Monday, November 28, 2005
What important cultural touchstones have you missed out on?
I meant to write about this way back in September, after a conversation with a few friends. I'm not sure what we were talking about, but eventually the following fact came up. I have never read "The Catcher in the Rye." While in high school, I always looked forward to reading the book, but I never picked it up on my own because Mrs. Bond always taught it in eleventh or twelfth grade English. A few years go by, and I'm in Mrs. Bond's eleventh or twelfth grade English class, and she makes an announcement. For the first time in several years, she's changing the books. She's tired of teaching the same books, year after year, so she's replacing one set of classics with another. No more "Catcher in the Rye." I was disappointed, but I never got around to reading it on my own, though I did read the other Salinger books. College came and went, and I took a million literature classes, figuring "Catcher in the Rye" would pop up somewhere. I always saw an enormous stack of them in the university bookstore, but somehow, "Rye" evaded me, semester after semester, year after year. I graduate from college and suddenly I have as much time to read whatever book I want, whenever I want. However, my desire to read a novel for young adults about an alienated young adult has dissipated. The way I look at it, with so many Henry James, Stanley Elkin, Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Leo Tolstoy, Don DeLillo, Flannery O'Connor, and James Joyce and a few Barry Hannah books yet to read (among many others), "Rye" can sit on the shelf unread for many more years, or maybe forever. But something keeps nagging at me, repetitively, telling me to read the book. It's a cultural imperative, for chrissakes, unless you're like so many people in my hometown (especially my dad) who think books are somebody else's business, something people did until televisions were invented. So, I'm curious. What cultural ubiquities have so far passed you by? What books, movies, etc. that everyone else knows by heart have slipped under your radar? I'd like to know. Here's another one from me: I've never seen the movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." I've seen Tim Burton's remake, but I've never seen the Gene Wilder version. Never read that book, either. Also, I didn't have Nickolodeon growing up. I've never seen a Nickolodeon television program. What about you? Win a banana!