The 21st Century Classic

9:30 AM

I'm a big fan of Jane Austen.

Big fan.

There's a simplicity of complexity about her work that wraps one in her world without seeming too far-fetched. What I love best about Jane Austen has to do with her style. It's superb. It's gorgeous. It's downright clever. Yet it isn't hifalutin like typical Victorian fare. Her heroines don't gasp and faint and soliloquize (e.g. Dickens). She isn't - melodramatic, if you know what I mean, which was the fault of many Victorian authors. Neither is she overly realistic, like the disappointing literature of today. Without ever sacrificing a bit of humanity and reality, Austen crafted larger-than-life, highly intelligent, impossible yet believeable stories.

Did I mention I'm a fan of Jane Austen?

Of course, the moment I begin falling in love with a book, I immediately start dreaming of joining the ranks of cultured, intelligent female writers.

This dream time I hit upon a terrible realization: the 21st century is absolutely barren of literary quality. Good for bestsellers, yes. Classics? Hardly. Unless I want to center my stories on the intelligentsia of society (which I know nothing about), I'm stuck with the typical American - illiterate, illogical and mostly devoid of class and chivalry. I mean, what girl expects her lover to whisper, "You have bewitched me, heart and soul" or my personal favorite, "I might talk more if I loved you less"? Besides me?

I doubt the typical twenty-something knows more than half-a-dozen verbs, cluttered with like and you know and contractions. And that's just language. We can buff and shine our typical American hero and heroine, but their lifestyles just aren't romantic - what, broken homes, feminism, casual dating. It's hard to create noble characters nowadays. They're almost dinosaurs. It's almost impossible to introduce a female lead who's naturally clever without being obnoxious. Novels with that kind of female pool would be like Pride and Prejudice without Jane and Lizzie Bennet.

Worst of all, it's hard to have a romance without Regency period dresses. Would Emma be the same with a Miss Woodhouse in jeans?

Spare us.

I'm slightly exaggerating. Harper Lee created a classic with To Kill a Mockingbird, it's true, but even she set it in the thirties. And I won't doubt that many classics-to-be are only waiting to be revealed to the general public, only I probably won't ever be allowed to read them. Be it as it may, there seems little in mainstream America that is romantic, little that is wise, little that is literary and even less that is great. Today's pending classics seem crude, profanity laced and morbid.


So in short, I became very disenchanted with our less-than-enchanting twenty-first century. But somebody once said, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." Even while typical Americana holds little romance and adventure, we Christians make it a point to be atypical. And great literature, while in a way a commentary on the times, always points the way to a better Typical.

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11 impressions

  1. Great post! Another thing that drives me bonkers about the fictional heroines in today's literature is that THEY SAVE THEMSELVES! No chivalry whatsoever from the gallant hero...just the do-it-myself female taking over. What is the fun in that??! Sorry. Just has to vent a little there. ;)

  2. You forgot to mention that they (people now ;) would find any Jane Austen completely boring - or find fault everywhere. But when it comes to Jannete Oak - different story completely.

    Folks. Get a life. Jannete Oak is hideous. Why do they faint every single time something happens? Or all the guys like them? Pathetic.



    P.s. The last picture was too hilarious for words...I'd say Squirt and Nan fit with the two youngest sisters. :D

    P.P.S. Emma in jeans? Lima beans! :D

  3. Erin, I know - I hear you. What I particularly hate is when they create their own problems and then become heroines from saving themselves from it.

    Floppeth, my, my, you are the dear cynic this morning. I happen to agree with you. ;o)

    We could BE the Bennet sisters, all five of us Bergmann girls. On second thought...scrap that idear. No little sister of mine's marrying Mr. George Wickham.

  4. Great post, Bayleaf!

    I have read Jannete Oak's Love comes softly series, I thought they were interesting, but they always fall in love and are ALWAYS "ahhhh" ik! So, they are kinda boring and I don't like all the love. :(

    Nice post, again!


  5. LOL Poor Pip. I knew Flop would ruffle some feathers with her adamant stance against Janette Oke. (If she were perfectly honest, she'd admit that Ella Enchanted contains just as sappy a love story as the Love Comes Softly series...only Ella doesn't faint. ;o))


  6. Tell me how I missed this post?! I guess I wasn't paying attention to my blog reader! Anyway, great post Bailey!! I agree with you completely! There is very little excellence to be found nowadays... *sigh*

    Love you girl!

  7. I was waiting for you, my well-read friend, to comment, Elissa! Glad we agree. :o) Love you too!

  8. Bailey, did you have any modern books in mind when writing this post? I just want to see a little more clearly where you're comming from. I guess that all the modern books I read are in school, and they aren't exactly love stories, they're usually about the world comming to an end or some other hard subject. But I do like the character building of the heroes and supporting characters in these modern books at school, so I wouldn't whole heartedly agree with your statements.

    But as far as movies go, I see your point exactly! It's funny, it seems that when a really good book or movie comes out, it takes place in an previous era. I did see a few modern-set romance movies that I really liked and appreciated for the story lines and characters. The situations were real, but creative and they made you really feel for the characters. So don't worry, good modern literature is not lost!

    As far as Jannete Oak goes, (yes, I had to bring this up) her annimal stories are some of my favorite childhood readings! And I must admit that after watching the whole Love Comes Softly Series, (I don't know how accurate they are to the books)I must say that I admire the first movie of the series, but I could do without all of the others. But Bailey, I agree that Jane Austen was brilliant!

  9. Yes! A critical comment!

    I was thinking of several modern books when coming up with this post. Most of them came from the newer (that is, 1970's onward) Newbery Award winners, specifically "Kira Kira," "Jacob Have I Loved," "Bridge to Terabithia," "Walk Two Moons" and others. They're considered children's literary classics and they almost always contain something immoral or at least questionable - perhaps fine for my age, but I keep them away from my younger sisters.

    I was also thinking of modern bestsellers with a literary bent, like "The Secret Life of Bees," "Girl Talk" and the Twilight series. And the new series spoofing a Jane Austen book with a horror twist. Ick.

    For female main characters I was thinking of Bella from Twilight and Hermione from Harry Potter, plus some scattered heroines I've met in tacky series.

    There are always exceptions (THANK GOODNESS!) but it seems that a classic - both now and then - is defined as something that must pass off immorality, darkness and extreme sin situations as normal. That's my beef. To attempt a book involving a real family, with milder, more normal problems, is to commit the sacrelige of publishing - an "unrealistic" (and thus unliterary) view on life.

    I'll grant, however, that you've probably been exposed to a bigger variety of modern books than I - my school was filled with older classics. :o) I've never read Francine Rivers, for instance, and I've heard she's pretty good.

    I wasn't thinking of Janette Oke, though...but now I am. ;o)

  10. Ah! Now I see where you're comming from! Taking a look at the books you've mentioned, I know excactly what you mean. I say this with specifically Twilight in mind. I can't judge it completely because I have never read it or even watched the movies, but I have heard enough about it to turn me away.
    Funny/ pathetic story- once in French class, we were discussing oppinions about books. A few of us were putting down Twilight and Harry Potter, not understanding why they are both so popular. One student made this comment, "Yes, I know that the books are not that great, but at least it got kids reading."
    Ah! I don't understand it! Anyways, I highly recomend Francine Rivers, she is one of my favorite authors. I am in the middle of reading one of her books right now called "Her Mother's Hope" and I must say that I am quite captivated!

  11. Grr. I know exactly how you feel. The "as long as they're reading" argument is one of the most irresponsible, shallow arguments ever...and it's nearly impossible to argue against.

    I haven't read Twilight either, but I've read reviews and portions of the books online...and I just can't stand it.


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