When I'm reading a book that has been around for some time - 50 years, 100 years, 150 years, more - I always start thinking about what it is about the work that makes it last. Various explanations are offered, ranging from tackling universal and timeless themes, to the simple fact that teacher and professors keep them alive by assigning them to successive generations of students. I don't think either of these are the case. The latter disregards any value of the work itself, and the former doesn't account for all of the works that have faded into the haze of time despite taking on some of these same themes. It is clear to me that the quality of the works themselves - the skill of the writer as artist - is important, and I think the creation of fascinating characters that hold the attention of people over time is also essential. But even with the above, there seems to be some other intangible element. You can look at classics like Jane Eyre and Moby Dick, or read the works of Faulkner, Hemingway, Nabokov, and many others that could be listed here, and I believe you can see a certain level of brilliance in the writing that makes one nod one's head and say "Sure, I see why that book is still read." In other circumstances, such as in Fantasy for example, you can find writers like H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard whose popularity now dwarfs anything they had achieved in their lifetimes. The same can be said for Tolkien. Lovecraft and Howard were pulp writers, however, and there have been many of them over the years, some as gifted or more gifted in terms of sheer skill as writers. You can find much in the actual writing of these two that doesn't sit well with modern sensibilities, or may even come across as amateurish. And yet the ongoing success of their creations is impossible to deny. So what do you all think makes a book last. I reject out of hand any explanation that relies on luck - that is too easy and all together too unlikely, in my view. But what is it, then? And is it possible to identify it at the time a work is written? Could Conrad have known people would still be reading his works one hundred years later. Could Dostoevsky have known? What about Shelley and Stoker? And, finally, if you can predict these things ahead of time, what do you see out there now that you believe will still be read by more than two or three big-nosed academics in one hundred years?