9.20.2005

The Naked and the Dead

Publishers Weekly reports:

After two years of controversial choices, the National Book Foundation will present its 2005 Medal for Distinguished Contributions to American Letters to Norman Mailer at its annual awards ceremony November 16. The NBF, which conducts the National Book Awards, drew some heat in 2003 and 2004 when it presented its Medal to Stephen King and Judy Blume, respectively. The King selection was criticized by some, who chided the organization for choosing a popular, rather than literary, author. The choice of Blume was knocked because she was viewed by critics as an author of controversial young adult works.

No one can quibble with the choice of Mailer, whose illustrious career includes winning the NBA and Pulitzer Prize in 1969 for Armies of the Night. In 1980, Mailer won his second Pulitzer for The Executioner's Song. In addition to his distinguished writing career, Mailer cofounded the Village Voice, was the editor of Dissent from 1952 to 1963 and served as president of PEN American Center from 1984 to 1986.


Miss Snark confesses:

I've never read any of Norman Mailer's books. Not even The Executioner's Song (although I did read Mikal Gilmore's incredible Shot Through the Heart).

Can I call myself well read if I haven't read Norman Mailer? How about Thomas Pynchon? Philip Roth? TS Eliot? James Joyce? Maya Angelou?

The list of must-be-read to be well-read is arbitrary...and fistfights break out in literary saloons all over America when certain authors are mentioned.

I'll just limit myself to the call to confession: who haven't you read that you know you should have. Fess up, Snarklings!

30 comments:

Bernita said...

Since I managed to read only one third of every lit course I ever took, I have to confess - nearly everyone.

kitty said...

Faulkner. Attempted one of his books, but his total lack of punctuation caused dizzy spells trying to catch my breath without losing what little thread of story I had managed to glean. After several pages, I opted for Cliff Notes, instead.

A blogger I know had joined Oprah's summer reading program of Faulkner. She posted once on her progress and then never mentioned it again. :)

Elektra said...

I cannot make myself read anything by Charles Dickens or Herman Melville, and to be honest, Huckleberry Finn to me is as garlic to a vampire (vampiress?). I'll run away screaming at the very mention of reading dialect.

Gina MarySol Ruiz said...

I keep meaning to read James Joyce but it just never happens. I did manage to read a couple of his dirty letters to Nora though. Nasty boy!

Kristin said...

Great Expectations ... my ninth grade English class skipped that one.

Anything by D.H. Lawrence. I keep going to that shelf in the library but then reconsidering and heading for the Jennifer Weiner shelf.

Desperate Writer said...

I haven't read many of the classics, and I should. Dickens, Hemingway, Melville, Twain, and the like. I've always thought of myself as a pretty smart gal, well-read, but since I'm not schooled in the classics, I feel like something is missing.

Elektra said...

If you want a classic, you should definitely start with Pride and Prejudice. Quite possibly the best book ever. Dumas is quite nice as well.

Alphabet101 said...

I tried really hard to read Mailer, but in the end I used The Executioner's Song to press roses from my wedding.

I am however not without some classic credits - in the event that my brain can't be used to form a concise sentence during the editing phase of my latest WIP, I quickly open either Huckleberry Finn or To Kill A Mockingbird, and suddenly all is right with the world again.

Go figure.

kitty said...

My husband read Miller's Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn and thoroughly enjoyed them. Of his, his idea of reading for enjoyment at the time was Dante's Inferno.

Remodeling Repartee said...

Dostoyevsky.

Did I even spell that correctly?

Joely Sue Burkhart said...

I'd rather be horsewhipped than have to read Moby Dick again. *shudder* I feel guilty about not reading Faulkner yet--I really did plan to read Fury this summer. Hello, it's almost October!

Bill Peschel said...

It would be shorter to list those that I have read, and me with a colege edgamacation.

Hemingway and Fitzgerald (but not Wolfe)
Boccachio and Dante (but not Cervantes)
Euripides and Sophaclese (but not Sappho)
Plato, Aristotle and Marx (but not Wittgenstein, the beery swine)
Twain, Poe, Hawthorne (but not Thoreau, Cooper and Irving)

You know, there's gotta be a rhyme in here somewhere.

Elektra said...

Speaking of the classics, I wonder what Miss Snark would have to say, were the opening lines of some of them put through the Crap-O-Meter.
It is a truth universally acknoweledged that a single man...
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Call me Ishmael.
Even Tolkien starts out with lots of backstory

nessili said...

Steinbeck is one writer I avoid. People/horses/dogs dying everywhere. Except Travels With Charley. That's an extremely good book, but then again, it's not fiction.
Actually, if it's American "Literature," I've probably avoided it (unless forced by a teacher). I like my fiction to be, well, fictional (happy endings are a must, don't kill off the hero, etc.). Real life is bad enough as it is without me reading about it for fun, and AmLit tends (in my experience) to be too realistic, too doggone depressing, and too full of itself.

The Gambino Crime Family said...

Speaking of Jane Austin... not a word. Or any of the Bronte sisters. Or Little Women. I'd say I'm sexist but I haven't read anything by Mailer either.

Elektra said...

Austen. Not Austin. She is not a city in Texas. That being said, has anybody ever read Northanger Abbey? I'd like to officially nominate it for the first annual Snarklings' Choice Worst Novel Ever award

kitty said...

I loved Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but I just could not get into his Travels With Charlie.

Lynn Raye Harris said...

With an MA in Lit, I've read a lot of the classics. Some of which I would run screaming from if I ever had to read them again (The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence). But I've not read Proust or Henry James or Mailer or the Bronte sisters or Flaubert. I'm sure there are others, but I'm blanking at the moment. Oooh, I love the idea of running those openings through the Crap-O-Meter. "The Brangwens had lived for generations on the Marsh Farm, in the meadows where the Erewash twisted sluggishly through alder trees, separating Derbyshire from Nottinghamshire." (The afore-mentioned Rainbow--snore).

Kristin said...

I never read "1984" by George Orwell.

James Goodman said...

Henry Miller comes to mind, but I can't seem to think of anyone else.

TillyLost said...

I'm a very bad girl, I only read books I think I'm likely to enjoy. So although I do read some literary novels and classics, I'm probably not well read according to any list that might be drawn up. I like to be challenged, I like to be stimulated, I want my thoughts provoked. I just don't want to be bored.

I loathed every Jane Austen book except Northanger Abbey.

E. Dashwood said...

I've read Northanger Abbey. Once you have started with Jane, you have to read it all. At least I have, given my name.

Moby Dick, a great read--a page turner until you get the encyclopedia of whales, which you just have to steel yourself and skip.

Wittgenstein didn't drink. No chin, chin with martinis and Miss Snark.

John Austin was a great British philosopher. In an homage to (homonomynous, is that a word?) Jane, he wrote a book called "Sense and Sensibilia." He was once asked if he read any novels and he replied, "Yes, all five of them. Every year." Meaning Jane's.

As for me, tried to read Galsworthy's "Forsyte Family Saga." Couldn't do it. Much prefer the Masterpiece Theater version.

Megan Frampton said...

I've never read Mailer, either. Or Joyce. I've read most of the others mentioned above, although not Wittgenstein or Sappho.

Miss Snark said...

All right Dashwood, you Saga puss, OUT OF THE POOL!!! And anyone else who doesn't LOVE LOVE LOVE the Forsyte Saga.

Masterpiece Theatre indeed.

Miss Snark dusts off her hat pin prepatory to some serious fisticuffs.

E. Dashwood said...

I don't know, I've read some of the major multi-generational family epics, Buddenbrooks, for example, no problem. After a hundred pages I just was not that into it, and I decided that life is short.

Here's a question for Snarklings. In your salad high school days did you go for the Classic Comic book or the Cliff notes.

doghousereilly said...

I've read the first two chapters of Ulysses four or five times--the rest of it, never. Love Faulkner and Steinbeck though.

Someone once told me Proust wrote fifty pages about somebody turning over in bed. Although he meant it in a good way, it's kept me from even thinking about reading Proust.

Brady Westwater said...

Don't let that stop you from reading Proust. The first pages are a little... slow... and it takes time for the plot to really get going. But once the charcters - and their stories start to interact - it reads like a runaway train.

As for whom I have not read - being blseed/cursed with natural speed reading skills I have plowed through almost everyone. But as for I find unreadable due to their prose style... Gore Vidal, Normam Mailer, Houellebecq, Foulcault - hell - ALL the French ... except maybe Ricoeur.

Deran Ludd said...

As much as I love such modernist classic writers as Virginia Wolf and Louis-Ferdinand Celine, I could not even get through page two of Ulysses. My readings in the pre-1900 classics is spotty. After listening to a recent reading adaptation of Don Quixote on the BBC World Service I trotted down to the library and am now thoroughly enjoy it in person, as it were. That is between bouts of rereading the Collected Stories of Paul Bowles. Now he is a writer who should be in the modern classics column!

Diane said...

I remember trying to read The Hobbit at school and giving up in boredom, so I've never bothered reading The Lord of the Rings.

Recently re-read Brave New World and wondered why.

Cyclus said...

Dear Miss Snark:

Since you mention Mikal Gilmore's book, I'm curious about something. I once saw what appeared to be a book proposal for A SHOT IN THE HEART (how, I don't know, though it was lying about a cabin in Jackson Hole). It had been typeset and printed, and it had an attractive cover.

I distinctly recall that it was a book proposal, but maybe it was some kind of publisher's promotional literature. In any case, it contained an overview, I believe, and a sample chapter of Gilmore's book.

Have you ever heard of this kind of thing being done as a book proposal, and does it ever work, and, if so, in what circumstances?