Thursday, November 4, 2010

What makes a book a 'good' book?

For Extension English we have to create a response to a quote by Italo Calvino 'Every reading of a classic is in fact a re-reading.' This question has been in my head for the last three weeks and FINALLY I have come up with an answer:

The word ‘Literature’ can be defined as the body of written works of a language about a particular period, or culture. For a book to become a ‘Literary Classic’, it needs to possess certain definable elements. It must contain a universal message, which can appeal to the reader via their capacity to relate in some way, whether it be through appeal to specific emotions, events in life, political views or even views on society or particular standards in a society. A classic needs to transcend the ordinary; for example it might ‘dare’ to challenge accepted social or moral boundaries. This is clearly evident in the Jane Austen series, where moral conscience outweighs traditional societal expectations of the time. The reader can relate to the trials and tribulations of the characters and often find themselves able to translate the incidents which befall the novel’s character to incidents affecting them in their own lives.

The reader needs to be able to relate to and understand the motivations of the author. ‘classics,’ needs to express elements of morality and it should makes a valued judgment on aspects of life which influence or impact human beings. A classic often serves to draw attention to moral issues or dilemmas, and it should applaud or condemn certain points of view. A classic often challenges particular viewpoints popular at the time the novel was set, and the reader can clearly identify the purpose the author has for doing so.

A piece of classical literature should include effective language. The type and style of language needs to be appropriate for the point or message of the text. Finally, classics need to have a level of truthfulness and sincerity; the reader must be able to relate to the moral message of the particular classical literature. Many classics make statements or judgments on the status of women, the morality of a society of different classes and the inequity that often results as a consequence of this. These examples remain prevalent as much in today’s society as they were at the time of writing of many of the recognized classics.

A classic needs to maintain lasting interest for the reader. These types of novels are eternal, and their universal message is so strong that they will withstand the test of time and can be open to modern interpretation. ‘A classic is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say’ – Italo Calvino.

The statement by Italo Calvino; ‘Every reading of a classic is in fact a re-reading,’ can be a description or an interpretation of a ‘Literary Classic”. In essence a classic is simply a retelling of an age old moral statement or pronouncement that can transcend each historical era and relate in some tangible way to modern times.

I hope that makes sense, I'd like to remember this response and that is the reason for posting it - my intention was not to bore you to death, i just want to keep a record of this to see if my writing improves - I think that's the main reasons I'm keeping this blog. Unlike my journal, this seems to be a more constructive way of tackling questions that make me think, instead of the 'Just because' way of thinking i seem to portray in my journal.

One more thing, I've hit almost 7, 500 words for NaNoWriMo, I was extremely annoyed that the website that keeps track of my writing has decided to revert to '0' I have no idea why, but now the graph says I hadn't started writing until yesterday, when in actual fact I started on 2/11. - Just a tad annoyed.

besides that I have exams fast approaching - this year has gone so fast it's unbelievable. I spent long, tiresome days in middle school, wishing my senior year would come, and now it's like time is just falling away, the start of the year feels like yesterday and assignments are all due tomorrow.


  1. Hi Jess,
    I came across this post in my pursuit to write the same response for my English extension application as well. I think your response is terrific and hope that mine can measure up even a little! Also I couldn't help but notice we seem to share a mutual love of some Youtubers and The Fault in our Stars. And yeah, I just wanted to say how much I like how eloquently written your posts are.
    Andree :)

    1. Thankyou so much! This little message brightened up my miserable Monday :) All the best for your EE application!