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Criticizing Classics?

April 16, 2010

For every great classic literary work out there, I’m sure you could find more than one critical shredding of each. For every gem of literature that multitudes have adored over time, there are at least some of critics, ‘professional’ or ‘self-proclaimed’, who find fault with those shining stars. But, why do we call classics, classics? Because they have stood the test of time, overall. When a writer’s work outlasts them and their work takes on a sort of life of its own, we at least respect that it is of some worth, to more than simply somebody. Sometimes luck or politics may be in play. That is to say, a work might have ‘made it’ and then even persisted, because of who was pulling for or behind it, promoting it. I am certain that many great works lay undiscovered still. A sea of talent lies still out there.

My favorite novels and stories are from among Jane Austen’s, the Bronte sisters’ and Elizabeth Gaskell’s works. That is not to say that every one of each of their works is perfect in prose, plot or characters, necessarily. I find imperfections in everything, when I look for them. Occasional deficiencies are obvious even when I’m not looking for them. I choose to overlook and forgive little flaws or errors. I wish to see the spirit of the  creation. Some of my favorite fiction is lesser in differing ways. Some of the novels seem rushed to publishing or unfinished to varied degrees. Maybe I would have done something differently. Maybe my ideas are just different. Perfection might not have been reached here or there.

In fact, my favorite story seems quite flawed in the writing/editing, but, overall, I relate greatly to the key storyline and characters. If prose or poetry speaks to you, or anyone, it has succeeded in its reason for being. I have seen ‘crushing critiques’ of some of the best classic literature. Some people find my cherished Austen, Bronte and Gaskell works boring, slow-moving, silly and so on. That which I choose to read over and over again, others disdain. So be it. I guess they just don’t get it. But, what reaches me was as if written for me, and that which edifies others, is their nourishment.

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