Monday, March 20, 2017

The "For the Love of Classics" Book Tag

Recently, BookTuber Ang (BeyondThePages) and Yamini (TheSkepticalReader) created a book tag called "For the Love of Classics", and I couldn't resist taking it on.  Although my reading has shifted more towards new releases and modern classics, I still occasionally read more historically relevant books.  I should note that, in my education and experience, when I refer to "classics", I am necessarily referring to those of the Western Cannon.  I am working to widen my reading to areas not typically represented in this body of work, but it is most definitely still a work in progress.  With that in mind, here we go...

Question 1: Why do you read classics, and how often do you read them?

Until about 8 years ago, I read almost exclusively classics.  I didn't yet have an outlet with information about new releases, and most of the books that I found in bookshops were not the caliber of writing I was looking for.  I read them, and continue to read them, because my education told me that they were Important and in order to be well-read I needed to read as many classics as I could.

Now that I have the Internet and a wealth of riches for book info, I read classics to get a sense of what life may have been like in a society from long ago.  I read classics for the characters and the conflict, for the portrayal of relationships and real life.  I also read them, remembering that at one point in history these were new releases, and it makes me wonder what books from our modern society will be considered amongst the classics in 100 years time.

Question 2: What is a period/country/culture of which you haven't read many classics, but would like to?

Because my background in reading the classics is from a Western perspective, I would really like to read books that are considered African classics, Asian classics, and Middle Eastern classics.  Most of the books I've read from these areas have been published fairly recently, and therefore probably wouldn't count as classics.

Question 3: What modern book do you think will be a classic in 100 years' time?

I certainly hope that at least one of Toni Morrison books becomes a classic.  My favorites are Beloved and Sula, but they all speak to our modern society with its advantages and despair.  Even more recent than Toni, I hope that Zadie Smith's books become classics, because of her exploration of life, family, and the relationships that sustain and vex us.

Question 4: What was the last classic you read?

It was my first read of 2017, but the last book I read, that I'd consider to be a classic was A London Child of the 1870's by Molly Hughes.  It is a short non-fiction book, published by Persephone Books,  detailing the author's life as a young child in the later part of the 19th Century.

Question 5: What was the first classic you ever read?

I was a child before there were so many genre distinctions between children's books and adult fiction.  "Middle-Grade", "Young Adult", and other such genres didn't exist in the publishing world yet, so once I graduated beyond picture books and basic reading books, I dove headfirst into classics, mostly of the British and American persuasion.  I don't remember my first, but some of my earliest reads were The Red Badge of Courage, The Scarlet Letter, Little Women, Pride and Prejudice, and Great Expectations.

Question 6: Your favorite classic book cover

As a whole set, I just love the Penguin Drop Caps series books with their bright, colorful covers.  As individual books, I adore the Folio Society covers, with their beautiful production and attention to detail.  I don't yet own any Folio Society books, but some that I would love to have one day would be Moby-Dick by Herman Melville, Beloved by Toni Morrison, and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.

Question 7: What classic authors do you wish had written more books?

John Steinbeck, Irene Nemirovsky, Mollie Panter-Downes, Sylvia Plath, and Katherine Mansfield

Question 8: What is your least favorite classic?

When I read it (admittedly, many years ago) I absolutely hated The Red Badge of Courage because I absolutely despised the behavior of the main character.  I haven't re-read it, but if I did - I wonder if I would feel the same, now that I'm a great deal older and have so much more life experience than I did back then.

Question 9: What is your favorite translated classic?

I don't have a particular book, but I'm so grateful for the Russian classics that have been translated into English, so that I can have the opportunity to read them - The Trial by Franz Kafka, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakakov, and many others.

Question 10: What is your favorite modern classic (published after 1900)?

I believe that, in a century's time, the oeuvre of Toni Morrison will be studied in schools and read widely.  My favorite of all of her books is Beloved.  It explores American slavery, family relationships, and includes a bit of magical realism - truly an amazing and inspired work of fiction that speaks so much truth.

Question 11: What classic literary places would you like to visit?

I've been to London once, but I would absolutely love to go back and explore neighborhoods that were mentioned in books of classic literature.  I spent some time in/around Concord, MA retracing the steps of Alcott, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and Emerson but would love to go back and explore even more.  Many of the authors' houses are open for tours, and are full of artifacts and ephemera from their lives and writings.
A beautiful day at Walden Pond

Question 12: What is the first classic you would recommend to a child?

I would recommend something that would now be classified as Young Adult - Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery,  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

Question 13: What classics do you think are mistitled?  What would you re-name them?

There is a feminist classic, written by Mary Wollstonecraft, called A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.  It was written in 1792, during the time of the French Revolution, but was for a British audience who were worried about the effects of such a revolution on their own soil.  Based on the title, a reader may be inclined to believe that this a a feminist polemic, in the style of the feminism of the our modern era.  However, that is incorrect.  The gist of Wollstonecraft's essay is that women, who received little to no structured education, should be educated rationally so that they can contribute to society.  The prevailing notion was that women were incapable of thinking in a rational, logical way so that it was pointless to send them to schools.  Therefore, I would rename Wollstonecraft's text A Vindication on the Educational Rights of Woman.

Question 14: What is your favorite classic that you'd like to recommend to everyone?

If you haven't read it already, go get yourself a copy of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.  You won't regret it.

That's it for the "For the Love of Classics" tag.  If you're interested in answering some interesting questions about classic books, then consider yourself tagged!

Librorum annis