Midsummer Night’s Confession

I was only half kidding at the end of my last post when I said that I would be writing a list of Books I Wish I Had Read, But Probably Won’t. I checked the Modern Library list of top 100 novels and found that I’ve only read thirty of the books on their “best of” list, so apparently I am reading a lot of other worthless stuff anyway. This got me to thinking though, that there is a short list of novels that get a lot of talk and that have been recommended to me by my friends and colleagues (and even assigned by teachers), but that I either decided I could live without or just didn’t merit being squeezed into my already overcrowded list. Here then is my 5 Novels I Should Have Read; But Probably Won’t Read (Ever) … along with my rationalizations for NOT reading them.

  1. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy: I started pretending I was reading Russian writers when I was in the eighth grade by carrying around a copy of Ivan Turgenev’s Fathers and Sons. In the ninth grade, I actually started reading Dostoevsky and Chekhov and even my well traveled copy of Turgenev’s book. I toyed with the idea of reading War and Peace, but decided my sophomore year in high school that it would probably never come up in conversation (and it hasn’t) so I tossed it aside and never looked back.
  2. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton: Yes, I made it through high school English and even college literature classes without ever actually reading this little gem of American literature. I know, it’s supposed to be an American classic and one of Wharton’s best, but I just couldn’t get myself to read it any of the many times that it was assigned, and it’s not on my must read list … ever.
  3. Ulysses by James Joyce: I know, I know … how can anyone even pretend to be an intellectual without having read what many sage oracles (including the Modern Library) consider the “best” novel of the last century. Let me tell you, it’s not always easy. It’s not like I don’t like Joyce … I got through Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and “Araby” is one of my favorite short stories. I even share many characteristics with Joyce according to my “Which Writer Are You” widget on Facebook. Like War and Peace, I decided in college when I was assigned to read Ulysses, that it wouldn’t come up again in conversation — and it hasn’t.
  4. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: Listen, I read Great Expectations and Bleak House, and there was just no way that I was going to read a third Dickens novel in a row that year in college. There was no internet back then, so I probably went to the Tower Library at UMass, Amherst and got the cliff notes. I’m not ashamed of having skipped another Dickens assignment, though I wish I had reversed my reading order and switched Bleak House with A Tale of Two Cities. Anyway, there’s no going back now.
  5. The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing: This is probably the least famous of the works on this list, but I felt guilty for a long time about not reading this book because I liked the class in women’s lit that I was taking when it was assigned. That semester I read Virginia Woolf, Eva Figes, Willa Cather, Sarah Orne Jewett, Muriel Spark, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Drabble, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others (I swear) … by the time I was assigned The Golden Notebook, I’d had enough, and I don’t plan on giving it a second chance.

So there they are; 5 novels I skipped and never plan on reading … ever. Let me know what you think, and what books you never plan on reading. In the mean time, I’ll start thinking of my list of Books I Wish More People Would Read. I can’t promise that they’ll all be novels because I love so many other kinds of reading, but hopefully you’ll find something interesting on my list.

Thank you for reading and hope you’re having a great summer.

Copyright © henry toromoreno, 2009. All rights reserved.


About htwilson

born in brooklyn, raised in queens, massachusetts, that's where I be.
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4 Responses to Midsummer Night’s Confession

  1. Talula says:

    I can only think of one in particular this late at night after a harrowing “Back-to-School Shoe-shopping” trip with one 5 yr old & a pair of 3 yr olds! That “one” would have to be “Last of the Mohicans” — I swear I wasn’t on a protest venture when it was assigned – and yes i know it is supposed to be a great classic by a master of the time. I didn’t like the tone of it when I tried to read it when assigned — and i tried again several times when i was give a copy (with a beautiful inscription) from a beloved group of co-workers at my post-job leaving party. I tried again last week – but I think my own half-native self just won’t let me enter it into my brain. Its as if I’m allergic to it! with its “noble savage” inferences. Oh well, I’ll keep it for the beautiful sentiment from the former co-workers!

    • htwilson says:

      Don’t feel bad about not reading “Last of the Mohicans” … Mark Twain has a great essay on what a crummy writer J.F. Cooper was and how unbelievable all of his depictions of native Americans were. Take it from Mark Twain … you ain’t miss much.

  2. Talula says:

    Yeah – I think I just kept getting P-O’d at his descriptions and off-the-mark characterizations (sp?) were! Great post you did on this topic, though! It caught a faint spark left in MY brain last night., as tired as I was. And the more i thought about your post – I think the one co-worker who actually picked out the gift for the group didn’t like the fact that I did reality based Native American curriculums for my classrooms – I think she was jealous of my standing with other colleagues – so maybe that was a hidden unconcious ‘slap’, but that’s ok. I’m over it. Have a great week & hope you get more interesting comments on this subject.

    Identity is so touchy, especially since it is, I think, manufactured within the particulars of the time and place. But no one has the “authority” over your own story. Writers like Cooper (or Thomas Jefferson) for example, are interesting to read if you look at them as products of their time (and imagination) without being too critical of the shortcomings we understand, having a 21st century perspective. Thanks again.

  3. Talula says:

    One last thought; would love to see what you finally got as a result of your mural project. Care to share pics??
    Thank you for your return and your interest. I will definitely share pics of the mural and its progress throughout the summer and come September. It has changed since the last pics, but is not finished yet. Thanks again!

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