[DWJ] Classic books

Otter Perry ottertee at silverwinggraphics.com
Wed Nov 4 00:31:01 EST 2009


On Nov 3, 2009, at 8:57 PM, Elizabeth Parks wrote and I ruthlessly  
snipped:

> I notice that most of the novels being mentioned are British, and I  
> was
> thinking about what American stuff I would recommend

Well, it's really necessary if you're from the USA to read _Moby  
Dick_.  We
had an abridged version in high school that basically left in the  
plot and
cut out all the -- well, I guess I would call them the non-fiction parts
[although there was a lot Melville didn't get right].

Anyway, I think I may have been in my 50s before I read the whole thing
and it's definitely something you should do.

[I would love to find a book or other study about the state of  
Melville's
  knowledge compared to the cutting edge scientific opinion of the time,
  although not enough to move me to do much actual research.  One of
  the things  Melville thought was that whales could not hear and did  
not make
  noise.  I dearly wanted to grab him and put a set of earphones on
  his head and play whale songs to him.  It's one of the books that made
  me understand that 'man is the measure of all things' has some very
  negative side effects.  If we can't perceive it, we tend to think  
it's not
  there or not important.  [I read quite an interesting essay once in  
which
  someone made the point that it is probably not possible for human
  beings to understand reptiles because they're cold-blooded and time
  is just totally different for them.]]

I disliked _Huckleberry Finn_ intensely when I read it, mostly because
of the slavery thing and the way Jim is treated as a consequence.  That
was many years ago and I haven't been moved to reread it, but you kind
of have to have read it.  I don't have the kind of sense of humor you
need for other Twain, either, at least not the stuff I've read.

I like some Hawthorne quite a bit, including many of his short stories.

Incidentally, a book you kind of have to have read to understand a lot
of other stuff -- like you have to have read the Bible and  
Shakespeare --
is _Pilgrim's Progress_, both parts if possible.  I had that read to  
me as a
child and am the only person I know who rereads it with any regularity
[once every ten years or so].  Of course, my sample is very, very small,
because if you're not a lit major, which I wasn't, it's not likely to  
come
up in conversation.

[I know it's not American, but it was the book most likely to be in
  American homes after the Bible for a long time, at least in
  Protestant homes.  _Everybody_ read it.]

--------------------------

The problem with real life is the lack of
danger music.




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