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!

8 comments:

Air Wolf said...

I never saw: Titantic, Everybody loves Raymond, Survivor, Who wants to be an asshole?, Janet Jackson's boob, or Frazier.

I have never heard a Phish song.

I never owned a nintendo, g.i. joe, he-man, or a toy gun.
I never went to prom, graduation, or a reunion.
There are countless important books I have failed to read

kristykay said...

For a long time mine was Citizen Kane, but I saw that with you a couple years ago. Most of my other missed touchstones are TV shows and video games, since I have never owned a video game system (beyond a computer - no nintendo though, no matter how much we begged). There are about 15 years of Saturday Night Live references I don't get and actors I don't recognize, and I never watched Melrose Place which used to seem like a bigger deal than it does now.

Also, I knew you would bring up Nickelodeon. You got a big chip about that one...

Krouchdog said...

I read "Catcher in the Rye" when I was in Junior High because I thought it make me look like a rebel. The problem is that I probably didn't understand it, and I don't remember anything from the book at all. Now, I don't really want to read it again, so I'm kind of in the same boat as you.
I've never read any Jack Kerouc and now that I'm in my mid-twenties, I don't have any urge to.
I don't own any Bob Dylan or Rolling Stones albums and only really "know" a few songs of theirs. This will probably soon be remedied.

Dear Lovey Heart said...

i have never been to disney world or land for that matter and now that i am older i don't want too you should try cather in the rye it is a good book

Krouchdog said...

I spelled Kerouac wrong.

thepantsthatibuilt said...

I've never read Dickens. I lied about reading Great Expectations in 9th grade Honors English, though. Apparently I did a decent job of lying my ass off, since my teacher was incredibly intuitive.

Anonymous said...

I've never seen the Godfather movies, Citizen Kane, Lord of the Rings trilogy (or read the books for that matter), never watched Survivor, the Apprentice, American Idol or any of the other reality shows. Catcher in the Rye is really overrated in my opinion. It's 120 pages of aimless teenage rebellion. It's the kind of book that will do you no good if you wait until after your teenage years to read it. Not a bad book, but you're not missing out on anything.

- Daniel

archivaria said...

I have never read it, either, Dr. M, but I have read Franny and Zoe a couple of times and really love it. You can borrow Willie Wonka if you want. I'll bring it the next time I come to Austin.