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Excellent Women > What's a "classic"?

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message 1: by Cindy (new)

Cindy | 522 comments 9. Barbara Pym had an interesting career. She published six successful novels between 1950 and 1961, but then was unable to find a publisher, apparently because her novels seemed “old-fashioned” for the turbulent 1960s. Ironically, some feminist scholars look back on this novel as depicting the beginning stirrings of modern feminism. After being called “the most underrated writer of the century” by Philip Larkin, there was a resurgence of critical and popular interest in Pym’s novels, many of which are now considered classics. She published four additional works after 1977, one of which was nominated for the Booker Prize. Pym died in 1980. Did this book seem old-fashioned to you? Do you enjoy reading current fiction more than older works? How do you feel about calling a book published 65 years ago a “classic”?

message 2: by Ayse_ (new)

Ayse_ (ashlie_k) I would not call it a classic, for me that title is more suitable for books that are a hallmark of or define a period, a genre, a style etc.

message 3: by Carol (new)

Carol  Jones-Campbell (cajonesdoa) | 690 comments Mod
This book does not feel classic-ish to me. I find that her use of the characters works for this book. I read quite a lot of current fiction in the British genre. As far as old fashioned, I didn't get that feeling at all.

message 4: by Chelsea (new)

Chelsea | 562 comments I felt it was a little old fashioned, and sort of read like a classic. To me a classic has lots of themes and things to analyze in English class. I think this book had that.

message 5: by Darlene (new)

Darlene What is a classic/.... What a FANTASTIC question!!!! Ever since I started reading this book, I have been researching and seeing what different people say about this. During a recent trip to a bookstore, I was surprised to see their "classics." I have traditionally thought about classic books as being just the..."old-fashioned" classics that we all know... (and oftentimes, not love! lol!!) Anyway, at the store there were many "new" books in their classics list some of which included Harry Potter, The Kite Runner, The Poisonwood Bible, The Book Thief...you get the idea. Anyway, that really prompted me to start thinking about exactly what is a classic and how old does it have to be in order to be a classic. I will tell you that I am still pondering and do not really have a definitive answer yet. I do think, however, that a classic is a book that will withstand the test of time, connecting with readers of a multitude of generations and cultures and backgrounds. The topic may be commonplace or unique, but it is written about in such a way so that we all feel deeply connected to it. That being said, would I consider Excellent Women a classic? I keep going back and forth on it. I definitely connected with it and enjoyed the writing, writing style, and word choices. I felt like Pym did a good job in sharing her characters with me, however I think she could have gone deeper with them. To answer Cindy's questions, yes, I think the book seemed old-fashioned but in a good way. I enjoyed the book! I probably should have given it four stars. I am realizing, partly with the aid of this club, that when the book was written really does not affect how I feel about it. I love that I am reading choices I would never have even found on my own! And, after reading several online lists of "modern classics," I do not think the book has to be a certain age before it becomes a classic. The Kite Runner and The Book Thief are both books that are on the classic lists and I would heartily agree that not only do they deserve to be there, but they need to be there. In an interesting sidebar, during my daughter's senior year in high school, they had to read several "old" classics, which was ok, but both she and the class would have benefited from reading a more current classic, hence another reason I object to the 65 year rule. If you have bothered to read this lengthy 'report" then congrats to you! lol! Obviously, I have pondered this topic a lot and being a thinker, I was excited to see this question and to be able to see what others think about the definition of a classic. That sounds like a great phd thesis if I were in the market to do so! :)

message 6: by Cindy (new)

Cindy | 522 comments I volunteer at our Friends of the Library bookstore and we have a "Classics" shelf. It is so interesting to see what books the other volunteers put there! It's definitely a label that is in the eye of the beholder! I agree that it's not just about age, but I do think some time has to go by before we KNOW if the book will continue to be relevant to future generations.

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