven-year-old Thomas Hammond floats down the stream and over a waterfall one day, then finds himself trapped underneath Leepike Ridge.  With only a few sardines and a light, Tom will have to find the courage and the wits to stay alive long enough to find his way out.  But up above a gang of treasure hunters is thwarting the search efforts.

If You Like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl

Try Floors by Patrick Carman

Leo Fillmore lives in the greatest place on earth—the Whippet Hotel, consisting of nine (known) floors each full of rooms that boggle the imagination.  The Cake Room.  The Pinball Room.  The Flying Farm Room.  As the son of the maintenance man, Leo knows these rooms better than most, but even he is unprepared for the day the owner goes missing and the hotel starts to fall apart.  With a mysterious box to guide him and a duck at his side, Leo sets forth to save the hotel before there’s nothing left at all.