I respectfully disagree with Max Freeman’s titular assertion, but I nevertheless endorse the substance of his post.
Tell me if you’ve ever read these stories before:
– A young male sociopath disapproves of everyone and everything around him, including any of his romantic interests. He changes nothing, learns nothing, and leaves.
– It’s the olden days, and terrible things are happening to good people. Terrible things continue to happen for 200 – 400 pages. Despite all this tragedy, there is little to no story, and no character development. Everyone is either 100% good or 100% bad, from start to finish. In the end, things either get marginally better, or they don’t.
– Wow, what a great dog! Whoops, he’s dead. (Or every character besides the dog is dead.)
– A metaphor commits a metaphor to another metaphor. Everyone is sad.
Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you? If you went to high school in America, I bet the answer is a big yes. In fact, I bet these few plots encompass around 90% of everything you and I were both forced to read in English class while growing up….
Listen, I’m all for supporting good literature, but it’s not the wordiness or length of these “classics” that put people off. It’s their DULL, unlikeable characters. Wordiness and length didn’t keep kids from reading Harry Potter, did it?
We really need to expand our horizons and incorporate some more fantasy and sci-fi into our kids’ reading. Not only does it expand their imaginations, and introduce memorable characters and journeys, but so many of them are well written too. Here are some humble suggestions.
Having read and enjoyed a number of classics, I can’t agree with at least some of these points. It’s like a novice saying jazz doesn’t have any rhythm. It does, but it is sophisticated. An untrained ear won’t appreciate it. Modern readers would do well to learn how to manage longer sentences and complex or abstract themes. I am a college biology professor, and I read an essay by a colleague in English that bemoaned the fact that many college students are choosing and reading popular fiction that is written at what formerly was rated as a fifth grade level. I appreciate your post. It was a good discussion starter.
We’re definitely in baby–bathwater territory, Robert! I remember reading some really dull “classics” in high school, but good literature as well. And of course, there’s the issue of dull teachers who can make anything boring! 😉