Thursday, March 26, 2009
To Be Honest
For the longest time, I worried about this. Seriously, I graduated without ever having read any Shakespeare at all in school.
By the time it was over, however, I did realize I had gotten the skills to read anything at all and tease out several layers of deeper meaning. But I still think a few classics would not have gone amiss.
I found a list, compiled by Time Magazine, of the top 100 novels of all time, and just out of curiosity, I have reduced it down to the ones I've read.
1. Animal Farm, George Orwell
2. Atonement, Ian McEwan (and saw the film)
3. The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood (I'm a huge Atwood fan)
4. The Bridge of San Luis Rey, Thornton Wilder (high school; remember nothing about it.)
5. Catch-22, Joseph Heller
6. The French Lieutenant's Woman, John Fowles
7. Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (and seen the film, of course)
8. The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
9. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (ditto the film)
10. Naked Lunch, William Buroughs (not that I liked it)
11. 1984, George Orwell
12. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
13. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Ken Kesey
14. Possession, A.S. Byatt
15. Rabbit, Run, John Updike (not that I liked it...)
16. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut (high school)
17. Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
18. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
19. Wide Sargasso Sea, Jean Rhys (I recommend this: It's the Jane Eyre story but told from the point of view of the crazy wife in the attic, Bertha)
Saw the film: does this count?
1. Brideshead Revisited
2. A Clockwork Orange
3. Lord of the Rings (I only actually read The Hobbit)
4. A Passage to India
Having it on the shelf and intending to read it doesn't really count, but I have The Confessions of Nat Turner, Tropic of Cancer and Gravity's Rainbow.
The most interesting detail here is that, with the exception of Things Fall Apart, I read none of them while studying literature at HSU.
I did, however, read Herman Melville, whom I adore and admire, and I have to wonder why nothing of his made the top 100 list?
A magna cum laude Literary Studies student from HSU has only read 19 of the top 100 novels. So what is to be made of this? A critique of HSU's reading materials, of Time Magazine's list, or of my lackadaisical reading?
And by the way, when grad school is finally over and I can read for pleasure again, I do intend to get to a few more on the list. And if I were to produce such a list of great novels, it would look different.
What's your view on this?