Brian J. Versus The Internet

I’ve read a couple of things on other blogs recently that I’ve disagreed with. So, here, let me briefly note them:

  • From Hoosier Boy, we get a rip on the classics:

    To the meat of the matter: Catch-22 is drivel; unreadable schmaltz. So is From Here to Eternity. In fact, many of the so-called classics are crap, Moby Dick first and foremost. Joyce, Cervantes, and Milton all are impossible to read. Hawthorne I can manage, but why would I want to? Bunyan, blah. I will take bawdy Moll Flanders over The Vicar of Wakefield any day.

    The blogger wants entertainment with his classics.

    You know, he’s not far off in deriding more modern classics–particularly the stuff that comes out of the 20th century. Classics before that are generally popular. I mean, Shakespeare wasn’t high-faluting. The novels of Austen were popular and entertaining to their set. Hemingway, sure. Faulkner–well, that’s 20th century academic classics talking.

    With a lot of things in translation, what’s ‘classic’ is what’s based on an academic’s taste and inclination in translation as well. I always assign an asterisk to what I read in translation anyway. And the aforementioned Indianan made it through War and Peace but I didn’t. I can tell you why: It’s keeping the characters straight. It’s bad enough when it’s a big cast in a broadly focused saga; it’s far worse when each character has multiple appellations depending upon who’s talking to him.

    Popular classics from yesteryear become less approachable when the argot and manner of expression changes, whether across cultures (such as War and Peace and other Russian classics) or centuries (one can appreciate Shakespeare’s occasional turn of phrase without getting the jokes). To really grok the works like that, you really have to dive into them and read a bunch from the era or culture. Then you’ll be steeped in it and might even get the jokes without the footnotes. Back in college, I did get the jokes in Shakespeare because I was concurrently reading Jonson and Chaucer and contemporary poets, so I was conversant in Middle English. But I’m not that way now, and it’ll take a little work to get back to that.

    But it does take a little effort to really get into those classics, and they’ll be more entertaining if you’re so inclined. I am, mostly because I’m pretentious and want to read the classics.

    But it’s a matter of taste, and not everyone is going to like everything.

    But, yeah, James Joyce’s work might be the last couple of things on my shelves that I would read should medical science make us virtually immortal.

    (Link via Dustbury.)

  • In a book report for the tome The Joy of Not Working, I questioned whether the book was relevant in the 21st century:

    Perhaps the message was on-point in 1997, but we’ve got a couple self-actualizing generations that have sought meaning outside work (or meaningful work instead of careers) since then. So many of the lessons aren’t applicable to more modern readers.

    Kim du Toit would probably disagree based on his post Working Dogs:

    I took an older guy somewhere during my early-morning Uber shift, and we got to chatting about retirement. He was in his early sixties and was thinking about retirement in the next couple of years or so — he’d reached all the retirement “qualifications” in terms of his age, length of service, and so on — and when I asked him what he was going to do after retirement, he said quite simply, “I don’t know.” He had no outside interests other than his work, he said, and had no hobbies or anything to keep him occupied when he would quit working.

    This set off all sorts of alarm bells in my head, because I’d confronted the very same thoughts when I planned on retiring back in 2016 on reaching age 62 (which seems to be the “killer” age discovered by the researchers).

    Worse than that, I either know men personally or have heard of many instances of men who have died soon — very soon — after retiring early. (When men retire at a later age, they paradoxically seem to live longer, as the study shows.) Sometimes, men die within six months of getting their gold watch, after many decades of working with little or even no time off for illness. Where I differ from the study is that I think I know the real reason why this happens.

    We’re working dogs.

    Perhaps I’m a little closer to the millenial mindset than I like to admit, or perhaps I’m just laid back, but their experience differs from mine.

    On the plus side, people in my line die at sixty, give or take, so I won’t have to worry about dying after I retire.

  • As you know, gentle reader, I have been known to read comic books even though I’m ::cough, cough:: nearing fifty years old (see Personal Goal Reached, Revisited and Things To Do In Tampa While Traveling For Business).

    Kim du Toit probably would not approve:

    Whenever I’m asked why I haven’t seen the new Masters of the Galaxy (or whatever it’s called) movie, I simply reply that I quit reading comic books at about age 11*, as should every adult. The storylines are boringly repetitive, the action equally so, and the characters’ emotions are, well, set at comic-book level (which is what’s required for a preteen audience who don’t have the mental software to appreciate or even recognize complex emotional issues). It’s fine for kids, in other words; but if someone age 50 tells me he’s still seriously into comic books and/or their movie derivatives, I actually start to wonder about his mental maturity.

    You know, I sometimes wonder about what it says about me that I still pick up comic books from time to time. I do prefer the ones from my youth, though; stuff that I have seen from this century, if you can believe it, is more simplistic as the focus has shifted from the story and the writing to the pictures, as though the pictures themselves are the worth of the thing. No, not really. The stories are.

    But as far as being repetitive, you might recall that I’ve noticed how much Shakespeare mixes and matches the same elements in his plays. And, to be honest, is an issue of Jennifer Blood: Born Again that much of a step down from men’s adventure paperbacks? Probably not.

    Suddenly, I’m all defensive about my reading habits. Aw, who cares, read what you want. Classics, comic books. Just have something interesting to say about them.


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