This subject has been touched on a number of times, one most recently by my fiancee (who happens to feel the same way on this subject as I do), and that’s the subject of classics. Classic books, you know. The really old, really boring, really dull and really horrible books that were written forever ago by currently (and hopefully future) dead people. I might be slightly biased in my thinking, but there you go.
I’m just not a fan of classics, at least not in the way many people believe it should be done. To many, classics are the untouchable, perfect bastions of literary perfection, beacons of awesomeness that can never be recreated or matched by anything ever published ever again. Why? Well… they don’t really ever explain that part. I have never really gotten a straight answer, either.
Don’t get me wrong. If someone likes classics, that’s perfectly fine. Subjectivity and all that. But what is it about them that makes them so perfect? What is it about these obscenely old pieces of writing that makes them some standard that people need to learn about and strive for? What makes them different from any other piece of literature from that time, things that have to be learned by everyone no matter the current era?
That’s something that always bothered me about school, for one. Countless books are published every year, many with so much potential and obvious talent that I wonder why they aren’t more well known. But yet, in most literature classes, it’s always the same stuff with little variation. Always the same long-dead authors being taught in great detail as though nothing published past their time is worth any merit or notice. Why not a unit on Harry Potter, a class that goes in depth about diverse characters, writing multiple plots and planning ahead? Why not a course on Twilight dedicated to showing people the importance of burning things with fire? (I do know there have been a few Harry Potter courses at some colleges, but that’s college for you. Bring it to K-12 and I’ll be satisfied.)
While I can appreciate that many classics are good, and while I can enjoy many of them myself, I guess I just don’t understand what makes them worthy of almost literal worship. They might be good, but in my eyes, they’re still just books (or poems or plays or whatever). They aren’t extra special. They aren’t untouchable, they can be bested, and eventually they may become completely irrelevant.
Of course we can still teach people about them. It’d be a shame to deny classics completely, because I feel that there are certain things they can offer us today. But let’s also save some room for other stuff, yeah? Let’s not pretend they’re the only books ever to grace us with their presence. Accept that people will be bored by them, accept that students everywhere would rather eat the pages they’re printed on than read them. Accept that writers of classics were, just as we all are, just human.
What do you think?