Saturday, April 16, 2011


I saw this article thanks to Bill Crider. It's called Does anyone want to be "well-read?" and is written by Roger Ebert. I think many of you would appreciate Mr. Ebert's thoughts.


Ron Scheer said...

Thanks for the link. I read something of Ebert every now and then and am amazed that he has time not only to view and review movies, but writes on other subjects as well, and now claims to read real hardcore lit.

I read but am not well read. I now know that if I never did anything but read, I'd never get to most of what I want to. Meanwhile, the TBR list grows and grows.

David Cranmer said...

I confess I haven't read many of the names Mr. Ebert lists. I like the idea of reading a poem a day and I think I will try that myself.

I kinda sorta disagree on his evaluation of Hemingway. Yes his short stories are where the Papa gold (Nick Adams tales are the best) live but folks still appreciate THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA more so than THE SUN ALSO RISES.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'll check it out. The old Man and the sea is definite classic to me. Helped get me back into the classics.

Chris said...

Ebert is a treasure, in my opinion. As for the list of authors, I don't really care. I find a lot of these "classic" writers to be virtually unreadable, though I do try and keep the occasional title in my rotation. And when someone starts laying the line about "serious writers" on me I tend to stop listening. Nine times out of ten, if you sit down to write a book, you need to be pretty damn serious about it or it isn't going to happen. I'm with Ebert 100% when he says, "My only goal is to enjoy reading." I hope more people continue to do so, and that more read stuff other than the titles on the front table of the local bigbox store.

AC said...

I'm not really sure what Mr. Ebert is trying to say. What does it mean to be well read? I'd say to understand that James Joyce and Raymond Chandler probably tasted about the same to the worms who fed on them when they were planted in the ground. As for what they wrote, to each his/her own. Great literature is determined by each individual reader. I read Tropic of Cancer once a year, but I strive to write something that will move someone else the way the best novels of Jim Thompson moved me.

David Cranmer said...

Charles, In the essay, Hemingway is said to be remembered for THE SUN ALSO RISES and his short stories. I agree but would add THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA.

Chris, I don't want to sound unkind but there is a reason why many of these literary giants are forgotten. Now my recommended list would include: Austen, Hugo, Dickens, Verne, Poe, H.G. Welles, Christie, Chandler, Hamett, Ross Macdonald, Thompson, and King.

AC, I take from the article that many folks will go through a lifetime and never read any of these classics and their life is the less for it. You and I know we prefer Thompson to the unbearable (for me) Joyce. The greater multitude has never heard of either author. Now if Mr. Ebert believes you have to read his exact list that includes Lionel Trilling and John Crowe Ransom, well, I'm going to have to pass. Been there and will take Raymond Carver or W. Somerset Maugham instead.

G said...

An opinion on the "classics", if I may offer.

Perhaps a lot of people don't read the classices beccause like me, they were forcibly exposed to them in high school as a required reading assignment.

Nothing worse when you're a kid than to be forced to read a book you don't like.

As a kid, you shouldn't be forced to read a book just because its required for an English lit class.

You should read a book because you want to.

For the record, I was forced to read two books that are probably considered to be classics:

1) The Good Earth by Pearl Buck. Have not picked up that book nor anything by her since 1981.

2) Of Mice and Men. Have not picked up anything by John Steinbeck since 1980.

David Cranmer said...

G, I hope you appreciate a long answer and that I disagree a bit. I do believe children need to be educated in reading just like math, history, and science. Which they may feel is forced. However that is where good teaching (and more importantly good parenting) comes into play.

Example: I was fortunate to have a fabulous instructor that said "ok class, this particular BORING book is required reading." The class laughed. "But maybe if we tackle this together we can find some unearthly reason that Richard Burton would take time away from making good films with Clint Eastwood like WHERE EAGLES DARE to make snotty, stuffy films." The class spends ten minutes talking about that action film and Eastwood’s Dirty Harry films. "So class lets dig into 1984." Now looking back, I realized he liked the Orwell book but his disarming approach made us want to see what this crap was all about. When it was over, half the class liked it and half the class didn’t but all felt like we were part of an investigative unearthing. And we enjoyed reading a classic.

(For the record, I love John Steinbeck’s writing but would pass on reading Buck again.)

AC said...

I see. Roger Ebert, the man who 'wrote' the screenplay for "Beyond the Valley of the Dolls," the man who has facilitated the decline of the American motion picture by reducing a critical review of a film to 'thumbs up' or 'thumbs down,' is going to instruct us on how to be "well read"? Hmm.

And yes, I'm not a fan of James Joyce either. In my undergrad years I was not part of the 'cool' crowd in the English department because I preferred reading Kafka. According to the James Joyce people, that made ME pretentious. Double hmm.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That list is extremely high brow. I think he could have come up with much more well known group of writers that most of us still haven't read! I like Ebert as a movie reviewer. I am not sure how far he is drifting out of his expertise with this list. But it's interesting to see what people consider the best literature over their lifetime. My list would be very different.

David Cranmer said...

AC, I have to admit I enjoy reading Mr. Ebert's reviews on cinema (particularly his thoughts on silent flicks) but don't regularly watch the TV show. (In the day, I sided with Gene Siskel most of the time.)

I remember Siskel poking fun of Ebert because he picked DOLLS as one of the best films of the late 60s and early 70s.

Patti, That may be a fun list to put together. Of course, I know I would not include as many political essayists as he did.

David Cranmer said...

AC, Oh, and I enjoy Kafka quite a bit. I reviewed a graphic novel adapted from THE METAMORPHOSIS last year. You would enjoy it.

Chris said...

It's not actually Ebert's list. He's commenting on one from a piece by Cynthia Ozick, and riffing from there.

David Cranmer said...

Thanks for correcting me, Chris. I shouldn't refer to it as his list. Roger Ebert says "I read through this list with dismay. I have read all but two of those writers, love some, and met five."

Still, the thrust is he agrees with Cynthia Ozick.

Dan said...

That group would put anybody to sleep. Give me Doyle, Dash, or Chandler over that sleep fest.

G said...

David, a long answer was fine and to disagree was fine as well.

What I was saying was simply based on my personal experience in reading required books.

And I do agree that if you have a good/great teacher for a lit class, that makes a world of difference in how approach a required book.

Reading your answer brought back the memory of the one time I actually got a good grade out of reading a required book.

Had to read MacBeth one semester for the same lit class that I had to read "Of Mice and Men", then write an essay on it.

Wound up writing my essay to the tune of Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust".

Only time I ever got an A in an English class.

David Cranmer said...

Dan, I should have added Doyle to my list. A must. I'm watching Peter Cushing play Sherlock and am enjoying it quite a bit.

G, Glad you had a good memory tucked away there and thanks for sharing, amigo.