Wednesday, August 08, 2012
I was talking with a very talented young journalist acquaintance, and I mentioned that I had seen a wonderful documentary on Harper Lee recently. I brought it up, partly because I enjoyed it so much and partly because it showed how cultured I am. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/episodes/harper-lee-hey-boo/watch-the-full-documentary/2049/
His answer stunned me. He had never read To Kill a Mockingbird. He wasn’t sure how he could have missed it in school since he’s sure it was assigned, and he never saw the movie either. He told me he didn’t like “old” movies because they spoke too fast. And besides, my own daughter, he said, hadn’t read Moby Dick (who has, really?) Now we are speaking about a well educated, well read young man with a bookshelf so laden with books that it recently tipped over. Anyway I was aghast and made him promise that he would read it or at the very least, watch the movie.
It made me think about holes in my own classics education:
The Alexandria Quartet: Justine, Balthazar, Mountolive and Clea by Lawrence Durrell which I’ve always meant to read since the smartest girl in my high school read it. Maybe I thought it was just too intellectual for me. The first three books shows the same set of circumstances looked at by several points of view. The fourth is after a period of 6 years. Yes it’s definitely on my list.
Anything about Greek Mythology (I must have been absent that day). Although I did read Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips, a 21th century adaptation of the twelve gods of Olympus living in a London town-house quarreling constantly and like the title says, behaving badly. A good place to start if you are Greek Mythology deficient is D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths.
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (oh how embarrassed I am now) but I did see the movie released in 2011 and read the wonderful time-travel sendup The Eyre Affair by Jamie Fforde. This is a start of his Thursday Next Literary Detective series where literary characters come alive…and behave badly.
Ulysses by James Joyce but I’ve seen so many adaptations in movies that I feel like I’ve read it. (see Brother Where Art Thou!)
And anything by William Faulkner. Now I am properly chastised.
Of course there are many other titles, but I don’t want to completely discredit my reputation as a reader’s advisor. If you are wondering what you haven’t read and want to fill in the gaps, start out with:
1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall which covers a century of “book readin’” complete with lovely illustrations.
Book Lust by Nancy Pearl or check out this wonderful uber-reader’s advisor’s web site: www.nancypearl.com (I have her action figure, signed and everything)
So now the next time anyone admits that they haven’t read something they should have, I will be more patient. Think about the holes in your own literary treasure chest.