Thursday, March 31, 2011

Literary Blog Hop: March 31-April 2

Those Ladies at The Blue bookcase have spent their time wandering and peeking into the dark corners for questions of a literary nature, which after studying under a microscope, dissecting and using entrails for divination, they then release to the rest of us The Question. This time it’s……

Do you find yourself predisposed to like (or dislike) books that are generally accepted as great books and have been incorporated into the literary canon? Discuss the affect you believe a book’s “status” has on your opinion of it.

On seeing this question, I immediately transformed into a 60 year old ex-army colonel, all moustache & monocle. I  found myself harrumphing and spluttering, I mean, haven’t they seen my posts, it’s obvious I’m an independent free-thinker, I've read Nietzsche. Herds are something you round up, not follow. And yet, how do you find books, unless you live on an island, or are in deep space, with no communication to the world you’re going to be influenced by what you read/ see there’s going to be a connection.

Now, my career as a highstatusclassichighbrow pursuer began purely by accident, as I’ve said before, my grandparents had an ornamental book set, that doubled as a collection of classic literature, which I worked my way through without realising their academic status/ worth, but after completing this where next? This is where status comes in, I read the Greeks (Homer, Ovid, Socrates etc.) because of….. Well they’re the Greeks, the Russians the same. In fact without a formal guide to literature, it turns out status is a good signpost to where to go next. Doesn’t mean you’ll like everything, or that you’re wrong for not liking certain works (Bronte, Dickens, you don’t fool me with your niceties).

16 comments:

BookBelle said...

An accidental classichighbrow. I love it. I just read anything and everything - except don't make me translate!

Em said...

I must admit that the term "canon" annoys me. And it is so subjective. Books have remained ignored because they were not deemed as good enough to be part of the canon.

gina said...

"In fact without a formal guide to literature, it turns out status is a good signpost to where to go next."
-This is a really good point. I guess it underscores "the cream rises to the top."
But what about the books that have fallen through the cracks? I was just reading an essay (this one http://www.thesmartset.com/article/article03301101.aspx ) which addresses the shorter window that books have to succeed/catch peoples' attention/etc. It's crazy how we move on to the next new book. Which is to say that marketing dollars have a big say in which books will succeed. Not to say that the little guys can't compete. They can, and they do. But there's a lot of noise out there.
(I'm afraid that my answer started to address the question then kind of rambled off. Erm, off to bed.)

leeswammes said...

Sorry, I read this assuming you mean this toungue-in-cheek. If not, I don't know what to say!

I'm thinking: so you read the classics, the Greeks, the Russians regardless of whether you expect to like them? Liking doesn't seem to come into the equation.

Ergo: do you have a boring reading life? Or does the feeling of reading these great books make up for the possibly only slight enjoyment you get out of the text itself?

I'm so curious!

parrish lantern said...

Partially Tongue in Cheek, partially growing up in a household where there was no one to point me in any particular direction, So books such as the Penguin Classics acted as signposts or route guides, as I got older mid - late teens I started building a core group of books as reference points (internal library) which enabled me to pick my way through the labyrinthine world of books. Also when young & skint Classic books are easy to find (libraries are full of them) So yes altho partially tongue in cheek, partially the wayward travails of a dickensian boy, BIG SIGH.

Heather said...

You are proof that some people are simply born to be readers (I don't mean the ability to read, almost all of us are born with that-I mean the passion to read). The fact that you found your way through the classics because it was all that was available shows great desire-I'm a teacher and I can think of plenty of my students who would have just wandered away after the first page.

Laura said...

Hehehe, love the Dickens hate. I do love the Brontes though (except for Anne. Stupid Anne). But yeah, I think it is relatively impossible not to be influenced in some way when something is referred to as a classic.

dragonflyy419 said...

You make a really really good point about status being "a good signpost." I use it in the same way at times. When I'm unsure of what to read, I feel I can always turn to a classic and find something I should like.

petekarnas said...

I wish that I had been more attuned to the classics as a younger person. I read a few, but my reading, voracious as it was, was limited to popular fiction in my younger days. I wonder if I would be a different reader now had I been exposed to a different ilk of book back then.

James said...

Like you my earliest memory of reading "classic" literature was from my parent's bookshelf with books ranging from Dante to Bronte and Poe among those I remember. It was only later I learned they were classics and had a status that raised them above, say, Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (not that I didn't notice a difference based on my own reading).

parrish lantern said...

Hi Bookbelle,thanks for the comment, my status was purely accidental, but it stimulated a journey that I'm stiil on.


Hi Em, yes Canons are to be fired not to held up as an example. seriously i agree with you, but on the flipside, books are ignored because they are part of the so called canon & thus should be feared.


Thanks Heather, but it wasn't anything clever, I was just compelled to read & that was my source, reading is my escape, sanctuary, my exploration, & at points my method of communication with this world. I think Simon & Garfunkel summed it up " I have my books & poetry to protect me".


Hello Laura, yeah stupid anne.I do agree that they come with labels attached that it's hard to ignore.



Hi Pete, hope your birthday went well. It was nothing to do with being attuned to or having some specific affinity to. Access was all it was, I sometimes think I sound a fraud, especially amongst those with all the correct qualifications, because my path was that of an autodidact & thus not structured.

parrish lantern said...

Hi Gina, loved your OUlipo post.
"In fact without a formal guide to literature, it turns out status is a good signpost to where to go next." is the cry of the autodidact, with no educational route through the literary world, one looks for waymarkers to point the path. Read the article linked to your comment & although books can fall through the gaps, maybe its just me but I don't necessarily believe thats purely down to status in fact in my case its through following the classic path that has led me to other writers, for example in the past (when I was young, Sigh)I've followed whole nations literature by reading a classic from that particular country, by which I mean you read the "classic high status writer" through them you learn of another author, maybe one that influenced them, or they like, so you read them, then through them you learn of another writer etc. I covered most of europe this way when I was finding my way.


Hello James,
the funny thing was although my grandparents had this great collection of all matching classic literature, to them the merit was having them, sitting all ornamental on the side. In fact they were quite alarmed that I wanted to read them, I should have been outside playing football, getting into scrapes etc. not reading, they were quite worried about me.

winstonsdad said...

I love this post ,I grew up with a father who reads a lot more than I do although his taste is thrillers and westerns ,my current style of books is more by chance ,all the best stu

parrish lantern said...

Thanks, I'm Guessing chance equates to following a trail of writers, until where you started is miles away from where you are now,the path of the self taught.
Change of subject- The Parrish Lantern, is a year old today.

Loni said...

I agree that status guides you, but that you're not always going to agree with that status.

parrish lantern said...

Hi Loni, totally ,signposts point, you dont have to go.