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Topic: Question

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Subject: Question
Date Posted: 10/28/2010 7:37 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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If we use Barbara B.'s definition of a classic, "books generally 50 or more years old that are of high quality and whose importance is unquestioned," what would you call books that are 50 or more years old and are still being read but don't necessarily meet the rest of the definition?  I'm sure that I'll get some humorous answers here (if I get any answers), but I'm serious. 

Does the fact that these books are still interesting enough that people want to read them not make them a classic?  I would think that the "high quality" and  "importance" are debatable. 

Date Posted: 10/28/2010 8:51 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
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The definition of classic is pretty much how Barbara B. defined it. However, I feel that only the reader can truly decide what is classic to them. Personally, I enjoy the work of W. Somerst Maugham. My favorite book of his is "The Razor's Edge". Many consider his other works such as "The Painted Veil" to be a classic but not "The Razor's Edge". Some people think Maugham should be forgotten. In the end though Maugham is a writer I respect and will read in the future. People may disagree with you choice. Defend it. Explain why it met the criteria for you. This is suppose to be fun and it has been for me since I joined PBS. Out of all the boards/forums on PBS this particular one has great feedback and suggestions along with very strong opinions. If you are unsure about your selections just post it and ask for feedback. Have fun with it. I sure have.   

Date Posted: 10/28/2010 3:06 PM ET
Member Since: 3/27/2009
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It's all debatable and I am not interested (oddly) in analyzing to death the issue of what constitutes a classic because we will get absolutely nowhere.

I ain't defending squat.  

Date Posted: 10/28/2010 5:39 PM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
Posts: 1,899
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You know, it's an interesting question.  I have to go with Michael; only the reader can decide what is a classic to them. 

Subject: Let's be kind to each other
Date Posted: 10/28/2010 6:32 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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I would like readers to do their best in taking this challenge. If someone selects a book that I personally wouldn't call a "classic," I'm not going to criticize their choice: I love that they're reading.

I do like the idea of having an upfront definition, however (and I do like Barbara's, as I said). There's a certain amount of subjectivity in all our choices, but I don't like the idea of people just grabbing any old sea saga, say, and not searching for one that might be better.

I believe there should be standards; I also love that readers try to achieve certain goals.

                                                                                                                                          Rose

Date Posted: 10/28/2010 10:17 PM ET
Member Since: 2/16/2009
Posts: 483
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I tend to like a lot of books that are old, but maybe not classic?  There a lot of interesting opinions on this forum, and while I really enjoy reading them, sometimes I am confused by them.  Books/stories I have read or heard about as classics have been disparaged (at times).  I get it that we don't all like the same stuff, but I don't feel qualified to assess the lasting greatness of a book.  So, while I will continue to read my old books, I'm only going to take my best stab at whether or not the work is a classic. I will base my opinion on the age and availability of the book (if there are copies out there and people are still reading it, that must mean something, right?) and what I have heard about it.  The bottom line for me is that reading is my hobby and I can only get myself to read books that appeal to me.  I'm sort of a stubborn creature.

Date Posted: 10/28/2010 11:27 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,461
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The way I see it (which isbound to be right smiley) , We will put up a list of at least a dozen books for our participants to read. In a number of the categories, only pretty solid stuff will be easily accessible. If our participants read as many as seven or eight books, they will be exposed to a substantial amount of first-rate literature. If they engage themselves in these books, they will inevitably become more discerning readers. In other words, that they will be able to tell that Harper Lee was pretty good, once, but never in the same class as Faulkner; that Trollope was interesting to some and pretty good within a very narrow range, but never wrote anything in the same class as Tom Jones, Vanity Fair, or anything Conrad wrote.

And if they don't -- so what. They are reading books and enjoying a lot of them and reading a cozy or pulp fiction thriller every other day is infinitely better than reading no books at all.

Date Posted: 10/29/2010 3:44 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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I am loving this discussion. I agree that people should make their choices, and that's that. I also feel a deadline should be set to solidify the main list.

                                                                                                                                                                         Rose

Date Posted: 10/29/2010 1:39 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2009
Posts: 611
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  I truly prefer older literature; and I think that most of what has stood the test of time and is still available, must have some edge over most of the mediocrity currently on the market despite the fact a classic might not be critically comparable to the author's very best.  I agree with John W., that even though the reader isn't adhering to a narrow definition of a classic, they are coming out miles ahead of the average reader by exposing themselves to a better quality of literature and becoming more discerning readers in the long run.  The subjective nature of defining "classic literature"  makes it impossible to really reach a consensus. I think we must, therefore,  accept a fairly high degree of flexibility. Let's just use my definition as a place to start from, and not a rigid rule.  Variety being the spice in literature as well as life, I say keep your pulp fiction and NYTimes Best Sellers, sure, but make a point to really delve into that rich mine of older literature...and don't worry much about the minutia served up by critics. 

If there are a lot of people who strenuously object to any constraint on definition of a classic, I suggest a whole new forum for those who insist a classic is ANY book that  has been very popular and where quality isn't even an issue. 



Last Edited on: 10/30/10 4:32 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/30/2010 7:41 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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Wow, Barbara!  I think that I'll just remain on this forum and continue to agree/disagree with differing definitions of classics.  Probably most of the classics that I read would adhere to your definition.  I seriously doubt that there is a need for a new forum for "old books that very possibly don't contribute to improving the human mind or condition."  I'm with John that reading anything is better than reading nothing.

Date Posted: 10/30/2010 10:03 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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I am so glad to see so many people weighing in. I think this year's challenege is going to be a bit more lively.

Date Posted: 10/30/2010 10:07 AM ET
Member Since: 2/21/2008
Posts: 1,899
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Wow!  I wish this forum was up a few months ago when I was (IMO) attacked for reading two novels that others is not seem to think "met the standard."  I've stayed away for 6 months because it angered me so much.  Hey, I teach ful time, have a husband who was working night shift so I never saw him (now he's not working), and was trying to get everything done before the end of the school year.  The fact that I was reading for pleasure was a miracle in itself. 

As I tell my students....READ, READ, READ!!!!!  It improves your mind over those who refuse to use their mind.

Date Posted: 10/30/2010 4:42 PM ET
Member Since: 9/14/2009
Posts: 611
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My suggestion about creating another "classic" forum with a very loose definition of classic wasn't meant in a snide sense. I just said it because so many people get really upset about the issue that I wanted to provide them with a forum where they might be more comfortable.  I hate to see people upset where books are concerned. I prefer to think of  literature as a positive force, not as a divisive thing.

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 9:29 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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Diana, please don't stay away from this forum.  I certainly won't, although, as of right now I'm not planning to do the Classics Challenge for 2011.  This is one forum (and I only read one or two others) that seldom has "snarky" responses on it, although there certainly may be legitimate disagreements.  Please feel comfortable here, as I do, and stay.

The only thing that I regret about the challenges is that this forum seemed to focus on that more than "just classics" as it did before.  But, that may just be in my mind because, until last year's challenge was begun, it was a very slow moving board.  I miss the book read and discussed each month, even though I didn't participate in all of them.

My classics reading in 2011 (I keep my right to change my mind, of course) will be the classics that I truly want to read. 

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 9:47 AM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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Vivian, did this forum used to include discussing particular books each month? If so, why couldn't we still do that?

                                                                                                                              Rose

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 11:35 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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Rose,

We did do that last year but with the Challenge it did not really catch on this year. If people want to do that then I am sure we can get the group up and running again.

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 11:42 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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You're right, Michael.  The couple of times that it was tried, no one really seemed to jump on board.  In my case, it was partly because I was trying to finish the challenge. 

Rose, normally nominations for the book of the month were taken (not for the entire year--just a little in advance of the month), votes were taken, someone volunteered to lead the discussion, and usually either a date was set for finishing the book or it was divided into parts with dates given for discussion.  Michael, does that sound right to you?

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 4:25 PM ET
Member Since: 4/4/2009
Posts: 9,461
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Vivian and Michael are both correct. I volunteered/was volunteered to lead a discussion on A Farewell to Arms. I even spread the discussion over threeor four days, but there was very little participation.

I think there were other "monthly discussions" but do not know how they turned out.

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 7:32 PM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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Sheila, Vanessa and a few others really had something going on great in 2009. Then the idea of the challenge came about for 2010 which killed the book of the month discussion. Tome tried to keep it going but it fell to the wayside. I would love to get it going again. Historically, everyone made two or three suggestions and then people commented/voted on what they prefered. Occasionally, we would pick two months in a row. I know I really wanted to read "Journey to the Centre of the Earth" by Jules Verne and everyone made an effort to see that happen. I do miss the monthly discussions. I have not been the best partcipant lately but would like to improve that.

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 9:03 PM ET
Member Since: 11/18/2009
Posts: 551
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So why doesn't someone suggest a classic to be discussed in January? People who want to participate in the Challenge and discussions can do both (or either/neither).

                                                                                                                                 Rose

Date Posted: 10/31/2010 11:30 PM ET
Member Since: 10/17/2006
Posts: 1,427
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The builders of this website have included four "chat rooms", and I wonder if one of them could not be visited at a certain hour on a certain night for live discussion of whatever title was the monthly choice of the participants?  Or do I misunderstand the PBS's intention?  I notice one chatroom is for "over 45" participants, so I suppose that would make it illegal for the younger readers????  

If there is a way to send the same PM to several persons at once, perhaps a small group of readers could use that way to share remarks about a book of the month?



Last Edited on: 10/31/10 11:31 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 11/1/2010 7:31 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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There is something called a "blast pm."  I've never sent one, but I've received one.  I think that you first have to add, as friends, all the people that you want to send the blast pm to.  The problem that we might run into would be the schedules of all participants. 

Date Posted: 11/1/2010 9:39 AM ET
Member Since: 9/20/2008
Posts: 402
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We can just start a new topic for the 2011 Book of the Month. Take votes and move from there. How does that sound?

Date Posted: 11/1/2010 10:34 AM ET
Member Since: 12/27/2007
Posts: 702
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Sounds good to me.