I think I had a pretty good college education, thanks to the programs at the Universities of Wyoming, Oregon and Alaska. Those classes introduced me to some of the literary pillars of my life: Flannery O'Connor, Charles Dickens, James Fenimore Cooper, et al. But for every Things Fall Apart that was forced-fed to me on my graduate reading list, there were an equal number of unread Thomas Hardy novels.
I've never lied about my Unreads, never puffed myself up during cocktail chatter, expostulating on the cyclical structure of time and history of Finnegan's Wake. I never said I read Lord Jim or pretended to know Proust.
Apparently, however, some would-be readers have prevaricated. Once or twice or a hundred times, according to a recent British poll:
In a bid to appear more intelligent, more than 60 per cent of people have lied about reading classic novels. A leading research team polled 2,000 members of the British public to find out the tactics people employ to appear more intelligent, with some enlightening results. The most popular ruse is pretending to have read classic novels, with 42 per cent of people relying on film and TV adaptations, or summaries found online, to feign knowledge of the novels. Surprisingly, half of the adults questioned admit to having displayed books on their shelves without ever having read them.Well, okay, that last is especially true in my household. There are thousands (more than 6,000, to be exact) of books "on display" in my basement which have never been--and probably never will be--read. My life is nothing but a series of daily agonies and regrets.
|Saw the movie, didn't read the book|
Jane Eyre? Nope. The Grapes of Wrath? Uh-uh. The Wind in the Willows? Blew right past me. Philip Roth? Not a single word.
For the record, these are the books on the British Top Feigned Reads which I have read: War and Peace, Great Expectations, The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Crime and Punishment. So I'm, like, superior to more than 60 percent of Brits. Not that I'm lording it over anybody or anything.
|Saw the movie, read the book, and drank the coffee|
Nonetheless, there are sad, chasmic gaps in my reading career. I dream of deserted islands, prison sentences and hospital stays which would allow me to catch up on all that I've missed.
These are the titles which top my Literary Bucket List (the ones I hope to read before I kick the bucket) (*and, yes, I realize the list is mostly populated by Dead White Guys) (**furthermore, with the exception of Cather, Joyce, Orwell, and Bradbury, I haven't read anything by these authors):
Ulysses by James Joyce
A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
Death Comes For the Archbishop by Willa Cather
The Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust
Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy...or Tess of the D'Urbervilles or The Mayor of Casterbridge or anything by TH, frankly
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
Anything by P. G. Wodehouse
Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray
The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
Kidnapped and/or Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Perpetually perched at the #1 spot, however, is Lolita which, for too many years to count, I've been battering myself over the head for not reading. I always think, "This will be the year, this will be the year." But then something bright and shiny and new comes along and Lo slips farther down in the TBR stack.
I've vowed, however, this will be the year. Definitely. Hopefully. Maybe.
So what about you? What classics have you regrettably not read? Confess in the comments section.