Monday, August 6, 2012

There's a reason they're called classics

I just finished reading Anna Funder's novel All That I Am. It's a wonderful book, worthy of all the prizes its won, but readable. That's important to me. Sometimes I read prize-winning literature, or classics, because I feel I should, not because I particularly enjoy it. Wonderful writing does not always equal wonderful story, or so it seems to me. And while I am enthralled by wonderful writing, it is a wonderful story that keeps me up at night, turning pages.

On the weekend, The Builder and I took a trip to Sydney to go to the theatre. It's a bit of an event these days. I bought the tickets for his birthday a while ago, and then there was the accommodation to the be sorted, the boys to be sorted (thanks Gran and Pops!) and the logistics of getting to a matinee after Saturday morning soccer to be sorted. But we got there.

We went to see Death of a Salesman at Belvoir Street Theatre. I chose it because it a) fitted the schedule and b) I'd heard of it but never read it or seen it. It was written in 1949 by American playwright Arthur Miller. It won the Pulitzer Prize. With such classics there's always the worry that it might be dated. And if a theatre company chooses to 'update' them... well, that can be even worse.

I need not have worried. There's a reason it's a classic. Yes, some of the references and language were very '60 years ago', but the themes remain perfectly relevant today. So many big ideas played out within such smallness. 

Classics can be page-turners.

What was the last 'classic' you read or saw?

21 comments:

  1. I am at 60% of All That I Am (thanks ipad for being so precise), I am really enjoying it. Love her characters and her coverage of a period of history I have up until now, completely blanked.

    Last week I had to read To Kill A Mockingbird as part of the preparation for a creative writing course I've just started. Loved it in 1986 (year 10), loved it about 10 times in between, loved it last week.

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  2. I'ma big fan of Arthur Miller, and Death of a Salesman in particular. Glad it was a good performance .... and worth the effort!

    It's far too long since I delved in to a classic. Although I did find myself wandering round the classic section of a second hand book shop just yesterday ... Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights = my all time favourite for sure.

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    1. Haven't read WH since I was about 19. Might be time to get it out again!

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  3. Just read The Great Gatsby and loved it. I'm allowing myself one trashy book then one classic to try and read the things I feel that I should, but still enjoy my fluff!

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  4. Arthur Miller is an amazing writer. I remember stuyding 'The Crucible' in Year 12 Literature and I fell in love with his writing. It remains one of my all time favourites.

    Like Lorna, I recently re-read The Great Gatsby in preparation for the release of Baz Lurhman's movie in December which I can't wait for. I am not usually a book/movie fan but I am really looking forward to his interpretation of this classic.

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  5. Love it, Lorna! I read The Great Gatsby for the first time last year and then heard they were filming it in Australia!

    I'm house-sitting for book-o-philes at the moment and Gulliver's Travels has just jumped out of the bookshelf and into my hand.

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  6. Glad you enjoyed Death of a Salesman, I remember enjoying it (reading it at least) some hundred years ago in high school. I'm the same - I won't read a classic just because it's a classic, it has to be readable too. Probably the most recent was Anna Karenina, which I adored. But that was pre-son. I "should" go classic again soon. (So many great books in the world, so little time!)

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  7. Anna Funder is a star, no? I haven't read All That I Am yet, but have read Stasiland (her non-fiction book, also an award winner) and man, is she talented.
    On the other hand I took an Ian McEwan novel away with us on holidays and the first 56 pages were enough for me to put it to bed and never open it again (was a waste of suitcase space!). He's reportedly a superstar writer, but the story was not there for me.

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  8. I just re-read The Great Gatsby, as I hadn't read it for over 15 years and there was a lot of comment about what terrible choice it was for a movie (because Baz's is coming up, of course). No idea what they're talking about. Is a brilliant book and will make a brilliant movie. Think it's a great choice for Baz.

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  9. I am in the process of moving, so have packed up books. That was so hard to do. I had to cull. And I don't like throwing away books...

    The last classic I read was pride and prejudice. I read it once a year. Love Jane Austen. My daughter is reading animal farm for the first time for school. I might read it again to start a dialogue with her.

    Last classic I saw... Ballet- Romeo and Juliet. I want to see driving miss daisy in February.

    Thanks for the book name. I have downloaded a preview to see if it hooks me. :)

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  10. Is The Outsiders considered a classic yet?

    I also enjoyed All that I am, but I did have to concentrate more than some other flimsy floppy writing choices I have made.

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    1. Oh yes The Outsiders is definitely a classic!

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  11. I am reading The Human Factor at the moment for bookclub. A great little read. I might have to borrow All that I am from you! x

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  12. I read To Kill a Mockingbird last year, before that the only classics I remember reading are the children's classics, Black Beauty, Heidi, Little Women and so on.

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  13. Tks for the recommendation of Anna Funder's books. So many great books out there - never enough time. And yet still at different times of my life I enjoy re-reading the classics, like War and Peace and Anna Karenina as different aspects of the books are meaningful and connect with the heart at different ages as one passes from teenage years to adulthood, parenthood etc. Have read also Pride and Prejudice at least 5 times, F. Scott's novels many times and have always loved To Kill a Mocking Bird. The movie was a great screen adaptation and stuck very closely to the novel. Reading autobiographies at the moment but want to get back to literature again soon. My husband has read a book by every writer who has ever won the Nobel Prize for Literature since it began - and there are so many books he's recommended that I know I would enjoy.
    If you liked Death of a Salesman you might also like a couple of his other plays, The Iceman Cometh and Long Day's Journey into Night, though both are sad and really painful. I admire Miller's great empathy for his troubled characters, the way he sees their souls, their illusions and their pipe-dreams. Also if you like Miller you probably also enjoy Tennessee Willimans. There were some quite good movies made from his works, like Sweet Bird of Youth, Summer in Smoke, as well as some of the more famous ones. They still stand up very well even today. Best wishes, Pamela

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    1. Dear PF, Apologies, age has addled my brain. Of course, Iceman and Long Day's Journey are by Eugene O'Neill, not Arthus Miller. Best wishes, Pamela

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  14. My brother in law works for Belvoir & he had said this current performance was one everyone should see. It's amazing when you think about someone writing something that can stand the test of time. Where the themes all translate.

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  15. I've just finished All that I Am as well and like all great books, still find myself thinking about the characters. It was so beautiful and moving.

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  16. The last classic book that I read was Grapes of Wrath. I have been reading a lot of shorter books lately simply because of time.

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  17. I loved Death of a Salesman (I've not seen it, but I read the play). I'm reading Far from the Madding Crowd at the moment.

    I read a LOT of classics. I have a rule that for every chick lit I read, I have to read something heavier. Whether it be a classic, a serious novel (IYKWIM) or even non fiction. Of those options, the first is the most likely as I enjoy them.

    I'm struggling a bit with Thomas Hardy though. I want so badly to love him, but I don't think that I do. In fact I've not read a page in 3 days, I seem to be stalling. I hate when that happens with classics but now that I think of it it happened in Tess too. One of the very few books I've abandoned. I hope it's not just a Hardy thing.

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