What makes a classic, according to a 13 year old


On Thursday afternoon, I was working with my son on his homeschool reading. He’d just finished Fahrenheit 451, and he explained that he liked the chase scenes at the end more than the setup at the beginning and middle.

“It seems to me,” he explained, “that in books that are considered classics, they’re more concerned with the… psychology of the characters than in the chase stuff.”

I agreed with him.

That night was family movie night. we picked MARATHON MAN, which was on Netflix Streaming. Spy thrillers are a big hit with the kid, because he’s a big fan of, as he puts it, “smart people being smart.” That’s why he prefers Mission Impossible to James Bond, and why he had an allergic reaction to Dumb and Dumber.

Anyway, Marathon Man’s dental stuff went by without much comment, but the movie was slow (compared to the stuff we make the time to see in the theater) and it was low-key, and it was concerned with the relationship between the characters. When it was over, I asked him what he thought.

“I liked some parts.”

That’s his answer when he finds long stretches of a film kinda dull.

“It’s a classic seventies thriller. Remember what we said earlier about classics? The long shots of people’s faces, or the awkward conversations they have, are their to show the psychology, like you said. Maybe the greatest story ever would combine the character and the exciting event, but we can’t all be Shakespeare.”

Then he nodded and pointed at me, and retreated to his bedroom to draw or read his latest light novel. Anything to avoid a longer conversation about a movie or book.

My wife squeezed my hand and said “Very good. Very good.” She’s happy when we can explicitly tie movie night into his schooling. “But it was pretty slow.”