Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Giant Literary List 2

Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron

The canonical answer to this is Mansfield Park, but I'd also like to take this opportunity to hate all of Dickens's children.

Books I Lied About Reading and Then Wrote an A+ Term Paper On

I never did this. I liked reading.

Books I Lied About Reading/Liking Solely to Look Smart/Pretentious

Oh, man. Ok, I'll come right out and admit that I did not get more than twenty pages into Spivak's A Critique of Post-Colonial Reason.. I have never read Bakhtin on Rabelais. Yes, yes, I know it's great; yes, yes, I know it was on a bunch of my bibliographies. Bourdieu is a profoundly unpleasant seeming person, though I know that's an unsophisticated thing to say. Oh, I could go on.

Books I Wish I Hadn't Finished, or Worst. Ending. Ever.

There's a perfect example of that I read recently. Crap, what was it? It had a whole bunch of characters and an odd, kind of baton-passing kind of narrative structure. It took place in New York City during the election crisis of 2000, and everybody worked in television. Anyone know what I'm talking about? Well, the ending sucked. A lot. I've also never liked the end of Jane Eyre.

Books I Read after Oprah Recommended Them

This just doesn't compute.

Books I Will Never Read Precisely Because Oprah Recommends Them

This also just doesn't compute. Oprah is completely irrelevant to my life.

Literary Characters I've Developed Crushes On

Byron. Late-period Byron, that is! (Wouldn't have you think I liked that Childe Harold twit.)

Books I Only Read to Impress Other People

Oh man. Fucking Spivak goes on that long, long list.

Best Books Not to Read from Start to Finish, or Best Bathroom Books

Benjamin's Arcades project.

Books I Shouldn't Admit Made Me Cry Like a Baby

I don't cry at books---that I can recollect, that is---but I was ridiculously moved by China Miéville's Iron Council (even though I still prefer his The Scar).

Books I Only Read for the Title

I do this all the time, so no particular instance leaps out to me.

Books I Re-Read When I Have Nothing Else to Read


Books People Keep Recommending That, Frankly, Sucked Ass

I keep seeing people on the internet express some love for Robert Jordan's fantasy series, which is almost as foul as Terry Brooks's. Nick Hornby's novels are pretty awful.

Books My Teacher Made Me Read That I Really, Really Liked

It took me years and years, but eventually I learned to love Great Expectations. I loved a lot of books my teachers made me read; that's why I stayed in school for so long.


Blogger rilkefan:

"Books in Which I Liked the Secondary Characters Better Than the Main Character, or Books in Which I Wanted to Beat the Main Character Senseless with a Tire Iron"

I thought the canonical example was _Vanity Fair_, followed by _The Old Curiosity Shop_.

I've come to like Fanny a good deal. Nothing like as much as Mary Crawford, of course.

2/15/2007 01:44:00 AM  
Anonymous matt w:

Worst. Ending. Ever.


I also disliked the end to Pat Barker's The Ghost Road. "Hey! let's screw with the reader because we can!'

2/15/2007 10:49:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

But Becky Sharpe is the main character of Vanity Fair! Amelia is a sort of dim binary star. I have to admit that I haven't read The Old Curiosity Shop.

I don't know those books, Matt, but homicidal dwarves do not bode well...

2/15/2007 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger rilkefan:

Hmm, I thought the good-girl main character in _VF_ sucked up more square meters than Sharpe. Maybe that was just the result of boredom.

_TOCS_ has the infamous Little Nell of Oscar Wilde's famous quip. It's well worth reading for the sections about the, uhh, well, the homicidal dwarf Quilp.

2/15/2007 02:43:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Oh, THAT's the book with Little Nell? That answers so much. Quilp sounds like a name I would have given a disliked character when I was ten. I shouldn't make fun: Dickens is so great.

2/15/2007 04:19:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

The homicidal dwarf is not in The Ghost Road. (The third of a trilogy of which the first, Regeneration, is really damn good, and the others are I guess worthwhile but I didn't like them as much.) I could tell you what ends with the homicidal dwarf, but then it would be spoiled. Though if you want to google for it the phrase should be "murderous dwarf."

2/15/2007 10:04:00 PM  
Anonymous ac:

Is the media book set in 2000 Kurt Anderson's Turn of the Century? I never made it to the end, so couldn't say whether it was bad or not.

2/16/2007 10:07:00 AM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

No, and unfortunately I'm still having a hell of a time coming up with the title or any identifiers.

(I dislike Kurt Anderson's radio show so much that I wouldn't subject myself to his writing!)

2/16/2007 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous I don't pay:


Do you mean by killing Prior, with all he has to live for, at the very end of the war (and of course the impact on the other characters, Sarah and Rivers)? Or something else?

2/16/2007 01:10:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

Yeah, and particularly the offhand way in which she does it. There's historical veracity to the ending, since (as she depicts) Wilfred Owen really did die in that same pointless battle a week before the armistice, but somehow that makes it even worse.

Oddly enough, one of my favorite books, with one of my absolute favorite endings, delivers a similar gut-punch; you've been warned that something awful is going to happen to sympathetic characters but the ending is still devastating. (And if you haven't been paying attention you don't know what happens.) And it doesn't strike me as arbitrary at all, even though the Event isn't caused by anything that happened before. I can't explain why I liked one ending and not the other.

2/16/2007 03:48:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

Is this what you mean, jack?

2/16/2007 03:53:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Yes! Yes! Thank you, thank you!

(Rick Moody's The Diviners. It was the first thing of his I'd read. Moments of almost unbearably recognizable poignancy.)

2/16/2007 04:43:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

woot! I rule!

2/16/2007 06:07:00 PM  
Blogger Jackmormon:

Have you read it, or did you just make a lucky---I mean, well-informed---guess?

2/16/2007 06:29:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

My Google-Fu is unstoppable.

2/16/2007 07:57:00 PM  
Anonymous I don't pay:

You know, Matt, I adore those books. I took my handle from them as I'm sure you remember. For me the end was a formal necessity, yes because we all know Owen will die, that's part of it, and because this is one tradition of WWI literature, going back to Paul Baumer's death in October, on a day so insignificant that the staff report for the day was All Quiet on the Western Front, that would have felt just as false had Prior survived, it seems to me. Trapped by the genre, which requires hopelessness and waste, and repudiates redemption.

2/16/2007 08:32:00 PM  
Anonymous matt w:

It had managed to slip my mind that your handle comes from those books.

AQotWF seemed to me to set it up; everyone else is dead, Paul is already dead spiritually after the death of whatsisname while Paul's carrying him back from the lines (the real climax of the book), it would've been bizarre if Paul had survived. Whereas with Prior it didn't have that kind of inevitability. Of course that makes Prior's death more realistic, there really were a lot of people with a lot to live for who died for no reason at the end of the war, but it still ticked me off for reasons (as I said above) that I can't fully articulate.

2/17/2007 08:38:00 AM  

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