RHYS BOWEN: Earlier this week I wrote about de-cluttering. That included mercilessly weeding out books from my many bookshelves. In doing this I came across books I'd stare at and ask myself "Did I read this or not?"
In some cases the story was so unmemorable, but other books were classics that I've kept because one should have sufficient classics on the shelf to prove that one is a cultured person--right?
So I'm looking at Moby Dick. Of course I know the beginning--Call me Ishmael. Of course I know that Captain Ahab fought the great white whale and succumbed to it in the end. But as I turn the pages now I find myself asking "Did I actually ever read this?"
Then I started considering other classics and wondering "Have I been faking it all these years when I have joined in discussions on Dickens or George Eliot? So which books do I know that I've read? Every term at school we had one Shakespeare play, on classic novel, one group of poems and sometimes one more modern work. So I really can claim to have studied much of Shakespeare, some Dickens, Eliot, Thomas Hardy etc. Also some George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde (those counted for modern at my school).
But when I think about it I've never read Tom Brown's Schooldays. I've never read The Last of the Mohicans or the Legend of Sleepy Hollow or the Pickwick Papers or even Bleak House (although I've seen the latter on Masterpiece). I know the story line of each of them but as I turn the pages I know I've never read them. When I was a student I had to read so much in German and French that I had no time for pleasure reading. And pleasure reading would never, never NEVER have included a long, meaty, boring classic.
it was only when I matured that I chose to read all of Jane Austen and loved them so much that I've read them over and over. I chose to revisit Middlemarch that had bored me to tears in school and actually enjoyed it. So now I'm thinking I should make a list of books I need to read before I die.
The only problem is that my friends in the mystery community keep turning out such good books that there never seems to be time to tackle old ones. Maybe when I retire (which my husband tells me is never)!
So, fellow Reds--which books do you think you've read, (but you haven't)? Which books do you still want to read?
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: That happened to me with Edith Wharton. In high school, I was about to stab myself in the throat, I thought her books were so boring. Now she's my idol. But what do I think I've read that I haven't? The Fountainhead (But do I need to read that?). Maybe...what's the one in the Spanish Civil War?...For Whom the Bell Tolls. Again, because of the movie, I think I know it. Oh--I bet I've never actually read Gone With The Wind. Huh, funny! Gosh, I'm sitting here, surrounded by books I haven't read. (LIke The Goldfinch. I know, I know.) I can;t even think about the ones out of sight, out of mind.
HALLIE EPHRON: Oh, Hank, I haven't read "The Goldfinch" or "Secret History," either, though I have read "Gone with The Wind." My eighth-grade teacher Mrs. Diebold took it away from me as inappropriate reading.
I have not read anything by Edith Wharton, I'm ashamed to admit. And I think I started "Moby Dick." I have however read virtually all of the Greek tragedies and comedies and most of Shakespeare. And of course all of Austen (several times) and most of Alcott. And, I'm proud to say, I got all the way through 600+ pages of Günter Grass's "The Tin Drum."
The author I wish I could say I've read is Virginia Woolf. I've listened to "A Room of One's Own" on tape and read "Mrs. Dalloway" right after reading Michael Cunningham's "The Hours." To paraphrase what Salieri supposedly said (in the movie Amadeus) about Mozart, there are simply too many words in her sentences. But I know I'm missing out. Maybe I should alternate reading a novel by Woolf with a novel by Hemingway... as a palate cleanser?
RHYS: So which books do you think you've read, but haven't?
Which books are on your "to be read before I die" list?
And a message from Cindy Brown : her favorite comment from her guest blog on Wednesday was by Pat D. So Pat D please contact Cindy at firstname.lastname@example.org and Cindy will send you a copy of her new book, MacDeath.