Classics are stupid

Janine Wood at The Christian Science Monitor wonders why no one reads the classics anymore – especially Dickens.

“Classics are stupid,” said one 13-year-old girl, whose desperate mother had tried paying her to read Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women.” “I’d have to buy my son 17 North Face jackets before he’d look at a classic,” said another mother.

“Do you want chick lit, a page-turner, or a romance?” the saleswoman asked. Oh, how I wish she had asked, “Do you want Charles Dickens, Emily Brontë, or the latest translation of ‘The Iliad’?” I felt as though I were at Wal-Mart instead of the bookstore, and that prompted me to wonder what other adults were reading. I asked around at the bookstore’s cafe. Nobody had read Dickens since college and even then it was a chore. “I hated all that detail,” one woman complained.

This is embarrassing. I haven’t read any Dickens either. I haven’t even tried. Not even A Christmas Carol. I just look at those thick, English, things, my eyes get foggy, and eventually I find myself looking at something else in an entirely different room wondering how I got there. I think I might have a problem.

5 thoughts on “Classics are stupid

  1. You must read A Christmas Carol, at the very least.A) It’s short.B) It’s absolutely hilarious. One of the funniest stories ever written in the English language. No, really. Even to a cynical post-modern like yourself. It’s a completely win-win situation. I’d recommend it to anybody, even those surly teens at the bus stop.C) Once you read A Christmas Carol, you’ll find yourself wanting to read other stories by Dickens.M) Then you can get some audiobook version of David Copperfield or Great Expectations, which make life easier.

  2. Cy-cy-cynical post-modern? I thought everyone who knew me thought I was one bad post-po-mo mofo. Can’t I just be emergent or something?

  3. But po-mo has a better ring to it! “Emergent” is just…there. I read Nicholas Nickelby as a teeny bopper and found it smashing, certainly a page-turner and therefore better than everything and everyone in Great Expectations except Mrs. Havisham. I don’t know if I’d take to Dickens’ novels in a classroom setting though. He’s the sort of writer who, if you could enjoy him, ‘twould be better to meet him on your own than in a class with a bunch of quiet, passive students.

  4. It’s settled then: A Christmas Carol, sometime pre-wassail, to soften me up for Nicholas Nickelby.Anyone else read any Dickens? Has anyone else, like me, used the word “Dickensian” without having read Dickens?

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