Classic Remarks

Classic Remarks #3: Prose

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Classic Remarks is a meme that is hosted by Pages Unbound which poses questions each Friday about classic literature and asks participants to engage in ongoing discussions surrounding not only themes in the novels but also questions about canon formation, the “timelessness” of literature, and modes of interpretation.

April 16, 2021: What classic work do you love for its prose?

It seems weird that during National Poetry month I’m writing about a book I like for it’s prose. There are so many to choose from! Do I go with something classic sci-fi like a P.K. Dick novel or Fahrenheit 451? Or what about a classic adventure novel like Ivanhoe or Robin Hood? Or a spy story like The Secret Agent by Joseph Conrad? Or perhaps the greatest mystery stories ever and choose Sherlock Holmes?

Well, today I’m going to flip the prompt and write about a classic that I don’t like because the prose is so brutal and boring. This book nearly killed my reading in 2013. I talking about…

Robinson Crusoe

I am convinced that nearly everyone has read the abridged version (and that the abridged version covers the first third of the book) or only read a part of this book, because it is not great.

When asked most people will likely tell you that Robinson Crusoe is about a man stranded on a island who survives thanks to his wits and the help of his man Friday. However the majority of the book is a travel log, and is just mundane in it’s details.

And just when you think it might be over, he has one more adventure… this time overland and ugh it’s terrible.

It also details his time as a slave and as a slave trader. He even sells a companion that helps him escape slavery back into slavery to make his escape possible. Let just say the content is pretty problematic.

I was determined to finish it, although now I’m not sure why. Certainly the pandemic has made it easier for me to be willing to give up on something I’m not enjoying.

Classics have their place, but some classics are past due for retirement. I don’t think Robinson Crusoe is a classic that most of us have any need to read.

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