Saturday, August 1, 2009

Great Books

A friend of mine challenged me to write down 15 book titles as quickly as I could, focusing on books that influenced the way I look at the world. When I was finished, I had maybe two of the "great books," the "classics" that I read in college (I was an English major). A classic, as Mark Twain is supposed to have said, is a book that everybody praises and nobody reads. The classics have two things in common for me: 1) they are boring, and 2) they are melodrama. Take The Scarlet Letter, for instance. Aside from a completely bogus first chapter, the prose is torture to wade through, and when you do, you get a mysterious stranger, a deep secret, startling revelations -- something that belongs in Nancy Drew or Scooby Doo, the sort of thing that Jane Austen made fun of in Northanger Abbey.
The great books are great because we've been told they are. Here's my Shakespeare hypothesis again: Take The Beverly Hillbillies, examine every nuance, every gesture, every episode for 400 years, being sure to find deep meaning in them all, and Voila! Shakespeare all over.

5 comments:

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Good. I will no longer feel embarrassed that I have read all of Agatha Christi and the complete works of Zane Grey.

On both your houses said...

Right on! Throw off your chains! Admit you read comics as a kid (or maybe still do). There's more wisdom in Calvin and Hobbes than in The House of the Seven Gables.

bekkieann said...

Oh dear, I actually like the classics. I even reread them on purpose with no other reason than to re-enjoy them. Of course, Wuthering Heights was probably the original romance novel, so I shouldn't be such a snob.

On the other hand, I dislike philosophy or self-help books. But love history or historical novels.

Jacqui Binford-Bell said...

Right on with Calvin and Hobbes! But Bekkieann I love historic novels and history too. But some classics for sure. Unless it is Shakespeare I loathe romance novels. And what was Romeo and Juliet but one of the first romance novels on stage.

Bee's Blog said...

Having read this post I can now post my 15 without feeling stupid!