A discussion with Carrie Heim Binas after yesterday's post brought me to the realization that I should probably add some clarification to my statements about taking certain authors out of the literary canon.
Every name that I listed yesterday -- Hawthorne, Hemingway, Faulkner, and all the others -- are deserving of respect because they wrote stories that have endured for decades. A Farewell to Arms is still in print, so is As I Lay Dying, and The Scarlet Letter. That last is the most impressive, seeing as it's been kicking around bookstores for 160 years. I hold Dickens in a similar high regard for the same reason.
My problem, as I realized upon talking with Carrie, is more to do with how people are introduced to these stories (yes, Adam Heine already said this in the comments yesterday). In college, I was forced to dissect Hemingway's "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber." Because of this, I developed a loathing for the story and I extended that to all of Hemingway's works. My problem with Hawthorne stems from a similar root (I read it during 9th-grade English class -- I wasn't close to ready to understand the themes behind it at age 15).
In high school, I was fortunate enough to take advanced English and be introduced to some of the great Greek playwrights. We read the play "Antigone" at one point, which sticks in my mind because I wrote a paper arguing for the title character as the tragic heroine. I got a C because, in my English teacher's words, I was utterly wrong because Greek tragic heroes were always men. Therefore, Antigone couldn't be the tragic hero because she was a girl.
Now, this isn't bashing English teachers in general (I wanted to be one for awhile after all, and teachers get a bad-enough rap as it is. Full disclosure: my mother's a teacher), but I did want to bring up one of the reasons I think a lot of people hate "the classics." This being that they're forced to read and dissect them based on the teacher's interpretation of the text. Which annoyed me to no end because I almost never agreed with the teacher's view on any of the stories we read. But since teachers control grades, you have to work within their interpretation of the text in order to get anywhere (except for the "cool" teacher that dares you to disagree with him or her and rewards people who argue it well).
A classic that I read in class and enjoyed was The Red Badge of Courage when I was in 8th grade. Was it because I had a good teacher? Well, he was OK. But the real reason, I think, is because on the first day of class, that teacher pointed to the wall (yes wall) of books on the window side of the room and told us "You have to read at least five books by the end of the year. I don't care which ones you choose; just choose five." I think I read a minimum of three times that number by year end. That's how to get people to love reading. Turn 'em loose and don't tell 'em what to think. (Which is also why I love Moby Dick.)