What constitutes a classic in literature?
So many "classics" are not what would hit the top 10. So what decides that books like Moby Dick are "classics"?
A book that has brought pleasure to many and has remained in print, or in and out of print, since publication and has received critiques by recognized literary figures. Also, rather as with antiques, to be a literary classic, a book needs to be around for a while. Of course, opinions on whether the book is good or not is subjective and depends on the reader's take.
Regarding the "top ten," this is usually reserved for new titles. Now an all-time top ten would be sure to include Moby Dick, I suspect.
It's definitely important that well-respected critics critique the works, and continue to critique them (people continue to talk about them long after they've been published). Most important is timelessness. The ability of a book to convey messages that apply to the human condition regardless of the author's era. It's why we can read "1984" today and still identifiy with the plot, it's why "The Lord of the Flies" makes sense to every kid. Progression of critical literary theory is important too, for example T.S. Eliot and James Joyce are considered important innovators of style, therefore their work is classic.
I thank both diogenes and ArnikaMarie for the answers, and for RGraf for asking the question. I've wondered the same thing myself. I love to read, omnivorously, but don't really have the critical facilities to determine. I re-read Dickens' "Great Expectations" as comfort fiction when I'm feeling down, just because I love that story. Also, one of my perennial favorites, is Dostoevsky's "The Idiot". And "The Brothers Karamazov", of course.
John Gardner wrote a book, "The Wreckage of Agathon"; also, "Grendel". and those works have disappeared from the public purview, though I thought they were classics at the time I read them. John Gardner became passe. New writers were born and found a market...
I'm not talking about bestsellers whose works are written as pure entertainment, a movie of the mind you can carry about with you when you visit the dentist or sit on a plane; I'm talking about writers of literature.
It seems that they, too, have flesh of grass.
wow. what a question? as a kid a classic was what we had to read for school. A Tale of two cities will forever be etched into my mind. But for me a classic is what spoke to me at the time I read it. It is for me to decide. Why do I think i flunked this question.... lol.
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