I am very excited for Opening Day. That is all.
I came across this article, “Read ‘em and keep: what are the books to pass on to the next generation?” in The Guardian and thought about what I’d pass on… a difficult decision — who is the target, what would I want to convey, could I narrow it down to one favorite?
Which book, “classic,” would you pass on? and why?
Maybe this is a more instinctual question. I can tell you which books popped into my head first. The Guardian article also makes the point that most people didn’t often recommend contemporary novels—is it because we assume “classics” are old books or because contemporary novels haven’t been around long enough to prove they’re enduring?
So pick one old and one new. The first books that popped into my head were Jane Eyre (old) and Toni Morrison’s Paradise (new, obvs). In the case of the former, it’s just kind of a sentimental favorite. (I tend to skip Lowood and the St. John Rivers tomfoolery when I reread because what I like the book is the dynamic between Jane and Rochester. Rochester is probably one of my favorite characters from literature, which is maybe why I found Wide Sargasso Sea confusing; he’s one of those characters that you probably aren’t supposed to like but you do anyway. See also Stanley in Streetcar, although specifically the Marlon Brando movie version, because I read the play before I saw the movie and had dramatically different reactions to each. I mean, I know I’m not supposed to like Stanley, but, man, is Marlon Brando compelling in that movie. Uh, anyway…) Paradise blew me away the first time I read it, and I’ve been on a campaign to get it elevated above Beloved as the Toni Morrison Novel That Everyone Reads because it’s more complicated and interesting, IMHO. Not that Beloved isn’t good, but it’s not my favorite Morrison.
But I can also think of a dozen contemporary novels that I’d love to push into peoples’ hands (and a dozen so-called contemporary “classics” that I wouldn’t; the article mentions White Teeth, which I didn’t care for). And I can think of a bunch of other “classics” that should remain in the literary canon. And then you start breaking it down by genre: what about sci fi classics that actually held up over time? Fantasy? Romance? Mysteries? So many!
So now that I’ve rambled on a lot, what about you? What “classic” book would you pass on?