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April 2012 Feature of the Month: Classic Fiction

A monthly discussion on varying themes guided by our members. (Book of the Month discussions through December 2011 can be found in this section too.)
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boswellbaxter
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April 2012 Feature of the Month: Classic Fiction

Post by boswellbaxter » Sun April 1st, 2012, 2:29 pm

It's Classic Fiction month! Lovehistory has signed up to get us started with this one.
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Sun April 1st, 2012, 6:05 pm

My first question is: what, for the purpose of the monthly feature, is the definition of classic fiction? Did the book have to be well-received (what the critics mean when they say 'this will be a classic!') or does it merely have to be old? And then it begs the question, how old is old enough? Is Lord of the Rings classic fiction? -- Or Lord of the Flies, for that matter? (I picked non-HF so nobody will get their knickers in a knot--not that that happens much on our friendly space.)

Clarification, por favor!

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boswellbaxter
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Post by boswellbaxter » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 1:37 am

[quote=""MLE""]My first question is: what, for the purpose of the monthly feature, is the definition of classic fiction? Did the book have to be well-received (what the critics mean when they say 'this will be a classic!') or does it merely have to be old? And then it begs the question, how old is old enough? Is Lord of the Rings classic fiction? -- Or Lord of the Flies, for that matter? (I picked non-HF so nobody will get their knickers in a knot--not that that happens much on our friendly space.)

Clarification, por favor![/quote]

Lovehistory picked the topic, so she gets to clarify it!
Susan Higginbotham
Coming in October: The Woodvilles


http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/
http://www.susanhigginbotham.com/blog/

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LoveHistory
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Post by LoveHistory » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 7:42 pm

Ok, I'm the April Fool. Didn't think as far as potential for opening cans of worms. I will attempt some kind of definition for the sake of clarity.

“A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say” according to Italo Calvino. I like that quote, and I'd like to use it is the basis for my definition.

A classic book, in my opinion, is one that can be read and enjoyed by any generation, regardless of when it was written. A classic is not always recognized during the life of its author. A classic will not be adored by everyone, but will be allowed to have merit by most. A classic can be read at different times in life, and each time the reader will take something unique away from the reading. A classic is any book that bears re-reading.

It's a very personal thing to call a book a classic. Classic fiction is classic usually not only as art but also as a study of human nature. When reading a classic, regardless of the time in which the story is set, you will recognize the characters and personalities; it will resonate with you.

Classic books are often imitated, but can never really be duplicated. Though they will no doubt be translated into multiple languages.

Any book could potentially be a classic, and most books will be considered classics by somebody. The difference in this case is one of mass consensus, and is sometimes determined by artistic merit and sometimes by popularity.

Does that help at all?

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Post by LoveHistory » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 8:08 pm

I'd like to make this month a survey of classics from around the world, sadly my knowledge is rather limited and I can only read with fluency in English. Still I will list a few classics, many of which I have actually read. I would like others with more knowledge to make similar lists of three or four books per country that interest them. In this way we can explore what says "classic" to each of us.

England:
Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Scotland:
Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott
Robinson Crusoe by Robert Louis Stevenson

Ireland:
Ulysses by James Joyce
Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Spain:
The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes

France:
The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas
Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne

Russia:
War And Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Dr. Zhivago by Boris Pasternak

Italy:
Inferno by Dante

Switzerland:
The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann R. Wyss

America:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain
Last edited by LoveHistory on Mon April 2nd, 2012, 9:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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MLE (Emily Cotton)
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Posts: 3562
Joined: August 2008
Interest in HF: started in childhood with the classics, which, IMHO are HF even if they were contemporary when written.
Favourite HF book: Prince of Foxes, by Samuel Shellabarger
Preferred HF: Currently prefer 1600 and earlier, but I'll read anything that keeps me turning the page.
Location: California Bay Area

Post by MLE (Emily Cotton) » Mon April 2nd, 2012, 8:55 pm

Heidi was originally published in German, I believe. And there is always Faust, by Goethe, and the Ring of the Niebelungs by don't know whom.

A Spanish-language classic that I intend to read (though from Latin America, not Spain) is 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I have heard it referred to so many times I can't count, and I even have an idea what it is about, but have never read it. And only recently have I read the prototype picaresque novel, the Life and Adventures of Lazarillo de Tormes. sort of pre-Huckleberry Finn. The book was published anonymously, but at the time everybody knew from the style that it was written by Diego Hurtado Mendoza, and after reading his classic history The War in Granada, I have to agree.

Russia is loaded with Classics, all dealing with human nature, Dostoyevsky being the author that springs to mind for his classic, Crime and Punishment.

Classics were always stocked by my high school library, and were very much responsible for my love of histfic. I remember the Count of Monte Christo as being particularly influential.

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Post by Ash » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 2:03 am

India: Far Pavillions, Kim (tho would that be considered English, since the author was? Its such a great book evoking India)

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Post by Misfit » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 2:23 am

For America I'd also add Edith Wharton and Booth Tarkington (currently reading The Magnificent Ambersons). Nathaniel Hawthorne also?

Dumas wrote much more than just the Three Musketeers, he's done a fairly good job of covering a lot of French History through Napoleon (that book never finished).
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Post by LoveHistory » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 1:50 pm

I know Dumas wrote other things, but I didn't want to hog anyone. :)

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Post by Misfit » Tue April 3rd, 2012, 2:32 pm

[quote=""LoveHistory""]I know Dumas wrote other things, but I didn't want to hog anyone. :) [/quote]

I'm a Dumas nut, I could go on forever about him. Loved the French Revolution series. And the Musketeer series. Must finish off the Valois series. I did pick them up as Kindle freebies, but without knowing the source of the translator for the public domain copies, I think I'm going to try for Chico the Jester and Fortyfive Guardsmen via interlibrary. The first of the Valois books is La Reine Margot.
At home with a good book and the cat...
...is the only place I want to be

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