Tag Archives: classic

Why read the classics?

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I finished reading Why Read the Classics? by Italo Calvino, a book featuring 36 essays on classic books.

Excellent reading. Highly erudite. Such ease of narration.

Of course, I love the genre, books about books. The last I read of its kind was Stranger Shores: Literary Essays, 1986–1999 by J. M. Coetzee[1].

Highlights, you ask?

The large essay on Stendhal and on De l’amour in particular.

That the Anabasis is a war novel.

That Twain was not much of a stylist.

That Orlando Furioso is an example of the fantastique.

A reference to the Encyclopédie des sciences inexactes by Raymond Queneau which reminded me of Umberto Eco’s pet project the Cacopedia.

And … the prose poetry of Francis Ponge:

“Kings do not touch doors. They do not know that pleasure of pushing open in front of you, slowly or brusquely, one of those big familiar rectangular panels, and turning back to close it in its place again – holding a …”
“. . . the pleasure of grabbing, at the belly of one of those tall obstacles to a room, its porcelain knob; the rapid duel in which you hold back your step for the instant it takes for the eye to open and the whole body to adapt to its new surroundings.”
“With a friendly hand you hold onto it still, before decisively pushing it back and closing yourself in another room — a feeling of enclosure which is reenforced by the click of the handle’s powerful, but well-oiled spring.”
“The Pleasures of the Door” [2]

Battle of the books

The Bookworm (c. 1850) by Carl Spitzweg

The Bookworm (c. 1850) by Carl Spitzweg

I’m reading Why Read the Classics? by Italo Calvino which I recently purchased at Het Ivoren Aapje in Brussels.

What Is a Classic?” you may wonder.

That question alone is the title of three well-known essays.

All three explore the nature of a classic book.

Why don’t we let the books fight it out for themselves?