Will today's novels be tomorrow's classics?

I have often wondered if today’s puppy-mill paperbacks (and yes, they ALL are) will end up being studied in our schools as the “literary classics” of tomorrow? Do you think any of today’s authors REALLY have a true literary style, message, etc? Aren’t they all really pressed into same mold by the publishers just to rake in the bucks?

In a world where a Parker Brother’s game can be used to predict the future, I guess anything goes. I can only think McDonald’s Corp is mad they didn’t come out with the McPublishing Corp first!

  • Jinx :smiley:

Very reasonable question.

Initial thought: The novel isn’t nearly as important and central an art form as it was even 50 years ago. The odds that a novel will “cross over” to the public consciousness and be a cultural phenomenon is less than it was with, say, Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird or Catch-22 from the 50’s and 60’s.

The books that become classics typically fall into 3 categories (going off the top of my head here):

  • Popular books that endure - of today’s books, there aren’t many that will endure, but that is usually the case. If you check the best seller lists from the 30’s, almost none of the authors or titles are familiar; they all faded. Of today’s book, maybe 1 - 2 King titles (The Shining, IMHO), the Harry Potter books, some Elmore Leonard books, and one or two literature/Oprah type books that crossed over - maybe Cold Mountain, maybe the Lovely Bones. Bridges of Madison will be completely forgotten, if it hasn’t been already. In sci-fi, I would go with Neuromancer, Snow Crash (and other Stephenson, like Cryptonomicon).

  • Critical acclaimed books that few people read. Like Ulysses or Gravity’s Rainbow. Some of Delillo’s books, Gaddis and a few like that. I suppose the Corrections falls into this category, even though it was an Oprah selection.

  • Books that rise to the surface over time. I am not sure who would fall into this category now, but there are books and/or authors who aren’t famous at the time, but become more famous as time goes on. Philip K. Dick and Jim Thompson are examples from 30 - 50 years ago, but I don’t know who qualifies today.