Shared publicly  - 
 
‎29,000 people on GoodReads think The Great Gatsby sucked.

"The idea of some kind of objectively constant, universal literary value is seductive. It feels real. It feels like a stone cold fact that In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, is better than A Shore Thing, by Snooki. And it may be; Snooki definitely has more one-star reviews on Amazon. But if literary value is real, no one seems to be able to locate it or define it very well. We’re increasingly adrift in a grey void of aesthetic relativism."

What is the value of literary criticism in the Amazon Age?
46
13
David Quackenbush (Quack)'s profile photoTiffany Bright's profile photoRichie Marrufo's profile photoMichael P Schroeder's profile photo
38 comments
 
The fact that something is nebulous and protean does not preclude it from being real.
 
It's relative to the age their produced. I mean, there are very few books that are considered great by our current generation that were written before the 70's. All my books I consider great were written for a more current generation. Values, morals, ideas all change (obviously) over time, and books adjust to that too. I am, of course, referring to novels such as Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia, Golden Compass series etc. Snooki...she doesn't count.
 
Different strokes for different folks. We can't believe that a new generation will fall in love with the classics in literature. They are so far removed from the world of those types of books that they can't relate to it. The style of writing doesn't attract everyone. Does it really matter that people don't like the classics?

Update: I didn't like "The Great Gatsby"... it was boring. I read it in High School. I like a lot of classics but that book wasn't one of them.
TIME
+
4
5
4
 
+Margie Hearron "Does it really matter that people don't like the classics?" Great question.
 
As the works considered classics in my youth fade even further into the past, and get further removed from present-day society, I fully expect them to have less meaning to modern readers. Not everyone likes historical fiction, and the settings of most of the classics, even the "futuristic" ones, are all fairly far in the past now. In addition, the phrasing and literary norms have changed so much since these were written that modern readers may have problems understanding them. Instead of a cheery recollection of a bygone age, they are likely just painful reading exercises that bear no relationship with the lives of our current generation.
 
+TIME At first, I thought to myself, "29,000 people are idiots." But, it does a raise a great point that can't be dismissed with a snarky thought.

I remember reading somewhere that interest in Dante's Divine Comedy by literary critics had faded, over time, into obscurity. It was T.S. Eliot who helped bring new focus to the work, and showed how it was able to resonate with a generation struggling to come to grips with a post World War 1 world.

If it can happen to a classic like the Divine Comedy, The Great Gatsby and others won't stand a chance in the long run unless the story and themes resonate with that time and place in human history.
 
I agree with +Corey King Not everyone can relate to the story. Also just because a literary critic proclaims something good doesn't mean we have to accept it as such. Personally, I can barely remember this book and if I even liked it.
 
Force-feeding the same so-called Classics to students for a century or more without taking into account societal changes, without putting a work into historical perspective, or without measuring it against more contemporary works undermines the credibility of educators who perpetuate the myth of THE TEST OF TIME in conferring value upon literature. That is, if you consistently state something over a long period of time it becomes universal, everlasting truth.
TIME
+
1
2
1
 
You guys are prolific today. We like it.
 
Regardless of whether you like or dislike the classics, they are an important part of understand literature as a whole. Allusion to past works is an important part of many great books, movies, poems, jokes, metaphors etc.

Looking at the classics as the breeding ground for the books you do love today may make them more relevant for people that don't care for them. I have friends, who don't have Lit degrees and haven't read the classics that struggle with understanding our book club reads. This is because they don't grasp the context of classic references in modern books.

To fully appreciate literature as a whole, you have to understand where it comes from, and the classic works (even The Great Gatsby!) are an important part of that.
 
I'm teaching Swedish and International literature at primary school level and I have for long questioned the list of classic titles in the curriculum. One of the most effective ways of killing off the little lust for reading many of our teenagers have today, is be putting Bronte, Strindberg, Shakespeare and the other classics in their hands.

Classic literature can't stay classic forever, new additions must be allowed into the curriculum.
 
I guess a lot of people are just going to miss the points in those other books that allude to the classics. We can't force people to read classic literature. Some schools don't even require certain classes to read any of the "classics" anymore.
 
I honestly feel that one of the problems persisting in the dynamic relationship between literature and readership is the notion that the sole - or even most important - end to which literature aspires is "entertainment." Of all the 1-star reviews of Gatsby, eloquent and profound though they may be, an overwhelming cause appears to be that it was "boring" or not directly applicable to their first person-centric sphere of reality. Entertainment and applicability to one's personal interests and problems should be unequivocally secondary.
Another problem, and here's where I'll start a fight, is the idea that someone's opinion even matters in the ongoing debate of art and its often elusive definition. Art is art not simply because of its popularity or critical recognition. True art is self-evident, it earns its status - and yes, I believe there is true art, objective standards, impregnable definitions. Gatsby is true art; its meaning to the development of the American Dream, its relation to the fabric of a constantly changing American ideal of economy and society is timeless. Maybe I'm getting defensive here, and for that, I apologize. But when I read that someone is "bored" by a book, I immediately disregard the review - if I ever considered it at all. Seeking self-satisfaction from art is a very modern, philosophical suggestion akin to the belief that happiness is man's greatest possible end. That's not real life. It's hard, it's challenging, and yes, it can be dull - but really, it's only dull if you're life is built around fulfilling your own desires of enjoyment.
I don't think Fitzgerald was writing for people who would disregard a book for being "boring." In fact, I think he was writing about them.
 
Agree that we can't force people to read them, but I think we can encourage them to do so by changing the conversation from "these are old and boring" to "these are a way to enhance your reading experience." Having a solid understanding of the classics makes me really love seeing references to them in any book.
 
I read this "classic" and I wouldn't say it added to my literary enjoyment. The book is dry and not very interesting. I can understand why people think it sucks
 
+Christine Tarves - As someone else already stated in this thread, a lot of people are basically not smart enough or they don't have the vocabulary or good understanding of historical events to really get anything out of those "classic" stories. I'm not against classic literature. I've read a lot of it, but I don't enjoy all of it.
 
I love the Great Gatsby. I think while societal values and interests can change over time, human nature and the human condition do not vary greatly.It seems to me the classics that I love are all, at their core, a very truthful exposé of or commentary on some aspect of human nature. The reason they have stood the test of time is that they eloquently reveal and explore something we can all relate and connect to, no matter the time period, motifs or characters used to do so.
 
those people who dont like the book are probably some stupid high school kids who failed on their english class
i have to read it when i was in high school and i absolutely love this book
 
I guess the question is ultimately what we mean by our "ratings." Everyone is entitled to express their enjoyment of a book (i.e. - 1 star = I did not enjoy this book, as GoodReads rating scale suggests). The problem area for me is when that enjoyment is transferred to a sense of literary, cultural, or artistic worth.
You didn't enjoy Gatsby? Fine. That's a valid statement. You think Gatsby is a bad book, a weak work, somehow not artistic or meaningful? There are objective, purposeful ways to prove that Gatsby is a Classic, deserving to last for generations. You don't have to enjoy it, but to deny its worth is absolutely foolish.
 
Literary criticism is a form of literature and I think amazon has done a great job of giving people an incentive to raise their tone. Forcing students to read books they don't like and asking them to think about why it might be better than they thought still has immense value. And boringness is as interesting a concept to explore in literature as greatness, just so long as people don't say things are boring because it demands thought.
 
One of my favvv's from high school, second to pride & prejudice....planning on re-reading it before the leo movie comes out!! :))
 
gatsby < weber, ringo, stephenson, crichton, sterling, gibson, weis, hickman, etc
 
+Mark Underwood but as someone pointed out earlier a few classics failed the test of time before scoring top grades in a retest. Moby dick was deemed a failure until some time around the 1920s when people began to appreciate its unique qualities
 
I agree with +Robin Moroney. I believe that the classics are those books that are considered exemplary books produced in a past era. The significance of the composition in the context of today's standards, yesterday's standards or tomorrow's standards is as of much import as the popularity or acceptance of the book when it is published, whether that be past or present. There are no doubt books written today that will become recognized and or popular 10, 20 and even 50 or 100 years from now. Correct me if i'm wrong, but social dissociation and cultural drift are bound to happen as that's the nature of our cultures. Even languages drift and new colloquialisms come in and the old go out.

By your definition, +Mark Underwood, no book will ever be a true classic and a classic is something that is flexible and deniable based upon cultural content, rather than significance related to the era of acceptance and popularity versus it's time of publication. That's all well and good if you're marking it by personal, minority or solipsistic terms but that's not what makes these books "classic". It doesn't matter if it's "great" today, as long as it is a high quality book from it's period. They're consensus-accepted literary relevant artifacts in a given time composed in a past time. Do you understand? Here, you obviously need to read a bit more. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/classic There's no shame in not knowing. We all learn. I hope we've filled in the gap in your understanding.

The appreciation for things like Shakespeare and other authors also wanes to some extent as it's relevance is lost, however that and what you describe are more related to the impact (or lack thereof) that "classics" have upon demographics and your (or my) personal taste. Rather than defining "standing the test of time" or being communicable to modern readers and accepted by such as what gives a book it's "classic" quality, one should instead look to why these books were remarkable in the period that they were produced. The fact that these are considered masterpieces of their time can give you quite a great deal of insight into that time and studying that time and the works produced then will give you a greater appreciation for that book.
 
+Mark Underwood wow: that was quite an edit on your post! By the way, I got that your tongue was in your cheek; just saying that tests of time can be retaken!
 
Apparently, +Mark Underwood you don't know that the word facetious has implications beyond "an amusing joke" and don't know how to use it. Again, I suggest you look at the dictionary entry.
 
I have recently have read this book in english. And i tought it was great. It may be old but hey its a pretty good book.
 
I read this book in school and couldn't understand why everyone thought it was so amazing. My conclusion back then was that I just didn't really enjoy reading. Come to find that reading is amazing and this book really just did not get me off to the right start.
 
(1) Not to undercut the interesting discussion, but worth noting that
on Amazon, Gatsby got 94 one star reviews --- out of 1335.
on Goodreads, Gatsby got ~29,000 one star reviews --- out of ~650,000.

The worry that the internet gives voice to an aesthetically-impaired hoi polloi that will drown out the few true aesthetes seems misplaced. Gatsby is doing just fine outside the ivory tower.

(2) That said, I agree aesthetics needs to be revived in (and out) of the academy. Understanding what makes art art is an important task. I agree in spirit with +Clint Wilson, that literature is not merely entertainment and must 'speak' to a contemporary reader. Defining objective standards for this seems a pretty tall order though. I would say, (slightly) pace +Thomas Stowe, that the best work will not only be of historical interest -- I think literature can maintain its relevance for hundreds of years, so long as the human condition to which it refers remains recognizable. Hamlet, Medea, Don Quixote and other works centuries old I value because they illuminate something totally relevant to human life around me.
 
Paul, I think chris mang-osan totally blue away all your points
 
Please, snooki has now value, literary or otherwise. Why be afraid of making judgments? Everything is alike, of equal value, etc, etc. No it is not.
Add a comment...