In Ask Erika, For Writers

Today I’m taking a question from a reader. I’ve gotta be honest, I was hoping this one would never come up…

Reader Question: What’s your favorite classic?

My official answer? To Kill a Mockingbird

The real answer? I probably shouldn’t be admitting this, but…I don’t really care for the classics. (That’s me whispering, btw).

I know, I know…it’s sacrilege to even think, let alone say such a thing out loud. But it’s sorta kinda the truth.

In fairness, I didn’t mind The Crucible or The Scarlet Letter. And I guess Lord of the Flies was okay. But I’m pretty sure I’m the only person on earth who’s only made it half-way through The Great Gatsby, didn’t understand the big fuss over The Catcher in the Rye, and hated (yes, hatedCrime and Punishment.

Maybe I have a small, uncultured mind, but the classics generally fail to capture and maintain my interest. I realize that books were written differently back in the day and that people also had longer attention spans, but still…I cringe when I think about reading one.

Is that awful? Too honest? Are you looking for the unsubscribe button as we speak?

Please tell me I’m not alone…are there any other writers out there who simply don’t care for the classics?

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Showing 10 comments
  • Ashley Prince

    Have you ever read The Picture of Dorian Gray. That classic is by far my favorite. I don’t really know why. Well, I do. I love Oscar Wilde and this was a brilliant book. If ever you find yourself in a weird mood wanting to try a classic, try Dorian Gray.

    • Erika

      Thanks for that, Ashley, I forgot about Dorian Gray. I actually did read that one many years ago and to your point, it was one of the better “classics” I’ve read.

  • Donna Fugate

    I agree with you to a point. I often don’t understand what makes a book a classic. I’m also skeptical that “literate” speaks “truth” and answers the questions of life. There is a great deal of elitism and snobbery in “literature.”
    I love Jane Austen and I enjoyed The Tale of Two Cities. I have shelves full of classics. I have Of Human Bondage on my nightstand, and I don’t understand its appeal. I won’t be rereading it.
    I rate classics the same way I rate contemporary novels–they have to have a good story with characters I care about. And I’m not afraid to admit I had Harry Potter on that nightstand right along with Dickens.

    • Erika

      Thanks for sharing, Donna. I wasn’t sure if I was going to get flogged for admitting the truth. It’s reassuring to see that other readers share my skepticism.

  • Brianna

    You are definitely not alone, although I love The Great Gatsby. I will do everything in my power to avoid reading a classic piece of literature. I know I should read them, but it’s so boring and I hate to be bored when I’m reading.

    • Erika

      “Boring” is a great word to describe it, Brianna (though it feels so sinful to say that about literature that is revered by so many!). SO GLAD to know that I’m not alone on this one!!

  • Suzanne

    Hi Erika,

    I was the same way until I spent a year teaching British Literature overseas to high school students. I spent the year reading all of Jane Austen and Charles Dickens and fell in love. I think it has to be the right place and the right time, and the right niche.

    • Erika

      Good point, Suzanne. I guess I’ll keep myself open to that magical combination of right place, right time, right niche…

  • Andrea Wenger

    I love Austen and Dickens, as well as George Eliot and even Thackery (though he could have done with a good editor). But I thought that “The Great Gatsby” was one of the dumbest novels I’ve ever read, and I suffered through a third of “Madame Bovary” before I tossed it aside forever. Taste has a great deal to do with enjoyment in literature, and that applies to the classics as much as it does to contemporary literature.

  • Jim

    Erika, I love the honesty! I agree. I don’t like many of the “classics” either. Often the story itself is really good, but the tone does not resonate with me. I try to read what I enjoy, not what others (especially critics) tell me to enjoy 🙂

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