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When I set out to define the Classics genre, I referenced “three classic excuses” that readers use to avoid picking up anything related to that genre. Although I described these excuses, I didn’t debunk them. I’m going to try to do that right now.
Classics Are Boring:
Baloney. Books are boring. It is all a matter of personal taste. For every genre, you are going to find selections here and there that are boring to you. And really, that is what is most important. Whether or not YOU find it boring – not what people tell you you are supposed to think of it. But just because you read one example from a genre that you found to be boring does not mean you should then stereotype every other book classified in that genre as boring.
I find celery to be boring. But I can really get my taste buds around a sweet potato. Both are veggies. If I had given up after the celery stick I never would have discovered a healthier diet.
I also find text books boring. My eyes glaze over if I have to read about serfdom classes in 1870’s Russia. But when I am reading about this era of history in a fictionalized setting focused on the adultery of a beautiful woman and the havoc it creates in the lives of her friends and family I find that to be quite an entertaining way to learn something. When that story happens to be the classic novel Anna Karenina by Tolstoy, so much the better.
Yes, there are boring classics. But not all classics are boring. The only way to find out if it bores you or not is to pick it up and read it.
Classics Are Too Much Work
What do you consider to be work? Having to look up the definition of unknown words? Not being familiar with the geography in the story? Needing a cheat sheet to keep all of the characters straight? Having to look up the central political/historical events to understand the plot?
Have you read The Da Vinci Code? Or Lord of the Rings? How about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo? Under The Dome? A Tom Clancy thriller? They required character keys, reference maps, political or history lessons, a dictionary. Did any of those feel like work when you read them or did they feel like a lot of fun and adventure? If anything, after finishing a book like one of these, I want to learn more about the world that I just left. They inspire me to seek out information about the setting, the theme, the people involved.
When you want to learn, it isn’t work. When a book’s plot or characters are interesting to you – here we go again with that boredom bit – there isn’t anything that can keep you from turning the pages. Classics are no more work than any modern novel. You just have to adapt to the language sometimes.
Classics Are Too Damn Long:
Uh – exuse me. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace was published in 1996 containing about 1,100 pages. That’s about the same amount of pages as found in Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind published 60 years earlier. King’s aforementioned Under The Dome? Near the same 1,100 pages – just published in 2009. Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth came in just shy of 1,000 pages in 1989. Anna Karenina didn’t even reach 900 pages and it was published in 1877.
If you read the Harry Potter series, that contains over 4,000 pages. The Twilight series has about 2,500 pages in it – each of the four books was over 500 pages long. I won’t even get into the cumulative pages in the ongoing Outlander series. War & Peace sets you back just over 1,200 pages.
Some of the best selling books in recent history are chunksters. Lots of people are reading them – and not complaining about it. Oh – and the most read book of all time? The Bible? On average about 1,200 pages. Many would also consider it a Classic. So there you go.
On the flip side, consider The Red Badge of Courage, The Stranger, Animal Farm, The Call of the Wild, The Catcher in the Rye, Of Mice and Men, As I Lay Dying, Emma or The Great Gatsby. All are commonly categorized as Classics and all are less than 250 pages. Not all Classics make good paperweights.
BOOKS can be boring, feel like homework and be too long. Some of those books are Classics. Some of those books are not. Stop using those three classic excuses to avoid reading a Classic. All genres contain Classics. Take your favorite genre and pick a Classic within it. Then see what you think.