Saturday 31 August 2019

It's So Classic Book Tag

I currently have 3 chapters left in The Count of Monte Cristo Readalong I've been participating in since May and my very own 7-month long Moby-Dick Readalong is just one month young, so when I spotted this meme popping up on various friendly blogs this week, I knew it would be one that I would join in sooner rather than later.

What is one classic that hasn’t been made into a movie yet, but really needs to?
Zola's complete Rougon-Macquart series!

What an incredible feat of cinematography, casting and costuming it would be. With 20 books that could easily be given 3-4 hrs each, this series could run across several seasons. The special effects, historical accuracy and location shoots could see it rival Game of Thrones for drama, conflict and nasty families.

What draws you to classics?
I love historical fiction, so even though many of the books we now consider classics were written contemporaneously by their authors, they read as historical fiction to those of us who come after. 

I love learning about times gone by. How people lived and the times they lived through. I like to be reminded that though our clothes, technology and pop culture icons might change, certain universal ideals and behaviours do not. 

History does repeat itself, all the time. We simply refuse to learn the lessons of bygone times.

What is an underrated classic?
Most Australian classics fit this category. They're barely known and appreciated in Australia, let alone anywhere else. 

The Fortunes of Richard Mahony by Henry Handel Richardson is a case in point - how is this extraordinary classic not a part of every Australian school reading list (except for the vast size of it perhaps, but when has stupendous size ever put off a serious reader of classics?)

What is one classic that you didn’t expect to love, but ended up loving anyway?
Moby-Dick. Although I have yet to finish it, so it may be too early to call!

John Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids was also a surprise hit when I first read it in my twenties. It turned me onto the whole wide, wonderful world of early sci-fi.

What is your most favourite and least favourite classic?
Favourites are easy -  Persuasion, Pride & Prejudice and Sense & Sensibility.
Least favourites - Madame Bovary, Dubliners and Vile Bodies.

Who are your favourite characters from a classic?
Atticus Finch (good guy), Anne Eliot (shy girl gets her man), Bilbo Baggins (braver than he thought he could ever be), and Dorothea Brooke (stays true to herself & finds happiness in love eventually).

What’s a popular classic that you felt wasn’t actually that great?
Wuthering Heights (too much teenage angst for me), Don Quixote (repetitive and quite cruel) and anything written by Hemingway (pompous ass).

Who is your favourite classic author?
I have two - Jane Austen and Emile Zola.

In your opinion, what makes a classic a classic?
Time is the key factor for me. A contemporary story may attract a lot of attention and buzz during the time that the author is still alive, and for that first generation of readers who loved the book, but it then has to travel across time to speak to new generations of readers for it to be a true classic. I'm happy to call books written in the past 25-50 years modern day classics - these books have the potential to speak to multiple generations across time, but have yet to prove themselves. 

Books that have universal, timeless themes is the other factor. It's not always possible to know these at the time. They only reveal themselves with the passing of the years.
Moby-Dick was a flop during Melville's lifetime. It wasn't 'discovered' and recognised as a classic  until the 1920's, when he became considered a writer ahead of his times.
Many Australian women writers from the 19th and 20th century also fit this bill. Ignored and marginalised by the patriarchal literary scene of their time, their work has only been rediscovered in more recent times thanks to the wonderful work of Text Classics.

My bonus question: What movie about a classic book was better than the book?
Out of Africa by Karen Blixen has been one of my major classic book disappointments. It was disjointed and emotionless. However the movie was heart-breakingly beautiful and memorable.

If you'd like to join in, consider yourself tagged.
Visit Rebellious Writers for all the details and pop by to see what Hamlette, Joseph, Silvia and Ruth also have to say about these important bookish matters!


  1. Nice answers! As to speaking to multiple generations across time, I think if the message is universal enough, they will prove themselves eventually. My post is here

    1. I find it a little weird to think that we will probably never know which ones from our generation are the ones that will become classics. We can make predictions all we like, but we won't be around to see the ones that actually stand the test of time!

  2. What a fun post to read. I learned a few new things and chuckled with "pompous ass".
    I love the Out of Africa movie.
    I'm intrigued in that series of books you think will do a great TV series.
    I read and appreciate My Brilliant Career.
    Haven't read Dubliners or Vile Bodies, but Madame Bovary is my favorite, hahaha. It's so much fun to see our overlaps and our extreme differences all while loving classics.
    I like and agree on how you explained classics and what they are and have in common.

    1. You did better than I did with My Brilliant Career - I read it but did not appreciate it. But I was only 18 or 19 myself at the time, so I should probably give it another go.

      Not sure I will have another go at Madame Bovary as I know that the drama queen trope is not for me - which is probably also why Wuthering Heights (& My Brilliant Career come to think of it) didn't work for me either. As you say, it's interesting where we intersect and where we differ in our love of classics :-)

  3. I very much enjoyed the post! We have some definite reading tastes in common -- a passion for Austen (I love all of her novels but Persuasion is my favorite -- I go back to it every four or five years;), Moby Dick (it was worth the many attempts it took for me to get through it --- what an incredible masterpiece) and (maybe) Middlemarch (although you didn't specifically list it, I noticed that Dorothea is one of your favorite characters!). I'm afraid my reading "list" is pretty weak on translated literature (me bad! I AM doing a teensy bit better these days, thanks to a challenge or two) so I've missed Zola. From what I've seen on various blogs, I really need to check out his novels. Since I have a weakness for those big, sprawling, 19th century jobbers, I suspect he'll be right up my alley.
    Speaking of neglected --- I agree with you about Australian fiction being unjustly neglected, at least by me. There have been (and still are) some great writers from down under! Does Peter Carey count as Australian (I think he spends a lot of time in New York these days)? I've read some art criticism by Robert Hughes and I did read Richard Flanagan's The Narrow Road to the Deep North the year it won the Booker Prize, but other than these I definitely need to step up my game. I've been meaning to read Patrick White and Tim Winton for ages and I've vowed to start keeping an eye on the Miles Franklin award, so I guess I'm not totally hopeless. Is there anyone in particular you'd recommend?

    1. I'm glad to hear another big tick for Moby-Dick - I'm really surprising myself by how much I'm enjoying it so far. I didn't include Middlemarch because I read it in my twenties and I think I enjoyed it, but I only remember Dorothea, not the actual story. I will need to reread it one day to check what I think about it now.

      Yes, we still claim Peter Carey as one of our own. My former boss claimed that Flanagan's Narrow Road would become one of Australia's greatest classics in the future - that it had masterpiece written all over it. But I struggled to get past my dislike of the protagonist.

      If you'd like to try some classic Australian stories, I suggest Henry Handel Richardson, Ruth Park, Ethel Turner, Ada Cambridge, Thea Astley - some of their books can be found on Project Gutenberg and some via Text Classics. One of my fellow Aussie bloggers, Bill @The Australian Legend is compiling an amazing collection of early Australian writers here

  4. I almost choked on my orange when you called Hemingway a "pompous ass!"

    I also agree w/ Out of Africa. I LOVE THAT MOVIE!!!!!!!! (I think it's time for a rewatch.) The book was disappointing, and I only got through half.

    And I see a Netflix series, if ever something was made of Zola's R-M series. :D

    1. I'm basing my opinion of Hemingway entirely on my reading of A Movable Feast where I found him to be insufferably full of himself and mean-spirited. I've also read bio's from his wives' points of view which caused my opinion to plummet even further. Pompous ass was being kind :-)

      And yes, a rewatch of Out Of Africa is way overdue.

  5. Thanks for the invite. As I'm just finishing my first list of 50 titles for The Classics Club, I may just do that! For Australian classic authors, I really enjoyed The Tree of Man by Patrick White. I'm going to check the one you mention here

    1. I'm a little embarrassed to say that I have not yet read any Patrick White. I found him impenetrable in my teens and haven't tried again. But I really should try one of his books now that I'm (much) older!

  6. I haven't read Emile Zola but I picked up one for free recently. Maybe I should move it to the top of my TBR if you rank Zola with Austen.

    1. Like all books in a series, some are more engaging than others. But you don't need to read them in order as they all stand alone. His books are more epic in nature than Austen's and include a lot more of the socio-political stuff, but they were both from the realism school of writing.

  7. I was going to say I love your Hemingway answer, but I love all your answers (I especially love your Hemingway answer).
    Classics are Historical Fiction written by someone who was there, that's gotta be better doesn't it.
    And yes, all Australian classics - An Australian Girl, Such is Life, The Pea Pickers, on and on.

    The one answer I disagreed with - Atticus Finch. We put him on a pedestal to make white readers feel better about racism. Go Set a Watchman makes this clear. (Bill Holloway)

    1. I have yet to read Go Set a Watchman, I think in part, because I didn't want to tarnish my image of Atticus.

  8. Nice...glad you joined in. I have not made it to Zola yet...this is a reminder that I must. Also, time for a rewatch of Out of Africa.

  9. Oh, I'm going to have to check out Zola now! I love the idea of a classical tv show though. And that last movie looks charming ;)



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