April 26, 2009

TSS: What Makes a Book a Classic?


I wanted to pose a question to all of you Sunday Salon readers:

What makes a book a classic?

Is it how old the book is? Then how old should it be?
Is it the style in which it was written?
Should the author no longer be living?
Should the book evoke a certain response from its readers? What kind of response?
Should it teach a lesson?
Should it simply be books that we were supposed to read in high school and college?

I want to hear everyone's thoughts on this. No answer is wrong, of course, since I don't believe there has been anyone to give it a definitive definition. I am just curious as to your thoughts and opinions.

14 comments:

  1. Personally I think a book is a classic when more then one generation enjoys it. For instance CS Lewis was enjoyed by my mums generation, my generation and is still on book shelves so the current generation. I dont thin age as such comes into it as I have heard the Harry Potter series called classic and its not very old at all (in comparison). but then again classic have to start somewhere.

    I have often wondered who deemed various authors works classics. Is there a committee like the space one that unanimously voted to demote Pluto? Or is it theses days based on whatever the media says or perhaps what is still selling in book stores 10 years from now (but by that logic then Michael Crichton would be a classic Author).

    Wow didnt mean to write an essay interesting question!Hope I made sense.

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  2. I asked this same question about a year ago on my blog and got some pretty good answers!
    http://smallworldreads.blogspot.com/2008/06/sunday-salon-lists-and-pondering.html

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  3. I think a classic is a book that stays relevant through the years.

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  4. I agree with Bermudaonion. She said it perfectly! They stand the test of time.

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  5. I like to think "classic" is just the notion "familiar" made collective.

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  6. Great question! I would propose that a classic is a book you can re-read many times, and each time you do, you discover something new.

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  7. Wow. You guys came up with some great answers. I agree with Caspette and Bermudaonion and Julie that a classic stands the test of time and can be enjoyed by more than one generation and that you learn something new each time you read it. I visited Small World at Home's blog and found another answer I like:

    * Classic literature speaks beyond the story. The story is but the context, the setting in which some universal truth, or universal human condition can be explored. true - many novels do this, but may not couch the universality in a compelling story. others may be great stories, but not contain that grain of universal truth. GREAT writers are able to do both.

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  8. I think a classics is a book that appeals to all readers and audiences. The themes of such selections are immortal, and recurring in all cultures and all time periods. It will afford many re-readings and still refreshes one's mind.

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  9. I think a classic is a book that withstands time. A book that is of interest generation after generation, the Nancy Drew series, Jayne Eyre, The Jane Austin novels (even though I personally couldn't get through it) and others that many people, young and old continue to read (whether I like it or not - haha).

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  10. This is a great question and I enjoyed reading the answers that people came up with! I think standing the "test of time" is a good one. But I would think that Harry Potter is a modern classic -- because it crosses age lines and I do think it will be read for years to come.

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  11. I agree with the others here- staying power is important, but also accessibility- people should be able to relate to it on a basic level .
    Of course, there are exceptions to every rule...

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  12. I agree that a classic withstands the test of time, but I would add that it also holds up under multiple re-readings.

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  13. You guys gave terrific answers! Thanks so much for leaving your thoughts and opinions!

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  14. FYI ... I mentioned this post in my post today and thought more about this question!

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