How much time do you spend reading Literary classics versus Genre fiction?

GOLLUM

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Antiloqoax has brought up an interesting topic for me, which rather than continue in the Book Hauls thread, I thought could be further discussed in its own thread.

Namely, How much time do you spend reading the classics as opposed to SF or literary fiction? AND "Is there more to be gained from reading so-called literary classics than Genre fiction?

Some interesting discussion has already taken place on this topic and of course not everyone feels they gain as much out of reading literary classics as they do reading so-called Genre fiction, a distinction that is perhaps arbitrary at best and as D Davis has already quoted Gene Wolfe maintain that "'all fiction is fantasy, some is just more honest about it."http://www.sffchronicles.co.uk/forum/members/antiloquax.html
 

GOLLUM

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I'm also fascinated by the idea of reading the Classics (eg "Journey to the West"). I've recently come across the "Lifetime Reading Plan" by Fadiman and Major. (There's a reproduction of the bare list here). There are lots of authors and titles there that I hope to read. Maybe I should start alternating - one off the list and then one SF book!
I think that is a marvellous list to work from. I would have about 95% of what is on that list but there's maybe half a dozen new names there. I've already earmarked purchasing a couple of these.

I tend to collect mainly literary works with elements of the fantastic in them as well as more mainstream works that do not possess what would be regarded as overt elements of the fantastic in the text themselves....so thanks for that link!

I'm currently focusing on alternating between so-called Literary Classics and Genre fiction myself although in recent years I've been purchasing a LOT MORE classic literature than Genre fiction. I'll start posting some reviews soon on these works.

For example, currently I'm reading the collected fiction of one of the best short story writers of the 20th century in Isaac Babel. Some of the writing is astonishing but I need to read the entire collection before coming to a final conclusion on Babel.

OH....and I have a particular interest in magic realism the bulk of which comes from Latin America, probably because of its apparent blending of fantasy elements with real world settings and concerns.
 

Dozmonic

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I remember a quote saying that classics are books everyone claims to have read but few have. Having had them forced on us in school and then made to to analyse something that's intended to be read for pleasure (or in the case of Shakespeare intended to be performed, not read) puts a lot of people off them.
 

Connavar

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My taste in literary is like my music i like to read,listen to a huge variety. Thats why i might read 25% of my books reading the so called classic non-genre literature. Becuase reading Poe,classic horror,classic crime is a given for a fan of those genres.

The big reason i read classic lit that isnt in my fav genres is because i feel i need to make time for all kinds of lit i like reading. Reading old lit is a fine gateway to what people of those times thought,felt. Reading ancient plays says alot about Ancient Greek worldview, reading Goethe says alot about romantic movement,era. Reading Ibsen,Strindberg,Leffler says something about social issues of 1880s, the gender struggle, the female struggle for independence.

I dont care for snobby mainstream mags that say this is serious lit and this is genre ghetto or that kind of talk. I care only about the authors.

My love for good non-genre classics found me just like i found my fav genres of SF,crime,fantasy,horror,historical etc

Why would i waste time on bad, trashy books just because its genre,fast entertainment when i can also read beside my fav genre lit the likes of Homer,Shakespeare and everything i like since then is my philosophy :)

I have a brother who only reads and re-reads popular fantasy series and no other great or genre non genre. To him lit is only HP/Twillight/Goodkind/GRRM.
To him books are just light entertainment, no respect for any writers ability. Books is like Big Brother re-run to kill boring time. Books for me is sure entertainment but mostly a pleasure to savour ,enrichment of culture.
 

GOLLUM

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I remember a quote saying that classics are books everyone claims to have read but few have. Having had them forced on us in school and then made to to analyse something that's intended to be read for pleasure (or in the case of Shakespeare intended to be performed, not read) puts a lot of people off them.
Yes, unfortunately I think that is a good point you make there. We can be a little too eager to overanalzye the classics or taught in an enlightening or inspirational way, especially in a scholastic setting and thus put some people off reading them for years afterwards. A shame in my opinion as there's so much great writing out there that people are not aware of!
 

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Like Conn, at the end of the day I want to be able to sample a very wide variety of fiction from across the world but at the same time not for its own sake but because it's actually of a very high quality; at least the texts I research before purchasing seem to in the main turn out to be very good. Life is too short to spend on mediocre texts.
 

Connavar

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Like Conn, at the end of the day I want to be able to sample a very wide variety of fiction from across the world but at the same time not for its own sake but because it's actually of a very high quality; at least the texts I research before purchasing seem to in the main turn out to be very good. Life is too short to spend on mediocre texts.

Thats just the way i am. I cant change who i am. I cant help if i like alot of the types of lit i try. Just yesterday i went to library and got a short story collection av an African non-genre author i didnt know at all. I just choosed her because i like to read modern african lit stories that is about african myths. I didnt choose her because she was African like me but i was looking for quality writer telling mythical stories.

The fact that life is too short to spend on mediocre books is why im trying to find quality everywhere. I dont want to just read crime,fantasy books i like and not try other fields.
 

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I've no idea what's classed as a 'literary classic' really. I read what I fancy. Read a lot of Oscar Wilde. I've also just got The Scarlet Pimpernel audiobook to listen to in the car, is that a classic? I've read 'Of Mice and Men,' 'Black Beauty,' '101 Dalmatians' and its sequel... I guess they're sort of classics?

I've read 'Jane Slayre' which I'm well aware isn't a classic, but it used the text from Jane Eyre so I'm gonna say I've read that too. ;)
 

Connavar

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I've no idea what's classed as a 'literary classic' really. I read what I fancy. Read a lot of Oscar Wilde. I've also just got The Scarlet Pimpernel audiobook to listen to in the car, is that a classic? I've read 'Of Mice and Men,' 'Black Beauty,' '101 Dalmatians' and its sequel... I guess they're sort of classics?

I've read 'Jane Slayre' which I'm well aware isn't a classic, but it used the text from Jane Eyre so I'm gonna say I've read that too. ;)

Classics is really everything people remember as quality work a century or decades later. Scarlet Pimpernel is historical classics just like Walter Scott,Alexandre Dumas books. One of my childhood heroes that i must finish reading.

What i think this thread is talking about non-genre classics. People that didnt write in the tradition of the known genres.

Oscar Wilde,Steinbeck etc
 

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Well in that case, I've read Oscar Wilde and John Steinbeck. ;) OW is one of my favourite authors ever.
 

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Well in that case, I've read Oscar Wilde and John Steinbeck. ;) OW is one of my favourite authors ever.
The Importance of Being Ernest and Picture of Dorian Grey are particular favourites of mine along with some of his short fiction like The Happy Prince..:)
 

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The Importance of Being Ernest is on my list - though I'm wanting to watch it before I read it, as that's how it was supposed to be enjoyed. ;) Love The Picture of Dorian Gray - I've just got the new 'unedited' version to read at some point. And my favourite short story of his is The Nightingale and the Rose. Which actually I think is probably my favourite short story full stop.
 

Connavar

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Since im a fan of good plays The Importance of Being Earnest is the work i will try Oscar Wilde.
 

JustPassingThrough

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It seems to me that nowadays it's Literature with a capital L compared to the olden days (and I mean olden days like steam and horses not olden days like when MTV played music and you listened to cassette tapes on your Walkman). I got a book recently, it was horror, but it had two stories in there by Mark Twain. I've heard, but haven't read yet, that Jack London wrote one of the first PA stories out there. I wonder if when we got into the middle parts of the 20th century that authors began to think they had to separate into different camps for some reason or the other so that now you wouldn't see "serious" authors write science fiction or fantasy.

By the way, I read both. When I was reading Tolstoy I was also reading Robert Bloch's science fiction stories.

(Didn't mean to interrupt the conversation, but there are not a lot of live threads around, so I saw this one and figured what the h-e-double hockey sticks.)
 

GOLLUM

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Since im a fan of good plays The Importance of Being Earnest is the work i will try Oscar Wilde.
If you like classic light comedy/wit like as in PG Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker etc. then you're sure to enjoy this.

For the supernatural element, you can't go past Picture of Dorian Grey though.
 

Connavar

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If you like classic light comedy/wit like as in PG Wodehouse, Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker etc. then you're sure to enjoy this.

For the supernatural element, you can't go past Picture of Dorian Grey though.

I have read Woodhouse but i havent read Twain,Doroty Parker yet. In school as kids Poe was the only american the teacher liked. We read the classic brits mostly. Thats why i havent read Twain yet.

Supernatural element is good choice but im also a big fan of plays. After Beckett and co i want more plays. Humor,wit is one of the finest things in literature. CK Chesterton Father Brown stories wit was very fine for example.
 

GOLLUM

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Supernatural element is good choice but im also a big fan of plays. After Beckett and co i want more plays. Humor,wit is one of the finest things in literature. CK Chesterton Father Brown stories wit was very fine for example.
Agreed on Chesterton. As well as the book, I also have a DVD collection of Father Brown stories made by the BBC starring Kenneth Graham. They're quite enjoyable.

You are definitely going to want to read Twain's work, the quintessence of wit for me. His fiction like Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer I thought you had read? His travelogues, journal articles etc. are often exquisitely humorous; satirical in nature, as are several of his short stories. To my knowledge, he's considered a giant of American Literature.

ADDED: Here's a wiki link you might enjoy reading.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Twain

Night all....:)
 

J-Sun

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How much time do you spend reading the classics as opposed to SF or literary fiction?

How much time out of what span of time? On a given day, I almost always read 100% of one or the other. In the past few months I've read almost nothing but science fiction and non-fiction. Through a good chunk of the middle-90s, I read almost nothing but "classics". And so on. Over the course of my life, I'd guess I've read about 50/50 (which given that I define SF in my strictest mood as pretty much 1926-current Anglo-American magazine-rooted fiction, is wildly disproportionate in favor of SF). I have 9 vaguely equal bookcases and four of them are SF though I probably get rid of more non-SF than SF, so maybe it's 40/60ish. But if we're comparing SF to strictly non-SF fiction, then it's at least 80/20 as I have less than one case of non-SF fiction.

AND "Is there more to be gained from reading so-called literary classics than Genre fiction?

It depends on what's meant by "gain". As others indicated in the original thread, my batting average is going to be higher with SF so there's more to gain in the sense that, if I read 10 classics and like 5 and read 10 SF books and like 7, then I've gained two extra good (to me) books. But, in a qualitative sense, I don't think there's more to be gained from either, but rather different things to gain.

D Davis has already quoted Gene Wolfe maintain that "'all fiction is fantasy, some is just more honest about it."

That's akin to (but tellingly different from) Campbell's dictum (I think it was Campbell) that mainstream fiction is a subset of science fiction since it's limited to current or past mimesis with little actual science and SF can be past, current, or future, and can actually tackle science, which is a major part of current reality. (I don't mean to put words in his mouth because it wasn't explained quite like this, but it was something along those lines.)

...there's so much great writing out there that people are not aware of!

Life is too short to spend on mediocre texts.

That's kind of the thing - life is so short and there's so much great stuff to read that the whole idea of a world canon sort of breaks down - it may be that there can't really be a common cultural language and so it might be kind of pointless to try to read every great thing - might as well find what floats your boat and find a clan who shares that interest. It's hard enough to read just the great surviving Greek literature or just the great SF. Reading "classics" can be a superficial thing where one becomes a jerk of all literature and a master of none.

I think that is a marvellous list to work from. I would have about 95% of what is on that list...I tend to collect mainly literary works with elements of the fantastic in them...and I have a particular interest in magic realism

Of the Fadiman/Major list, of the 97 numbered items in the first four sections (some of which contain multiple works, so it's hard to say), I've read and liked 32, read and disliked 17, and have 6 waiting to be read. Almost exactly half. The percentage goes down (to about a quarter) on part 5. I find 20th century non-SF/F prose fiction to be ridiculously overrated, overemphasized, and generally quite boring - SF is the literature of the 20th century and, if not reading that, there's always poetry, philosophy, history, and non-fiction that is generally much more "amusing and edifying" than mainstream fiction. (Also, my interests are decidedly Western and classical/modern, so I tend to read Greek->Roman->German->English->American stuff in my wanderings through historical time and space and not so much, e.g., Chinese or medieval stuff. The significant minority of non-Western works in that list lowers my reading average.)
 

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I read SF pretty much exclusively. Occasionally someonw will recommend something and i'll read it, but given a choice it'll always be SF. I appreciate that i've limited myself somewhat.
 

JustPassingThrough

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To me the important thing is that we read, doesn't matter what it is, so when people will look with their nose upturned and say, "Oh, you read THAT!" I figure it's better than letting the imagination wither and die or reading only what's popular because the author is a reality star who released a sex tape, a song, and a cookbook all in the same week.
 

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