Can a book not age well?

I’m going to say it…Ethan Frome.

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It’s something I’ve been thinking about as of late, having read The New York Times article “Who Should Be Kicked Out of the Canon,” and having encountered a classical book that wasn’t to my liking once or twice. There are articles about movies, games, and comic books that haven’t aged well, and it seems the only form of narrative that is immune to aging like a banana is literature.

Reasons that this may be.

  • The subjectivity of literary criticism
  • The idea of “must-read”
  • The idea of the canon itself
  • The non-existence of a form of analysis and criteria that can distinguish whether a book has aged well
  • Modernizations and simplified versions of classic literature

If such a list were to be composed, how would the books on the list be determined? With video games you need only look at the graphics to see if it holds up today. With movies, pacing, dialogue, special effects, and changing times can cause the movie to not hold up. Could you judge a form of centuries-old literature based off how it relates to current times? Could you judge it by how realistic it is? Yes, let’s critically rip up The Epic of Gilgamesh (the oldest work of literature) because it doesn’t have any social commentary. That was sarcastic.

Is the fact that James Parker, Francine Prose, and The New York Times are propounding the idea of tossing writers from the canon a way of answering my question?

Anyway, feel free to answer with your take on the question, Don’t be cruel, I cry easily.

Also, check out James Parker. I didn’t take much of a look at him until I was researching for this post. He writes for The Atlantic and Slate, and his most recent editions to the sites are articles about Death Grips and one that beautifully addresses the vapid programming of modern day Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, while exalting shows like The Adventures of Pete & Pete.

Take a look into the work of Francine Prose, because how can you not love a writer whose last name is Prose?

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