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January 25, 2008 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Books That Make You Dumb - Ever read a book (required or otherwise) and upon finishing it thought to yourself, "Wow. That was terrible. I totally feel dumber after reading that."?
posted by blue_beetle (234 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
(via)
posted by blue_beetle at 12:49 PM on January 25, 2008


(via the via)
posted by blue_beetle at 12:49 PM on January 25, 2008


Huh. I would have though Atlas Shrugged and The Da Vinci cCde would have made you dumber than that.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:53 PM on January 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


A Purpose Driven Life & the Da Vinci Code both made me feel that way. It was like I had IQ points sucked out of my brain.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:54 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Finally! Statistical evidence of my belief that only imbeciles like Ray Bradbury.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 12:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Oh, and reading the Fountainhead while I was in art school made me totally insufferable.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [10 favorites]


I've read four of the books on the far left of the chart though I went to a college on the right side of the chart. I'll never forget you UWM.
posted by drezdn at 12:56 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Correlation equals causation!

Wait, no it doesn't.
posted by infinitywaltz at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Wow, miss lynnster, that's like the double whammy of insufferable-osity!
posted by dersins at 12:57 PM on January 25, 2008


Actually, I find it kind of refreshing that so many fairly decent books are there. Only the Rynd drivel and that gawdawful Egeron series really stood out to me as monuments to terrible writing. Ok, and "A child called it". Ugh.

I think it says more about socioeconomics than a link between books and smarts. Notice, for example, that both black literature and religious texts tend to be on the low end. There's a demonstorable link between economic status and SAT scores, and both blacks and fanatical Christians tend to be on the low end of the economic ladder.
posted by sotonohito at 12:58 PM on January 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Terry Goodkind, I'm looking at you!
posted by boo_radley at 12:59 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I just read this on boing boing, thought it very interesting that "the Holy Bible" was so much lower than "the Bible." Food for thought.
posted by farishta at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


I like the stacked version, which separates books by genre. Apparently erotica makes you the dumbest (with the exception of Lolita) and classics make you the smartest.

And correlation totally does equal causation. Haven't you seen this?
posted by arcticwoman at 1:00 PM on January 25, 2008


There is no such thing as a book that makes you dumb. Reading a book, any book -- even one as turgidly written as Atlas Shrugged -- is embracing an opportunity to challenge your own assumptions of how the world should be viewed, lose yourself in the vision of another. Some books do this better than others, but none of them make you dumber for having gone through the process.
posted by cog_nate at 1:01 PM on January 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


That graph is stupid. There are thousands (?) of pirates in the world today. They just happen to be murderous thugs instead of... oh, wait, pirates were always murderous thugs.
posted by Justinian at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2008


[expletive deleted] writes "Finally! Statistical evidence of my belief that only imbeciles like Ray Bradbury."

As opposed to the higher end of the SAT scores, where we find "Atlas Shrugged"? Even Shakespeare fared worse. Do imbeciles read Henry V?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:02 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Also, this survey confirms my prejudice that appreciating Nabokov and intelligence are strongly correlated.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


cog_nate nailed it. Reading a book - any book - puts you one up on most people. Hell, Harry Potter ain't exactly Nabokov but I guarantee you that it made readers out of a lot of kids who would have never otherwise picked up a book of their own accord.

That said, romance is the suxx0r.
posted by Justinian at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2008


According to this logic, filling the homes of the mentally handicapped with books like Freakonomics will completely reverse the effects of their retardation!
posted by flarbuse at 1:03 PM on January 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


pirates were always murderous thugs.

Flagged as PIRATE-IST!
posted by infinitywaltz at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The site went down (or just slowed down beyond my ADD-addled attention span) before I could look up more of the methodology: why are the books clustered in the middle? Are there fewer colleges with very low/very high SAT scores? Do smarter students just have more diverse tastes?
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2008


Lolita is erotica? No it's not. Makes me distrust the data (not that it's anywhere near a valid assumption anyway.)

In other words, hogwash.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:05 PM on January 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


I Don't Read is a book?
posted by Bromius at 1:09 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


::runs Justinian through with a cutlass; proves his point::
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:09 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Lolita isn't erotica.

Stop what you're doing, hand.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


There is no such thing as a book that makes you dumb.

No. I just read this novel that a friend gave me for Christmas, and I swear it took a good 5 points off my IQ.
posted by ND¢ at 1:10 PM on January 25, 2008


"The Bible" and "The Holy Bible" are two different things now?
posted by King Bee at 1:12 PM on January 25, 2008


Is this something I would have to know how to read to get?
posted by waraw at 1:13 PM on January 25, 2008


I totally feel dumber after looking at that graph.

If you were the kind of person who read 100 Years of Solitude followed by Mama Black Widow in college, how does that work?
posted by sleepy pete at 1:14 PM on January 25, 2008


I feel like pretty much any time I read a Michael Chricton novel. Steven King rates pretty high on the dumbification scale too.
posted by HerOdyssey at 1:14 PM on January 25, 2008


Do imbeciles read Henry V?
posted by krinklyfig at 1:02 PM on January 25
Yes, they do. They just don't understand it.
posted by ssmug at 1:15 PM on January 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


Reading comments from people who attempt serious critiques of a light-hearted analysis, which uses techniques vaguely resembling science as part its humor, as if it were actual science makes me dumb.

What's next, are you going to go into the Oscarology thread and complain that the author isn't showing the raw data to support her conclusions?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:17 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Zane (an author, not a book, though a couple of her books are on the list) is dead last.
posted by box at 1:17 PM on January 25, 2008


For what it's worth, my comments above were not meant to be taken seriously. Thanks for that.

I think a lot of the results on this site can be explained by seeing what books are required reading in high school or 100 level English courses, and what books are more likely to be read for pleasure by the intellectually curious.
posted by [expletive deleted] at 1:17 PM on January 25, 2008


Why isn't Dianetics on that list?
posted by daq at 1:18 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Coral cache for those wishing to understand their own endumbing/dumbenation.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:18 PM on January 25, 2008


Wow, miss lynnster, that's like the double whammy of insufferable-osity!

Yeah, you're telling me. Howard Roarke was a pain in the ass. But at the time I was young. Took me time to see to how artistic "altruism" in the hands of giant egos can actually be the polar opposite. Some folks I know just remain insufferable, though.
posted by miss lynnster at 1:18 PM on January 25, 2008


"The Bible" and "The Holy Bible" are two different things now?

Reading the FAQ makes you smarter.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2008


Why am I not surprised that Zane (NSFW, kinda, sorta) ended up on the low end. It's kindling with a glossy cover.
posted by griphus at 1:19 PM on January 25, 2008


Reading comments from people who attempt serious critiques of a light-hearted analysis, which uses techniques vaguely resembling science as part its humor, as if it were actual science makes me dumb.

What's next, are you going to go into the Oscarology thread and complain that the author isn't showing the raw data to support her conclusions?
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:17 PM on January 25 [+] [!]


I think you're supposed to flag it as "fantastic" and move on.
posted by sleepy pete at 1:20 PM on January 25, 2008


LOL at all you pretentious people who think that your bookshelves make you better people. Guess who else had a large library?
posted by Stynxno at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Why isn't Dianetics on that list?

Because it really blew the curve. Everything else makes you smarter by comparison.
posted by crickets at 1:21 PM on January 25, 2008


"The Bible" and "The Holy Bible" are two different things now?

Read the FAQ.

In fact, everyone should read the fact. Most of your questions and complains are answered with good humor. Except for that Lolita erotica thing, which bothers me, too.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2008


Everyone should read the FAQ, that is.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:22 PM on January 25, 2008


DevilsAdvocate: Just saw that. Apparently, for at least reasons [sic], they should not.
posted by King Bee at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2008


Zane (an author, not a book, though a couple of her books are on the list) is dead last.

In September 2007, casting calls were made for an erotic series on Cinemax based on Zane's novels.

Sounds about right.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2008


I'd noticed long ago that every ostensibly literate liberal arts college attendee/graduate I know triumphantly tacks Marquez up on their facebook profile as an emblem of their erudition. It's annoying. I love the guy, but I'm not about to lump my reading habits in with everyone else's on Gawker's Most Annoying Liberal Arts College list. (got enough of those characteristics as it is...)
posted by youarenothere at 1:23 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


A Purpose Driven Life & the Da Vinci Code both made me feel that way. It was like I had IQ points sucked out of my brain.

I have a question about the DaVinci code. This is serious. Does anyone capable of actually reading the first third of the book not immediately--as in, while reading the paragraph in which it's introduced--figure out the code word the braindead characters spend the rest of the book puzzling over? Honestly, the jumble on the comics page is more challenging, and the alleged smartest man in the world can't work it out without going in fifty wrong directions first.
posted by uncleozzy at 1:25 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - the most overrated pile of half-baked dog turd in history. Woefully, painfully sophomoric.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:26 PM on January 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


I read one (randomly chosen) chapter of a friend's copy of The Da Vinci Code. I still regret it.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2008


Guess who else had a large library?

Moby? They're all vegan cookbooks.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure I was pushed back a few reading levels after reading the graverolling tripe that is Susan Long's Mrs. DeWinter.
posted by katillathehun at 1:27 PM on January 25, 2008


Anyone else find it strange that Lolita was classified as erotica? I mean, obviously it's got erotic elements. But I always felt like there was some purpose in Lolita beyond titillation. I'd have put it under "contemporary fiction" or something.
posted by molybdenum at 1:29 PM on January 25, 2008


Doh. Should have hit preview first, given that I'm fourth person so far to point out the Lolita thing.
posted by molybdenum at 1:32 PM on January 25, 2008


Guess who else had a large library?

Art Garfunkle.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:33 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


There is no such thing as a book that makes you dumb.

Sure there is. Recently I was forced to read the bright yellow torture device that is Miranda July's No One Here Gets out Alive Belongs Here More Than You. I was so angry by the end that I'm pretty sure the sheer heat of it was sufficient to kill enough brain cells to make me appreciably dumber.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 1:35 PM on January 25, 2008


LOL at all you pretentious people who think that your bookshelves make you better people.

Suppose you are required to spend an evening with one of two people. One of them reads no books at all -- the other one reads a lot of books.

Which person would you choose?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:35 PM on January 25, 2008


Ever read a book (required or otherwise) and upon finishing it thought to yourself, "Wow. That was terrible. I totally feel dumber after reading that."?

Sort of... but this is not technically a book.
posted by Dave Faris at 1:35 PM on January 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


What about blogs, charts, and comments that make you more dumb? They certainly have a more hands off vetting approach and an infinitely faster turnaround!
posted by prostyle at 1:36 PM on January 25, 2008


I think the idea that reading novels increases your intelligence is totally false (except for those studies that say I am wrong). You know what an English degree is? Its like majoring in pop culture, just not modern pop culture. Novels, movies, video games, music, puppet shows. Its all just entertainment. One form of entertainment is just as good as another. "I read Don Quixote." Yeah well so did a bunch of long dead Spaniards, but they did it for fun not because they thought they were somehow smarter for doing it.
posted by ND¢ at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2008 [9 favorites]


Pride and Prejudice is also grouped under "chick lit," and The Life of Pi is under philosophy. I think we are seeing a bit of a wink at the camera with the genre categorization.
posted by whir at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


This is kind of fun. Nice link.
posted by caddis at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2008


Also, there is a reason that people read novels back in the old days: television hadn't been invented yet. In a thousand years when holodecks are invented and that is the form of entertainment enjoyed by the masses, future nerds will be watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and feeling good about themselves for it.
posted by ND¢ at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


There is no such thing as a book that makes you dumb.

Gentry Lee stands as proof otherwise.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2008


Lolita as erotica is creepy.

Pride & Prejudice is chick lit?

The Color Purple isn't just plain old Classic?

&tc &tc

Did he make these categories up or did he just wing it?
posted by small_ruminant at 1:41 PM on January 25, 2008


Suppose you are required to spend an evening with one of two people. One of them reads no books at all -- the other one reads a lot of books. Which person would you choose?

Considering that I know charming and hilarious people who don't really read books, as well as insufferable asshats who read a lot of books, I would flip a coin.
posted by brain_drain at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2008


Is James Joyce even on here?
*weeps for America*
posted by naju at 1:42 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Its not just books that cause negative intelligence. Whenever I see a Damien Hirst artwork in person, I am less.
posted by R. Mutt at 1:44 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Wow. Interesting methodology, though I suspect there may be more than a few confounding variables.
posted by Artw at 1:46 PM on January 25, 2008


I expect this will be added to the FAQ soon, but Virgil took the genres from the tag cloud at LibraryThing.

I wasn't too fond of the title, nor the genres, but both certainly make the study more provocative.
posted by Rictic at 1:51 PM on January 25, 2008


Considering that I know charming and hilarious people who don't really read books...

Sure, so do I, but generally the people who lack any curiosity about the world whatsoever are in the "non-reader" category, and there are a lot of them.

When it comes down to it, I'll bet most of your friends read far more than the median 5 or so books that Americans read a year.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 1:52 PM on January 25, 2008


Okay, I'm gonna ask this one seriously. Because this is something that always bugs me and I usually keep to myself.

Geek Love. WHAT THE FUCK?

I've seen people give that book to others as a birthday present, and I'm like, "What the Hell? Do you HATE this person? Are you trying to TORTURE them?" I think that's the only book I've ever read that I wanted to burn afterwards so that nobody else would be contaminated by it. Unfortunately it was the only book I brought on vacation at the time so I was stuck with finishing it (I was in a foreign country). It's probably the only book I have ever sincerely wished I could unread... it took a chunk from my brain and soul.

Yet people give it as a birthday present and talk about it being a "fun" read. WHAT THE HELL. I just don't understand. Fun? FUN????
posted by miss lynnster at 1:52 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


"I Don't Read" was at SAT 950. Obviously the books below this point are the dumbing ones. Maybe Fahrenheit 451 and The Color Purple are there only because they are the books that people were forced to read in high school that they can remember. (Not that they read them necessarily -- maybe they just saw the movie.) So Zane should be banned.
(I never heard of Zane before this. Now I'm thinking of reading one of her books. Okay, I know they cause brain damage but that never stopped me trying stuff before.)
posted by CCBC at 1:52 PM on January 25, 2008


I think reading exercises your brain a bit in almost all cases, NDcent.

(I don't really get the Stephen Kind hate. He makes no pretentions of being one of western letter's great writers, and he is a pretty good storyteller when he's on. He's kind of the Michael Caine of writing, a talent more than willing to do "bad" work than not work at all.

One of the loveliest, funny, and whip-smart people who have fallen from my circle of friends (hi Kappy!) also loved King books--that's good enough for me. I don't watch a ton of TV, but I'd say even the smartest TV I watch is still less of a mental workout (of the good kind) than any book I've read.)

posted by maxwelton at 1:54 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Wow. This whole thing is pretty wack.

Low SAT scores don't equal dumb. The SAT scores continue to be very slanted toward the European/White canon and vocabulary. Just looking at all the "African American" literature listed as "dumb" is enough of a hint of that.

Also, what's up with the genre categorization? Chick lit? Fucking Seriously?

Oh, I get it. White men write classics and everyone else writes [insert qualifier here] lit. Neato.

and boo_radley: if i could favorite your comment more than once, I would. Confessor was terrible.
posted by lunit at 1:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Books not make people dumb, brains make people dumb.

/futurama
posted by Mister_A at 1:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Facebook? Right, because that's a true representation of students at a given school.
posted by cashman at 1:58 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Wow, just because there's a chart all of a sudden this is Serious Business, eh?
posted by Mister_A at 2:00 PM on January 25, 2008


By the standards of this graph, wouldn't an introductory English textbook make you dumb?
posted by destro at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2008



Suppose you are required to spend an evening with one of two people. One of them reads no books at all -- the other one reads a lot of books.

Which person would you choose?


I know a lot of intelligent and witty people who don't seem to find time in their lives for books and I know some nice, but not very bright, people who read tons of books, supermarket trash novels. The mere act of reading does not seem to be helping them understand the world any better. To do that you actually have to read intelligent books, and I bet that every book in the original link is better than romance and detective novels, which are fine to pass the time, kind of like reality tv, but they won't make you smarter.
posted by caddis at 2:01 PM on January 25, 2008


Stephen King is a very smart guy with a very good understanding of the history of his chosen genre and how to make it work. It's a while since I've read any of his doorstop novels, but the classic ones that everybody knows are pretty much worth of being called classics. His short fiction is outstanding. So no, Stephen King isn't a Grisham or a Clancy or even a Crichton.
posted by Artw at 2:02 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


caddis, reading Raymond Chandler novels WILL make you smarter, it's scientistically proven by various Gantt charts.
posted by Mister_A at 2:04 PM on January 25, 2008


Is James Joyce even on here?
*weeps for America*


The SAT scale doesn't go high enough to understand Finnegans Wake.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 2:06 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ever read a book and think ... "I totally feel dumber after reading that."?

No. I'm careful about what I read. Rule number one: don't read books on science that are written by journalists.
posted by neuron at 2:06 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Terry Goodkind, I'm looking at you!

*High-fives boo_radley*
posted by thanotopsis at 2:10 PM on January 25, 2008


The Alchemist is not a smart person's book. It's not it's not it's not it's not OH GOD it's not.
posted by kittyprecious at 2:13 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


It does not do me any bit of justice to see my name at the farthest potential left of that graph.

Albeit I am sexy.
posted by ZaneJ. at 2:13 PM on January 25, 2008


detective novels, which are fine to pass the time, kind of like reality tv, but they won't make you smarter.

Chandler, Hammett, James Ellroy and Richard Price say you are wrong.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:15 PM on January 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


Suppose you are required to spend an evening with one of two people. One of them reads no books at all -- the other one reads a lot of books.

Which person would you choose?


Whichever one lets me sleep with them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:17 PM on January 25, 2008 [5 favorites]


Seriously, though, are there any romance novels that are worth defending? Every other sniffed-upon genre I can think of has at least one author who is considered to have risen above the genre, but I have never heard of a romance novelist doing so.
posted by Bookhouse at 2:17 PM on January 25, 2008


If I had read as much as other men, I would have been as ignorant as they. -Thomas Hobbes
posted by strangeleftydoublethink at 2:17 PM on January 25, 2008


lupus_wonderboy: Suppose you are required to spend an evening with one of two people. One of them reads no books at all -- the other one reads a lot of books.

Which person would you choose?


Homer. The poet. The one who didn't read or write.

And I'd be right.
posted by koeselitz at 2:19 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Which person would you choose?

Whichever one lets me sleep with them.
posted by Astro Zombie at 5:17 PM on January 25 [+] [!]


Even if that person was Dick Cheney?
posted by caddis at 2:20 PM on January 25, 2008


caddis, reading Raymond Chandler novels WILL make you smarter, it's scientistically proven by various Gantt charts.
posted by Mister_A at 5:04 PM on January 25 [+] [!]


You may be right. ;) I am talking more about the class of book which has Fabio on the cover.
posted by caddis at 2:22 PM on January 25, 2008


I'm really confused by the methodology, which relies on Facebook's wtf-inducing Network Statistics. My Gawker Annoying Small Liberal Arts College college's current top 10 books are:

1. Harry Potter (282 readers)
2. The da Vinci Code (41 readers)
3. Catch-22 (111 readers)
4. Cryptonomicon (22 readers)
5. Angels and Demons (19 readers)
6. 1984 (107 readers)
7. America: the Book (17 readers)
8. Absalom (12 readers)
9. Absalom! (12 readers)
10. Abhorsen (1 reader)

(and "the Bible" returns 100 readers and "Dune" 53, but neither make the list - I really never will understand facebook.)
posted by The Bridge on the River Kai Ryssdal at 2:23 PM on January 25, 2008


future nerds will be watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and feeling good about themselves for it.

Shit. I hope there's no such thing as reincarnation.
posted by rtha at 2:25 PM on January 25, 2008


strangeleftydoublethink: If I had read as much as other men, I would have been as ignorant as they. -Thomas Hobbes

If the dear Mr. Hobbes had read as much as some other men, he wouldn't have tried to steamroll over the luminosity of medieval thought and replace it with crass and impractical soullessness.
posted by koeselitz at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2008


On behalf of erotica writers, can I just point out that it is not the brain we are attempting to stimulate with our work?
posted by misha at 2:30 PM on January 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


...and he wouldn't have said things that make him sound like a dick like "I'm smart cuz I read."
posted by koeselitz at 2:31 PM on January 25, 2008


Seriously, though, are there any romance novels that are worth defending?

I love Diana Gabaldon's books and think they may hold their own for the long haul.

That said, I suspect that "romance" novels that are worth defending get recategorized so that people don't have to admit to liking something so low-brow. I mean, wouldn't Romeo & Juliet count? Jane Austen? Wuthering Heights? Jane Eyre? Those are straight up melodramas and now they're considered classics.

Is Elmore Leonard a mystery writer? I think some of his books might hold up awhile, too, though I haven't read very many.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:33 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The Bible makes you dumb.
posted by mike3k at 2:39 PM on January 25, 2008


8. Absalom (12 readers)
9. Absalom! (12 readers)


*giggle fit*
posted by CitizenD at 2:43 PM on January 25, 2008 [6 favorites]


future nerds will be watching reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond and feeling good about themselves for it.

Only because Peter Boyle was on it and the show will help them feel a completeness after he has been deified. Of course, the really smart kids will be watching the hologram of Freaks and Geeks.

Oh, sorry, I'm a former English major.
posted by sleepy pete at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2008


Since I'm in my third semester of a history Phd, I'm really starting to wish that history books were kinda written like vampire/supernatural porn. Plucky nation that does things differently from other nations runs into an oppressive evil. Plucky nation then befriends a dark and disturbing nation that actually has a heart of gold. Plucky nation and dark/disturbing nation have hot sex. Oppressive evil tries to destroy them both, but in the end they find way to defeat it. Then they have more hot sex. Then there's a bit of a teaser about how the oppressive evil isn't really destroyed, but plucky nation now has enough confidence and hot sex (thanks to dark and disturbing nation w/a heart of gold) to be able to face and conquer any evil that might come her way.

That's way better than reading about battles and dates and pompous, long-winded historians blathering on and on about what actually caused the Civil War.

Or, it could be that my brain's just burnt out on non-fiction.
posted by teleri025 at 2:46 PM on January 25, 2008 [17 favorites]


Guess who else had a large library?
Karl Popper?
posted by drezdn at 2:47 PM on January 25, 2008


Is James Joyce even on here?

Joyce doesn't make you dumb, he just makes you feel dumb.
posted by psmealey at 2:50 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Problems with the data and the methodology have already been mentioned above, but I think there is a fundamental problem that I haven't seen mentioned yet. If you notice, the vast majority of the books on the chart are sandwiched between 1000 and 1150, which just happens to contain a disproportionately large share of SAT scores (bell curve and all). Further, they got the chart just by averaging. So, the fact that "1984" appears around 1100 is probably because it is popular across the board, not because it is just popular with people who scored 1100 on the SAT. (If we suppose, for a second, that "1984" is liked by lots of people from all over the score range, then you'd expect the average score of a reader of that book to be between 1000 and 1100, just because that's where the mean SAT score of all people falls.) This explains why all the books with popular appeal (in college) fall in that range - not just "Harry Potter" and the "Da Vinci Code," but also books by Faulkner, Shakespeare, and Hemingway. That "Lolita" is skewed way to the right is perhaps simply due to it being less popular (and appearing only on lists from colleges with high average SAT scores).

At the end of the day, my point is that maybe you can make the case that people with high scores like to read "Lolita," but you can't make the case that people with high scores don't like "Hamlet." (Of course, this assumes that the numbers are accurate to begin with, which is highly unlikely, and I don't even want to touch the "high SAT score" = "smart" business.) And, yeah, yeah, I know this thing is sort of a joke, but still...
posted by epimorph at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Wow, just because there's a chart all of a sudden this is Serious Business, eh?

It's well known - and somewhere there is a chart of this - that the seriousness of the business and charts follows a U-shaped curve. That is, when there are very few charts or a great deal of charts, the business is serious. A middling number of charts means the business is not all that serious; rather silly, actually.
posted by never used baby shoes at 2:51 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Problems with the data and the methodology have already been mentioned above, but I think there is a fundamental problem that I haven't seen mentioned yet.....

You know this data is for entertainment purposes only.
posted by caddis at 2:53 PM on January 25, 2008


It may just be a data-point, but when I read the Celestine Prophecy, I was rendered mute for three days. It was later discovered that the book forced my IQ below level necessary to have the capacity to use spoken language.

I was literally dumbstruck.
posted by quin at 2:55 PM on January 25, 2008 [15 favorites]


NDcent, you may be being purposefully obtuse in equating art and entertainment, but if not it is a false comparison. They have different purposes. Entertainment entertains and art communicates. They're not mutually exclusive, but they're not the same.

Taking in an experience or a viewpoint you might never experience does increase your intelligence, as long as we take the definition of intelligence away from the sort of quantification that the SAT attempts to provide. Pure entertainment has no obligation to provide anything but a story. Please don't deride the work of great people by assuming that all they meant by their effort was to entertain you.
posted by invitapriore at 2:58 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the idea that reading novels increases your intelligence is totally false (except for those studies that say I am wrong). You know what an English degree is? Its like majoring in pop culture, just not modern pop culture. Novels, movies, video games, music, puppet shows. Its all just entertainment. One form of entertainment is just as good as another. "I read Don Quixote." Yeah well so did a bunch of long dead Spaniards, but they did it for fun not because they thought they were somehow smarter for doing it.

Wow. *blinks*

That said, I suspect that "romance" novels that are worth defending get recategorized so that people don't have to admit to liking something so low-brow. I mean, wouldn't Romeo & Juliet count? Jane Austen? Wuthering Heights? Jane Eyre? Those are straight up melodramas and now they're considered classics.

*rips hair out*
posted by jokeefe at 2:59 PM on January 25, 2008


...and he wouldn't have said things that make him sound like a dick like "I'm smart cuz I read."

Reading generally does make you smarter. Making you smarter doesn't necessarily make you a better person but it often does. Certainly, turning off the TV and picking up a book is almost guaranteed to improve you.

You can argue this till you're blue in the face and there are certainly plenty of exceptions but reading will generally make you a smarter person in exactly the same way that exercising will make you a fitter one.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:08 PM on January 25, 2008


(And I'd like to add that Steven King is a fine writer who doesn't deserve to be put down. He's a compassionate writer, he really cares about humans and his characters even if they suffer, and I see no issue having his work on the same bookcase as Joyce.)
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 3:10 PM on January 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Certainly, turning off the TV and picking up a book is almost guaranteed to improve you.

Unless you turn off The Wire and pick up Flowers in the Attic.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2008 [11 favorites]


NDcent, you may be being purposefully obtuse in equating art and entertainment, but if not it is a false comparison. They have different purposes. Entertainment entertains and art communicates.

You want to communicate with somebody, send 'em a telegram.
posted by ND¢ at 3:24 PM on January 25, 2008


what is the deal with all the Ayn Rand bashing at the top of this thread. I mean, okay fine she's no Proust, but she DID mint Objectivism which, at the very least, has served to piss off aloof philosophy students for many a decade and for that we are indebted to her surely.
posted by Escapetank at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yes, and it was called The Celestine Prophecy.

Now let's see where this thread goes.
posted by idiotfactory at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2008


And I'd like to add that Steven King is a fine writer who doesn't deserve to be put down. He's a compassionate writer, he really cares about humans and his characters even if they suffer, and I see no issue having his work on the same bookcase as Joyce.

I wish he had the same compassion for the suffering of his readers.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:25 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


It's well known - and somewhere there is a chart of this - that the seriousness of the business and charts follows a U-shaped curve. That is, when there are very few charts or a great deal of charts, the business is serious. A middling number of charts means the business is not all that serious; rather silly, actually.

IMG TAG PLZ K THX
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 3:27 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


what is the deal with all the Ayn Rand bashing at the top of this thread. I mean, okay fine she's no Proust, but she DID mint Objectivism which, at the very least, has served to piss off aloof philosophy students for many a decade and for that we are indebted to her surely.

Oh, thank God she came along to knock Philosophy students off their high horses. I can't go a day without a student, clutching his copy of Kierkegaard, sneering at me dismissively.

It's too bad her followers then decided to also ruin politics and the Internet.
posted by Astro Zombie at 3:28 PM on January 25, 2008 [8 favorites]


Tuesdays With Morrie is an extremely stupid book, IMHO.
posted by proj08 at 3:32 PM on January 25, 2008


You know this data is for entertainment purposes only.

That's clear, but epimorph's comment is still spot on. It would be a lot more entertaining to see the width of each block represent the data spread instead of the margin of error. (There's no entertainment value now in looking through the meaningless clutter of middle-of-the-chart books.)
posted by nobody at 3:37 PM on January 25, 2008


It's too bad her followers then decided to also ruin politics and the Internet.

Why just this year they terrorized the nation with a scary blimp and chased poor old Sean Hannity through the streets of New Hampshire.
posted by trondant at 3:39 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Angels & Demons is ranked higher than The Da Vinci Code even though, as Wikipedia says euphemistically, it "shares many stylistic elements with the better known novel." I enjoyed both nearly identical books even though the characterization is minimal and the dialog is weak because they're compelling page-turners. Every chapter's a cliffhanger!

Guess who else had a large library?

Hitler actually did have a kickass library.

I don't really get the Stephen Kind hate. He makes no pretentions of being one of western letter's great writers

He's even called himself "the literary equivalent of a Big Mac and fries," which shows an appealing self-deprecating modesty.

Its like majoring in pop culture, just not modern pop culture

That'd be American Studies.
posted by kirkaracha at 3:45 PM on January 25, 2008 [4 favorites]


Why, exactly, does every book need to be informative or thought provoking? I'm partial to a silly love story involving a vampire and failed writer strictly for entertainment value, it doesn't have a point.

Guess who else has a large library?
Congress
posted by Mblue at 3:51 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


* Twilight Of The Books *

(skip to page three for some results of research on readers versus non-readers)

posted by spoobnooble at 3:51 PM on January 25, 2008


lupus_wonderboy: Reading generally does make you smarter. Making you smarter doesn't necessarily make you a better person but it often does. Certainly, turning off the TV and picking up a book is almost guaranteed to improve you.

You can argue this till you're blue in the face and there are certainly plenty of exceptions but reading will generally make you a smarter person in exactly the same way that exercising will make you a fitter one.


Being exposed to other beliefs and comparing your own against them makes a person more intelligent, and this is a very good quality. But there's no necessary correlation between that and reading. I know lots of people who don't read, and yet who are good at confronting differing beliefs, like, as I said, Homer, author of one of the greatest poems in any language; and I know lots of academics who read Homer for a living every day, spend their whole lives on it, who never once learn to question themselves.

That's all I meant. It's not in reading, it's not even in what you read, it's in how you do it. Reading is a tool.
posted by koeselitz at 4:00 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


I also want to say that the title of this thread makes me more intelligent. Did you look at it? It says:

I don't read | Metafilter

posted by koeselitz at 4:01 PM on January 25, 2008


Slogging through the Foundation N-ology and First and Last Men left me with questions about both myself and the authors.
posted by a robot made out of meat at 4:09 PM on January 25, 2008


Don;t worry, Hari Seldon will pop up and explain it all sooner or later.
posted by Artw at 4:23 PM on January 25, 2008


From the FAQ:
Doesn't this violate Facebook's Terms of Service?

No. It doesn't. Facebook prohibits the "use automated scripts to collect information from or otherwise interact with the Service or the Site". A friend of mine manually collected our books data.
(emphasis added)

Heh. I wonder which "friend" this was, perl or python.
posted by Potsy at 4:35 PM on January 25, 2008 [7 favorites]


You know, this chart is kind of dumb. Amusing, but dumb. That said, why is it that even my smart friends always think I'm crazy or weird for listing Nabokov as one of my favorite authors and Lolita as my favorite novel? One seemed personally offended. Of course, Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory is also one of my favorite novels...

Also, there are some polarizing books. Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun seems like a good filter. If someone reads it and hates it ("OMFG PRETENTIOUS"), they're usually not very smart, while all the smart people I know who've read it either love it or say "Well, I see how it's great, but I don't like it."

Oddly enough, my experience with Wolfe is making me reconsider Joyce.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:44 PM on January 25, 2008


Potsy, I didn't read your post before I posted, but I just have to say--

A++, you win.

orz
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:45 PM on January 25, 2008


Python, no one can actually read Perl.
posted by drezdn at 4:45 PM on January 25, 2008


Of course not, drezdn, but they can write it--and that's what counts.
posted by sonic meat machine at 4:50 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


what is the deal with all the Ayn Rand bashing at the top of this thread.

You're new here, I see... :-)

It's too bad her followers then decided to also ruin politics and the Internet.

Yeah, do your research. Google Ron Paul Ayn Rand.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:51 PM on January 25, 2008


There you go. Perl books made me dumber.
posted by naju at 4:53 PM on January 25, 2008


The SAT scale doesn't go high enough to understand Finnegans Wake.

Finnegan's Wake is little more than the mummified and somewhat mephitic afterbirth of Ulysses, in my opinion.
posted by jamjam at 4:56 PM on January 25, 2008


I'd like to add that Steven King is a fine writer who doesn't deserve to be put down.

Ditto. It grieved me to see him mentioned on the same line as Crichton.
posted by mrgrimm at 4:58 PM on January 25, 2008


Stephen King is not a bad writer, but he needs an editor, badly. He has no sense of pace at all. His stories are often great, but bloated. Look at the Dark Tower series. The Gunslinger is short, entertaining, almost mythic--the last three books are bloated Mary Sues with neither a point nor a reasonable progression. It's like his brain exploded halfway through writing the series. (He did get hit by a van...)
posted by sonic meat machine at 5:05 PM on January 25, 2008


Probably good points. I haven't read as much of King's later stuff. Salem's Lot is still a great horror novel.

I also liked Geek Love, fwiw.
posted by mrgrimm at 5:10 PM on January 25, 2008


That said, I suspect that "romance" novels that are worth defending get recategorized so that people don't have to admit to liking something so low-brow. I mean, wouldn't Romeo & Juliet count? Jane Austen? Wuthering Heights? Jane Eyre? Those are straight up melodramas and now they're considered classics.

small_ruminant asked me to clarify my response (ripping my hair out, above) to this paragraph in Memail, but I thought I'd do that here, if that's alright with him/her.

The hair-ripping was inspired by the categorization of Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights, and Jane Eyre as "romances". They are not. They just don't qualify. And here I'm assuming you mean "romance" in the current sense, i.e. the little, easily digestible fantasies, the kind of emotional erotica, primarily read and written by women-- the Harlequins and their ilk. Austen and Charlotte and Emily Bronte were true artists, gifted novelists, and the difficult novels they wrote can in no way be compared to those simple narratives (man and woman meet, navigate relationship obstacles of some description, end up united at the end-- though that description in itself doesn't do those books justice, because they are all really about the deferral of desire, not its consummation. But I digress).

But even as far as the idea of the "romantic" genre as it would have been used in a contemporary sense, Austen and Charlotte Bronte are utterly opposed. Bronte couldn't stand Jane Austen's novels, and it's not a far stretch to speculate that Austen would have returned the favour. Have you read Sense and Sensibility? The love of mushy, melodramatic fiction is a character flaw that Austen heavily criticizes (and the character in question marries not the dashing, tempting hero, but the other guy, the one who is older and wiser and who she initially thought was rather dull).

Wuthering Heights is a deeply disturbing book that is primarily about the function of cruelty and abuse as it passes down the generations. The "loving"-- and that's a stretch too, given how pathological their relationship is-- couple meet up only after death. Barely. It's hardly a happy ending. And make no mistake, Emily Bronte was totally interested and totally absorbed in their pathology. She knew what she was creating. And Jane Eyre was seen at the time of its publication as a furious attack on the status of women, and an unnerving call to arms for female equality. Which it is. It's not a love story in any kind of conventional sense; it's rebellion from beginning to end.

So calling these books "romances" riles me up a bit, because it comes across as being a bit dismissive. It's a way that women's literature has often been discounted-- it's a romance, it's melodrama, it's "small", etc.
posted by jokeefe at 5:20 PM on January 25, 2008 [9 favorites]


what is the deal with all the Ayn Rand bashing at the top of this thread. I mean, okay fine she's no Proust, but she DID mint Objectivism which, at the very least, has served to piss off aloof philosophy students for many a decade and for that we are indebted to her surely.

Uh, no.
posted by jokeefe at 5:24 PM on January 25, 2008


sonic meat machine writes "Stephen King is not a bad writer, but he needs an editor, badly."

I admit, I used to read a lot of Stephen King in high school. I have a hard time getting through his stuff anymore. I do like some of what he does, but what annoys me more than anything is his habit of telling the reader all the thoughts of his characters. I prefer the sort of writing that allows the reader to imagine what sort of thoughts are going through someone's head, rather than telling me each thought. It would be better if he only did that on seldom occasion, but he uses it all the time. It's probably my own hang up, but there is something to be said for subtlety. I do like his characters, but after reading a lot of his work, it seemed like the characters dissolved once things got to a certain point, and the story took over and propelled itself to a bloody end. He is very good at evoking fear, and he's also good at setting the stage and making you care about the people he'll later kill. That's important in horror, so much so that George Romero would talk about it in reference to his films. In The Night of the Living Dead, each of the characters who don't make it has just enough material and time on screen to make you care about them, and then they die. It's the Golden Rule. Otherwise, it's just slasher material, and that's not usually enough to make anyone care.

One of my favorite books of his was his brief respite from horror, The Eyes of the Dragon. His shorter works and short stories are also generally better than his novels, mostly because of the pacing problem you mentioned. Some of his earlier novels like The Shining are very good, but I find that even that one has problems (better editing would help). I kinda like the film better than the book now, though I would have said the opposite 20 years ago.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:39 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Seriously, though, are there any romance novels that are worth defending?

Heyer, for a start. Beyond that, as jokeefe says, it gets messy in terms of what you'd want to call - and what writers would want to be known as - romance. It can get circular: romance writers are no good, therefore any writer who could be identified as romantic is either no good or not writing romance.

Daphne du Maurier's another one where critics have argued she plays with romance conventions, rises above it, etc etc - not sure I'm convinced there, but I haven't read a lot of her.

romance and detective novels, which are fine to pass the time, kind of like reality tv, but they won't make you smarter

Well, I'd argue that it's not what you read, but how you read it, which often makes a book interesting (concept of a book "making you smarter" sounds nuts to me - give you ideas, yes). But then I research popular culture so I would say that.
posted by paduasoy at 5:42 PM on January 25, 2008


psmealey writes "Joyce doesn't make you dumb, he just makes you feel dumb."

Ha!

Yeah, my first experience with Joyce was reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man on my own, not as part of a class, with very little context and background, or knowledge of the history referenced. I only knew that Joyce was considered one of the greats, and so, having just read Dante's Divine Comedy trilogy, I felt pretty smart. Not after Joyce. Made me feel right stupid. It was almost like reading a different language. But he's like Shakespeare. The more you read, the more sense it makes (although with Shakespeare it makes more sense when you see it on stage). And then when you really get it, you realize how good he is.
posted by krinklyfig at 5:58 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I admit, I used to read a lot of Stephen King in high school. I have a hard time getting through his stuff anymore. I do like some of what he does, but what annoys me more than anything is his habit of telling the reader all the thoughts of his characters. I prefer the sort of writing that allows the reader to imagine what sort of thoughts are going through someone's head, rather than telling me each thought. It would be better if he only did that on seldom occasion, but he uses it all the time. It's probably my own hang up, but there is something to be said for subtlety.

Though it's not at all subtle -- the first fifty pages or so are spectacularly violent, comprising a sustained end-of-the-world-type scene that's one of the more impressive things he's done, and quite out of character for him -- Cell kinda felt to me like how I remember King's books being back when I was a high school kid and couldn't get enough of him. The old stuff features much stronger stories, and is generally tighter (I presume because publishers weren't yet afraid to piss him off by actually editing his work), but rereading it now shows that he had a lot of problems as a stylist that he's since overcome. In other words, as he's become a better writer, he's also unfortunately lost a lot of his storytelling ability. But Cell is (for King) very brisk, very well-plotted, not at all bloated, and not bogged down with endless introspection and tangential bullshit. Though the preoccupations are the same, it...well...almost doesn't even read like he wrote it, and I kinda have to wonder whether his son had a hand in the editing. Anyway, my youthful affection for King sends me running at the football from time to time when he's got a new book out; I'm usually disappointed, but not always. I've got his new doorstop sitting here on my desk...
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:02 PM on January 25, 2008


caddis writes "romance and detective novels, which are fine to pass the time, kind of like reality tv, but they won't make you smarter."

Interesting that Umberto Eco chose the detective novel formula for his first novel.
posted by krinklyfig at 6:10 PM on January 25, 2008


The overwhelming banality of this link and accompanying discussion is just stifling me.
posted by nasreddin at 6:16 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


That's because you don't have a sense of humor!
posted by mr_roboto at 6:23 PM on January 25, 2008


not all detective and romance novels are created the same son
posted by caddis at 6:23 PM on January 25, 2008


The overwhelming banality of this link and accompanying discussion is just stifling me.

I think you forgot to add "he sniffled" there at the end, nasreddin.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2008 [2 favorites]


Maybe it's just not funny.

Once again, black people are dumb. Oh well.
posted by Danila at 6:24 PM on January 25, 2008



The overwhelming banality of this link and accompanying discussion is just stifling me.


maladjustes mouse to ache wrist
sighs
posted by Mblue at 6:28 PM on January 25, 2008


Once again, black people are dumb. Oh well.

I don't think this is something that should be taken even remotely seriously, Danila. The, um, finding that people who selected Their Eyes Were Watching God are less intelligent than those who picked James Patterson (just to pick an example at random)? Suspect.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:34 PM on January 25, 2008


krinklyfig: After you get Joyce figured out, for laughs, go read Finnegan's Wake. (Let us know when you do this, so we can be laughing at your expense. And don't feel bad at us for laughing, it's one of the few joys we have left.)

Anyway, this should be less on which books make you dumber, and more about which books cause their readers to post that they read them on Facebook, along with their SAT scores. (Only way I can explain Atlas Shrugged rating so high. UGH.)
posted by JHarris at 6:35 PM on January 25, 2008


I do take seriously that black people score on the low end of the racist SATs, so even when they do read it doesn't count because everyone knows they're dumb.

Or maybe it's dumb to read at all, maybe NDcent has got it right. Certainly, the people (on Facebook) who don't read apparently scored higher than the black people (on Facebook) who do.

Maybe it's because I don't like Facebook and this isn't a slam on Facebook, but is instead holding Facebook up as something. I guess I don't get the point of the joke.
posted by Danila at 6:45 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


The history books they made me study in grade school had the most profound stupidizing effect on me. It took months of pot smoking and acid tripping to clear out all that programming.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:51 PM on January 25, 2008


Maybe it's because I don't like Facebook and this isn't a slam on Facebook, but is instead holding Facebook up as something. I guess I don't get the point of the joke.

Well, it's not a real great joke. I guess. I'm not sure what the guy was going for myself. You know, usually stuff like this is intended to make some people feel better about themselves at the expense of others, but I'm not sure who's really going to feel superior for having read Freakonomics when, from what I have gleaned, it is to economics what A Time to Kill is to To Kill a Mockingbird. And Lolita's great and all, but it's not exactly as though its readership is exclusive to some privileged class. So...?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 6:54 PM on January 25, 2008


Would someone (Danila, preferably) please explain to me what Danila's talking about? I don't understand where "black people are dumb" is coming from.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:01 PM on January 25, 2008


Ah, never mind. I see it now.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:11 PM on January 25, 2008


I made the mistake of picking up a copy of Prozac Nation at a friends house. She insisted that I take it home.
posted by Sailormom at 7:39 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


krinklyfig: After you get Joyce figured out, for laughs, go read Finnegan's Wake. (Let us know when you do this, so we can be laughing at your expense. And don't feel bad at us for laughing, it's one of the few joys we have left.)

Well, that's something I intend to read eventually, but I think reading it as part of a class might be a good idea. I haven't even come close to figuring out Joyce in any real sense, not having read Ulysses or Finnegan's Wake, but in my experience the work is worth it. Maybe there's no point to it, or maybe you're implying that it's ridiculously dense and difficult. But friends I trust have recommended it, not cynically so. But it's also not an urgent priority, so ...
posted by krinklyfig at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2008


What I wouldn't give to read The Dead by Stephen King.
posted by wobh at 8:50 PM on January 25, 2008


maybe you're implying that it's ridiculously dense and difficult

try ulysses first - it's rather thick going but there are some hilarious sections in it - and it sounds wonderful

finnegan's wake, you should know, isn't even written in anything we'd call english - although that sounds wonderful too
posted by pyramid termite at 9:07 PM on January 25, 2008


Finally! Statistical evidence of my belief that only imbeciles like Ray Bradbury.

Bite your goddamn tongue, you. Me smart!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:39 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd comment, but the last book I read was House of Leaves1 and I'm still not sure what to think about it.


.buıʇsǝɹǝʇuı sɐʍ ʇı ʇnq 'pɹɐǝɥ ı ǝdʎɥ ǝ1ʇʇı1 ʇɐɥʍ oʇ dn ǝʌı1 p,ʇı ɟı ǝɹns ʇ,usɐʍ ı .ʎ11ɐnʇɔɐ 'ʞooq poob ɐ [1]
posted by flatluigi at 10:06 PM on January 25, 2008 [3 favorites]


Next assignment: Collect data on typical human behavior from celebrity blogs.

Ray Bradbury's short stories are made of awesome.
posted by Tehanu at 10:20 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


I never heard of Zane before this.

Ditto. I thought they meant Zane Grey but forgot to add his surname at first, and then I read the comments here and got very very confused.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to cancel library hold requests for 27 paperback Westerns.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:28 PM on January 25, 2008


Parade magazine that comes in the Sunday paper. I feel my IQ drop a few points every Sunday when I sully my eyebalz reading that trash. why do I do it, I wonder? As for books, Infinite Jest by David "F***er" Wallace. I just know that guy was having a laugh at his readers' attempts to wade through it. Grr.
posted by Lynsey at 10:40 PM on January 25, 2008


more about which books cause their readers to post that they read them on Facebook, along with their SAT scores.

I think you're misunderstanding the methodology. He's using the average data from various colleges. Facebook allows you to pick a college and see what the "favorite books" of students there are. You get the SAT scores by going to that school's admission page and looking for it (which virtually all schools make available), or by looking in a college guide.

This leads to a biased sample but not in the way you're imagining; the users themselves don't put down their SAT scores -- they just say where they go to school and what their favorite books are. If a whole bunch of Harvard (or some other similarly high-SAT-score school) students say they like My Pet Goat, then MPG gets listed as a "smart" book. If a bunch of students at a low-scoring school say they like Gravity's Rainbow, then it's a "stupid" book. That's all the ratings mean.

I found it overall to be pretty interesting, but I think the blogger should have just left it as an interesting correlation between college SAT-score averages and book popularity, rather than going for the snarky 'books that make you stupid' angle. But obviously the snark gets more pageviews. (Would we be reading it otherwise?)

And to continue the Steven King derail, I agree that the first third of Cell is quite good. However, I was disappointed by the remainder. (SPOILER WARNING, STOP NOW) His tendency to kill female secondary characters gets a bit tiring -- it's like mother-figures in Disney cartoons. It's pretty clear he's aware of this tendency -- in one novel* I remember the narrator saying something like "when the story starts going south, bring on the man with the gun." Reading Cell, at about the halfway point I started looking for him, and it didn't take long.

* Google suggests it's in Bag of Bones.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:57 PM on January 25, 2008 [1 favorite]


Presuming, of course, that the Scholastic Aptitude Test Scholastic Assessment Test SAT actually measures intelligence, and not, say, social class or something.
posted by eritain at 11:19 PM on January 25, 2008


After you get Joyce figured out, for laughs, go read Finnegan's Wake.

i recommend you drop some acid first, it helps a lot. also, set aside a week, and a few grams of meth. by the end of it, you'll totally get Finnegan's Wake. or find yourself in the psych ward. it's much the same thing.
posted by UbuRoivas at 11:45 PM on January 25, 2008


Life of Pi definitely made me feel dumb. It was so bad that I recycled it.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:36 AM on January 26, 2008


what a bunch of snobs.
posted by tkchrist at 1:20 AM on January 26, 2008


And you know what? There's not a damn thing wrong with a little snobbery. I'm far more likely to sleep with girls who have good grammar and read good books.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:28 AM on January 26, 2008


Also, +1 to all the Stephen King defenders. His books aren't classics of modern literature by any stretch, but for horror writing, you could do far worse. I think that one of the main reasons he gets such a bad rap is because so many of his short stories and novels have been made into terrible, schlocky movies, many of them made-for-tv.

And it's a shame about the Gunslinger Series. I've read all of them up through The Wizard and Glass. I hear the others aren't so good.

In the end, I would compare Stephen King to The Doors - I cut my literary teeth devouring his stuff back in highschool, but have since moved on to more subtle practitioners of the art.

Still, if he published another short story collection, I'd buy it in a heartbeat.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:57 AM on January 26, 2008


Vanity Fair. I liked it, I'll be honest, but after the hahahawhatapretentiousloser moment I'm not sure why I kept reading. God that fucking guy took forever to make a point.

I felt smarter, much, much smarter, after War and Peace. Made sense of a lot of things for me. Same with Robinson Crusoe, although the part with the cannibals turning Christian was a little overwrought.

I would rather shoot myself rather than read The DaVinci Code again. And Kafka on the Shore was tripout wankery in full effect. Fuck that.

MAD fucking props to Middlemarch and anything by Pynchon.
posted by saysthis at 2:14 AM on January 26, 2008


Vanity Fair. I liked it, I'll be honest, but after the hahahawhatapretentiousloser moment I'm not sure why I kept reading. God that fucking guy took forever to make a point.

You like George Eliot and you think Thackeray takes forever to make a point?

Good job, guys. My valve is closing.
posted by nasreddin at 2:17 AM on January 26, 2008


It might be interesting if it was done with a survey, instead of facebook.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:34 AM on January 26, 2008


Since I'm in my third semester of a history Phd, I'm really starting to wish that history books were kinda written like vampire/supernatural porn.

Plucky nation that does things differently from other nations runs into an oppressive evil.
Samantha, a new but hugely gifted vampire, is a bit lonely, holding herself away from other vampires. But Evil is spreading, killing off free vampires. The world is endarkening.

Plucky nation then befriends a dark and disturbing nation that actually has a heart of gold.
The older and darker Albion reappears, someone from Samantha's past who is now working to combat the spread of Evil with his band of followers by any means possible. Albion and Samantha haven't really ever got on - they used to fight a lot when younger, and Albion was really overbearing - but now Albion needs Samantha's help. His allies have mostly been killed by Evil, including his hot French lover Marianne (conveniently getting her out of the way.)

Plucky nation and dark/disturbing nation have hot sex.
Realising that without her aid Albion is doomed, Samantha commits to helping Albion.

Oppressive evil tries to destroy them both, but in the end they find way to defeat it. Then they have more hot sex.
Evil, recognising that Samantha is helping Albion, attacks them both. With herculean efforts and fighting together they triumph over Evil, with the lessons Albion has taught Samantha allowing her to use her new magical powers of awesome destruction.

Then there's a bit of a teaser about how the oppressive evil isn't really destroyed, but plucky nation now has enough confidence and hot sex (thanks to dark and disturbing nation w/a heart of gold) to be able to face and conquer any evil that might come her way.
Evil is defeated, but another ally of Albion's, Ivan, once an ally of Evil but horribly tortured by him, is now jealous of Samantha's new powers and threatens to again try to take over the world. Albion persuades Samantha to take on the mantle of defender of the world against Evil.

Like the STAR WARS trilogy, there's a darker second book where Samantha is almost killed in a jungle by a mystical Asian vampire, and an up-beat third volume where Ivan is defeated, his immorality consuming him from within and Samantha emerging triumphant. Fans are also excited by an unfinished fourth volume, a much much darker and more adult affair where Samantha's previous actions to defeat Ivan, and the use of her own powers, result in tragic consequences. Publishers are worried that this fourth volume is likely to be far less popular and the final ending has not yet been written.
posted by alasdair at 3:28 AM on January 26, 2008 [14 favorites]


You like George Eliot and you think Thackeray takes forever to make a point?

Good job, guys. My valve is closing.
posted by nasreddin at 6:17 PM on January 26 [+] [!]


Nah, man, Thackery's point was way simpler thematically than Eliot's. It was, literally, LOLVAINRICHPPL nowknockitoffasshat. Eliot's got some socioeconomic stuff going on that needs a lot more plot exposition to be palatable in Middlemarch. Vanity Fair was an 800-page list.
posted by saysthis at 3:29 AM on January 26, 2008


Afroblanco, King tries to do something a bit unconventional in the final volume, and it doesn't really work as well as he might have hoped. He also brings together a number of different threads to tie them in a single knot, which rarely works well. Still worth reading if you keep your expectations to the level of Dreamcatcher or Tommyknockers.

On a different note, I wonder if women tend to like Christine. It's a decent tale, but more than that it captures a lot of what life at that age is like for a teenage boy--the sometimes odd friendships and loyalties; hopeless infatuation with a girl, seemingly unobtainable; the amazing freedom of having your own car for the first time, no matter how ugly and crappy it actually is...and the story has a miraculous turnaround, where the nerd does get the girl and the assholes get what we all dream they get in the darkest corners of our mind. Of course, there is a terrible price to be paid for riding that ride--and how you can't really get off once you're on board. I re-read it every once in awhile just because the feeling of being sixteen or seventeen with a full tank of gas, $20 in my nylon wallet (with a prominent ring from the condom I've carried around since I was fourteen, just in case), cruising with my pals, no particular destination in mind...well, that recedes further and further every year, and the fucking kids are on my lawn now, the little shits. It's nice to recall what it's like to be the trespasser, not the guy with the throbbing vein and red face shaking his rake at them. I don't know if those experiences are universal, or uniquely teen boy, or even uniquely American teen boy, hence my curiosity.

posted by maxwelton at 4:26 AM on January 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


saythis: anything by Pynchon

Actually, this is one writer whose books do make me feel more stupid whenever I read them.

Or should I say, TRY to read them. I think I've read the first fifty pages of Gravity's Rainbow about 100 times over the last 20 years. I start with the best intentions, but I pretty much always pass out when I get that far in, and I wake up a couple hours later in a puddle of my own drool. I recently picked up another of his books, Against the Day. The back cover claimed it was more accessible than other books by him. It isn't... Or maybe it is, in a relative way.

But you've read War and Peace, too. I truly envy your stamina and attention span.
posted by Dave Faris at 5:29 AM on January 26, 2008


Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - the most overrated pile of half-baked dog turd in history. Woefully, painfully sophomoric.

I disagree. I jumped from that to Tao Te Ching and some of Heidegger's work. It's not the book itself that matters, but the places it takes you later in your life.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:53 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


The most accessible Pynchon book is probably Vineland (it's certainly open to argument, though). Of course, that's kind of like saying that the most accessible Swans album is The Great Annihilator (ditto). It's true, as far as it goes, but it's not saying much.
posted by box at 6:43 AM on January 26, 2008


jokeefe :

> The hair-ripping was inspired by the categorization of Jane Austen, Wuthering Heights,
> and Jane Eyre as "romances". They are not. They just don't qualify. And here I'm assuming
> you mean "romance" in the current sense, i.e. the little, easily digestible fantasies,
> the kind of emotional erotica, primarily read and written by women-- the Harlequins and
> their ilk.

jokeefe, I object to the practice of deciding a priori that fiction of an identifiable genre is junk, and then splitting out everything that isn't junk so that the genre only gets credit for the discards. Murder mysteries are junk? What about Gaudy Night? What about Name of the Rose? Well, those aren't murder mysteries, those are novels. Fantasy is junk? What about One Hundred Years of Solitude? Oh, that's not fantasy, that's (checks notes) Magic Realism. Sci Fi is junk? What about 1984? Brave New World? A Clockwork Orange? Not sci fi. Action/adventure is junk? What about the Argosy (not to mention the Iliad and the Odyssey?) Nonstop bloody smiting from beginning to end, of course, but not action, not adventure, and certainly doesn't appeal in any way to the low tastes of action/adventure fans. Horror is junk? What about Poe? Oh, Poe isn't horr... uh, *cough cough*.

I don't believe that readers of... a certain elevated sort, let's say... should get away with brushing aside the poor common relations of the books they enjoy and claiming there's no connection. If we're hanging breathlessly over the story of bad Heathcliffe and bad Cathy, we're reading a romance. In all of literature drama is interpenetrated by melodrama to the highest levels. In fact literature to the highest levels is interpenetrated by appeals to all the common tastes (by which I mean the tastes we all have in common because of our common humanity) to which we accuse the books with Fabio on the cover of pandering. I defer to no one in snobbery but (in this one thing, anyway) I don't kid myself: it's simply not possible to draw a line and say these books belong in the parlour, those in the barnyard. That's simply too close to the cognate attitude which decides the same thing about people.

P.s. Bad Heathcliffe! Bad Cathy!
posted by jfuller at 7:02 AM on January 26, 2008 [6 favorites]


Wow! I saw someone talking about Tao Te Ching and Heidegger's work. These are pretty heavy stuff, especially those of Heidegger. As for "Tao Te Ching", it's an book by an ancient Chinese Philosopher, probably written a few thousand years ago. The correct writing in Chinese Phonic should be "Dao De Jing". It's a great book. Very enlightening. Leading you awakening to the greater truth of the universe through the many little things we see and experience everyday (but things which are often overlooked and forgotten).
posted by goodtips at 7:54 AM on January 26, 2008


Funny, reads like a GOP manual. Atlas shrugged up there on the top, The Holy Bible down there towards the bottom, and all those colored folks are dumb, now, aren't they?
posted by Chuffy at 8:20 AM on January 26, 2008


The most accessible Pynchon book is probably Vineland (it's certainly open to argument, though).

I'd go with V.; Vineland is more accessible, but I put it down almost halfway through and haven't felt the need to go back and finish it.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:59 AM on January 26, 2008


The Crying of Lot 49 is truly inspired, and one of the only great novels in English I can think of which feels like it was written almost without reference to the Great Tradition; Pynchon uses thermodynamics and information theory the way Blake uses the Bible. When I finished The Crying, I felt as if I'd had a personal encounter with that greatest of all Living Gods-- Entropy.
posted by jamjam at 10:35 AM on January 26, 2008


It's a decent tale, but more than that it captures a lot of what life at that age is like for a teenage boy--the sometimes odd friendships and loyalties; hopeless infatuation with a girl, seemingly unobtainable; the amazing freedom of having your own car for the first time, no matter how ugly and crappy it actually is...

Re: Christine-- this sounds pretty much like what teenage-hood was for me too, if you switch the gender crush.

I loved Ray Bradbury as a kid/teenager, The Martian Chronicles rocked my world, and I'll defend him against all comers.

Stephen King may just be, as some have suggested, the Dickens of the 20th century. I'm open to the idea.

jokeefe, I object to the practice of deciding a priori that fiction of an identifiable genre is junk, and then splitting out everything that isn't junk so that the genre only gets credit for the discards. Murder mysteries are junk? What about Gaudy Night? What about Name of the Rose? Well, those aren't murder mysteries, those are novels. Fantasy is junk? What about One Hundred Years of Solitude? Oh, that's not fantasy, that's (checks notes) Magic Realism. Sci Fi is junk? What about 1984? Brave New World? A Clockwork Orange? Not sci fi. Action/adventure is junk? What about the Argosy (not to mention the Iliad and the Odyssey?) Nonstop bloody smiting from beginning to end, of course, but not action, not adventure, and certainly doesn't appeal in any way to the low tastes of action/adventure fans. Horror is junk? What about Poe? Oh, Poe isn't horr... uh, *cough cough*.

....what?

Let's backtrack here.

I drew a broad definition of what the modern understanding of "melodrama" and "romance" might be. I specifically named the Harlequins and their ilk-- that genre. Which I think you will agree is real and does exist as a particular genre, with genre rules and conventions. They are stories meant to be read quickly for entertainment, often with stock characters and situations: iterations of a particular plot arc. I also noted that this plot arc is more complicated than might appear, given that the eroticism is about constant deferral; I've often wondered if these books are really "about" the individuality of the single woman and the reluctance to abandon it pitted against the desire for love and intimacy. Kind of the way that young girls love The Little Mermaid because they love the image of the independant Ariel as a mermaid before her transformation into a sort-of human being. That's another topic, but anyway. I take the genre seriously as a cultural phenomenon, but I don't mistake it as literature.

It is possible to identify genre boundaries and to discuss what goes into making a genre-- what social niche it fulfills, what conventions it operates under-- without condemning any and all instances of that genre. I never said that romances were junk, so don't attribute things to me that I did not say. Would I say that mysteries are junk? Are you kidding me? Science fiction? Please. Genre does not bad writing make. And is there "good" writing as opposed to "bad"? Well, putting it simplistically, yes. Is there writing that makes us freer, smarter, better people, stretches our ideas, wakes us up? Sure. Is there writing that tickles and titillates and does nothing more, and tries to do nothing more, than entertain? Of course. Does one cancel out the other? Of course not.

I think you're putting me in some camp that argues for a split between "genre fiction" and high literature-- one is good and one is bad. That's a false line; and it's not a position I would ever take. So, you know, don't attribute to me things I neither would say nor believe. If you want to make the argument that some critics unfairly dismiss "genre fiction" out of hand because it's not "real literature", then be my guest. Just don't assume that I'm one of them.

With regard to your semi-sarcastic remarks on Wuthering Heights, I can only assume that you have never read it.
posted by jokeefe at 11:52 AM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm still recovering from Lucky Wander Boy. That's the last time I let a video game rag suggest what to read.
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:52 PM on January 26, 2008


So calling these books "romances" riles me up a bit, because it comes across as being a bit dismissive. It's a way that women's literature has often been discounted-- it's a romance, it's melodrama, it's "small", etc.

I think you're putting me in some camp that argues for a split between "genre fiction" and high literature-- one is good and one is bad....it's not a position I would ever take.


To me, these two ideas contradict each other. Either "genre fiction" categories are dismissive or they're not. I think they are used dismissively and I think they shouldn't be. I try very hard not to allow some publisher's marketing judgement to dictate what books I am willing to enthusiastically endorse as good literature.

I agree completely with jfuller's complaint that books and authors that rise above their genre suddenly never were in their genre. War and Peace is a good example of this. It was originally released as a weekly serial in the newspaper- a soap opera. These days it's literature. As far as I'm concerned it's still a soap opera, and more power to it. I love Tolstoy (War and Peace and Anna Karenina, anyway. You can keep your Hadji Murats, etc.) because they're well written. As a bonus I don't know of another male author of his era who wrote such realistic, 3-dimensional women characters. Genre snobbery causes a lot of great books get overlooked. I think Ursula Le Guin is often brilliant but she writes Fantasy, so don't bother taking it seriously. Hammet and Chandler are two genre authors people toss in to show how unsnobby they are.
(Okay, that was 70+ years ago. Way to be an iconoclast! /sarcasm)

Regarding Bronte vs. Austen- just because two authors dislike the style of one another doesn't make one part of one genre and one part of another. It's not up to them. It's up to me.

I like reading to an often unhealthy degree, but I do not accept that reading makes one in any way a better person than watching movies or TV. I just happen to like it. And I don't like that TV and movies yell at you instead of invite you, but that's just me.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:35 PM on January 26, 2008


> I take the genre seriously as a cultural phenomenon, but I don't mistake it as literature.

We make most of our categories (and genres) by focusing on the extremes of what is actually a continuum, and suppressing intermediate instances.


> With regard to your semi-sarcastic remarks on Wuthering Heights, I can only assume that
> you have never read it.

Nothing remotely sarcastic about it. I wanted to spank both of them, many times over. Come to your senses, you poor fools! You love each other! Break out of this twisted trap you're in! All it takes is for one of you to lay aside the ego for five minutes and tell the fucking truth. You could! You can! (Knowing all the while, naturally, that they are creatures of fiction, and if they did as I want them to then suddenly, oops--happy families are all alike--end of story; but if the author wants them to go on as they have begun and play out the broken logic of their relationship to the bitter end then that's what they'll do.) It makes me feel like the possibly apocryphal fellow who got so engrossed in a performance of Aida that at the end, when Aida and Radames are locked in the tomb together and singing the final La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse duet as they suffocate, he burst out of his seat and ran down the aisle shouting "DON'T SING! YOU'LL LAST MUCH LONGER IF YOU DON'T SING! YOU MUST NOT SING!"

I have some choice words to say to Anna Karenina, too, if we're ever introduced.
posted by jfuller at 2:08 PM on January 26, 2008


> The correct writing in Chinese Phonic should be "Dao De Jing".

The Dao that can be written correctly in Chinese Phonic is not the true Dao
\captain obvious
posted by jfuller at 2:26 PM on January 26, 2008 [4 favorites]


It makes me feel like the possibly apocryphal fellow who got so engrossed in a performance of Aida that at the end, when Aida and Radames are locked in the tomb together and singing the final La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse duet as they suffocate, he burst out of his seat and ran down the aisle shouting "DON'T SING! YOU'LL LAST MUCH LONGER IF YOU DON'T SING! YOU MUST NOT SING!"

I believe that was a scene from God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater.

Elsewhere, you confuse my description of the process of the dismissal of women's writing on the grounds of it being "a romance, a melodrama, "small", etc." with an agreement with the premises of that dismissal. I think we're talking past each other, actually. There are ways to talk about genre and genre literature without falling into recieved notions of its worth. Genre conventions are real, but the edges of genres are very fluid, and as far as judging a work written within a genre-- let's just say that genre is no predictor of quality, for good or ill. I consider Le Guin a major writer, for example.

Regarding Bronte vs. Austen- just because two authors dislike the style of one another doesn't make one part of one genre and one part of another. It's not up to them. It's up to me.

A further "what"?

Re: Wuthering Heights:

I wanted to spank both of them, many times over. Come to your senses, you poor fools! You love each other! Break out of this twisted trap you're in! All it takes is for one of you to lay aside the ego for five minutes and tell the fucking truth. You could! You can!

But the "truth" doesn't matter in WH, not in the way you think it does. The "trap" is what interests Bronte; and I'm not sure that what joins Catherine and Heathcliff could even be called "love". Bronte makes it clear that was they share is a kind of mutual obsession that's not quite sane. Also, remember that Cathy and Heathcliff are only half the book; it's the second generation where the consequences of their relationship play out.
posted by jokeefe at 3:15 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


Geek Love. WHAT THE FUCK?

I haven't read it in years, but this was one of my favorite books when I first found it, in high school/ college. I am always amazed it doesn't have a wider recognition.

what is the deal with all the Ayn Rand bashing at the top of this thread. I mean, okay fine she's no Proust, but she DID mint Objectivism which, at the very least, has served to piss off aloof philosophy students for many a decade and for that we are indebted to her surely.

Ayn Rand, so far as I can see, is what is known in philosophy as a "naive realist", which is to say, she doesn't even understand the issues philosophers are arguing about. As Aristotle says, it's hard to untie a knot one is unaware of. She doesn't piss of philosophy students so much as remain utterly irrelevant to them.

jokeefe, I object to the practice of deciding a priori that fiction of an identifiable genre is junk, and then splitting out everything that isn't junk so that the genre only gets credit for the discards. Murder mysteries are junk? What about Gaudy Night? What about Name of the Rose? Well, those aren't murder mysteries, those are novels. Fantasy is junk? What about One Hundred Years of Solitude? Oh, that's not fantasy, that's (checks notes) Magic Realism...

Yeah, well, that's what the term "genre fiction" means. It's fiction written just as the genre, not as literature first, and only secondarily fulfilling areas of interest. People who like genre fiction aren't reading it for the skill, nuance, style, depth, etc of the writer. They just want something fun. So it's not the discards of genre fiction that are called literature, it's the discards of literature that are called genre fic, when they're still enjoyable enough to be published for one reason or another.
posted by mdn at 4:01 PM on January 26, 2008


Ayn Rand, so far as I can see, is what is known in philosophy as a "naive realist"

in literature, she's known as one of the worst cases of verbal diarrhea ever - there's a reason why people plotted to fly planes over moscow dropping copies of atlas shrugged - not so the commies would read them and be converted, but so they'd be crushed to death by their massive, skull-shattering weight
posted by pyramid termite at 4:22 PM on January 26, 2008


I like how people who call it The [i]Holy[/i] Bible are dumber than people who just call it The Bible.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:25 PM on January 26, 2008


Damn it.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:25 PM on January 26, 2008


Miss Lynnster, I just gave one of my best friends a copy of Geek Love for her 30th birthday. Oops. I haven't read it; I just heard that it was good.

For the record, I hated Lolita. I still think most people who claim to like it are faking because they think it will make them seem edgy.
posted by emd3737 at 8:24 PM on January 26, 2008


For the record, I hated Lolita. I still think most people who claim to like it are faking because they think it will make them seem edgy.

and one might think that those who feel the need to diss a book like Lolita are faking because they think it will make them seem edgy. ;)
posted by caddis at 8:42 PM on January 26, 2008 [2 favorites]


touché.
posted by emd3737 at 8:45 PM on January 26, 2008


I just want to use up my last comment so I can post. If a book is powerful enough to make you dumb, its probably really good.

Lolita=Erotica, what.

also, what do the width of the boxes mean.
posted by harhailla.harhaluuossa at 9:09 PM on January 26, 2008


1. I am pretty sure The Lovely Bones makes people dumber. Ick.

2. I have both James Joyce and Stephen King on my bookshelf, and I'm totally not apologizing for it.

3. Miss Lynster - I loved the first half of Geek Love, and thought the second half totally ruined it. Can I rip a copy in two and give the front to someone I like and the back to someone I hate?
posted by naoko at 9:24 PM on January 26, 2008


Can I be the first one to say that Don Quixote was the most difficult book I've ever read - not because of the advanced concepts, but because so much of it was comprised of screwball, three-stooges-type-humor that I suspect just doesn't translate very well.

Also, The Crying of Lot 49 is without a doubt the most accessible Pynchon. And to anyone who says that Pynchon makes you feel dumb, I suggest that you read some Don Barthelme. Dude was ahead of his time, our time, and anyone else's time. The human race will still need to do some catching up if we're still around 1000 years from now.

Tolstoy is actually a pretty easy read once you get past the near-infinite number of characters and the weird Russian naming system.

Ayn Rand was batshitinsane, but not a complete waste of time. Read one of her books, but only one, because they're all the same. Once you have, you can have a conversation with a libertarian and actually kinda know where they're coming from. And every liberal has to have at least the one token libertarian friend.

The Celestine Prophecy was written for people who read at the 5th grade level. I got 10 pages in before I threw it across the room. And I never took my New Age friend seriously again after that.

Winter's Tale (which nobody has mentioned yet) is a great book for the first two thirds of the book. After that, it stops making sense, you start to feel pretentious, and then you wonder why you were enjoying the book to begin with.

Nothing that Eggers has written is any good, but nearly everything he has edited is pretty good. I don't know how the hell something like this happens.

And maxwelton, what you said about Christine is so real and so true that I want to favorite it a thousand million times to the end of oblivion.

And can I say this? Can I say this? This has been the most awesome thread I've read in a while. I love you all. Except for the ones I don't. And you get a free pass. At least until tomorrow.

And have I mentioned that The Life Of Pi was so bad that I recycled it? "Staff Picks" Table at The Strand my ass..........
posted by Afroblanco at 10:02 PM on January 26, 2008


And Naoko, I love you for naming yourself after a character in a Murakami book. Some day I want to meet Murakami in one of his restaurants (which no doubt resemble the bar from South of the Border, West of the Sun) and shoot the shit with him and ask him if he's ever voluntarily spent 3 days at the bottom of a well. I guaran-fucking-tee that he would be a cool fucking dude to hang out with.
posted by Afroblanco at 10:04 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


People who like genre fiction aren't reading it for the skill, nuance, style, depth, etc of the writer.

Oh, please.

There's good genre and bad genre, as there is good "literature" and bad "literature." (I use quotes because I don't know how we're defining it - so far, it seems, we're been defining it as what it's not.)

If genre fans don't care about skill, nuance, style, depth, etc., then writers like George Pelecanos wouldn't exist. (Mystery is the genre I know best, so I use him as an example.)

I'm tired and mostly want to post photos from tonight's SF mefi meet-up, so I'll leave it at that for now. But statements like the above exemplify the kind of bullshit elitism I encountered all too often when I was in the publishing/book reviewing world. I don't miss it.
posted by rtha at 10:18 PM on January 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


I have nothing useful to add after 210 comments except that I loved Lolita, and I'm grinning.

I also list it on my facebook page.

Hate me if you must.
posted by blacklite at 2:13 AM on January 27, 2008


I'm far more likely to sleep with girls who have good grammar and read good books.

That's a weird thing to say. "Let me justify my pretentions by qualifying to the public my sexual proclivities?"

Wha? Okaaaaay.

You may want to ask would they sleep with you? I always assume this type of thinking is the result of nerds being rejected by the hot girls in high school. The resulting internalized pain is manifest assuming desirable women don't have good enough taste or read the "right" books.

Reading certain books=dumb.
posted by tkchrist at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2008


But the "truth" doesn't matter in WH, not in the way you think it does. The "trap" is what interests Bronte; and I'm not sure that what joins Catherine and Heathcliff could even be called "love". Bronte makes it clear that was they share is a kind of mutual obsession that's not quite sane. Also, remember that Cathy and Heathcliff are only half the book; it's the second generation where the consequences of their relationship play out.

The real romance comes from Catherine's obsession with the house and with her own origins/childhood. When Cathy comes back as a ghost she's a child, not a woman, and all she wants is to get back into the house. Heathcliff turns up and she immediately disappears. When she describes her ultimate nightmare to Nelly, it's being in heaven and not in WH. When she's chucked out of heaven and ends up on the moor she wakes up 'weeping with joy'.

I've always seen Heathcliff not so much as a character but more as a physical embodiment of Cathy's anger that she was never allowed/never allowed herself to exist in her ideal, pure state at WH. After all, his only defining traits are sullenness, obsession with her and a single-minded desire for revenge.

The dramatic tension comes from the intrusion of the light-haired, 'normal' characters (Edgar and Isabelle, the roses to Cathy's thorn), who represent the compromised nature of the civilized world outside of WH. Cathy's love isn't normal romantic love because it's love for a state of being and love for the only place where she's fully allowed to be herself - as much as love for another person. The book's called 'Wuthering Heights' for a reason.

The genius of the book is that Bronte gives us a reliable, pragmatic narrator (Nelly Dean) who can place some distance between the reader and the insane melodrama of Cathy and Heathcliff's actions. It also allows us to become involved with the weirdness of Cathy and Heathcliff's world without the whole book turning into an insane melodrama.

I just can't get enough of Wuthering Heights.
posted by Summer at 10:43 AM on January 27, 2008


You may want to ask would they sleep with you? I always assume this type of thinking is the result of nerds being rejected by the hot girls in high school. The resulting internalized pain is manifest assuming desirable women don't have good enough taste or read the "right" books.

Okay, so since I like smart women, there's obviously something wrong with me.

You, sir, are a schmuck.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:45 PM on January 27, 2008


*makes googly eyes and bats eyelashes at Summer*
posted by jokeefe at 10:43 AM on January 28, 2008


Afro: That's just it. SMART women or men may do not necessarily read the right books or use the right words, do they.

Hence the revolting snobbery & pretence of this thread.

Smart does not equal the books YOU like. At best it's evidence of shared interest. At worst? Bias confirmation.

Rather a schmuck than a pompous snob.
posted by tkchrist at 11:41 AM on January 28, 2008


Ok, so here is the comment that made me a "pompous snob" :

And you know what? There's not a damn thing wrong with a little snobbery. I'm far more likely to sleep with girls who have good grammar and read good books.

Nowhere did I provide a list of "right books" or "right words." And yes, I do think it's hot when a girl reads something other than Us Weekly and doesn't use chatspeak in her emails. If that makes me a pompous snob, than so be it.
posted by Afroblanco at 5:30 PM on January 28, 2008


And you know what? There's not a damn thing wrong with a little snobbery. I'm far more likely to sleep with girls who have good grammar and read good books.

My google-fu isn't working today, so you'll just have to imagine the Onion article about the area man spending hours trying to decide which books to leave casually on his bedside table before going out on a date with a literary kind of girl, who didn't end up going home with him.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:53 PM on January 28, 2008


Hah!

Actually, the whole exchange between tkchrist and myself was pretty retarded. I don't think I'd sleep with either of us.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:23 PM on January 28, 2008


Nowhere did I provide a list of "right books" or "right words."

No. But this THREAD did. That was the entire point of this thread wasn't it?
The right books make you smart. The wrong books make you dumb.

We have dozens of posters implying or outright agreeing with the linked article that reading certain books makes you a dumb person. Ironically many mention IQ. Which is funny. Because in any other context and in any other thread on the matter of human intelligence the collective Mefi bully pulpit consensus is there is no such thing as IQ. I guess we all believe in SAT's as a measure of intelligence? Weird.

What I object to is the preposterous claim that taste equates in any fashion with intelligence. And this pompous idea leaks it's ways unchallenged through the back doors of Mefi's Taste War threads incessantly. I suppose I picked a poor time to point it out.

You, my friend, were the only one brave enough to rise to defend "snobbery" when I accused this thread of being guilty of promoting it.

(And I find bring up your sexual mate preference an odd left field way to go about making your point.)

You being attracted to girls who like "good" books (and that is a value judgment YOU are making thus making them the "right" books) and who possess "good" vocabulary (another value judgment thus the "right" words) is irrelevant to their objective intelligence. Period. It is ONLY relevant to your criteria of attraction with is a SHARED interest in what you judge as good books and good vocabulary. Neither in any objective sense necessarily reflect a persons raw intelligence.

There is nothing inherently "wrong" with an adult preference in regards to sexual attraction. So why you are bringing it up at all confounds me.

TASTE in certain books does not imply intelligence.

Snobbery is the idea that certain groupthink of tastes (music, books, fashion, movies, wine, etc) make one group superior (superior in other unrelated ways such as intelligence) to others who don't share identical tastes and bias.

Taste is subjective. So is the idea of what are or are not good books or movies.

You may have not realized this or even expressed the notion directly but you're the only one who defended the concept.
posted by tkchrist at 12:40 AM on January 29, 2008


Snobbery is the idea that certain groupthink of tastes (music, books, fashion, movies, wine, etc) make one group superior (superior in other unrelated ways such as intelligence) to others who don't share identical tastes and bias.

Taste is subjective. So is the idea of what are or are not good books or movies.

You may have not realized this or even expressed the notion directly but you're the only one who defended the concept.


idunno. i once vetoed any thoughts of getting involved with a girl who seemed to be showing some interest in me, when i saw on livejournal that she was excited about having bought Billy Joel tickets. i realise that makes me sound very shallow, especially because she's quite an awesome girl otherwise (especially for many in this crowd, i think; pure geekgirl), but, well, i just don't want any risk of being subjected to Billy Joel's music. you can say "taste is subjective" all you like, but we're talking Billy fucking Joel here. that has to mean something to you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:55 AM on January 29, 2008


Taste is subjective. So is the idea of what are or are not good books or movies.

I agree with you. However, I do value the company of people whose diet includes something other than "light reading." I don't care if they do enjoy genre fiction or whatever, as long as they also read books that challenge them. I realize that there's more than one type of intelligence, but what can I say? I just like a girl who's into books.

And my comment about snobbery and sex was meant as a half-joke. It's too bad that nonverbal signals like body language and inflection don't carry over the internet.

But yeah, you shouldn't try to psychoanalyze people that you don't know. That kinda pissed me off.
posted by Afroblanco at 7:12 AM on January 29, 2008


Is it okay if I own all the right books but I haven't gotten around to really reading them all? That counts, right? I mean, I did buy 'em & stuff. And they do look pretty on my shelves...
posted by miss lynnster at 10:14 AM on January 29, 2008


And they do look pretty on my shelves...

Only if they're displayed conspicuously (perhaps neatly stacked horizontally) next to to a shiny knickknack will you be taken seriously as an intellectual.
posted by Burhanistan at 11:37 AM on January 29, 2008


Does it have to be a shiny knickknack? On one shelf, for example, I've got a woven mask from the Upper Sepik River, New Guinea, lying casually alongside the following books, either on their sides, or else slightly scruffily leaning at angles:

The Poetry of Li Yu
Two Millennia of Mathematics - From Archimedes to Gauss
The Elixirs of Nostradamus
Julian Huxley - New Bottles for New Wine
Stanislaw Dygat - Cloak of Illusion
Eduardo Galeano - Memory of Fire part 1: Genesis
Charles Kingsley - The Heroes
Torahiko Terada - Persimmon Seeds
City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology
The Sandman: King of Dreams

There's a pile of CDs in there too, but I can't be bothered typing up its contents.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:07 PM on January 29, 2008


I prefer scattering stacks of them amidst eccentric, worldly bric-a-brac in a strategic "I was right in the middle of reading all of these tomes for the third time but I took a break and temporarily placed them back on the shelf in order to play gracious host to you" kind of way.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:36 PM on January 29, 2008


City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology

Seriously? Ugh, that's a dealbreaker.

I AM NOT A SNOB; IT'S JUST THAT NOBODY IS GOOD ENOUGH FOR ME!
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:06 AM on January 30, 2008


As a married guy, I'm not sure what works in the dating world...

Would someone like me be better off putting out all of their O'Reilly programming books to attract a mate, their set of signed first editions, galleys, or the Peanuts anthologies?
posted by drezdn at 6:21 AM on January 30, 2008


One of the reasons I fell in love with my partner of almost eight years is that she had a bunch of Rebecca Brown books - and she'd read them, and liked them.
posted by rtha at 8:43 AM on January 30, 2008


Does this mean that the Janet Evanovich and Terry Pratchett books lying around my apartment aren't doing my dating life any favors?
posted by small_ruminant at 3:24 PM on January 30, 2008


City Lights Pocket Poets Anthology

Seriously? Ugh, that's a dealbreaker.


Ah, but all my books have stories. That one was a gift from my sister, upon her return from nine months of camping in the great national parks of America, especially around the west coast and Pacific northwest in particular. As a bookmark, it has a ticket stub from a performance of Philip Glass' Hydrogen Jukebox by members of Einsturzende Neubauten in a disused castle near Krakow that a friend sent me...
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:52 PM on January 30, 2008


Dude...I was kidding.

But on a more serious note, [i]Philip Glass[/i]?!? I hope the performance was in 1969.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:26 PM on January 30, 2008


It was, actually.

The Neubauten guys were performing in their first ever band, Die Sud-Dusseldorf Kindergartner Muzikanten. It was all glockenspiels, recorders & triangles. Apparently, traces of their later work were already beginning to show through.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:07 PM on January 30, 2008 [1 favorite]


I am so smart, s-m-r-t
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:12 PM on January 30, 2008


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