In August, there was a Classics book tag going around the blogosphere. I didn’t participate at the time. But then, I saw Brona’s post, and she tagged whoever wanted to participate.
As I recently finished reading my first list of 50 books for The Classics Club, I thought I would use these questions to do some type of recap.
So I’m exclusively considering these 50 books to answer the following questions.
Which means that I’ll probably have different answers if I do it again (I might) when I’m done with my 2nd list of 50 titles.
I’m also not considering all the other classics I read before joining The Classics Club.
What is one classic that hasn’t been made into a movie yet, but really needs to?
I think it would be neat to make a movie on Travels with Charley. It would be a great piece of Americana. I’d see Robert Duvall as a great John Steinbeck.
What draws you to classics?
My thinking is that if we have not stopped reading these books along the years and the centuries, it means they have a message or value for all ages, and so for mine as well. So I’m curious to see what it could be.
Also, incidentally, I really love the online community built around the classics, especially through The Classics Club. It’s really great that so many people from many countries can interact on these treasures of humanity.
I’m thinking for instance of Don Quixote, and the 3 readalongs organized around it this year that I know of.
Be sure to visit also this amazing interview with Silvia of this work – and most insightful comments on my and her post.
What is an underrated classic?
Maybe a book that is on the verge of being forgotten, a bit like an endangered species, and not too many people have read it, for a reason or another. But when you read it, you realize its content can definitely be understood and is meaningful for us today.
I could mention here Arsène Lupin, not that well known in English speaking circles. Yet, it is a seminal series for the mystery genres, and offers a unique perspective on a life of crime, very different from the current tendency of gruesome and violent thrillers.
What is one classic that you didn’t expect to love, but ended up loving anyway?
I don’t remember fondly, to say the least, the various novels by Hemingway I read. But so many readers were talking about A Moveable Feast, that I was intrigued and thought I should give it a try, especially as it is set in my native country!
I was probably also feeling ashamed I had never read it. But I approached it with fear and trembling, because of my past experience with this author. Yet, I loved the book very much. It definitely helped it was nonfiction actually. I loved the description and evocation of the place and time, plus the various people we meet in it. Beautiful prose!
What is your most favorite and least favorite classics?
This is a very difficult question, even if I only consider here these 50 titles!
My most favorite of these 50 titles might well be Charlotte’s Web, for its beautiful prose and message. And I love so much the last line! Look at my review if you forgot that line. But obviously, there are tons of other titles I really enjoyed in this list.
As for the one I liked least, I’m also going to choose a children’s book. I was very disappointed by The Secret of the Old Clock, even though I was told I should appreciate the fact that this genre was almost revolutionary at the time. I’m not too sure I read it as a kid in France, so if I read it, apparently it didn’t impress me either at the time. Back then, I read the series by Enid Blyton, and loved it a lot!
What is your favorite character from a classic? Or if that is too hard, one is your favorite classic character trope (e.g. strong and silent, quiet sidekick, etc.)
Francie, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I love her outlook on life, and how important books are in her life.
What’s a popular classic that you felt wasn’t actually that great?
Whose Body? by Dorothy Sayers. I was rather disappointed, I didn’t like the social aspect of it. But I’m intrigued that the series is so popular, so I’ll give it another chance and plan to read volume 2.
Who is your favorite classic author?
I’m going to say Marcel Proust. Reading his whole In Search of Lost Time was a fantastic experience. It is so rich! And even if there are some boring passages, like an interminable meal lasting 50 pages or more, what’s really neat with Proust is that suddenly, when you are almost ready to give up, you bump into a real gem of a sentence. So don’t give up!
Actually the very last book is beautiful, with lots of fascinating pages on the art of writing. I now understand why a friend of mine starts reading it again when she’s done, I think she’s read it all 4 or 5 times. If I were younger, I would read it again, as there are so many connections between the different books that you cannot possibly see when you read it only once.
In your opinion, what makes a classic a classic?
I basically answered this question at the beginning. I think it’s a book with a universal message, universal as far as location and time. That whatever culture it was written in, it can apply to all. And whatever time it was created in, it is still meaning today, because it deals with some things that are very deep in our human psyche and life experience.
Relating to newer books, what attributes does a book need to have in order to be worthy of the title “classic”?
I would say the same as I answered in the previous question.
This could apply for instance to science-fiction classics, (I read The Martian Chronicles; We; Solaris) as they deal with our deep human need for connection with others, with our deep need to prove that we are not alone out there, as Arthur C. Clarke beautifully highlights in Childhood’s End, which I recently listened to (as my first book for my second list of 50 titles!).
Bonus question: Is there a classic you don’t seem to understand?
Yes, I have no clue what C. S. Lewis is really talking about in Till We Have Faces, even though I had a whole discussion with a reading group at my church on this book.
That’s it. Let me know
if you were surprised by some of my answers.
If you feel tempted by these questions,
please post your answers and give me your link.
I’m curious to see what YOU think
I wouldn’t judge the Lord Peter Wimsey books based on Whose Body. There are definitely stronger ones — and you don’t have to read them in order. Try Murder Must Advertise (I recently reread that and enjoyed it), The Nine Tailors, or the Harriet Vane sequence.
I would like to try some Arsene Lupin stories in French! Do you think that is reasonable for an intermediate learner?
OK, thanks for the advice on Peter Wimsey! And yes, Arsene Lupin is easy French
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Sawyers wrote 4 titles with Harriet Vane: Strong Poison, Murder Must Advertise, Have His Carcass, and Busman’s Holidays. Any and all those four will give you a more robust and literary side of Sawyers.
If you want amazing theology, her not too long The Mind of the Marker will blow you away. And she also talks in it about the process of creating characters and writing.
Thanks so much for these recommendations, always so precious. Sad to say, I had never heard of The Mind of the Maker!
I read a lot of the Nancy Drew books as a kid and loved them, but I wonder how they would hold up if I read them today as an adult!
My problem is I didn’t grow up in an English speaking country, and somehow, I hadn’t read them in translation either. But I re-tried the Hardy Boys, and still enjoyed them!
I love this. All of it. Thanks Lory for explaining what I wanted to say. I didn’t appreciate Sawyers mysteries as much as when I read The Nine Taylors or Strong Poison. Whose Body is very much a first book and alone it doesn’t carry much weight.
I too will try Lupin and most definitely Proust.
A Movable is high in my list. And huge yes to Francine. Add me to the club of the ones who don’t understand Till We Have Faces. I think it is because I am not familiar with the myth that the book is based on. His adult fiction is obscure to me. I rather read his non fiction or Narnia, 🙂
I have never read the Martian books, but it is also good to know you hold them in good regard.
Well, I feel better about Till We Have Faces. I read quite a bit about the myth to try to understand, in vain. Yes, The Martian Chronicles is wonderfully written, even though I usually don’t like short stories. But they are all connected here. I would love to see you doing this tag 😉
Bradbury? I misunderstood. Yes. He is a classic for sure. One of my favorite authors. I love The Martian Chronicles. I thought it was a different book for some reason.
Yes, I was talking about this book – cover on the post
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Thanks for sharing your answers t this little classics meme. I read one C.S. Lewis spiritual book, The Four Loves, but I felt it was too logical for me; I’m not a logical sort, I think. I didn’t like the character of Nancy Drew, as I found her too perfect.
Well, that other CS Lewis is definitely NOT logic!! That could have been my problem. You didn’t like the Screwtape Letters? Ah, glad to be in your company for Nancy!!
Very interesting answers Emma. You’ve piqued my interest in Arsene Lupin. I will add it to TBR. I agree wholeheartedly about the value of the online classics community…I love the interaction and comparing notes. I am often amused when I have a sharp difference with someone whom I typically am in agreement with.
So speaking of that…In Search of Lost Time, do you think it possibly loses something in translation?, (I assume you read it in French), because it was a great chore for me. I admire the work…but didn’t enjoy it.
Yes, try Arsene Lupin!
As a literary translator myself, I have to admit that yes, something is going to get lost in translation, especially with that type of author. Yes, I read it all in French. But I did check a few passages in English that I wanted to share with my English speaking husband, and they were beautiful. But I haven’t checked how they dealt with super long sentences. And I wonder if they were careful enough to translate the same words the same way. That’s a major issue, and if the translator is not careful and chooses different words for the same French word, then you completely loose key words connection, between parts of a book, and even throughout the 7 books
Good answers! I too was surprised at how much I liked A Moveable Feast. I read it recently (with some trepidation) and decided it is my second favorite Hemingway, the first being For Whom the Bell Tolls. Funny that the one was his last book, the other his first.
Yes, interesting fact!
I love the classics- that all started through the George C. Scott movie of A Christmas Carol. It became family tradition to watch it holiday after holiday. Les Misérables is one of the biggest reasons why- I am obsessed with it, which began with the musical film.
I can rank classics in two ways- the old and the new. The old classics come from the 1800s and before and the new ones are the ones that were created in the 1900s.
Here are classics I read and loved: these come from the 1800s and earlier
1. A Christmas Carol
2. Les Misérables
3. Oliver Twist
4. Hunchback of Notre Dame
7. Tale of Two Cities
8. Don Quixote
9. Great Expectations,
10. David Copperfield
11. Nicholas Nickleby
Yes, there are a lot of Dickens books, but don’t forget he wrote a lot of books
What about the newer classics, as in the 1900s. Which of those do I love? Usually, that is hard to think of.
1. The Hobbit
2. Lord of the Rings
3. Little Women
By the way, which of the 21st Century books do you make will become a classic?
In addition, I am working on writing books myself
Thanks for sharing. Happy to see a few by Victor Hugo here. Your last question is very interesting. Without thinking too much, I’d go with Hilary Mantel’s books and also boos by Louise Penny.
If you want to see more of Hugo, check out this post:
Thanks, I’m actually French, so I have read several novels by him, plus awesome poetry, and some of his plays. He was my Mum’s favorite author, and we had his complete work, in a MASSIVE book, even though it was super thin paper
I only knew about Hunchback or Notre Dame and Les Misérables due to being American
That’s great. So many have seen the movie or musical but never tried to read it in translation. It is so powerful
Les Mis is so powerful: really can notice this through the songs. I am an emotional wreck either listening or watching Les Mis
Yes, and even richer when you get the full picture with the historical background