263In this blogposting…
*Yet Another List
Now - once more unto the breach, dear friends…
...will take place at 1100 on this upcoming Wednesday 23 March at Saltwell Towers in Gateshead.
Here is a copy of the agenda.
1 - Any Other Business
Obviously, a splendid time is guaranteed for all.
I’m looking forward to seeing you there!
Emailer Lynn - who sent me the lovely pictures of the Dutch bulbfields featured in the last posting - recognises a listomaniac when she sees one. And she sees one right here.
She has sent me this list compiled by a project called the ‘World Library‘ in 2002. Apparently, a ‘representative sample‘ of the world’s greatest authors from 54 countries were asked to list what they considered to be the best books ever written.
Their nominations were aggregated to produce these ‘Top 14’...
Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
The Canterbury Tales (Geoffrey Chaucer)
Nostromo (Joseph Conrad)
Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
Middlemarch (George Eliot)
Sons and Lovers (D H Lawrence)
The Golden Notebook (Doris Lessing)
Nineteen Eighty Four (George Orwell)
Hamlet (William Shakespeare)
King Lear (ditto)
Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf)
To The Lighthouse (ditto)
According to these 54 world-beating authors, the very, very bestest book ever written in the entire history of bookwriting was Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
A number of things about this list caught my attention, provoking much in-depth thought and excogitation. Such as…
Does the list compare like with like? Shakespeare’s inclusion is surely fraudulent; he didn’t ‘write books’ - he was a dramatist who wrote works intended for performance rather than to be read curled up in bed with a steaming Horlicks (although I suppose real addicts can enjoy them that way).
But however spurious the list, the aspect of it that I dislike most is that it reflects so badly on me. My cultural self-esteem - never high at the best of times - sank to an all-time low as I read down the list.
I’ve read only Wuthering Heights, Great Expectations, Middlemarch and Nineteen Eighty Four - although I’ve also seen Othello and Hamlet.
How badly-read am I when I’ve never even heard of two of the books in a list of the best books ever written - Mrs Dalloway and The Golden Notebook?
Digging even deeper, I come up against the sadly unarguable fact, though, that I didn’t even enjoy three of the four books I have read; only Nineteen Eighty Four gets the Robinson Seal of Approval.
And I’m not sure how I should feel about this, either. I am certainly not proud of disliking Charles Dickens - although dislike him I most certainly do. To some people, that’s the equivalent of disliking Durham Cathedral or new-born lambs or the Red Cross.
I’m sorry (as they say) but I just don’t get it. Reading Wuthering Heights was like wading through stagnant porridge. Middlemarch was so execrably boring as to be painful - it took my mental gag-reflex three whole months to get through it. And I found Great Expectorations (as a friend of mine calls it) to be so full of typically Dickensian verbosity and unbelievable coincidence that self-hypnosis was necessary to get beyond page 5.
Nevertheless, I have decided to join the fashion for middle-class, middle-aged and middle-brow ‘reading groups’; I want every truckshunter who values the name to read at least one book from the list.
You have a year to do it. A whole year. Just choose a book from the list and read it. Make occasional reports on your progress. You are allowed to be as abusive as you like because truckshunters are permitted to kick against the traces of conventional wisdom.
I will be awarding a party hat and a big balloon to the person who finishes their nominated book before anyone else finishes theirs. (If your choice is Nostromo, you’ll deserve it. I seriously tried to read a Joseph Conrad novel once and didn’t even make it to the bottom of page 1. The book eventually came in useful shredded as emergency cat-litter. Sadly, the cat died soon afterwards.)
I’m glad to have got that off my chest…
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