Not that it’s too late to do so, of course, and isn’t this the time of year for grand resolutions? Often I pick one grand book to read/reread as a summer project, and perhaps I should choose from this list of gaps in my reading life. (Oh, and I think this is a good time to name-drop that I HAVE read Ulysses by James Joyce, and perhaps at this point, the greatest joy of having done so is to think about the last few pages of Molly’s soliloquy and to mention this achievement as much as possible.)
Here goes…true confessions of ignorance, in random order, ten classic books I have not read and wish I had:
1. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I’m pretty bad on all the big Russians, actually, and once in a fit of guilt over that fact, I read Anna Karenina which promptly went on my “favorite books bookshelf,” so what’s my problem?
2 & 3. The Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I read some Faulkner in college, and I know he’s brilliant, etc., and teaching in a low-res MFA program in the South, Faulkner is basically inescapable. But you know what…Faulkner just may not be my thing.
4. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I know that this book is on many people’s favorites list, but I hear “one sentence that goes on for pages” and I’m afraid I think, “Uh-oh, Faulkner-esque.” I am shameful, I know.
5. Beloved by Toni Morrison. Okay, I have NO excuse for this one, except that it feels as though maybe it should be read in college, under guidance, and—apparently—I am a lazy reader. I need to write up a syllabus for myself, with scary deadlines and threats of reduced grades.
6. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. I even started this one, and it was good. The problem: I started it on an airplane going to France and then I fell asleep and then once in Paris I chose to drink wine and eat tartare instead of read, and then I chose to watch French TV instead of read and on the way home, I chose to sleep on the plane.
7. Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust. Does anyone REALLY read this? But boy, if I did, I sure would wedge that fact into every possible conversation. (If it matters, I loved Madame Bovary, so I’m not as shallow as it may seem with regards to things French and French-related.)
8. The Road by Cormac McCarthy. You know, I just don’t care that much if I’ve read this or not. I didn’t even see the movie! But people seem to love it. Maybe it won’t become a “classic” and I can squeak by with my ignorance.
9 & 10. King Lear and MacBeth by Shakespeare. Oh, wow. Did I just write this in ink? Despite many Shakespeare classes and productions and even movies, I have neither read nor seen these two. Nevertheless, I can converse quite knowledgeably about them (“Out, out damned spot!”) and possibly even write a class paper for a (barely) passing grade. Still, as Mark Twain noted, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug,” and passing knowledge of these masterworks is NOT the same as reading/seeing them. Here’s my summer project.
11. Bonus: Sometimes I wish I had read Don Quixote by Cervantes but never enough to ever in my life have bought a copy or even picked one up in a bookstore or library.
Last word: Don’t forget that I did read Ulysses! And Moby-Dick!