How should we talk about “the Classics”?

Great piece in the New Yorker about how we should view the classical canon of modern literature.

Are the “classics” still relevant? Are they even good? What does the word even mean?

Heck, even Henry gets a shout-out!

In other words, the current criteria for classics are more a matter of sociology than of aesthetics.

That’s why prose-toilers like George Orwell and Aldous Huxley are securely fixed in the canon while masters such as Frank O’Connor and Eudora Welty could easily be left out. “1984” and “Brave New World” are embedded in the weave of language and history, but what does Welty have going for her apart from stylistic perfection?

Henry Miller survives—and will continue to survive—because the country once found him shocking enough to censor. (Likewise, D. H. Lawrence might very well be a footnote if not for “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”) 

Read the whole thing!

(And in related reading, check out Italo Calvino’s “Why Read the Classics?”

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