Ayyy, get it? It’s like ‘runt of the litter’, but books and the written word, so literature.
…I’ll see myself out.
Having recently written about my favorite standout works from amazing authors, I decided it was time to do the opposite. That is, rudely single out my least favorite works by some of my best-beloved authors. Blasphemy.
I think my greatest hope, when I write about books, is that people will be inspired to feel like the classics are less remote. It’s logical that, looking at the whole of the history of writing and authorship, you can find better pieces than were published in the past five or ten years. For me personally, writing styles from longer ago are more pleasing than current writing (again, speaking very generally). But I do think that we have a tendency to venerate classic literature kind of excessively. Which makes people hesitant to read it and interact with it. They’re just books like any other, and books are there for people to read and enjoy. A book should never make you feel bad, and you should never feel ‘unworthy’ of a book or guilty for having a negative opinion about one. It’s like trying on clothes. If you try on something that doesn’t fit, it’s the clothing that doesn’t fit you, not you who doesn’t fit the clothing.
Okay, rant over. Here’s a collection of books from my favorite authors who can by and large do no wrong. And these are examples of the doing wrong (again, by me). Books that I am perfectly content to not like.
Continue reading “The Runt of the Literature”
Alright, playwrights; come on down!
Also I’m home this weekend and it’s f’ing awesome (do I not want to swear because I’m in the sanctity of my parents’ kitchen?- Probably not because I swear all the time here too). But I’m typing this in fuzzy pajamas at the kitchen counter: As I said, f’ing awesome.
So hey, playwrights! Also I finished Play It As It Lays (Hi Joan Didion) on the train yesterday (I kind of accidentally sneaked onto an Acela, but that’s a story for another time) and it was a soul-flattening look at the empty abyss. Good stuff. Probably going to need to read a Cliffnotes summary today so I can order my feelings around someone else’s cut-and-dried academic structure.
Okay, back on track. A disclaimer: I really considered including Henrik Ibsen. I really like Henrik Ibsen. But I fell out of love with him a few years ago and haven’t read anything of his since Peer Gynt (that was weird). But maybe he’ll join us in the upper echelons of my love someday. And Eugene O’Neill. I’ve only read Long Day’s Journey into Night. Gorgeous and sinister. Do read Eugene O’Neill, even if he’s not on my list yet (because I know you’re just waiting for my recommendation, hahaha). I also need to read more Moliere. And Racine. But I like novels better than plays, so who knows when that will happen. I’ve also read a fair amount of Euripides in my life (I don’t know why). They’re pretty good, but not my favorites.
But who is?
- Tennessee Williams
Someday I will have read all of Tennessee Williams’ oeuvre and I’ll have nothing left to live for (except maybe Eugene O’Neill). Almost every single one of these plays is deeply affecting, interesting, and beautifully crafted. The Glass Menagerie, *A Streetcar Named Desire, *Suddenly Last Summer, *Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Rose Tattoo, Clothes for a Summer Hotel. Loved all of them. Except Camino Real. I couldn’t read Camino Real. Bonus: a lot of these plays were made into equally amazing movies around the 1950s. I put an asterisk next to ones with excellent movie versions (that I’ve seen, anyway).
- Peter Shaffer
First, I didn’t know that Peter Shaffer had died this year until I stated writing this. May a great writer rest in peace. Don’t recognize the name? He wrote Amadeus (speaking of plays with astonishing movie adaptations). He also wrote Equus, which became famous as the play that Daniel Radcliffe/Harry Potter stripped naked for. Yeah, that’s not why I like it. It has horses in it. Who needs naked Daniel Radcliffe when you have horses. I haven’t read Shaffer’s other works (yet) (there aren’t many), but both of these really grabbed me.
- Arthur Miller
So I’ve only read The Crucible and Death of a Salesman. And I’ll start with Death of a Salesman because I have so much to say about The Crucible. Death of a Salesman has one of my favorite lines: “Life is your oyster, but you’re not going to crack it open on a mattress.”
The Crucible is one of the most gorgeous things that I’ve ever read and perhaps that has ever been written. It’s one of those pieces that makes you want to become the devil incarnate (No? Just me?). Abigail is one of the most interesting and badass women in literature. The Salem Witch Trials are a fascinating topic, even when fictional (Hi ParaNorman)- and not only to those of us born and raised in New England. They performed The Crucible at my high school (before I was in high school) but because my Dad was a teacher we went to see it. I remember it being very well done, riveting even. The book is like that too. And my memory is that the movie version, with Winona Ryder as Abigail, is fairly good.
Very unoriginal, but I’m a fan. Without getting into whether he wrote the plays or who he was or whatnot… My favorite is Midsummer Night’s Dream. It was the first one I read, I think the summer after fifth grade. Dad and I read it together. I remember being on vacation, he smashed a mosquito with the book (No Fear, Shakespeare- we were reading one side and discussing the meanings) and there was a smudge on it forever after. It’s funny, but I guess I’ll remember that mosquito forever. I wonder if he would be pleased to know that he was murdered with Shakespeare rather than Twilight or People Magazine or something. Anyway, Shakespeare is prolific- there’s something for everyone, whether you like romance, tragedy, comedy, war stories, history, what have you. Just try to erase from your mind all of those times you had to do class readings in high school English. (Now let me shout a few titles: OTHELLO! HAMLET! THE SCOTTISH PLAY (superstitious?)! THE TEMPEST! AS YOU LIKE IT! ROMEO AND JULIET! MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING! THE TAMING OF THE SHREW! KING LEAR!)