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

Extollager

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Oskari wrote, "First off, literary classic is a specific term or idea, which has much to do with time scale and, more importantly, how it was or had been recieved."

It seems to me useful to think in terms of categories such as these:

1.Classics with a capital C: these are the Greco-Roman Classics that JDW mentions.

2.Classic literature with a small "c": Here, as you say, Oskari, time is certainly a factor. By that I mean that it takes more or less time for something to establish itself as a classic depending on whether the form in which it was written is an ancient or a relatively recent one. Epic poems are an ancient form. I would hesitate to say that any long narrative poem more recent than, say, Paradise Lost is a classic epic poem. The novel is a more recent form. I would be willing to grant that some novels published up to the last hundred years or so have established themselves as classic novels -- for example, something as recent as Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent would qualify, for me. But I would not want to say that more recent novels should yet be considered classic novels. I regard Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust as a truly superb novel. But it feels, to me, too soon to call it a classic novel.

Classic literature is enormously varied, ranging from things as different as the stern objectivity of the Icelandic sagas to the intense subjectivity of Jane Eyre.

3.Rather, I would call A Handful of Dust a modern classic. So is Nineteen Eighty-Four, etc.

4.Then we have genre classics. Here is where I'd place outstanding works, many of them books I love dearly, that I don't think have won their way to recognition simply as classics or as modern classics. There's hardly a fiction in the world that means more to me than The Lord of the Rings, but I am trying to suggest a fairly objective way of thinking about "classics." It seems premature to label LOTR as a classic or even as a modern classic.

There might be some overlap of categories, e.g. Nineteen Eighty-Four as a modern classic and as (yes!) a science fiction classic.
 

Oskari

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This is an important topic and, yes, it seems there are enough people at this forum qualified to offer interesting insight.

Qualified?

I'm not suggesting any kind of intellectual hierarchy, just the simple fact that it seems people here are interested and passionate about their own ideas and their desire to express them. More importantly, it seems we are genuinely interested in the thoughts and ideas of others - no matter how it might rub against our own sense of self.
 

Connavar

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Oskari wrote, "First off, literary classic is a specific term or idea, which has much to do with time scale and, more importantly, how it was or had been recieved."

It seems to me useful to think in terms of categories such as these:

1.Classics with a capital C: these are the Greco-Roman Classics that JDW mentions.

2.Classic literature with a small "c": Here, as you say, Oskari, time is certainly a factor. By that I mean that it takes more or less time for something to establish itself as a classic depending on whether the form in which it was written is an ancient or a relatively recent one. Epic poems are an ancient form. I would hesitate to say that any long narrative poem more recent than, say, Paradise Lost is a classic epic poem. The novel is a more recent form. I would be willing to grant that some novels published up to the last hundred years or so have established themselves as classic novels -- for example, something as recent as Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent would qualify, for me. But I would not want to say that more recent novels should yet be considered classic novels. I regard Evelyn Waugh's A Handful of Dust as a truly superb novel. But it feels, to me, too soon to call it a classic novel.

Classic literature is enormously varied, ranging from things as different as the stern objectivity of the Icelandic sagas to the intense subjectivity of Jane Eyre.

3.Rather, I would call A Handful of Dust a modern classic. So is Nineteen Eighty-Four, etc.

4.Then we have genre classics. Here is where I'd place outstanding works, many of them books I love dearly, that I don't think have won their way to recognition simply as classics or as modern classics. There's hardly a fiction in the world that means more to me than The Lord of the Rings, but I am trying to suggest a fairly objective way of thinking about "classics." It seems premature to label LOTR as a classic or even as a modern classic.

There might be some overlap of categories, e.g. Nineteen Eighty-Four as a modern classic and as (yes!) a science fiction classic.


I agree with the accepted view on the word classics. The ones your learn from school and the ones that is more advanced in literary curses in University.

From Homer to modern classics,it is still classics. Genre classics there are some who are mainstream classics too. Poe,Shelley,Bradbury,Wells,Verne are genre classics who are also mainstream classics outside their genres.

Modern classic is just a modern book that has become a classic. Its not a genre like SF novel who becomes classic book in its genre or in the mainstream. LOTR is seen as classic outside fantasy. Its too new to be classics like 1800s books.

I go by the course books in literary classes definition of classics. Those have place for important genre authors too. There is sections for horror,SF mentioning important books of 1800s,1900s. Walter Scott,Robert Louis Stevenson are remembered for their historical adventure books. So you can be classic for genre stories. Its just for anything to be classic today, it has to survive with acclaim for decades.

You dont have to be the deepest ancient classic book or modern classics like Camus and co to be literary classics. Literary scholars teach important genre books that invented story types, was great stories and became literary classics because of that. Gothic novels being prime example.

We dont have to be snobby and say only ancient lit is classic and modern non-genre classics. There are different degrees. Different types of classics. You or me dont decide which books, authors get stuck in literary canon. History, time does that. Simply books that have survived the centuries,decades with acclaim. Modern books take longer to get recognized as classic work. It is easier for non-genre books that meant a new literary movement to get modern classic status of course. Popular, genre fiction has to fight for longer time to become literary classics.
 
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GOLLUM

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Eh...looks like my planned thread Beyond The Horizon featuring so-called literary classics with predominantly elements of the fantastic woven into the overall story arc might get a bit of attention here....;)

I really need to start posting material....I'll make an effort over this weekend.
 

Extollager

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Eh...looks like my planned thread Beyond The Horizon featuring so-called literary classics with predominantly elements of the fantastic woven into the overall story arc might get a bit of attention here....;)


I would be on board for that.
 

Lady of Winterfell

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Only recently have I come back around to the 'Classics'. I, as many other members have stated, had to read the classics for school. I will admit that this definately put me off them. I didn't like being forced to read something, especially if I wasn't interested in it. I think this has the effect of putting many people off reading in general, but thankfully that didn't happen to me.

Now I find myself wanting to read more of the classics. I want to see why they are considered a classic, and whether I agree with that or not. I want to know what others are talking about when discussing a well known piece of literature. But I definately still read my SF/F, and it still outnumbers the amount of classic books I have been reading recently. But I have a more balanced mix I think now then I did even a year ago.

I tried finding a list of the 'Classics' that everyone should read, and found that there are a ton differing opinions out there. I settled for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die since it seemed to have the most to choose from. :) I find it interesting to see what made 'The List' and what didn't. I've spoken with my Dad about it, and we've had quite a few good conversations. The most recent one I can think of was about Dickens. My Dad thinks A Tale of Two Cities is one of his best and one that should be read, but oddly didn't make the list.
 

woodsman

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Pickwick Papers for me although I think Tale is worth a read and perhaps Hard Times, Great Expectations and the horrible Oliver Twist are 'more important'.

Oliver Twist is the only classic(or book of any kind) that school killed for me. School actually got me reading Shakespeare - I had a bit of a crush on our (incredibly severe) Welsh English teacher - yep that's right. I also started reading Steinbeck and Orwell because of school - perhaps this is a whole other thread.
 

GOLLUM

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I tried finding a list of the 'Classics' that everyone should read, and found that there are a ton differing opinions out there. I settled for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die since it seemed to have the most to choose from. :)
I'm familiar with that particular list. A Tale Of Two Cities should definitely be there IMO. Several authors are either not covered or the works that are covered are not their best but there are certainly a lot of good suggestions there. As an exercise...looking at a random sample of size of approx 200 I judged about 70% of those titles were worthy additions...in the sense of being classics or high watermarks or significant for other reasons within the canon of world literature. Just my take...

Interesting stuff.

As I build up reviews of the books I'm planing to focus on, some may find this a useful supplementary list to refer to.
 

LittleMissy

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I tried finding a list of the 'Classics' that everyone should read, and found that there are a ton differing opinions out there. I settled for 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die since it seemed to have the most to choose from. :) I find it interesting to see what made 'The List' and what didn't. I've spoken with my Dad about it, and we've had quite a few good conversations. The most recent one I can think of was about Dickens. My Dad thinks A Tale of Two Cities is one of his best and one that should be read, but oddly didn't make the list.

Oh dear... I don't think I should have clicked on that link! I've now downloaded another 45 kindle books to go into my ever increasing list of books to be read :eek:

Whoops :p
 

Extollager

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My Dad thinks A Tale of Two Cities is one of his best and one that should be read said:
I started reading Dickens when I was about 20, so I've had many years indeed to read more of them. He wrote 14 novels. I've read twelve of them. (Have not managed to finish Arthur Machen's beloved Dickens book The Pickwick Papers and still have Dombey and Son to read.)

That's perspective for this comment: I would not "discourage" someone from reading, as a first or almost first Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, but my feeling is that it isn't his best. He wrote a number of very long novels and perhaps it is worth it just to go ahead and commit to one of them. I wouldn't start with Little Dorrit, which is a fine novel but one in which I think he was trying to work a bit against his own characteristic approaches. May I recommend Great Expectations, Bleak House, and Our Mutual Friend? These all belong to the second and "darker" half of his career. Our great-great-great grandparents' Dickens was more drawn from the first half, and certainly one could start with a book from that time such as Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens used to be known and loved largely for his characters, and Mrs. Gamp appears in that one.

Incidentally, I relish something I have discovered: that time and again, as I am reading travel/exploration books, someone has brought along Dickens to read -- whether it's Apsley Cherry-Garrard's polar Worst Journey in the World or a recent book such as Redmond O'Hanlon's Congo journey No Mercy.
 

Lady of Winterfell

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I'm familiar with that particular list. A Tale Of Two Cities should definitely be there IMO. Several authors are either not covered or the works that are covered are not their best but there are certainly a lot of good suggestions there. As an exercise...looking at a random sample of size of approx 200 I judged about 70% of those titles were worthy additions...in the sense of being classics or high watermarks or significant for other reasons within the canon of world literature. Just my take...

Interesting stuff.

As I build up reviews of the books I'm planing to focus on, some may find this a useful supplementary list to refer to.

Oh dear... I don't think I should have clicked on that link! I've now downloaded another 45 kindle books to go into my ever increasing list of books to be read :eek:
Whoops :p

Well I'm glad I posted it then, since others seem interested as well. :) I made a spreadsheet with all 1001 books on it because it was so much easier to use than the website; I can easily filter and look for a specific author, etc. I also like to keep track of how many I've read, which right now is a measly 20. :eek: If anyone is interested, I can email it to them. Thanks for your take Gollum, its always good to know such a well read person thinks its a good place to start.

I started reading Dickens when I was about 20, so I've had many years indeed to read more of them. He wrote 14 novels. I've read twelve of them. (Have not managed to finish Arthur Machen's beloved Dickens book The Pickwick Papers and still have Dombey and Son to read.)

That's perspective for this comment: I would not "discourage" someone from reading, as a first or almost first Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, but my feeling is that it isn't his best. He wrote a number of very long novels and perhaps it is worth it just to go ahead and commit to one of them. I wouldn't start with Little Dorrit, which is a fine novel but one in which I think he was trying to work a bit against his own characteristic approaches. May I recommend Great Expectations, Bleak House, and Our Mutual Friend? These all belong to the second and "darker" half of his career. Our great-great-great grandparents' Dickens was more drawn from the first half, and certainly one could start with a book from that time such as Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens used to be known and loved largely for his characters, and Mrs. Gamp appears in that one.

Incidentally, I relish something I have discovered: that time and again, as I am reading travel/exploration books, someone has brought along Dickens to read -- whether it's Apsley Cherry-Garrard's polar Worst Journey in the World or a recent book such as Redmond O'Hanlon's Congo journey No Mercy.

I actually haven't read any Dickens, which is what got me and my Dad talking about it...kind of a 'where to start.' I actually already have A Tale of Two Cities, and its the only Dickens book I have, so I will probably start there. Currently I'm reading Little Women, but plan to make A Tale of Two Cities my next Classic read. And as I said I haven't read any Dickens, but I thought A Tale of Two Cities was the beginning of his darker period?
 

woodsman

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Little Women is great though and don't forget Little Men and Jo's Boys!

I still think The Pickwick Papers is one of the best but A Christmas Carol has a very special place for me - we used to have Goose rather than turkey at Christmas because of that book.
 

Connavar

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Dickens is one of few authors i read in school when we were read popular classics. He is also one of few classic authors of his era i have not read as adult.

Also i wonder is there no thread for classic reads general talk ?
 

Star Girl

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I love classics! I have a real love for classic gothic horror The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde is one of my favourite books. It's so dark, the morals and tone of the book just keep me coming back to it. Another one of my favourite books is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley another great story, I've always liked the story of men playing god and everything falling on top of them.
I also love classic Science Fiction, H.G Wells is one of my most loved authors, The Time Machine and War of the Worlds are another couple of my favourite books.

I always hate when people don't give older books a try, I know many people who wont go near a book, or film for that matter, which is older than 40 years. Makes me angry when I know there are great books and films, which should be enjoyed not avoided.
 

GOLLUM

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Well I'm glad I posted it then, since others seem interested as well. :) I made a spreadsheet with all 1001 books on it because it was so much easier to use than the website; I can easily filter and look for a specific author, etc. I also like to keep track of how many I've read, which right now is a measly 20. :eek: If anyone is interested, I can email it to them. Thanks for your take Gollum, its always good to know such a well read person thinks its a good place to start.
Send me a PM if you like and I would be happy to pick the eyes out of the list and provide you what I think are the best of those that I know....and authors/books that should be mentioned.

Pretty impressive reading 12 of the 14 Dickens novels Extollager. I've read a few but not that many. Admittedly I have all 14 novels (including a Christmas Carol), shorter fiction collection, Christmas stories collection and his travelogues from Italy, America and parts of Europe but it's going to be a few years yet before I complete all of those!

Cheers.
 

Extollager

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Gollum wrote, "I've read a few but not that many. Admittedly I have all 14 novels (including a Christmas Carol), shorter fiction collection, Christmas stories collection and his travelogues from Italy, America and parts of Europe but it's going to be a few years yet before I complete all of those!"

I wouldn't want to discourage people from reading whatever Dickens they wanted to read (and I'm not a Dickens expert). But my own experience is that his best work mostly is found in the great novels and in some of his journalism. There is a nice Penguin Classics edition of his journalism, which includes classic essays about walking around London at night, etc. I get the impression that Pictures from Italy and American Notes are not among his best. (By the way, I recommend Fanny Trollope's entertaining and lively Domestic Manners of the Americans! It went over well with our reading group. It was our only nonfiction book during eleven years of meetings, unless you count the very small book taken from Nathaniel Hawthorne's American Notebooks, about three weeks with his little boy Julian while Mrs. Hawthorne was away visiting family. If the reading group had continued, we likely would have gone on to another nonfiction classic that I highly recommend -- Elizabeth Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte.)
 

antiloquax

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Eh...looks like my planned thread Beyond The Horizon featuring so-called literary classics with predominantly elements of the fantastic woven into the overall story arc might get a bit of attention here....;)

I really need to start posting material....I'll make an effort over this weekend.

Look forward to it! :)
 

LittleMissy

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Well I'm glad I posted it then, since others seem interested as well. :) I made a spreadsheet with all 1001 books on it because it was so much easier to use than the website; I can easily filter and look for a specific author, etc. I also like to keep track of how many I've read, which right now is a measly 20. :eek: If anyone is interested, I can email it to them. Thanks for your take Gollum, its always good to know such a well read person thinks its a good place to start.

Ooo, a spreadsheet! I love those!!! I would like a copy of that, please, if that is okay? I'll PM you with my e-mail address... not sure if it shows on my profile or not. Many thanks in advance (though I think when viewed in a spreadsheet that my TBR list will grow some more! The website was difficult to view, plus it kept crashing on me :eek:)

Eh...looks like my planned thread Beyond The Horizon featuring so-called literary classics with predominantly elements of the fantastic woven into the overall story arc might get a bit of attention here...

Hi Gollum *waves* This is something I too would be interested in - although I am sure it will mean adding to my ever-increasing TBR list! :D However, books make me happy, so I can't complain at that can I!? ;)
 

GOLLUM

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I wouldn't want to discourage people from reading whatever Dickens they wanted to read (and I'm not a Dickens expert). But my own experience is that his best work mostly is found in the great novels and in some of his journalism. There is a nice Penguin Classics edition of his journalism, which includes classic essays about walking around London at night, etc. I get the impression that Pictures from Italy and American Notes are not among his best.
I would say that's a fair call actually. I have only read snippets to date from American Notes and Pictures form Italy but I do enjoy Dickens' journalistic writings but also some of his travelogues. 'Great novels' for me would include A Christmas Carol, Tale of Two Cities, Bleak House, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, Hard Times and Great Expectations.

What is the penguin black classic edition featuring his journalism? ALL of the 14 novels I have are Penguin Black Classic editions as is American Notes, Short Stories and Pictures From Italy...hence my interest. I also have a copy of The Uncommerical Traveller providing a potpourri of Dickensian reminiscences on various topics but I don't think that is what you mean...or is it?

Given the apparent interest in that thread I'm floating I'll try to post something by the end of this week to get the ball rolling.
 

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