Wednesday, December 1, 2010

And another thing ...

Just yesterday I read an interview with a literary agent who was asked to name her favorite book; she said she couldn't name just one but her "favorite classic" is The Unbearable Lightness of Being. Look, people, that book was written in 1984. If you're going to bother creating separate categories for "classics" and contemporary books, shouldn't classics be older than, I don't know, me? Today I saw the same thing, coming from Amber Tamblyn, the actress-poet I love to hate (via the PoFo):
I always recommend one classic and one modern poet. For classics, I would go with John Ashbery or Anne Sexton – read the greats and see why they’re considered greats. In terms of contemporary writers, there’s Jeffrey McDaniel – who is my favorite living contemporary writer.
Ashbery is a living contemporary writer! Jesus!

Also, she's apparently "gearing up for 'Comedy Does Poetry … Does Comedy!,' a benefit for Bowery Arts & Sciences which will also include David Cross, Fred Armisen, Kristen Schaal and 'other respected writers.'" Way to rip off my idea.


  1. i think it's possible to be alive and also classic. chuck berry, ringo starr. maybe it's different for books.

    ashbery is actually older than sexton, but sexton seems more classic because she's been dead for 40 years.

  2. But Ashbery is still writing. It's a meaningless distinction to call him a "classic" and then recommend a living contemporary poet like he's not. It makes it seem like she thinks poetry was invented in the 1950s.

  3. Cars are considered classic at 25 years old, right? And antique 50, I think. They can still be driven.

    Would it be fair to say that some of Ashbery's earlier work is now considered classic?

    I mean, Home Alone is a Christmas classic and I saw it in the theater.

  4. Can you imagine a conversation in which you were asked your favorite movie, and you said, "Well, my favorite *classic* is Home Alone..."

    Or, "I always recommend one classic movie and one 'modern' movie. For classics, usually Home Alone ..."

  5. If I was asked about my favorite Christmas movie? Sure?

    Here, let's set a scene:

    Int: Living Room with TV on showing Home Alone (or Scrooged, I frickin' love that movie.)

    A person in their late 20s or early-ish 30s enters.

    Person: "Is this Home Alone (or Scrooged, I frickin' love that move)? It's such a classic.

    Person two: Yeah it is.

    Annd... scene.

  6. i wonder about this sometimes--would a 1965 movie seem like a classic to someone in 1985? i think it would, so really, 1990 should seem classic to us now.

    i mean you could adjust the limit. let's say 25 years. i'm sure casablanca (1942) was considered a classic in 1967.

  7. Context ... you can call anything a "classic" colloquially, but you can't divide movies into "contemporary" and "classic" and then name contemporary movies as examples of "classics" ... else you look ign'ant.

  8. Ah, the cult of the new: another once lively idea come back to haunt us.

  9. Cars and movies have only existed for around a hundred years or so. So considered on the timeline of how long they've existed, a car more than 25 or 30 years old might be regarded as a classic (though the term might suggest additional qualities besides mere age), and a movie 25 or (certainly) 50 years old might be regarded as a classic (again allowing for additional qualities as well).

    "Casablanca," to use an example in one of the previous comments, was pretty widely regarded as a classic by, say, the late 1960's or early 1970's (25 or 30 years after the movie was made).

    Poetry has been around a lot longer than cars or movies. Extant written poetry (at least depending on how you define poetry) dates from at least as far back as the Gilgamesh epic. The poet Enheduanna -- possibly the oldest poet whose name is known -- was a priestess of the moon goddess of Sumeria.

    It might make sense to measure the classical qualities of poetry (or absence of them, or not-there-yet) using a longer timeline than for cars or movies. "Classic" suggests to me, among other things, endurance.

    Just offhand, I wouldn't be likely to refer to the work of a living poet as a classic, just by virtue of the fact that it hasn't been around very long yet. Whatever else the virtues of the poetry might be.

  10. Lyle, I was thinking the exact same thing yesterday about cars and movies. High five.

  11. I don't understand.... the Creedence Clearwater song "Ramble Tamble" is recommending poets to James Franco?