Reading the Classics discussion

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message 1: by N.L. (new)

N.L. Armitage (formerlyfromtokyo) | 4 comments For myself with regards to Jane Eyre, it's the intensity of the love between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I love classic stories where the love between the characters is so intense that it is portrayed like madness, or to where the characters are actually driven mad by it (or nearly so), a la Wuthering Heights. I'm not sure why, except that I find the expression of the intensity of the characters' emotions very compelling, and it is something that I am never been moved by in the same way with modern novels I have read. Perhaps it's because there is something to a couple falling for one another so deeply and completely, all without the modern expectations of relationships.


message 2: by Kelly (new)

Kelly Higgins Well I enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo because it kept me intrigued and interested all the way through the book. You either love it or hate it.


message 3: by Anne (new)

Anne L | 7 comments I loved all the classics I had read. Especially love authors such as Bronte sisters, Jane Austen and Charles Dickens etc. Their books are some of the bests.
Love the slow rhythm and the elegant language arrangement of the narratives, also the description of the complex human emotions. Books are getting simpler and simpler in narration nowadays, more readable yes, but not really memorable.


message 4: by Nelleke (new)

Nelleke (nellekie) That depends of the book. But I'm always interesting in the description of the surroundings, like cities of that time or landscapes. And then thinking how much it is changed or destroyed (and getting depressed :)).

For The picture of Dorian Gray it is the dandyism writing style. It is weird, but beautiful.

When I read Jane or P&P is was also the 'love'-part that make the books one of my favorites. Like N.L. is saying this is so intense and beautiful. Modern love-stories lack this most of the time. When I read a modern book mostly I'm thinking:"Let's go on, kiss each other, marry and make children". I never have this kind of feeling with the classic love books, but that is why these are classics.


message 5: by Jasmine (new)

Jasmine linso | 3 comments My favorite aspect of my favorite classic novels like Pride & Prejudice, Jane Eyre, and many others are the exquisite dialogues because it gives me more insight into who the characters really are. I like it when my favorite character says something witty and funny. I am always thrilled to read a dialogue that evokes ideas, thoughts and wisdom.


message 6: by Virginia (new)

Virginia | 29 comments N. L. wrote: "For myself with regards to Jane Eyre, it's the intensity of the love between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I love classic stories where the love between the characters is so intense that it is portrayed ..."

So well explained. Congratulations. So deep and intense passion, so well written ....It's what I feel every time I read it.


message 7: by Olga (new)

Olga (olga_mu) | 1 comments The pace of modern books is much faster and the books are designed to be relatable. In modern thought, if a reader can't understand what a character feels then the author is at fault. Classics are judged by how much they challenge and stretch the reader-- the exact opposite metric.


message 8: by N.L. (new)

N.L. Armitage (formerlyfromtokyo) | 4 comments Nelleke wrote: "When I read a modern book mostly I'm thinking:"Let's go on, kiss each other, marry and make children". I never have this kind of feeling with the classic love books, but that is why these are classics. "

This is exactly how I feel! I find that classic novels make it easy for me to fall in love with the characters' relationships (strange way of describing it, I know), to become emotionally invested in them to the point where I really care about what happens to them.

Jasmine wrote: "My favorite aspect of my favorite classic novels...are the exquisite dialogues because it gives me more insight into who the characters really are. ..."

This is also something that I love about my favorite classic novels, and something that I have tried to replicate over the years with my characters, particularly in the relationship between the main male and female characters of my series. Even though I wrote it, when I go back and read it, I enjoy "seeing" them banter back and forth.

I love everyone's responses - thank you!


message 9: by Susan from MD (new)

Susan from MD | 31 comments Olga wrote: "The pace of modern books is much faster and the books are designed to be relatable. In modern thought, if a reader can't understand what a character feels then the author is at fault. Classics are ..."

Olga, I love this comment - I was doing this unconsciously and am so glad you put it in words! If I have a problem with a classic novel (can't follow it, can't get into it, etc.), I assume that the "fault" is mine and I try reading them again at another time, hoping I will "get it." Not that I think that I should love every classic novel, but the fact that they are considered classics tells me that there is something of inherent value in this book.

For more modern books, I am not quite as hard on myself! I feel more justified in setting them aside or in just seeing them as "good reads". I do tend to place the onus on the author rather than on myself.

To answer the thread's question, I think it's the layers of the novel. Classics tend to have well-developed characters and interactions at the "personal" level, good descriptions of the community milieu, and set the story in the context of the broad economic, socio-cultural and political environment. And they generally do this using rich language.


message 10: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments It's fun to wonder which of the modern novels will be considered a classic one day... if any! I liked books like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, though it is written for children and I was fairly young when I read it, so it may not be nearly as good as I remember. I think a lot of the books now about issues such as bullying, homosexuality or blended families are representative of the issues our generation is facing, though which of those will end up being a classic is hard to say.


message 11: by Barbara (new)

Barbara | 1 comments I love the feeling of elation and accomplishment you have after you finish reading a classic. Everything is so genuine.=)


message 12: by Steve (new)

Steve | 35 comments I feel like classic authors have greater freedom to have unpopular opinions. For example, after reading Brave New World, my college roommate pointed out that Huxley's ideal world would not be populist. He favors an intellectual truth over pure happiness, which wouldn't go over well with too many of the anti-intellectuals.

One that really bugs me personally though is Conrad's Heart of Darkness. Conrad treats Africans like sub-humans, and gets regarded as a classic. On the flip side of that coin, there are the people who go bonkers when they find out that Mark Twain used the N***** word, and try to frame it as racist.

Regardless, I do still think that classics got away with having unpopular opinions, but today, they're too worried about stepping on somebody's toes.


message 13: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments I don't think Conrad personally thought of Africans as sub-human; the showed the mentality of the European invaders, who DID think they were sub-human. That's his characters' voice, not necessarily his own.

But yes, once we view something as a classic, even if someone personally doesn't enjoy it or feel they get anything out of it today, usually there is still a feeling of accomplishment for having read it and feeling like it's not necessary to love it. Different cultures and time periods and individuals are going to view certain classics differently. It's what makes the world more interesting :)


message 14: by Steve (new)

Steve | 35 comments I have to respectfully disagree, I feel like, if Conrad were simply reflecting his characters voice, the humanity of the Africans would be clear from the narrative, but Conrad denies them even a language.


message 15: by N.L. (new)

N.L. Armitage (formerlyfromtokyo) | 4 comments Marelis wrote: "My all time favorite is "Jane Eyre". The love scenes between Jane and Rochester are truly the most romantic I have ever read. She loves him so deeply and so truly and yet she never falters in her quest for doing what is right and moral. The novel is passionate and gothic without the explicit sex scenes or drawn out dialog of many modern novels"

That is paramount for me with the book; that is what makes it my favorite. I also find a lot that I can identify with in Jane's refusal to compromise on what she believes is right, despite how much she may have wanted to. It's not at all easy, so I admire the effort. I have read too many modern books where this kind of control and love was lacking to the point where it turned me off to a lot of them (but fortunately turned me more towards classic novels :).

I react to drama in classic novels the way someone might while watching a movie. I enjoy that as well. To see Mr. Rochester go from being so awkward and stiff to being so passionate - for Jane, of all people - always makes me sit up a bit more and smile. I found that the Tenant of Wildfell Hall affected me somewhat similarly.


message 16: by Alana (new)

Alana (alanasbooks) | 627 comments Steve wrote: "I have to respectfully disagree, I feel like, if Conrad were simply reflecting his characters voice, the humanity of the Africans would be clear from the narrative, but Conrad denies them even a la..."

That may be. I did not personally feel that way reading it, but it's possible. Another example in that vein is Robinson Crusoe. While Crusoe's character over time while both by himself, and later with Friday, on the island, begins to see the "savages" as creatures of God, too, not merely savages to be destroyed. He realizes that he himself is in no position to judge, while his race in general at the time DOES see it as their place. He, however, by the end still treats Friday as a slave, never quite giving him full human and equal status. Is this because Defoe himself held these beliefs, or because his audience at the time would only have been able to take the narrative so far before they would be staunchly against it and he had to break them in slowly? In his case, it's probably more the former, but it's hard to say. (I have not read any of his other works to have a comparison, so I appologize if that answer to that question is more apparent in his other works).


message 17: by Martha (new)

Martha I am re-reading War and Peace, and I cannot tell you how much more I am getting from it the second time around. I am half way through right now, but oh, what a great story it is. The romance, the war scenes, the religious philosophizing, I can't get enough. I have a long way to go, but the stories keep you wanting for more and you never want it to end.


message 18: by Kika23 (new)

Kika23 | 5 comments Susan wrote: "Olga wrote: "The pace of modern books is much faster and the books are designed to be relatable. In modern thought, if a reader can't understand what a character feels then the author is at fault. ..."

Susan and Olga, you have put my thoughts into words! :)


message 19: by Travis (new)

Travis Haight (redmidnight85) Of course, back then if someone wanted to make a statement by way of satirizing something, this was a lot easier. Even then, though, it seems as if authors were out more just to tell a story back then, make you think and, dare I say, even shock people back then. Like, I can't say too many good things about Twain, in how he would write satirical work that angered people like crazy. This is why, however, a lot more classics by people like him are not only banned/challenged, but are done so for many reasons well other than the modern day "language, sexual content, blasphemy" rigamaroll.

What makes me love my favorite classic thus far, though, Plath's The Bell Jar, is how the character is so genuine, so raw, and so heartfelt. Not to mention, the fact that she defied convention, completely shocked the reader with a story that I am sure some people may have been shocked went that certain way. As a matter of fact, I kind of had a thought the other day that if Bell Jar had been written as a book for young women today it may have, quite possibly been turned into the mindless, vapid dribble that is fed to teenagers today.


message 20: by Baz (last edited Oct 31, 2012 04:57AM) (new)

Baz (bazfiction) I love Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for its richness and complexity, and for the depth of understanding of the nature of people and relationships. The characters are the truest I've ever read in a novel.


message 21: by Martha (new)

Martha Baz wrote: "I love Tolstoy's Anna Karenina for its richness and complexity, and for the depth of understanding of the nature of people and relationships. The characters are the truest I've ever read in a novel."

I am looking forward to this one. The feedback on this has been excellent, and I agree with you, I love Tolstoy's writing.


message 22: by Kylie (new)

Kylie | 29 comments I really love the insights I get on society and cultures at the time. I am a history buff but so often we get only facts when looking into history but when I read classics I feel that I understand the time period a little better. I also like how re-reading classics can change my entire perspective on the book. While this happens occasionally with modern books, I notice it far more often with the classics. I also have come to enjoy the way classics are written. I used to hate it and just wanted the author to get to the point! Now I appreciate the flowing, descriptive language evident in classic novels.


message 23: by Martha (new)

Martha Barbara wrote: "I love the feeling of elation and accomplishment you have after you finish reading a classic. Everything is so genuine.=)"

I agree wholeheartedly!


message 24: by Sheila (new)

Sheila | 15 comments I love the lyrical writing in books like The Grapes of Wrath or All the Kings Men. They also tell important stories of the people who lived during those times. I love how books like that immerse me in the time period so that I can understand it in a way that no history book could ever explain.


message 25: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (inthelight) | 16 comments I especially enjoy the rhythms of the writing, especially with Dickens, Tolstoy and Fitzgerald.


message 26: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia Dunn Cynthia wrote: "I especially enjoy the rhythms of the writing, especially with Dickens, Tolstoy and Fitzgerald."

Cynthia, (lovely name by the way) I agree with you, the writing in Dickens does feel rhythmic and just carries you along. After I read a classic I feel sated; unlike some of the books being written today, where I feel empty and as if my time has been wasted.

I just read your poem, The Summer We Never Had and really enjoyed it.


message 27: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (inthelight) | 16 comments Cynthia, (lovely name by the way) I agree with you, the writing in Dickens does fee..."

Nicely said, "sated". So true, that it carries us along. I'm part of a local Shakespeare group that gathers to read the plays aloud. At our Christmas gathering yesterday the floor was opened to all seasonal classics and one of the women read Dickens aloud to us - such a treat!

Thank you so much for checking out my poem!!


message 28: by Travis (new)

Travis Haight (redmidnight85) My all time favorite classic, so far at least since I resolved to read more classics, is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. What makes me love it so much is that it definitely speaks to me in that, sometimes you feel like you can just get into certain groups that you're "supposed" to, and everything will be just hunky dory. But then, once you are in the group, you realize just how out of place you are, how you seriously do not belong and how, even in the place that you have worked to get to for so long, you are the black sheep. On many occasions in my life, even now as an adult, I have felt just like a young female ecstatic to get the coveted internship at a prestigious fashion magazine, only to realize that I surely don't fit into that world, no matter how much I try and convince myself that I do. Of course, I have had different experiences of this sort, but pretty much the same thing.


message 29: by Marren (new)

Marren I do not have a favourite novel but Jane Austen is my favourite author. I like her style for various reasons.
1. The language used: the way everyone is Mr or Miss or Mrs, the twenty words to replace five, the words are so alive.
2. I like the Regency period: the mode of dress, the mode of travel
3. I like learning about the issues of that time in a fun way.


message 30: by Nikki (new)

Nikki | 2 comments I love the atmosphere many of my favourite classics are able to create and maintain (Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, Germinal, The Picture of Dorian Gray).
I also love the depth of emotions and elegant language within classics as I feel this is sometimes lacking in modern novels.
Usually, the reason I love classics is that when I am finished, I immediately understand why these stories have survived hundreds of years. I have never read a classic novel where I felt I wasted time. There is always some sort of beauty, knowledge, or message to take away from them.


message 31: by Cynthia (new)

Cynthia (inthelight) | 16 comments Beautifully said Nikki! That is how I feel too :)


message 32: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran One of my recent favorites is Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens. It had to be the characters that did it for me. Not only that, but Dickens takes some of the trivialities of life and makes them so interesting that you want to live in the world he creates. For example, Tom Pinch's mysterious job was so cool, it made me want to sort books for a living rather than as a hobby!


message 33: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran Sheila wrote: "I love the lyrical writing in books like The Grapes of Wrath or All the Kings Men. They also tell important stories of the people who lived during those times. I love how books like that immerse me..."
Agreed.


message 34: by Omneya (new)

Omneya Deen | 7 comments i totally agree with you , Mr.Rochester, though tough and ruthless, had the greatest love ever for Jane ...yes, the way of sketching those pretty feelings with sucha great talent makes Jane Eyre , one of my favourites


message 35: by Omneya (new)

Omneya Deen | 7 comments hey everyone, r u reading Persuasion this time , how long would it to finish reading the book ??


Elizabeth (Alaska) For me, what makes me love a classic is beautiful prose and characterization. Plot not so much. And there has to be something more than a love story. If that's all there is, it goes to the bottom of the pile.


message 37: by Aazir (last edited Mar 30, 2013 11:22AM) (new)

Aazir War and Peace is one of my favourites too (battling for top spot with Crime and Punishment and Anna Karenina, among others...) and I agree, it's simply divine.

Martha wrote: "I am re-reading War and Peace, and I cannot tell you how much more I am getting from it the second time around. I am half way through right now, but oh, what a great story it is. The romance, the..."


message 38: by Amle (new)

Amle | 28 comments I'm a sucker for good characters and a classical author that I think does them extremely well is Wilkie Collins. The Woman in White was a great revelation to me in this respect as Collins made them all come alive in a way I had rarely seen before in classical literature.
Since they have been mentioned so many times here; Jane and Mr.Rochester are two other characters that are wonderful to read about.
I need characters that feel real. That is possibly the best way I can describe it.

Another thing I enjoy about reading classics is the sense of time travel. Despite it all (well, most of it) is fiction you get transported to an era you would never otherwise be able to get close to. Facts and history gives you the settings and props but the contemporary literature shows the minds and hearts of the people who lived all those years ago.


message 39: by Ida (new)

Ida | 8 comments The same here. I am just so attracted by the intense love as in Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice. What moves me the most is the love from the male side to the female side. Because they loved women with humble social status and little wealth, even not attractive externally, and their love is unconditioned. This is so not true today and in reality!


message 40: by Alexis (new)

Alexis Savage (bballer17) | 9 comments I just love how the classics have a way of messing with my mind. Some classics [such as 1984(Orwell), A Tale of Two Cities(Dickens), The Heart is a Lonely Hunter(McCullers)] where I couldn't put a single thought together at the ending, except maybe "woah." They just have the power to blow me away. I become so wrapped up in the world of the book, and then learn to love (or hate) the characters so thoroughly that my heart breaks for them, or I whoop out loud when a good villain is defeated (awesome literary villain: Madame DeFarge. Fantastic).
I love the mind game that I have to go through to figure out exactly what the author means, and why he/she included the random red scarf or whatever. I believe it is a responsibility to be educated on the classics, and a joy.


message 41: by Aazir (new)

Aazir I love madam defarge, she is a great character.


message 42: by Cheyenne (new)

Cheyenne I think for me, the beauty in a classic is the story. I have become so attached to characters and their trials that they seem as real to me as any other human. The ability to connect with a character and feel as if you know them and they know you is what makes me love a good classic. This is one of the many reasons my favorite classics are Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia.


message 43: by Martha (new)

Martha I've been reading mostly classics and can't get enough. Then when I try to switch it up a little and go to something regular like a suspense (Sue Grafton for instance "K is for Killer") I get irritable because the writing is too simple, too obvious. There will be dialogue, then the main character drives somewhere and describes the landscape. But the descriptions seems so forced like she has to put it in to make a novel. I am supposed to relax & read this for fun, but it's not enjoyable to me if not well written like the classics! Ugh!


message 44: by Martha (new)

Martha N.L. wrote: "For myself with regards to Jane Eyre, it's the intensity of the love between Jane and Mr. Rochester. I love classic stories where the love between the characters is so intense that it is portrayed ..."

Yes, yes!! I agree with you on this! Wuthering Heights was so intense in the "romance" area and I loved it! I haven't read Jane Eyre yet, but will soon and am looking forward to it! Jane Austen's "Emma" had this subtle intensity too. I feel like it is more powerful than any romance novel with everything "out there".


message 45: by Patrick (new)

Patrick Burnett | 4 comments The scenery and sense of the feelings of the time, the tensions, both political and personal, are what made Les Miserables great for me. But honestly what really stood out to me was Hugo's discourse on the Battle of Waterloo. It's the best I've ever read and I'm a military history junkie so that's pretty high praise. Just a fantastic tapestry woven to perfection by a great master.


Maggie the Muskoka Library Mouse (mcurry1990) My favourite Classic novel is "Gone With the Wind," and I love it so much because it is written VERY well. I really like the descriptions, and the characters are great. Rhett Butler is a man to be remembered, and Scarlett is his perfect counterpart.


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