Thursday, March 17, 2011
Literary Blog Hop
So, the literary blog hop question for this week is:
What literary work must you read before you die?
I'll answer, much like the original poster in two parts.
First, the literary work YOU must read before you die is Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. There are a number of reasons, I'm recommending Lolita. It is a fantastic book in its own rights, but I suspect that many readers who have avoided it up to this point are avoiding it because the subject makes them uncomfortable. I think we all need to push through that resistance at times in our lives (and not just in reading), so I'm all for reading out of the comfort zone. I, also think, many readers will be surprised that Lolita really isn't all their minds have made it out to be. For one, it isn't all that graphic.
Lolita is a masterpiece of the unreliable narrator. We never really know when Humbert is feeding us the truth or not. He spends much of his time trying to convince us that he is not the monster that we think he is...so where does the truth end, and the lies begin? And why as readers do we care? The guy's a pedophile for goodness sakes! And there lies Nabokov's genius. We end up caring about this sick, sick man.
Another reason to read Lolita for Americans/natural born English speakers is to feel small. Really small and insignificant. Because one cannot read Lolita without being overwhelmed with the beauty of the prose. English is Nabokov's second language...his book is taught in American Lit. classes. He is remarkable. Most of us will never write something so beautiful in our native language.
What book must I read before I die?
There are MANY. I've never cracked open a Jane Austen book, which just seems so male of me. I've never read War and Peace...or Crime and Punishment...or the Brother Karamazov...I've never read any Chekhov stories. I seem to be woefully lacking in reading Russian authors. (I have read some Turgenev short stories). But I'm going to go with Ulysses by James Joyce. It's one of those love or hate books...and people tend to either really, really love or hate those. And I think that says something about the artistic merit of a book. I believe that great art must evoke strong emotions in one direction or another. Very few works, evoke only great love or great hate...so chances are if someone HATES a book, someone else LOVES it. Books that popularly people like, but don't evoke a strong emotion, aren't great works of art IMO. So, yeah, a lot of people don't get Ulysses and hate it. I may be one of those. But the flip-side is, the people who like Ulysses...they swear by it. I may be one of those, too.
I should also point out that Lolita is the same kind of book. Some people just will not get over the subject matter and will hate it. I'm not one of those people, but you may be. Partly, this is IMO why it is a great piece of art.