What is a "classic"?
Something old and well-received. It has been appreciated and loved by many.
When I think "classic novels", titles that come to mind are: 'To Kill a Mocking Bird', 'Nineteen Eighty-Four', 'The Great Gatsby', 'Moby Dick', 'Gone with the Wind' and 'Little Women'.
I have read none of these books. There is the exception that 'To Kill a Mocking Bird' was read to my school class by our teacher when I was eleven. Regardless, I can't remember the plot. Then there are, of course, titles by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Bronte, Bronte and Bronte.
Plenty of classics we know about because of media, whether through television, other literature or wide reference to the characters and plot points. I feel that I will never fully understand these references until I have read the books for myself, nor will I have my own opinions on the character developments and the dramatics of their plots without discovering them for myself.
There is just one small problem I find with classic literature - the writing.
It's terrible, I know. These novels are loved for a reason and to point the finger at the actual writing seems almost blasphemous...but it is true.
Writing styles have changed a lot over the years and what was once commonplace is not as tolerable. Long paragraphs, endless descriptions and information that the reader does not care for and has no real relevance to the plot, are a few things that you can find in classic literature. The story is slow, moments dragging on for what seem like centuries.
These days, writers know that if you can make it short but effective, you are king. With such a vast range of media, readers need to be captivated by the very first sentence of a story and some of those openings of classics are, well, classic...and some of them are dull.
While it is a myth that Dickens was paid by the word, he did release his stories in installments. Short bursts of a great tale are a clever enough thing but faced with the entire volume in these modern times, how easy is it for a reader to be captivated by a Dickensian novel when there are film and television adaptations of his works where they do not have to read the descriptions for themselves?
Of course, I do not mean to pick on the works of Charles Dickens. I picked up one of his novels after hearing from a friend that it was a struggle and found my skepticism was a little too heavy. It was quite a bit more interesting than I had anticipated.
Naturally, it is fascinating to read about a time period that we cannot experience firsthand. This holds plenty of the appeal of the novels, along with those classic characters. After all, the characters in these novels have helped shape literature as we know it. I feel ignorant not knowing the roots of literature by being unfamiliar with the true nature of these characters. Second, third and twenty-seventh retellings of other people's impressions doesn't do any justice to the original writing of the author. The portrayal of a character in the novel they were written for is who they are. There is no duplicating that.
I have so many classic novels that I aim - or feel obligated - to read. I have a list of them written down and plenty of those books are just siting on my shelf, neglected or available to read for free as eBooks.
Are you a fan of the classics? What are some of your favourites?
Perhaps you are like me and have not read as many as might be expected.
Do you think that classic novels are worth reading or are they overrated?