I’m not really all that fond of classics, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The general notion seems to be that you’re supposed to like classics, and that people who don’t are either (a) dumb, (b) not smart enough to understand them, (c) breaking some unwritten code of literature, (d) don’t know how to read, or (e) all of the above.
Now that’s just silly. There’s no rule that says that you have to like classics before you can be taken seriously as a reader/writer/person. Classics were written in a time much different from ours and discussed themes and topics that may not be of much concern these days. That’s without mentioning how classic authors tend to get a bit long-winded and use prose that could be called outdated or old-fashioned.
However, when asked, many people will say that they adore classics – even if they don’t – to avoid being judged by some of the literary snobs out there. Is that really necessary? Tastes vary, and what someone might love another might hate. I bet there were even people who hated said classics at the time of their publication; you can’t please everyone after all. Personally, I’ve read several classics that have bored me to tears. I don’t care if some people swear by Jane Austen, I thought Persuasion was a dreadful book and couldn’t get past the first few pages of Emma. I never understood the hype about The Great Gatsby. George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss caused me to throw the book against the wall in frustration. Oliver Twist held my attention, but only barely, and I was appalled by The Lord of the Flies. Just a few titles off the top of my head.
That’s not to say that I don’t like a few classics. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott has always been one of my favourite books, and recently I bought this lovely Penguin Threads edition of the book.
I loved What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge and The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, and David Copperfield will always have a special place in my heart. But at the same time I like me some Harry Potter, The Night Circus, Sophie Kinsella, R. L. Stine, Jasper Fforde and Terry Pratchett, and I don’t think it’s okay to judge me for it. My books – whether the ones I read or the ones I write – don’t define who I am as a person.
How do you feel about classics? Do you think it’s a crime to dislike them? Any particular ones you’ve hated or liked?