Monday, November 10, 2014

What Have You Read Lately?

Far be it for me to link to a Buzzfeed article*, but, well, why not?

This one is a quiz (Yay! A quiz!) about lying about what books you've read.

The quiz, by itself, is humorous enough in its conception, but I won't lie; there's several books there I've never even heard of. (I'm assuming it's a bunch of stuff that high schoolers now have to read.)

It seems like no one really reads any of these books; the only one with a majority is The Great Gatsby, To Kill A Mockingbird, Twilight, and (barely) The Catcher In The Rye. I'm a little surprised at 1984 and Great Expectations, which I thought were more or less standard in our curriculum, and at the very least 1984 is pretty good independent of an English class. (As an aside, I'm fully aware that this is an internet quiz, so it's far from scientific, but still.)

The only book on the list I've ever lied about reading is Gravity's Rainbow. I know deep in my heart that I would love that book, and it's been sitting on my shelf for, oh, I don't know, ten years now, but every time I crack it open I just get a feeling in my stomach that I don't want to even start it. (For those who don't know, Thomas Pynchon is known for writing very...dense books.) So I kind of have convinced myself that I know I would like the book and would understand it so, from a purely theoretical standpoint, I have read it. Theoretically.

I'm a little disappointed that Catch-22 isn't read by more people; I find it to be a very accessible book, and its humor foreshadows a lot of the satire-laden humor that enmeshes a lot of today's culture.

Of course, I generally find lists of books to be a waste of time. Back around the turn of the century,
the Modern Library released a list of the "Best 100" books of the 20th century. I was in college at the time, and looking over the list I realized that I was woefully unrepresented; I believe I had maybe read ten of them, and most of them were begrudgingly read at the behest of my high school teachers. So I decided that, as part of my quest to be a well-rounded individual, I would try to read as many as I could.

I decided to start at the top of the list, which was Ulysses by James Joyce. I got about thirty pages into that pile of dogshit and declared that if this is what the critics think is the best book of the 20th century, I didn't even want to bother with the rest of the list, so my project was immediately abandoned and I just read stuff I liked. Let me repeat: Ulysses is garbage. It's a steaming pile of pretentious vomit, whose only utility in life is to prop up the sad, lonely lives of tenured professors, whose only bright spot in life is the self-masturbatory exaltation of pretending like Ulysses has hidden depths to which only English majors have the super special secret key. I'm all for literary theory and subtly and high culture, but Ulysses isn't it. I wouldn't use Ulysses to prop up a wobbly table lest the table begin to deconstruct itself. Ulysses is what should have been a publisher's reject, the literary equivalent of the rotten scrapings from a hot, fetid dumpster. Ulysses has done more to destroy joy in literature than all the book burnings in history combined. Ulysses is not a good book.

Anyway, most books are awesome and people should read more. The end.


*PSA: I hate Buzzfeed. In and of itself it's not a particularly bad web site; link and content farms are hardly new, and they actually have some utility. However, I feel they're responsible for the obnoxious "You won't BELIEVE what happened when this one-legged dog came home from Afghanistan!" clickbait horseshit, so they are permanently on my shit list.

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