November 6, 2007

Dodging the Classics

Posted in Literature at 2:21 am by Lindsay

I’m in the habit of reading msn’s Slate Magazine ( almost every single day.  Last week, they celebrated “Fall Book Week” and featured a story that asked modern writers about their “gravest literary omissions: the most important books they’ve never read”.  To read that article:

Granted, I’m only 22 years old, and there’s a lot I haven’t read, but I have time to make up for that.  So while there are many important books I haven’t yet read, I’ll just comment upon the author that I should have read by now but haven’t. 

 Introducing Mr. Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain.  I have visited the house where he entered this world in Hannibal, Missouri, but my eyes have never read the exploits of Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn, a Connecticut Yankee, or any other concoction of who Faulkner calls “the father of American literature”. 

This omission was never deliberate until recently, when I read that Twain was quoted as saying “any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen.  Even if it contains no other book.”  The nerve.  Being an Austen fan myself, I don’t think this bodes fairly on my chances of liking Mr. Twain, but I suppose that such a reaction does not warrant my unwillingness to give it a chance.  I only stumbled upon this quote a few months ago, so I don’t know how I was able to manage to avoid his work all through school. 

So that’s my grave omission in literature.  I’m working on repairing that, but for now, I’ll ask the question of you and anyone else who might like to respond.  We love comments!!




  1. Pullman said,

    My grave omission in literature is probably Ayn Rand. I must admit I have never read Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.
    I also will say that I wasn’t very impressed with Mark Twain when I tried to read Tom Sawyer – but then again I’m not a big fan of American Literature. Check out my favorite books listed on facebook and all but one are from European writers (and that one book isn’t even fiction!). I look forward to hearing how your journey with Mark Twain goes and maybe I’ll try to give American literature and Atlas Shrugged a go.

  2. LA said,

    Yes, The Fountainhead has been sitting unread on my bookshelf for quite a few years now. And I’m going to have to agree with you about my preference of European literature. All of my favorite authors are British or had lived the majority of their lives in England.

  3. DC said,

    What a great article on Slate. Going through the authors’ lists of literary omissions, I was ashamed at how many I had not heard of and therefore not read. My “To-Read” list is growing rapidly, but I actually find that sort of exciting rather than daunting. I am young and I want to challenge myself to read as much as possible for as long as I possibly can.
    As far as my own literary omissions, I am going to list two books that I want to read but have not becuase I am intimidated by them: Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka and Faust by Goethe. Both of these books were recommended in a music history course by a professor I have great respect for. I know they will not be easy reads, but I DO NOT want to start reading and not finish.
    Oh, and The Fountainhead – great book!

  4. DC said,

    I want to add to my literary omissions for the sake of this friendship…The Scarlet Pimpernel. I did start it once, and the timing was not right. But I will read it. Don’t fear!

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