Must the Classics stink?

I was over at Google Books and they have a spread on their front page showing various categories and these four books were shown to represent “Classics:”

Oliver Twist— Treasure Island— Pilgrim’s Progress—- Valley of Fear (by Arthur Conan Doyle)

 Stink might be to hard of a word here. It certainly applies to Oliver Twist, which is merely the confused warm-up scribbling of a man who would become a great master.

 Treasure Island certainly does not stink. It is the exception here in that someone might actually enjoy it.

Pilgrim’s Progress. Yes I realize that generations of people have loved this book, but does anyone really want to read it today? Not I. (And I have tried.)

And lastly, Valley of Fear. If I recall correctly, this is a pretty good thriller packaging inexcusably as a Sherlock Holmes novel. Mostly someone telling Sherlock a story.

So what we have is one classic, one mislabeled classic, one used-to-be classic and one faux classic.

This hardly seems to be a great way of advertising Great Books. Someone who decides to see what all the fuss about has 75 % chance of being disappointed.

How about:

Treasure Island : Jane Eyre : Great Expectations* : Adventures of Sherlock Holmes


*As you may know by now, Great Expectations isn’t my favorite Dickens novel, but it always seems like a good starting point for a new Dickens reader, especially because of that wild-legged start it has.


2 Responses

  1. I don’t know … I like “Oliver Twist.” Not his greatest, but I love Dickens and actually just finished reading “Oliver Twist” for the third time. I’ll give you that it’s not his best, though. I’d probably go for “A Tale of Two Cities.” If nothing else, that introductory paragraph is well worth the read.

    “Pilgrim’s Progress”? I think I might have to agree with you on that one. It probably appeals to more of a narrow audience.

    I was worried that you might be attacking “Treasure Island” at first. That would cause problems.

    “Valley of Fear”? What were they thinking? “A Study in Scarlet,” maybe. Or “The Sign of Four.” Or even “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” But not “Valley of Fear.” They must have been kidding.

  2. I couldn’t get through the original Pilgrim’s Progress, but Robert Lawson has a good illustrated version for children that I found quite interesting as a young teen.

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