Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Among the Classics

So, today I was walking by a table marked "Classics" in the local Borders Bookstore when my eye was drawn by the sight of a familiar book: THE HOBBIT. Since I'm always interested in the context in which Tolkien is presented -- e.g., whether he's shelved in Fantasy/Sci.Fi. or Fiction or Literature or given his own little section -- I stopped and jotted down the titles of the other books sharing the table. Here they are, in no particular order:

Animal Farm
The Great Gatsby
Crime & Punishment
A Lesson Before Dying
The Stranger
Treasure Island
The Hobbit
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; bound with Through the Looking Glass
The Once & Future King
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Grapes of Wrath
East of Eden
Les Miserables
The Catcher in the Rye
Franny & Zooey
Brave New World + BNW Revisited
Wuthering Heights
And Then There Were None
Fahrenheit 451
Robinson Crusoe
Invisible Man (Ellison)
Lady Chatterley's Lover

So there you have it: twenty-six books, chosen I suspect more or less at random. Only three by living authors, so far as I cd tell on a quick check. Some are literary (in the sense that everyone admits they're part of the canon, taught wherever there are lit. classes), like the Austen. Others are modern classics that, although in newer genres, have shown staying power over decades, like the Bradbury and I suppose the Christie. A few are children's classics, like the Stevenson, or have now been re-assigned to children's literature although originally written for adults, like the Defoe. And which of these categories does THE HOBBIT belong in? I'd say the second and probably also the third.

And how many of these have I read? Sorry to say, only fifteen. And how many of those would I re-read again? Perhaps half, maybe as many as two-thirds.

And what book wd I most want to be added to that table, given my druthers? Something by Twain -- maybe LETTERS FROM THE EARTH or perhaps a collection of humorous tales and sketches (he was a better tale-teller than novelist).

--John R.


Mom said...

Moose started his Twain with Huckleberry Finn and loved it. He then went on to read Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. They are all good and most people will read them. And they are considered the Twain Classics.
His essays, articles, and letters, while actually quoted quite a lot, are not read in collection nearly as much.

David Bratman said...

I've read 12, and while many of them (starting with The Hobbit) are among my favorites, there are also some I would not read again even if paid to do so.

Which explains why I haven't read more, because there are some I've dipped into and gotten the same impression of.