‘Classic’ Reissues

by
July 2001, no. 232

‘Classic’ Reissues

by
July 2001, no. 232

A few weeks ago, I attended the session on ‘What is an Australian Classic?’ during the Sydney Writers’ Festival. My own definition of what makes a classic is a simple one: a book from the past that retains significance, that still entertains and enlightens us, even though we may respond to it in quite different ways from its initial readers. In some cases, of course, classics were not so highly regarded on first publication. Even Gerard Windsor, at the festival, had to concede that Joyce’s Ulysses was a classic; it was of course banned in Australia, and elsewhere, for many years. And one of the eight titles in the first series of A&R Classics, Come in Spinner ($21.95pb, 0 207 19756 3), also received a very mixed reception, as one of its authors, Florence James, remembers in the introduction she wrote in 1988 for the first printing of the unedited version of the novel. In 1951, the Sydney Daily Telegraph called Come in Spinner ‘a muckraking novel fit for the literary dustbin’, even though it had earlier won the newspaper’s own novel competition!

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