Saturday, September 12, 2009

What is a Classic?

I generally will read anything from the back of the cereal box to "War and Peace" but generally I must confess that I have a soft spot in my heart for the classics. I like the way good literature wraps a story or timeless idea with layers of meaning that allow me to experience a deeper truth which I would normally overlook in my daily life. Sainte-Beuve, the French essayist and critic, describes the classic author as one who:
has enriched the human mind, increased its treasure, and caused it to advance a step; who has discovered some moral and not equivocal truth, or revealed some eternal passion in that heart where all seemed known and discovered; who has expressed his thought, observation, or invention in no matter what form, only provided it be broad and great, refined and sensible, sane and beautiful in itself; who has spoken to all in his own peculiar style, a style which is found to be also that of the whole world, a style new without neologism, new and old, easily contemporary with all time.
As a bookseller, I want to seek out and share those authors and works that meet the standards as discussed by Sainte-Beuve. The wonderful thing is there is a vast body of work out there to choose from and a plethora of styles so it is possible for anyone to find an author he will enjoy reading and still be able to participate in the great conversation which has been going on throughout all ages and distances; the great conversation of ideas that are timeless and universal.

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