D.: And I know you'd just hate that part.
|Your 'classic' Persuasion|
D.: Nurse novels?
N. (ignoring him): --genre fiction bias, gender fiction bias--
D.: Gender fiction bias? You mean 'chick lit'? Can we talk about chick flicks for a minute? How many chick flicks do you think I'd watch in a lifetime if I didn't need to get--
The patient regains consciousness and attempts to regain control. Obviously, it's not easy. Some radical surgery is called for--if possible, before 'great books'/'the canon'/'DWEMs' find their way into the mix.
|Hodder Headline's Austen (2006)|
|A different Persuasion ?|
Penguin 'red' cover
But whatever else one might say about the Hodder (and Penguin 'red') Austens, no one doubted that the public would buy them--and read them. (For the record, and in the interest of full disclosure, I admired but did not buy any of the Hodder six; I bought the Penguin 'red' Austens and inhaled the 'red' Northanger Abbey on my way back from the UK to Florida that year.) The Hodder six and the Penguin reds sold well, and, over five years later, are still in print--alongside their Penguin Classics counterparts.
In the case of Austen (and, I suspect, also of Dickens and Gibbon), the secret's in the marketing--but in the broadest sense of both terms. The real 'secret', to put it bluntly, is that we already have abundant access (and not just market access) to the 'classics' (whether we call them that or not). And the 'marketing' includes everything we do or witness every day that labels a text, or genre, or work of art--or anything or anyone else--as, let's say, 'our sort' or 'not quite our sort'.
Of course, it's easier to make the argument about Jane Austen, not only because of her--I would say her 'greatness', but I don't want to impose that judgement on you--but also because her accessibility has been tested and established. Not in every case is it so clear. But it's always worth exploring.
Still to come, on other days: Thomas Paine, the Bible, and why we might want access to the 'classics'.