So I’m reading The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath right now, and I must tell you that I am surprised. I thought, for whatever reason, that the narrator was going to be Virginia Wolfe-ian in her language, and she’s not at all. It’s not a positive or a negative…just not what I was expecting. Her voice is very similar to that of a fourteen year old girl’s, which is sometimes endearing, and sometimes not so much. So far, though, I am enjoying the book.
It got me thinking about what constitutes a “classic”. This book was lying on a table along side others that were all labeled with a sign, courtesy of Borders, that read, “Read the Classics”. Why are these books more important than Shopaholic Takes Manhattan *(I’m exaggerating, of course, but you understand my point)?
I believe that it is up to the reader to decide what makes a book a good read for him/her. Perhaps, when a majority of readers decide that one particular book is a good read, then it becomes a classic. But I think the problem with this is that ultimately…it becomes a popularity contest and now every book that has been on the NY Times Bestseller list for at least 50 billion weeks will become a classic. And in my opinion, the prospect that The DaVinci Code might become a classic is a little disturbing to me. Granted, I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but that’s my point. I think there are better books out there based on the first 5 chapters of this one, alone. Then again, I am only one opinion.
So to recap: Criteria #1 to becoming the author of a classic – Popularity Contest
Then you have the whole “a book becomes a classic by being banned by schools” thing. For all we know, James Frey will be a classic author in this lifetime simply for the controversy that ensued due to his A Million Little Pieces endeavor. When in fact, it should be deemed a classic based on the fact that his writing style and content was original and startling, whether it was factual or not. My point is, all in all, if I win American Idol next season and then write a book about how I was Simon Cowell’s sex slave, I bet I have a good chance that once I’m dead, my book entitled Idolatry in the Flesh will be a classic – hands down (no pun intended). **
Recap continued: Criteria #2 – Controversy
And if you were paying attention, Criteria #3 – Death
There you go, My Friends! All the makings of a classic. Now – when I’m finished reading The Bell Jar, I will be sure to tell you all about the similarities between me and the main character, because, well, she is slowly falling into an insane depression, and being the medical expert that I am, so am I.
*I loved this book, along with the other two in the series. Unfortunately, Sophie Kinsella was unable to write successfully about any other character. Her two latest books are not worth it. By “it”, I mean “using as a coaster”.
** I never watch American Idol because I think it is a major contributing factor to the Illiteracy Epidemic in this country. Plus I hate it.