Classic Classics You Should Actually Read

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Malcolm Lockwell, Mar 12, 2015.

  1. Malcolm Lockwell

    Malcolm Lockwell Member

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    Hey folks, Malcolm Lockwell here. I was an English major for a while, and during that time I developed the opinion that certain classics really don't need to be read. Of course it's different from person to person, but I think there are certain novels/short stories that persist to this day just because they've been labeled "classics." On the other hand, I think there are some classics that everyone should absolutely read.

    And I'm not just talking the Western Canon here, feel free to bring in anything.

    What do you think? As for a classic people should actually read, I think Dante's Divine Commedy (Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso, all three of 'em) should be required reading for everyone. It's themes and imagery permeate nearly every single aspect of popular culture in some way, and for that reason at least people should take a look at it.
     
  2. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    Which translation do you mean?

    The correct answer is Hollander. Bugger Longfellow.

    And just FYI, in formal literary parlance, "classic" refers to antiquity. Not the Renaissance.

    An admitted nitpick, but also a peeve of mine.
     
    Last edited: Mar 12, 2015
  3. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    IMO, Gödel, Escher, Bach An Eternal Golden Braid should be required reading for highschool graduation or college entrance.
     
  4. Malcolm Lockwell

    Malcolm Lockwell Member

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    There are so many for Inferno, but my personal favorite is the Robert M. Durling translation. He also has a pretty serviceable translation of Purgatorio, but I prefer W.S. Merwin's version. As for Paradiso, I really think that should just be read, period. Any translation is fine, in my opinion, but the Penguin Classics compilation of the Comedy is good for anyone who just wants to give it a glance.

    As for GEB, it's been on my list for a very long time. Did you read it during high school?
     
  5. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    Pulled me out of the chronically depressed apathetic wreck and taught me how to think.

    That's the problem with so many college kids these days. They learn facts but don't learn to think.

    Education is not the filling of a vessel but the kindling of a flame.
     
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  6. Malcolm Lockwell

    Malcolm Lockwell Member

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    Pretty inspiring stuff, man. I'm all for reading something that helps people like it sounds like it helped you. That's what I think is so great about these classic works, know what I mean?
     
  7. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    I also saw the original Cosmos at about the same time. I haven't read any of Dr. Sagan's books, though.

    Also around that time, God and Golem, Inc. by Wiener, The Loom of God by Pickover, Neuromancer by Gibson and Ghost in the Shell by Masamune all pulled me out of the funk.
     
  8. Malcolm Lockwell

    Malcolm Lockwell Member

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    Aha, now Neuromancer is one hell of a book. That was my introduction to cyber-punk, believe it or not, and it left quite an impression on me. His work isn't exclusively cyber-punk, but have you ever read any Harlan Ellison?
     
  9. AstaKask

    AstaKask More Trophy Points Please

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    The Iliad and the Aeneid. The Odyssey is rather meh.

    And everyone should read the Bible - it's a proven method for making atheists. ;)
     
  10. GloatingSwine

    GloatingSwine Active Member

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    It's certainly worth reading at least some Alexandre Dumas. The Count of Monte Cristo might look daunting but it's actually really easy and entertaining to read.
     
  11. Malcolm Lockwell

    Malcolm Lockwell Member

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    I love The Count of Monte Cristo! I think more people would be inclined to read that one if they knew more about Alexandre Dumas.
    I also can't help but think of the scene from "The Shawshank Redemption."
    "The Count of Monte Crisco. By Alexandree...Dumbass. Dumbass."

    As for the Illiad I actually think it's just as important as the Odyssey. This is more of a personal choice, but I would say both of them should be required reading for people who are English majors. Otherwise, I'm not really sure they hold that much importance to someone who isn't interested in literature.

    Aeneid, on the other hand, should absolutely be read by everyone. I would put that in the same category as the Commedia for similar purposes. Has anyone here ever read any English Rake literature?
     
  12. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    Oedipus Rex, the elegent Yeats Translation.



    The Silmarillion, Lays of Beleriand and Narn i Chin Hurin, for a beautiful cross section of old and middle english tropes.

    Beowulf, The Wanderer, various bits of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, Njal's Saga and the Eddas.

    Makes you want to buy chainmail and a langseax and join the SCA.



    http://www.fimfiction.net/story/217212/vikings-in-the-castle

     
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  13. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    Pay close attention to the unmasked guys during the intro speech and the names in the credits.

    Yep, that was a young William Shatner. People make fun of his speech patterns as Captain Kirk, but they forget he was classically trained and occasionally falls into iambs and trochees.
     
  14. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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    I won't bother naming all my favorite bits of Shakespeare.

    I'll just say I like Throne of Blood and Ran better than the Scottish Play and King Lear. Shameless Otaku. I wonder if anyone has done full Noh chant adaptations of them.

    Also, HAPPY IDES OF MARCH.

    [​IMG]
     
  15. Wookiee

    Wookiee More Trophy Points Please

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  16. Temporally Displaced

    Temporally Displaced Active Member

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    If we're talking about works that originated tropes that permeate modern culture, how about "War of the Worlds?" It's a fairly brisk and entertaining read, and the alien invasion remains one of the most beloved tropes of all time.
     
  17. AstaKask

    AstaKask More Trophy Points Please

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    Twilight
    Fifty Shades of Gray

    :p
     
  18. Kaceyspace

    Kaceyspace New Member

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    I read The Red Badge of Courage for a class once, and while I still hold the opinion of its importance in American Literature, it was a very hard time for me to read it. It's a very short book, but still I had to force myself to read it. The Story was great, and I enjoyed that, I just didn't like the writing, If that makes sense? Stephen Crane is a very apt writer, and everything else of his I've thoroughly enjoyed, but the first time reading the red badghe of courage it was a real struggle. I do recommend, Maggie: A girl; of the streets, and the open boat.
     
  19. terra_tyc

    terra_tyc New Member

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    As an adult, I'm currently going back and reading some classic literature.

    Although I wasn't a huge fan of Steinbeck's "Of Mice and Men" in high school, I was absolutely enthralled by "Cannery Row" as an adult.

    "Cannery Row" is the story of 1930's Monterey, and features two main characters and unlikely friends, Doc, a friendly marine biologist who is well regarded by the town if not a bit rigid in his dedication to his work, and Mack, a sort of grown up Tom Sawyer who lives as he pleases, embodies mischievousness and is the ring leader of the underbelly of the town, AKA, the men who are out of work (this story is set during The Great Depression). The story is simplistic. It's about Mack planning a birthday surprise for Doc, and is more character focused than plot driven. It examines two men who live out their version of the American Dream differently. Doc is well esteemed, and adheres to society's expectations of success. Mack, on the other hand, lives by his impulses.

    On author whom I recently discovered and highly recommend is Kurt Vonnegut. I read his classics "Slaughterhouse V" and "Bluebeard". Vonnegut's work weaves his own life experiences as a POW who lived through the fire bombing of Dresden with different fictional narratives. His work often expresses themes of nihilism, legacy and coping with the horror of war as a survivor. He also manages to lighten some of his darker work with comical undertones.

    Another author I've been reading is Phillip K. Dick. I read "A Scanner Darkly" and "Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?". Both of these novels have film adaptations that I haven't seen. Both novels are dystopian sci-fi novels, and both main characters work in law enforcement. Both works often have a lot to do with self identity. The main characters in both novels have their sense of self identity melt away at the expense of morally questionable government structures that are meant to create a well controlled and passive population. Looking at the way Dick believed technology would expand in the future also kept me intrigued. For example, the radio still exists in Dick's future.
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2017
  20. INCspot

    INCspot More Trophy Points Please

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    I'd add Michael and Jeff Shaara's Civil War trilogy - The Killer Angels, Gods & Generals, and The Last Full Measure - to this list of recommendations. They're beautifully written (although Gods & Generals has a few weak patches here and there), and it puts human faces on both sides of the war, but without letting either side off the hook (the Confederacy for its views on slavery, and the Union for the idiotic command decisions that missed opportunities to defeat Lee's army and end the war sooner).
     
  21. Clare C.G

    Clare C.G More Trophy Points Please

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    Well Jane Eyre was a classic I really enjoyed and worth a read.
     
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