Diary: In Defense of Good Literature
Something strange keeps happening to me. I keep meeting people, okay not people, men, okay not meeting chatting on online dating sites (I know gross but how else are you supposed to meet people when you stay at home taking pictures of yourself). Anyways, these men (if they can be called that), once I mention how much I like mystery novels tell me they don't read fiction anymore. Or tell me that they read The Hardy Boys when they were younger, or tell me that they don’t read articles longer than 2 minutes and then proceed to spend three weeks looking for mesh tank tops and short shorts for their burning man costume (I actually dated that one, so embarrassing, I mean really, tank tops and short shorts, but no time to read? Also, short shorts on a man = No No No. A man in short shorts is like Charlie Rose’s penis, no one actually wants to see that. Why do you think basketball shorts keep getting longer?)
These men tell me that they are more interested in learning about the real world from self help books.
I find this very very disturbing. In fact, I would prefer they just tell me they can’t read, that at least would suggest potential, that would be better than that they choose not to read novels, and indeed chose to read what I would, yes I’m going to say it, call crap.
For my argument I pose the following: name a self help book from 1847. Go ahead. I’m waiting. What? You can’t. That’s because whatever self help rubbish was published in 1847 is obsolete. 1847 was the date that Jane Eyre was published. People, (real people who understand that literature is important and offers more self help, self realization and self actualization than any alleged self help book ever will) have been reading Jane Eyre for 170 years. And they will continue to read Jane Eyre because duh, its one of the most amazing, incredible pieces of literature, that’s right literature, ever written.
The other night I was watching an interview with the President of Harvard (on Charlie Rose actually, but we can't talk about that because he's a goddamn creepy perve) and she was talking about the importance of the humanities. That the word itself comes from "human." What better way to learn about the human experience, our own experience than from others. And for me, and I will argue for all of us, through great literature we discover what it means to be human.
And so, dear reader, I now propose a list of books very dear to me and that I consider essential and formative. This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are many many more to add, but for me these are the books I think about, reference and consult time and time again.
So when I mention the archaic law that keeps Mr Rochester from re-marrying, or that Tom Buchanan was at the Plaza Hotel and Daisy was not, and that Jordan Baker is a terrible driver, that Jem had to read to that old lady because she didn't want to die being addicted to opiates, and Scout got a bit of surprise when she took a sip of Mr Raymond's drink, that Mr Darcy is not so much arrogant, as shy, that even though Emma has no intention of going to the Cole's party, she fully expects to be invited, or that it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife etc ---- you'll understand what I'm talking about.
Here, in no particular order, twelve books (oh hey, look at that, perfect for Christmas, or not, or whatever holiday you celebrate, because shit, as long as we're not hurting each other, what does it matter which little invisible man you pray to? (that's also a reference, bonus if you get it without consulting Siri.)) that are great works of Literature and should absolutely be on your shelf.
- To Kill a Mockingbird
- Jane Eyre
- The Great Gatsby
- Pride and Predjudice
- Sense and Sensibility
- Wuthering Heights
- The Things they Carried
- Crime and Punishment
- Great Expectations
- Catcher in the Rye
- All Quiet on the Western Front
In conclusion, whatever you do, don’t tell me that you read Hardy Boys as a kid, and you’re reading self help books as an “adult”. I may actually punch you. Also, don't wear short shorts if you're a man. That's just gross.
Lots of Love (really I mean it),