Contemporary Classics?

July 20, 2010 at 12:00 am 7 comments

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?



Entry filed under: Classics, Musings and Essays. Tags: , .

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Jo  |  July 20, 2010 at 1:43 pm

    Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, was one of the first that came to mind, as was To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.

    • 2. Corey  |  July 23, 2010 at 7:52 pm

      I think Mockingbird is already a classic! And Bel Canto is a good one, thanks for reminding me of it!

  • 3. Abby  |  July 30, 2010 at 4:00 am

    What about Middlesex, The Kite Runner or The Color Purple?

    • 4. Corey  |  July 31, 2010 at 8:09 am

      Hmm, good suggestions! I’ve actually been meaning to read Middlesex; did you enjoy it?

  • […] García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is the most likely to be come a classic. It’s ineffable, just like my certainty that Bleak House is a classic, but I’m still sure that it’s […]

  • […] Club alternates months between “classics” and newer titles (ah, my constant quest for contemporary classics continues!), as will the LT Book Club. Sometimes I’ll add particularly interesting points of […]

  • […] of the name: “you must read before you die”! Read them now or be judged!) During my quest for contemporary classics, surely such a list would have come in handy. Whenever I’ve craving a classic, this list […]


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