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Old 12-29-2014, 09:53 PM   #41
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The question comes from pure curiosity. I don't believe my kids (now in mid fifties) have ever spent much time reading the Classics,....

Names like Dickens, Tolstoy, Homer, Orwell, Rand, Huxley, Hawthorne, Dostoyevski, Shakespeare, Twain, Marx, Doyle, Melville... and any of the thousands of authors generally acknowledged to have had a lasting impact on literature.

A matter of? early education, social upbringing, neighborhood, intellect, family tradition... or just the way it happened....the list goes on forever.

So, either way... Whether you read older literature, (the main question), current literature, or read very little... Why? or Why not?
I am your childrens' age. My sons were born 1988-1992. They had Lord of the Rings read aloud to them by age five (with voices), and were reading it themselves before their teens.... Durant belongs on that list--sons read portions of the story of civilization growing up, as well as "Heroes of History." They also read at least some Twain, Huxley, Rand, Orwell, Homer, Dickens, Shakespeare, and Doyle before leaving for college. (Excluding what they read in school)

Everyone on your list has landed in my kindle courtesy of Gutenberg, or been retrieved from my library, within the past year or two.

OTOH, I doubt either of my parents read any of these authors outside of school assignments, and I know for a fact that none of my siblings have.

Our sons continue to read for fun. Genetics or culture, who knows? But some of us just can't avoid reading. DW jokes (??) that I am unable to avoid reading the ingredients on a cereal box if it is within my field of vision on the table. Just the way it is.
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Old 12-30-2014, 07:13 AM   #42
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I am your childrens' age. My sons were born 1988-1992. They had Lord of the Rings read aloud to them by age five (with voices), and were reading it themselves before their teens.... Durant belongs on that list--sons read portions of the story of civilization growing up, as well as "Heroes of History." They also read at least some Twain, Huxley, Rand, Orwell, Homer, Dickens, Shakespeare, and Doyle before leaving for college. (Excluding what they read in school)

Everyone on your list has landed in my kindle courtesy of Gutenberg, or been retrieved from my library, within the past year or two.

OTOH, I doubt either of my parents read any of these authors outside of school assignments, and I know for a fact that none of my siblings have.

Our sons continue to read for fun. Genetics or culture, who knows? But some of us just can't avoid reading. DW jokes (??) that I am unable to avoid reading the ingredients on a cereal box if it is within my field of vision on the table. Just the way it is.
Yes!
At the very heart of the question. I don't know the answer. The cereal box analogy really hits home.

My first inclination was to blame TV for limiting the imagination and thought process that reading requires, but that doesn't account for those who DO read.
My second guess had to do with intellect... that curiosity lies in the grey matter, and that the selectivity of reading to satisfy this need is a natural cause and effect process.

Now, I'm inclined to believe that neither is correct, but that the affinity for reading classics is much more complicated.

So... reading classics, vs. reading for the purpose of self betterment,self satisfaction, or entertainment... an open question for me. My grandson is extraordinarily intelligent, and reads at an almost alarming rate... (we call him The Sponge), but virtually none of this is from the classics.
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Old 12-30-2014, 07:41 AM   #43
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Yes!
....

So... reading classics, vs. reading for the purpose of self betterment,self satisfaction, or entertainment... an open question for me. My grandson is extraordinarily intelligent, and reads at an almost alarming rate... (we call him The Sponge), but virtually none of this is from the classics.
I don't know that I would put reading classics in a different class than "just" reading. Outside of work, I read mostly nonfiction, still a good amount of speculative fiction, some revisiting of the classics (fiction and nonfiction), and the occasional modern, mainstream fiction. I'd analogize it to drinking wine. Sometimes you want a well aged bottle of Cabernet that takes a bit of patience to enjoy (the classics, John Foster Wallace, or Cryptonomicon), sometimes you want a fruity pinot (most of my econ/history/politics), and sometimes you want a cold beer (most speculative fiction).

PS--If I recall correctly, the grandson is in the boarding school at Aurora? Good place for someone like him. Our eldest was set to go there, but we moved to another state before the start of his sophomore year, which deprived him of that particular experience.
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Old 12-30-2014, 08:06 AM   #44
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I read Flaubert's "Madame Bovary" in two days at Christmas while DW and her sisters played board games and screamed laughter. The title character was despicable, but Flaubert's descriptions of human nature and actions were spot-on and timeless.

Currently reading Voltaire's "Candide"; it's hilarious! I own the Easton Press collection of 100 Greatest Books, but I haven't gotten very far with Homer or the philosophy crowd. I prefer a story.
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Old 12-30-2014, 04:57 PM   #45
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Worth the effort: Don Quixote, War and Peace, and Count of Monte Cristo. Unlike other, modern works of fiction or non-fiction, these stories stick with you years after reading them.
I guess it depends on the individual. I started on War and Peace when I was ~55, struggled through until about the 1/3 or 1/2 mark and couldn't keep my eyes open any longer. Dreadfully dull.

Yes, it is regarded as a classic. I have no idea why. It certainly didn't speak to me.
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Old 12-30-2014, 10:21 PM   #46
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Our family reads the classics and did as children, too. My son's favorite books as a teen were Moby Dick and The Complete Works of Shakespeare. My daughter and I love Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Victor Hugo, Edith Wharton and more. My 12 year old granddaughter reads all the time and many are classics. In fact, I was startled when she quoted Shakespeare at Christmas. I asked her where she got that from and she said "From Mom's Shakespeare book" But I think we are way out of the norm. We talk about these books among each other, but not with friends so much.


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Old 12-31-2014, 05:20 AM   #47
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There are some studies that supposedly show correlation of empathy with those who read fiction...not sure where cause and effect if any fit in there...I just finished an extremely difficult "classic" and am glad that I experienced it, but boy was it tough. the book is pretty long. The vocabulary had me consulting a dictionary almost every other page for a while. There is a ton of French that was completely over my non French speaking head, and the subject matter was very creepy and uncomfortable. But it was moving and funny and sad and emotionally compelling which is all you can ask of a book...what was the book? Lolita
I need a light hearted brainless book now to cleanse my palate...


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Old 12-31-2014, 09:19 AM   #48
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I read Lolita many years ago and I still think about it from time to time.


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Old 12-31-2014, 09:48 AM   #49
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Read a fair amount of Poe, and Twain, and a few others, but two words describe my experience with "the classics": Cliff's Notes...

Read "The Slaughterhouse Five" in college; still don't know wtf it was about, but it was what I envision a flashback to be like...


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Old 12-31-2014, 11:24 AM   #50
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Have lost interest in most fiction, even classics, but may pick that back up when I have nothing else to do. I expect to be fairly well occupied for a time after I am tossed in the dustbin on 15 Jan.
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Old 12-31-2014, 01:44 PM   #51
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Oh, come on. There are plenty of 20th Century writers that are "Classics" -- James Michener, Mickey Spillane, Stephen King, Grace Metalious, Tony Morrison, Jacqueline Susann, etc... to name but a few.
I must say if Peyton Place was a classic, it sure was a horny classic for a parochial schoolboy in the 50s.

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Old 12-31-2014, 03:20 PM   #52
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Oh, come on. There are plenty of 20th Century writers that are "Classics" -- James Michener, Mickey Spillane, Stephen King, Grace Metalious, Tony Morrison, Jacqueline Susann, etc... to name but a few.

"The giants..."

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Old 12-31-2014, 03:24 PM   #53
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I LOVE reading, but I find that a lot of the classics have subtext that I don't pick up, and that subtext is what makes them amazing. If I can get the Cliff's Notes, or an annotated version, that helps. Then it opens up this whole world I wasn't even aware of!

Other than Steinbeck. His stories are just too depressing.
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Old 12-31-2014, 03:31 PM   #54
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I had a girlfriend in college with whom I used to play a game. We'd compare each other to various inanimate objects in an attempt to convey an aspect of the other's personality. For example, "If you were a kitchen utensil, you'd be a potato peeler".

She said to me, "If you were a book, you'd be Catcher In The Rye." Several decades later, I still occasionally wonder about that. Sadly, she is no longer with us, so I cannot ask her what she meant by it...........
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Old 01-01-2015, 12:03 AM   #55
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Majored in humanities to better understand human nature. Figured that, with a lit. major, somebody would make me read lots of those "famous books." Then I'd learn what some of the greatest minds thought about the essence of humanity and life itself.

Well, despite 2 lit. degrees and 34 years teaching some of those books, I only scratched the surface of it all. Partly because, with teaching some courses for years at a time, I'd end up reading some texts 30-35 times each. (eg. Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Taming of the Shrew, various Steinbeck novels, Scarlet Letter, Huck Finn, Catcher in the Rye, Great Gatsby, plus contemporary classics by Maya Angelou and Zora Neale Hurston.)

Never got bored with any of them. As with any work of art (a musical piece, a ballet, painting, or sculpture) each viewing presents new detail, which not only enriches interpretation but also awes the viewer with newly discovered complexities in the artist's genius.

Sadly, the "classics" are often presented as dry, boring, and dead. But a close, engaged reading with teenagers and young adults can kill off that notion in about 5 minutes. Why would somebody say, "All right then, I'll go to hell"? (Huck Finn) Why might each of us want to become a catcher in the rye? What happens if you forcibly tangle the threads of another's soul, just to eke out some sweet revenge? How can someone with a ruined life and reputation inspire a community of former enemies? (These last 2 are woven through The Scarlet Letter.) I've seen hundreds of young people grab these topics, wrestle with them in the "tough texts," then express keen, mature insights about daily life and the people around them.

Writers of old described the universal, timeless foibles of this world.
For example, so much in Oscar Wilde rings true today. In a favorite scene in The Importance of Being Earnest, Lady Bracknell comes home from the weekly meeting of her club, "The Society for the Prevention of Discontent Among the Upper Orders."

How many of us have had to sit through meetings that could have used that moniker?

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Old 01-01-2015, 12:15 AM   #56
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Just saw the time of that last post.

Happy New Year, everyone! Responding to this topic was more fun than watching the fireworks outside the window!

And the party ended early enough so I could enjoy this thread.

Thanks, OP!

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Old 01-02-2015, 06:35 PM   #57
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And I can't read or watch anything of Shakespeare, I simply can't follow the language and therefore the story. I've tried, and quickly gotten lost every time.
I've read or seen most of Shakespeare and am not a big fan for the reason you mention. However, I would recommend the Kenneth Branagh movie version of Henry V (1989). It's terrific and makes me wonder why so many performances of Shakespeare are stilted.
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Old 01-02-2015, 06:48 PM   #58
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I continue to read the classics and modern as well. Most I like. Some I don't.

A few people here have mentioned that they didn't like War and Peace. I read it as an adult for a book club. Long. Took me a while to get into it but in the end I loved it and am glad I made the effort.

As for whether the OP's children read the classics or not . . . I think it is more important that they read some fiction for enjoyment. They should also learn that some writing is more difficult but can be worth the effort. It shows a certain amount of perseverance which is a good quality in many aspects of life. A certain amount of hard work and delayed gratification is useful in reading and other things.

I don't have kids so I don't know what gets assigned in school or how it is presented. Maybe some others, teachers or parents, can help us out here.
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Old 01-02-2015, 07:46 PM   #59
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I've read or seen most of Shakespeare and am not a big fan for the reason you mention. However, I would recommend the Kenneth Branagh movie version of Henry V (1989). It's terrific and makes me wonder why so many performances of Shakespeare are stilted.

Agreed. This version is very entertaining.


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Old 01-03-2015, 04:41 AM   #60
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There is a reason that they keep making movies and miniseries of Jane Austen's novels. They are quite witty and the characters are well developed. They have stood the test of time despite changing social customs.
My ex-girlfriend turned me on Jane Austen, and I agree interesting witty characters even the the action can be a be slow.

There is a lot of classics I like Twain, Jack London, Shakespeare, Hemingway, most Dickens, and some like Gibbons that I've tried many times to read and failed.
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