What Makes a Classic? Blog Hop 3-7 Jan 2013

Classic Reads 2013


This blog hop is sponsered by four great Indie authors be sure to scroll down and see their latest books.All worth a read:)

Oak Wooden Shelf Background

there is also a spread the word prize draw 


What do we think is a ‘classic’? Between 1/3 to 1/7 you can share some of the thoughts on this subject. Do they have to be old, controversial, heartwarming – what are the things that catapult a book from a great read to a must read? Can any book be a classic.  Click on the classic reads picture above to see what other writers think.

26 letters

When I was a girl, and began my reading life, I knew, absolutely, what a classic was. I kept this knowledge over many decades. But the past two decades I find Imust re-evaluate what I thought of as a classic.

An important criteria, is that the book must have stood the test of time. On this basis I considered that a book published in my lifetime could not join the ranks Of course I was forgetting that I was no longer 27 years old! (the age my mind  still insists I am) and that in fact a great many of my favourites, published in my reading lifetime, have been in print for well over six decades, how much time do they have to stand!

I joined a classics reading challenge in 2012, which had different centuries in the challenge. My instinctive reaction on seeing the 20th century in the list was to pooh-pooh the idea entirely, or to allow that maybe those written very early in the century (the first decade) could maybe sneak in. I looked the lists of suggestions, finding books that I had read as a child.  The Borrowers, a classic?  The Secret Garden?

One of the disadvantages of growing older, is that one has already set parameters in life decades previously and it takes a real effort sometimes to shake them loose and allow the new in. I like to think that I can do this but it does take a real effort. Certainty of one’s views is akin to a security blanket, and as we grow older we feel the chill more and enjoy our blankets!

My criteria for what constitutes a classic hasn’t really changed, but what I have done this last year’s widen the scope.

During the Second World War new books were rare because of the paper and author shortage. I was fortunate in that I was born into a family of pack-rat readers my parents, and later my grandmothers, who moved in with us, had substantial numbers of books. I was not aware of the shortage because I had thousands to browse through in my own home. I cut my reading teeth on the Victorian the Edwardian writers.

Young readers today maybe fight shy of reading Thackeray, Dickens and Elliott, maybe Gulliver, does not appeal, because of the sheer size, the style and the mistaken idea that they have no relevance to today’s reality. This is a pity, because they do.  I have read from others that Steinbeck is dull.  Dull? I confess I never have found him so.

Of all the tales that have been related to us, and printed, very few have stood the test of time. We can go back to the Iliad and Odyssey, we have Beowulf, then of course there’s Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Milton’s Paradise Lost, please we must not forget Shakespeare. These all tower in the classics list. But what made these particular books remain ever popular,  I think I must add that popularity in the case of classics is merely that enough people have wished to read them therefore keping them in print over the decades.

Another criterion which is necessary to produce a classic is the ability of the author to transform 26 letters, which constitutes our alphabet, and from which all our words are gleaned, into something magical. There were plenty of other writers around during all the centuries probably writing more popular books at the time. They have sunk with barely a ripple. But the few that survive are those in the main that have employed their words to ring clarion clear across time. Not always in high academic pleasure, the Canterbury Tales after all appeal to the high spirited vulgarity in us all. Paradise Lost and Dante’s Inferno, do not let us forget Dante, use language in such a magnificent way as to inspire awe, grandeur and terror still, centuries later. The writers of classic works, help to shape the language and thought not just in his time but more importantly for the readers and writers of the future.

Not all of them of course will invent hundreds of new words such as Shakespeare did! They will be the cutting edge of their time, they will be the writers that are experimental, innovative; those who are bold enough to break with traditional forms of style, those brave souls who seek and succeed in presenting radical newness. They will inspire and change the very creation of writing.

Another criteria I am certain makes a classic is the ability to write about universal truths is such a way they engage with the reader not just it their present but, transcending time, down through the ages, so that, although the style of writing and the language used, are different and maybe demands a little more effort in the reading, still resonates to each generation. There are many themes to do with the human condition many of them profound; love, loss, justice, society, race and politics. A classic author is able to discuss, portray and critique the social and political issues of their time but the spark which separates them from others of their generation is an uniqueness in their writing which renders the stories personal and relevant today.

Another criterion I believe is necessary to create a classic is the fact that the story becomes part of a cultural treasure, enriching the nation’s language, history and culture. And within the population enrich the individual. Enriching, because of its power, its beauty in the crafting, the plotting and the substance, in the richness of thought observation and invention. And in the ability to help the nation, and the individual to define itself.

When I look at different lists I find I have been lucky enough to read and enjoy a great many of the accepted classics. Especially as now I have enlarged my timescale to include the 20th century as well. From the more recent books that I have read, and when I say recent I am actually talking about 50 years ago! I find many of my favourites such as the Fellowship of the Rings, To Kill a Mockingbird, Animal Farm and 1984.

I would like to think that  Lord of the Flies, Catch-22 and One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest will make the grade in another twenty-five years or so:) all of which I believe do fit the criteria. Of course that will depend on the public – will they see that spark and blow on the flames.

My time scale is not as furiously fast as many these days, and I still believe that under 50 years is too soon to declare a book a classic – ‘possible classics’ maybe:)

I’m not so sure about some of the very recent ‘must reads’, they feel like fads to me, but time will tell. I suspect that most of the classics that we except as classics were slow, rather than fast, burners in their day. By the very nature of their break with traditional writing, their innovation and radicalism they do not stand first in line to be accepted and understood. I probably won’t be around in another 25 years see if I am correct.

Oak Wooden Shelf BackgroundOur sponsers and their latest offering

MarkoftheLoonMark of the Loon – Molly Greene
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Mark-of-the-Loon-ebook/dp/B00838H1OY
Synopsis: What happens when a workaholic serial remodeler falls in love with an old stone cottage built by an ornithologist and his eccentric Irish wife? If you’re Madison Boone, you kick your budding romance with handsome Psych Professor Coleman Welles to the curb and lose yourself in a new project.

Madison renovates distressed homes in addition to her busy real estate sales career. When she hears about a quaint house on a private tract of land overlooking Lake Sonoma, she climbs in the window for a private tour and falls in love with the place. Good fortune enables her to purchase the Blackburne’s property, but far more than a new home and lush gardens await discovery during this renovation.

As Madison works on the remodel, she’s drawn into an old love story with dangerous consequences. She unearths buried secrets and discovers herself in the process. Good thing she has three wise, hilarious friends to advise her along the way! Mark of the Loon is the skillful combination of history, mystery, and romance in a novel that explores deep friendship, choices, and how individuals cope with loss.

InLeahsWakeUpdatedIn Leah’s Wake – Terri Giuliano Long
Link: http://www.amazon.com/In-Leahs-Wake-ebook/dp/B0044XV7PG
Synopsis: A Story of Love, Loss, Connection, and Grace

At the heart of the seemingly perfect Tyler family stands sixteen-year-old Leah. Her proud parents are happily married, successful professionals. Her adoring younger sister is wise and responsible beyond her years. And Leah herself is a talented athlete with a bright collegiate future. But living out her father’s lost dreams, and living up to her sister’s worshipful expectations, is no easy task for a teenager. And when temptation enters her life in the form of drugs, desire, and a dangerously exciting boy, Leah’s world turns on a dime from idyllic to chaotic to nearly tragic.

As Leah’s conflicted emotions take their toll on those she loves—turning them against each other and pushing them to destructive extremes—In Leah’s Wake powerfully explores one of fiction’s most enduring themes: the struggle of teenagers coming of age, and coming to terms with the overwhelming feelings that rule them and the demanding world that challenges them. Terri Giuliano Long’s skillfully styled and insightfully informed debut novel captures the intensely personal tragedies, victories, and revelations each new generation faces during those tumultuous transitional years.

Recipient of multiple awards and honors, In Leah’s Wake is a compelling and satisfying reading experience with important truths to share—by a new author with the voice of a natural storyteller and an unfailingly keen understanding of the human condition…at every age.

SecondChanceGrillSecond Chance Grill – Christine Nolfi
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Second-Chance-Liberty-Series-ebook/dp/B009Y4ZSFK
Synopsis: Dr. Mary Chance needs a sabbatical from medicine to grieve the loss of her closest friend. But when she inherits a struggling restaurant in Liberty, Ohio she isn’t prepared for Blossom Perini. Mary can’t resist falling for the precocious preteen—or the girl’s father. The bond they forge will transform all their lives and set in motion an outpouring of love that spreads across America.

Welcome back to Liberty, where the women surrounding the town’s only restaurant are as charming as they are eccentric.

Second Chance Grill is the prequel to Treasure Me, 2012 Next Generation Indie Awards Finalist, which The Midwest Book Review calls “A riveting read for those who enjoy adventure fiction, highly recommended.”

BrokenPiecesBroken Pieces – Rachel Thompson
Link: http://www.amazon.com/Broken-Pieces-ebook/dp/B00AR0T74S

Synopsis: Welcome to bestselling author Rachel Thompson’s newest work! Vastly different in tone from her previous essay collections A Walk In The Snark and The Mancode: Exposed, BROKEN PIECES is a collection of pieces inspired by life: love, loss, abuse, trust, grief, and ultimately, love again.

15 thoughts on “What Makes a Classic? Blog Hop 3-7 Jan 2013

  1. Elisabeth says:

    Hello Alberta. I like the part you talk about Fad vs Classic – like you said, only time will tell. We see some of the best sellers of today and know they are not all classic literature. At least we can be consouled they no longer print most copies sold on paper anymore. The question is – Will Fifty Shades of Grey last like Wuthering Heights did? Back then, Miss Bronte wrote a scandalous story, yet they all read it and we still read it today.

    • alberta says:

      Indeed that is an interesting point you raise – I haven’t read the books but judging some extracts that have been doing the rounds I am not sure the use of language is long lasting, the theme I guess is everlsting! and someone on this classic hop pointed out that The Valley of the Dolls has been in print for 50 years now! There are erotic books in plenty on the classic lists so who knows, is Shades of Grey erotic (not in my use of the word but maybe it is for others)Personally I have never liked Wuthering Heights – read as a girl who was bullied a lot I could recognise bullies at a fair distance and that man was a powere/control seeking bully! in my humble opinion but as you say people still read it today. Scandel of course will hook in a reader faster than apreying mantis will behead an insect:)

  2. JeriWB says:

    With so many books flooding the market and so many avenues to publication these days, it will be interesting to see what time frame will stand to denote a story as a classic. It’s hard to say. I most definitely agree with a classic’s tendency to become a cultural treasure.

    • alberta says:

      I must confess to feeling slightly piqued that I shan’t be around to see which do stand the test of time:) as you say – so many but many are holding thier ground and much that is dross is vanishing as swiftly as it appears – it is a fascinating time for books and trying to 2nd guess almost impossible I would think:)

  3. Great post Alberta.

    I think it’s an interesting point about how long do you wait before defining a classic. The test of time is indeed key to how much of a mark a book will make on history. The same is true in the film world. The latest blockbuster is the greatest film ever, but within a few years it is forgotten. I do think the classics of today and tomorrow will be those that don’t necessarily sell so well to begin with but they will stick around for all time. They will matter in the years to come.

    • alberta says:

      Yes – it is time and relevence. I agree about the films – some now are emerging as classics – despite the lack or fading colour,the wobbly sets, strange clothes they are creations that we are willing still to watch, laugh, cry and cheer over because of the creative genius and universal themes.

  4. Thank you so much for your post, Alberta! You offer a great perspective, and of course it’s hard to discuss ‘New Classics’ knowing we don’t have the ‘test of time’ measure. As you say, we can only hope that readers continue to enjoy these wonderful books. Thank you for taking part in the hop!

    My best,

    • alberta says:

      I enjoyed this hop very much so thank you all for sponsering it:) new classics will have to wait in line I’m afraid – but no shame in being a ‘Great Read’ – it’s what we all strive for – after all the author never knows he/she has made the classic grade – long dead:)

  5. Eden says:

    I enjoy your perspective on what makes a classic a “classic”, Alberta… Of course, it’s as likely that much of what we call classic now is such because it is what we “have” from such times… as in Beowulf, or The Canterbury Tales, Homer’s works…

    I say this not to denigrate those works, but having read and enjoyed many of Sappho’s writings as well, classic is as much a measure of availability, and certain works have been readily made more available than not (I note Dickens here, who did write some excellent stories, but ALSO wrote some extremely tedious works because he was being paid by the word for his writing and padded the work).

    As for more recent works… This “revolution” of writing we seem to be seeing gives us one thing that we’ve truly never had in the history of storytelling. The ability for ANYONE to tell a story and have it be presented to the world…. The gatekeepers of space or audience or publisher are diminishing in number. They’ll, of course, always exist in some sense, but now… well, we’ll see what truly makes a work pass the test of time.

    I think you’re right… the slow steady rise to fame will be more enduring and more powerful than the overnight success. But it MAY not make the investors happy. :-/

    • alberta says:

      Hi Eden – of course availabilty comes into it and the classics of long ago were rescued and translated by men, because men were the only ones who could, however texts such as Sappho’s are considered classics and this because even after this great expanse of time and culture they resonate today. This is what seperates a great read from a classic. The excitment of today’s book revolution is the choice, however most publications will sink without a trace and even quicker as the new push foward. The classic reads of tomorrow will survive.

      When Dickens wrote he was not alone many many authors of his time did so as well and were popular reads where are the Stanley Weymans today?(one of my fav. reads as a child, grannies books, read them all avidly:) We don’t really need the acedemics to tell us what is a classic – the buying public decide that – the acedemics can disect and write lengthy tombs about this book or that, at the end of the day the test is whether the author has grabbed us enough to become a classic in another century:) – and frankly my dear I don’t, as I am sure you don’t, give a damn for the investors:)

      • Eden says:

        Hear, hear! Hard to disagree with anything you said, save that… in general one almost has to be part of the academia here to have heard of Sappho. And yes, her writings are classics for the reasons you said, but if no one hears her name….

        Well, censorship doesn’t always need to be done by force. And too many wonderful things are simply lost through lack of awareness before it’s too late.

      • alberta says:

        ‘lost through lack of awareness’ – it is sad but true – even to wildlife and plants:( quite a few ‘classic’ texts are now mainly in the realms of acedemia for many reasons, the main I think because they need time and commitment to travel through such archaic language – but the truths they tell are still accessiable if one is willing to devote time. Reading long or difficult books is not always an option in busy lives nor unless we are taught to ‘read’ difficult books or have a passion for them,classics are not ‘popular’ fare just satisfying:)

      • Eden says:

        I think you found the major monkeywrench in the works just by commitment. People are often afraid of the commitment, in time and money required for so many things…. not just the classics.

        But yes, there is satisfaction waiting for those willing to make the attempt.

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