Monday, April 22, 2013

Reading is Fundamental

I would like to bitch slap Holden Caulfield.

I know, I know, weeks ago I made a promise not to use any real names on this blog following a post that was meant to poke fun at copywriting and not at any one particular copywriter.

But, those of you with a GED or a high school diploma will recognize Holden Caulfield as the fictional protagonist in J.D. Salinger's class, The Catcher in the Rye.

You see, after a blistering start to 2013 and the exhaustive Honda review, work has slowed down a bit. Which is fine since I've been going at a non-stop pace for so long. So I decided to do something about my festering illiteracy. By rereading classics I know I had no appreciation for in high school.

As someone employed in the business of words and language, I thought time and age would give me a better perspective on masterful writing. Boy was I wrong.

Or in the vernacular of Mr. Caulfield, "I swear to God you'd hate this book. It's all full of crap. And crap."

That's what the book is. It's 277 pages of this whiny, slacker prep-school dropout going on a two day bender of underage drinking and ragging on everything from actors to girls to the way people sit on the subway.

I kept waiting for something good to happen and then something good finally happened. I got to the end.

They say a good book is supposed to linger with you. And The Catcher in the Rye certainly did. It left me with the lingering thought of, "Why was this considered such a classic?"

Of course, not all my scorn is reserved for Salinger. Prior to dragging my ass through that, I recently muscled my way through Hemingway's, The Sun Also Rises.

Another classic, another colossal bore.

Here's a writer that is famous for his short sentences and a terse minimalist style. In fact, he once told F. Scott Fitzgerald, "I try to put the shit in the wastebasket."

Really? Because the pointless tale of Jake Barnes and his aimless friends of the Lost Generation seemed labored and bloated. I will admit that the first third of the book was interesting, mostly because it took place in Paris and I was just there 4 months ago.

As it turns out, the bar where Hemingway drank, the Select Cafe, was only a block and a half away from our hotel. Had I read the book prior to our trip I might have stopped in to see where the magic happened. Then again, having been bored out of my skull, I probably would have passed.

I know all this is literary heresy but at this writing, the classics are batting 0 for 2. But I'm not giving up on my Quixotic quest for basic high school literacy. Next up is Mark Twain's A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, which is conveniently sitting on my daughter's desktop.

I just can't get started reading it until she's done taking her final.


bernieodowd said...

I liked you're "have a seat" sign on your free chair up the street.

Jeff said...

Moby Dick. Say it without laughing.

Jason Busa said...

I agree. A lot of those classics are boring. I remember having to slog through them when I was young. Of course I was hyperactive and got bored easily.
It seems to me that they were required reading, not because they were interesting or well-written but because they contained a subtext about the human condition or morality or whatever. I remember my teachers in grade school trying to help the students read between the lines or understand the allegory.
It generally went over our heads.