Literary Merit

As a sort of apology for yesterday’s post, here’s a (non-exhaustive) list of some “classics” that I thought were good in some way. And as a bonus, I’ll mention the creepiest story I’ve ever read: “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Charlotte Perkins Gilman).

EDIT: By request, I’ve added a little bit of why to each one. All of the reasons sound rather vague to me, though. It’s hard to articulate why you like something, rather than why you “appreciate” it.

  • Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) Like I said, I didn’t necessarily enjoy this one so much, but it was very effective at guiding my feelings about all the characters. Plus a lot of other people do enjoy it.

  • Jane Eyre (Charlotte Brontë) This one I did enjoy, because the main character’s a lot like me: stubborn (in a good way), loves learning and teaching, and has a strong sense of fairness.

  • Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) I’m not sure why I enjoyed this so much, but it has three interwoven plotlines and the main character is a high-class murderer. Intriguing, right?

  • Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) Harder book. I didn’t enjoy this book so much as appreciate the discussions we had in English AP, but despite the colonialism there’s something strong about “humans leaving civilization”.

  • Lord of the Flies (William Golding) Ditto. Also easier than Heart of Darkness, and with kids.

  • Les Misérables (Victor Hugo) The fact that this was written at all is rather amazing. The fact that it presents a coherent and (mostly) enjoyable story is even better. It’s a 1500 page epic of France…kind of like Game of Thrones but historical speculative fiction instead of fantasy.

  • The Lottery” (Shirley Jackson) Foreshadowing (in a good way). Defying expectations. Challenging social norms. And fairness again. This is a short story so you might as well just click through and read it now.

  • Death of a Salesman (Arthur Miller) This is the sort of thing I shouldn’t like, but I do, and can’t really remember why. Guess I need to re-read it. It’s a play, so maybe it’s better to watch instead of read, but the movie’s not that great.

  • Animal Farm (George Orwell) It’s written like a parable, it’s a story about animals, it’s actually a story about human nature, and then it’s actually a story about specific humans.

  • Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) Nothing like the movies. Not great, but one of the first modern sci-fi books. And you get more perspective on the Monster than you would in a lot of more modern books.

  • The Importance of Being Earnest (Oscar Wilde) Calls out a bunch of hypocrisies in Victorian culture, many of which still apply today. Hilarious. But much better on the stage than on paper.

This does not mean all of the others I have read were bad! Just not ones I’d read again anytime soon.

(The real Classics, of course, are the ones from Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome. I, uh, haven’t actually read any of these except Sophocles (Oedipus Rex, etc).)

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