Okay, show of hands: who can honestly say that they’ve read the big classics—think War & Peace, The Canterbury Tales, etc—whether assigned in school or otherwise, thoughtfully and cover-to-cover? I’m just going to assume there aren’t many hands up, and the ones that are…I think you might be lying a little bit. But only a little bit.
I nonchalantly accuse you of lying today after reading this piece at the Huffington Post. You see, there’s this weird thing that happens with the classics, where people insist on having read them, but for whatever reason never really did. Personally I find this intriguing, because if there are enough rogue scholars amongst us who insist on having read certain classics when they haven’t, does this, in some part, contribute to keeping certain titles in the literary canon over others? Maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but either way, I enjoyed looking through the thirteen titles the piece offers. As for me, I can honestly say that I’ve read Moby Dick and A Christmas Carol cover-to-cover, but that’s about it. Though I’d happily assert having read them all to impress people. See how nicely that works?