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Reading the so-called “classics” of Western literature is not on my reading list. It’s not that I have anything against personal books that are sometimes considered “canon”. That is, the history of literature and publishing in America and Europe is full of racism and sexism, and the whole concept of a literary cannon is steeped in patriarchy and white supremacy and non-discrimination. I’m slowly working my way up with some classics (like Baldwin and Morrison’s work), and I’m determined to finish one day Moby-Dick. But overall, the “canon” (what is it? Who decides?) Doesn’t have much effect on me.
Despite this indifference, I have strong feelings about the classics and their merits. Here’s what I’ve come to believe in recent years: Classics are meaningful and important, even vital, but not essential to yourself. They are important because they inspire retellings.
I don’t remember reading Peter Pan As a kid. I read it 20 years ago as a young adult, and I definitely enjoyed it because I gave it four stars. But I don’t remember anything about the experience; This is not a favorite book. But Peter Darling of Austin Chant, a glorious trans retelling Peter Pan, Is A favorite book. I read it when it was published in 2017, mourned when it went out of print, and happily bought a paperback copy when I republished it last year. My love for this book is boundless. It is a brilliant, imaginative story where Peter is a trans man, known to his family as Wendy Darling, who fled to Neverland to escape the transphobic world. Enemy-lover romance between Peter and Hooke is a delight. Beyond that, I can write a complete essay on all levels of this novel. I could write a complete essay on finishing, which is one of my favorite finishes of any novel without question.
When Great Gatsby Coming into the public domain in 2020, it has opened the floodgate for a number of bizarre retailers. I look forward to reading AJ Odasso’s The Pursued and the Pursuing, which envisions an alternative future for Gatsby and Nick, and Self Made Boys Anna-Mary McLemore (outside Sept. 6), where Nick and Gatsby are both trans and Daisy is a weird Latina.
I’ve already read and loved it Selected and beautiful By Nghi Vo, where Jordan Baker is recreated as a curious Vietnamese receiver with the ability to magically transform paper. I’m not a Gatsby fan, and I remember almost nothing about the plot. But Selected and beautiful Thrilled me. It’s full of weird characters to start with (Jordan, Nick, Gatsby). But there’s more to it than meets the eye – the healing, even – reading a version of this American classic where people who are often overlooked in American classics take center stage. The well people, as I like to say, are always here. They must have been at Gatsby’s gorgeous party, even if Fitzgerald didn’t write them there.
There are of course lots of weird subtexts out there Great Gatsby, As there are many other classics. In some cases, the subtext is explicitly placed by the author at a time when books are unpublished because of the apparently bizarre relationship. In other cases, the subtext is created by diverse readers. In other words, when we couldn’t find ourselves on the page, we wrote ourselves Comic artist Molly Ostertag writes about it in her fantastic article about the strangeness of Frodo and Sam’s relationship. Lord of the Rings.
Did Tolkien want to read as weird for their relationship? We’ll never know, and maybe it doesn’t matter. What I do know, and what is important, is that retailing, especially well retailing, works as a kind of recovery. They bring out the hidden stories, bring them into the sunlight, let them breathe. They turn subtext into text. In retailing, weird writers – and readers – can take place It’s not just that these stories are funny, though it’s a pleasure to read about a gay teen character Pride and Prejudice, Or a gay Nick & Gatsby. The fact is that these stories tell a kind of truth that the original never knew. I’m not saying that Pride and Prejudice It has no merit of its own – after all, I don’t want to turn off the Internet of books. I’m just saying that the weight and height of the classics, the way these stories live in the public imagination, their identity, the iterations also give a certain height.
Without Great Gatsby, Vo’s strange and beautiful magic paper and the world of strange magicians will not exist. Without Peter PanWhich will be Peter Darling, That funny, tender, creative, observational and deeply strange gem of a book. If Jane Austen hadn’t written the character of Ann D. Berg, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of re-imagining Molly Grillee’s life. HeirA gorgeous lesbian is the novel of the coming age.
I come back again and again when I think of classics. Canon, as flawed as it is, as limited as it is, white and different, has made some of my favorite books possible. It acts as a door and a springboard. With that being said, there is no substitute for the real weird work. And the very idea of Canon and Canon – the belief that the European and American predominantly white, CIS, male writers work on the gold standard of literature – has no place near the fact that it is harmful and violent. I’m not particularly attracted to the kind of classics I’ve written about here, though I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them. Most of the time, when I think of the “Western Canon”, a work that is considered important by all those in power, I feel angry and tired and bored. Literature is much bigger than that. So glad to see so many books being acclaimed today – tomorrow’s classics, if you will – by women and people of color and weird people.
Yet, under my suspicion, I can’t help but feel a little affection for white men (and a few women) for those dusty old books. Don’t get me wrong – the classics may have their own merits, but they’ve been celebrated enough. I don’t really care about this book for myself anymore. My affection, and my gratitude, is not for what they are. For what it has become of them. I am forever grateful that these works have been stuck long enough to enter the literary world. Long enough for brilliant writers to mess with them, and to re-imagine them and create new, weird masterpieces from their bones.