Whatever happened to the classics? There was a time when works like Dickens’ ‘David Copperfield’ or Louisa May Alcott’s ‘Little Women’ were given places of importance on the average bookshelf.
These classics were loved for many reasons; avid reading enthusiasts praised their structure and language and more importantly, for most, they brought back memories of pleasant afternoons spent quietly reading.
Over time, though, the whole idea of reading for pleasure seems to have changed. Very few people want to pick their way through long, plot-heavy books; most opt for light reads like a Chetan Bhagat novel and others take it a step further by sticking to comic books. Metrolife speaks to a few avid readers to find out whether there is still a demand for the classics.
Kalpana, a software engineer, grew up on a diet of Dickens, George Orwell and Emily Bronte. “My mother was a keen reader of classics and passed on this passion to me. I read all these classics when I was growing up — in fact, she used to discourage me from reading the childrens’ adaptations and gave me the originals instead,” she recalls.
However, she acknowledges that she belongs to a minority. “The truth is that not many people have the patience to go through a classic. I’ve seen enough people who either begin one and abandon it halfway, or opt for a lighter read instead. It’s sad — but I suppose long, complex books aren’t everyone’s cup of tea,” she reasons.
Srinidhi, a student of Acharya PU College, agrees that classical books have few takers these days. However, he feels that this isn’t restricted simply to the classics — in general, youngsters aren’t spending much time reading. “Possibly, this is because they prefer to watch films or television,” he suggests. He adds that another contributing factor could be that earlier, schools used to incorporate many of these classics into their syllabus — which isn’t the case now. “Now, reading in schools is all about pressure and competition. Besides, students are so busy studying that they barely have time to read outside of the classroom,” he opines.
Achuthan, a management student, gives the issue a different spin. He believes that today, the books that are read and discussed are largely those which are aggressively marketed by publishing houses. The higher publicity a particular novel gets, the more people read it — and sadly, old classics simply don’t have the kind if visibility that racier, more modern novels do. “Classic books are no longer publicised much. On the other hand, newer ones are marketed fiercely. Take ‘50 Shades of Grey’, for example. Although it was such an average book, it got so much popularity that many people picked up a copy,” he reasons.