Classic Advice

What makes a work of literature a classic?

Photo: SV Klimkin. Source: Morguefile

Mark Twain called a classic a book everyone wants to have read, and no one wants to read. We remember them from high-school: big, scary tomes with strange titles our teachers all said were full of wisdom. We really, really tried to get through them. Some of us actually did. But whether it was the 25th character named Ivan in a Tolstoy story, or a sentence in James Joyce’s Ulysses that went on for three pages—I really wanted my 9th-grade English teacher to try diagramming my 12th-grade literature—most of us got lost at some point and gave up.

And yet those works still stick around. Not because English teachers have a mean streak, but because these books offer insight and wisdom into the human condition: understanding that goes beyond the crisis of the moment, wisdom that goes deeper than shallow sound-bites. We share a common humanity. Great literature—books and poems that have endured for centuries—express this in a way that comes alive. That’s why Homer and Dante and Shakespeare stay relevant centuries after they were written.

Portrait of Dante by Botticelli. Source: Wikipedia

It’s no surprise that these wonders of the world of words have insight for investors. Literature is a reflection on human nature; investing is an exercise in understanding human nature, and the results are written in dollars and cents, not grammar and syntax. By re-reading these great works—more than the Cliff’s Notes summaries—we can gain insight into ourselves, and greater understanding of how investing works—or doesn’t work.

Great authors understand more than just money and math and investing. They offer a vision into what makes us tick. If we study these classics, who knows? We may even want to read them.

Douglas R. Tengdin, CFA

Chief Investment Officer

By | 2017-07-17T12:21:53+00:00 July 28th, 2016|Uncategorized|0 Comments

About the Author:

Mr. Tengdin is the Chief Investment Officer at Charter Trust Company and author of “The Global Market Update”. The audio version of each post can be heard on radio stations throughout New England every weekday. Mr. Tengdin graduated from Dartmouth College, Magna Cum Laude. He received his Master of Arts from Trinity Divinity School, Magna Cum Laude and received his Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) designation in 1992. Mr. Tengdin has been managing investment portfolios for over 30 years, working for Bank of Boston, State Street Global Advisors, Citibank – Tunisia, and Banknorth Group. Throughout his career, Mr. Tengdin has emphasized helping clients manage their financial risks in difficult environments where they can profit from investing in diverse assets in diverse settings. - Leave a comment if you have any questions—I read them all! - And Follow me on Twitter @GlobalMarketUpd

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