What is a Classic?

I’ve been struggling with this question lately. I think my concern began in contemplating the Classics Challenge which I have NOT been active on. But it’s an interesting question generally. I was thinking yesterday’s post might aid us. Is everything on this list-of-lists (-in-cloud-form) a classic? How many classics are there in this crazy world? Too many to list, right? Is everything by one classic author then a classic? (Nabokov wrote Lolita; is Pnin then also a classic?) How about timing? Do we have to muse over a title for a decade or several, or can we declare in its publication year that it is a classic? (Is there a waiting period, time for us to cool off and see if the fire still smolders?)

Courtney, who is hosting this challenge over at her blog, Stiletto Storytime, does define it for us:

What is a classic you ask? A classic to me is a book that has in some way become bigger than itself. It’s become part of culture, society or the bigger picture. It’s the book you know about even if you have not read it. It’s the book you feel like you should have read.

This sounds like a pretty forgiving definition to me – and thank goodness, since as stated, I haven’t made much progress on this challenge yet! But I yearn to hear your definition, too. What is a classic?

(And by the way, I’m hanging in there; I’m currently really enjoying Main Street by Sinclair Lewis. That’s a classic, right?)

2 Responses

  1. […] I was perhaps most excited, however, to find her answer to the question: What makes a classic? (You can visit my musing attempt at an answer here.) […]

  2. […] it cries! Well, you know my question: what on earth are the 100 greatest books of all time?? (I’ve wondered before.) I always have to refer back to that BBC list. I think it’s fun to look at what rates, and […]

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