It's time to come clean, culture vultures - how many classics have you not seen, heard, or read?

Forget "What are you reading at the moment?", the most interesting conversation is about what you have failed to read, see or hear

Share

When two or more culture vultures get together, the conversation
will naturally be about what they have read, seen or heard
recently; the books, shows concerts and albums that have really
made an impression.

But I'm beginning to think that the more interesting conversation is about what they have failed to read, see or hear.

Visiting The Independent Bath Literature Festival this week, I went out to dinner with the organisers and some other guests, and over dinner I volunteered that I felt a little guilty that there was still the odd classic I hadn't read – OK, more than the odd one. There were a few Dickens novels. More than a little Trollope and Thackeray and (gulp) War and Peace.

To my relief, one of the literary supremos at the table confessed that she too hadn't yet embarked on War and Peace. She was saving it for a "long illness", a very long one, I imagine.

Even those at the top of their literary game have their dark secrets, unopened tomes that may stay that way as the frenzy to keep up with the outpouring of contemporary novels precludes going back to those missed classics, unless there's a particularly virulent flu epidemic.

And that's just one art form. I'm always surprised by the number of arts worthies who write about their cultural life and breezily admit they have never seen an opera. The drama and the trauma, not to mention the music, of Madam Butterfly and Rigoletto pass them by.

But even in film we all have our missed classics. Most of us have at the cinema or on TV or DVD notched up Citizen Kane and Casablanca and Psycho; but how easy it is to drop Ingmar Bergman or Federico Fellini into a conversation, knowing their style and mood, and fully intending one day to see the movies.

In pop the problem isn't just the lack of time to listen to the classics, it can also be a lack of inclination to what another generation tells you is a classic.

There may be under-30s out there listening to The Grateful Dead but I suspect not many, just as I suspect there are many theatregoers who have not seen Marlowe on stage, but feel they have. When it comes to the classics, the memory can play tricks. We intended to see or read that masterpiece for so long that it now feels like we did.

I'd like the great and the good of the arts world to admit that there are classics they have neglected. Certainly, my dinner conversation convinced me that the great works hitherto ignored provide a springboard for a livelier and more passionate discussion than a routine swapping of current works one has enjoyed.

It's not necessarily a sign of cultural inadequacy to admit to having missed the odd classic. It's a sign that life is short. That the definition of a classic is ever more flexible, and they are large in number.

Perhaps festivals should henceforth include a confessional session on the classics we haven't quite got round to. A cultural therapy session.

Ditch the fees: another performer sings my tune

Not long ago the comedian Sarah Millican gladdened my heart by refusing to perform in venues that charged booking fees. Now let's hear it for the singer Lucy Rose (above). On her tour she's not actually refusing to perform in such venues, but she is doing her own research on how to bypass booking fees, and then tweeting to her fans the information on how they can buy tickets with no fee attached.

It's when the performers start taking action that those charging these fees sit up and take notice. Lucy Rose is my artist of the week.

Brewhouse closure leaves a soulless feeling

Cuts feel unkinder when they affect a venue one knows. When I worked in the West Country I knew the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton. Now it has been announced that the place is to close as a result of a combination of national cuts by the Arts Council and of Somerset County Council axing its entire arts budget. People talk of the heart going out of a town when its football team disappears. And I think that the soul goes out of a town when its theatre closes.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

**Primary Teachers Needed Urgently in Southport**

£80 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: **Due to an increase in dema...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London