It isn’t difficult to find a recommended list of authors you should read or have read. Everyone acknowledges the literary importance of authors such as Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Proust, Goethe, Flaubert, Dante, Cervantes, Eliot, Dickens. But so many of these authors have been normalized in press and education that they, even when most successful, tend to inhabit the most hackneyed regions of our collective memory.
As an aging member of the university study of literature which adhered to the precepts of the (then) new criticism with potent demiurges the likes of F. R. Leavis, William Empson, Harold Bloom, and Frank Kermode, I worshipped the works of those giants of literature. But looking back I see that my education tended to direct me down the avenue of the acceptable canon and I missed a lot of stimulating reading through the years.
Continue reading “Books From the Back Room”
You may have noticed that I whizzed through an uncharacteristic number of novels the last two months. It was easy and usually a great deal of fun reading detective thrillers, mystery stories, and an occasional example of contemporary fiction. Unlike my doubts expressed after reading Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, I found I actually could read a book a day, as long as I was selective as to size or content.
It’s quite a different thing to zip through a Mike Shayne mystery in a day than it is to read a novel such as Mysteries of Udolpho slowly and carefully.
Continue reading “Big Fat Books Need Love Too”
I’ve noticed that many new High School reading lists contain more and more relevant contemporary novels. Of course many of the best works were not even written when I was in school but it’s good to also see some emphasis still remains on the more traditional “Classics.”
Here are the 15 classics that are High School Must Reads:
Continue reading “High School Must Reads”
I recently read a piece in the New York Times Book Section that had me shaking my head. The subject of Bookends was “Is the Writer’s Only Responsibility to His Art?” The direction of this inquiry seemed obviously focused on the artist’s approach to his or her art (in this case literature) but the responses to the question clearly misinterpreted it to refer to the other responsibilities the artist might have, to his kids or to some moral code imposed by society or religion.
The quotation is from that drunken rascal William Faulkner (watch the film Barton Fink for a fun fictional representation of a Faulkner clone).
Perhaps here is an opportunity to recall Parker’s Myths of Literature:
Continue reading “Myths About Literature”