Friday, July 24, 2009

Thoughts on Books

There are few things in life I enjoy more than books. I even like talking about books, so I'm going to address one of my comments in an actual post. In the comments, Ray said:
hmm. So I went through that Meta-list of 100 best books ever. Do you agree with those? I've read at least 35 of them if not more... and there are definitely a bunch of books that I'd include onto that last.

What does it say about newer authors--- your work has to be OLD in order to be considered the best.

I've mentioned before on this blog that when I was in high school, I used to feel (quite sullenly, no doubt) that some of the symbolism my teachers blathered on about was totally made up. As I've gotten older and better read, I realise that the one of the problems back in high school is that I just couldn't make the necessary connections between texts or see the patterns in novels on my own. Because I was an arsey little shit (I'm not sure much has changed), I didn't like being told how to interpret what I read and since I couldn't see it for myself I tended to just not like what I was made to read. For example, in a project on genres in 11th grade, I did dystopian novels and my favourite was Walden Two by B.F. Skinner largely because the teacher hadn't read it and didn't comment on how I should interpret it at all.

On the list, I've read twenty, started several or studied parts of them at university, and only really hated one. I seldom don't finish novels, but The Wind in the Willows is a book I can distinctly remember not finishing as a child, I gave up on the King James Bible at the begats, stopped reading War & Peace because it was too heavy to take on a hiking trip and I'd forgotten too much by the time I got back (I did love it, so I certainly intended to tackle it again one day), and I'm not entirely sure I've covered the entire Illiad and Odyssey, though I've studied some parts intensely and translated a fair amount as well. The only one I've actually hated was Beloved - I really want to like Morrison's novels but I just don't. I've now taught four of the novels on the list too, and that was an incredible experience.

I think Ray is right - the lack of more modern books is noticeable. What I also noticed is that the newest books were Pullman's Dark Materials Series - I loved them, but I do wonder at them being the best of all newer works. The reason I don't object to the list, however, or the age of the books, is that I think that reading the classics is essential in order to fully understand many newer works and the older I get, the more I enjoy being able to feret out the connections. Intertextuality kind of rocks.

For sure, I would love to read every last book on that list (minus perhaps the other Morrison, though I do mean to force myself through at least one more of her books, as perhaps she'll grow on me.) It's not a bad start, I think.

That said, I'm presently reading some vampire porn, a young adult novel, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (which also is handy as a paperweight and for strengthening my purse-carrying muscles.)

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