But something got in the way
By Jeff Salter
This week’s topic has triggered various types of responses, some of which focused on books we believe we were “expected” to read or “pressured” to read… but (for whatever reason have not… yet). I think that’s the approach I took in my comments to the Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday Foxes.
But now that I study the actual topic more closely, it nudges us (instead) to reveal a title we’ve WANTED to read, but something has gotten in the way. As I’ve mulled over that issue, I’ve struggled to arrive at a title that has eluded me, unless it was out-of-print… or so expensive that I simply could not acquire it.
I remember a rather frenzied search for Vol. 1 of the 17-volume Penny Parker series by Mildred Wirt… which had been omitted (possibly for copyright reasons) from the digital collection I purchased at a bargain price. When I began searching for that first title, most of the copies available (in decent condition) were $40 on up… which I was not willing to pay. Especially since I’d acquired those other 16 (digital) titles for a grand total of $1.06.
A few decades further back, I was trying to acquire all the titles in the Miss Minerva series. I was able to locate the first four, but never did come up with an affordable copy of the other remaining eight titles. [Actually, one of those other titles is a cookbook, so I doubt I’d want that one anyhow.]
There are other books that I’ve heard about, or seen reviews for, which have attracted my attention, but most of them were simply too pricey for me to acquire. One of these was a collectors’ compilation of the “best” of the Sgt. Rock comic books. Variously, that’s either out of print, or so expensive that I refuse to buy it.
But the topic as I had initially scanned it suggested a totally different approach, namely: what are the books that you wish you had read (so you could say you read them), but you just couldn’t gin up the interest?
For that I have a few choice words.
First, I should explain that I majored in English (i.e., “literature”) in college, so obviously I have an appreciation for writing and reading. But – as we’ve already discussed a bit this week at 4F1H – some of the literary “classics” are quite UN-friendly to casual readers. Add that to the fact that too many students in junior high and high school were compelled to gnaw on stories, poems, novels that were completely indigestible (to them). Many were to me, as well.
In college, I had the misfortune to take a class with the head of the English Department at that university. He was an ardent fan of Herman Melville and made us wade through several titles, including Billy Budd. But the highlight of that semester – for him – was to have us slog through Moby Dick. Ugh. Talk about BORING. Folks, I honestly don’t know how I even passed that course, because I’ll admit here and now: I did NOT read all 700 pages of that opus. I struggled to get through a few chapters and finally gave up. Bought the Cliff’s Notes and never looked back.
For a different class, I had another professor who was passionate about HER favorite author: Henry James. Folks, I slogged through every word of the novel, The Ambassadors, and the novella Daisy Miller. And, yes, I even read The Beast in the Jungle, but when it came time to discuss (in class) that Beast / Jungle novella, I made the supreme mistake of stating exactly how I felt about it. Yes, folks, stupid Jeff just blurted out – to the professor who lived and breathed Henry James – that I thought Beast / Jungle was little more than a tedious, over-baked soap opera. You could have heard a pin drop. Professor So-and-so did not (at that moment) chastise me for having an opinion, as I recall, though she certainly expressed her profound disagreement with my assessment. [Frankly, I think it un-nerved her to hear a dissenting voice from a student.] Throughout the remainder of that semester, however, she reserved an icy glare for me (when she deigned to look my direction at all). And my course grade likely went from an “A” to a “B” solely because I’d verbalized what I’m sure most every student in that class equally felt.
What lesson did I learn from my blunt disclosure? Professors who have done their doctoral work on particular authors do NOT – repeat NOT – wish to have snot-nosed kids (though I was a 25-year-old Air Force veteran at the time) reveal their true feelings about the entertainment value of the titles produced by their revered author.
But I’m sure y’all already knew that.
To answer this part of the topic, I’ll reveal a title that I feel I “should have” read – indeed, other English majors express considerable shock that I have not yet done so – but just never got any traction toward actually starting it. Pride and Prejudice. There, I admitted it. I had to do a LOT of research on this title because it figured prominently in my own novel, “The Duchess of Earl,” but I have yet to read it. To me, it sounds like a yawn-fest.
Uh, Professor So-and-so, is this gonna wreck my grade?
Which title do you believe you SHOULD HAVE READ, but didn’t?
Which title do you WISH YOU HAD, but haven’t yet?
[JLS # 507]