Nov 19, 2009

Booking Through Thursday: Posterity

Today's question was suggested by Barbara
Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

This is a tough one! I'll do my best to answer, however, I don't think I'm the best person to ask as there are many classics (Dickens, for example) that I have not read myself. But here is my opinion on this interesting question.

The first thought that comes to mind is that the world is such a different place than it used to be during the time of Dickens et al. It's kind of like comparing apples to oranges. The number of books published during Bronte's era was minuscule compared to today's world. That said, I'm sure there will be authors from this era who will be remembered with the highest regard, but I don't think that necessarily makes their book(s) a classic.

That brings another question - does a book's popularity constitute its classification as a classic? I think not. There are many books out there written by non-formally trained authors that have soared to the top of the bestseller lists solely based on book sales, not content or literal ability. I'm not saying there is anything wrong with that or that they shouldn't have their accolades, but lets not confuse them with a classic author.

On the other hand, I've read books by current authors who have been formally trained and are considered to be great authors of literature, and I couldn't get through the book for one reason or another. I think the labeling of books in our era is a very difficult thing to do. I think a book's classification is relative to the time in which the book was written. By that I mean, there are labels such as a 'new classic' and to me, that's just another way of saying a book is popular. IN MY OPINION. As for the question, Are there any books I would consider to be classics from our era? I would say if there are any, there are very few. I understand people may not agree with that, so let me just say in closing that there are many current authors who have written great books that have made their mark on the world and they do deserve to be remembered, but for me, the classic authors are etched in stone.

I hope I made sense of what I was thinking in my head and answered the question clearly. This is a topic that could go on and on! What's your take on this question? I'm quite sure there are many differing opinions of this one, so be sure to visit Booking Through Thursday to find out what other readers think.


  1. You are a true 'classicist', and I mean that as a compliment.I respect your answer. My answer is here,

  2. Your answer was great and very thought out!

  3. Everything you said made sense and I will second all of it!

  4. Great answer. I do think some of the books that are currently considered classics are fantastic - others not so much.

  5. This is a great question and a real time suck as I read everyone's answers. Here is my list and discussion.

  6. Hi - found your blog through random clicking on Blogger (Nex Blog button at the tope of my own blog's headed) which I love to do just to see what happens.

    It is an interesting question. I agree about the apples and oranges analogy. However, I think plainly there are excellent writers working today who are of the same calibre of the "classics," a subjective term that surely is loaded. Perhaps a more accurate term might be "Victorian"? (Austen predates this period, of course, but timewise she's close.)

    If the highest calibre is agreed upon to mean literature that challenges readers' assumptions, illustrates--in brilliant style-- the authors' singular notion of veracity, sheds light on the human condition.... then surely we have writers working today whose work will be considered "Classic" in 150--200 years. The way the question is posited, it feels like we have to go with someone who's near the end of their careers, or someone so obviously luminary as to cast doubt aside already.

    Toni Morrison springs to mind immediately. Philip Roth is the literary lion of his generation, to many. Murakami Haruki enjoys a lot of critical acclaim. More recent Nobel Laureates VS Naipul,Doris Lessing. The recently departed Naguib Mahfouz, Harold Pinter...
    One of my alltime faves, Annie Dillard.

    Dave Eggers... Jonathan Franzen... Michael Cunningham..... too soon to tell?

    Are we including writers whose work has been translated to English?

    I agree with you that a popularity contest like the Bestseller List is a poor indicator of what they might be fondly recalling in 2209 AD...


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