Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The True Confessions Meme

(It seems like I stole this idea from Stefanie, who recently did a similar post, but I promise I didn't. She and I just happen to be on the same wavelength -- not for the first time.)

I was reading O magazine over the weekend (that's my first "true confession," I love that magazine), having, of course, skipped right to the article "What to Read Next: Our 26 Favorite Books of the Summer." Actually, since I'm in a confessing sort of a mood, that's not quite true. It was where I was headed before I got sidetracked by "Take the Intimacy Quiz!" (you will be happy to know that, according to this short little quiz, Bob and I score a "Congratulations -- your friendship and your marriage are strong") and the pictures of all the lovely pairs of clogs in "Love That! Clog Heaven" (falling madly in love, of course, with the pair that cost nearly $400).

Anyway, eventually I got to the article on books, because I am, of course, in desperate need of titles to add to the TBR tome (luckily, it seems that every other one was compared to Amy Bloom, a writer I have decided I don't like, so TBR damage was kept to a minimum). This article had a great sidebar feature in which authors were confessing about books they should have read but never have. "What fun, and how empowering to come clean," I thought, being someone who has lived her whole life trying to avoid people who might say to her, "You haven't read what? I can't believe you haven't read that!" I mean, if Kathryn Stockett can freely admit to Oprah's 5 billion (or whatever it is) followers that she's never read Jane Eyre, and Jennifer Egan can admit she's never read David Copperfield (woo-hoo, Jennifer. I'm right there with you!), surely I can admit to the handful of very kind people who read this blog that I've never read The Old Man and the Sea (or any Hemingway, as far as I know, although I may have read some short stories in high school that I don't remember). In fact, why not create a meme that revolves around such lapses?

So, here you go. This is the true confessions meme. Think of ten books it seems you should have read by now but never have. Post them. Feel free to say anything you want about why you haven't read them. Tag others when you're done.

1. The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
I love the hard-boiled genre. People have told me for years that I can't really say that without having read this classic. We read The Glass Key a couple of years ago for the detective book club. I planned to read this one right after that. I never did. Still planning to read it, though... Really.

2. Light in August by William Faulkner
I love Faulkner. About 20 years after having read it, I still think The Sound and the Fury is one of the most brilliant books I've ever read. I want to read this one. I pull it from the shelf from time to time, but, for some reason, I keep putting it back unread. Maybe it's because Faulkner takes real commitment, and I'm too much of a commitment-phobe or something.

3. The Scarlet Letter by Nathanial Hawthorne
I was living in England when everyone read this one in ninth grade. Thus, I never read it. I know what it's about, though. Do I really have to read it? (I was thrilled a number of years back when both my parents admitted to me that they'd never read it, either. Maybe we Southerners just have a hard time with that Puritan stuff.)

4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court by Mark Twain
I never get around to this one, despite my love of Mark Twain, because I keep thinking I need to reread Le Morte D'Arthur before doing so, and, well, I never get around to that (despite the fact that I love it). I did, last year, try to listen to the audiobook version, but that just convinced me more than ever that I needed to revisit Malory, and so I gave up on it.

5. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
My sister told me, back when I was in high school, that I had to read this book. I've been having and planning to read it ever since.

6. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Can anyone think of a single good reason why I haven't read this book that is so up my alley it smells like garbage and has alley cat paw prints all over it?

7. Call of the Wild by Jack London
Is it horrible that I just really have no interest? Despite the fact that everyone tells me I'll love it?

8. Shogun by James Clavell
It's just so damn long, isn't it? The copy we have is actually in two volumes. I mean, no matter how good everyone tells me it is, who has time for that?

9. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
It's not long. I loved The Secret Agent. Why haven't I read this one?

10. Black Boy by Richard Wright
Again, I have no excuse. In fact, I ought to go pull it from the shelf right now and begin. But I won't (for the 100th or so time).

Oh well. At least there is one book I can say I've read that most haven't: the Bible (yes, the whole thing, although not the Apocrypha). I think that definitely makes up for never having read all these others. Maybe the next meme ought to be "books I've read that make up for those I haven't." (Madame Bovary three times, not by choice, certainly fits that bill).

So, now, everyone but Stefanie, because she basically already did it, who is reading this, must do the meme. I mean it. If I can confess, so can you. Or at least tell me: how many of those I've listed have you not read?


Susan said...

Hi Emily! How do you come up with these cool memes? And how did you know that last Friday, I looked at Oprah in the store for the very same article - the summer books - and came away thinking there wasn't anything on the list I wanted to read? No cool mysteries, must-have fantasies, I think there was a science one that might have been interesting, but really, it was good to not add to my TBR mountain too. So I hate to ruin your fun, because I was so pleased to see I've read some of the books you haven't read yet! That's ok, I'm going to do this meme, and wait until you see what I've never read and meant to....
PS I really enjoyed The Bell Jar when I was 18. I'm not sure what that says about my state of mind then or now, because I've been compiling all the Sylvia Plath books I can find, so I think a Sylvia jaunt is coming up soon....I have read The Call of the Wild, Heart of Darkness, and Sho-gun - all of his books, in fact. You'll be glad to know that I haven't read any others, so we can have a Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mark Twain shame party one day :-)

Emily Barton said...

Susan, ooo, telling me which ones you haven't read as well as agreeing to do your own post. Now that's a spirit that can excite me! I will gladly join your "shame" clubs. Glad to see I'm not the only one pulled into the article in O. Tell me: are we ultimately disappointed or not that we didn't want to read every book? In answer to your question about my "cool" memes: all I can say is that I guess I wasn't deemed the "Queen o' Memes" for nothing (thus crowNed
ages and ages ago by the very astute, IMHO, Hobgoblin of Little Minds).

Stefanie said...

You probably missed Old Man and the Sea for the same reason you missed Scarlet Letter. I read both in 9th grade and loved them both. I read Brave New World as teen and really liked it as well as Andromeda Strain which I also read about the same time. Bell Jar is good but I wasn't as impressed as I was supposed to be. Heart of Darkness, now that is an excellent book. I haven't read the others on your list but I can't say that I have any desire to read Shogun or Call of the Wild.

liliannattel said...

I watched The Big Sleep 2x, both versions. I so wanted to read the book (my h did) but I found it too triggering. Maybe another time.

Courtney said...

Freaking fantastic meme - makes me anxious to start blogging again! I know what you mean - I have several I would be embarrased to admit not having read - can you say, To Kill a Mockingbird? I KNOW. Loved this whole thing and yes, there were at least five times I wanted to say "can't believe she hasn't read that," LOL.

ZoesMom said...

I love this! And even though I've read some of these I can completely see why you haven't/won't. Let go of the guilt and just don't. :-)

Off to compose my own list of shame...

Smithereens said...

Hey, I love O too! (I'm in the 5 billion, but getting O here is a bit more challenging...) I love your list and I certainly have a great list of my own (being French I'm supposed to have read all Balzac and at least a few Victor Hugo's, but I only did it under duress at school and no more than 3 pages), but I'm not in the mood for self-castigation today... What about the list you're secretly proud to have read because your neighbors and librarians certainly haven't??

Gumbomum said...

We used to do this as a drinking game when I was in grad school in English/American lit -- we called it "I Never Read It." Each person would confess a book they had never read, and if you HAD read it, you had to drink.

Yeah, English grad students know how to have fun.

BTW I haven't read: 1, 4, 7, 8, or 9. My 14 year old son has read Shogun *hanging my head in shame*

Cam said...

Never read Maltese Falcon, nor Sho-Gun, nor have I ever warned to. Light in August and The Bell Jar were books I just couldn't finish because I was bored to tears. Ditto Heart of Darkness. Have read the others but can't imagine why I would recommend them, except perhaps the Hemingway. Even Conneticut Yankee wouldn't be the Twain I'd recommend. I suspect you missed this one in school too because of living in England.

litlove said...

Apart from The Maltese Falcon, I haven't read ANY of these. There are gazillions of books I haven't read, most of them classics, it seems. I spent my formative years reading French and German classics and they hardly ever appear on Anglo-American listings. And nowadays, while I am trying to make up some deficit, it isn't always classics that attract my attention. Heigh ho - so long as I'm reading good books, I really don't mind! :-)

Emily Barton said...

Stef, oh yes, that probably is why I missed Old Man and the Sea. I will, at some point, read Hemingway. After all, I've been to his house and loved it. And a man who loved cats the way he did has got to have had a heart, which I am sure shows in his writing.

Lilian, I hate it when I see a movie, swear I will read the book, and then never get around to doing so (hello, Children of Men, which I saw something like 4 years ago now).

Court, so, you figured out my little plot to get you blogging again :-)!

ZM, loved your "list of shame"!

Smithereens, ooo, I love that idea of a list of books I'm secretly proud to have read. I'll have to think on it.

Gumbomum, now THERE is a drinking game I could get into!

Cam, so glad to have someone tell me so many of them are yawn-worthy. Makes me feel less guilty about never having read them. In fact, maybe I can be known as The Woman Who Never Reads Boring Books.

Litlove, if I'd read German and French classics, I'd say "to hell with the Anglo-American listings." But no, it seems that I just prefer to read tons of either obscure or contemporary stuff (despite claiming I don't read much contemporary stuff). It's good to read the contemporary works, though. I mean SOMEone has to figure out what the classics from today will be 100 years from now, right?

Grad said...

Emily, I've read some of these on your list and not others. I read The Maltese Falcon not too long ago and loved it. And, of course, every young woman in college (especially at the all-girls college I went to) the late 60s read The Bell Jar and related to it in some way...all that lovely angst, I guess. Loved it too. I got through Shogun, and went on to read Noble House by Clavell. Both are very good (but very long). Enjoyed this post so much.

Emily Barton said...

Grad, glad you enjoyed it. And you give me courage to try Clavell!