As some of you may know, I recently graduated from college with a bachelor's in English. I can hear you now:
"Fantastic!" you say. "Do you plan on teaching?"
"Then do you plan... Uh. Do you... plan on... Writing?"
"What do you plan on doing, then, if not those two things?" you ask.
I plan to read.
I've found the perfect job for this vocation. I am surrounded by knowledgeable people and an almost infinite fount of literary achievement to choose from. I have a pile of books from new authors at my house primed and ready to be perused.
My first stop on this literary excursion, however, is read all of the things that I pretended to do during my college career.
Like. Actually, this time.
My first step was to read Shakespeare. I've been avoiding this guy since tenth grade, but I've heard he's, y'know, pretty good or something. The most recent one that I've made my way through (on my own time) was Macbeth. The one with the witches. "Double double toil" and... something else. (it starts with a 'T!')
Yeah, that's pretty much all I knew about it, too.
As it turns out, it was a pretty rad play. A nice slew of crazy people trying to wash blood off their hands and war. Also Scotsmen. But I'm pretty sure I've already talked about how rad classics can be, so I'll move right along to my second revelation:
I have no idea what's been published in the past twenty years. My entire education has been geared towards the 'classics.' Looking at this reading list I've compiled, I think the most recent thing that I've been assigned (and that I'm only now getting to) has been something by Jack Kerouac.
This is a terrible failing of modern education. It's like, from our perspective, literature had a heart-attack and died as soon as 1970 rolled around. Which is ridiculous, right? I mean, think of all the excellent books that've been published within the last thirty years! If all I knew about literature was from the books I read in college, then I wouldn't even know that books like...
See, this is the problem! All I know of modern literature is from books like Fight Club by Chuck Palanhiuk and Watchmen, the graphic novel by Alan Moore (And I mean, hey, they're excellent books. Read them.)These are books that I've read on my downtime, according to the pulp-fiction tastes of a twenty-something male. They're great books, but I'm not sure how well Fight Club will be remembered to generations down the line.
What I'm looking for--and what I was denied by my education--are the modern classics. Stuff like Great Expectations, only, y'know, relevant.
(Side note: Wizard of the Crow, by Ngũgĩ wa Thiong'o, is totally one of those modern-classic books. It's really refreshing to see something written by an African person who isn't Chinua Achebe. After all, I'm pretty sure that things have happened in the entire continent of Africa since, again, 1960. Regardless of what 'literature' would have you believe.)
But yeah. Okay. What I'm saying is that I can tell you exactly what was going through Hemingway's head as he wrote The Sun Also Rises--another excellent book--but I couldn't tell you what literary movement happened after Allen Ginsberg wrote Howl. And I really wish I could.
But first? I read Moby Dick.