Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like
Recently I finished reading The Grapes of Wrath for the first time in my life. How did that happen? How’d I get to this ripe age (speaking of grapes) without gobbling up this piece of classic American fiction?
Partly, I think it was already kind of in my head, as one of the pillars of our literary culture. Same with The Great Gatsby; you might not have read it but you feel like you have. The Sound and the Fury? Maybe you’ve read a third of it and gave up, but you got the idea. Some books are just like that—they’re in the ether and you absorb them subconsciously. Or you see the movie.
All of this got me thinking about other books that have eluded me or that I’ve avoided. Some are literary, some popular, but for one reason or another I never got up the gumption to crack their spines. Somehow I slipped through college without reading The Scarlet Letter, even though it was assigned. But I did manage War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov (plus Oblomov!) in one grueling Russian lit. class. How? I have no memory of it …
I’m pretty sure I’ll never read The Goldfinch, Pulitzer or no Pulitzer. I also don’t think Stephen King is required reading, but that’s just me.
Personally I know I’m awfully weak on everything from Dickens to Henry James, Jane Austen to Erica Jong. I’ve let down generations of great poets. Stopped reading a lot of short stories in the ‘90s. I owe Gravity’s Rainbow a big apology. But the fact is, we only have so much time, and life is literally too short to read everything you’d like to read. You have to pick and choose.
Are there any big titles you know you should have gotten to by now but haven’t? Ulysses anybody? (I pushed my way through it when I was 22.) Finnegan’s Wake? Never!
So fess up. Tell everyone what you’ve skipped in favor of the fun stuff.