It’s a Classic for a Reason

Last month I wrote a post about how it’s ok not to like a famous writer’s work. You don’t have to worship Hemingway just because he’s Hemingway, about how we should always maintain the right to have an opinion even if the general consensus of the unwashed masses (and their washed counterparts) tends to sway one way or another.

But now I’m here to talk about the other side of the coin. When you read Hemingway, and you understand why he’s HEMINGWAY! You stand in awe of a classic and understand why high school and college students are forced to read a particular book and have been for decades and decades. Because it’s GOOD!

I read a lot in the summer. I don’t write a lot in the summer. I should, especially since I don’t work in the summer. Instead I watch a two-year-old boy run around like a lunatic on acid (especially after a Popsicle) and it’s a lot easier to read while watching a tiny lunatic than it is to write something coherent. Please don’t get on my case about reading while watching my kid. I can only watch him run around for so long without getting depressed about how awesome it is to be a two-year-old and how unawesome it is to be a thirty-year-old man (It’s lame in case anyone was wondering). Put “Playing with blocks” up against “Paying a mortgage” and you know which one comes out on top every–single–time.

Anyways, I try to read a classic or two every summer because I’m a teacher and a writer and I feel like I should since people assume both jobs require you to have read every single book ever written (“You’ve never read _________________! I can’t believe you’ve never read ________________!”). Usually I’m disappointed or underwhelmed. Most aren’t awful; they’re just…meh. You have to remember that most “classics” were written a long, long time ago and they don’t translate well to modern readers so it’s a timeline thing, not a quality thing. Try to read Moby Dick and not fall asleep! TRY! It can’t be done.

But then there are those classics that you read and you scream out, “YES! I GET IT! SIGN MY ASS UP! I’M JOINING THE PARTY!” because you totally understand what all the fuss has been about. Those are the moments that make sloshing through all the asswipe classics worth it. I was lucky enough to experience not one but TWO literary orgasms over the summer: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury and Ayn Rand’s 700-page opus, The Fountainhead.

There are a few writers I feel a special kinship with (Vonnegut, Joseph Heller, John Kennedy Toole) and Bradbury is definitely on that list. His sci-fi satire short story collection was funny and poignant and inventive. It was not what I was expecting…in a totally amazing way.

And whether you buy into Ayn Rand’s philosophy or not, her two epics, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead, are amazing books. The time and effort put into those works is awe-inspiring. And whether you’re drinking the Kool-aid of Objectivism or not, it’s clear she does and she cares a lot about her work. It’s worth tearing through that doorstop of a book.

So I encourage all lovers of lit to go out and discover your own literary orgasms with the classics. There’s nothing wrong with getting off with a 110-year-old woman…



~ by themoderntranscendentalist on August 31, 2014.

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