Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Talk to me not of blasphemy

by Stephanie

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?


  1. I've read a couple of them. I love Chaucer and Tolstoy. I gave Joyce a fair shot and he gave me a bleeding headache in return.

  2. A Christmas Carol, Moby Dick and 1984. All for school assignments. Found them different but not worth rereading.

  3. I've read A Christmas Carol and the first page of Moby Dick. Well, that's not really true. I couldn't get past the first paragraph of Moby Dick before putting it down.

    There are quite a few classics I've read, but by no means have I come even close to reading all of them.

  4. I read "A Christmas Carol" every year during the holiday season. And didn't most people have to read "1984" in high school?

  5. Okay, now I'm worried because Infinite Jest is actually on my reading list for this month, but after seeing the words "unwieldy bulk" twice in the short description, I'm not so sure about it.

  6. Rushdie's "the Satanic Verses" is in my reading list, but I haven't read it yet. Actually, I haven't read any of the books on that list cover to cover. I've read much of "the Canterbury tales" for school, but not all of it. I'd like to be able to say that I've read "A Christmas Carol", because I like Dickens, but I've heard the story so many times (or seen in movies), that I just don't have the desire to read it.

    I had an English professor who was a huge James Joyce fan, and reading his short stories was enough to turn me off of ever trying his novels. I did have to read "Wuthering Heights" for that class, and resented every second I spent with those characters.

    The classics that I have read, and enjoyed, were "Great Expectations", anything by Shakespeare (though "Hamlet" is my favorite), "To Kill a Mockingbird", "The Chrysalids" (Wikipedia says its US title is "Re-Birth"), "The Time Machine", "Dracula", and I don't know if it counts, but absolutely anything by James Tiptree Jr.

  7. I've read a lot of classics, including War & Peace and The Canterbury Tales. But I've only read one book by Henry James and I really want to keep it that way.


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