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What makes a book a classic? (1 Viewer)

aliceedelweiss

Senior Member
I was just curious, because for Honors English we have to read 6 books for the year, 5 of those classics. Our teacher gave us a large list of books to choose from, and currently I'm reading Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis. But as I was reading I was thinking "Why are these books classics?" I doubt its because they are old, its because they are good, right? So I was curious what other people think makes a book a classic. any suggestion

Alice
 

WriteStuff

Senior Member
I'm not quite sure exactly what makes a book a classic but longevity and universal themes are two. I think that being deep and philosophical and having large slow parts also make a book a classic but I'm just guessing...
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Books that are revolutionary.

Pride and Prejudice is really just a sappy romance novel, but it was the first sappy romance novel (and it was written by a woman during a time when that was unacceptable).

The Lord of the Rings was the first real epic fantasy story.

The Metamorphosis is incredibly complex and is a shining example of what the literary fiction genre should entail.

Shakespeare was incredibly popular and is also very old, making his works classics (even though he didn't really innovate much in terms of plot—although his sonnets were revolutionary).

Dickens was very popular and was revolutionary in that he brought the plight of the poor in England out into the open. Consider him a 19th century Crichton or King, though, because his writing was just pop literature.

Greek works are classic because our entire society rests upon Greek culture.
 

Stacy

Senior Member
Well, some might say it's because they stand the test of time.

Others might say it's because some dead white men declared them to be art based upon their own preferences.

Others might say it's an issue of complexity.

The fact is there is no litmus test for classics. Different time periods value different writers and even works that people today might consider to be part of the undisputed literary canon were, at times, out of fashion and not valued. Often what we consider to be literature says more about our own culture and preferences than about the works themselves.
 

amusinglackoftalent

Senior Member
The formula for classic...

I think they are books that contain universal themes written in such a way that people can’t stop coming back to them, books that illuminate the human condition with such brilliance that they cannot be permanently shelved despite the passage of the years. ‘The Kite Flyer’ has received much acclaim and I felt the word ‘classic’ stealing up on me as I moved from page to page of this wonderful novel.
 

Bumblebee

Member
Not sure what makes a book a Classic, sometimes I even wonder why some books are called classics.

The simplest one is that certain books are called classics because they were written a long time ago and people still read them (Austen, Tolkien, Dickens, etc). I do not believe in modern classics, they will have to stand the test of time first. I think a lot of Classics still work, because though the world may be different, the issues are much the same.

Some classics I love. Being a girl I love Jane Austen's work for example, but I have tried Thomas Hardy and Charles Dickens and they definitely did not light my fire. Lord Of The Rings works for me, 1984 does not. I get 1984, it just does not interest me. Oh, the bliss of personal taste!
 
There is a collection of essays by an author Italo Calvino (d. 1987) called Why Read the classics? And the first essay in it has 14 points on why to read the classics, if anyone can find a link and post it up here it is an amazing essay! HAve fun... SHARK
 

Londongrey

Senior Member
Not sure about Dickens being compared to King and the other observations made in the same post, misses the point somewhat.

I always tend to judge a book by its relevance and the standard it sets for literature and the English language (and of course any other language). Shakespeare created a third of modern English.
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
Dickens can indeed be compared to King, Crichton etc as a popular writer of his day - not great literature, but a writer who published regularly to pay the bills. I'd say Archer was a closer comparison.

Cassics are books that have relevance that resounds through the ages - shrewd commentary on that elusive beast, the 'human condition'. Themes that remain relative even when the subject matter isn't; Moby Dick, anyone?

Hodge, you miss the point writing Pride & prejudice off as sappy. P&P is about girl power, about women working within tight social constraints to achieve their own ends.

And LotR the first epic fantasy? LotR was just a distillation of the REAL classics - I suggest you check out Beowulf.

Often what we consider to be literature says more about our own culture and preferences than about the works themselves.

Hmm. Yes, I think. But then our culture and preference dictates what we consider classics, because they have to have cultural significance, but then... Hmm, Stacy, you have me pondering that one.

I always tend to judge a book by its relevance

Relevance to what?

Shakespeare created a third of modern English.

Can you explain what you mean there? What do you base that statement on?

To go back to the original question: Alice, what do you think of Metamorphosis, and why do YOU think it's considered a classic? What else is on the list, and what are you planning on reading next?
 

discipleofWORD

Senior Member
Bah! Classics.

I would like to propose a theory that a bunch of teachers (especially math and science teachers), who feared and detested the power of English, gathered and conspired a masterplan to make English unappealling to students. So they found books that are "boring" and "academic" to deter many students from English and into Math and Science.

Anyways, Metamorphosis is a damn good story.
 

Hodge

pliable
Senior Member
Older books tend to forego suspense and such because the readers back then had a thing called an attention span. Nowadays with television and computers that's obviously not the case... But back then, they could actually go a hundred pages or more without any action and not lose concentration! It's an amazing ability they had.
 

Mike C

WF Veterans
discipleofWORD said:
Bah! Classics.

I would like to propose a theory that a bunch of teachers (especially math and science teachers), who feared and detested the power of English, gathered and conspired a masterplan to make English unappealling to students. So they found books that are "boring" and "academic" to deter many students from English and into Math and Science.

It may suprise you to learn that maths and science are academic subjects, therefore the books tend to be 'boring and academic'. It's nothing to do with the language. As to how it's delivered, it's up to the teacher as to whether or not it's boring.

As Hodge so rightly points out, writers of past classics knew they could rely on a reader to have an attention span longer than a goldfish, and developed stories at a different pace.

I have a theory that by the next generation of readers all novels will have no more than 5 pages and each one will have a picture (computer generated, obviously) of something exploding.

Anything published between 2 and 3 weeks previously, as long as the explosions are big ones.
 
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