How DID They Become Classics?

A collection of the worst "classic" novels out there.
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86 books · 153 voters · list created August 24th, 2009 by Neurotoxicmuffins (votes) .
3 likes · 
Lists are re-scored approximately every 5 minutes.


Neurotoxicmuffins 21 books
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Susanna - Censored by GoodReads 3056 books
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Bettie☯ 14844 books
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Julia 221 books
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Dewi 44 books
228 friends
Ruby 2250 books
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Roxanne 578 books
24 friends
Flavia 324 books
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More voters…


Comments Showing 1-37 of 37 (37 new)

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message 1: by Bettie☯ (new)

Bettie☯ Anything by Trollope


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

I love all of the Barsetshire Chronicles, *except* "The Warden." The shortest one in the series, yet one of the most boring things I've ever read.


message 3: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Book Pig wrote: "I love all of the Barsetshire Chronicles, *except* "The Warden." The shortest one in the series, yet one of the most boring things I've ever read."

Dearest and most learned Pig: Must disagree on Catcher....i.e., I can tell you exactly how it became a classic, could not fail of it. Briefly, it was a counter-cultural landmark, one of the first. Teachers were FIRED over it. You could rewrite the mantra: Sex, Drugs, Rock n Roll, and Catcher, and not be wrong.


Mike (the Paladin) I didn't vote, even though there are a few books here I have no use for. This is going to be another one of those lists that causes a certain amount of......... consternation.


message 5: by Reese (new)

Reese Mike wrote: "I didn't vote, even though there are a few books here I have no use for. This is going to be another one of those lists that causes a certain amount of......... consternation."

Mike: Amen. Amen. Can we say that a work released yesterday (I exaggerate, of course) is a "classic"? I'll borrow from Woody Allen (whose character wasn't referring to "classics"): "We can say it; I don't know what it means, but we can say it."

Before I go to an ER to find out if I'm having a stroke or a heart attack, I want to announce my final assignment: Voters who don't consider MOBY-DICK a classic, read it as many times as it takes to figure out why it is a "classic."


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

T- Miracle of miracles, you have actually persuaded me to change my vote. I still don't like the book, but you're right that that doesn't necessarily make it undeserving of the "classic" label. You are right that it was a watershed novel for its time.

Mike- I suspect you're right. Some people do seem to take these lists quite seriously.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Also . . . I added a standalone edition of "Of Mice and Men," as I haven't read "Cannery Row" yet and therefore can't judge it.


message 8: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Mike wrote: "I didn't vote, even though there are a few books here I have no use for. This is going to be another one of those lists that causes a certain amount of......... consternation."

I count 12 books on this list to which I give 5 stars. Wish there was some way to explain the "classic" part, but one could go to the book itself on GR and read some reviews there.


Mike (the Paladin) Most of these lists turn into a "boy do I hate this book" or "boy do I love this book" lists. I mean, how long before "Twilight" shows up here? Personally, I can't stand (for example) "Of Mice and Men"...doesn't mean it's not a classic. Maybe a discussion of what "makes a book a classic" would be helpful...but I'm not sure it would, as we'll probably be unable to agree on that either. :)


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

I think of this as the sort of list where we all agree to disagree. I just enjoy seeing other people's opinions, even if they flabbergast me ("Moby Dick"??? "Jane Eyre"???).

And yes, I, too, am thinking it's only a matter of time before someone adds "Twilight" to the list :).


message 11: by Reese (new)

Reese The ER is not the place to go if you're having a cardio-vascular "event." So I'm back.

I'd put my money on peace in the Middle East before I'd bet on a widely accepted definition of "classic." Mike, I believe that your comment contains the first part of the real name of this list: Boy Do I Hate This Book That I'm Supposed to Appreciate.


message 12: by Brixton (new)

Brixton Grapes of Wrath, gee whiz! Like the book or not, it is an historically relevant and important record of America, American families, American politics, economics, corruption, working-life, agricultural movements and trends, relations with neighbouring citizens, climate disruption, the growth of the modern West, how to cook for 10 people with only four ingredients... drama, danger, multi-generational love stories, ethical quandaries, turtles... unfathomable as a classic, what does it take?


Mike (the Paladin) See....every book that lands on this list will astound someone.


message 14: by Brixton (last edited May 28, 2010 01:56PM) (new)

Brixton If there is one thing I wish I could get the people who say Moby Dick is "boring full of useless details" to see, it is that when the reader is thinking that things are going "on and on, nothing is happening, this is going nowhere and there's no end in sight, we don't understand why we're supposed to care about this", Herman Melville is giving you a pretty damn good idea of what the guys on the ship are going through, too. There's a rhythm in this book that mirrors exactly the events and subjective experiences of the characters-- do readers really have the impression Melville is just a dumb guy who doesn't know how to write? No, he's smarter than us, he's doing something to us, and even if that thing he's doing is unpleasant, it serves a purpose. People who get hung up on "whale details", I suspect they just didn't have what it takes to fight, struggle, and survive that journey, with poetry in their soul still left intact, no less... just didn't stick it out to that very last word.

edit: cuz Melville would have written he is smarter than we ;o)


message 15: by Reese (new)

Reese Putting MOBY-DICK on this list is the twenty-first-century equivalent of the cry of Melville's contemporaries: "Hey Herm, why didn't you just give us a good ol' shallow-water story? Why'd you have to turn philosophical on us?" Regardless of whether or not this attitude resulted in his depiction of himself as Bartleby, it makes sense to me that Melville "would prefer to do no more writing" after the reaction to the "great (greatest?) American novel."

So is there some text-message abbreviation for "hearty applause"? Brixton, your comments about both MD and GOW -- HA.


message 16: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Rdbot (Reese) wrote: "Putting MOBY-DICK on this list is the twenty-first-century equivalent of the cry of Melville's contemporaries: "Hey Herm, why didn't you just give us a good ol' shallow-water story? Why'd you have ..."

Problem with this whole list: "How DID they become classics ? " is not a rhetorical question....Or shouldn't be. If Neurotoxicmuffins honestly doesn't know why Castiglione's The Courtier is a classic, He/she probably signed up for the wrong class....or didn't sign up for enough of them.


message 17: by Michael (new)

Michael "Johnathon Livingston Seagull" became a classic? By any definition? Last time I checked, it was solidly in the "tacky 70s ephemera" section.


message 18: by Mike (the Paladin) (last edited May 29, 2010 09:14AM) (new)

Mike (the Paladin) I agree...but it was so widely accepted by the '70s "in crowd" "love generation" (and they tend to run the schools and media now) that it's looked at that way. I agree with you it's pretentious clap-trap, but like every other book on the list there will be those who rabidly defend it...so, who gets to decide? We'll all have our own list of classics.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

I've resisted adding some books to this list because I understand full well *exactly* how they became classics. For instance, I'm not a fan of "To Kill a Mockingbird" or "The Mysteries of Udolpho." But the former tackled big themes in an accessible package, while the latter is a major example of a genre that was extremely popular at one time.

So I'm trying to temper my votes, but at bottom, yes, this basically is a list of "books someone out there considers classic, but that I don't like." I guess I don't see anything wrong with that. It's just for fun!


message 20: by Brixton (new)

Brixton I don't know that we all have our own list of classics. For instance, Catcher in the Rye dulls my senses so completely I just want to claw my eyes out when anyone praises it as thoroughly relateable; however, I can understand why it has continued to stick out: it is a record of a certain mood, melancholy and anxiety, particular to a certain age and perhaps era, and certainly captures something specifically American, and so will continue to be read for these (and other) reasons. So, I did not vote for it because this is not "classics I don't like", but something more like "books which I don't understand why they are standing the test of time" (which begs why Eat, Pray, Love, at only four years old, makes an appearance...)

On the other hand, I did vote for On the Road (my only vote, in fact), which I read as little more than a spastically-written account of one man's tendencies toward racist exotification, pedophilia, alcoholism, and poseur intellectualism... but other than the mythology of circumstances under which this was written and submitted for publication, I still do not understand why THIS book-- of all that qualifies as beat-generation literature, or even of Kerouac's own bibliography-- is the go-to classic of that era; I would have expected the phase which elevated this book to the reputation it enjoys would have passed (or at the very least, the sheer quantity of people who by now have read it and found it overrated, obnoxious, vacuuous, etc-- you think word would be out by now), but I guess pre-Art School enrollees still need something safe to hold in front of their faces in coffee shops to give the appearance of being quasi-rebellious/like everyone else. Why On the Road, and not, say, Visions of Cody (isn't this pretty much the same book?), or Burroughs's Junky? (Disclaimer: I barely remember the former and haven't read the latter, but I offer both titles to underline my impression that On the Road seems a rather arbitrary choice as The Classic even from within its own genre).

Rdbot (Reese): gotta defend my boys! ;o) Grapes of Wrath taught me how to cook with only pennies in my pocket (really!)-- turns out I'm quite good at it and so I feel compelled to "give back" in whatever way I can to Mr. Steinbeck.

And as for Mr. Melville... *sigh*. He must have been doing something effectively, as he caused even me-- a lifelong animal-rights advocate-- to develop, like Ahab, a totally irrational enmity for that dang whale. The awesomeness with which the white whale appears, the mind-blowingly massive rage and power of its depiction-- I am in awe of Melville's abilities to take a reader to such (emotional, psychological) places. (I am also in awe of his knowledge, his poetic skill, and his humour-- if one recognises the variety of ways Melville is taking jabs at all of literary history, that narrator is really very funny!) More than anything, though, Moby Dick breaks my freakin' heart in so many places, I'm sorry there are readers who miss out on experiencing such a complex and profound sensation.


Mike (the Paladin) I think you made the point. By putting a book on this list we're saying we agree that it is at least "regarded" as a classic (by the mysterious "they" who decide everything.). We will all disagree on the ones "we'd" call classic (depending on the definition of that word). Personally I have no use for anything Steinbeck ever wrote, but I don't claim he couldn't write. I don't plan ever to pick up another book by F. Scott Fitzgerald, but he is nothing short of revered by some. Book Pig doesn't care for To Kill a Mockingbird, whereas I would rate it as one of the greatest books ever written.

No I didn't put any books on the list, for like I said, it's another list of "books I don't like". I won't tell tell someone a book they like isn't a classic, just because I have no use for it.


message 22: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, if nothing else, this list has given rise to a great discussion. And thank you, Brixton, for your eloquent words about "Moby Dick," one of my all-time favorites.


message 23: by Reese (new)

Reese Brixton wrote: "I don't know that we all have our own list of classics. For instance, Catcher in the Rye dulls my senses so completely I just want to claw my eyes out when anyone praises it as thoroughly relateabl..."

Brixton,
You did realize that my HA was for "Hearty Applause,"right? I loved your comments about GOW and MD.
Reese


message 24: by Lobstergirl (new)

Lobstergirl Groan....can anything published within the last 10 years already be deemed a classic? Surely it must have to pass some kind of longevity test, even if it's only 20 years...


message 25: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Lobstergirl wrote: "Groan....can anything published within the last 10 years already be deemed a classic? Surely it must have to pass some kind of longevity test, even if it's only 20 years..."

I agree. This shouldn't just be yet another "overrated books" list. But, without clear ground rules on that, I guess we had better let democracy take its course.


message 26: by Megan (new)

Megan Pearson This is clearly just a list of books that you dislike. I am sorry there are a number of books on this list that regardless of personal thought are obviously classics.

When challenged on this you can't actually explain your stance then say "it's just fun". Which in fact these lists are just for fun, but if you are going to call it books that shouldn't be classics you should have a reason....

There is nothing wrong with making lists of books you think are overrated or you didn't like but label it as such.

That's just me though... There are a few I agree with I suppose, though I do agree with the over all theme of it's impossible for a book that's less then ten years old to be a "classic". You were right to put them on there because it's crap that people say they are classics


message 27: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Megan wrote: "This is clearly just a list of books that you dislike. I am sorry there are a number of books on this list that regardless of personal thought are obviously classics.

When challenged on this you ..."


Modern kids often diss on The Catcher in the Rye, but it IS 60 years old and very New York. I still love it.


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads The ones I listed were assigned reading in school; I figure that makes it "classic." And the authors are good but those specific books - whoa.


message 29: by Ðɑηηɑ (new)

Ðɑηηɑ LOL WHAT AN AMAZING IDEA FOR A LIST.. REALLY WHY THE HECK THEY WERE "CROWNED" FOR A CLASSICS? WHO'D TO DECIDE?


message 30: by Doug (new)

Doug Brixton wrote: "If there is one thing I wish I could get the people who say Moby Dick is "boring full of useless details" to see, it is that when the reader is thinking that things are going "on and on, nothing is..."

=======

What an insightful comment! Thank you for that. I have to admit I am one of those people who thinks Moby Dick has excessive detail on the vagaries of whaling (although a fantastic novel). Your comment has helped me make understand the novel on another level. Of course, I still think it's too long. I just don't mind that so much now!


message 31: by Thom (new)

Thom Dunn Doug wrote: "Brixton wrote: "If there is one thing I wish I could get the people who say Moby Dick is "boring full of useless details" to see, it is that when the reader is thinking that things are going "on an..."

Moby Dick may be the first post-modern novel, remarkably so since the "modern" ones had yet to be written.


message 32: by Brixton (new)

Brixton Doug wrote: "What an insightful comment!"
Thank you for your supportive comments. I appreciate knowing I helped someone feel friendlier toward this most wonderful gift left to us by Mr Melville.


message 33: by Noel (new)

Noel Genuinely curious: is this list for books we disliked or books we don't think should be classics? Because it would change my vote drastically. There are books on this list I loved but don't think are 'classics' material, and books on here that I see the 'classic' merit of but really did not like.


message 34: by K (new)

K Hilarious. The list is not complete.


message 35: by K (new)

K Brixton wrote: "I don't know that we all have our own list of classics. For instance, Catcher in the Rye dulls my senses so completely I just want to claw my eyes out when anyone praises it as thoroughly relateabl..."

Many over-rated books need to be pointed out. They spoil the taste of younger generation.


message 36: by Antoine (new)

Antoine Tara wrote: "Genuinely curious: is this list for books we disliked or books we don't think should be classics? Because it would change my vote drastically. There are books on this list I loved but don't think a..."

That's the real nub, and the problem (but also the virtue) of listopia lists is that, because of their openness, we have no way of knowing what approach a particular voter is taking. I would say that there are two criteria a book should meet before being listed:

(A) It should be widely considered a "classic," a book of proven artistic merit, preferably longstanding.

(B) It should, in the opinion of the voter, be undeserving of "classic" status, whether because you simply didn't like it, or because it doesn't have "proven artistic merit." But (A) has to be a precondition. You can't just vote in the book on (B) alone. Then it would just be another haters' list, and we have enough of those.


Emma Deplores Goodreads Censorship I don't understand coming to a list like this and then griping because books you like are on it. Of course they are! By virtue of being "classics," obviously they're loved by somebody, and by virtue of being read by lots of people (many of them in school), obviously they're hated by somebody. Somebody who encounters a "books we dislike" list and agrees with every choice on it should consider that reading maybe isn't their hobby.

Anyway, perhaps we should limit the lists to books of a certain age? I can edit the parameters to require that books be, say, at least 50 years old, or whatever people think appropriate.


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