Tossing Out Culture With the Bathwater

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Day’s Verse:
You became imitators of us and of the Lord; in spite of severe suffering, you welcomed the message with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.
1 Thessalonians 1:6
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We have purged culture from our house. This purge has taken the form of removing any number of classic works of literature, purchased and read under compulsion, and never examined again. These works include, but are not limited to:

The Look of Architecture, Witold Rybczynski
White Teeth, Zadie Smith
Brick Lane, Monica Ali
Sula, Toni Morrison
Bartleby & Benito Cereno, Herman Melville
Writing the Future, Gunther Kress
The Sound and the Fury, William Faulkner
Maggie, A Girl of the Streets, Stephen Crane
McTeague, Frank Norris

and last, but not least depressing,

The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton

I ordered these from least to most depressing/confusing. By the end of House of Mirth — which, incidentally, Hollywood turned into an extremely depressing but painfully true-to-the-book film that I had the distinct displeasure of watching for extra credit for my Major American Writers II course at Clark — by the end of the book, I say, I truly wanted to slit my own throat. I wanted to throttle Lily Bart, shout at her JUST MARRY ONE OF THEM, YOU STUPID PANSY!, and throw down the volume in disgust.

McTeague inspired similar horror, disgust, and loathing in me when I read it. However, by the time McTeague ends up handcuffed to his dead enemy in the middle of Death Valley with no water, I was glad. He deserved it, if only for having been inflicted on me for the last several hundred pages. I watched the silent movie version of this book, and tolerated it (which shows my uncultured side anyway, since according to Wikipedia it is considered one of the great films of all time) because I found the captions between scenes slightly entertaining. Nothing could make up for McTeague biting his wife’s fingers or the wife’s rolling around on piles of her hoarded gold, though.

I obtained and read many of these in 2004, my sophomore year in college. Since then we have moved twice. This may inspire you to ask, quite reasonably, Katie, why did you keep these volumes so long if you hated them so passionately? And I answer that I honestly have no idea, but the time has come to purge our shelves of these miserable, parasitic growths. We have also decided to part with:

Einstein’s Dreams, Alan Lightman
My Own Country, Abraham Verghese
Three volumes of the Year’s Best Science Fiction
Two 4- or 5-ingredient cookbooks

If any of these titles sound appealing to you, let me know. I will foist them off on you readily, but you pay shipping if you’re out of state.

KF quality

4 thoughts on “Tossing Out Culture With the Bathwater”

  1. Wasn’t Einstein’s Dreams a gift to you?

    I’ll take it back if you don’t want it.

    Also, maybe your teachers at Clark or wherever were liberal tools that couldn’t help you make sense of it. But Sound and the Fury is an amazing book.

    As the title of this blog entry goes, what in this case is the bathwater? The ‘baby’ is the cultural signifigance of the books? These got flushed as a sidenote to what?

  2. Yes, you did give Einstein’s Dreams to me and in fact I read it. It was pretty interesting. Similarly, the Sound and the Fury I liked tolerably well (it’s possible I didn’t enjoy it as much because I was forced to read and analyze it, as opposed to just reading it for fun).

    This book purge was me asking “Honestly, will I ever read this book again?” And when I answered “No,” the book hits the road. So it’s plenty of OK books (and a couple books I hated), but ones I just can’t justify keeping.

    And I admit the title isn’t a perfect analogy. Gimme a break. :p

  3. I think I’m the other way around when it comes to the Sound and the Fury (and probabaly alot of other Shakespeare plays and such). I don’t think I would have enjoyed them at all if I wasn’t forced to analyze them and write about them. I certainly wouldn’t have understood what the heck The Sound and the Fury was even about on my own.

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