May 13, 2004

Functional Illiterate

Yeah, it's that lit-ah-raw-chuooah list that's been making the rounds, where you bold all the books on it that you've read, I guess so some guy who has the entire list bolded can go "Ha, ha, ha" as he polishes his pince-nez. I noticed it most recently here, but look around and I'm sure you'll see it other places.

I didn't put this in the extended entry, by the way, because I'm in one of those moods to be a perverse bastard--i.e., because I didn't feel like it and I knew it would irk a few people that I didn't put it there and that thought made me so happy. And before anyone asks, as a matter of fact I am on the rag today. Happy now?

Achebe, Chinua - Things Fall Apart
Agee, James - A Death in the Family
Austen, Jane - Pride and Prejudice
Baldwin, James - Go Tell It on the Mountain
Beckett, Samuel - Waiting for Godot
Bellow, Saul - The Adventures of Augie March
Bronte, Charlotte - Jane Eyre
Bronte, Emily - Wuthering Heights
Camus, Albert - The Stranger
Cather, Willa - Death Comes for the Archbishop
Chaucer, Geoffrey - The Canterbury Tales
Chekhov, Anton - The Cherry Orchard
Chopin, Kate - The Awakening
Conrad, Joseph - Heart of Darkness
Cooper, James Fenimore - The Last of the Mohicans
Crane, Stephen - The Red Badge of Courage
Dante - Inferno
de Cervantes, Miguel - Don Quixote
Defoe, Daniel - Robinson Crusoe
Dickens, Charles - A Tale of Two Cities
Dostoyevsky, Fyodor - Crime and Punishment
Douglass, Frederick - Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
Dreiser, Theodore - An American Tragedy
Dumas, Alexandre - The Three Musketeers
Eliot, George - The Mill on the Floss
Ellison, Ralph - Invisible Man
Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Selected Essays
Faulkner, William - As I Lay Dying
Faulkner, William - The Sound and the Fury
Fielding, Henry - Tom Jones
Fitzgerald, F. Scott - The Great Gatsby
Flaubert, Gustave - Madame Bovary
Ford, Ford Madox - The Good Soldier
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von - Faust
Golding, William - Lord of the Flies
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Hawthorne, Nathaniel - The Scarlet Letter
Heller, Joseph - Catch 22
Hemingway, Ernest - A Farewell to Arms
Homer - The Iliad
Homer - The Odyssey
Hugo, Victor - The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Hurston, Zora Neale - Their Eyes Were Watching God
Huxley, Aldous - Brave New World
Ibsen, Henrik - A Doll's House
James, Henry - The Portrait of a Lady
James, Henry - The Turn of the Screw
Joyce, James - A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
Kafka, Franz - The Metamorphosis
Kingston, Maxine Hong - The Woman Warrior
Lee, Harper - To Kill a Mockingbird
Lewis, Sinclair - Babbitt
London, Jack - The Call of the Wild
Mann, Thomas - The Magic Mountain
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia - One Hundred Years of Solitude
Melville, Herman - Bartleby the Scrivener
Melville, Herman - Moby Dick
Miller, Arthur - The Crucible
Morrison, Toni - Beloved
O'Connor, Flannery - "A Good Man is Hard to Find"
O'Neill, Eugene - Long Day's Journey into Night
Orwell, George - Animal Farm
Pasternak, Boris - Doctor Zhivago
Plath, Sylvia - The Bell Jar
Poe, Edgar Allan - Selected Tales
Proust, Marcel - Swann's Way
Pynchon, Thomas - The Crying of Lot 49
Remarque, Erich Maria - All Quiet on the Western Front
Rostand, Edmond - Cyrano de Bergerac
Roth, Henry - Call It Sleep
Salinger, J.D. - The Catcher in the Rye
Shakespeare, William - Hamlet
Shakespeare, William - Macbeth
Shakespeare, William - A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William - Romeo and Juliet
Shaw, George Bernard - Pygmalion
Shelley, Mary - Frankenstein
Silko, Leslie Marmon - Ceremony
Solzhenitsyn, Alexander - One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
Sophocles - Antigone
Sophocles - Oedipus Rex
Steinbeck, John - The Grapes of Wrath
Stevenson, Robert Louis - Treasure Island
Stowe, Harriet Beecher - Uncle Tom's Cabin
Swift, Jonathan - Gulliver's Travels
Thackeray, William - Vanity Fair
Thoreau, Henry David - Walden
Tolstoy, Leo - War and Peace
Turgenev, Ivan - Fathers and Sons
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Voltaire - Candide
Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. - Slaughterhouse-Five
Walker, Alice - The Color Purple
Wharton, Edith - The House of Mirth
Welty, Eudora - Collected Stories
Whitman, Walt - Leaves of Grass
Wilde, Oscar - The Picture of Dorian Gray
Williams, Tennessee - The Glass Menagerie
Woolf, Virginia - To the Lighthouse
Wright, Richard - Native Son

A few notes:

  • Catch-22 was the subject of the essay that got me accused of plagiarism. I think the point of my essay was to note how much I hated the book and why I hated it, but the book has since grown on me some and I don't hate it anymore. I guess I'd say it's no worse than the best episode of M*A*S*H, and if that sounds like only a tepid endorsement . . . well, it is. On the other hand, that book is where I get the habit of saying, "Oh, well, what the hell" all the time, so I guess it's given me something.

  • I admit it: I only read The Stranger because I wanted to see what Robert Smith was going on about in the song "Killing an Arab."

  • My mother's been after me to read Wuthering Heights ever since I was old enough to have half a chance at understanding it. I've tried to read it several times, but the last time will be the last time, because I finally figured out what I didn't like about it: Every single character in the book gave me a massive pain in the ass. I wanted to smack the life out of each and every one of them and put them all to work on a farm somewhere, or perhaps stick them all in factories--anything so they'd have less time for melancholy and perpetual adolescence. Do not tell me to read Wuthering Heights, okay? It ain't happening.

    Posted by Ilyka at May 13, 2004 10:30 PM in navel gazing
  • Comments

    Have you considered listening to Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights"? It's a good song.

    I agree about the book, though. Belongs in the Academy of the Overrated, down the hall from "Being John Malkovich" and every Radiohead record.

    Posted by: mikeski at May 13, 2004 10:51 PM

    I won't recommend a book I haven't read yet but I will say, War and Peace really is a good book.

    The absolute absurdities in the beginning remind me of today and the ridiculousness between the left and the right. Between those who get it and those who do only for recognition.

    I was told the book was boring, long, hard to read. Hardly. I devoured it.

    Also, if you want a damn good love story, you have got to read Jane Eyre. I LOVE that story.

    Oh, and Jack London...well, he just happens to be one of my favorite authors. They have Call of the Wild in that list but I would recommend every single one of his books.

    Ok, I'll stop now. I sure as hell have a lot on that list I need to read as well.

    Posted by: Serenity at May 14, 2004 12:52 AM

    I may actually have read some of the other things on that list, but I didn't want to say I did, in case it was only a matter of having heard about them ad nauseum from everyone that I only think I've read them.

    By the way, do you remember the early PC controversy over the Cure song? It was started by everyone's favorite Arab-American, Casey Kasem. This was when the Cure's first best-of, Staring at the Sea, came out. He got all het up because this nasty Englishboy was singing about killing Arabs, and that was very naughty and he (Kasem) wasn't going to play the song on any of his shows. He made the song as much of a hit in the States as it had ever been.

    Posted by: Andrea Harris at May 14, 2004 01:28 AM

    Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God"? Loved it. Loved it, loved it, loved it.

    And "The Iliad" and "The Odyssey"? It's like watching paint dry, it's that painful.

    Posted by: Helen at May 14, 2004 04:20 PM

    You can sure as hell skip Candide. Light, witty, sharp -- and repetitive as all hell. I quit with only five or six chapters left.

    DO read Dorian Gray, which is "light, witty, sharp" AND worthwhile. Although I question whether it qualifies as literature. It's just fun old popular fiction, to me.

    Posted by: Ben Culture at May 14, 2004 05:35 PM

    I loved Candide. I remember liking Wuthering Heights, but I was in high school when I read it and it may has soured on me as much as Romeo & Juliet has done (could those two have BEEN any stupider?).

    Hate, hate, HATED Faulkner, and could not get through more than a few pages of "As I Lay Dying." I was hoping he'd die before I had to read anymore.

    I've read about fifty books on that list. Is that good or bad?

    Posted by: Meryl Yourish at May 15, 2004 06:12 AM

    Stay away from George Eliot too. Middlemarch was a struggle for me because every character was also a pain in the ass.

    Posted by: annika at May 16, 2004 07:45 AM

    I've read 24 of them. They were all "required reading" in high school or college. I would not have picked up any of them on my own. I may try All Quiet on the Western Front again one day. Its themes were a little bit lost on me at 16 but it was still very powerful. I liked Lord of the Flies. Brave New World and Dorian Gray were OK. 30 years and thousands of books later, I hardly remember anything about the others I read from that list.

    Posted by: Rob at May 16, 2004 01:58 PM