Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I'm So Angry I Could Spit

Obviously, my bad mood continues. Essentially, this asshole (sorry) posted in response to my nomination for February's book, The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, that maybe we oughtn't read pre-WWII books 'cause they aren't really classics. This pissed me off. If he doesn't want to read the book then don't vote for it. It's not like I'm the only one nominating for God's sake.

So I replied (Frank's the group leader):
Frank said in the nomination message that the group does "modern
classics" as well. It seems more difficult to get cultural pluralism
in our texts if we ignore the 20th century! I think the difference
between pre-American Civil Rights Movement and post is significant
enough that we have to look beyond the 1960's in American literature,
at least.

[His response. Quoted without permission >.< but I'm angry so grrrr- my commentary in brackets]
You're right that it is harder to get cultural pluralism if we stop at
about World War II, though our January selection is an example of a
pre-WWII cultural pluralist selection [We're reading The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata, which is both post-WWII and culturally homogenous. It's Japanese for God's sake, this country's about as racially and religiously homogenous as they get. Cultural pluralism? Does he even get the term? I think he thinks he's a lot smarter than he is. Cultural pluralism refers to minority groups within larger cultures], so it isn't impossible.

But if we read from any era, the group becomes just a generic reading
group without any particular focus, not a classics reading group.
That's not to say it couldn't become that if people voted it that way,
but there are hundreds of Yahoo reading groups, plenty of which read
and discuss modern literature, while this is the only one I'm aware of
which specifically focuses on classics. Which is what attracted me
here, just speaking personally. [So he's saying, what? He wants me to leave the group? The group's read things like "Atonement" and "The English Patient" previously. Why can't he just not vote for the book and leave it at that?]

BTW, I, for one, think the term "modern classic" is an oxymoron, and
an particularly insidious [Insidious: intended to trap of beguile; stealthily treacherous... are we not being a little melodramatic?]one at that. So many books are hailed as
"modern classics" or "destined to become a classic" or such which
within a decade or two disappear into Neverland. Just go back and
look at the selections of the Pulitzer or other prizes for literature
from the past few decades and see how many have survived and are still
read today [because twenty years is how we know a book is good. Nevermind "found classics," such as the Nihongi and Tale of Genji, that reappear hundreds of years after having disappeared into anonynimity]-- and how few are likely to be read hundreds of years now,
as Austen, Chaucer, Dickens, Trollope, Defoe, Thackeray, Scott, Hardy,
Milton, Shakespeare, et. al, have been and still are.

We could argue ad infinitum, if we chose, over the definition of
classic and never reach agreement, but personally I think a pretty
good guide is that if a book has never appeared in at least one of the
major series of classic books [AKA, enjoyed by the WASPS. Jesus Christ, I'm angry at this point. Because the classics are almost ALWAYS by caucasians and then mostly by men. He's trying to change this into the class that made me quit my English major. I could spit!] (I think of the Great Books of the
Western World, the Harvard Classics, Modern Library classics, Everyman
editions (both original and current), Penguin Classics, Oxford World
Classics, Barnes and Noble classics, and there may be a few others I'm
missing), it isn't very likely to be regarded by many literate readers
as a legitimate classic. [By "literate readers," as though I'm not because of my opinion. What an asshole.]

Just my opinion. [I hate him.]

How to respond, I wonder? Is he being overtly rude enough that I can be implicitly rude back? Am I just angry because I'm overworked, had two tests the last two days and two quizes to follow, with 8 pages of homework assigned, all in the same class? Plus 80 pages of Tale of Genji for tonight, two tests next week and a big test the day before break?

That may be true. But I still think this guy's a jerk. Gr.

P.S. Here are the apparently "unread" novels that have won the Pulitzer Prize in the last thirty years:
1978: Elbow Room by James Alan McPherson
1979: The Stories of John Cheever by John Cheever
1980: The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
1981: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
1982: Rabbit Is Rich by John Updike
1983: The Color Purple by Alice Walker
1984: Ironweed by William Kennedy
1985: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
1986: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
1987: A Summons to Memphis by Peter Taylor
1988: Beloved by Toni Morrison
1989: Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
1990: The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos
1991: Rabbit At Rest by John Updike
1992: A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
1993: A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain by Robert Olen Butler
1994: The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
1995: The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields
1996: Independence Day by Richard Ford
1997: Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser
1998: American Pastoral by Philip Roth
1999: The Hours by Michael Cunningham
2000: Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
2001: The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
2002: Empire Falls by Richard Russo
2003: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
2004: The Known World by Edward P. Jones
2005: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
2006: March by Geraldine Brooks
2007: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
2008: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

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