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The Classics > What is the last classic you read? What is a classic?

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message 1: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments What is the last classic you read? Did it reach your expectations?

message 2: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2102 comments The most recent classic I read (at least, I think it's a classic!) is C. S. Forester's Mr. Midshipman Hornblower, which I finished earlier this month. And yes, my expectations were high, but it fully met them! (You can check out my review of this book here on Goodreads.)

message 3: by Reggia (last edited Jan 27, 2009 08:51PM) (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments Perhaps Hornblower is, at least, destined to become a classic. I very much enjoyed the couple videos I've seen and can imagine that the books delve even deeper into the character development. LOL, it looks like I (as many on Goodreads) have a TO READ list growing faster than I can complete a book.

Those are some good questions, Alice. I think there are several definitions as to what makes a book a classic. We should probably have a thread devoted to just that. One quality may be that a classic is enduring, I've seen that defined sometimes as a quality of speaking to or reaching people from generation to generation. Gone With the Wind might be considered a modern classic but I am just guessing...

I'm not sure about The Time Traveler's Wife but is certainly is popular. I hope to get back to it someday. I started to read it once but was distracted by a great many other things at the time.

The last classic I read was The Turn of the Screw. I was a bit disappointed, I couldn't figure out if it was indeed a ghost story of if the protagonist simply had an overactive imagination. I'm hoping to read a few other of Henry James' stories before I have to return the book.

message 4: by [deleted user] (new)

This is what Christy on Poe's group says about classics (permission to repost granted) -

To me classic means it stands the test of time. Ageless, if you will. I consider Poe's work to be classic.

message 5: by Werner (last edited Jan 28, 2009 06:24AM) (new)

Werner | 2102 comments When I belonged to the Classics group here on Goodreads, I tried to get a discussion going on "what is a classic?" but nobody else ever joined in! I like Reggia's and Christy's emphasis on the enduring quality of classics, that they're works which have stood the test of time and continue to speak to readers today. Of course, that implies a certain amount of age; I use the term (usually) only for works that are at least 50 years old. But that's just me; there's no official body that sits on Mt. Olympus or someplace and dispenses seals of approval that say "This is a classic!" so it's pretty much a judgment each reader makes for him/herself!

Reggia, I'm one of those readers who feel strongly that the governess in The Turn of the Screw is NOT imagining things! That would make a worthy topic for a discussion thread, too --but I'm wondering if it wouldn't get more participation if it was on the Supernatural Fiction Readers group, which I moderate (Alice is a member there, too). If you like literature in that vein, you might be interested in joining that group as well.

message 6: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) Werner wrote: "The most recent classic I read (at least, I think it's a classic!) is C. S. Forester's Mr. Midshipman Hornblower "
Oh yes Hornblower is one of my alltime favourites too, I've not long re-read the whole lot, from Midshipman to august Admiral. I approached the TV version with some trepidation, but of course the beautiful and talented Ioan Griffud was so pefect as HH I was sold straightaway

message 7: by Ruth (new)

Ruth I'm 'reading' Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth at present . . . I'm actually listening to a librovox recording and reading along online.

The last 'classic' I read /re-read (I think) was Dicken's The Christmas Carol.

I'm also trying to read Doris Lessing's The Golden Notobook on the website where several female authors read and comment on the book. I'm not certain it's a classic. It's popular.

message 8: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments I enjoyed The House of Mirth, a good read yet so tragic, as is Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Did anyone catch that on TV recently?

message 9: by Reggia (last edited Jan 29, 2009 04:14PM) (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments
Werner said: When I belonged to the Classics group here on Goodreads, I tried to get a discussion going on "what is a classic?" but nobody else ever joined in!

I saw that post, and if you'd like, Werner, I'd be very happy to have you repost that here.

message 10: by Werner (last edited Jan 30, 2009 05:32PM) (new)

Werner | 2102 comments That post was written last June, and partly dealt with the scope of what could or couldn't go on the group's "read" shelf. (And I'd forgotten --one person did respond, though no one else ever did!) But as Reggia requested, here's the relevant part of it:

I have a question: what qualifies a book to be a "classic...?" Personally, I think of a classic as a book that has appealed to a lot of people over a significant amount of time, and has some recognizable quality or qualities in it that justify that appeal. My own classics shelf has 125 books on it [127 now:]; I use it for any well-known book I liked that was written before around 1918, but I also include some later books that have been popular for decades and have gotten critical and academic attention. But some of the books I include are from genres many of the critics would feel they were slumming if they read: science fiction, fantasy, supernatural fiction (I like that term better than "horror"), and sometimes mysteries. What do you all think about what makes a "classic?"

message 11: by Barbara (last edited Jan 30, 2009 05:46PM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) Hmm, I think that list of classics ( I know it's not your personal list )is too US-centric and too androcentric,. Only three females and none of them the Brontes, or Austen for eg

message 12: by Reggia (last edited Jan 30, 2009 09:49PM) (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments What, no Austen? Pride & Prejudice has some of my favorite satire. I only need to think of a few of those lines to induce laughter. Not everyone appreciates Austen but hopefully we all agree that several of her books are indeed classic.

Thanks for the post, Werner. I'm curious about the significance of 1918 and before...

Hmm, what else makes a classic? I'm not sure if this makes a classic but it seems that many, if not all, of the ones I've read are more than just a good story. There seems to be another quality. I hesitate to say moral, perhaps a lesson or universal truth shown in the many manifestations of human character. I have learned not to necessarily expect a neat, happy ending.

message 13: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2102 comments Reggia, literary scholars usually take World War I as the watershed event that (at least in American literature) separates the "modern" period from the preceding one. World War I ended in 1918, so that's where that year came from in the previous post; but it's not a hard-and-fast demarcation, since I think some "modern" works deserve "classics" status, too!

To me, classic literature most definitely has a moral dimension! There has to be truth about human character and behavior at its heart, or it won't continue to hold the interest of generations of readers. So much modern fiction (even stuff that's temporarily hyped and adulated) seems to have nothing but cynical emptiness at its core, which doesn't bode well for its capacity to endure.

message 14: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments
Werner said: There has to be truth about human character and behavior at its heart, or it won't continue to hold the interest of generations of readers.

Loved that, worth repeating!

message 15: by Barbara (last edited Feb 02, 2009 12:54AM) (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) A classic also has to tell some great story too. It can be a love story ( not necessarily between one man and one woman) or some quest or battle or saga, or some loss, or a coming-of-age/getting-of-wisdom kind of thing. So long as it has at heart some human striving or learning.
Not my my best effort at at explaining,but I hope readers here will know what I'm getting at .

message 16: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2102 comments Barbara, I can tell exactly what you're getting at, and you couldn't have said it better!

message 17: by Barbara (new)

Barbara (sema4dogz) Werner wrote: "Barbara, I can tell exactly what you're getting at, and you couldn't have said it better!"
Thank you Werner, I appreciate that

message 18: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments You explained it well, Barbara. I hadn't thought about it but I do agree that that human striving or learning makes for a great story:
a love story ( not necessarily between one man and one woman) or some quest or battle or saga, or some loss, or a coming-of-age/getting-of-wisdom

message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

But The Call of the Wild is a classic and also Black Beauty. (two of my favorites) I liked White Fang even better than The Call of the Wild.

Also, isn't Green Grass of Wyoming a classic?

message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Sometimes I like a little controversy! ;-)

message 21: by Werner (last edited Mar 06, 2009 08:58PM) (new)

Werner | 2102 comments True, there are classics where the central characters aren't humans, that have animals as protagonists instead; and you've named three good examples. But even so, their experiences teach us truths, or show us examples of striving and meeting challenges, that we as humans can apply to ourselves --they aren't totally alien to our consciousness, even if the characters differ from us in significant ways.

Personally, I haven't read Green Grass of Wyoming, and don't really know much about it. Does it also have an animal protagonist?

message 22: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 06, 2009 09:49PM) (new)

Werner wrote: "True, there are classics where the central characters aren't humans, that have animals as protagonists instead; and you've named three good examples. But even so, their experiences teach us truths..."

Yes, Black Beauty suffered the same as ...was it Ginger? but kept being good whereas Ginger couldn't cope with the abuse and developed an evil temper.

I believe the protagonist in Green Grass of Wyoming was a horse called Thunderhead. There was also another book called Thunderhead. There was also alot about the couples marriage problems as she developed a goiter from living so landlocked. Its been years since I read it. In my teens I read dozens of horse stories. Zoomed over to google and read that the main horse was Flicka and the TV series later became My Friend Flicka. I watched all that stuff and thought it was classic.

message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

correction due to my bad memory:

son of a Wyoming rancher, and his horse Flicka. It was the first in a trilogy, followed by Thunderhead, Son of Flicka (1943) and Green Grass of Wyoming (1946). The popular 1943 film version featured a young Roddy McDowall. It was followed by film adaptations of the other two novels, in 1945 and 1948, and by a television series (1956-1958) that first aired on CBS, then on NBC, followed by reruns on ABC and on CBS between 1959 and 1966

message 24: by [deleted user] (new)

Gabi wrote: "Werner wrote: "True, there are classics where the central characters aren't humans, that have animals as protagonists instead; and you've named three good examples. But even so, their experiences ..."

Oh! and Ring of Bright Water about the otters. That is simply wonderful. I also read The Yearling I believe which was too sad. Didn't it eat the corn in their garden and he had to kill his pet deer?

message 25: by [deleted user] (new)

Teens classic books reading list - Black Beauty is not listed! I was very surprised at the one I found on google that the first book listed was Go Ask Alice which I think might be too awful for teenagers to read but have never read it. Isn't it about drug addiction?

message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

from going down the unbelievable teenage reading list (The Brother Karamazov?) it looks like the last classic I read was Catch 22.

message 27: by [deleted user] (new)

That reminds me of a bumper sticker I recently saw which said "Indians discovered America!" I ma going to try to remember that as of course I was taught in grade school that Columbus discovered America, then it was the Vikings but what is of course obvious is that it was the Indians.

Here we watch Quigly Down Under and he is a hero for the Aborigines but of course they save his life too. Do you see it also? Tom Selleck is the actor. I adore Crazy Cora.

message 28: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2102 comments Quigly Down Under is one of my wife's favorite movies (she's an ardent Western fan --though with the Australian setting, it's not a typical Western), and one of my favorites as well! But maybe we should pursue that subject --if anyone wants to-- on another discussion thread?

It sounds as though my wife might enjoy the Flicka trilogy. She's been a horse lover from way back. :-)

message 29: by [deleted user] (new)

Sounds like it would be a good thread to me. Quigly is my husband's favorite too and he takes a break from old war movies (where does he find so many?) to watch it every now and again. I usually watch it with him since I really like Crazy Cora! (since she is a Texican) My great great grandfather was an early settler there.

I was simply MAD for horses from about age 9 to about age 21 when I went riding and had an allergic reaction to the reins so that kinda cured me. During those years I read very horse book there was to read. Was your wife a Walter Farley fan also? I am sure she would like the Flicka books as they are very well written IMO. I still remember very well the dog Pilgrim which was from Green Grass of Wyoming I believe. He was an unforgetable as Dewey.

message 30: by Werner (last edited Mar 07, 2009 04:01PM) (new)

Werner | 2102 comments Yes, Barb's read (and enjoyed) every one of Walter Farley's Black Stallion books that the college library has. I haven't; but from what I've heard, I'd say they could certainly be regarded at least as childrens' classics --and, obviously, some adults appreciate them too!

message 31: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Gabi as I had no idea what these were. Its been ages since I read Green Grass of Wyoming but I did't think of it as a children's book, however, I know My Friend Flicka was as it became a TV series here.

message 32: by Reggia (last edited Mar 08, 2009 09:23PM) (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments Lots of good conversation, I am so far behind! :(

I always thought Black Beauty was a classic, maybe it's just a younger child's list. I read Go Ask Alice as a teen and does seem to be considered a classic for that age group, it's possible there's a new book of the same name. (Just mentioning because my daughter mentioned it recently, and I thought of this one about the drugs but she didn't think it was the same story she had heard.) This Wikipedia article can fill in everything about the book written in 1971: Go Ask Alice

message 33: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I finished Wuthering Heights this morning and it really upset me. I got very furious with it last night and too upset which isn't good. I prefer a book not so upsetting. Heathcliff was so cruel to everyone around him he was like a demon. I believe there are hints he might have been a vampire a the end!!! I never got this the first time I read it but Bella reads it all the time in Twilight so I did wonder. I also was surprised to realize its the only book that Emily Bronte wrote.

message 34: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2102 comments Alice, I've read Wuthering Heights (and had more of a positive reaction to it than you did --though I have a very negative view of Heathcliff, too, as Bronte intended of course); but I never picked up any hints of vampirism there --and given some of my reading tastes, you'd think I would! :-) What hints suggested this to you?

All of the Bronte sisters died young, on the cusp of 40. Had they lived longer, they all might well have written much more.

message 35: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments
Alice wrote: ...but Bella reads it all the time in Twilight so I did wonder.

I confess I haven't read either of those but I always find it interesting to hear what books and poets a character may like, and then to see how it influences their thoughts and actions in the story.

My daughter has read Twilight, unfortunately, I just asked her and she doesn't remember hearing Wuthering Heights. 15 yr olds... ;)

message 36: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 17, 2009 09:48PM) (new)

Well, I would never have thought this but since Twilight I noticed:

1. he walked at night, sometimes all night
2. he didn't eat at the last
3. he got very pale

"she did not think him dead"
"no blood trickled from the broken skin"
page 480 - "Is he a ghoul, or a vampire?" I mused. I had read of such hideous, incarnate demons. ......
"But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man for his bane?" muttered superstition as I dozed into unconsciousness.

and since I haven't turned it back in will go get the book and look again.

"You must be hungry, rambling about all night!" "No, I am not hungry, he answered, averting his head, and speaking rather contemptuously,

This is not my idea but something that Stephenie Meyer obviously picked up on.
He was so evil with no redeeming virtues that I could see that it made me ill reading about him. I called up my mother to tell her and she ignored it. Of course, she never read any vampire books or any horror to my knowledge.

To me he seemed to be bipolar in the manic phase. But his wickedness was something else again. Page 489 - "sharp white teeth sneered too!"
Then Joseph said "The divil's harried off his soul," he cried, "and he muh hev his carcass intuh the bargin, for ow't Aw care! Ech! what a wicked un he looks girnning at death!"

The doctor was unable to determine what killed him, was he really dead?

Page 490 - "But the country folks, if you aksed them, would swear on their bible that HE WALKS." There are those who speak of having met him near the church, and on the moor, and even within this house. Idle tales, you'll say, and so say I.

Well, there is more if you look. I do believe Stephenie Meyer is onto to something.

message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Hi Reggia, Well, I read Wuthering Heights when I was 16 and didn't remember much at all. My life had so much going on then and I am sure I just got thru it for a class. I always liked the Brontes but I always thought of Wuthering Heights as a romance. Edward Cullen became obsessed with Bella as Heathcliff was obsessed with Cathy. Of course, Edward's obsession with Bella was different. He was actually obsessed at first with how she smelled and the fact he couldn't read her mind. Being around her was kinda torture for him at first. You can read his thoughts online at Midnight Sun. I googled it and read part of it. I much prefer to read off line. I think I read that now that has been moved to Stephenie Meyer's web pages. After reading all 4 books I do believe they really loved each other. Edward was extremely lonely as I guess a vampire would have to be. He had a big family too! Have you read it?

Now Bella's obsession with Edward is harder to relate to. Someone posted a neverending quiz question indicating anger that teenage girls are reading this VERY MASOCHISTIC STUFF. However, if Bella was normal who would want to read her story? I am sure it would be BORING. I recently read that Stephenie Meyer aimed her books at women not teenagers but somehow the publishign company altered that. The DVD came out today I believe or is coming out very soon. I asked my husband for it tonight as I liked the movie very much. Its a very different slant on vampires. (they have grown up too over the ages!) As you may know they no longer sleep in coffins, they wear very nice clothes and drive expensive cars, etc! etc!

Forever Knight drove a cadillac and worked for the police dept to apprehend criminals after dark. He needed the giant trunk of the caddie in order to hide there in day time if he was caught out.

So I imagine that it was about the same for your teenage daughter as for me. Teenagers lives so full of just too much stuff.

Reggia wrote: "Alice wrote: ...but Bella reads it all the time in Twilight so I did wonder.

I confess I haven't read either of those but I always find it interesting to hear what books and poets a character may ..."

message 38: by Werner (new)

Werner | 2102 comments Thanks, Alice; those are astute observations, and that's an interesting slant that I'd never really thought seriously about! My guess is that Bronte, like Hawthorne, was deliberately using hints of the supernatural to flavor her tale --in this case, to heighten Heathcliff's aura of both evil and power. Of course, neither writer delves into these elements very deeply or directly; for their purposes, the uncanny functions better if it's on the periphery of the mind, a lurking possibility that can't really be pinned down. :-)

message 39: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks! I was only watching closely due to reading Twilight. I think her books are deeper than the average person on Goodreads realizes. It seems to me about 70% of people specialize in attacking Stephenie's books. I like to look at people's book lists to see if they have read her or not. I only got Twilight due to the neverending quiz but really enjoyed it.

I suspect back at that time when the Brontes wrote and due to their religious backgrounds it was "verboten" to write about vampires so she just dropped hints which makes it more interesting. Norah Lofts does this too, very subtle hints. I really like this style. Its so much better IMO. My imagination tends to be overactive on its on.

Well, the Dr's are on and I can hear them talking about energy! I sure need some.

message 40: by [deleted user] (last edited Mar 18, 2009 03:48PM) (new)

I was just thinking about Nelly Dean. The thing I disliked most about was her was coldness toward Heathcliff's son. It seemed to me everyone ignored that poor teenager (?) and just watched him die without lifting a finger to help him. Heathcliff IMO murdered him thru neglect but also abuse. Of course if Heathcliff's disorder was genetic it may have come up again in another generation but still to just let him go hungry and cold and say mean things to him constantly seemed terrible abuse. The fact they couldn't recognize out there in the field that he was dying and being abused was appaling. I think they should have taken him home and barricaded their doors against the monster. To ignore evil is to allow it to go on and on.

message 41: by [deleted user] (new)

I was just leaving some more groups since I am going out of town and read this which delighted me! I believe I read this on: Books I Loathed...tee hee...I liked this post so much now I can't leave this group.

Poppy wrote: "Yay, other Wuthering Heights haters! Yes, every single character is awful. Here are others:

Bilbo Baggins
Scarlet O'Hara
Sebastian in Brideshead Revisited
Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre
Howard Roark ..."

message 42: by Reggia (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments Leave this group? Bite your tongue! :( Or at least, please say it isn't so. ;)

message 43: by Nicole (new)

Nicole | 1752 comments Interesting discussion, everyone.
As for the last classic I read, it was The Hobbit, and I'm sorry to say, I didn't think it lived up to its reputation. But I did things the wrong way round and read it *after* reading Lord of the Rings.
I agree with the general opinion here that a classic stands up to the test of time. It bugs me when something is called an "instant classic."
I'm not a fan of Wuthering Heights, either, by the way.

message 44: by [deleted user] (new)

Well, I read strictly for pleasure now and anything that holds my attention to the end is good. Hubby just got the me Twilight DVD yesterday and I wish to watch it but the livingroom is too cold right now as we had a sudden weather change and its cold with light snow here.

Definitely not an intellectual,

message 45: by Reggia (last edited Mar 23, 2009 01:49PM) (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments
Gabi wrote: I think I remember in the long distant past when I was young. I saw part of the movie with Laurence Olivier. Too dreary for words.(Ha) So was he. Couldn't act with a gun to his head. No-one could, in those days. Turned me right off reading the book.

Amazing! that is exactly why I haven't read the book. A friend insisted I must watch the movie, and I've always blamed my disinterest on a poor copy of that old black & white version. The viewing was so warped & fuzzy that I put those aspects on the story itself.

It is still on my might-maybe-perhaps someday reads.

message 46: by Dan (new)

Dan (chaoticbuffalo) The last classic that I read was Don Quixote. I enjoyed it, but I'm glad that it's now moved from my 'to-read' to my 'read' list.

I agree that a classic is one that has stood the test of time but I think that some books stand that test while others fall because of the way they address or challenge 'timeless' and 'universal' truths.

message 47: by Reggia (last edited May 27, 2009 11:00PM) (new)

Reggia | 2252 comments
Charly wrote: Last classic I read was Pride and Prejudice. I absolutely love the father in that book he is priceless.

Oh, I do enjoy Mr Benett's wry observations! Most of my favorite quotes from the book are what he uttered:

"Mrs. Bennet to Mr. Bennet: "You take delight in vexing me. You have no compassion for my poor nerves."

Mr. Bennet: "You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for your nerves. They are my old friends. I have heard you mention them with consideration these twenty years at least."

Don wrote:The last classic that I read was Don Quixote. I enjoyed it, but I'm glad that it's now moved from my 'to-read' to my 'read' list.

LOL, yeah, me, too! I had a few starts & stops over a couple year period before I finally just dug in and finished it. I'm so very glad I did, and found there were many "timeless and universal truths" within those pages. That is, with regards to human nature. Humor, too. Many times I was surprised in coming across a humorous line or old quote because of realizing just how long it had been in use. After all, Don Quixote has now passed its 400th anniversary. By any chance, did you read the Edith Grossman version?

message 48: by Dan (new)

Dan (chaoticbuffalo) Reggia wrote: "By any chance, did you read the Edith Grossman version?"


I did read the Edith Grossman translation. I've never tried any other's but I really enjoyed hers. There was a flow and a huoruous feel to it that just seemed to fit the story and the characters...especially Sancho. In the course of reading Don Quixote, I became aware that my reading of One Hundred Years of Solitude was also her translation. In the future, I will be looking for her translation - if available - of any book, orginally published in Spanish, that I read. This and a couple of other instances have recently made me aware of the importance of getting a good translation regardless of the original language. Of course, not knowing the original language makes choosing a good translation a little problematic.

message 49: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl (bookaddict4real) I am still reading light in august by William Faulkner I love the imagery so I want to take my time with it

message 50: by Margaret (new)

Margaret Metz | 83 comments I'm reading Northanger Abbey right now (again). It's been a while since I read it last so it almost feels new to me. Henry Tilney is such a character. He almost never is serious. I think it was a perfect time to read the book because it has been a welcome "diversion."

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