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


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

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A supporter of the Kurdistan Workers' Association holds a placard during a demonstration against Islamic State (IS) in front The Hague  

Nothing will stop Isis except a Syrian truce

Patrick Cockburn
The victory of the NO campaign was confirmed at 6.08am on Friday morning  

Scottish referendum: Partisan fallout, Gordon Brown's comeback and Elizabeth, the Queen of unity

Jane Merrick
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam