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Classics Dave Astor Podcast TTT Season 4 Shehanne Moore

Season 4 Episode 5:  Shehanne Moore and Dave Astor on Reading the Classics

“A classic is the term given to any book which comes to represent the whole universe, a book on a par with ancient talismans.” Italo Calvino, Why Read the Classics?

Welcome to Tea, Toast and Trivia.

Thank you for listening in.

Shehanne Moore from Dundee Scotland, and David Astor from Montclair, New Jersey have joined me in connecting three times zones within seconds to bring you a discussion on “What is a classic? Why should we read classics? And what classics should we read?

Shehanne, also known as Shey, is a published author and publisher under Black Wolf Books, a small royalty paying publisher, presently taking submissions by invitation only.

Dave Astor is an author, journalist, blogger, and writer of the award-winning weekly “Montclairvoyant” topical-humor column for Baristanet.com.  He is a National Society of Newspaper Columnists board member.

Shey and Dave are avid readers and have great insights to share.

This promises to be an exciting discussion so put the kettle on and on and add to the conversation on Tea Toast & Trivia.

Thank you for joining Shey, Dave, and me on Tea Toast & Trivia.  

And a very special thank you, Shey and Dave for adding your insights on reading journeys that last a lifetime.

Listeners, I invite you to meet up with Shey on her website, Shehanne Moore.  You can follow Shey on Goodreads as well as Amazon at Shehanne Moore

You can connect with Dave on Dave Astor on Literature.  You can follow Dave on Goodreads as well as Amazon at Dave Astor

I want to close with a quote from Dave’s book, Fascinating Facts About Famous Fiction Authors and the Greatest Novels of All Time: “Literature can send our minds to another time and place, allowing us to forget our lives and troubles for a few precious hours.  It can educate us about history, open our minds, increase our empathy, make us think, give us things to converse about, and/or provide plenty of excitement along with the escapism.”

Until next time we meet, dear friends, keep reading, keep safe and be well.

Shehanne Moore and Dave Astor on Reading the Classics Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

By Rebecca Budd

Lifestyle Blogger, Visual Storyteller, Podcaster, Traveler and Life-long Learner

139 replies on “Season 4 Episode 5:  Shehanne Moore and Dave Astor on Reading the Classics”

Oh Mandy – Dave have a marvelous sense of humour. I was reminded that I would practice my French lessons by reading our cereal boxes and milk cartons. I agree they are classics. Snap, Crackle, Pop!!! Many thanks for listening in. Always enjoy your company!

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Thank you, Rebecca!

What a great way to practice French lessons. 🙂 As for “Snap, Crackle, Pop” — 😂 — I was a bit intrigued as a kid when I saw that the cereal that slogan was associated with was “Rice Krispies” rather than “Rice Crispies.” I guess cereal boxes don’t have autocorrect…

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I have very much enjoyed your conversation on books and your enthusiasm for them:) Many thanks to all three of you. I love classics, because of my curiosity for people, other countries and times. Although I may have more difficulties in understanding the language itself, they help me, I think, to discover more about that time.
At the moment I’am reading “Lélia, ou la vie de George Sand” de André Maurois and the sentence by the German phlosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz, which touched me this morning is: S’efforcer d’aimer Dieu en le comprenant et s’efforcer de le comprendre en l’aimant; s’efforcer de croire ce que l’on ne comprend pas, mais s’efforcer de comprendre pour mieux croire. (George Sand was born in 1804) (To do our best to love God by understanding him and to do our best to understand by loving him; to do our best in believing what we cannot understand, but to do our best in order to understand so that we can believe better. My translation)
These literature jewels are by the way much cheaper than painting by Cézanne.

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Thank you, Martina!

So great that you’re reading “Lelia” — an underrated classic. The writing in that George Sand novel is astonishingly good.

And — LOL 😂 — most books are indeed much cheaper than a Cezanne painting!

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After Martina sent me on a mini research for Lelia, I discovered George Sand was more renowned than both Victor Hugo and Honore de Balzac in England in the 1830’s and 1840’s. She was an amazing. I will find Lelia!!!

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Wow, Rebecca — I didn’t realize George Sand was THAT famous at the time. A shame such a great author doesn’t have quite the present-day reputation of Hugo or Balzac. Perhaps some sexism involved, or perhaps Sand’s brilliant work wasn’t quite as reader-friendly as a brilliant Austen or Bronte-sister novel.

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This is a great discussion, Dave, and one that I have often thought about given that it is not easy to determine reasons for popularity. The complexities of social norms and values, the format for storytelling, the economic and political landscape etc. I have only skimmed a short bio of George Sand but from the little I have read she was clearly an outlier in a time that endorsed strict and rigid rules of behavior. I am so grateful that Martina brought up George Sand today!

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Rebecca, the potential reasons you cited for why some talented authors remain more popular than other talented authors all ring true.

And, yes, George Sand was an outlier for her time — impressively so. Sort of like another, somewhat-later terrific woman writer with a George pen name — George Eliot.

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I love your translation of George Sand’s thoughts on God. I tried to locate the book by Andre Maurois and found it in a German and French translation so will keep on looking. Or else I may brush up on my French lessons!! I am fascinated by languages – their origin and how they evolved. As you know, I’m reading War & Peace by Leo Tolstoy which again confirmed that French was the language of the nobility. It seems that languages have lives of their own.

I am delighted that you listened in to Dave and Shehanne. Their insights were timely, and added so much to my understanding of how writing has evolved and how classics continue to influence us today, even though we may not see the connection. The myths of old are being reintroduced in a modern format, but the stories are the same. Many thanks for your insightful comments, Martina. Very much appreciated.

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You are very right, Rebecca, with what you say here above in general. Maybe you could read it with a French speaking friend, like I do! How important French was becomes very obvious in War & Peace.
I, however, sometimes ask myself, whether reading classics also has to do with age. When you are getting old there is less time to go and see in the the future but more in the past.
Thanks again for all “your” thoughts:)

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A very interesting point about age, Martina – one that I will think about in the days ahead. Dave’s point on being able to identify with older characters resonated. When I first read The Conte of Monte Cristo, I was 14 or 15. When I heard that Edmond Dantès spent 14 years in prison and escaped in his thirties, I was appalled by his age. He was too old. How life changes our perspective.

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I think I was your age, Rebecca,when I read that unputdownable book and I remember that I felt very sorry for Dantè’s tragic situation.
I absolutely agree with you the age changes our perspectives and hopefully and help us to reach some kind of wisdom!

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George Sand was an amazing woman in every respect. Her life, her writing, and what she rose to at the time, given it wasn’t a woman’s world and she was courageous enough to strike out on her own. She’s a heroine of mine actually.

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I am thankful that George Sand insisted on wearing men’s clothing. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live life without jeans. YIKES! We need outliers like George Sand to challenge the status quo.

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I did a blog way back for Christy Birmingham about the lot of women in Regency times and reblogged it on my own. It was about cross dressing cos my heroine Splendor is passing herself off as a man at the start of that book in order to enter a man’s chess comp. George Sand was one of the women I wrote about. And she started dressing as a man in order to get into the cheap seats at the theatre. The reason she wanted was cos her husband who she couldn’t live with any more, cut her allowance and divorce was illegal.

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Dear Rebecca, Shey, and Dave, as a an ardent reader of the classics I thoroughly enjoyed your discussion of the pertinent details that make a novel a classic. As a student I recall reading the more well known books , ie; Wuthering Heights and An American Tragedy ( which sticks with me even now as the only book where I felt empathy for the villainous protagonist). I recently read I,Claudius, an amazing book. Thank you again, you are all delightful!

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Thank you, House Of Heart! Glad you liked the conversation! Rebecca’s podcasts are always fantastic.

You mentioned three excellent novels that are all definitely classics. I can understand feeling empathy for the “villain” in Theodore Dreiser’s novel. I’ve felt that way a few times, including for the amazing Lydia Gwilt character in Wilkie Collins’ novel “Armadale.”

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You’re welcome! “Armadale” is not quite as good as Collins’ better-known “The Woman in White,” “The Moonstone,” and “No Name,” but it’s pretty darn good — and Lydia Gwilt is a masterfully depicted “villain” whose life might have taken a better turn if fate had been kinder to her.

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xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx for the lovely comment. I’ve not read I Claudius, but saw the TV adaptation many years ago. I have read his Wife to mr Milton and loved the immersion in the detail of that time. Wuthering Heights, for me, is such a remarkable book, especially when i consider Emily Bronte’s short life and where she lived it.

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Where it really struck me wasn’t just seeing Haworth, but when my younger girl sent me the 3 choices for a reading at her wedding, to ask what one did I think was best. And the ‘If all else perishes and he remains,’ speech was like this towering cathedral of prose alongside the other two, one of which was from Les Miserables. So I went and read the book again.( Needless to say that was the one she chose after I said to her what I felt.) But on this third reread of the book, I was dumbstruck at the themes you mention Rebecca and her knowledge of them given her life.

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Thank you, Holly for reminding me about I Claudius. I watched the 1976 BBC Television adaption of Robert Graves’ 1934 novel several times, but didn’t know that is was a book, until now (I continue to learn). The cast was stellar and included Derek Jacobi as Claudius, as well as Brian Blessed, John Hurt, Patrick Stewart. I have just downloaded I Claudius and look forward to reading the more detailed account of this remarkable and pivotal time in history.

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What a treat to have Shey, Dave and Rebecca all speaking in one podcast.
Your voices are so fab to hear, I almost forgot to listen to what you were saying….. almost.

This was a great discussion. It is genius putting Dave and Shey together. Although their roads are very different today, it seems they started out on the same road, in a library.
When it comes to the classics, I do have some knowledge. I read an awful lot before going to design college. Then there were years that everything I read had to do with clothes, from the beginning of time, anywhere and everywhere, to now. Lots of drawings, paintings and photos.

I was quite piqued by the question on how to get young people interested in the classics. Some good ideas there, but it seems a tough nut to crack. I wonder if classic novel ideas… themes, history etc. were made into video games that it would create a desire to know more. I mean if the game made it known that it was inspired by a certain classic, could that create interest? I know there are faux historic settings in some games, but it’s usually to have sword fights to the death, etc., and not to cause education.

Anyway, thanks to all for a wonderful podcast!

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Thank you for the very kind words, Resa!

I think you’re on to something with the associating of novels with something like video games. Brilliant!

And I absolutely loved this line of yours: “Although their roads are very different today, it seems they started out on the same road, in a library.”

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I agree, Resa. Shey and Dave were amazing together. The flow of ideas kept coming, building upon each other. And we had some great laughs when Shey said “5 nuclear disasters and 10 world wars” and Dave said something about reading “cereal boxes.”

Libraries are a great place to find kindred spirits. I especially appreciated your thoughts on Classic novels being turned into video games. This is a brilliant research project. My sister Sarah told me about “The Witcher” – a series of fantasy action games developed by CD Projekt Red, which was based on a book series by the same name, written by Andrzej Sapkowski. And now The Witcher is a TV series.

Our stories are finding new homes for outreach. We live in very interesting times.

Sending many hugs!

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xxx resa, thank you for the lovely comment. It was ‘epic’ to be here actually. I think you are on to something too there re games. Funnily enough the Mr and I were talking last night about how there were all these TV series when we were wee, things like Robin Hood and William Tell and Ivanhoe and we’d all go about singing the theme song and then we’d go and play at whatever that episode was about and want to read the books–cos that was our staple fare. Obvi nowadays the kids are all on Fortnite or whatever and they have all the merchandise and spend ages discussing it, cos that is their staple fare. I think here’s mileage in keying into that

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I agree wholeheartedly, Shey. Games are a mixture of simulation and story. I believe that readers want to be part of a story. And with technology in the ascendency, how stories evolve , especially in the age of social distancing, will be something to watch closely. This is a huge topic!

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Agree!
…. merchandise, sigh! Hopefully not landfill in 6 years!
Hey… working on the gown! I’ve got the bodice basically done, and the skirt’s drape is fab. Lot’s & lots of sewing to do. Working on the Art part.

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Thank you for listening in, Marina – I knew you would enjoy this discussion. I have been thinking about the word “classic” within a spectrum of creative endeavour from art, to cars, to music and dance. Classic does not stay static – it moves and seems to take on a life of its own. Today, on Resa’s post, we saw classic designs, but Resa added a marvelous flare of today. The Jazz Age came alive within our time frame. Classics evolve and transition as we evolve and transition. This would be another great conversation. Will be in touch….

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Don enjoyed the post production. He is never quite satisfied and I must set a time limit on the day of publishing. I start out by saying his deadline for tweaking is 12 noon, but we come to consensus around 6pm. We continue to learn together.

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Thanks so much, Rebecca, for the wonderful conversation you hosted with Shehanne and I! It was a great pleasure to be part of it, and to hear your interesting thoughts and Shehanne’s interesting thoughts about what makes a novel a classic novel. Thanks, also, to Don for his impeccable production that included pulling together three time zones.

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Don and I had so much fun meeting up with you and Shey. These conversations are exciting and life-affirming. What I most enjoyed was when you and Shey spoke about the classics of today, where diversity is fostered and new perspectives are presented within universal themes. I am reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, an epic story which traces the generations of two half sisters, born in 18th-century Ghana, separated by forces beyond their control, one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver. I believe Homegoing was first published in 2016 based on all of the awards received. I think you would enjoy this book, Dave.

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Yes, doing this podcast was such an enjoyable experience, Rebecca. Talking with you and Don again, and “meeting” Shehanne for the first time outside of social media and the “blogosphere.” 🙂

A great point about how at least some modern classics have a leg up on long-ago classics — more diverse casts, less stereotypical treatment of women and people of color, etc.

Just put “Homegoing” on my to-read list. Sounds tremendous!

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Thank you, Shey, Dave, and Rebecca for this delightful and educational conversation. I have enjoyed the “Classics” for many years, many of them I have read more than once, some from my very early years until now. Perhaps this is one of the drawing powers of the Classics, their ability to tempt the reader to another reading. Many of the classics are, educational and wisely written with huge and wide educational capabilities, but this is not the only requirement. I appreciate both Shey’s and Dave’s definitions and their insights on the value of even present day classics and looking forward! ! All three of you mention how the classic have the ability to speak to us and teach us as we read them. They encourage us as well as challenge us! ! Thank you to the three of you for the valuable, educational and interesting challenge. I will be reading and referring to this article again!

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I knew you were looking forward to this discussion, Frances. Thank you for your most excellent comments. I especially appreciated your thought: “Perhaps this is one of the drawing powers of the Classics, their ability to tempt the reader to another reading.” I agree wholeheartedly. How many times have I gone back to Lord of the Rings? Pilgrims Progress? The Scarlet Pimpernel? A Wrinkle in Time? Narnia? The poetry of Edna St Vincent Millay.

Many thanks for your support and encouragement over the years. I still remember when you took me on my first visit to the library, the one that was in an heritage home under the oak trees. I had never seen so many books in my life before. Or when you helped me memorize The Swing by Robert Louis Stevenson.

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside—

Till I look down on the garden green,
Down on the roof so brown—
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

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Rebecca, wonderful to have parents who encourage their children to read books from a young age. It’s a great gift to the next generation. And what fond memories those parents create for their kids.

Also, I enjoyed that Robert Louis Stevenson poem!

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Thank you, Frances, for the eloquent comment — including your wise thoughts on what makes a novel a classic. Wanting to reread the book, and re-reread it, certainly is a big factor. Sounds like literature has been a HUGE part of your life, and that’s a wonderful thing!

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SO glad you enjoyed. So thank YOU for the lovely comment. They do indeed have the power to tempt a reader back time and time again. And sometimes you see something you didn’t before which makes that tempting even more worthwhile.

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Many thanks for listening in, Luisa, and for joining the conversation. I look forward to our ongoing dialogue. I understand that you are teach at the University of the Third Age in your small Italian town. I am very interested in this international movement and its aim to stimulate life-long learning in their third “age” of life.

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I share your hope. Vancouver is still under restrictions. When I complained to my husband, Don, about how travel had been curtailed, he reminded me that “if we stand still, the world comes to us.” And just think – we have connected across the miles in seconds.

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I enjoyed having my morning coffee and listening to the three of you discuss books. Dave and Shey made the important point that reading anything is a good thing! During our school years we’re forced to endure exposure to many types of literature, and typically none to our liking. As we age, so many of those diverse genres become more appealing. I never appreciated the classics until I read more non-fiction and gained a better grasp on the world. Fiction, ironically, gives us deeper insight into individual lives. It’s where the imaginary meets the real. People just seem to need hearing, watching, reading stories in just about any format. I think it was author Linda Hogan who said people needs stories like plants need water. Thank you Rebecca, and Don, for this TTT. Hugs!

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Thank you, Mary Jo! Eloquent, wise comment with many excellent points!

Totally agree that reading anything is good — whether that (hopefully) leads to reading great literature, or not. If not, so be it. 🙂

I hear you about how some of the literature students are assigned to read isn’t that palatable to young tastes, though, as you note, those same books might be appreciated much more when we’re older. And, yes, reading nonfiction and just experiencing life can deepen our appreciation of novels.

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Mary Jo – your thoughts resonated with my experience. As I look back, I did not see books as a story, but rather a series of chapters that required dissecting before going on to the next. Poetry was the same. It became a series of tasks/hurdles that had to be overcome before I returned to the story. And then there were the tests. Tess of the d’Urbervilles was excruciating. It was only later, when I discovered that Tess initially appeared in a censored and serialized version and that it challenged the morality codes of late Victoria England, that I understood that Tess was positioned as a fighter for the rights of of others. By the time I came to Of Human Bondage by William Somerset Maugham a couple of years later, I had learned to read the book quickly and then go back to the required tasks.

I am gratified to know that teaching has evolved. Recently, I came across Stanfords “Research Stories” one dating back to 2017 which highlights that teaching methodologies are indeed exploring new pathways of learning.

“Stanford education professor says standardized tests emphasize skills that teach students to be “critics” rather than lifelong book lovers…. In history classes, we want to teach kids to think like historians,” she said. “In science, we want them to think like scientists. In English, what do we want?”https://ed.stanford.edu/news/history-high-school-english-told-through-100-years-exams

Many thanks, Mary Jo, for adding depth and breadth to this conversation!

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Rebecca…. grandies are away home, so now I can thank you properly for firstly considering I was worthy and wordy enough to join you and Dave in this podcast, which, as ever, you and Don have done the most fantastic job with. It is a quite a subject actually to tackle when you step back from it. Not easy in some ways which is why I was glad to be in such safe hands and in such great company. I can’t thank you enough xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Shey – I was honoured when you agreed to join Dave and me on TTT. You were brilliant as always. You and Dave are a dynamic duo, offering great and diverse perspectives on this huge topic. It was 20 minutes of eloquent and insightful conversation. I especially appreciated your thoughts on how time is a limited resource and that there are many competing responsibilities that make demands on this precious commodity – family, work and community.

I must include a marvelous quote by Jo from Little Woman (I LOVED Jo)

“Women, they have minds, and they have souls, as well as just hearts. And they’ve got ambition, and they’ve got talent, as well as just beauty. I’m so sick of people saying that love is all a woman is fit for.” Jo, Little Women Louisa May Alcott

Looking forward to many more conversations. Hugs!!!!

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I finally got to listen. What great insights into classics. There is a timelessness to classics that makes them relevant no matter when you read them. I agree with Dave that you need to read as much of everything as you can. It’s great to get all the different perspectives on different lives, different cultures, and different times.

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Thank you, Timothy! Excellent observations, and very well said! Your last line really resonates — classic novels (and many not-classic novels 🙂 ) open a window into all kinds of people, societies, and eras.

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I agree wholeheartedly, Tim, that we should read a wide array of books. For several years I read only non-fiction books and it was only recently that I realized that I had been missing the huge benefit that comes from reading novels. This year, my goal is to embrace books that I would never have placed on my TBR stack of books. 2022 promises to be a remarkable year.

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Hi Rebecca, a lovely discussion with Dave and Shey. There is so much to think about and consider with this conversation so I’m going to add my thoughts in three comments. Firstly, there is the discussion around why younger people don’t read the classics much outside of academia. Time is certainly a big issue, modern life is very busy and fast and for young people with small children, there is not much time for reading. When my boys were young I read easier to read books like Mauve Binchy and Rosamunde Pilcher. At that time in my life, I also steered away from anything dark or scary, I was to tired and emotionally overwhelmed to cope with books that involved any threatening aspects. Another aspect that I believe influences young peoples choice of more thought provoking literature, is relevancy. It is true that most classic books have endured because there message is an important one that people can relate to, for example the role of women in society that is clearly illustrated in books like Jane Eyre, Tess of the D’Urbervilles, and even War and Peace. Charles Dickens addressed the terrible social inequalities and poverty of the Victorian era. However, although I can relate to these issues having started my working life in a corporate at a time when there were still no maternity benefits for women and there were still exclusively male clubs that required women to use the back staircase (and I’m not that old), these issues have disappeared in modern corporates and society. Young women no longer face these sorts of issues as they have been addressed. Poverty is still an issue, but in First World countries it has been addressed to a certain extent and is not as prevalent or obvious an issue. Our children face different issues that most writers of classic books could never have imagined. They are consumed with the issue of climate change, the sixth mass extinction, the fourth industrial revolution, and the need to face change continuously and effectively and evolve and adapt. I believe that they don’t see any relevancy in classic books for them. Of course, this is not true, as classic books teach us how to face change, I wrote about this very thing for by Growing Bookworms column this month, but they don’t see the direct link or relevancy. I would be interested in the thoughts of all three of you on this as you all live in different countries with vastly different political and social agendas.

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I wonder too if the cultural thing comes in here too Robbie, place to place, country to country. My girls and their children wouldn’t know what the Fourth Industrial Revolution or the sixth mass extinction was. Yes they do their bits for climate change but the kids are far more interested in gaming. I guess that depends on where you live and what the influences are. My daughters also feel that as women, they have to work harder to prove themselves, going for a job men are never asked what are your childcare arrangements, but here they certainly are, that they are the ones even now who would agree with Rebecca’s quote from Little Women about ambition, etc. because they are also the ones being asked to work part time, so that their families can have some quality of life, child care is extortionate if your children are below the age of three and grandparents can only do so much cos they also have lives and work. As a result their careers may not be where they would like them to be. And for both these are careers that they spent years training for. So I guess the matter of choices for women…yes so much as changed… but alas certainly here, not it all.

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Shey – I know exactly what you mean. Child care is a huge issue, one that has been ongoing in Canada for many years, and these past two years have added complexities of schooling being transitioned from classroom to home. Family structures are being stretched as are businesses when employees are unable to work. The Canadian government is responding and there are plans in place to provide more support for childcare. Even so, societal norms have been influenced. Statistics for Canada indicate decreasing birth rates and women are having children at an older age. Canada’s fertility rate, as of 2019 was approximately 1.5 but in 1960 was nearing 4/family. I believe that literature is now embracing new themes about family life and arrangements. We live in very interesting times and the story of our generation is being written as we evolve.

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Hi Shey, you are quite right about women having to make more decisions and hard choices between lifestyle balance and achievement than men. It is very difficult and I have up the opportunity of partnership to work reduced hours and spend more time with my boys. I have never regreted it for a moment and was offered a partnership opportunity four years ago anyway. There is a long story behind that offer, but I turned it down because I like my life and don’t want that extra stress even if it comes with more money. I thought the UK was much less sexist than here but I may well be wrong. I always have to run a gauntlet with British bankers and lawyers, but I put that down to the fact I live in a ‘third world country’ rather than being female. The fourth industrial revolution is very topical in the world of accounting, IT, banking, and medicine and those are the people we move with. That is why my boys are so aware of the implications of the move towards robotics. Your grandies may also be young to know much about it yet. It will probably come in the future.

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Excellent points, Robbie. Relevancy is critical. Universal themes must be viewed through the lens of “now” to speak to a new generation of readers. Jane Eyre and Wurthering Heights have had many interactions, but mostly through the medium of movies and mini-series. Did you ever read/see – Pride and Prejudice and Zombies? The retelling of Greek and Roman mythology found its way into – and very hard to believe – “O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000). Set in the Great Depression, George Clooney plays a naive but optimistic Odysseus who escapes jail to meet up with his wife Penny (Holly Hunter) who has taken on a new suitor. And there are others: Troy, Clash of the Titans. Time is a huge variable, which is demonstrated by retelling the story via film and media. The narrative is fast and energized, perfect for those who have limited time. There is also an element of belonging because they are watching within a community.

Charles Dickens addressing the social inequalities comes out in moves like “The Equalizer.” The book, Hidden Figures, based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book by the same name, address women in the ascendency. I think many people read the book after they saw the movie.

Now, we are facing global challenges of climate change, food insecurity, supply chain disruption, and a pandemic, all of which focus on dystopian themes. While each country has unique political and social situations, there is growing awareness that we are all in this together. How our combined stories will emerge within literature will be interesting to see.

Many, many thanks for your insightful comments, Robbie. Very much appreciated. Hugs!

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Hi Rebecca, I never watch TV or movies so I haven’t seen any of these. I haven’t managed to work movies into my busy life, but maybe in the future. There are a number of very good dystopian novels by Indie authors that address some of these topics and some that I wouldn’t have thought of myself like the demise of the NHS. Hugs back.

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I also wanted to add to Shey’s list of excellent books for ages 9 to 11. I would add Fattipuffs and Thinifers by Andre Maurois, I am David by Anne Holm, and When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr. For more modern fare, that is well written and appealing, I would add the Astrosaurs series by Steve Cole and the Humphrey the Hamster series by Betty G. Birney.

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Lastly, to add to Dave’s thoughts about teenage reads, not all teens are proficient readers, some actually are quite poor at reading. I would add Child of Satan, Child of God by Susan Atkins, and The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Thanks for the lovely conversation.

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Terrific comments, Robbie! I’ll respond to some parts of them. 🙂

Yes, there are many understandable reasons why young people don’t read as many novels as young people did in the past. Busy lives and a bounty of other media/entertainment options are definitely among the reasons. Of course, many young people (and older people) do read a LOT aside from novels — texts, emails, social media posts, blogs, online news reports, and so on. As I mentioned in the podcast, it can’t hurt if newer novels include some digital-device use as part of the plot. As long as it feels organic; not jammed in for the sake of seeming contemporary.

As you note, many classic novels are indeed relevant to today, but often in a more indirect way than what one can get from 21st-century communications.

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A wonderful discussion about reading the classics. Some stories just never grow old. I read a few classics every year and am loving War and Peace right now. In fact, I look forward to my chapter every day! I think it is good to mix one’s reading. A thought about generating interest in the classics in young people: I think if you read a classic to a young person and stopped and discussed it with them, they would enjoy it more. By the way, teenagers are not too old to be read to! I watched the adaptation of Brideshead Revisited with my young daughter. We had some great discussions about it and she began to appreciate classic stories. I was happy to see that Anne of Green Gables would be in the Scottish library. Thanks, Shehanne, Dave and Rebecca.

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Thank you, Darlene!

Totally agree that good stories never grow old, and that it’s great to mix one’s reading — classics, modern lit, different genres, literary, mass audience, etc.

Discussing classics with young people — or anyone — can definitely make the whole reading experience more enjoyable. 🙂

Last but not least, I share your love of “Anne of Green Gables.” Maybe the best YA novel ever written? It’s certainly my favorite.

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Anne of Green Gables is certainly my favourite too as it was my mom´s and my daughter´s. When I taught English to foreign students, I always used it as our reading material. It is a very Canadian story but has universal appeal.

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Wonderful, Darlene, that “Anne of Green Gables” is a multi-generational favorite in your family! I’m hoping my younger daughter (now 14) will read it; haven’t convinced her yet. 🙂 And the novel is indeed very Canadian as well as thoroughly universal.

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OOH Anne of Green Gable is a wonderful book and I love your words about stopping and discussing because, thinking back, that is how so much was passed on to me. And when my younger girl chose the words she chose from Wuthering Heights at her wedding– FINALLY after ten years of difficulties, about how if all else perished etc it was in some ways as Cathy as and prob might be viewed in today’s terms, as a delinquent teenager. had held a reader captivated. So thank you because that is why classics speak to me.

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Dear Rebecca, Shehanne and Dave (whose name is only last due to my old fashioned sense of chivalry),

To think I almost missed this treat due to the fact I was not notified by email. WordPress playing sully buggers I suspect. A good job done by all of you in this lively and informative discussion. There is nothing quite so satisfying as listening to three people whose areas of knowledge complement each other and whose opinions you respect.

At the risk of sounding like someone from an 1960s radio show phone-in; can I ask the panel … Do you think that, like moral mores, classics are the victims of the whims of fashion? The reason I ask is because all the classics selected were from a relatively narrow historical range. Where are the classics from Antiquity, the Middle Ages and even recently as Jacobean times?

Does society evolve, making the life lessons contained in older classic literature irrelevant, decause we no longer understand them, and so leaving the works as no more than museum pieces?

Shehanne mentioned Harper Lee’s stunning To Kill a Mocking Bird as a true modern classic. Think back for a moment to the Great Woke War of 2021 and you will remember there was a concerted effort by the SJW, Social Justice Warriors (nothing like the Justice league of America I assure you) to have this book cancelled for its out-dated sentiments. (Obviously they have never read it.) I suspect in some libraries, it is, by now, under lock and key, and so plastered with trigger warnings, its inevitable burning, along with other proscribed works, is merely a matter of time.

Apologies for the eccentric digression, but the question remains- does Society outgrow classics leaving them as no more than idle curiosities of a bygone era?

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Thanks so much, Paul! Loved your comment! 🙂

It’s true that we didn’t focus much on pre-19th-century classic novels in the podcast. But there are certainly some that are still quite well-regarded: “Don Quixote,” “Candide,” the work of Daniel Defoe and Henry Fielding and Fanny Burney, and so on. Even “The Tale of Genji” from 1,000 years ago; considered by some to be the first novel — and written by a woman! (Murasaki Shikibu.) And of course some pre-novel ancient works in the form of epic poems or whatever by the likes of Homer, etc.

But you have a point that some novels and novelists fall out of fashion for whatever reason. Too un-PC, too earnest, too wordy, or too whatever for later times.

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Dave you are so well informed! I found the works you mentioned quite uncanny. Candide was used by Bernstein written alongside West Side Story. Gore Vidal’s autobiography mentions Lenny a lot – they were chums and rivals for the same sexual partners. Never read Fanny Burney but have read her grandfather’s History of Music and The Present State of Music in France and Italy- I am a big fan of baroque opera. As for the tale of Genji, I came across this when writing a short story set in Edo Japan- The Legend of the Golden Chrysanthemum – and its accompanying background essay. As for Henry Fielding there was a rather excellent and brutally chilling historical drama on TV in 4 parts detailing his time as one of the best magistrates in London and his proto-police force The Bow Street Runners. I wish I could remember what is was called as it is well worth a rewatch. Don Quixote of course always has a place in my heart- but that love comes from the Man of La Mancha – I am afraid, it is merely an impossible dream that I would read Cervantes. And finally, as a creature of television, Tom Jones and also Defoe’s Moll Flanders as well as Vanity Fair and the foxy Becky Sharp, although for my sins I have read (and laughed aloud in places) the incredibly endearing Fanny Hill.

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You are VERY well-informed, too, Paul! 🙂

The only Fanny Burney novel I’ve read is “Evelina,” which I liked a lot. Burney was apparently an influence on Jane Austen.

Didn’t realize Henry Fielding had that other job! His “Tom Jones” and “Joseph Andrews” are certainly memorable, and the latter novel is quite hilarious at times.

Yes, “Man of La Mancha” brought a lot of attention again to “Don Quixote,” which I found to be pretty accessible and readable. Also pretty funny at times, and perhaps one of the first novels with a sidekick-type “servant.”

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I have to tell you, Rebecca, David and Shehanne that I was a little worried about listening to this podcast, because it’s been a while since I read (or reread) a classic. I liked your question, Rebecca about the challenge of reading these books outside of an academic setting and I think the issue does come down to time. Still, these books do offer us an opportunity to step out of our reading comfort zone and experience something different.

I also really like the answer to how to introduce children to reading at various ages. I think it’s important to target books to an age group. There is so many books available, and if you instill a love of reading by giving them books they will like, they might get around to the classics at some point. If not, I like that both guests seem comfortable with “read what you like.”

I am glad I listened. I have come away with a deeper appreciation of reading in general, and that’s a good thing. Thank you so much for sharing this discussion with us.

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My dear friend, you always have the best comments that act like a benediction to the conversation. I have lost count on how many books Dave has read. During the conversation we digressed, as you have experienced. Don and Shey had a great discussion on the prolific Rafael Sabatini and his books, Scaramouche, The Sea Hawk, Captain Blood, and The Fortunes of Captain Blood, and Captain Blood returns etc,

I agree with Dave and Shey that classics are being written now that will stand the test of time. I have set a goal for myself this year that I will read books that I would never have thought of reading before. Hence the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong.

Lastly, I have come to believe that blogging is how we write the story of our generation. We may not define ourselves as writers, but our words record our time.

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Thank you, Dan, for your interesting comment and kind words!

You make a very insightful point that if young people enjoy what they initially read, and if those initial reads are appropriate for their age group, that can pay extra dividends later on when they (hopefully) move to other kinds of literature — including perhaps the classics.

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Sorry for coming late to the party, Rebecca! I enjoyed your discussion of the classics with Dave and Shey. The definition of a classic immediately put me in mind of the literary theory course I took as an undergrad and reading all those essays from Aristotle to Virginia Woolf. T.S. Most of the discussions focused on definitions of art and beauty and what it means to be a creator of art. *nostalgic sigh* One question your discussion raised in my mind was whether there is a difference between “the classics” and the “literary canon.” The next question of course is whether there is a literary canon any more! Thanks to you, Shey, and Dave for a very thought-provoking discussion!!

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Thank you, Liz! Glad you enjoyed the discussion!

That sounds like a very interesting course you took as an undergrad. I majored in English, but somehow never took a course like that. 😦

To me “the classics” and “the literary canon” seem almost synonymous, with the latter perhaps also including some “mere” near-classics. 🙂

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Hi Rebecca. I’ve just returned from winter escape and doing some blog reading. I’m thrilled to see my lovely friend Shey being featured here today, along with Dave. I’m enjoying listening to the 3 way convo. A classic has to touch our soul, I loved that from Sistah SheyGoth. ❤ Great questions and discussions. Hugs xx

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Thank you, Debby! Glad you liked the conversation! It was a pleasure discussing classic literature with the brilliant Rebecca and the brilliant Shehanne — and I agree that that was a great point Shehanne made about a classic needing to touch the soul. 🙂

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Welcome home, Debby!! Spring has arrived and the daffodils are dancing. I am delighted you listened into this amazing conversation about the classics. Shey and Dave are a dynamic duo. I have to run to keep up with them!

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