It was only the darkened house that could contain her

Let it be known that competition for these West Coast spots is fierce. Our editor throws some dates out there and a free for all often ensues. I boxed out my fellow TGW’ers like Carlos Boozer (still averaging a smooth 24 and 11 at 55% from the field, thanks for asking) under the boards to get this coveted spot today; indeed I promised a gimmick that sadly has not come to pass.

This afternoon was to have been the airing of an episode of Merv Griffin’s Crosswords that I taped at the end of summer. NBC has been broadcasting two shows a day from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m. on weekdays here in L.A., but I got a call last week that I had been bumped to an as-yet-determined date in the future. So not only is my post a bit different, but I’m sweating it because you don’t get paid until the show actually airs. It’s all probably some kind of karmic retribution for my musings on coverage of the writer’s strike.

Norman Mailer’s death occasioned my typical response whenever a cultural figure of some renown passes away. Whether it be a couple of days of blasting Pavarotti around the house, adding L’Eclisse and Winter Light to my queue, or a trip to the library for The Executioner’s Song, I’ll often try and reacquaint myself with whatever it was that was supposed to be the big deal in the first place. A couple of months ago, a friend of mine had tickets to a lecture series where Mailer was a last-minute substitute for the scheduled Vonnegut. This friend, who actually is in a “death pool” and bemoaned that he had forgotten to put either of these writers on his list, noted that there weren’t many suitable replacements for Vonnegut and how Mailer was likely the last of that particular generation of postwar American authors who could fill that bill.

That Mailer still warranted “front page obituary” status made me want to give odds as to who else had already achieved that level, but it also made me consider the gulf between being known and having been read. I read and enjoyed The Armies of the Night many years ago and like what I have read thus far of his Gilmore book, but that’s the extent of it. I realize that we Whatsiters are voracious readers–hell, some of you have somewhat obsessive compulsive issues with how the books are arranged on your shelves–but my question for this week revolves around all of those books yet unread.

Here’s the game: what is the book you haven’t read that you would guess everyone else has. You gain a point for every person who has read what you have not.

I admit to not being original here, and if you’ve already done this to death I apologize, but part of the appeal for me is the strategy of your choice given what you know, or think you know, about the group you’re playing with. Like I said, I’m going to assume that you all have read everything and yet guess that I’m not the only one who hasn’t made it all the way to the end of Ulysses. This sounds apocryphal but one game among academics was supposedly won by the smug professor who claimed to never have read Hamlet. I would love to throw in some kind of bonus for books that you own but still have not read but I welcome your suggestions and variant rules for scoring. So here goes, my official selection is…Toni Morrison’s Beloved.

I thought of doing films and compact discs as well but I’ll leave that up to the enthusiasm of the group. Any clue as to who might be my musical artist if I were playing to win with you fine people? But I would call on the judges to clarify whether being exposed to numerous Beck discs at Stephanie’s birthday party should count. I always felt I had some unquestioned winners in the movie category until I went and blew it by seeing Forrest Gump and Titanic a couple of years ago. Still no Schindler’s List though. Can you top that?

34 responses to “It was only the darkened house that could contain her”

  1. Dave says:

    I’ve read Beloved.

    My entry — haven’t read The Great Gatsby (known on the Internets as Teh Great Gatsby).

  2. Dave says:

    Oh, and movies: haven’t seen Rocky. Yeah, bring it on.

  3. Rachel says:

    I’ve read Beloved and The Great Gatsby. I haven’t read Moby Dick (though at least one of us obviously has!), nor have I seen Schindler’s List or The Piano (hey, 1993 was a busy year).

    Other egregious gaps in my reading: no Catch-22; no Madame Bovary (I got about halfway through it, then gave up–just die already, Emma!); no Wuthering Heights (ditto); and, perhaps most embarrassingly for me, no Richard III (hangs head in shame).

  4. stephanie wells says:

    Beloved and The Great Gatsby!!! You’re killin’ me!!! Why my lecture LAST NIGHT was on Beloved and I was insisting to my students how crucial this moment in their intellectual lives is for having read this book! (Part 2 is next Tuesday at 7, Ruben, and I’ll expect you there in the front row with a completly read copy and all your questions!) I start the semester in this class with Gatsby a little sheepishly because I assume they’ve all read it before too many times for me to be dragging it out again!!

    Sigh. But I know the game and of course I have my entries. I have read Ulysses several times but the one that makes people all squinky is when I confess to never having read Jane Austen. I got so much flack for so many years that I finally tried to get through Pride and Prejudice, but barely made it through 40 pages. I know, women’s literary history is my thing at all, but I couldn’t do it. One of you will surely scold and convince me into trying something else?

    Forrest Gump, Titanic, Schindler’s List too: none of the above!!!

  5. Stephanie Wells says:

    p.s. In the David Lodge book about this game, doesn’t the junior prof. who admits to Hamlet in this “friendly” faculty game end up not getting tenure specifically because he revealed it?

  6. Missy says:

    I’ve read (and taught) Beloved, Ulysses and The Great Gatsby. Have read Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice.

    I, too, have not read Moby Dick, Catch 22, Madame Bovary, or Richard III, but my confession for today is that I have never read Romeo and Juliet. Movie-wise, I can’t make it past the first fifteen minutes of Casablanca. I know it’s a love story, but it feels like such a boy movie, I just can’t get into it.

  7. Dave says:

    Jane Austen is really fun, though. How can you of all people not find her hilarious and enjoyable?

    I haven’t read Moby Dick or Bovary. But I’ve read Catch-22, Wuthering Heights, seen (does that count?) Richard III, Gump, Titanic, and Schindler. Just for those of you keeping score at home.

    Also, apologies that these comments aren’t showing up on the sidebar. Maybe this weekend I’ll get to spend some quality time with our WordPress installation and coax it out of its shell, IYKWIM.

  8. Stephanie Wells says:

    See Dave, that’s what I mean–I need someone like you to convince me that she’s for me.

  9. bryan says:

    Of the list so far, I’ve *not* read Ulysses, Bovary, Wuthering Heights, and Catch-22.

    I’ve also never read On the Road. Never even tried.

    Great title, Ruben. One of my favorite lines in that novel. And fun post.

    What, no “recent comments” plug-in on Wednesday now, too?

  10. Stephanie Wells says:

    Since I’m not a literature person, I won’t touch the novels because I’m sure I can out-not-read all of you. However, I’ve never:
    seen an entire episode of American Idol (or most of what’s currently on TV);
    read the New Yorker;
    even heald a Harry Potter book in my hand or seen any of the movies;
    (here’s one for Dave) read Kant.

  11. Scotty says:

    Um yeah, that was just me.

  12. Beth W says:

    I have read Beloved, Gatsby, On the Road, all of Austen and Harry Potter too. I have not read Madame Bovary, Moby Dick or Catch 22. I might have read Wuthering Heights during a 19th century English phase in high school. I like to think I’m in progress on Ulysses, just taking my time.

    I’ve seen all movies mentioned thus far except Rocky. I’m not sure about this crowd but I cannot stomach the Lord of the Rings movies and books. I saw the first movie but seriously considered walking out.

    Here’s my book entry: I have not read The Iliad.

  13. Rachel says:

    #9: Wednesday is the new Friday.

  14. Tim Wager says:

    I’ve never read Mailer, outside of an essay or two. If you ever really want to be infuriated, I suggest “The White Negro.” Does anybody else remember the ad Mailer did with Don King for Trump Air (wow, the 80s seem, like 20 years ago now)? I just checked the youtubes, but it’s not to be found.

    I’ve never read Beloved, either, at least not all the way through. I’ve seen the movie with her O-ness, though.

    I’m shocked, shocked by a few of these confessions. Wuthering Heights, people? I thought at the very least the Kate Bush song would have sent a few of you scurrying off to devour it. It’s really one of my all-time favorite novels; it encapsulates all of 19th-c. English lit., imho. Also, it’s the best argument for literature’s power of possession: when I read that book (and I have probably 5 or 6 times) I feel absolutely possessed by it!

    Which brings me to my confession, which is a little meager, maybe, but it’s the best I can come up with off the top of my head: I’ve never read Possession. I know it’s one of those “if-you’ve-ever-been-to-grad-school-in-English-you-must-read-this” novels, but it just seems so silly to me from outside the covers. I usually hate fictional depictions of the work of literature professors (outside of Lodge and Lucky Jim).

    Wait, just thought of another one: I’ve never read The Grapes of Wrath. Dry as that dust bowl dust.

  15. Ruben Mancillas says:

    anyone keeping score?

    I’ve read Great Gatsby (The and Teh), Madame Bovary, Wuthering Heights, The Grapes of Wrath, and On the Road, which would have been Adriean’s choice.

    Some of the others mentioned make me think of some kind of rules regarding dating behavior: at what point is a book considered read? I read a great deal of it, have read numerous essays about it, have seen various adaptations, and probably even passed a class or two where I made reference to it on a test or an essay but read every word on every page?

    Moby Dick and Catch-22 fall into that category for me.

    Books I’m not even close on would be Possession, the Harry Potters (because Scott said they’d burn if I even attempt to touch them), the Iliad, and Richard III. And the David Lodge Hamlet story? I would have had to actually read the book to know that, right Steph?

    Then there’s what I call The Squid and the Whale (remember when Daniels snarls that schools always make students read the worst book by a major author and says his son should put down A Tale of Two Cities in favor of Great Expectations?) or college reading lists where the book chosen isn’t one of the usual suspects-that’s why I’ve read Mansfield Park but not Pride and Prejudice…yet. My car was broken into last year and my in progress Norton Critical of P and P was one of the only things he left behind. The thief had probably read it already.

    I love Beth W.’s being in progress with Joyce-maybe reading those first fourteen or so pages over and over should put me in that camp as well.

    Bryan, thanks for the shout out on the title-it actually referred to my game show of all things-here I was worried someone would think I hadn’t read Hawthorne.

    Steph, I’ll be there in the front row at that Beloved lecture with plenty of questions as long as you don’t mind a question or two in front of your class about that Austen book in the backseat of my car.

  16. LT says:

    I am in Steph’s camp: can’t believe that anyone would ignore Beloved or Gatsby; put them on your reading lists now! But am ashamed to say in Prof. Waterman’s presence that I’ve not even cracked a copy of Moby Dick (I love me some Bartleby, though…!) . I am not ashamed of my ignorance of Ulysses– and would just prefer to categorize Joyce as a confusing Irish bastard.

    Haven’t read any Austen and most things 19th century (ouch! I can feel BW hurting right now!), have completely avoided the Harry Potter group sex, tried to read Crime and Punishment but became severely depressed and returned to my US Weekly.

    Ruben, I’m thinking that “reading” a book doesn’t really count if you were assigned it for a class and your prof did most of the work situating it for you.

  17. Beth W says:

    #15 Ruben, Mansfield Park is not one of Austen’s best. My favorite is Persuasion. Less expected than but equal to Pride and Prejudice.

  18. Miller says:

    I’m writing a paper at this very moment (well, I’m taking a procrastination break) on Beloved, and the very first time I read Beloved was for a class with Prof. Wells herself, a reading experience that completely changed my life, leading to some serious introspection. Since then I have read every single Morrison novel; I’m in love.

    That being said, I haven’t read Moby Dick or Ulysses–they scare me. Nor have I read any of Austen OR the Brontes. Pretty shameful.

  19. cynthia says:

    I have not read Beloved or Gastby, or Harry Potter either.

  20. Tim Wager says:

    Oh, and, btw, people, it’s Moby-Dick, not Moby Dick. Don’t forget teh hyphen!

  21. stephanie wells says:

    I have to make two plugs: Possession is super, super enjoyable! And MobyhyphenDick is a book I absolutely dreaded reading, then was shocked to find it too was so engaging! As for Harry Potter, though, I haven’t cracked it, or Catch-22 either. So defrock me. And Ruben, I’ll see you Tuesday night. Watching the movie won’t count for credit, either.

  22. Kate The Great says:

    YOU HAVEN’T READ CATCH-22?! What is wrong with you guys?!

    As for Possession, I read it for a Brit Lit class and enjoyed it immensely. GO READ IT. And Catch-22, admittedly, was also a book I had to read for an assignment in high school. It’s really weird for the first 100 pages until you cycle through enough points of view and enough time for characters to start referring to each other’s events. I love it. It’s hilarious.

    I, too, am not a fan of Jane Austen. I forced myself to read Pride and Prejudice for a class, but didn’t enjoy it at all. The language is just too flowery for me, which is weird because LM Montgomery’s stuff was a life source for me for several teenage years. I love the movie, though.

    I haven’t read Wuthering Heights, but it feels like I have because I’ve read through so much analysis; I’m currently writing a paper about Emily Bronte.

  23. Kate The Great says:

    I’ve read Madame Bovary but wasn’t fond of it, and I’ve read sections of Moby-Dick. I’ve read the Great Gatsby, but I hated it. I’ve heard of Toni Morrison and maybe I’ve read some of her work, but I’ve never heard of Beloved.

    I hated a lot of classics I’ve read. Maybe I should re-read them in my leisure time, now that I’m a little older and it’s not for a class. I loved The Grapes of Wrath. I had a blast with the analytical paper I wrote for it– analyzing the book through the song its title alludes to.

    I’m not a fan of James Joyce. I tried several times to read his Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, just for leisure reading, but could never get into it.

  24. bryan says:

    quickly, from DC, before things get out of control for the wkend:

    LP is here! We win!

    Oh — and as for books — #23, I’ve never read Ulysses, but POTAYM is a favorite, favorite read. It’s the thing that makes me feel guilty for never reading U.

    Tim — thanks for the shoutout on the hyphen. And as for the rest of you loser, get the graphic novel from scholastic or the pop up book my friend Eric recently bought me and get the plot down. Hell, netflix the Greg Peck. and then read it one chapter at a time. it’s like gyoza. (like really manly and queer amy hempel stories.) little chapters to pop down. and when you get to the parts about chopping up whales, try to make a list of everything going on that’s NOT whales. (eg, whales are like books in a library — what does that tell you about books not whales?)

    i should read wuthering heights, but i feel like it would ruin my love for jane eyre.

    i almost said, this morning, that i had never read possession, but i knew on the road would scandalize ruben more.

  25. Jeremy says:

    I’ve never seen Citizen Kane, and up until a few years ago I had never seen any of the Godfathers. I’ve only read parts of Ulysses, but I have read every word of Harry Potter. I’ve also read The Uncanny X-Men, issues 75-250.

    I’ve read almost every Greatwhatsit post–but (sigh) not every single one…

  26. ssw says:

    My contribution is the Book of Mormon

  27. ruben mancillas says:

    i’m the competitive sort, so it looks like gatsby wins?

    he’d like that.

    i also noted that we went with the so-called heavy hitters-how would younger fare like where the wild things are or judy blume’s forever do in our game?

    the other scary lists would be of the all the completist tendencies regarding stuff you have read.

    bryan, you do know how to scandalize a fella. i’ve read every word of kerouac, ellis, and all of the ian fleming bond novels.

    how’s this for my backup movie choice? brokeback mountain. I still see rocky as a winner though-does that make dave two for two?

    as for the champions of austen-you guys have me thinking about stillman’s metropolitan.

  28. Eric Jones says:

    just curious . . . does listening to a book on cd while driving cross-country count? in which case, I’ve “read” great gatsby, on the road, and moby-d. having listened to moby-d and seen the peck version (as well as glanced through bryan’s pop-up), i feel qualified–in my rationalizing mind–to say i’ve read it. but would i be robbing someone of a well-earned point?

  29. Tim Wager says:

    Wuthering Heights kicks Jane Eyre‘s chaste ass from hell to breakfast and back again! Seriously. Bryan, once you’ve read WH, you’ll still have fond memories of your childish love for JE about which to reminisce, and you’ll have a richer, more adult love to cherish in WH.

  30. bw says:

    eric — you’ve read it — audio is almost better for m-d.

    tim — i’ll do wh over winter b. i’ve seen the films, of course. but shit. i guess i should read the bks.

    how many of you fuckers have read arthur mervyn. now riddle me that?

    this is a great post for xmas/wedding gifts ideas

  31. cynthia says:

    I have read all the Harry Potter series and if you get the chance stephanie. they are a great read. Rueben I did read all of Judy Blume’s books when I was younger. I think my favorite was forever or Tiger Eyes. I think I also read all the “Little House’ when I was young as well. Jeremy have not seen Citizen Kane either.

  32. bryan says:

    wait a minute, cynthia. in #19 you said you *hadn’t* read Harry Potter. what gives? you read all 7 books yesterday afternoon?

  33. Rachel says:

    #30: No to Arthur Mervyn, but totally yes to Carwin the Biloquist. How about you read Women Beware Women or The Two Noble Kinsmen, and I’ll read AM. I promise.

    Oh, how I wish we were having this conversation in person. I would also like to be eating Great Whatsit pies, which are some of the very best (hee).

    #25: Citizen Kane should not be intimidating; don’t let all the praise keep you from seeing it. The technique of “deep focus” Welles uses is mind-blowingly cool.

    #26: I never read the Book of Mormon all the way through, either, despite reading the opening chapters about a hundred times. From what I hear, it’s not exactly a page-turner.

    I realize now that I have never read any of the great Russian novels. Zilch. Zip. Oh, well. Anyone want to recommend a good place to start?

  34. Cynthia says:

    Bryan that should have said I have not read gasby or beloved but I have read Harry Potter, Don’t know what I was thinking.