Nerdfighters

There have been more than a few so-called classics I've read in my life that I just didn't enjoy. In fact there were a few I don't think really should be classics. I realize this is mostly a relative discussion, but someone somewhere deems these books worthy of being put on high school required reading lists across the globe under the title "classics" and I'd like to know if any of those books ever lose their coveted title?

For example, I love Charles Dickens but I quite honestly HATED Great Expectations and don't consider it one of his "classics." In my mind, how can a book be considered classic, applicable across generations and so well-crafted, if it doesn't differentiate between major plot points and insignificant details? I mean, really--was it necessary to wax eloquent for PAGES about BUTTONS?!

 

Are there any classics in literature that you've read that you think are unworthy of the title?
(And yes, I'm new to this group. Hi. :D )

Tags: classics, high, literature, school

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Replies to This Discussion

I'm not sure if Phantom of the Opera is considered a classic, but I honestly don't think it should if that is the case. It may just be because of the context I read it in (I read it immediately after reading
Les Misérables), but in any case, I felt that it hadn't been written well enough to really be considered a classic.
That is something that has puzzled me for years. What makes a classic a classic? It can't possibly be just how well it's written. Is it a combination of things? Plot, character, lyricism, sentence structure, timeliness, some elusive...SOMETHING...??

Yeah, I was just about to write about how books become classics.

Basically, the thing about classics is they're generally just books that are considered in high regard by one or more groups of people in academia. As a result, what makes a book a "classic" to one group of people can be almost the exact opposite to another (e.g. Maus vs Les Mis).

I can see your friend's point about it "killing" the books we love. I definitely don't enjoy dissecting books simply to find out all the connections I possibly can. I'll dissect a book if I want to find out more about the author or if I want to find out more about the setting or historical background or philosophical idea. But not just for the sake of peering at it's bones. I find that morbid. Heh.

I do agree that it would be much more interesting to allow students to have a say in what a required reading list should include. People always learn more about things they are already interested in. There's a whole form of education based on that principle called "unschooling."
However, I don't agree that students should have the final word on what book is worthy of being called a classic. The idea of being a student is that you are in a frame of mind to acquire knowledge and, especially young students, life experience. I think part of being a "classic" is the ability to bridge generations and remain relevant through time, which means a very big part of who should determine the classics should be the generations before us. Make sense?

But I do agree that the younger generations are a necessary voice in that determination. Classics should be like an intersection of the generations or something.

Moby Dick. I absolutely hated it. We had to read it as a sixth grade novel study...it killed me.

It isn't a book that you can dissect. The plot was bland and repetitive. It's painful, and yet it's a classic.

Even worse, perhaps, is War and Peace. OW. I couldn't do it. It took me three weeks and an extremely strong will to read it through.
My dad actually liked Moby Dick, but I've never had the courage to attempt it. Same with War and Peace. I tried Pickwick Papers a dozen times and couldn't manage it. :P

I'm not sure I agree with. I read a lot of classic literature, and I love it. i love the language, I love the plot, and I love the characters. Great Expectations is on of my favorite books. Yes, it goes into extraneos detail sometime, but I think it's a very interesting point of view on education and status in a time when those things were very important to people.

I think the reason these books are classics is because people love them. Even if you don't, there are those who do. It's obviously enough people to have them put on reading lists around the country.

I agree that the way we are taught these books tends to ruin the enjoyment of them, but they are still enjoyable. I think that if teachers were to teach them as what they are, books telling a story, rather than deep insights into our culture today and the personality of the author, more students would be inclined to enjoy them.

That's just my opinion, though.

I am glad you enjoyed Great Expectations. My best friend at the time did as well. I just couldn't get past the license he was able to take with extranneous detail as you put it, just on the merit that he was a "classic"author. I think it probably does have a great deal to do with how literature is taught in school. Authors who are traditionally respected or tauted as artistic geniuses are untouchable. If you don't like them, you're a base philistine, you know? Ever tried telling someone who loves theater that you don't like Shakespeare's style? BLASPHEMER! (I should know, I had this conversation with my mom who was a theater major and she was appalled with me. lol)
I guess I would have a little more respect if I had been able to assess the works on my own rather than being told what to think at the time. And by the same token, I would probably enjoy Great Expectations a little better if I read it now in my late 20's than when I read it at age 15. :)

I took a class my last year of high school where we talked about what makes "good literature" and what makes "great literature." I am not sure who came up with the following standards (I think it was Harold Bloom, the literary critic guy who died a while ago,):

1. The piece of literature stands the test of time.

2. Makes us think about things we wouldn't normally think about.

3. There are multiple interpretations (whether intended or not intended).

I think that there should be a fourth qualification of "artistry." 

And my why-the-hell-is-this-literature book is Banner in the Sky. I actually don't remember why I didn't like it and I read it in like 6th grade. I'm sure that if I read it again I might like it, though.

I had difficulties with ''One Flew over the Cococko's Nest'', because I thought the pros and cons of this book were both equally strong.

There's a really huge problem with this actually, because generally books considered classics are by old white guys. 

That said, I think most classics are classics because they have a transfiguring point to make, i.e., something that points out a social issue, cultural issue, life problem, etc. Great Expectations is one of those that is about class inequality (like most of Dickens' books, but still.) It's not my favorite, but it does have some things it points out that are important to recognize. The biggest problem with classics is that often you have to understand context to appreciate the impact the book would have had at the time, which takes a lot more work than just reading a book and liking or disliking it. So basically, classics are work. 

Ex.: I LOVE The Scarlet Letter. I'm probably the only person I know who does. For me, reading that book was very eye-opening-I had just moved to a tiny town in super-conservative East Texas (during an election year!) and was getting crap from everyone I encountered because not only was I the ONLY liberal person in the school, I was one of three people who were not Baptist (and the other two were Jehovah's Witness and Mormon). At the time, I felt very persecuted, so The Scarlet Letter was a book I really connected with. Other people still see that value if they can connect it to their own experiences, but it's harder because they have to consciously apply it to the circumstances under which it was written. It was easier for me because I was actually in what felt like a similar situation. 

As for an undeserving classic, I would have to go with...yeah, I'm with y'all on Phantom. It's a great story, but it's kind of like an 1800s version of Twilight. It has almost no real substance, it's just a pretty love story, mainly because the Phantom isn't even really likable. 

Brand new to the group, but I'm eager to participate...

While I would agree that many classics are placed on that list because they made a transfiguring point, I think that that feature falls under a broader rule. I'm not going to try and claim that this is the definition of classic literature, but most of the classics I've read have been, in one way or another, revolutionary for their time. That could -- and often does -- come in the form of social criticism or in addressing a universal human experience, but it could also mean, for instance, that the author wrote in a way that was stylistically groundbreaking. Ulysses by James Joyce would be a good example: Joyce essentially invented stream-of-consciousness writing, but he introduced it in what was basically just a rehashing of a classic tale. The story itself was not the most significant feature of Ulysses; the language was. That would still mean that understanding the context of a novel is necessary to understanding its impact/value, but a book can be revolutionary in a number of ways. I think books that are most deserving of the Classic status are those that said, or did, something profoundly new. Eh?

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