Does Size (of Your Reading List) Matter?
20 July 2009
I’ve just picked up Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, a book I’m considering assigning for a fiction class I’m teaching this fall. A quick flip to an appendix in the back entitled, “Books To Be Read Immediately” has me hyperventilating. There are 117 books on Prose’s list.
All the more reason why last week’s “Fired From the Canon” — The Second Pass’s list of 10 supposedly must-reads that TSP’s editors have deemed skippable (which I linked to in my “Off the Hook” post) — is, if not in actuality, in terms of the editors’ specific recommendations, then at least, in the abstract, a momentary therapeutic antidote. You must read these balanced by You won’t be dealt a literary GoDirectlytoJail Card if you pass over these.
Where does my sense of a literary Angry God, who delivers fire-and-brimstone commandments — Thou Shalt Read These — from on high, come from? From starting late — in my mid-20s — as a serious reader, I suppose. And my resulting slow-reader handicap. Parents among you, here is your Thou Shalt for the day (from someone notably unqualified to deal out anything resembling parenting advice): forget the potty training, give your child a book (if you’re using Prose’s list, maybe start with Huck Finn, and by pre-school your little one will be ready for William Gaddis).