Saturday, May 24, 2008

Let's All Play Humiliation

Goodness. Peter Boxall's 1001 Books You Must Read Before you Die is suddenly discovered by The New York Times. I can feel a little superior here in that it has been sitting on the shelf above my writing desk for more than 2 years.

I don't think that the love of :
...literary lists and the fights they provoke
is a peculiarly British affliction, as William Grimes implies. His own newspaper came up with a list of the best American novels not so long ago, and annually lists the "100 most notable" and then the "ten best" books; Americans Peder Zane and Francine are among those to have written books listing books.

But good for Grimes, he steps up to the plate and engages in a good argue with Boxall about what should have been included in place of what is ... which is really the point of a book like this in the first place.

But do such lists cause feelings of :
... guilt and inadequacy
as Grimes implies? Book lovers do rather play a game of oneupmanship with books, feeling smugly superior when we have read something the other person we're in conversation with hasn't, feeling trumped when the tables are turned on us.

I had forgotten this :
In his novel “Changing Places,” David Lodge — not on the list — introduces a game called Humiliation. Players earn points by admitting to a famous work that they have not read. The greater the work, the higher the point score. An obnoxious American academic, competing with a group of colleagues, finally gets the hang of the game and plays his trump card: “Hamlet.” He wins the game but is then denied tenure.
Let's play a round of Humiliation here. What are your gravest literary omissions?

My list would be very very long indeed, but just to start the ball rolling I will go first - with Kafka's The Trial. I do want to read it ... just never have. Haven't even got a copy of it yet. But I laugh at myself nodding knowingly whenever anyone brings it up in conversation.

Please reserve your snorts of derision until you have made your own confession in the comments.

23 comments:

Emily said...

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro! After reading two other Japanese authors, could not bring myself to read a third - terrible little old me? The other two: Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto.

But I do have a copy of When We Were Orphans by Kazuo though, hopefully it has not be released by accident!

bibliobibuli said...

just think of ishiguro as british (which he is by nationality) and that will make it easier maybe!

(btw - have put book in bag for you and will drop it off at silverfish this lunchtime)

Emily said...

opps ~ (been)

Emily said...

Thanks! and shall I left behind my first copy of The Freedom of Choice for you?

Emily said...

excusi ~ off meds for a month now - fingers and mind dont seem to be cooperating! opps ~ leave ~

bibliobibuli said...

emily - no lah already have "freedom of choice" and it's tbr - but thanks.

Emily said...

slaps forehead! She is the lady in pink!

gnute said...

Finnegan's Wake by James Joyce. I have it at home. I've opened it several times. I've never read it and probably will not bother for the rest of my life. But WHO KNOWS...

Anonymous said...

Forget When We Were Orphans - it's Ishiguro's worst book to date. He's back on form with Never Let Me Go, thankfully.

- Poppadumdum

Chet said...

As I confessed during dinner just now, Middlemarch.

pussreboots said...

Jane Austen... I've tried and failed a number of times. So far her books have bored me to tears.

bibliobibuli said...

emily - your book is at silverfish waiting for you

chet - all of us round the table last night had failed at "middlemarch"!

(yes, dears, we played the game for real in an indian restaurant after readings@seksan)

puss - i find her a struggle too. refused to read her at school though she was on the syllabus, but have since managed "pride and prejudice" at least.

gnute- i've not read "finnegan's wake" either

Chet said...

Maybe we should narrow the field by focusing on more recent books, or recent book prize winners. Not sure if that will lessen the guilt, tho.

bibliobibuli said...

it should be the "greats", those monoliths that have withstood the test of time.

and it's hard to award points when a blog has such a shifting population!

but this makes a great pub game or over dinner game and the loser can pay the bill!

Anonymous said...

Austen bored me to tears too, but maybe it was because I had a crappy Eng Lit teacher whose idea of teaching Austen was to read Persuasion to us in class.
-Poppadumdum

Anonymous said...

war and bloody peace

i have the 8 hr+ russian film version on dvd though...i'll cheat and watch this one day and pretend to have read it all...

pong

Anonymous said...

1984. I keep wanting to read it.

Emily said...

hahaha Anonymous!

Dont we all?!!! Thats why we keep buying books (cos we want to read them) and keep stashing yarns and charts etc cos we want to be ready for when we ARE READY!

Emily said...

and Poppadumdum aka Anonymous!

I think I will hold on to When We Were Ophans for 'just in case'

cavingliz said...

Saw this today in Brunei Times on 1001 books.........

http://www.bt.com.bn/en/education/2008/05/26/brits_lifetime_reading_list_infuriates

bibliobibuli said...

liz - this is exactly the same article the blog post is about in the first palce!!!!

cavingliz said...

Yes, but not on the Brunei Times!!!

kamal s said...

Er, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn? I've read the sequel, though!