Mad Monday: Classics Are The Ultimate Bestsellers

I had a classical education, raised on organic veggies and E.B. White. I recently came across a list of 100 classic book you should before you die–I had read 66 of them before I was 17. Because we didn’t have a TV when I was young, classics were my Muppets, Saturday Morning Cartoons, and Saved by the Bell. They have a special place in my heart. Which is why this line (heard quite often around the lit blogosphere) grinds my gills:

“You can’t write books like they did back then, no one would publish it.”

To which I reply:

WHY THE HECK NOT?

I mean, are the classics only good because they are old? Is it true that publishers these days wouldn’t take a second glance at A Little Princess, Little House on the Prairie, Little Women [okay, why do they all have little in them?], White Fang, Ivanhoe, The Black Arrow, A Tale of Two Cities, Wuthering Heights, The Great Gatsby, Huckleberry Finn, The Time Machine, etc.?

To which I respectfully and humbly say: THAT IS MORONIC.

A Little Princess isn’t a classic because it’s old. It’s a classic because it has characters and themes that people relate to today just as much as they did when it was first published. It’s still ingested and digested and given to nieces for their 9th birthdays.

One of my good friends, fresh off drugs and now addicted to reading–is getting a buzz from all the classic horror novels–Dracula, Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, The Hound of the Baskervilles–and you can’t say the vocabulary is too lofty for modern day readers because she only has a 9th grade education. Why does she buy them? Why does she like them? Because they’re darn fine stories!

I just talked to an 8th grader who loves to read, and guess what she’d recently picked up and couldn’t put down? Wuthering Heights. It seems Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff acting like selfish asses is just as fun to read today as it was a hundred years ago. And (more importantly), readers will still buy it even with all of the competition it has on the library shelves.

Classics have plenty of things that you could criticize. Dumas was paid for the word and he . . . wanted to make a lot of money when he wrote a book. Les Miserables has so many characters it’s hard to get through. Upton Sinclair can get preachy and Jane Austen can be shallow. Jack London can get lost in the woods, and Mark Twain can get too goofy. But good heavens, their characters! Just saying their names illicits some kind of connection or emotion:

Aslan!

Anne Shirley!

Tom Sawyer!

Holden Caulfield!

Jay Gatsby!

Javert!

Darth Vader! (wait, how’d he get in here?)

Mr. Darcy!

Don Quixote!

Simon Legree!

Anna Karenina!

Oliver Twist!

Athos! Porthos! Aramis!

Meg! Jo! Beth! Amy!

Dorian Gray!

Atticus Finch!

Fiver!

I could go on and on and on . . .

Those characters give modern day writers a challenge–it’s hard to top them. In fact, it might be just compensation syndrome when writers start bashing the classics.

Perhaps the next writer I hear say that the classics couldn’t be published in today’s market, I’ll ask which classic they are specifically talking about …

is it Moby Dick … who has such lines as:

truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.

Or perhaps no publisher would take Charles Dickens anymore, with such words as:

“In came Mrs. Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile.”

“Any man may be in good spirits and good temper when he’s well dressed. There ain’t much credit in that.”

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.”

No, it is Oscar Wilde who cannot make it in this modern publishing arena, with such quotes as:

Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast.

To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.

Or the father of fantasy, who is oft charged for adding too many mundane storyworld facts, perhaps he wouldn’t be accepted with such lines as:

All that is gold does not glitter,

Not all those who wander are lost;

The old that is strong does not wither,

Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

“Whatev, fools . . . I’m a literary ROCKSTAR. Sold more books than anyone else in the world.”

What I’m NOT saying is “gone are the good ole’ days,” and “they don’t’ write ‘em like they used to,” because I’ve read just as many nowadays amazing books as I have old time classics.

But no more classic bashing. At least not on my lawn!

What do you think of the classics? 

What can be said against them? Which are your favorites?

Tall Tale Tuesday

Hello and welcome to Tall Tale Tuesday, the part of the show where I come out and tell you a tall tale … featuring … you! My awesome readers! Or, more specifically, my awesome commenters. I had so much fun coming up with crazy stories to put y’all in. So without further ado, here are your tall tales:

Gene Lempp was the first to spot the cellular anomaly on the moon, the first to go to the moon to investigate further, thus the first to eat of the delicious cheese that had erupted from one of the moon’s craters.

The Good Greatsby (the famous boxer) had the best sucker punch (An unexpected punch that catches a person completely off guard) in the whole world. Probably because he uses an actual sucker to land the blow.

Have you heard of the epic frog vs. squirrel war of 1999? It would have gone apocalyptic if Larry Enright hadn’t bribed the squirrels with macadamia nuts and counseled the frogs in anger management.

When Annie cooks Tilapia, the aroma is so heavenly it seems like even the sun and wind lean towards her house to take a sniff.

Kathy Owen has a dog that says, “Moo!” a cow that says, “Quack!” and a chameleon that says, “Polly wanna cracker?” Thus her children flunked animal noises class in preschool.

Piper Bayard was swimming in a race across the English channel when she was struck by lightning and had to be pulled onto a boat. However, when the press harassed her with questions all she replied was, “it was a fortunate case of serendipity,” which leads me to believe the lightning strike gave her aquatic super powers.

JRD Skinner tracked down the infamous bartender serial killer with nothing more than a posse of bulldogs and his vorpal trident.

Sonia G. Medeiros, the famous street racer, always shouts “fahrvergnügen, suckas!” as she crosses the finish line, which some consider bad sport, but I find it a refreshingly good use of a good German word.

Tiffany A White had an epic no-laughing contest with Will Ferrell, who performed every trick and joke he could think of and she never even tittered. Will couldn’t keep a straight face when she started juggling cats while telling ‘yo mama’ jokes.

Jen Kirchner sang the famous Italian opera, Sakùntala, every time she took a shower. Her neighbors would applaud and leave tips for her delightful performance, which was good because she had an outrageous water bill.

Have you heard of Saint Steven Montano, who planted coffee trees all over North America and left french presses for those in need? The Pope was so thankful for his peace efforts he gave him a blessed French Press that creates holy coffee. Nobody’s certain of all the powers that holy coffee possesses yet, but no doubt Saint Steven Montano will find out in no time.

It was rumored that a man named Huge survived a plane crash in the Arctic tundra, was raised by jackrabbits, was taught how to protect himself by a walrus, and was schooled by the snow owls. When asked how he liked school, he replied, “it was a hoot.”

Jessica (Meet the Buttrams) wrote an entire sonnet composed of only the words, “dawn,” “goat,” and “priceless.” It is, of course, lauded as one of the best American post modern poems of the century.

Renee Schuls-Jacobson, the famous IQ test-taker, is such a genius that scientists had to come up with a new name for being above-genius. They decided on: Renee Schuls-Jacobson, the only hurgen-flurgen in the world.

Eden Baylee, the famous painter, is also known as Basil Hallward, the one who painted Dorian Gray’s portrait. So if she ever asks you if she can paint your picture, RUN!

Jenny likes to go ostrich racing on the weekend … which would be fine except that she likes to race her ostrich down the interstate.

David N Walker, the famous celebrity-ologist, nicknames every celebrity with the name of a vegetable or fruit. Guess who he calls The Squash?

Lynn Kelly bakes crumpets for the storks who delivers babies to China – needless to say, she’s a very busy woman.

Stephanie Fuller carves crates of intricate snowflakes with her microscopic ice pick and then drops them over the desert in Saudi Arabia so the children can experience snow.

Jesse’s so thrifty he lived in a tree for a year eating only pecans and bark. By the end of the year he could speak Tree … so it really pays to be thrifty.

Billie Jo Woods, the famous Secret Service Agent, smelled poison in the air surrounding the green room and then the electricity went down so she lit a match … but that was a really bad idea.

That was a lot of fun! So, if you want a taaaalllll tale written about you next ,

just leave a number (any number) in the comments below and come back next week for your very own story featuring you!

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