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Which late 20th/early 21st century literary works will be considered classics someday


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I've been researching 19th century literary works today,and it occurred to me that at some point, Burns, Emerson, Stevenson, Whitman, Verne, and Dickens, et al were considered "contemporary authors". So which late 20th/early 21st century writers will be anthologized in literature textbooks for our great-great-great-grandchildren to read in their 21st century etexts? :D

Edited by ereks mom
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Cormac McCarthy should be canonized (for No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian more than for The Road). He's one of the best American writers of our generation.

 

Vonnegut and Morrison are already taught at the high school and university level, so I think they're already in...at least for the foreseeable future.

 

Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Don deLillo, and Thomas Pyncheon are being set up for it by the Powers That Be. I suppose that means I should read White Noise or Gravity's Rainbow. I can't make myself read Roth. He just annoys me too much.

 

I'm glad someone brought this up. Most of the time when I try to bring up the subject everyone looks at me like I have 3 heads and then give a sigh. :D

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Cormac McCarthy should be canonized (for No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian more than for The Road). He's one of the best American writers of our generation.

 

Vonnegut and Morrison are already taught at the high school and university level, so I think they're already in...at least for the foreseeable future.

 

Salman Rushdie, Philip Roth, Don deLillo, and Thomas Pyncheon are being set up for it by the Powers That Be. I suppose that means I should read White Noise or Gravity's Rainbow. I can't make myself read Roth. He just annoys me too much.

 

I'm glad someone brought this up. Most of the time when I try to bring up the subject everyone looks at me like I have 3 heads and then give a sigh. :D

 

For Pynchon, try The Crying of Lot 49 - much shorter and better. In its own absurd (and funny) way, it has a lot to say about life in mid-20th century America.

 

I also would put Infinite Jest on a list of classics for the past 25 years, though it is probably the saddest book I've ever read.

 

Maybe Donna Tartt's Secret History would make it too?

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It's interesting to consider because whenever I read about what makes something a literary classic, it's always said that themes that stand the test of time are what makes works of literature classics, amongst other things. I just saw "All's Well that Ends Well," done in late Victorian costume and setting, and it was wonderful. And it's about arrogance being humbled, perseverence, cleverly solving a problem, forgiveness. You might find many of the same themes in Pride and Prejudice.

 

Which of the works mentioned so far have those kinds of themes? Of the ones I've ready myself, HP, definitely, though I agree that the language and writing style are not great. I'm embarrassed that of the others, Life of Pi is the only one I'm really familiar with and I don't think it makes the cut, although it's clever.

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I think there will be cultural classics and literary classics.

 

Twilight would have to be put into a cultural classics, too many references already. 50 years from now they'll assign Twilight just so kids know why talk of sparkly vampires make their grandparents twitch. :lol:

 

Rick Riordan's mythology series (Greek and Egyptian) - probably more of a cultural classic

 

Alex Rider series - cultural. An interesting series for boys. Fits a nice demographic for kids who can read above the Percy Jackson level, but aren't quite ready for higher level reading classics.

 

Harry Potter definitely - I think it will be important as it sort of led the way for children's books to become interesting again. Boys that played video games could just as easily be seen with the latest Harry Potter and still be cool.

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I think there will be cultural classics and literary classics.

 

Twilight would have to be put into a cultural classics, too many references already. 50 years from now they'll assign Twilight just so kids know why talk of sparkly vampires make their grandparents twitch. :lol:

 

Rick Riordan's mythology series (Greek and Egyptian) - probably more of a cultural classic

 

Alex Rider series - cultural. An interesting series for boys. Fits a nice demographic for kids who can read above the Percy Jackson level, but aren't quite ready for higher level reading classics.

 

Harry Potter definitely - I think it will be important as it sort of led the way for children's books to become interesting again. Boys that played video games could just as easily be seen with the latest Harry Potter and still be cool.

:iagree:

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Echoing a lot of the author names that I've already seen mentioned on this thread.... I think most of these are still new enough that they're not already being used in classrooms, though I know Vonnegut & Zusak already are.

 

Vonnegut (Slaughterhouse-Five)

Zusak (The Book Thief)

Bulgakov (The Master and Margarita)

Eugenides (Middlesex)

Ishiguro (The Remains of the Day)

Murakami (various)

Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude)

Atwood (various, even though I'm not a fan of her work)

Rushdie (various)

Saramago (various)

 

I think Rowling (Harry Potter) will be considered a fun, cult classic. I hope Gaiman (various) and Pratchett (various) are too.

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Regarding contemporary adult writers, I think people will still be reading Jonathan Saffron Foer and David Foster Wallace a hundred years from now. As much as I hate Rushdie (sorry, but it's true) I think he will definitely be remembered for a long time. As far as children's lit goes, I think the HP series will be popular for at least a hundred years. I would definitely call Grace Lin's Where the Mountain Meets the Moon a "new classic." That book has incredible staying power, IMO. I already consider Vonnegut's work to be among the "classics."

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For Pynchon, try The Crying of Lot 49 - much shorter and better. In its own absurd (and funny) way, it has a lot to say about life in mid-20th century America.

 

I also would put Infinite Jest on a list of classics for the past 25 years, though it is probably the saddest book I've ever read.

 

 

I so hope you're right about Wallace eventually being considered classic. I wonder if he'll be remembered more for his essays or his fiction. Jest is so polarizing (one of my favorites, but I've spoken to so many people who loathed it).

 

As for Pynchon...my guess (and this is based on absolutely no scholarship or empirical evidence, so that's what it is worth) is that if his works are assigned to our great-grandchildren, the kids will resist them as much as we have Moby-Dick (sorry, Bill). Aside from Lot 49, which I liked enough to name a pet Arnold Snarb, his work is just so bloated and impenetrable.

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It's interesting to consider because whenever I read about what makes something a literary classic, it's always said that themes that stand the test of time are what makes works of literature classics, amongst other things. I just saw "All's Well that Ends Well," done in late Victorian costume and setting, and it was wonderful. And it's about arrogance being humbled, perseverence, cleverly solving a problem, forgiveness. You might find many of the same themes in Pride and Prejudice.

Which of the works mentioned so far have those kinds of themes? Of the ones I've ready myself, HP, definitely, though I agree that the language and writing style are not great. I'm embarrassed that of the others, Life of Pi is the only one I'm really familiar with and I don't think it makes the cut, although it's clever.

 

Yes, the bolded express my thoughts when I started this thread. I agree with you, Catherine, that Harry Potter does meet the "enduring themes" criteria, but that the language and writing style are not great.

 

Like you, I've read very few of the works that have been suggested in the replies. I've read:

  • all seven Harry Potter books
  • some Hemingway short stories -- dark & depressing, but maybe I read the wrong stuff
  • part of Watership Down -- couldn't get into it & quit reading after a few chapters
  • some short stories by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. -- interesting but "out there"

 

There are several that have been mentioned that I have on my "to read someday" list.

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I think Eugenides and Chabon might have shots. Possibly Franzen, though I'm less convinced about his work. Maybe Murakami? Ishiguro? Atwood. Oates?

 

Strike Oates and Franzen, and I'm with you. And David Foster Wallace.

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Strike Oates and Franzen, and I'm with you. And David Foster Wallace.

 

Yeah, I really wonder about Oates. I don't like her stuff at all, personally (though I do kind of dig her western New York scrappiness), but she's prolific and writes about Issues, so maybe.

 

I'm doing my part with Wallace...I assigned Supposedly Fun Thing for our Grade 10 Art of the Essay class. I'd love to assign Jest this year, but it wouldn't leave time for anything else!

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If you can get through Watership Down, it definitely builds up at the end to a pretty thrilling climax. It all sounds so silly because it's about rabbits but really, it was a good book! Ditto on the dark an depressing. I loved reading A Farewell to Arms (I'm the protagonist's namesake) but the end killed me.

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Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King. I can see that being read in the future. I think it was easily his best work, especially now that he apparently is no longer edited at all.

 

My oldest was assigned this as summer reading in high school for one of her honors reading classes.

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If you can get through Watership Down, it definitely builds up at the end to a pretty thrilling climax. It all sounds so silly because it's about rabbits but really, it was a good book! Ditto on the dark an depressing. I loved reading A Farewell to Arms (I'm the protagonist's namesake) but the end killed me.

 

I'll have to give that one another try, then. You hit the nail on the head for me: all I could think of was, "This is about rabbits!"

 

I did the same thing when people were raving over Redwall, I kept thinking, "It's about mice!" :tongue_smilie: :lol: I have trouble getting into stories with personified animals.

Edited by ereks mom
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I think King is a good writer (he's definitely a writer's writer), but unless he does something deeper thematically I think he'll be pigeonholed in horror and have a cult following.

 

Oates has at least one short story that's taught at the high school/college level ("Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been?") and has been for the last 30 years. I'm not fond of her longer fiction but she is prolific. I don't think she's going to get any further than this.

 

Marquez is already being taught, although more in world lit. He was on the US secondary English teacher's exam 20 years ago. I remember because it was one of only questions I didn't know so I went out and read 100 Years of Solitude after that.

 

Dh has Infinite Jest on the Kindle. This makes me want to read it.

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Dh has Infinite Jest on the Kindle. This makes me want to read it.
How are the copious notes handled? I can't see myself reading anything other than an actual book, flipping back and forth. :001_smile:
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Cormac McCarthy should be canonized (for No Country for Old Men and Blood Meridian more than for The Road). He's one of the best American writers of our generation.

 

I agree on No Country for Old Men. The Road was really, really hard for me to get through. I finished it because it was supposed to be great and I kept expecting it to get great and... it's just not my style of book at all. We have no hope. All is hopeless. See? There was nothing to hope for. It all got a bit monotonous (which I do realize was a literary construct to elicit the hopelessness of the road, but it doesn't mean I enjoyed it).

 

I think Khaled Hosseini would be in the running. Both Kite Runner and A Thousand Splendid Suns were engaging and heartbreaking and have stuck with me. I think they will both be demonstrative of the clash of traditional societies with modernization and western lifestyles, which could make them of interest to future generations. The House of Sand and Fog is another one that comes to mind.

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