Hey, for another perspective here, I’m not American (so my classics are not your classics, they’re in another language altogether), and when I read “The Lottery” in an anthology of American short stories, I knew nothing about it, I didn’t know it was famous, I’d never heard of Shirley Jackson, I didn’t perceive it as a classic at all, just a story among other stories in a book that I picked up for my own enjoyment (and not for a school assignment or anything),
and I was blown away. It’s fucking amazing. It hit me like a brick and I loved it.
Now, there’s no accounting for taste so I’m not gonna argue about it here, but I strongly suspect that if everyone could wipe from their mind “the classics” (which is different for different people) and everything they know about them, and take out the explicit or implied obligation to read them and to like them whether they want to or not, and remove the endless repetitive didactic lectures they’ve heard about them, and if they could just read them, for the first time, with fresh eyes and open minds,
well at least 20% of them would still be mind-blowing. (did ya think I’d say all of them?)
Exhibit A: I once posted here a poem, translated in English, and got a truly fascinating comment: someone started reading it, thought “aww, what a beautiful poem”, and then got to the end, saw the Spanish original underneath, and immediately went “aw fuck, that’s the stupid damn poem they make us recite in school at the end of every year, god I hate it”.
So it’s not that “Wanderer, there is no road, only wakes upon the sea” is good and “Caminante, no hay camino, sino estelas en la mar” is bad, it’s just that when they force-feed you something over and over, you develop an aversion to it. You know how forbidden and/or stolen fruit just tastes sweeter? Well the opposite is also true, and here we are.