Today’s focus for Armchair BEA discussions is “The Classics”:
Today, tell us all the reasons why you love classic literature. What are your favorite classics? If you could give a list of classics to someone who claims to hate them to make them change their mind, what would be on it? How would you convince them to give classics a try? And why do you keep coming back to those old favorites?
I suppose we could argue about the definition of a classic. Is it anything over a certain number of years old? Is it something that fits into a certain body of work? Do certain authors count more than others? I guess I go with the “I know it when I see it” standard: If it feels like a classic to me, then I consider it a classic!
My favorite classics are:
- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
- Any/all stories by Edgar Allan Poe
- The works of William Shakespeare
- Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- Anything and everything by Jane Austen
- Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
If I were trying to convince someone that classics are not all dusty and boring, I think I’d give them a few of the above, especially:
- A Tale of Two Cities: This book really has it all! Drama, intrigue, plots, suspense, legal drama, historical fiction, mistaken identities… all the elements of modern-day TV dramas, in one terrific book.
- Pride and Prejudice: I think it would be hard to find someone who hasn’t been exposed to at least one TV or movie version of Pride and Prejudice or any of the dozens of modern fiction retellings, sequels, and monster mash-ups. I think the popularity of the story helps keep it fresh and accessible, and it tends to be a good jumping-off point as an introduction to the rest of Jane Austen’s works.
- Little Women: This is one that really feels universal. Do girls still read this growing up? The four sisters, their ups and downs, games and romances, successes and disappointments, are truly timeless. And again, given the numerous movie versions and the pop-culture references (remember the Friends episode where Joey read Little Women??), this doesn’t seem like an old, forgotten book.
- Brave New World: If you haven’t read this one in a while, I strongly suggest going back to it. It’s amazing, really, to see how much the author got right. So many of the science fiction elements of this book can be found in our world today — it’s downright eerie!
As for why I keep coming back — well, there’s always something new to discover! I just re-read Jane Eyre for the first time in about 10 years, and was amazed to discover how fresh and sharp the dialogue is. When I stumble across some random “classic” short story and realize how much it gives me to think about, it makes me want to pull my older books off the shelf and read them all over again. True classics still have something to say that relevant even in a different time and a different society, and those are the ones that really last.