While I am still waiting for my copy of Aristophanes’ The Knights to reach me here in the wilds of rural Australia, I have been reading things not usually considered classics, as I normally do between ‘classics’ (and of course, there is always the temptation to read something ‘out of order’ – there is a lot of emphasis on Shakespeare at the moment as it is the 400th anniversary of his death). I just finished Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie which I wouldn’t have put on a classics list, but if it had been The Murder of Roger Ackroyd or Murder on the Orient Express, I probably would have listed those, yet they are by the same author and featuring the same detective.
Which raises the question “what is a classic?” Obviously the definition will be different for different people. Oliver Twist, Pride and Prejudice or The Iliad might reasonably be expected to be considered ‘Classics’ by almost everyone, but what about Charlotte’s Web, Watership Down, Lord of the Rings or Dune? Does childrens’ literature count? Or fantasy? Or science fiction? Or whodunnits? If so, then is Raymond Chandler as worthy as Agatha Christie? Is Isaac Asimov included but not Stephen Baxter? Douglas Adams or Terry Pratchett?
As I have written before, I will include for my reading some books which are not always considered fiction, so The Holy Bible and The Koran, philosophy and natural sciences, biographies and histories, Sigmund Freud and Richard Dawkins, will all ‘make the grade’.
For me it comes down to not only what is recognised as quality and contributing to the “great conversation” but also just makes me curious enough to read. So yes, all the named authors and titles above I hope to reach some day.