The classics, do you like them because you should?

I’ve been busy with a writing course for some months now, with one key area constantly rocking my boat.  And that is the classics.  Much of the course work refers to them, and many of my fellow writers on the course can quote them or have read them, and or both.  Me, well that’s a different story.  Below is a post I’ve put on one of the course forums, and I’m interested to see what replies I get.  If you have a moment, maybe you can tell me what you think.

I often feel I  have origins of a distant planet when it comes to books.  My taste being very different to so many people I know. Even at the book club I joined, the books I purchased were never read by the other ladies, with them much preferring the books, I felt, they had to say they enjoyed.  It was almost beneath them to read  Ben Elton’s, The First Casualty, which I had chucked into the pile.

As you know I’ve mentioned in several forums that the classics just don’t do it for me.  Truly, many could be cut down to novellas by removing the waffle and all, and I might be interested.

But yes I have to agree, when they were written there was little or no TV, internet, movies, Youtube etc, and few had  opportunities to travel and experience other cultures as easily as we can today.  And yes one can argue there was then a need for bulk description as entertainment.

On the other hand, current day requires a different style of writing and we do so by telling stories with a faster, quicker, snappier pace and dialogue, which, not surprisingly, is great for me.

So bearing that in mind, here are 2 questions:

1. do you say you like the classics because you feel you have to, and by doing so project a more academic and/or well read image? 

2. would you prefer to write in the style of the classics, or the snappier style of today


12 thoughts on “The classics, do you like them because you should?

  1. Had to read them at school – at the time I enjoyed them but dont think I would go back to them now. Our modern writers are just as good and I rather read what they have produced.

  2. The few times I have attempted to read any kind of classic was a miserable failure!!
    Never seem to get past the second chapter!
    As for writing – I was thinking the other day that I don’t really have a swriting style, but if I had, snappy would be better than slow 😉

  3. For me, I prefer the snappier style. I think the only classic I ever liked a little was “Little Women” and even whilst liking it, I had to skip a chapter or two because I just don’t have the patience for something that is so slow moving 🙂

  4. I red many of ‘the classics’ at school, and really enjoyed them. I’ve tried reading a few of them over the past years, but their style seems really old-fashioned to me now. I find that I much prefer the modern writers. My favourite is Jodi Picoult. I just love the in depth psychological insights into her characters. I would never say that I enjoyed something because it was expected of me. For example, I’m very happy to admit that I don’t at all enjoy serious grand opera, and be blowed to the fundis. 😉 Each to his own, Ruth.

    1. HI AD, yes I read a few at school, but since then I would think possibly one. I’m not a fan of Jodi Picoult, but only because her books make me cry 😦
      She does write very, very well though.

  5. The snappy style of today is an indication of laziness and a superficial approach. Just as people mainly subsist on a diet of beat with predictable five-note ‘melodies’ and simply don’t ‘get’ the classics in music, so reading has become reduced to wanting a precis rather than living in the scenes, and deeply exploring the characters. The ‘waffle’ gives a depth and interest to the stories which make them truly great, if one applies oneself to becoming immersed in them.
    I’m not criticizing you for what, after all, is the general attitude. It actually takes work, as with classical music, to develop the appreciation. You listen and listen, again and again, until suddenly one or another genre starts ‘speaking’ to you and introduces depths of emotion never before experienced. With classic literature, you have to read numbers of them until a particular author ‘clicks’. From that, you find yourself returning with surprise to the ones which didn’t register.
    One has to live in the moment of the story, with all its description and apparent irrelevancies, and overcome the urge to rush to the destination. Rather like enjoying a journey and the scenery rather than being obsessed with getting to the destination – which, in essence, is what movtivates current trends in writing.

    1. Hi, thanks so much for your reply, great reply by the way. It’s quite interesting in that most people I’ve had replies on, feel much the same as you do, yet the same folk prefer to read the snappier style books of today. And even the writers of today have said they prefer to write the snappier style book. Which kind of makes you wonder if so many love the classics then when did the shift and how did the shift take place to leave us with today’s style of writing.

      1. Many writers who would prefer to write in greater depth do the snappy thing because they feel that’s what the public want. However, how do you explain the fantastic popularity of many of a number of modern fantasy writers who will present their story over ten or more l…o…n…g books, with stacks of description and side issues and, actually, not snappy in the least? I can think of modern writers in other genres who do the same.
        It is a really interesting question!

  6. The classics are classics for a reason. It wasn’t just a couple of old guys waving their canes and talking about what they read back in the day. But by that same token, it takes a lot of patience and a love of literature to understand why a book is a classic at all, let alone enjoy it.

    The biggest mistake people make in this regard is forcing the classics on people who don’t even read that much. They don’t give them the chance to explore their preferences and expect people to drift toward the good old books.

    Personally, I wouldn’t trust a writer who makes it some sort of campaign to openly disrespect the classics, because like it or not they are what set the groundwork for our present evolution in style. People forcing the classics down other’s throats are just as harmful as those who don’t give them the respect they deserve. Sure, everyone is entitled an opinion, but positive or negative, they have to give credit where credit is due.

    I wrote an article titled Shakes Gonzales and the Garbage Books that’s exactly about this in my blog. Feel free to check it out.

    1. thanks for your reply, very interesting points you make. I certainly do give credit to them, but that doesn’t mean I have to enjoy them. and likewise I certainly do respect them, but I don’t believe to be a good writer you have to “like” thier wriiting.
      thanks very much again for taking the time to read and reply, much appreciated

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