Thursday, November 25, 2010

Literary Blog Hop: Nov 25-28

Welcome to this week's Literary Blog Hop hosted by The Blue Bookcase!

This blog hop is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction, classic literature, and general literary discussion. If your blog does not fit this description, it may be removed from the Linky List. 

How do I know if my blog qualifies as "literary"? Literature has many definitions, but for our purposes your blog qualifies as "literary" if it focuses primarily on texts with aesthetic merit. In other words, texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure. YA literature may fit into this category, but if your blog focuses primarily on non-literary YA, fantasy, romance, paranormal romance, or chick lit, you may prefer to join the blog hop at Crazy-for-books that is open to book blogs of all genres.

Instructions for entering the Literary Blog Hop:

1. Grab the code for the Button.

Literary Blog Hop
2. Answer the following prompt on your blog:

This week's question is:

What makes a contemporary novel a classic? 
Discuss a book which you think fits the category of ‘modern classics’ and explain why. 

(Suggestions for future prompts? Email them to us at

Our answer this week comes from Meagan:

Wow, talk about a loaded question! Okay, so can we all agree that (for the most part) classic = literary? I know we have future plans to debate this point in another Literary Blog Hop, but for the sake of argument (and in my opinion) the equation is sound. We here at the Blue Bookcase define as literary: 'texts that show quality not only in narrative but also in the effect of their language and structure', and if classic = literary, then the definition stands for both terms. Except, personally, I would add to that definition of classic that the text must reflect some aspect of the society and culture in which it was written while simultaneously transcending that society and culture. For instance, I'd call pretty much anything Dickens wrote 'classic'. His novels are well written and smartly constructed (asthetic appeal: check), and they reflect innumerable facets of Victorian life in England from vivid descriptions of geography to detailed portraits of people of every class (cultural reflection: check). But most important, those aspects which so perfectly capture life in England at the turn of the nineteenth century are equally as relevant today; themes of justice, mercy, greed, philanthropy, etc., etc., find just as much resonance with a 21st century audience (transcendence: check). (Raise your hand if at least one reference to  A Christmas Carol doesn't aptly find it's way into your holiday celebrations every year. Anyone? Anyone? Yes, that's what I thought.)
With that in mind, I personally find it hard to describe what makes a contemporary novel a classic. In fact, I would venture to say that it cannot be done. Note: I'm not saying that nothing written today will be worthy of the definition of 'classic', but I just think it's not really up to us to make that call. I've heard the argument that a novel written today which, according to our definition clearly has literary merit, has 'changed the lives of thousands of readers' and that must make it a classic (and indeed, the popularity of Dickens during his lifetime backs up that assertion), but that's not good enough. I majored in English as an undergrad and if I had a nickel for every footnote in an assigned reading which discussed a passing reference as a quote from or allusion to such and such work which was 'extremely popular at the time' but which I'd never heard of, well, let's just say buying a private plane wouldn't have been much of a stretch. There are plenty of novels generally considered to be 'classics' today which were doomed to indifferent anonymity for decades if not centuries after their publication. Or even more common, enjoyed periods of great success and were then lost to remembrance.
So, the short version: I don't think a contemporary novel can be defined as classic until enough time as past for readers to measure the level of their transcendence beyond the moment of their creation.
That being said, using those same parameters, I think it may be possible to identify contemporary novels that have the potential to become classics. If I had to predict a future classic, I'd have to go back to my Old Reliable Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. Ishiguro's writing style is brilliant and his characterizations are devastatingly realistic (asthetic appeal: check) and the novel deals with cloning, what it means to be human, and various definitions of love in modern society (cultural reflection: check). As for the final point, I believe that as we press forward with issues such as stem cell research, healthcare, and the study of human relationships, the novel will continue to have a relevancy far beyond its publication date. So, transcendence: check? Only time will tell...
What is your stance on the idea of contemporary classics? What novels do you think fit the bill now, or, if you think like me, may at some future date?

3. Add your link to the Linky List below. 

Happy hopping!