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Literary Blog Hop — Status

April 1, 2011

Literary Blog Hop

Today’s question asks:

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.

This question is funny for me because at most times I like to be the rebel and go into things that popular consensus say are great with a cynical attitude, but it’s not that way with books.  Perhaps I feel humbled by the great authors in the literary canon, but I can’t go into a book considered a “classic” with that rebellious/cynical attitude.  I find myself quite willing to accept the great literary works as just that — great.  A book isn’t just part of the literary canon by random chance there is usually a large number of reasons behind it being considered a great work.  Knowing this is another reason that I am very optimistic when I begin reading a “classic” literary work.

The thing is I haven’t come across too many classics that I’ve disliked.  This may be because I’ve gone in and begun reading those books as a voluntary project and haven’t been required to read any of them so what I do read I pick.  Most books I pick out I go into with an expectation of liking them.

All of the above being said, there is another feeling that I have when approaching a work from the literary canon and that is a feeling of trepidation.  There are many pieces of great literature that I delve into with an initial feeling of intimidation.  This is because I know these works are considered great and I am fearful that I may not understand them or will not fully comprehend their greatness.  Usually that fear dissipates the moment I crack open the book and begin reading, but it is a sensation that comes with knowing that the author and work are considered above par.

Basically I tend to approach books in the literary cannon with two predispositions: first that I will like it and second that I am afraid of it.

15 Comments leave one →
  1. April 1, 2011 8:23 am

    Thank you for bringing up the element of fear. I think a lot of people feel that way, consciously or unconsciously, as if there is this pressure to understand not only the words on the page, but the themes, and the context, and the innuendos, and the secret history of the author that you can find in clues in chapters 1, 3, 18, and 25. Then there’s the fear that not liking a book means you didn’t “get” the book, because if you’d “gotten” it, you would have liked it, clearly. Congratulations to you for pushing through it and cracking the first page anyway.

    • April 1, 2011 9:04 am

      Thanks! I love the way you put it … there are so many aspects of a classic that can be intimidating and it is especially true when you are a reader like me, where you have no true literary background (I only took two literature courses in college because I was a science and math major).

  2. April 1, 2011 8:40 am

    I think this might be the most honest response I’ve read today, actually! How refreshing.

  3. April 1, 2011 9:22 am

    I unfortunately tend to go into classics or books I’m told are great with the cynical attitude you manage to avoid. Kudos to you for avoiding that pitfall and going into classics with an open mind!

    • April 1, 2011 11:24 am

      Most other things I go into with a cynical attitude and the pop culture books of today I do look at cynically, but the classics I view differently. I think I can go into the classics with an open mind because I have been really wanting to read them for a long time.

  4. April 1, 2011 11:02 am

    I know what you mean! I often am a bit worried when trying a new (for me) classic. Will it really be that good? And what if I don’t like it? Will it be longwinded and boring?

    This last one happens often enough. I do sometimes toss a classic out if I just can’t get into it. Nothing wrong with that. I do that with other books, too. 🙂

    • April 1, 2011 11:26 am

      I sometimes do the same thing — put aside a book I can’t get into. Sometimes I try to go back to it later on though and try to read it again … sometimes I never go back to it.

  5. April 1, 2011 12:33 pm

    because of my early reading of these books of so called worth, I’ve never been in the position of being intimidated by them, this is nothing particularly clever of me, in fact it stems from ignorance & the reason that it was all I had easy access to, it wasn’t until later in life that I found I was supposed to fear or respect them. My post is about, that these books make great signposts.

    • April 1, 2011 12:41 pm

      I love your point about classics making signposts … I agree wholeheartedly that they make great guides in the literary world.

  6. April 1, 2011 5:28 pm

    I agree with you on the fear factor. What are we missing if we don’t get one of those “great” books?
    However, I think there are two other factors: one is taste, the other is subjectivity. My problem with the canon is who decides? The canon has changed those last fifty years, and keeps changing. What I wonder is what criteria are used to determine the canon? Gender certainly used to be one of these…

    • April 1, 2011 5:31 pm

      Excellent point about the criteria. It is certainly questionable how some of the greats become the greats. AND you are very right about gender having been a deciding factor, which is why we can’t base all of our reading decisions on the canon alone.

  7. April 2, 2011 6:38 am

    This is so true. It’s very hard to quit on a classic. I feel compelled to finish it because how could I admit I couldn’t get through the book? Whereas I’d have no trouble admitting I gave up on a modern bestseller on page 40. And so there are some great works of literature that have been on my TBR list for a very long time, waiting. One of these days I’m determined to read them. Just not yet…

  8. April 3, 2011 1:21 am

    I agree with you that a lot of the dislike of classics one sees in book blogs is from people who are required to read works they do not like in a class room setting-those of us who read only what we want to do not normally have such issues

    • April 4, 2011 8:15 am

      It makes a difference for sure why you are reading the classics as to what issues and emotions you may end going into them with.

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