David Lodge, in his novel Changing Places, invents the literary game of ‘Humiliation’; in which academics attempt to out-do one another by naming classic books they have never read and admitting shameful gaps in their literary (and therefore professional) knowledge.
As you might know, I’m an English Literature graduate and I (sometimes) claim to be an aspiring writer. I’m critical, I like to read to analyse and I love editing. You might think therefore that well read. I disagree. I know full well there are a number of books I’ve never even touched, let alone read, but I’m going to shame myself here and list the top ten most humiliating.
I’ve tried. Gods know I’ve tried to read this book. Each time I get stuck after the first chapter. Too self-pitying. The thing is, I probably would enjoy the story in the end, but I can’t for the life of me get past that frustration.
2. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Well, I can’t admit to having tried this one. Gothic fiction just riles me, rather than entices me. And it doesn’t help that either one or both of the above were quoted nauseatingly in the Twilight saga.
3. David Copperfield, Charles Dickens
This book represents a lot of Dickens’ work that I haven’t read. Also, Bleak House, A Tale of Two Cities, Nicholas Nickleby. Not quite sure of the reason for this one, so it is a little shameful. I love Dickens! Perhaps I’m just scared of the size of Bleak House…
4. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
I’m sure I should have read this book. And it ought to count for about three books on normal ‘Best Books’ lists, thereby making the reader Very Well Read. However, I still haven’t. As such, I am Not Well Read At All.
5. Moby-Dick, Herman Melville
I think some of my old lecturers would kill me for not having read this book. They’re American. And it has the most well-known first line in literary history, no? Even I know that. One day, I’ll read on.
6. Tess Of The D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
Another writer of whom I have read shamefully little. I’ve read The Mayor of Casterbridge. I was about 14 at the time, so I barely remember it, but I don’t think I hated it – so the reason I stopped there with Hardy is beyond me. Another I really ought to buy and put on my To-Read pile sooner rather than later.
7. Ulysses, James Joyce
Well, technically this doesn’t need to be on the list, but I’m ashamed. Ulysses was my post-degree summer project. I assumed that I might be clever enough to read it. I’ve read the first chapter three times and then I stopped. I need to finish this book! I know I will like it. But as yet, still shameful
8. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
9. Crime And Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This one is ever so slightly less shameful as although I haven’t read it yet, I’m doing something about the situation and starting it now! However, I’m still pretty sure I should have done so already.
10. On the Road, Jack Kerouac
Yeah, yeah, great American novels. Have never had a desire to read this book until I got to university and found out that everyone else had. I was still too busy reading Tolkien or Renaissance poetry, however, to pick it up.
And a bonus shame:
Atonement, Ian McEwan
I have never read this book. Sometimes I think I might be the only one. More to the point, I will never read this book. I can’t bear Ian McEwan.
And on that potential bombshell, I’ll leave you.
What are your literary humiliations? Don’t leave me alone – what else haven’t you read?
Well, I’m stuck. Don’t know what to update.
At the risk of losing touch with the blog altogether, I may well turn the floor over to you, dear reader (is there more than one?) and say: TELL ME WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT.
Answers in comments, please.
If this doesn’t work, I think I have forgotten how to write….
It’s here! PGP (as I’ve taken to calling it in my head) is one year old today!
To commemorate the occasion of one year’s successful ranting – by which I mean blogging – I have created the above: a PGP Wordle. If you are not aware of Wordle, it is a time-consuming website that allows you to create pretty word pictures out of poems, stories, letter, blogs: anything you or anyone else has written. Try it!
In creating my wordle, I discovered that in that past year I have written 33539 words. This means two things to me: Wow. And also, if I managed that, why can’t I write a novel? All it takes is a year! Oh yeah, no decent novel ideas… (well, maybe one). I’ll work on that.
So what does the Wordle tell me, as an analytical tool?
All of the big words are ‘feeling’ words: I think a lot, I feel a lot, and I want a lot, apparently. I also mention writing, knowing and reading a lot. But my main pre-occupations are women, people and poetry.
So I’m opinionated and demanding about writing poems, thinking about people and about women. Sounds like me, actually. Good.
It amuses me that other words which show up as having a fair number of mentions are sex, men, library, love and friends. Aww, what a soppy git I am.
This is a really fun thing to do – and a heartily recommend you self-analyse in the same non-scientific way! It’s so much fun!
So what have I acheived after a year of blogging?
Well, I’ve met a small number of new people – not as many as anticipated, but that’s probably down to my own laziness. My friends who read my blog probably
regret it know a lot more about the opinions I have, especially those who I don’t see all that often.
I am still not really writing more, and I find that this is not really the place for criticism, as I had hoped . So I’ll have to work on that one.
I have also redesigned it about 20 times, but another birthday present is a brand new and finally pretty layout! Hopefully I’ll stick with this one…
But mostly, I’ve enjoyed writing each week. Whether it’s a new idea, an old idea, or some sort of opinion, it’s been nice to feel that I’m sharing. I hope you’ve enjoyed it too…
What next for PGP?
Well, I’d like opinions on this one, really. I’m considering streamlining it somewhat – but I’m not sure how. I’m not a book reviewer or blogger, like my friend The Bibliofreak, so I can’t do that. The market for library blogs has been saturated by CPD23, including my own feeble attempt Nouveau Librarian. I already don’t contribute to a cookery blog out of sheer laziness. I don’t write enough, or know enough about writing to make a writer’s only blog.
Currently, I just write about a mixture of all of these things, and do what I set out to do: have an online Moleskine.
So should I streamline? I might attract more readers if I did. But what would I say?! I could do themed days, like some other bloggers… What do you guys think? Is PGP fine the way it is, or do you wish it had more direction?
And if you don’t reply, I’ll ask you in person.
Meanwhile, happy birthday, PostGradPanopticon – and thank you all for reading and commenting!