I was over at a friend’s place a few nights ago, and he said that he had read the classics but not Jane Austen because her books are “all about marriage or something.”
As a Jane Austen fan and something of a reader of myself, I was slightly offended but not utterly surprised.
We often belittle the Things we only possess and are only really inclined to possess a passing familiarity with.
Here are some authors and books – CLASSICS – which I have not read:
Yeah. Never got around to anything of the Dickens. But I can surmise. Urchins, cobbling, buggies and blacking factories, a magician…?
If I were to write an autobiographical novel, I’d call it Siegfried & Roy. It would, naturally, draw on my childhood experiences of big cats and the men who love them.
Jack London. Right. I actually watched a Canadian TV show back in the 90s called White Fang, which starred an unhyphenated husky instead of a wolf-dog. Kind of like Memoirs of a Geisha, which had Chinese people playing Japanese people, all of it and everyone caught up in a lavish production.
Memoirs of a Geisha is not by a geisha just like White Fang is not by a wolf or a dog. But canines at least – and in any form, so far as I know – cannot write.
I’ve never read Memoirs of a Geisha either, and neither has Jack London.
It’s safe to say that we both never will.
Plato’s The Republic
I “read” this only in the sense that I had a first year university lecturer who summarized The Republic from her wonderfully meticulous and wondrously vapid notes, verbatim. It was a weekly, three-hour long class in the dead of winter and my only real accomplishment during the whole Thing – the whole ordeal – was that I lost all my vitamin D that semester.
These were the days before the easy wisdom of Wikipedia, you see. I guess I could “wiki” Plato right now and impress the shit out of all of you (unless, of course, you all “wiki” it too and then we’ll all be standing, exposed, in a pool of our own inadequacies). But simple ease has never been much of a contender to absolute laziness.
So…yeah. According to Plato, this – everything this – is, um, The Matrix.
Walden (or Life in the Woods)
What I know of Walden, I’ve managed to piece together from fractured coffee shop conversations, The Simpsons and a snippet or two from CSI (who knew?). Not to mention my own prejudices, which can be shockingly astute.
Yes. They are.
So, ok. Deep breath.
He sits on pumpkins and thinks that that is just neat.
I think this is really a book that is about having your cake and eating it too, even if you have to bake it yourself (and not entirely from scratch).
Although I have not read Walden, I have read A Walk in the Woods (1998), in which Bill Bryson writes that “Henry David Thoreau thought nature was splendid, splendid indeed, so long as he could stroll to town for cakes and barley wine, but when he experienced real wilderness, on a visit to Katahdin in 1846, he was unnerved to the core.”
Sounds apt. Exactly apt.
What is with wolves and literature? How about something kicky and new? Steppennarwhal! Steppenmanatee!! Steppenhippopotamus!!! I’d be all about that. Totally.
Anyway, the internet tells me that Steppenwolf is this:
A wild longing for strong emotions and sensations seethes in me, a rage against this toneless, flat, normal and sterile life.
It is also this:
I like to dream, yes, yes
Right between the sound machine
On a cloud of sound I drift in the night
Any place it goes is right
Goes far, flies near
To the stars away from here
Perhaps I should read Steppenwolf while listening to Steppenwolf. Maybe they’ll sync up.
This is a kind of a cheat because I am always continually trying to read Moby Dick. The intent is always there, nice and solid, but the execution is always sloppy at best.
10 months later and, like, 280 pages in, and it turns out it’s about a whale.
And revenge. Or something.
Bryson, Bill. (1998). A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail. Broadway Books.
 (The Cindy Phan Story!)