January 16, 2004
Not Hooked On Classics

JC at Boston Confidential looks at the books that were recommended, and wonders why more classics weren't included. His weblog is incredibly well-written and is much recommended.

I have a strong love for the classics. When I went to college, I vowed to fill in the gaps of my education by reading at least part of a classic every day. In that way I fell in love with Thomas Hardy, Balzac and many others doomed to dusty bookshelves by the masses, not to mention poets. In a similar vein to JC's, I am amazed that I get funny looks when I take a break at lunch, visit the park, and draw a book of poetry out of my messenger bag. I even had one person ask me if poetry was still being written. As with all good things, seek, and ye shall find. I carry a book of poetry with me every day (currently James Tate's The Selected Poems) to fill in the odd moments when I don't have the time to read a story or a chapter, but am in the mood to savor something.

I appreciate all your recommendations, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and especially graphic novels. I was surprised how many of the recommended books I've already read, but also glad to see that many interesting books are available and people are kind enough to share their love for the written word.

Posted by david on January 16, 2004

With all due respect to JC, I don't find it that incredulous that classics weren't mentioned. In fact, it's rather refreshing to see such a varied list of books and authors. After all, reading the contemporaries can be a gateway to the classics and vice versa. If you were to ask for suggested listening, how many people would list classical music?

Posted by: Jeff on January 16, 2004 10:32 AM

Nice analogy, Jeff. A friend is broadening her music exposure this year, and I sent her a list of musicians I admire, and the list consisted entirely of musicians and composers from this century. I assumed that she was already familiar with anything older, a poor assumption in retrospect.

Posted by: david on January 16, 2004 10:53 AM

I can assure you that I wouldn't give you funny looks if I saw you reading a book of poetry in the park.

Posted by: kelly on January 16, 2004 11:41 AM

he kind of kills his own argument for me when he says he's assuming that on average modern literature is inferior. there's more of it, certainly, so does that mean because there are 100,000 books written a month, we should discount the 12 good ones, because a long long time ago 12 other good ones were written?

i also like the classical music comparison. no one i know would ever deny the skill and power of this music, but if we're reading this site we'd probably rather listen to guided by voices or the newest decemberists album. literature is often the same way.

Posted by: justin on January 16, 2004 04:28 PM

Just wanted to share a couple excellent reads I came across recently. For graphic novels, check out David Mack's "Kabuki" and F.C. Ware's "Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid On Earth". I'm also reading Nikos Kazantzakis' "Report To Greco" and am finding inspiration from it daily.

Posted by: Nicole on January 18, 2004 11:18 PM
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