Thursday, April 18, 2013

What book written in the last five years will become a classic?



I am predicting LIFE AFTER LIFE. It has a big theme and it also is stylistically original. The characters are memorable and the writing pristine.
Closer to home for crime fiction fans, I am not so sure. Any favorites?

From Todd Mason: Borgen can be downloaded at various places. It is a Danish political drama that is critically acclaimed. 


Meanwhile, MHz Worldview (the small US public tv network and incidentally the home-video label for the US release) streams a number of European crime-drama series on its own ticket:


MHz Worldview's schedule:

22 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Thanks! Though any downloading is gray-market at absolute best...BORGEN's streaming at the Link TV page (seasons 1 and 2). Decent write-up in SALON.

Hm. The problem with classics is that they require some sustained attention, or (sometimes merely faddish) rediscovery...are E. F. Benson's comedies of manners still classics now that their revival vogue has passed? Is Samuel Richardson classic, or, like James Fenimore Cooper, more like Just Old?

That said...still hmmm. I don't think the Keller stories are Lawrence Block's best work, but I suspect they will sustain a long-term audience. While Kathe Koja seems poised for consistent rediscovery/coterie status, at least...

Todd Mason said...

Elizabeth Hand is doing her most widely-hailed work now...

Ron Scheer said...

I am wondering if the notion of "classic" will even survive.

Anonymous said...

The first book that came to my mind was Richard Ford's Canada. I also think Don Chaon's Await Your Reply has potential to be deemed a "classic."

Deb

pattinase (abbott) said...

Certainly English Departments have made an attempt to remove that term from our reading by claiming we a comic book has the same literary value as Moby Dick, Ron.
Great choices, Deb. They both were terrific. And I liked Chaon's earlier book of stories.
Still have Hand sitting on the tbr. I have to say that the door into fantasy and science fiction is hard for me to enter.

Charles Gramlich said...

Was "The Road" published in the last five years? If so, I vote for it!

Graham Powell said...

I don't know if it will become a classic, but Philip Kerr's FIELD GRAY made a big impact on me, and it's one of the best novels I've read. I think it will suffer because it helps to have read the previous books in the series.

George said...

I agree with Deb on Don Chaon's Await Your Reply. And I have Richard Ford's CANADA in the on-deck circle. Ford's INDEPENDENCE DAY might make the classic cut.

Anonymous said...

I liked Chaon's three books of stories but haven't read AWAIT YOUR REPLY yet. I'm waiting on the Atkinson from the library.

Jeff M.

John said...

I agree with Ron. I'm not sure that anything will become classic ever again. We live in such an immediate world now. The masses celebrate and worship the new, the latest, the "hottest." There is little appreciation for anything that might have an extended life. Most consumer products are not manufactured to have long life anymore. It seems almost the same for books -- especially fiction which is very much tied to current trends and pop culture so that it will sell.

Todd Mason said...

Most of Elizabeth Hand's recent work is not much fantasticated, more walking the line between crime fiction and recent historical/contemporary mimetic fiction.

There simply are comics, if not many, that rival the most sophisticated purely prose works. Though the notion of whether a student-hungry program, facing the need to bring certain young people up to basic levels of literacy or trying to engage them in the art of reading at any level, is the best set of circumstances in which to measure this is another matter...

Dave Zeltserman said...

I agree with Ron and John. It's a different world now where there are far less bookstores and less bookstore employees to recommend the smaller and more unusual books, and the success of the big commercial blockbusters seem more manufactured today than the big sellers of the past. It also seems that almost all attention now is driven only to those big blockbusters. All that being said, probably the most exciting and interesting newer genre books that I've read over the last few years include Caught Stealing by Charlie Huston, The Little Sleep by Paul Tremblay, Wake Up Dead by Roger Smith and The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.

Todd Mason said...

John, none of what you describe is particularly new. Vance Packard was among those drawing our attention to planned obsolescence more than fifty years ago.

But, with arguably good and bad effect, we are less a monoculture than ever before, and there is less respect for anyone's canon, particularly if it's held up as the Only Good and True. This, of course, also means that those with very little knowledge of at least some of the varieties of literature (and related forms) that exist are often mistaken for reliable guides, but this, too, is Nothing New.

Todd Mason said...

Dave, I'm going to suggest you were less aware of the artificiality of the inflation of bestsellers (and "bestsellers") of the past. If anything, the reportage of sales is less corrupt now than previously, for what that's worth. Not much less, and corrupt in slightly different ways (though less made up out of whole cloth, as the NYT list has tended to be over the decades), but still...hype is, sadly, not new.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Todd, I'm not naive about it--I'm sure bestsellers could always be manufactured if there was enough money behind them, but it just seems far worse today for a variety of factors. There's less newspaper and magazine review space, and more and more the little space that's left seems to follow only the big money books. The outlet for print books has mostly moved to the big boxstores which sells only the big blockbusters. Online behemoths like Amazon also put increasingly put more of their focus on books with big money behind them. And we also seem to live in a more star-driven/blockbuster society than ever before--this can be seen everywhere from the ever widening disparity in pay between CEOs and their employees, to the gap in salary between star ballplayers and other players on the team/

Todd Mason said...

Ah, well...unchecked greed is back, yes (it never entirely went away, but corrupt and nonetheless not completely useless unions and other institutions helped give us a stronger middle class and some motility at mid century). But the market for books was dominated by the Waldenbooks and B. Daltons and Crowns in the 1970s and '80s, not exactly repositories of the small press, and even more the tyranny of the paperback distributors. The advent of the big boxes actually helped this a little by the '90s, but they've now collapsed...not least in the face of ebookery and, of course, Amazon (and their own inept management, in every case).

Yes, the takeover of publishers by large corporations beginning in earnest in the '70s meant the old snobbery, which marginalized "genre" work even worse than it does today, has been replaced by new bottom-line fever, but instead of a blockbuster culture, what we have emerging is a Almost Nobody gets paid too much culture...where electronic (and non-virtual, if you must) self-publishing is already becoming a norm. Stephen King and some others will continue to be potent commercial "brands" for a while, at least, but the days of going to just a few major houses/labels/studios is going by the wayside. And, for good and for ill. And it wasn't as if daily papers have reviewed books widely or comprehensively for decades...since book advertising started slipping away.

Richard R. said...

I don't have a suggestion, I guess I don't read things that work in this discussion. But I DO have a question:

Does anyone think a book that was only published in e0book format could be a "classic" as discussed here? I kind f wonder how many of those files will even be around in 20 years.

Dave Zeltserman said...

Todd, all that may be true but there was something like 7000 independent bookstores 10 years, now there's 1900. But now the Waldenbooks, Daltons, etc. no longer exist, and the bigger chains that pushed them out are either gone or struggling badly. I can see with my own books that there was more newspaper review space for lesser known writers like myself 5 years ago than today. I don't want to get these reviewers in trouble so I won't mention the high profile newspapers or magazines, but I heard from freelance reviewers who thought my books worthy of reviews in these places, but were told there's not enough money behind my books and were given bigger money books instead to review. That wouldn't (didn't) happen 5 years ago. Another trend that highlights this is bookstore readings. 5 years ago it was tough, but lesser known writers like myself would still get 15-20 people showing up at most events I did. Now it's absolutely brutal--and I hear this from every other writer I talk to. The events for bestsellers get flooded, with little interest for the rest of us. This gulf between interest in bestsellers and all other writers is far greater today than when I started, and again, it's because of lot of reasons involving changes in the publishing industry and society.

Todd Mason said...

Indeed. Worsening trends. (Though in 1992-96, the only people who drew at the DC-suburbs Borders I worked at were national politicians and Madeleine L'Engle...I met Marcia Muller when essentially no one came to her reading...though it didn't help that even I, a fan, didn't know that it was going to happen till I was asked to introduce her an hour beforehand.) But, again, only relatively high-profile papers were likely to have much in the way of reviews, and indeed the artificial squeezing of the papers by their often new corporate owners has also contributed (and their editors were told to chase advertising or probably to scratch the corporation's own book arm's back). That gulf (between much-paid-for writers and relatively unremunerated ones) is going to get wider, too...as the likes of the Top Suspense Group become ever more industry standard...how many of those 100+ indy bookstores in each state (to be Way overly schematic--North Dakota was not blessed the way California or New York were) were generalist bookstores, and not very specialized? How many moved a lot of new books?

Rick's question of orphaned formats/files is also a good one. Constant recasting of books in new software formats is going to be a growth industry...

Anonymous said...

As I'm sure Dave Z. knows, it is The Sisters Brothers, not The Brothers Sisters.


Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Geez, I totall y read that backwards. He got it right, I read it backwards.

Sorry - please ignore the stupid gaffe.


Jeff

Todd Mason said...

A rather relevant article, dealing more with the old snobbery and the new corporatism working together all too well:
http://www.thenation.com/article/173743/my-so-called-post-feminist-life-arts-and-letters?page=full

...Deborah Copaken Kogan on her experiences in the literary world so far...