Thursday, November 19, 2009


Happy BTT! Today's question:

Posterity November 19, 2009

Today’s question was suggested by Barbara:

Do you think any current author is of the same caliber as Dickens, Austen, Bronte, or any of the classic authors? If so, who, and why do you think so? If not, why not? What books from this era might be read 100 years from now?

Without a shadow of a doubt, I would say that 100 years from now, Plum Sykes, Lauren Weisenberg, Dan Brown, and the lady who wrote the Twilight books will all be taught alongside Dickens and Shakespeare.

Just kidding.

Actually, I'm not sure what will endure 100 years from now. Since there are novels that are valued a great deal as a document of the times, any one of the above authors *could* conceiveably last that long. I shudder to think.

There are a lot of wonderful writers out there today. E. Annie Proulx and Alice Munro both come immediately to mind as ones who might have staying power. But in looking at the rest of my favorites, I don't really think most of them will last. VC Andrews is already starting to fade, as is James Herriott (sadly). Laurie Graham, Tawni O'Dell and Sandra Dallas all write enjoyable books, but they're not powerful enough to stick around long-term. Wally Lamb is a fad, I think. People won't get a lot of Jasper Fforde's jokes in 100 years. George Saunders critiques modern society, which may or may not be interesting once society has completely transformed again. Historical fiction never seems to endure, and that's Margaret George's game.

JK Rowling, on the other hand, might still be popular. Maybe Phillip Pullman, too. Good fantasy books are like heirloom china and silver for geeks. Geek parents read them to their geek babies, who will one day grow up to bond with a fellow geek or geekette over their love for Tolkien or Ursula LeGuin, and marry and have their own geek babies and perpetuate the cycle. Since none of the stuff in the books can happen, they can never become too dated.

But other than these, I can't really think of anybody. How about you?

In Which My Resolve Is Tested

So, it's easy to sit there and say, "I pull the plug on any book I don't enjoy." And it's easy to do it to a book I have no real connection with. I'm pretty random in selecting my reads from the library. If it grabs my eye and looks cool and I still have room in my bag, it comes home with me. Sometimes it stops looking cool almost immediately. Other times, I read it all the way through and it turns out to actually BE cool, like that fascinating book about turtles I read before I started this blog. But, you know, if it turns out to be lame, well, it was free to check out and it can go straight back, no harm, no foul.

But I don't select every book that way. There are some that I've planned to read for a while, or felt like I should read because it would be good for me. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe was such a book, with the added dimension of it being a modern classic. Not only did I give up on a book that was listed as source material for one of my favorites, The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, but I gave up on a classic of post-colonial literature. And, it's such a short book, too, only 117 pages, and I'd made it through 26.

But it took me a week and a half to get that far. I really, really don't enjoy blogging about classics. They make me sort of nervous. If I say something good about them, it sounds like "well...duh! Of course the characters were great, it's DICKENS!" If I say somehting bad about them, I feel like the moronic fifteen-year old who complains in English class that "Shakespeare's plots were, like, really unoriginal and lame," not understanding that it's the 500 years of literature, theater and movies that copied HIM, not the other way around.

But, I had a very hard time getting into this book. It didn't help that it was heavily annotated (I grabbed the Norton Critical Edition). I hate heavily annotated books. It's like having someone standing over your shoulder, tapping you every two seconds to announce some random fact: "Ironically, that character's name means 'peace'!" "Market day was the social and economic locus of the African village!" "Here, they're referring to a person, not the similar-sounding goddess!" Maybe it's a cultural thing, too, but I wasn't feeling the forward momentum. Nothing in the plot or the characters made me want to turn the page over to see what happened next; indeed, when I picked up the book tonight for one more attempt, I saw that I had abandoned it in the middle of a page last time.

But ultimately, life's too short. I have eight other books in my bin that I do want to read, and holding on to this one is keeping me from them. My apologies to Chinua Achebe, Barbara Kingsolver, the librarian who helped me track this book down, and my post-colonial lit professor from college. I tried. I really did.