How could I resist an article with that title?
My own love affair with literature began with a matchmaker named Eleanor Leonard, the children’s librarian in my home town. One day I walked into the library with a Nancy Drew mystery. Mrs. Leonard greeted me.
“What’s that book you have under your arm?”
“It’s a Nancy Drew mystery.”
“Why, I’m surprised at you, Sarah. There are so many better books you could read.”
“But I like Nancy Drew. All my friends read her.”
Mrs. Leonard paused, looking at me intently. “The trouble with Nancy Drew is that it isn’t literature; it doesn’t have the depth or richness of a classic. Come here, let me show you.”
Mrs. Leonard drew me over to the fiction shelves for my age group and began to read passages from her favorites. Some were from masters such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling and Johanna Spyri. Other authors, such as C. S. Lewis, Madeline L’Engle and Rumer Godden, were more recent, including several Caldecott or Newbery Award winners.
Despite the variety in subject matter, these books possessed elements in common. The language was rich, characters had depth, symbolism was common, and the themes were uplifting and ennobling. After reading passages from these books, we looked at a passage from Nancy Drew. It seemed empty and even a little silly in comparison.
When she was finished, Mrs. Leonard offered me a challenge. “I tell you what, why don’t you read the classics first, then when you’ve finished, go on to the others?”
An excellent commentary on holding on to that which is enduring. Read the rest here.