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100 reasons why I am dumb

So I’ve mentioned how I’m applying to some graduate programs in English, right? Well, I was surfing today and found a list of some publisher’s 100 essential modern novels. And now I’m reconsidering because man, I realize I went to a stoopid local liberal arts college and I realize that I skated by with a bunch of creative writing classes, but seriously. I am ashamed to call myself an English major. Let’s take a look, shall we?

1. ULYSSES by James Joyce
Heh heh, shows how much they know. I’m pretty sure that Ulysses was written by Homer or something. Some Greek dude. Heh heh. Look who’s stoopid now, huh Random House?

2. THE GREAT GATSBY by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Ok, this one I can get behind. I read this in 11th grade and loved it. I have the last two paragraphs memorized, just like Lily in The Hotel New Hampshire. And it’s become useful because I can quote it at snobby gatherings and sound really smart and stuff. It doesn’t even matter what the point is of the snobby gathering. Once you start with ‘the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us’, people get really quiet and just look at you in awe. It fits almost every situation. Funerals, football games, Tupperware parties. Not that Tupperware parties are ever snobbish, but you know what I mean.

Joyce again. Gah. I’ve never read Joyce. I’m afraid to admit that lest the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents knock on my door and take my diploma away. I still owe the government $30,000 for that damn thing.

4. LOLITA by Vladimir Nabokov
I’ve never read this one either. I know that there was a movie, with Dominique Swain and I believe Jeremy Irons. Or possibly John Malkovich. I get those two confused sometimes. But at least I’ve heard of this one. Ok, it’s mostly because Sting sung about it in ‘Don’t Stand So Close To Me’.

5. BRAVE NEW WORLD by Aldous Huxley
Um, I’ve heard of it. I think it was a movie. I don’t know who was in it though.

6. THE SOUND AND THE FURY by William Faulkner
I’m starting to get a little uncomfortable with where this is going. Ok, I’ve READ Faulkner’ just not this one. I think they made a movie of this one too.

7. CATCH-22 by Joseph Heller
I know they made a movie of this one’ which I’ve never seen. But I’ve used the phrase ‘catch-22′ in conversation. And I know that one of the characters is named Major Major.

8. DARKNESS AT NOON by Arthur Koestler
Seriously, is that even a book? I think they made this up.

9. SONS AND LOVERS by D.H. Lawrence
D.H. Lawrence. I think I saw his grave in Westminster Abbey. And they probably made a movie about this too. But I haven’t seen it.

10. THE GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck
Dude, I SAW this movie in 11th grade English Lit! It had Henry Fonda in it. He played Tom Joad. That’s about all I remember though. I did read Steinbeck’s The Red Pony in 8th grade’ that counts for something, right?

11. UNDER THE VOLCANO by Malcolm Lowry
They made up this guy. They had to. I’ve never heard of him’ like ever? Have you ever heard of this guy? He’s the publisher’s brother, right?

12. THE WAY OF ALL FLESH by Samuel Butler
How did I get an English degree? Seriously? The only books I’ve read on this list so far were in high school. Or on my own. What is up with this?

13. 1984 by George Orwell
Oh, I read this one on my own accord. In 1984. I was in seventh grade. I thought it was boring. I liked Animal Farm better.

14. I, CLAUDIUS by Robert Graves
I don’t know who Robert Graves is. I only vaguely know who Claudius is. In high school, we had an exchange student named Claudio that my best friend had the hots for. Honestly, I never really understood what she saw in him. He was very zitty and had spiked hair and I’m old, but I’m not that old. It was 1989, after all. Spiked hair was so 1984.

15. TO THE LIGHTHOUSE by Virginia Woolf
I’m afraid. Of Virginia Woolf. Of Thomas Wolf. Of Tobias Wolf. Of all the authors I’ve never read. I think I might just be a vegetable and don’t yet realize it.

16. AN AMERICAN TRAGEDY by Theodore Dreiser
I don’t think they made a movie of this. If they did, I apparently was too busy watching it because I was studying the gunk between my toes or watching MTV. Want to know the lyrics to Purple Rain? I’m your girl. Want to know who Theodore Dreiser is? I’ll give you a blank stare.

17. THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers
Oooh, I read this one. On my own. I don’t remember it.

18. SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE by Kurt Vonnegut
You’d think I would have read this one. But I haven’t. I’ve heard the movie was good though. I gave Vonnegut a try last year with his latest book. Something about time shifting. I don’t care enough to go look up the title or dig through my bookshelves to find it. It was bizarre. I actually have this on my list of books to read, but it’s really far far down the list. After like, everything on my wishlist, anything new that comes out by T.C. Boyle, Margaret Atwood or John Irving, and the backs of some very interesting cereal boxes.

19. INVISIBLE MAN by Ralph Ellison
Finally a book I read in college. For a psychology class. Mofo English degree. Actually, this is an incredible book and I highly recommend it.

20. NATIVE SON by Richard Wright
Um’ next.

I’ve never read Saul Bellow. I think I’m going to shoot myself.

I don’t even know where Samarra is. I think I that I saw some stuff from there at Pier One? And John O’Hara? That Scarlett’s brother?

23. U.S.A. (trilogy) by John Dos Passos
Seriously…I make Anna Nicole Smith look intelligent.

24. WINESBURG, OHIO by Sherwood Anderson
I’ve read some Sherwood Anderson short stories….In high school.

25. A PASSAGE TO INDIA by E.M. Forster
What was I doing in college? I remember books! I remember carrying large books around! Were they empty? Were they just for toning my muscles? Were they to impress boys? What gives?

26. THE WINGS OF THE DOVE by Henry James

27. THE AMBASSADORS by Henry James
I combined those because I’ve never read them, never even seen them. If someone made a movie of these books, I don’t think anyone ever watched it. But I do know that Henry James is dead. And I don’t think he liked women.

28. TENDER IS THE NIGHT by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Poor Francis. Did you know that the F. stood for Francis? Yeah, I don’t blame him for going with the initial. And then he married a psycho named Zelda, who was actually a rather good writer on her own. But the book? I think Rod Stieger was in the movie they made of this. And Jackson Browne wrote a song about it? I’ve heard the song. Darryl Hannah was in the video I believe.

You already know what I’m going to say.

30. THE GOOD SOLDIER by Ford Madox Ford
Um’…dude’s got the name Ford Ford. What the fuck is that all about? I can’t bring myself to read something by someone with a redundant name. I have this feeling that the book would be like ‘This is a book about a good soldier. He was very very very very very very good at being a soldier. He was so very very good that all of the other soldiers stood around talking and said ‘Wow, that guy is a real good soldier’.’

31. ANIMAL FARM by George Orwell
Hey! I’ve read this one! On my own. In 7th grade.

32. THE GOLDEN BOWL by Henry James
Henry James again. Didn’t read it again. If I had to guess, I’d say it was about a college football game in January.

33. SISTER CARRIE by Theodore Dreiser
Unless this is a book about some psycho scary chick who kills everyone at her prom, I didn’t read it.

34. A HANDFUL OF DUST by Evelyn Waugh
I’m really coming off bad here. I should just pretend I’ve read them. Um…This is a book about my bookshelves.

35. AS I LAY DYING by William Faulkner
I’ve read this one. Hated it. ‘My Mother Is a Fish’ is one of the chapter titles and it’s all in first person, therefore the entire thing is written with colloquialisms and is very hard to read. I ended up sitting there sounding everything out and looked like a tard who moves her lips while she reads. Hate Faulkner. But not as much as Hemingway, whom I’m relieved to see hasn’t appeared on this list yet. Here’s hoping, anyway.

36. ALL THE KING’S MEN by Robert Penn Warren
Ooh, I haven’t read this, but I think it’s about Watergate? Am I right? And there was a movie? With Robert Redford in it? That I didn’t see? Getting warm?

37. THE BRIDGE OF SAN LUIS REY by Thornton Wilder
I can say with great pride that I have actually seen this movie. And I know that I like Thornton Wilder.

38. HOWARDS END by E.M. Forster
Oooh, I’ve seen this movie too. Two in a row! And this one had Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompsen. I rock.

39. GO TELL IT ON THE MOUNTAIN by James Baldwin
You know how I said I rocked up there? Forget it.

40. THE HEART OF THE MATTER by Graham Greene
I know that he’s Canadian’. I think.

41. LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
Hey’. I’ve read this one! In 9th grade. And I’ve seen the movie! Go me!

42. DELIVERANCE by James Dickey
I’ve seen this movie too, although it was the cut version on TNT and they completely chopped the scene where they make Ned Beatty squeal like a pig. Didn’t realize that it was a book first though.

43. A DANCE TO THE MUSIC OF TIME (series) by Anthony Powell
Oh man.

44. POINT COUNTER POINT by Aldous Huxley
Um’ he also wrote Brave New World. I don’t think they made a movie about this one.

45. THE SUN ALSO RISES by Ernest Hemingway
I knew the moratorium on Hemingway couldn’t last long. I’ve never read this. But I’ve seen the movie in 11th grade lit class (don’t ask). And I’ve been in Hemingway’s house’ that should count for something.

46. THE SECRET AGENT by Joseph Conrad

47. NOSTROMO by Joseph Conrad
Apparently, I don’t rock. I suck.

48. THE RAINBOW by D.H. Lawrence

49. WOMEN IN LOVE by D.H. Lawrence
I suck hard.

50. TROPIC OF CANCER by Henry Miller
Ok, now I’m confused. Maybe it was Henry Miller and not Henry James who didn’t like women. Gah. I think I’ve always thought they were the same person. This is quite a shock to me.

51. THE NAKED AND THE DEAD by Norman Mailer
Um’ I want to say that he produced ‘All In The Family’. This sounds like a book about Jeffrey Dahmer.

52. PORTNOY’S COMPLAINT by Philip Roth
Portnoy was a character in Bloom County. A groundhog, actually. I know that because I was reading all 12 collections of Bloom County instead of reading anything remotely productive.

53. PALE FIRE by Vladimir Nabokov
Ok, I was feeling a little smug about knowing that he wrote Lolita, but now…I had thought he was a one hit wonder.

54. LIGHT IN AUGUST by William Faulkner
Fucking Faulkner. I hate the old white male alcoholic writer society.

55. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac
Ooooh, except for Jack. I groove on Jack. And I’ve actually read this. Jack rocks. Dig it?

56. THE MALTESE FALCON by Dashiell Hammett
And I’m back to feeling stupid. Although I suspect he’s another member of the old white male alcoholic writer society. Who also hates women. And they made a movie of it.

57. PARADE’S END by Ford Madox Ford
‘The parade ended. It was the end of the parade. The parade was full of soldiers. Good soldiers. They were such good soldiers that they had a parade.’

58. THE AGE OF INNOCENCE by Edith Wharton
Hey! I’ve read that! Woot! And it was a movie! With Winona Ryder and Daniel Day Lewis! I didn’t see the movie and I don’t remember the book, but I seem to remember that as Winona Ryder’s character is being taken to prison for shoplifting, Newland Archer tells her to stay alive, no matter what occurs and that he will find her.

59. ZULEIKA DOBSON by Max Beerbohm
You know, I still haven’t gotten over finding out that Henry James and Henry Miller aren’t the same guy. I’m going to have vague unease about this’ the same way it was when I found out that Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro were in fact two separate people. The world is now a different place than when I woke up this morning and I am completely unsettled.

60. THE MOVIEGOER by Walker Percy
I think they’re making these up. Because otherwise I am completely retarded.

I get points if I know who Willa Cather IS, right?

62. FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by James Jones
This book was about how Deborah Kerr and some hot man kissed for three minutes in the pounding surf.

Poor John Cheever. I’m impressed that he’s on this list. No one reads the poor man anymore and he’s brilliant. Although honestly I’m basing that opinion upon his short stories, because I’ve never read this book.

64. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE by J.D. Salinger
Not only have I read this book, I actually own a first printing of it. I should get an extra point for that, right there.

65. A CLOCKWORK ORANGE by Anthony Burgess
Um’ they made a movie out of this but I’m afraid to watch it.

66. OF HUMAN BONDAGE by W. Somerset Maugham
The honorable old white male alcoholic writer society now is in session.

67. HEART OF DARKNESS by Joseph Conrad
This was definitely a movie. I definitely didn’t see it.

68. MAIN STREET by Sinclair Lewis
Um’ next.

69. THE HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton
Yay! Read that. Read that in 11th grade. Don’t remember it though.

70. THE ALEXANDRIA QUARTET by Lawrence Durell

71. A HIGH WIND IN JAMAICA by Richard Hughes

72. A HOUSE FOR MR BISWAS by V.S. Naipaul

73. THE DAY OF THE LOCUST by Nathanael West
Did you say something? I wasn’t listening.

74. A FAREWELL TO ARMS by Ernest Hemingway
Hemingway had all of these six toed cats. They’re called Polydactyl cats, because they have the extra thumb like things on them. Supposedly it makes them good mousers. I know Tilly is not one of these cats because she let that mouse get away. I blame Hemingway for that.

75. SCOOP by Evelyn Waugh
Waugh Waugh Waugh. Sounds like the noise they played on the gameshows in the 70′s when the whammy showed up, huh?

Oh my god, isn’t this list done yet????

77. FINNEGANS WAKE by James Joyce
I think I might have read this but the details are sketchy.

78. KIM by Rudyard Kipling
Does ‘The Jungle Book’ count? Well, watching ‘Disney’s Jungle Book’? Because I can sing ‘The Bear Necessities’ with the best of them.

79. A ROOM WITH A VIEW by E.M. Forster
This was a movie. That I never saw.

Waugh Waugh Waugh. We’re sorry Weetabix, you’ve just lost $40K and five years of your life pursuing a worthless degree. We have some lovely parting gifts for you, from our friends at Rice A Roni, tell her about it Johnnie!

Only 19 more! Woot!

82. ANGLE OF REPOSE by Wallace Stegner
If you rearrange the letters in this title, you might come up with a book I’ve read. Like ‘Horton Hears a Who’.

83. A BEND IN THE RIVER by V.S. Naipaul
The ridiculous thing is that I thought this would be an easy way to do an entry. It has turned into this maddening display of how completely illiterate I am.

84. THE DEATH OF THE HEART by Elizabeth Bowen
You think you’ve got it bad. I CAN’T READ!!!!

85. LORD JIM by Joseph Conrad
Oh, it’s painful. But it really speaks to how clever I am, how I’ve managed to get through 18 years of schooling, be a technology professional and also have written over 500 entries when I can’t even apparently read what I am writing right now. Good Lord, I have no idea if I’m typing something like ‘Dubya is a weenie’. It’s not my fault. BECAUSE I CAN’T READ!!!!!!

86. RAGTIME by E.L. Doctorow
This was a movie. With a good soundtrack. I think it’s about how when women are around each other, their cycles get all in sync and they get all grumpy at once. Or something. I’ve not seen the movie nor heard the soundtrack, but I’m pretty sure that’s what it’s about.

87. THE OLD WIVES’ TALE by Arnold Bennett
I find it ironic that the Old Wive’s Tale is written by a man, non? I find it even more ironic that an illiterate knows what the word ‘ironic’ means. The world is both a strange and beautiful place.

88. THE CALL OF THE WILD by Jack London
Hey! Read this in 5th grade. And saw the movie.

89. LOVING by Henry Green
Wakka Chicka Wakka Chicka’. Ok, I haven’t read this one but I’m TOTALLY going to! Who knew that Random House would put PORN on the list. Too bad it wasn’t number 69.

90. MIDNIGHT’S CHILDREN by Salman Rushdie
Um’ he was in Bridget Jones’s Diary! And he had a price put on his head by the’ um’ some group of angry people in the Middle East’ or something. Don’t hate me because I’m stupid.

91. TOBACCO ROAD by Erskine Caldwell
Just say no to cigarettes.

92. IRONWEED by William Kennedy
And dope. And Kennedys.

93. THE MAGUS by John Fowles
I think this is the touching tale of a short bald man who cannot see and continues to get into humorous and yet dangerous situations because of his handicap.

94. WIDE SARGASSO SEA by Jean Rhys
Is Jean a girl or a boy do you think?

95. UNDER THE NET by Iris Murdoch
I know this was written by the lady they made the movie Iris about. But that’s it.

96. SOPHIE’S CHOICE by William Styron
Ooh, I know this was a movie. With Meryl Streep. And I’ve read Styron’s non-fiction book on writing fiction. That counts, right?

97. THE SHELTERING SKY by Paul Bowles
Think this is what Camilla Parker Bowles husband is doing, now that his cash cow has left him?

I think this had Jack Nicholson in it. Maybe.

99. THE GINGER MAN by J.P. Donleavy
Do you know the Muffin Man? The muffin man? The muffin man! HEEEE! Sorry’ we ignorants find our amusement when we can.

100. THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS by Booth Tarkington
Must not be that magnificent because I’ve totally never heard of them. It is truly magnificient that this list is done.

There was a list put together by readers too. I checked out the first 10 on the list and apparently the readers were all either Scientologists or relatives of Ayn Rand. I originally intended to put together my own list of novels that I really like, but now I’m worried that it will consist of a lot of ‘Get Fuzzy’ compilations and maybe online diaries. Gah. I’ve got to paper things more. My head feels all empty now.

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  1. […] Random House’s 100 Modern Classics, and felt comfortable speaking to them (ever since I wrote this, I’ve been making my way through the list… and hating about half of them), but since […]