As a child I convinced myself it would never do to learn to read, with all the perfectly good pictures and reasonable mouths in the world to tell me where I needed to go and what to do. Imagine the chagrin of my former self, then, to be tasked with the undertaking of putting into words (for people to read, of all things) those elusive qualities of a truly masterful work of fictional literature. In my mind, I know I’m no one qualified to define these characteristics. Pure intentions had me reaching far and wide to attain that golden insight on the subject, knowing that such a package will not be so easily wrapped. A common thread or two have emerged for me from the woodwork of these vastly different tales. Let’s be pioneers and go there together, shall we? Delving into the sea, daring to drink the wild air drifting out from the wrinkled pages of those books that made your childhood summer reading lists, filled your high school libraries, and still echo their most memorable lines through the hallways of your life. What allows a tale to evade the folds of time, yet intertwine, as to bind the pages of human history? Words insistent upon being heard, ringing through the hearts and ears of generations.
When I say classic, I do not necessarily mean a likable, easy read. Most of the classics I have read, on task or at leisure, have not proven themselves to be “light” reading. I struggle with every page, through length and depth, my head spinning with politics and straining to see the plot past the dialect. Yet by the end I know that I have taken something away with me that, for better or worse, has changed me; there is often something that lay between the crossed t’s and dotted i’s that impishly weaves into my thoughts, determining to chew on me more than I chew on it.