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Everything that Rises

In my never ending quest to self-educate, I’m reading Flannery O’Connor. Everything That Rises Must Converge — depressing. A Good Man Is Hard To Find — Horrifying and depressing. And the one where the traveling salesman steals the girl’s prosthetic leg — absurd and depressing.

Ditto for Kurt Vonnegut. Incredibly well-written, but — once again — depressing. Faulkner? Fitzgerald? Nabakov? It’s painful. And can I get a witness that Finnegan’s Wake is a steaming pile? Reading Joyce is like viewing the Emporer’s New Clothes. If you point out there’s nothing there, it supposedly proves your inability to appreciate great literature. Guilty as charged.

Why is it that to be truly “enlightened” I need to feel that the world and everything in it is pointless? Even Shakespeare (although not above a bit of potty humor every now and again) jumped on the bandwagon with his “…tale. Told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury. Signifying nothing.” Okay, I’ll give that one to Old Will. That entire passage is beautiful and poignant and makes you heave a deep sigh of delicious sadness…right before you reach for your coat and wonder if it’s too late for an appetizer and a nightcap before you go home.

But back to the sad sacks listed above — the best part is they never stopped at one depressing book or one soul-sucking story painting the entire range of existence as a short jaunt between banal and senselessly violent. No! They had to keep going back to that cesspool again and again for one more scum-encrusted sip. Is the whole point to continually harp on the fact that there is no point?

I’m confused. And disgusted. And ultimately fed up.

I’m going to go read some Dr. Seuss. Because of all the thinks I can think, I’ll choose the hopeful, helpful ones every day of the week.

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5 Responses

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  1. Stacy says

    Unequivocal agreement from me! Love your emperor’s new clothes comparison!

  2. Barbara says

    The only “classics” I can stomach are by John Steinbeck, Cannery Row and Sweet Thursday, Harper Lee of course, and I confess I do like Vonnegut’s short stories, but totally agree with you on the rest. I think Faulkner and Hemmingway wrote standing up and holding their breath; both of them are masters of run-on sentences. Self-education is a challenge but the curriculum is endless.

  3. jodi says

    Barbara, I’m with you. I actually really LIKE Vonnegut. It’s just the more I read of him, the more I realized it was like striking the same minor chord over and over again. How about a major lift every now and again? 😉

  4. Anne Riley says

    PREACH. There are very few classic authors whose work I enjoy. Dumas was one of them. Austen was another. But the rest….eh. And Flannery O’Conner is RIGHT OUT.

  5. Natalia Sylvester says

    I love your “Emperor’s New Clothes” metaphor. I felt this way when I tried reading the Great Gatsby this summer. I simply couldn’t get into it, and had to stop about three chapters in. I was pretty bummed because I wanted the summer to be all about reading classics I never got around to in school. On the plus side, I read To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time, and I TOTALLY see why it’s such a beloved book.

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