Writing

Classics That Suck

Our culture has a tendency to glorify certain literature. From Orwell’s 1984 to Catcher In The Rye, certain books have risen above the rest to become staples of our literary canon.

And some of that is earned. 1984 is a hugely important novel, and while a lot of people think it’s overrated, I very much connected with Catcher In The Rye, given its angsty teenage protagonist and my own what’s-the-pointism.

Some stuff, though, I will never understand. And it’s not just preference. For example, Little Women and Jane Eyre just don’t appeal to me, but I recognize their literary value. I’m sure they’re wonderfully written books and I’m sure I could find some value and meaning in their words, even if the subject matter doesn’t interest me all that much.

Things like Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, I don’t get, at all. It’s such a well known book, it and its successor, Through The Looking Glass. All kinds of meaning has been subscribed to it, but it’s mostly nonsense with the occasional bit of political satire thrown in, though not enough to be all that interesting. Alice, as a character, goes through no growth, except for the mushroom crap, and nothing is changed, resolved or even made particularly suspenseful.

It’s literally the Victorian version of “it was all a dream”, written by a man, who from what I’ve read of him, may have been inappropriately attracted to the little girl for whom he wrote the story.

And yet… it’s a literary classic. Nonsense, without plot, without character development, of dubious origin and questionable meaning, by a man who may have actually been a monster, and it’s a classic. A staple of children’s literature and adult readers alike. It’s a staple of hippie culture, drug culture. Jefferson Airplane wrote a song about it.

(White Rabbit. Great song, terrible source material.)

I’m not sure where to go with that. I’m just not a fan. I neither understand its importance or its value. The writing is uneven and often weaves together unrelated items in a way where nothing is actually weaved at all.

Some may say that’s the dreamlike state and that makes it well done, but come on. It was all a dream is a bad trope used by lazy writers of 80s television sitcoms. Why would that be considered elevation?

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