Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Single Shot, No Chaser -- 10/3/2012

What is this? A post on WTMCF that doesn't involve League of Legends at all except for the fact that I just mentioned it? What could this mean? Is the writer ever going to stop asking rhetorical questions? Just how stupid does he think I am? When did this become a post-existential referendum on the nature of reality? Just now? Or then?

How much fun was that to read? I'm doing it again, aren't I? But the point remains. Creative, original, derivative or boring, experimental introductions and experimental novels run through the gamut of literary practice, and few ever succeed. Yet people keep on writing them and if the resulting work is well-publicized and wins a few awards through nepotism, shilling, and shameless bribery, it could even be honored with a Genius Grant or some other ridiculous distinction of merit that "My Immortal" will never achieve.

More than likely the end result will end up never being part of high school students subjected to the most horrifying experience any nefarious teacher could inflict on his or her unsuspecting wards: reading good books.

You would expect that after two hundred words I would have managed to put together some sort of coherent thesis, but this post was inspired by something I read over at Cracked, and I'm still somewhat shell-shocked by the depth of ignorance one of my favorite Cracked writers displayed. In fact, before you continue reading, you should go check it out. I'll still be here when you get done. Unless you get caught in the evil Cracked trap of clicking the related links at the bottom of the page. I did that once and it took every ounce of my being and the assistance of Chuck Norris riding a dinosaur to escape from that never-ending morass of comedy.

Back already?

My issue with Christina's assertions is that she tries to make a broad statement about whether or not the dead white guys managed to put together readable books while somehow equally condemning people who make broad statements about the quantative superiority of the classics over modern popular literature. And then she ties it all into a blanket statement about how forcing young adults to read Catcher in the Rye is making them not want to read at all.

I am aware that it is comedy writing. I love comedy writing. And I've read hundreds upon hundreds of Cracked articles because I think the site is that damn good. However, I always take umbrage when someone tries to say that kids should be given a break from good literature in order to read brain porn.

I may be one of the rare individuals who takes immense pleasure from the experience classical writing offers, and she certainly covered her ass there by identifying the rather small segment of the population that actually does so. I make no argument that kids should just be forced to read something merely because I happen to like it.

In fact, most of the Western canon frustrates me to no end, just like it seems to frustrate her. The difference lies in the fact that I don't think children should be taught that reading isn't always fun and that sometimes you have to slog through Brontean drivel in order to enjoy Hemingway. Rather, the more important lesson to teach them is that they should find a way to make reading the novels they dislike fun.

Her suggestion that teenagers be allowed to express negative opinions of great works is perfect, but she undermines it with the snide subliminal implication that teachers are wroth to do so because of some vast conspiracy to torment future generations with Holden Caulfield's angst and Wharton's prosaic normalcy.

Basically, I'm using all of this as an excuse to post a short list of works that I feel everyone should be forced to find entertaining in some way, shape or form, because doing so will indisputably make you a better person and maybe keep libraries open just a little while longer.

Ulysses -- No book that ends with the best literary description of an orgasm ever could possibly be boring.
The Old Man and the Sea -- Pure poetry, gripping drama, and gorgeous syntax.
Far From the Madding Crowd
The Left Hand of Darkness
V for Vendetta
Slaughterhouse Five
Bleak House
The Woman in White
A Tale of Two Cities
Ethan Frome
Dune -- My best suggestion here, read this as the pinnacle of masculinist literature, which isn't a thing, but if it was, Frank Herbert's Dune would undeniably be the tip
The Lord of the Rings -- I only include this because more and more children are being forced to watch the movies instead of reading the books. Yes, the books are an Oxford don's philologic phantasy and filled with more archaisms than a Victorian boudoir, but the language is truly beautiful, in a way that possibly no popular work of literature has been since. Junot Diaz included, sadly.

I guess I just feel strongly that it is possible that people will not understand some of the classics, and I agree with Christina's oil well analogy, but if they aren't exposed to them in a setting that forces it upon them, the overwhelming majority of adolescents will never read these books. And what would that mean for future generations interacting with my own version of the great American novel? It would mean shit to them, and I really don't want that to happen. My unborn children are counting on those royalties.

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