Update: least favorite books and better choices

I’m thinking today about books I just could not abide being dropped from the literary canon, the master list of top contributions to literature. Join along if you’d like with the famous pieces of writing you cannot live without. (Tomorrow is the pieces nobody else knows that you can’t live without.)

My original post on the ten books I loathe that other people think are just humanity’s gift to literature is here.

It’s a decent list of canonical books I avoid like the plague. Catcher in the Rye, Heart of Darkness, Wuthering Heights, you name it by Hemingway, Billy Budd, Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man,
On the Road, The Great Gatsby. This time I’d add Pilgrim’s Progress (I’m sorry. I know it’s important. But puhleeze with the terrible writing.) And the Crying of Lot 49.
And here comes the bombshell. I’ve never been a big fan of the Brontes. Austen’s fine. I certainly wouldn’t say I dislike them. But they give me the minor league fantods, generally. Which makes me like a person who avoids chocolate or wears high tops at the beach, I know.

But howsabout some books I hope forever remain in the Western canon?
Awesome books no matter how you slice them:
Don Quixote. Seriously, if anything lives on to the twenty-seventh century, it’s this bad boy.
Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Only poem you’re find up in this list. You heard me, J. Alfred.
An American Tragedy. Pride, greed, lust, entitlement, stupidity, fear. American indeed.
Portrait of a Lady. I would vote for Sister Carrie, too, but one can only be so Dreiser-centric these days…and James does understated better.
The Scarlet Letter. Don’t care how old fashioned it seems. There is never a time when a woman holding her head high about her decisions and passions whilst protecting her child isn’t a timely read. I aspire to Hester Prynne.
The Yellow Wallpaper. There would be no Bell Jar without Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Hell, there would be no women writing without CPG. We’d all be making the rounds, if you know what I mean.
The Turn of the Screw. Yeah you did, James. Went there. And how.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Defy worthless authority and keep an ear open for humanity. And the colloquial.
As I Lay Dying. They don’t get more tortured, f—ed up, and evocative than Faulkner. Dang.
Light in August. Just when you thought the above couldn’t be more true, he did it again.
Metamorphosis. Holy howling fantods, Bugman.
Ulysses. Gotta read the Odyssey, though. So it’s a two-fer.
Native Son. I don’t think there is a more powerful, viscerally terrifying novel about humanity in a society that deems you animalistic.
Invisible Man. It’s been too long since I reread this one, but several scenes remain fully intact, like paintings in my mind.
1984. Terrifying current world. Need I say more?
The Color Purple. Turns everything on its ear. Everything.
Nightwood. And this did it first.

So which books do you hope never die (sorry, Sister Carrie, I fear you’re almost already gone…) out of our classrooms and libraries? Which in this list would you toss for another that Western culture should not be without? (Poetry people, stand up for yourselves. Cuz I sure as heck ain’t gonna push poetry, but you should. And maybe someone to vouch for something from Shakespeare and Ethan Frome and The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas because I can’t quite but someone should…)

Tomorrow I’ll go for books I want added to everyone’s bookshelf, canon or no. But for now, what is the best from the list of the best?

49 thoughts on “Update: least favorite books and better choices

  1. Dear Lord, you know I almost peed myself when I saw Ulysses on that list…you just had to torture me that way, didn’t you? You naughty thing. Could we replace Ulysses with the short story The Dead? Sigh. I didn’t think you’d agree to that.

    I agree with so many of your choices though–Orwell, AILD (Vardaman is the best!), Yellow Wallpaper, Metamorphosis, Native Son.

    Although I almost make myself gag when I say it, because EVERYONE says it, I’d have to put Harper Lee’s TKAM on that list. I know she’s everyone’s favorite prom date, but that book just rocks. I’m on that bandwagon.

    East of Eden…in my opinion, best Steinbeck had to offer by far.

    Short fiction of Flannery O’Connor–I know everyone else worships Eudora, but I love the sheer audacity of O’Connor. She pushes the envelope almost into absurdity, but then hits you where it hurts.

    Machiavelli’s The Prince. Still relevant today, if not moreso. Greed as a creed.

    Toni Morrison, but not the Bluest Eye. It was Sula that hit me in the jaw. Blindingly, viciously tough.

    I’d advocate for poetry, but for some reason I’m coming up blank except for Prufrock (sorry, I’m a fan).

    Brain is churning, I’ll be back. And I can forgive you for loving Ulysses if you can forgive me Gatsby…

  2. Niiiiiice. You have a *bunch* of my faves on here. But really? Not Gatsby? You might have to move out of the country. ;) Kidding.

    I am SO with you on Heart of Darkness. Just seeing that on there made me repost the unloved books list at my new place. Shiver. May I never have to read that again…

  3. Oh, I forgot. The BEST of the best here. I’d vote for Quixote, Wallpaper, AILD, Turn of the Screw, Purple. Though I would add more poetry (Mariner is def. up there…maybe I’ll do a whole list on poetry, actually, in a few days).

  4. Poems:

    That sweet little poem about the plums in the icebox by William Carlos Williams. Can’t abide the Red Wheelbarrow one, but the plum poem is a gem in its simplicity.

    Gotta have Emily Dickinson. Just for sheer example of brevity, phrasing, use of slant rhyme. My favorite: “Tell the truth/but tell it slant/…”

    Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky and poems by Gerald Manley Hopkins because they “make up” words that don’t exist and yet make sense anyways…who can’t picture what menace a “Frumious Bandersnatch” is?

    Plath. I know there are serious haters out there, but I think you gotta have her. Not necessarily “Daddy.” Or “Ariel.” Or even “Morning Song,” although I think we’re going in the right direction there. What (in my admittedly biased opinion) is Plath at her best is when she is expressing her ambivalence about motherhood and her struggle to find a separate self, some evidence of “me” outside of the role of “Mommy.”

    My fave:


    Your clear eye is the one absolute beautiful thing.
    I want to fill it with color and ducks,
    The zoo of the new
    Whose name you meditate–
    April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

    Stalk without wrinkle,
    Pool in which images
    Should be grand and classical

    Not this troublous
    Wringing of hands, this dark
    Ceiling without a star.


    I mean, gorgeous, honest, terrifying. There is so MUCH there, don’t you think?

    I know a lot of critics think she’s a self-absorbed whiner, but what writer isn’t?? I mean, if you want to talk self-absorbed, read freaking Philip Roth!!

    Every time I read Plath, I’m blown away by her intensity and really glad that I’m not in her f*%king head. What a bad place to be. If you’re gonna harp on someone, harp on Anne Sexton.

    And if anyone nominates Wallace Stevens for anything, I am going to go play in the street. WTF is that Anecdote/Jar thing about, anyways?

  5. Are you tired of me yet? You’ve had my mind churning all day. Guess this chick is passionate about her reading material….who knew? I thought that part of me was sorta dead.

    –I just have to throw out there that I fucking hate Huck Finn. I can’t even pinpoint why. I think it’s that whole side story with the swindling actors…just loses me every time.

    –Jane Austen? I am not sure. I do admire her satire, but her endings are too pat…although I know that’s a reflection of the time. I guess, if pressed, I’d pick Emma, because Emma Woodhouse is an egotistical, meddling twit and you still end up rooting for her. An anti-hero in a bonnet, if you will. When an author can make a total twat likeable, that’s something, don’t you think? Although maybe not in your case, since you ain’t a Catcher fan.

    –Poe? Any thoughts? Frankly, I liked his story The Cask of Amontillado (sp? can’t be buggered right now) better than any of his poems.

    –As for old Will Shakes…my answer will always be: Anything but Lear.

  6. @Kitch I adore you. Of course I’ll forgive you Gatsby. Terrifically important. Wrote a whole chapter in my thesis on that piece of fiction. Know what I really can’t stand? Not one redeemable character in the lot. Want all of them to burn.
    Nelle Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird? Shut your mouth, how did I forget that? Yes.
    Morrison absolutely, but here’s the thing. I love huge chunks of her prose, I love what she does and the places she turns my mind. But I don’t love the books.
    Plums make me angry. You know that. Don’t care if I love his poetry. Pick another. I’d arm wrestle you for the red wheelbarrow.
    Dickinson (don’t tell Ink) meh. I need to read more Plath. She scares me. In a slippery slope kind of way. Some things are too dangerous for me right now.
    And is it me or did you mention one of the Great White Narcissists in my blog? Get outta here with your passing reference to Philip Roth. Blech. Updike. Double blech.
    Prufrock. [shrug] sure.
    @Ink you and I both know Gatsby is huge because it hits Modernism square in the nose, because it captures a historical moment brilliantly AND because it’s short. It would not be the keystone it is at 800 pages. And that makes me mad. Because I think the superficial and terrible characters are in part because they are cariacatures. And me no like cardboard cutout characters.

    Come on, readers. Bring it. More. More poems. Someone tell me I’m wrong about one of the disdained pieces. (Not Conrad. Don’t bother. But argue me Holden if you want. Or Huck. Nobody’s fighting me yet on Hester. Come on. Some of you hate that book. You know it. Admit it.)

  7. Ok, ok. It’s been a really long time since I’ve read Scarlet Letter, but I did not love it. I do, however, love The Blithedale Romance. And Nate’s short stories are da bomb.

    TKW, Word! Check it: I proposed a course on Plath a few years ago, and it’s not only been approved but may be scheduled very soon. A WHOLE SEMESTER ON SYLVIA. This is me, all Johnny Panic and yew trees and the woman is perfected and beekeeping …well, you can imagine my joyfulness.

  8. And I just taught Prufrock last week. It’s the first time I taught that one instead of The Waste Land. Not sure it has as much import in the big scheme of things, but I did so enjoy it.

    It makes me think, in some ways, of all those late-twentieth-century teen films, with the sad loner guy trying to get the girl. Of course, Prufrock has more commentary on class and art. Not to mention tea.

  9. @Ink send us the reading list and we’ll tackle it! School me, ladies.
    And Ink, I can’t wait for your poetry post.
    Hey, anybody else: Weiland by Charles Brockton Brown? The Damnation of Theron Ware by Harold Frederic? I don’t remember why I liked them or how much but I did.

  10. I mean, it’s the first time in that particular class. I’ve taught Prufie in a number of different classes over the years. But normally, in THAT class, I do The Waste Land. Which is soooooo like: buckle your seatbelts; it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  11. These are the books you abolutely need, in my humble opinion: Collected Poems, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams (short stories), The Bell Jar, her unabridged journals, and Letters Home. You might like her children’s stories, too (Collected Children’s Stories).

    Then there are oodles of critical studies but those, above, are Plath’s. TKW, did I forget anything?

  12. Fuckit, Ink, you TEACH The Wasteland? Gedda Heck Outta Here! That humongous piece of dreck has always made me furious! Hint: When the footnotes to “explain” your poem are longer than said poem, we have a problem, Scotty. I am ready to stomp that f-er into the ground. I don’t like poets/writers who think they’re soooo smart that they actually sacrifice their own work to prove it.

    Holy Rant, Batman! Where did that come from? I am truly baffled what’s coming outta my head with this topic. I’m a pooper scooper, not a thinker.

    And I would pay a BAZILLION dollars to be in your Plath seminar, Ink!!! I agree with you, Nap, in that she’s someone that’s scary to get close to, but dangit. That woman.

    Nap, you didn’t think I was advocating Roth, did you????

    Also, I think your reason for disliking Gatsby is exactly why it’s so timely and affecting. Yeah, they’re all selfish, superficial assholes. And because you love DFW, I can’t see you shying away from the examination of the “hollow man”–how we get there and what the fallout of that mentality is.

    Interested in what repels you about Holden. I have a 16 year old, and boy, he sure thinks everyone else is a “phony.” Holden is a whiner of the first water, and I get tired of his ranting/whining/inaction, but there’s some stuff about him that melts me. His relationship with Phoebe is the clincher for me. Plus, anyone who worries that someone will spray paint “Fuck You” on their gravestone is a guy I can relate to.

    Deep Breath. Okay. Scarlet Letter. I just think Hawthorne is too heavy-handed. I have the same complaint with Ayn Rand, Cormac McCarthy and, lately, Barbara Kingsolver. Give your reader some freaking credit, wouldja? We are not morons. You do not have to hammer your message into our brains with a steel rod, repeatedly. It’s insulting, annoying and makes your work longer than it needs to be.

    YARGH! Nap and Ink, you made me wake up at 1 am, thinking about literature! You naughty minxes.

    I’m afraid what your Hater List is going to do to me.

    Nap: What is it about the red wheelbarrow, covered in rainwater, beside the white chickens, that means everything? YARGH!

    Ink: About Stevens: Emporer of Ice Cream? Suckage, too.

  13. About Plath: you do need Collected Poems, but if you can’t be buggered, just read the Ariel Collection. Actually, I take that back. Skip Bell Jar and read the whole Collected Poems. Worth it.

    I also think you should read some work by Ted Hughes, because, let’s face it, his influence was…

  14. LOL, TKW. Sorry about the not sleeping and the thinking about literature. But you always have such awesome things to say that I am glad you’re blogging about them, even if it means you’re going to be tired today.

    Yes, exactly re: Scarlett Letter. Though I gotta admit, the ambiguity of the “A” is brilliant.

    And yes, I love teaching The Waste Land. Would it make you like it more to consider that the footnotes were added only when it was published as a book (to make it long enough) and that some people think Eliot was having fun with them (because seriously, some of them don’t add ANYTHING to the reading of the poem and may in fact misguide us). I kind of think of TWL as a precursor to Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Think about it…

  15. Oh, shit. Poster child for commentastrophe=TKW.

    Ink, I love you. Anyone who can compare an Eliot poem to The Wall is a rock star and a genius, in my book….now what’s the song equivalent of Prufrock?

  16. Ah, ladies, it’s good to hear you. Keep coming back.

    Kitch, I for one am NOT sorry you’re awake thinking about lit. You claim, often, that you are not qualified or of a caliber that would befit such discussions, but you’re wrong and worthy and brilliant and deserve to roil for a while in the pit of that which thrills you. Your brain is rattling the bars and begging to get out, so I’m happy to stand in the next cage dangling the big brimming jalapeno plant begging you to come on over.
    I knew you agreed on Roth. No worries.
    You love the plums poem because your world is just outside that icebox, watching what everyone eats. The red wheelbarrow, if your world is the farm…well it does mean everything except that it doesn’t, which is funny. It’s just damned funny, Kitch. People reading Jesus in white and being discombobulated by “chicken” and reading baptism in rainwater but being jarred by the reality of actual damned rain water not metaphoric anything. It’s funny because it disrupts poetry. But we can find a different Williams to make you happy. I have nothing at stake in the wheelbarrow. I can use the tractor.
    I agree with Prufrock over WasteLand but that’s just preference. I think the canon needs them. I don’t hate Eliot. I’m kind of a whore for Modernism. But Ink and I already know you are Stein averse and we’re kind of sweet on her Tender Buttons—cap T cap B. We’re way too young to be fans of her tender buttons with lowercase. ;-)

    Ink, you now have two offers of one million dollars to let us audit. I’ll have to move and KW and I will tag team babysit ours and yours for the chance.

    Egads. The beats. Again the Great White Narcissists. I get nothing but selfish Baby Boom ickiness from that stuff, but need to reread now that I’m older. Maybe the honesty I’m sure is there is clearer now that the world really is falling apart. ;-)

    Off to fill my library card with Plath (yeah, right, like my local has anything useful. but the whatever-it’s-renamed-should-be-Doe-Cal-main-library will be muy useful this week…) Thanks for the definitive list.

    No such thing as a commentastrophe on my blog, professors. Love the coinage but I’m a big fan of stringing 4 comments back to back and then slinking off. It’s a reader mitzvah.

  17. I’d venture to add a non-fiction book (although, that’s been challenged) to the list of must reads, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I read it long ago, before all the movies that came from it, and it’s still one of my favorites.

    His short stories The Thanksgiving Visitor and A Christmas Memory are stories I read to my children year after year, as well.

    And then of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

    Hmmmm….I suppose I’m coming across as a total Capote fan. Ok. I fess up. I am.

  18. @theycallmejane Can you believe I’ve never read it? I’ll remedy that soon.
    @KB! You do, of course have something to bring to the table. But Ink and KW *are* fun to watch when they get going…

  19. Audit, hell! You’re guest lecturing. So start getting ready, chicas. (Seriously, we would all be extremely lucky to hear you both talk about literature.)

    TKW, I think the song equivalent to Prufrock might be Dave Edmunds’s “Girls Talk.” I might have to explain that in more detail over at my blog someday…what do you think would be a good song match?

    Nap, every time we do “The Red Wheelbarrow” in class, I have to say that I love the see them start thinking about the various possible readings of the poem. All because of that brilliant “so much depends upon” springing us into interpretative mode. Hard to resist going there, you know?

    Beats. Hmmm. I really like “Supermarket in California” but (don’t shoot me) not Howl so much. I also love On the Road. Just the sheer exhuberance (sp?) of the language in places moves me.

  20. Oh, I just remembered that you put On the Road on your thumbs-down list. Wasn’t challenging that because although I love the language in places, I don’t think the novel itself is fab. (And I think your “great white narcissists” label is not off-base. There’s certainly plenty of GWNism to be seen.)

  21. Argh!!! No. No, I’m sorry. I’m nearly through with Ulysses, (or, rather, I was until the Critter decided that he wanted me to pay attention to him, which crimps one’s reading, it seems) and I reserve the right to hate it. And I already read The Odyssey and loved it, so it can’t be blamed on that. Maybe it’s my puny brain?

    I would add Crime and Punishment, but only if you are familiar with Russian names. I had to reread several chapters because I didn’t realize that many of the characters that kept cropping up were various ways of talking about the same person. Embarrassing!

    Oh, and also? I’d like to add, apropos of the old thread, that everyone who loved The Corrections? They’re wrong.

  22. I asked my hubs to name some of his “musts”…for a science nerd, he’s pretty well read. Some of his faves shocked me, so I thought I’d list them here and see what you think? Feel free to rip or accolade…I sure didn’t hesitate!

    Great Expectations
    The Crucible
    1984 AND Animal Farm
    Othello, Taming of the Shrew and Henry V
    Lord of the Flies
    The Martian Chronicles
    The Canterbury Tales
    The Inferno
    Paradise Lost
    Les Miserables
    Gulliver’s Travels
    All’s Quiet on the Western Front

    I want to hear what you gotta say before I go a-spewin’ After all, it is your blog!

  23. I concur with The Inferno (though the translation makes a big difference — I recommend the Hollanders’), but the rest of the Divine Comedy can be skipped wholesale.

    • I woke up this morning, Dan, and realized you said you were finishing Ulysses at the same time you were finishing Infinite Jest. Are you a computer? A soulless English Department Head? Who the hell can read two massively dense and erudite tomes in the same time period?
      You’re my hero.

  24. @ Dan I completely agree with C&P. In my original post I said skip russian lit except Crime and Punishment. That freaking tome is amazing.
    I’m embarrassed to say I’ve not read Dante. I will.
    I liked the Corrections. It doesn’t belong in the canon, and I didn’t love it, but I like it.
    Of course you can hate Ulysses. I think I only really appreciated it in a graduate seminar with The Bloomsday book open at every turn. And in juxtaposition with Portrait of the Artist, which I wanted to slam into the Young Man in question’s head.
    @Ink wow. I don’t know what to say. Except no, no, no! (kidding). Crucible is pretty important, but I didn’t much like reading it. I wouldn’t fight it as great lit so he can have it. (gee, ain’t I generous?) 1984 yup. Animal Farm I’d toss for Lord of the Flies. Geez, how did I forget that one? Probably because I’m fearing preschool even as we speak…I’m with him on LoF. Sorry. You may disown me.
    I’ll give him Shrew and Odyssey and raise him Oedipus and Macbeth.
    Paradise Lost? Nope. Canterbury? Heck no. Both important, both guaranteed to remain canonical. Neither even remotely interesting. Sorry, both Universities that gave me degrees in Lit. You can’t have your signatures back. I find Milton intolerable and think a bunch of middle school boys probably wrote Canterbury and had it translated into Middle English just to piss off lit majors.
    I’m a science nerd, but I can’t handle Dune. Martian Chronicles are good, but I’d argue for Neuromancer and Foundation before I included Bradbury.
    And how did I forget Grapes of Wrath? I’m not a huge Steinbeck fan, but Grapes is in-tense.

    I just decided to do a least favorite and better options for stage plays. Tomorrow.

  25. OOOH! Clapping hands together vigorously except I can’t really because it’s 1 am and Miss D. is on her second nightmare of the evening…I am sooo pissed at hubs for letting her watch Coraline last week.

    I am so excited when y’all come out and play with me.

    Inferno? Yeah. Fer sure.

    Macbeth OR Othello, but not both. Nobody needs that much mayhem…

    Lord of the Flies–absolutely and I agree, how did I forget it? Maybe because my childhood resembles Piggy a little too much?

    Animal Farm…yawn. Was that REALLY written by the same dude who wrote 1984? Disconcerting revelation b/c I think that book is stupid.

    Canterbury Tales–toss that tome into a bucket, except for The Miller’s Tale, which is awesome. Although maybe, Ink, I hate this work just because of Colleen Donnelly? shhhhh….

    Milton. Snoozer. I don’t do religion, but neither does hubs, so not sure why he thinks it’s so important? Some parts of it are kinda okay, but I’ll take Dante instead.

    Shrew? Don’t like the message in that little bit of business…although perhaps I’m just too close to it in real life?

    Dune (which was FIRST on his list of “musts”) and Martian Chronicles…sci-fi makes me want to drink a bottle of wine and take 3 Xanax. Never liked the genre. 1984 is about as far ahead as my brain can go. There’s maybe room in my heart for Atwood, but ultimately, she depresses me.

    Bluebeard? WTF? Soooooo not a Vonnegut person. If you’re gonna go all whacked on my ass, I advocate One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

    Les Miserables makes me, well, miserable.

    Crucible. Meh. Now it just gives me bad Winona Ryder goose bumps.

    Hated Gulliver. Well, except for the concept of the Lilliputians and those horse-humans who I can’t be bothered to look up how to spell right now…

    And, in closing arguments, I would say that Grapes is a good book. I liked E of E better, but also cannot shake the fear of someday having to survive on fried dough like the Joads. Though holy boredom, Batman, did he need to spend that long describing that freaking tortise?

    Cannot wait for your next post, Nap and Ink. Sincerely yours,
    Insomniac TKW (who cannot not fault Eco about diarrhea of the mouth).

    • Of course I’m considering Chekov. I trained in part at the American Conservatory Theater in SF and at American Rep in Boston and they are hardcore into Checkov.
      I’ll take a nightmaring 7 year old if you take a nightmaring 3 year old. I have a post coming about the things he screams in his sleep. Hilarious, scary, and sad.
      LOL “Macbeth OR Othello, but not both. Nobody needs that much mayhem…” Seriously, agreed. Also agreed on Animal Farm and Paradise Lost and Canterbury. But you knew that because I already said that. Bears repeating for all those Beowulf through Proust types.
      (You know your department has one…)
      Atwood *ultimately* depresses you? Ultimately? Geezus H. clinical depression, Batman, Atwood makes me nauseated with sorrow and writhing existential pain. Ultimately? Um, page 10 or so.
      I dig Vonnegut, but prefer Cat’s Cradle, I guess. But not for irreplaceable. Because Catch-22 is 3,000 times better.
      Your logorrhea is infinitely more enjoyable than Eco (whom I’ve never read, but going by your posts and comments, I can’t imagine some overwraught dude is more fun than thou).

      • Okay, I didn’t train at American Rep. I performed for a small theater company whose Paula Vogel and Christopher Durang explorations were produced by American Rep. But I got an earful on Checkov there. And when I say trained at ACT I mean spend a summer taking intense courses there, but not part of their full time program. I’m not really a compulsive liar, I’m just lazy with explanations and fond of concise writing.
        In other words, a lazy compulsive liar of convenience.
        But the theater post is still coming.

  26. I forgot to say:
    Kitch, I agree on the actors in Huck Finn. Infuriating. Doesn’t diminish the book enough, though, to make me a hater. And what is my damage with Holden Caulfield? He is the embodiment of Baby Boomers before they got power; whiny, self-absorbed, and myopic.
    btw, Ink, Great White Narcissists isn’t mine. It’s a take on David Foster Wallace dissing Great Male Narcissists in his review of an Updike novel, reprinted in Consider the Lobster, where he lumps Updike, Roth, and Mailer together, as “the Great Male Narcissists who’ve dominated postwar American fiction.” I think he was generous including only them, for I would include several other writers and most of the American political players in the same category.

  27. Pingback: least favorite “best” plays and better alternatives « Naptime Writing

  28. I thought he meant Bluebeard the fairy tale. In which case, paired with the violence of Lord of the Flies, I was afeard.

    But if he meant Vonnegut, then I amend my response. Because KV is genius!

  29. Oh, how I long to let you believe that I am simultaneously finishing both Ulysses and Infinite Jest. This is, sadly, not true.

    I am legitimately finishing (or trying to get back to finishing) Ulysses. I’ve read Infinite Jest twice before (as well as another half time the first time around, but then I accidentally left my copy in DC on a residency interview and didn’t get it back until much too late), but was only skimming along with the whole Infinite Summer reading experience and commenting as it proceeded.

    I would love to still be your hero, but somehow I suspect I am less than qualified.

    • @Jane hey, you added Capote which is huge for me because he’s now at the top of my pile (actually, second after a few Plath tomes, but that’s fair given my insanity and possibility that I will trek to hear Ink teach her seminar on those texts. Come back and tell us what you think of the stuff we like. You may not…anything is fair game.
      @ Dan Hmmmm…let me see. Read Infinite Jest twice. Check. Read Ulysses with small child in house. Check. Write some seriously awesome ideas at a variety of sites where people are thinking bigger thoughts than I’m capable of. Agree that Macbeth rocks and Hamlet and Lear suck….
      I think you may still qualify as my hero.

  30. Here’s a few:
    Wodehouse’s Mulliner and Jeeves/Bertie stories,
    The Life of Augustus Carp by Himself, Memoirs of a Justified Sinner by Hogg, Tom Jones, Liberty Campaign by Jonathan Dee, almost anything by Gogol or E. Waugh, Coming Up for Air by Orwell. I liked most of Edwin O’Connor’s books but I don’t suppose anyone reads him any more.

    • Tom Jones is the only of these I’ve read, except part of a Waugh I can’t even remember the title of it was so long ago. So I’ll add them to my list.
      I just finished Mill on the Floss and know why it’s in the canon, but holy moly those Victorians sure know how to keep a good woman down. Blech.

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