Monday, January 28, 2013

Classic Style





How do you define a classic book? 

  • Would you say that it must posess timeless qualities and appeal?
  • That it addresses common problems or questions? 
  • Or illustrates the human condition in universal ways? 
  • Does it have a story that draws readers young and old, from past, present and future? 

Dictionary.com defines classic as of the first or highest quality, class, or rank, serving as a standard, model, or guide.

We'd probably agree that classics are so defined. That said though, I think the selection is subjective. What one likes another may not. I've read a few I wanted to pitch, and others I'd consider as new additions. How about you?

Makes one wonder what Mark Twain was thinking when he said,   

"'Classic'. A book which people praise and don't read."

Did he have specifics in mind? Would his opinion on the classics of his era be the same today?

A student recently asked me to recommend titles that illustrate good, classic language and style. The question comes from someone looking to improve fiction writing skills, and whose first language is not English. An admirable goal, as there are enough challenges writing in one's native language. What would you recommend?


In Other News

Congratulations to Heather Sunseri on the release of her YA book, Mindspeak! Wish you all the best, Heather! For more info, check it out on Amazon.

On February 18, L. Diane Wolfe joins us to talk about her new book, How to Publish and Promote Your Book Now! I'll be sharing my review of the book too.

I'm working on a few goodies to celebrate my fourth blogoversary in March. I'm thinking we need at least one giveaway. With chocolate of course. :)


So what do you think, do you agree with Mark Twain? Which books fall into your "classic" category? Are there any that you think are overrated?

Happy writing,
Karen

39 comments :

  1. I read many classic books at school but sad to say not since I left.
    Perhaps Mark Twain was right who knows.?

    Yvonne.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'm looking forward to visiting you next month.

    I've never been a fan of the classics I'm afraid.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I kind of agree (with a smile) with Twain... I have read many classics (Russian, French, Dutch and American literature) that were very hard to swallow :)
    I was just discussing this topic with my book-loving brother the other day and we concluded: only time will tell if a book becomes a classic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I'm definitely not a classic fan. That's a hilarious quote by Twain! He was probably thinking of Austen. LOL Isn't she the one he didn't care for?
    The one I never understood (and I had to read it in high school) was...ergh. I can't remember the name. There were two, actually. One was about a boy and the other was by Hemingway. Both were very boring and pointless to me. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  5. I will say that I adored Uncle Tom's Cabin and Little Women and I love all the Sherlock Holmes books. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love the classics! I consider Mutiny on the Bounty to be a classic :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Twain's quote is funny!
    I like a few, but most of the ones I was forced to read in school were so boring.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Yvonne,
    I read many in school too, and a few since. But I am wondering if Twain was on to something. They're not all what I'd expect! :)

    Diane,
    Looking forward to having you here too! You know, I think there are so many that are overrated, and we think that we "should" read them. Maybe it's time for that invisible rule to be done away with, you think?

    Marja,
    I agree, some are just plain hard to get through. Ah, you and your brother are right, I'm thinking. And a classic might be such in the eye of the beholder. :)

    Jessica,
    You know, you might be right about Twain and Austen. I do like some, bit others are just too dry and uninteresting. Glad to know I'm not alone! :)

    Optimistic,
    Now there's a good one! I love some, others not so much. It's subjective, don't you think? :)

    Alex,
    I know, I had to laugh when I came across it! Maybe we should make a list of the new classics. :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  9. Stopping by to say hello friend.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I read most of the classics when I was younger. I still pick one up every now and then for a reread. Just reread To Kill A Mockingbird, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

    Found some classics free for my Kindle.

    ReplyDelete
  11. In high school I would have agreed with Twain's quote. I didn't come to appreciate the classics until later on. Now I can't imagine my writing desk without Jane Austen, George Eliot, Thomas Hardy, William Makepeace Thackeray, or The Bronte sisters.

    ReplyDelete
  12. There are a lot of books on the "books you should read" lists that nobody reads because they're either too long or ancient or boring. I think a classic should relate in some way to your situation, no matter whether the settings and times change or not. Two of my favorites are Jane Eyre and Wind In The Willows. The latter speaks to me of love of the country and beautiful things.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Sandie,
    Glad you stopped by! Been thinking of you this past week or so. Hope all is well. :)

    Loree,
    I love TKAM! It's one of my all time favorites. Speaking of the Kindle, just downloaded some old old faves of mine - The Bobbsey Twins. They were free too so I couldn't resist. :)

    Ruth,
    Yes, what would we do without the authors you named? Those, to me, fall into the good classic category. :)

    Nancy,
    You make a great point. I think we need to relate to what we read, otherwise we aren't engaged as we should be, you know? :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, I love classics. Growing up, my dad always told me to read classics, and now that I'm older, I hear his voice in my head. :) I'm drawn to books that have stood the test of time. I do enjoy other books though. :)

    ReplyDelete
  16. Nancy - Big Wind in the Willow fan here! There's a certain sophistication about the classics that I love and I think may writers can appreciate the ideas in classic literature and even imitate them. The common problems in every generation are dealt with in the classics. Think of war and how it's dealt with in Hugo's Les Miserables and Mitchell's Gone With the Wind. If archaic language is the problem there are many versions of the classics that give the story to us in a more acceptable form. My two cents. =0)

    ReplyDelete
  17. When I was in college I had to read a lot of the "Great Books," I found them hard to understand. I have tried to read "The Scarlet Letter" a few years ago. I had to put it down.

    ReplyDelete
  18. I like your question, Karen, because I've never been sure what constitutes a "classic." I always guessed it meant a book read again each new generation. I go on spurts sometimes and pull a classic off the shelf to reacquaint myself with it--latest one was Frances Hodgson Burnett's The Little Princess. An endearing little book :-)

    ReplyDelete
  19. Hi Karen .. I've read so few classics and it's something I'd like to remedy .. even if I cheat along the way - and read synopsis' first and then just scan the book ... everyone's so promoting Jane Austen at the moment - perhaps I should start there.

    However I'm looking forward to seeing Diane here and reading about her new book on the 18th of next month ..

    Cheers Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  20. I would say I'm a fan of classics, but not all of them are ones I'd want to read over and over again. Some are, it depends!

    ReplyDelete
  21. Melanie,
    What a blessing, to have the encouragement from your father! Some things we always carry with us, don't we? :)

    Susan,
    I think you've made a great point about the sophistication and common problems. It is interesting to note favorites in this way. Thanks for your two cents! :)

    Cecelia,
    I know, there are some I never made it through either. Some drew me, others did not, and some seemed just plain dry and boring! To each his own, right? :)

    Kenda,
    I think too, that a classic means different things to different people. :) I know there are some I've read in the last few years that I'd consider a good model for writing good fiction, and in that respect, a new classic.

    Hilary,
    You know, I've done that - read a summary first. I think it helps, and helps see if you think you'll want to proceed to read it! Looking forward to having Diane here too. :)

    Lydia,
    Me too. So I guess we're fans of some classics? LOL :) I am glad to hear so many aren't completely sold on the whole bunch, but have their preferences.

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  22. i love that quote from Mark Twain. He's right though.And I'm thinking of The Odyssey. :D
    Nutschell
    www.thewritingnut.com

    ReplyDelete
  23. I'm not a lover of the traditional classics, I'm afraid. I attempted a few months ago to read F. Scott Fitzgerald's "Tender is the Night" and confess to being bored to tears. I pushed to half-way and put it down. Just. Couldn't. Read. Another. Word. It was sheer torture. LOL

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sounds like Twain was addressing the people of his generation, not so much the classics. As for classics, there are so many, but two of my favourites: War and Peace, and To Kill a Mockingbird.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Nutschell,
    I know, it's great, isn't it? I hear you, I plodded through some too. Some make my thumbs up list, others do not. :)

    Lisa,
    You know, I am glad to hear others say this too. I like some, but others not at all, and couldn't understand the hype, or the "need" to have my kids read them. :)

    Joylene,
    I am sure Twain was, and I can't help to wonder what prompted his comment. TKAM is one of my faves too! :)

    Happy writing,
    Karen


    ReplyDelete
  26. Ha! Yes, Twain might have had a point. Some classics I've loved, but I tried to read The Scarlet Letter too and was unsuccessful. :)

    ReplyDelete
  27. Ha! I think there are some classics people don't read, but others are pretty readable. To Kill a Mockinbird will always be read, I think.

    ReplyDelete
  28. I may be telling my age here but I remember when To Kill a Mockingbird was a new book. Is there a certain number of years that define a classic?

    ReplyDelete
  29. Jennifer,
    I think he might! Haven't tried The Scarlet Letter yet, but based on the comments here, I may skip it! lol :)

    Theresa,
    I agree. And agree about TKAM too, now there's a good classic! :)

    Cecelia,
    I am sure you were very young, right? :) I am not sure about the number of years - that's a good question! I should look into that.

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  30. I think there's some truth to that Mark Twain quote.
    As I grew up in a non English speaking home, I had a teacher who made me a list off all the 'classics' she thought I should read after high school.
    She included nursery rhymes and fairytales. She made 'classics' a treasure for me...and I carried that list in my purse for years!!

    Have a wonderful weekend, dear Karen.
    Blessings
    Dotti :)

    ReplyDelete
  31. I think of a classic as one that can be enjoyed through the ages by generations but also can be read and reread by someone who loves it.

    BTW - I have a March Love Inspired out and tons of copies if you want one for a give away.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Hi Karen,

    I actually have a keen appreciation for the classics-most read during my high school years, making a lasting impression... How Green Was My Valley. Wuthering Heights, The Good Earth and David Copperfield to name a few. I Wonder As I Wander by Langston Hughes and works by Elizabeth Barret Browning and Gwendolyn Brooks endeared me to poetry.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Dorothy,
    I didn't realize that you grew up in a non English speaking home. I must have missed that somehow! :) I can see where that list would be a treasure! Someday perhaps you'll share it with us on your blog? That would be a treasure! :)

    Annie,
    And you are right, love how you said by "someone who loves it". I remember rereading books as a child, like Island of the Blue Dolphins and Baby Island. Loved them! As for a giveaway, I'd love to! Want to interview you too. :)

    Clara,
    Believe it or not I was just thinking of you the other day! It occurred to me that I hadn't been over to see you at your blog in a while. Ah, you named some good classics! Thanks for chiming in.

    Happy writing,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  34. Hahahaha. I love Twain quotes. They're so spot-on! Although there are some classics that I will always re-visit. David Copperfield, To Kill a Mockingbird to name two. And nearly EVERYTHING Twain wrote. Hahaha. I'd love the chance to tell him his books are classics. *wink*

    I heart you amigo. P.S. Yes. Chocolate. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  35. IMHO, a classic is a book you're forced to read in school that bores you to tears! Of course, as you get older and wiser, you may appreciate the fine storytelling/writing - maybe. :)

    ReplyDelete
  36. Robyn,
    Twain was something, wasn't he? Wonder if he thought - or knew, his books would make the grade in that respect. Interesting thought. He was a character, that's for sre!

    Susan,
    Well yes, I confess that the same thought has crossed my mind over the years. :) Older and wiser, for sure, but not always sold on all the "classics", I'm thinking. Beauty, in this respect, is definitely in the eye of the beholder!

    Blessings,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete
  37. Robyn,
    Correction - that's for *sure! Too late in the evening to be commenting...
    Karen :)

    ReplyDelete
  38. I Love that quote by Twain. I'm going to have to keep it somewhere close.
    I think that a true classic should answer yes to all your questions.
    A book that answers all of those questions for me is: To Kill a Mockingbird. It's a beloved classic for me.

    However, there are those that I feel fit the Twain quote all to well, like: As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, and Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. Thankfully, for one of those books I had a great teacher who made the reading tolerable and I could see some of the better point in the writing. However, I don't ever want to read either of those books again and won't subject my kids to them.

    Classic, to me, is a relative term.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Tyrean,
    Yes, I agree, it is relative! And like you, I was selective for my kids too. We did read a few that were so boring, though, but it was a good exercise, I suppose, since I wasn't familiar with them beforehand. lol
    Thanks for chiming in,
    Karen

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for stopping by! I appreciate your input. Have a blessed day!