Thursday, November 25, 2010

Predicting Timelessness

Literary Blog HopI love the conversations that the Literary Blog Hop has initiated.  It has been so much fun to read everyone's opinions about these literary topics, and this week looks to prove no different.  Please don't hesitate to join the conversation!

This week we are discussing the elusive term "Modern Classic".  What makes a contemporary novel a classic?

First of all, I have to agree with Olivia @ The Independent Book Review that it does seem that classics are made when they join the conversation of people outside all the literary, academic people.  Dickens is classic in part because he was read by everyone.

Also, I like the point that Ben @ Dead End Follies makes about social issues being a key ingredient in the relevance and importance of a novel becoming classic.  We remember authors like Alexandre Dumas  in part because of the historical details.

So, part of being a classic (either a traditional/time-tested 'old wrinkly' classic, or modern/contemporary 'old soul' potential classic) is its wide spread appeal as well as some sort of artistic expression of the times, something that touches our core being.  These are easy to identify in the traditional classics because we have generations of opinions to judge against ours.  How do we identify a modern classic though?  The truth is that they should be read and judged in the same way.  The only difference that we are the first tier of readers to log our opinions among the ranks.

So we ask: Does the book appeal to a wide range of people? Is it well written or artistically expressed? Does it make a statement about something of social relevance or an impact on our inner selves?

While I chose The Road (Cormac McCarthy) for my "Book you think should be a 21st Century Classic" for the Back to the Classics Challenge 2011, I haven't read it yet and so can't speak for its merit.  The book I'd like to suggest is a Modern Classic is Snow by Orhan Pamuk.  It is internationally renowned, a beautifully poetic look at Turkey and the huge differences between radical Islam and western ideals, and what it means to be happy.  This book has that long-lasting old-soul feeling that will lend itself to timelessness.


  1. Why is it that I've never even heard of Snow? Also, good choice with The Road, even though, like you, I've never read it.

    *whew* Think I could use enough commas??

    I have to admit, I don't plan on reading The Road until the opinion of the masses has died down. I've found that it bogs my mind down when I read about other people's opinions in overdrive.

  2. I ve read other Pamuks he is a wonderful writer snow is near top of my tbr pile I agree totally it is a modern classic ,all the best stu

  3. I haven't heard of Snow, but I am intrigued. My father lived in Turkey for a couple years while I was in high school, and I think I much read this now. The Road is unlike any other book I've ever read... I think you've also made a good choice there.

  4. I love Pamuk. I read The Black Book and thought it was breathtaking. But do you think he is assured a place in the canon in years to come because of the Nobel prize? I wonder whether prize winners automatically earn a slot in posterity.

  5. I think The Road (which I have read) could easily become a modern classic. I have to read Snow.

  6. Christina--I agree, sometimes too much buzz isn't a good thing. I'll end up being let down if I've built it up in my mind too much.

    Stu--it definitely has that timeless feel, like you are reading something important.

    Sarah--You should read it! One of the great things about it was the feel you get for the land and culture.

  7. litlove--I really don't think winning a prestigious prize is enough. Looking through the list of Pulitzer Prize winners is enough to convince me of that (I don't recognize nearly all the titles/authors). It can't hurt, but there's more involved.

    gautami tripathy--I was glad to see you mentioned Pamuk! (and glad he popped into my head when I was writing the post!)

    Amy--I've been very glad to hear others support the quality/importance of The's a little nerve-racking to pick out a book you haven't read that you think should be a 21st cent. classic!

  8. The road is on my TBR, having thoroughly loved The Sunset Limited, not read Snow or anything by Pamuk so will have to do some research.

  9. I think it's more or less impossible to judge what will be a classic of our times. I think The Road might be one, but who knows? Maybe in 25 years' time no one will read it anymore and it will be forgotten.

    I'm just thinking that because of the free download of older books these days, and assuming current books will be available for free in future, it may be that people decide for themselves which books they still want to read, rather than it being (partially) dependent on publishers re-issuing a particular book.

  10. Melody, McCarthy seems a likely candidate for lasting...I had not thought about Parmuk, but his work has many of the qualities that ensure longevity. This question was difficult verging on impossible~

  11. parrish lantern--McCarthy is one of those authors that has somehow slipped under the radar for me until recently. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's all about.

    leeswammes--good point about the digital selections, although the older books we read are still the ones more talked about in general. It is rather impossible to judge what will be talked about in the future, isn't it?

    bibliophiliac--yes, a question without much of an answer. We can guess, we can hope, we can keep talking and discussing those books we think are worthwhile, but what ends up staying afloat simply remains to be seen.


I'd love to hear what you have to say, leave a comment!