Friday, July 25, 2008
secret cultural shames
A few days back, this piece on secret cultural shames appeared in the online entertainment section of New York Magazine. Its inspiration came from The Times of London, which asked a group of authors to share the books that they're ashamed to have never read, and answers ranged from The Bible, to Catch 22 to The Joy of Sex. One particularly candid author even admitted to earning the highest score in his class on a university thesis written on Wuthering Heights, despite the fact that he had never actually read the novel. Brave.

Though the Times only pressed the authors (who are so. very. British. in their video interviews) to share their secret literary shames, NYM contended that "there's just as much pop-culture cachet to great cinema these days as there is to literature," so their responses included films as well as books. Of course all of this got me thinking of what my responses would be, and so here they are: my secret cultural shames listed in order of least shameful to most.

Honestly, I don't feel particularly ashamed to have never seen this 1925 Russian silent film masterpiece so I'm not sure this one should even count, but when I found out I was teaching a film class next year, noticed this film was in the curriculum and then admitted to a roomful of colleagues that I had never seen it, everyone looked at me as if I had goat ears. So, though I don't feel particularly ashamed to have never seen it, I gather that I should.

The Sound of Music
I don't particularly feel as if I was missing out on anything by not seeing The Sound of Music, however any time I admit this to a woman my age or older I am given a look of such kind sympathy that I feel as if by not seeing it I've automatically forfeited my membership in some secret girls' club.

(See comments re: The Sound of Music.)

Anything by Jane Austin or any of the Brontë Sisters
Not to say it was for lack of trying, however. I've made several very serious attempts at both Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice over the years, but then somewhere around page 70 it hits me, 'Oh yeah - I forgot that I really hate 19th century British literature!' Why do I have such a difficult time remembering that?

Catch 22
The most shameful thing for me is the number of times I've recommend this title to my advanced male students, gushing over how funny it is. And I'm told that it is, however I have absolutely no first-hand knowledge of this seeing as I've never actually read it. (Furthermore, I've always had a secret suspicion it's a book that members of the boys' club enjoy infinitely more than the ladies do. It seems to be the favorite of nearly every man I know, however I've yet to hear a single woman hold it in such high esteem.)

And here's where things start to get truly embarrassing. So here's the thing: I studied the first 30 minutes of Kane in an introductory film class and loved it, but for some reason we never watched the rest of the film. I know I should have long-since taken it upon myself to tackle the rest on my own, however it's instead been hanging out in the limbo that is spaces 5-115 of my Netflix queue for years. Shameful.

Ah yes, my most shameful of secret shames: I've never actually read Hamlet. Two things are to blame here. First, fancying myself a terribly advanced reader, I tried reading this when I was nine-years-old. Of course I didn't get further than the first act, and like many things we're exposed to before being truly ready, it left a terrible taste in my mouth. Much later, my college Shakespeare professor gave the class the choice of reading either Hamlet or Macbeth. After pointing out that Hamlet is Will's longest piece whereas Macbeth is the shortest, the Danish Prince lost by a landslide. I know I should just read the damn thing on my own, but I've seen the Mel Gibson film several times, so I guess I just always figured that was good enough. Whatever. So I've never read Hamlet. I'm over it.  I think you should get over it too.

And with that admission, I feel as if a considerable burden has been lifted.  If you're brave, you'd share your secret cultural shames too.


Blogger Abs said...

As far as Hamlet (one of my favorite Shakespeare plays even pre-film) goes, I definitely vote that you read it again, but picture Mel Gibson as Hamlet while you read. For some reason, it goes much faster that way.

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