Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The classics, part three

Today is books and what will live on and have a lasting effect. I have no idea, that is the end of my post.

Ok so that is not the end, I will make some type of effort toward coming up with some kind of list, but really there are two huge problems in my opinion. One, people do not read as much as they used to, they are distracted by so many other things that books just do not seem to have the same cultural impact as say movies or TV. Two, there are so many books being printed right now that how do you determine the maybe 5 books maximum a year that will have some kind of impact. I thought that it is maybe easier to look at authors and try to judge, but I am not sure it is easier this way either. John Grisham has another book on the NYT best sellers list, but really do I think that he will ever be considered a great author of our time? No and I have read several of his books. I do think that maybe Stephen King will have a lasting effect on books partly because of the shear number of books he has written and how many of them are turned into movies, hence making more people aware of them. He has also written a variety of different books. He is known of course as a horror writer, but he also wrote the Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, and the book that become Stand By Me. I also love his Dark Tower series. This set of books is possible my favorite series of books written by any single author after the Lord of the Rings. The Dark Tower series has everything, it is a mix of sci fi, western (kind of), fantasy, horror, and pop culture from the mid-70s to current times. These books have references to everything from the Seven Samurai to the Wizard of Oz and Richard Adams. Ok so now I am done plugging that series.

I thought maybe if I saw what current high school seniors were reading I could figure out what is books seem to be considered new classics and guess what I found. I found some books that are Ok like Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri and Cold Mountain, but I also found out that in some Washington, D.C. schools they are reading The Da Vinci Code or the Secret of the Ya Ya sisterhood. I have read the Da Vince Code and it is an interesting read, but it is not a book that I would see making high school seniors read as an example of American literature. I would hope that books like the Kite Runner and Life of Pi would begin to be read in high schools as these are great books by non-American authors.

I have heard that the Harry Potter series of books may become a classic for children's literature and that may be true. It has brought many children back to reading and they have been made into movies, so maybe it will become like the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe that these books are considered essential for teens to read, but I just don't know.

I guess this is like music as we will have to wait at least 25 years to find out what stayed and what was gone.


FranIAm said...

It has been great to read these posts and hear your insights.

As for Kite Runner and Life of Pi, I am with you 100%. DaVinci Code- agreed. I call that a "plane book"- perfect for a flight!

Interesting that you mention Interpreter of Maladies, something I read long ago, when it first came out. Lovely.

Thanks for this effort, it was great!

If I had kids I would want them to have a teacher like you.

Comrade Kevin said...

The DaVinci Code, plus anything written by John Grisham are good beach reads, but hardly great literature.

I suppose it takes twenty-five years or so before we can look at literature objectively and not be distracted by the newness factor.

Anonymous said...

Another great post. I agree with Fran. I'd love for the Spawn to have a teacher such as yourself.

I'm ashamed to admit how little I've read over the last fifteen years. I need to start taking public transportation again so I have time read!

GourmetGoddess said...

*laughs* on the eharmony dating website, there is a question in the profile about the book you are currently reading and/or the best book you have ever read. I actually put down in my profile that if the person reading my profile felt that The DaVinci Code was the best book they had ever read, I would appreciate it if they did NOT contact me.