Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Reading Literature

When it comes down to it, I have not read many of the works contained on the annual Greatest American Literature lists put out by New York Times et al. While I have read all Hemingway's short stories, the only novel I was able to get through was "Old Man and The Sea". I really tried to get past the first paragraph of "The Sun Also Rises", but I just couldn't. Same goes for John Updike, although I like his short stories, and while I adore Truman Capote, I have yet to read "In Cold Blood". The only American authour I have read every work by is F. Scott Fitzgerald. To my credit, I did manage to get through "Washington Square", but that's because my Secondary 4 professor assigned it. (Considering all the Canadian authours she could have chose, I'm still puzzled by the selection...)

So during my most recent trip to the BPL, I took out "The Sheltering Sky" by Paul Bowles. And unlike some of the other novels I've zipped through this summer, this one is slow going; you know the type- you keep checking to see when the chapter will end. True, I'm only up to Chapter 5, and things did pick up in the last few pages before I put the book down for the night.

I believe the common thread in my difficulty with these writers is the formal tone to their writing. And while other nationalities certainly employ such a tone, somehow the Americans' tone creates a distance that you have to overcome (at least in my case) in order to engage with the characters. Certainly in a novel that deals with disillusionment with society or a similar topic, such a tone is appropriate. Still, it makes the reading experience more cumbersome and mitigates the relaxation factor. Is it worth the effort? Undoubtedly. But it renders such books less suited for a Summer Reading list.

Right now, there's hope that I'll manage to finish the novel, since the setting is currently North Africa, a region that I have always wanted to visit. If and when I do, I'll be sure to let you all know. :)


  1. "When it comes down to it, I have not read many of the works contained on the annual Greatest American Literature lists put out by New York Times et al."

    And who cares? I read what I like and not what other people who are not me and have nothing to do with me recommend.

    Classics? Bla, bla, bla. I like fantasy and I like sci-fi and that's what I read and I don't care what some pompous, self obsorbed ass thinks.

  2. Recently I have come to conclusion that I am no longer (probably temporary) interested in "elevating" my reading. Time is very precious to me and reading "what ever educated and intelligent human being ought to" (one has to be Russian to understand) is not time best spent for me. I refuse to get all emotionally entangled in imaginary people's problems, i would rather give this emotional energy to my family. So I read only what I find useful or enjoy.

  3. I'm not into sci-fi or fantasy, save LOTR and all the fairy/elves/goblins stuff.

    As for your final 5 words, yeah that pretty much sums up the list makers. Not that I find the lists totally irrelevant mind you. A vestige of my time in university I suppose.