A few days ago, I was hunting around for a book I was reading(from the library), that apparently had been republished. I will be reviewing it, and its sequel, a bit later, once I've finished the book. While hunting around for this particular book, my eye happened to fall on a book(or was it boos?) in the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maude Hart Lovelace. I remember reading many of the Betsy-Tacy series as a child and young teen, and they were itneresting, and memorable in a way. But I wondered as I wandered: why were these being reprinted as adult books? Or, to put it more precisely, books for adult readers? I suppose you could say they were "historical", since they all take place in the early 1900's, up to about World War I.
In this case, it turned out that there is a Betsy-Tacy society, dedicated to preserving Ms. Lovelace's books for posterity. These are people(I imagine mostly middle-class, white women of a certain age), who in some way see "themselves" in a much more "innocent" time and are fond, as many people nowadays claim to be, of "innocent" books. I don't have any quarrel with this per se, but on the other hand, I don't exactly consider the Betsy-Tacy series, nor Maude Hart Lovelace, to be "classic" books, nor is she a "classic" writer, again in my opinion.
But this is just my opinion. There seem to be a lot of reissues, particularly of certain historica/romance type books, for which there is, apparently, a genuine readership. For example, many of Anya Seton's books(including my, and a lot of other people's favorite --Katherine), which is fine, because many of these books wer eout of print for a long time. Same thing with another of my favorite historical writers -- I got the name of one of the characters in my Great Medieval Science fiction Masterpiece with Neandertals from her -- Madselin. The book of that title hasn't been reprinted as far as I know, but another one calledThe Lute Player has. It's an odd book in some ways, as many Norah Lofts books are; there's a streak of, well, weird sour realism in some of them, and I remember this in The Lute Player.
The weird thing about all of this is, none of these books were considered anything but "popular" literature when I was reading them. Maude Hart Lovelace was a children's writer, and I found her books in the children's section of the library. Now they're apparently "for adults". Norah Lofts and Anya Seton were "popular" writers in the 1950's and earlier 1960's, and were certainly not treated as "literary" in any sense of the word.
Not that I'm unhappy with any of this republishing, but what makes a "classic", anyway? I'm old enough to remember reading these books when my hair wasn't gray. And I didn't think much, one way or the other, about them, except that I liked much of Norah Lofts and Anya Seton's writing, and I loved most of their subject matter. I certainly never thought they'd every be considered "classics". but I suppose tastes and times change, and things go in and out of fashion. As I said, maybe it has something to do with some people longing for more "innocent" times, whatever that may mean. As I say, I'm not pointing fingers at anybody in particular.
But it's also interesting that these books were a lot longer than is generally "allowed" nowadays, and some writing conventions that were "allowed" then have fallen out of fashion. Personally, I find longer books a lot more enjoyable, and I'm writing each of my books in this Great Medieval Science fiction Wioth Neandertals triology somewhat longer than is generally "allowed". . . .even ten or fifteen years ago, when the book I am now reading, was first published, a relatively unknown writer could get away with a 400-500-page book.
I also notice that the vast majority of these republishings are historical novels and "romantic-historicals" written by women. there aren't any similar books written by men(I mean certain "guy books" with lots of adventures, etc, not romance or "historical/romantic"). The only other genre I'm familiar with where "classic" authros have been republished is certain s-f collecions of authors like Isaac Asimov(though he has never really gone out of style), or -- all I can think of at the moment is Theodore Sturgeon, and a few others. In this case, the men outnumber the women by a huge margin, because when I frist began reading science fiction, most of the writers were men(with the exception of Zenna Henderson, some of whose work has also been reprinted).
All I can say to this is, the world of book publishing seems increasingly bizarre to me. Agents say that, from unknown authors, they want "short"(e.g. around 300 pages max) books of any kind, yet people complain that they are not getting "enough" new talent. I know economics plays a role in this; it's easier to print a shorter book than a longer one, and more profitable, at least until the author becomes better known. But why can't these guys take a chance? It's not just the publishers; it's the agents as well. And it's so difficult to get published that I see a lot of authors twisting themselves into knots to get themselves published. Again, I don't blame them.
And yes, I see a place for these old "classics" being republished(if you can, truly, call them "classics"). But why the republishing of old authors and titles, when there are a lot of good people who do good writing(and yes, I've seen that, too: I've been critiquing a lot of stuff, lately, so I know. I'm just puzzled, that's all. And I guess it's a puzzle that won't immediately be solved. At least not by me.