Confined to a shelf life!

Words Worth

Confined to a shelf life!

Literary classics, once upon a time, were tasted, chewed and digested albeit Mark Twain calling ‘classic’ a book people praise and don’t read.

Twain’s words hold water now more than ever. The invasion of Internet and paraphernalia have left classics biting the dust. In the deluge of text messages, emails and blogs, they are facing the test of time.

For a generation, classics are history and Reshma Ravikanth, a dancer, only reflects the view of a large majority when she says, “Literary classics are dead to our generation. I didn’t read them while growing up although I remember my parents telling me to do so. Even now, when I want to read them, I really have to make an effort.”

The argument is, as compared to new age writing, classics are caught in a time warp speaking the language of only a certain period.  But if that’s what keeping the young away from the works of great masters, it’s a matter of concern, rues Vasantha Karunakaran, a lecturer at VET PU College.

She believes that one of the benefits of reading classics is the acquaintance one can make with the language. “They are also a source of information on the political and social conditions prevalent in those times,’’ she says.

In a larger context, she finds the young not interested in reading at all and that in turn reflecting on the written language.

“Visual memory is a criterion to remember the spelling,” she points out.

“When students come to high school or pre-university, their aim is to get admission in professional colleges making them neglect the languages. Many people question the need to read classics. The truth is they offer lessons in life and it helps in understanding how a character reacts.”

So the masterpieces are left high and and dry and the blogs are making hay while the sun is shining.  In a world that’s on a fast track, the ‘slow moving language’ is brushed aside.

“New age writing is colloquial and suits our generation, which is impatient,” says Reshma who agrees that “classics do stand out for their individualistic writing”.

Leave the hard copy aside, even e-readers are not leading the young towards the classics.  Anish Verghese, a software professional, finds “classics being read these days only because they are in the school syllabus. The objects of worship are fantasy books like the Harry Potter series or the The Lord of the Rings. And when you are travelling, you find most people settling for best-sellers. As for blogs, there aren’t many good ones either. However, to read classics, one needs to develop a taste. The style is archaic,” he says. But on the other hand, he admits growing up on Call of the Wild and Moby Dick.

 “Reading is an experience like travelling. But not everyone is into books. Notwithstanding, book stores are still crowded,” Anish adds.  Books go through different stages as people do and Reshma is convinced about that, “Each person has a different interpretation of  The Fountainhead. Classics have a different meaning every time you read it. And it will not take very long for the very young to discover them.”  While that may be the case, what makes a book a classic continues to be a matter of
debate.

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