The existence of a “classical canon” in literature raises a multitude of questions when we begin to examine the idea itself. Which pieces of literature are considered classics? Why are those considered classics? Why read classics? Who decides what is a classic? I’m not sure any two people have the exact same list of classics, as there is no exactly identical human experience between two people, so how can the art they consume and value and respond to and see as a required part of their lives possibly be identical. On top of that, in the words of Italo Calvino, “however vast any person’s basic reading may be, there still remain an enormous number of fundamental works that [they have] not read.” We simply cannot experience the vast entirety of art and literature that has been created. In short, classics are not black and white, but rather a tag we attach to an ever changing, individually subjective pool of literature that matter to us in some undeniable way. So here is one wonderful rationalization of the classical category by the aforementioned Italian author Italo Calvino:
1. The classics are those books about which you usually hear people saying: ‘I’m rereading…’, never ‘I’m reading….’
2. The classics are those books which constitute a treasured experience for those who have read and loved them; but they remain just as rich an experience for those who reserve the chance to read them for when they are in the best condition to enjoy them.