At dinner the other night discussing books (as I am wont to do, perhaps to the chagrin of my various dinner companions), the topic of classics came up. Identifying classic literature is one of those things that is easy enough to do, but much more difficult to explain or quantify. (Yes, of course Brideshead Revisited is a classic, but, uh, no, Captain Blood isn’t.)
I know I’ve debated what makes something a so-called classic before with my lovely co-blogger, so that is perhaps another topic for another post. But today this train of thought got me wondering about novels being published now. Which of them will be a deemed a classic in fifty or a hundred years? In the last twenty years or so, can you think of any books that you just know with dead-certainty will be considered classics?
The more I thought about it, the more panicked I became. The list of books I was dead-sure would be classics was slim: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (probably rather than definitely), and the Harry Potter series. And the last was the only one I knew would be read by generations forever. Perhaps something by Umberto Eco would make the list, a few Booker prize winners seemed a likely bet, and A.S. Byatt maybe. But I was by and large stumped.
So I put it to you: what do you see that is being published now that will be considered a classic in the next century? Is there anything worthy of the designation? Or are they tons and I’m just missing them?