March 27th, 2003

breaking bad

Top ten classics

(Instead of creating my web entries online I am experimenting with lochjournal now, let's see how it works).

A friend is doing research into perceptions of 'what is classic literature', via an online questionnaire.

The methodology is to collect a small amount of personal information about you, and then ask you to nominate ten classic works of literature. You are also allowed to dissent (of course) from the idea that there are such classics, or the very idea of 'classic' as a meaningful term.

I have an idea that classicism rests on the claim that things can be grouped into 'classes' and that there is an ideal form within that class. Thus there is an ideal form of the sonnet (for example). Classicism is like Platonism, whereby instances are judged by their tendency towards the ideal. A 'classic' is something that most corresponds to that ideal.

Romanticism on the other hand rejects that notion, in favour of celebration of diversity. My personal instincts are more towards this point of view - I don't like Platonism very much. I think it is this instinct for romanticism that leads people to reject the idea of the 'ideal'.
An additional problem is that dominant political groups (such as rich white old men) are inclined to use their dominance to claim themselves as exemplifiers of the ideal. Which understandably gets on everyone else's wick.

Despite all this, I think there are 'classics'. I think our experience of the world is mediated by our experience of art, and some works of art are more powerful than others. The classics are those which set the standard for all that follows.
breaking bad

On blogging

William Gibson had an interesting entry in his blog on Tuesday. About 'Salam Pax', the Baghdad blogger, whom everyone has heard of now.

As you probably know, various people have asserted that Salam is a hoaxer. Gibson (and I) doubt this. His argument is that the various 'intelligence' or 'special interest' communities are not alert nor creative enough to have faked this, because they are only just cottoning on to the potential that this kind of source offers for propaganda and counter-information, and to have faked Salam's log would have taken back-preparation months in advance.

(I don't doubt that they would be prepared to put in the work, only that they would have anticipated the need to do so).

The corrolary is that the most alert members of these groups must now have caught on to this potential. Which means that from now on it is increasingly likely that blogs will be faked with national-political (as opposed to personal-nutty) ends in mind.

I still think we'll be able to spot them. But then we can spot spam can't we, and that doesn't really make it any less annoying.
breaking bad

my top ten

Out of interest BTW my top ten were

Hamlet
Frankenstein
Alice in Wonderland
Pride and Prejudice
Songs of Innocence and Experience
The Tower and other poems (this is Yeats BTW)
To the Lighthouse
The Tao Te Ching

That leaves me two for my favourite genres, hard boiled detective, and SF. I tried to pick a seminal classic from each genre. The ones I entered were

The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
Star Maker by Olaf Stapledon

On reflection I should have picked

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
Neuromancer by William Gibson

I notice that all my original list were penned in English by people born in the British Isles, apart from the Tao Te Ching. In fact most of them were born within about 100 miles of my birthplace. But those are my classics and I'm not amending them just for the sake of being multinational.