Thursday, March 31, 2011

Literary Book Blog Hop

Literary Blog HopEach week, the Literary Book Blog Hop asks a question, then encourages participants to answer the questions and read responses on others' book blogs. This week the question is:

Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon? Discuss the affect you believe a book’s “status” has on your opinion of it.

If I read a book that's considered a classic, then I'm likely to give it the benefit of the doubt. Parts of The Woman in White, for example, were pretty slow, but I kept reading and loved the book as a whole. I don't feel obligated to like every book that has great critical acclaim, but I do try to figure out why literate, intelligent people have held that book up as a classic. Sometimes, I still don't enjoy the book, but have an appreciation of what the author was trying to do, as in Return of the Soldier. Other times, I'll dislike the book at the time I read it, but later pick it up and be able to see it with different eyes, as in The Red Badge of Courage. I realize that there are plenty of great books that aren't in the Western canon for reasons not having to do with their quality, but I feel that the ones that have been inducted into the hall of fame deserve my best effort.

10 comments:

Red said...

I think you make a good point that books that have been in the bookish "hall of fame" for years probably have something going for them and trying to figure out the why they're there is a good way to approach certain classics.

Anja Kasap said...

I have been avoiding classics for years but in the last few years I have been making an effort to try to read them, because as you say, if they're classics, it must be for some reason. I read Anna Karenina last year and found that to be a real slog, although I liked parts of it, but I read Sense and Sensibility this month and liked it a lot more than I anticipated, so I figure I'll keep trying.

Toni said...

Yeah, good point about trying to find out 'why' a book has such critical acclaim.

I like your blog, btw. Fantastic idea :)

parrish lantern said...

Classic status is a good signpost, pointing to a book considered to have merit, doesn't mean you'll enjoy it, doesn't always mean It's worthy, but it can act as a guide through the labyrinth we call literature.

BookBelle said...

I really think I could read the same classic once each decade and find something new to like or hate.

Susan (Reading World) said...

My answer was very similar. I try harder with books that have been critically well received. But in the end, I'm still either going to like the book or not.

Ben Carroll said...

i like what you say here. BUT i wonder how much something having surviving classic status is due to everyone who reads it being very generous with time and thought because of that staus?

i mean, if everyone who reads SUPER AWESOME CLASSIC NOVEL because it's a classic, and they each don't give up till they've worked out partly why it has that status, it's going to end up with lots more readers thinking it's great, than a similar quality book, that people don't give as much effort to, because nobody calls it a classic.

this got long, sorry. good post!

dragonflyy419 said...

I agree with you about those great ones having been placed there for a reason and deserving a good effort from the reader.

Risa said...

That makes a lot of sense...to discover why a classic is a classic - why it has stood the test of time, or is considered as likely to stand the test of time.

Mattastrophic said...

I approach works in the classic canon with healthy skepticism. I try not to go in primed to make myself like it because it's a canonical work, but I also try to be generous and remain open to whatever element(s) gave it its rep. Don't forget that the literary canon is a powerful ideological tool: it's not just about whose work deserves to be read, but also about determining whose work should be held up as the gold standard for others to aspire to. Tastes in writing styles and topics change over time, however, and only over the past century or so has the canonical status been granted more readily to women and minority writers. That being said, I think our responsibility as readers is to be even more informed about a book--its history, influences, and effects--when it achieves the label "classic."

So, like I said, healthy skepticism.