Log in

16 July 2009 @ 12:13 am
And so why should this be any different?  
So some blog I've never heard of, but which looks both classy and annoyingly contrarian, posted a list of books you totally don't have to read, even though people will tell you you do. I do not have a problem with this concept. I have long ago come to terms with the knowledge that I, personally, am never going to read Finnegans Wake. I'm never going to read In Search of Lost Time. It is entirely possible that The List will go unfinished forever because I might never read An American Tragedy. So I get it. I get acknowledging that books are long and plentiful, and life is short and singular.

BUT THIS IS A TERRIBLE LIST. A Tale of Two Cities is a "failure" and I should just read Bleak House and "the first half of David Copperfield" instead? Are you saving me time out of my life here, or are you trying to kill my soul? And White Noise? The Corrections? On the Road? These books are enjoyable. They are not going to tax you too much. They are not going to waste your time. I really do not see the harm in taking a week to read any of them, and the criticism of the first two is so fucking ridiculous I can't even start, except to say that maybe the writers here have never seen what a college student eats. It is not pretty. Oh my god PLUS On the Road gets the irritating "oh well maybe if I were FIFTEEN and trying to be COOL OR SOMETHING" treatment, which: yes. Everyone who likes Kerouac is fifteen. Gosh sirs and madams, you are so right. Spot on. You really nailed those lousy beatniks.

Also, I've never had anyone try to push D.H. Lawrence on me, and I'm not sure I've ever even heard of the book they tell me to avoid, so at least we have that one in common. Thanks, The Second Pass! I will make sure to keep avoiding a minor work by a major writer. I will also agree with them on the John Dos Passos, just because that is one of the things I'm pretty sure I'm never going to read. I don't know, I hear it's okay, but man there are so many things I want to read, you know? Which yes I know is the point, but THIS LIST IS SO AWFUL IT HAS ADDLED MY BRAIN. But if there is a classic novel that sucks, you should tell me so that I may take that under advisement.

The new Dave Eggers book addled my brain a little, too, but in a great way. It is so good, you guys. It is very real and immediate and actually really upsetting, but I don't want to tell you why because I want you to be as horrified as I was (because this fucking country, my god). You are welcome. Also, it is a McSweeney's book, so you should really buy it, just so you can have this beautiful book on your shelf. It's on sale, and goodness their books are gorgeous. It has shiny bits! SHINY BITS. Very important.
Current Mood: tired
Current Music: Placebo: Days Before You Came.
Tamagotchi's Sparkling President: marilyn rolleyeskittypuppy on July 16th, 2009 05:45 am (UTC)
holy shit, I'm only 4 down and this list has already INFLAMED MY FURY SO HARD! I wonder what books this guy actually likes...
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on July 16th, 2009 03:49 pm (UTC)
RIGHT? I'm having a really hard time articulating why it bothers me so much, too, and that's really what's making me mad. I hate lots of books! I post about books I hate ALL THE TIME. I don't think I'm as much of a dick as these people, though. Maybe that's it.
Tamagotchi's Sparkling Presidentkittypuppy on July 16th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
well you probably hate books that are entirely hateable, instead of CLASSIC WORKS OF LITERATURE THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD!! that already gives you an advantage haha
these are the dustbowl days__uptight on July 17th, 2009 05:20 am (UTC)
I'm reading One Hundred Years of Solitude right now and I KNEW it would be on this list. Which is absurd, because it's brilliant.

A classic I would never recommend would be, like...Jane Eyre. Because my God that was the most boring thing I have ever suffered through.
palemovie on July 17th, 2009 04:03 pm (UTC)
This blog is tearing into two kinds of books. One is "high literature," the other is "Oprah's Book Club." A few are both. The thing people forget is NOT EVERYBODY CAN READ EVERY BOOK. Virginia Woolf is kind of hard to read. So is Marquez. I've personally had literature professors recommend me away from books because THEY WERE REALLY HARD. Hell, the hardest-nosed of professors only assigned chunks of Proust.
Liliann: She smokes?evilburrito on July 26th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
AVOID LES MISERABLES AT ALL COSTS. That is the only advice I can give. I may have told you this already. You may have already suffered through it, but NO ONE NEEDS TO READ 150 PAGES ABOUT THE SEWERS IN PARIS.
iamfitz on August 4th, 2009 01:52 pm (UTC)
Sweet Creeping Jesus! What the hell is this?

I couldn't read The Corrections. I tried. I found the prose stilted. It was MFA writing. I hate MFA writing. Lots of the new "important" books are MFA writing. American writing has sucked for a number of years now. It's because of MFA programs. Do not let someone you love attend one. Ever. I'm convinced they kill the soul and leave zombie fiction in their wakes.

I also can't read DeLillo. Without going on about postmodernism too much, though, I kind of think that, if you're into it, and I think you are, you might want to at least pick up and leaf through Dos Passos. The worst that could happen is that you spend a half hour confirming your suspicions. That's not so bad.

The Road I've written about previously, and it was pure shite. It also doesn't belong on a list of supposed classics. (The Rainbow? Really? That's the Lawrence they pick? This alone betrays what fuckwads "The Contributors" are. Hell, at least have to guts to take on Sons and Lovers or something like that, something he wrote at the top of his game. Idiot children.) The Road can't be fired from the canon, for it's not part of the canon.

I'm not fond of Wolff, but I respect her greatly. Once again, however, the cowardly Contributors pick a lesser work. I've always thought that we judge an artist by her best work, not her least. It only seems fair, but fairness isn't as entertaining to the mindless masses (who haven't read any of these books, or anything more challenging than King or Grisham in years) as snarky snideness, is it?

I've gone on long enough, and won't mount a massive defense of On the Road, except to say that the people who think it's for teenagers either a) aren't refering to the book at all but instead the Pop Culture Kerouac Myth (see Hemingway: the Man and the Legend) or b) didn't really understand the point of the novel at all, and probably have never understood that Kerouac is a religious author. They are the readers of Dan Brown. And they suck.

fitz (likes a bit of magical realism from time to time)
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on August 4th, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
I mean, like I said: it's fine if you don't like these books! Totally fine. I know a lot of people don't like The Corrections (which, I should say, I read when I was about 17 and trying to be impressive) or Delillo. That's fine! We will disagree, but THAT IS FINE. What I don't see the point of is saying "NO ONE SHOULD READ THIS BOOK EVER, AND WHOEVER TOLD YOU TO READ IT IS LYING TO THEMSELVES." What a shit thing to say. "I'm not fond of Wolff, but I respect her greatly" really gets at the heart of why this is so stupid and childish and self-centered. I'm glad you have a blog, Contributors, but that doesn't mean you get to dictate the CANON now.

"Everyone who likes this book is fifteen years old" is one of my least favorite criticisms of anything ever, right up there with "it was too long". It's such a stupid potshot that doesn't actually mean anything, except that you haven't taken five minutes to figure out why anyone who isn't fifteen would like it. Lazy. Laaaaaaaazyyyyy. Anyway, the defense of On the Road is unnecessary, don't worry, although I'm not as into him as you seem to be. So.

I made my boyfriend read this comment (he made many affirming hand gestures to himself), and we had this conversation:
he: I don't know. I used to think that about MFA programs, and then I looked up people who'd been in them, and some great things have come out of them.
me: Like what?
he: Like, yes, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is one of the greatest novels ever written!
me: Yes.
he: And Foster Wallace.
me: I don't think you're going to make a lot of inroads arguing Foster Wallace with this particular dude.

AND FINALLY, I guess I should pick up USA, you're right. It won't kill me, and I might like it. WHO KNOWS.
iamfitz on August 4th, 2009 03:21 pm (UTC)
He's right, I'm sure there have been some very good writers to come out of MFA programs (though I read Cuckoo manymany years ago and seem to recall a problem with the symbolism...something about a dog, I think? I'd have to go back and read it again), but in the last twenty years or so too much of that writing seems to be written for the approval of people attending MFA programs. The same can't be said for An American Tragedy (which seems to be cool to hate now, but isn't as bad as you may have heard).

I really should read Wallace, eh? I know I should. I just...IT'S TOO LONG!!!

fitz (is sorry, but couldn't resist)
Love Among the Ruins (Walker Percy)pixleyanthology on August 4th, 2009 03:53 pm (UTC)

Oh also An American Tragedy. Is it cool to hate that? It's on my 100 books list and it's one of the things I'm least looking forward to reading. It's....so long. NOT TOO LONG, THOUGH, PROBABLY, I DON'T KNOW, IT'S REAL LONG
iamfitz on August 6th, 2009 07:11 pm (UTC)
I have Infinite Jest sitting next to me right now. It is very long, even without the footnotes. And the type is small. And is the whole thing written in the present tense like a screenplay?

Okay, Infinite Jest, I'm giving you one hundred pages for you to prove you're irresistible. That's like, ten percent of you, I think. So hop to it!