Originally Posted by lawyerdad
"Making a ripple" generally refers to making some lasting, significant contribution to the history and understanding of the particular art form.
I think your conception of the canon conflates books notable for their role in, say, political or social history (Fenimore Cooper, Uncle Tom's Cabin, The Jungle, etc) than those that are considered classics primarily because of their artistic merit.
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I guess I just don't get many of the books that are of great artistic merit. As an example, James Joyce's Ulysses no doubt pushed the boundaries of the art form, but reading it just gives me a serious migraine. It's like eating something really nasty because it's supposed to be good for me. Has anyone who read Ulysses actually enjoyed reading it?
I guess I expect a "good" book to have characters I care about, plot elements that are interesting, and prose that doesn't make me feel like banging my head against a wall. Some of the classics manage to have amazing prose, serious and complex themes, and still manage to be engaging to read (most anything by Hemingway, for example.)
I guess that much of the "great" literature is just lost on me (and I was one class away from graduating with a major in English, so I've read a lot of the great books.)