November 03, 2003

Books for Soldiers

Charles Austin has a post on a couple of efforts to send books to soldiers stationed in Iraq. Pass it on.

Incidentally, I keep reading (hah!) articles and columns and commentary and such decrying the supposed lack of reading done by Americans, and/or the fact that when we do read, we read crap; anyway, no one reads the classics anymore. But when I had my cable modem installed in my new place, the cable guy, a young kids in his twenties who looked more to be the type to watch tv and drive around in a Ford Explorer playing hip hop real loud, saw all my books piled around and revealed the interesting information that he loved to read, especially the "classics" (he liked that "old-fashioned" style of writing) and his favorite book was Jane Eyre. He also wanted to be a hacker and go to work for the government showing them security holes in computer systems. The moral of the story? Well, perhaps that people are more complex than polls, studies, and learned academicians on teevee can handle.

Posted by Andrea Harris at November 3, 2003 07:05 AM

I’ve just moved near the city, and everyone on the subway is reading. If you don’t have something to read, then all you can do is look at the ads and watch other people read. I took a half hour ride without a book, and I’ll never do that again.

Most towns around here have a giant Barnes & Noble or Borders. Anyone who thinks Americans don’t read is nuts.

Thanks for the 'send books to soldiers' link - that's a great idea.

Posted by: mary at November 3, 2003 at 10:29 AM

Hmm, classics. My 8th grade daughter has a teacher that told her to do a book report on a classic. She narrowed her choices to "Animal Farm" and "Fahrenheit 451" which may both be considered modern classics. However after seeing her choices, the teacher told her that a classic had to be 100 years old. IMHO this is tripe.
What say the audience?
Would a cave... err.. Cable guy/gal who could speak to "Animal Farm" be considered lacking in the classics?
4:24AM EST is really to early to be posting by the way, so please overlook the other comments.

Posted by: Brian at November 3, 2003 at 10:35 AM

Classics don't have to be old, so the teacher's definition is a bit flawed. Conversely, we always have to be vigilant about calling something of recent vinatge a classic. Such pronuncements seem more often wrong than right. But in this instance, if the teacher wants the book to be 100 years old, so be it.

I recommend The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Posted by: charles austin at November 3, 2003 at 01:35 PM

Just ran into a guy I used to work with: he was a manager in Finance. He spent about half an hour talking about the important of liberal arts education.

People are much more complex and multidimensional than imagined by those in academia.

Posted by: David Foster at November 3, 2003 at 02:45 PM

The last time I had to get the Very Elderly Volvo towed to the garage by AAA, the tow-truck driver was a mad fan of grand opera--- pretty unexpected taste for a guy in jeans, a ratty tee shirt and a gimmie cap, driving a tow-truck in Texas, but there you go.

Posted by: Sgt. Mom at November 3, 2003 at 04:00 PM

The teacher is going to let Animal Farm slide this time. She has put off Huck Finn for now in favor of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Dracula, Frankenstein and The Three Musketeers round out the other choices. A bit of Fritz Leiber would sum up those choices nicely drawing her into Sword and Sorcery but I have to ease her into that. Did I mention she goes to a Private Christian school that I am less than pleased with and have had a difficult time extracting her from because of the ex? The dress code is the least of the problems (girls are only allowed to wear Burka'nstocks - okay, I'm kidding but not by much).

Posted by: Brian at November 3, 2003 at 04:06 PM

Brian: I don't get this "speaking to" books thing. I prefer to simply read them. Well, sometimes (such as the current time, when all my books are in piles all over the floor instead of being in neatly arranged in the bookcase) I swear at them. But I guess that is not what you mean.

Seriously, I agree that the term "classic" has been stretched and mauled almost out of recognizability, and since it was never satisfactory to begin with, it should probably be scrapped altogether.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at November 4, 2003 at 12:03 AM

To me, the heart of the "classic" issue may contain the question: What kind of readers are there? If readers have to tell (speak to) everyone about the "classic" books they read then they might be what my kids call a poser. If readers share with others who might enjoy and learn from the same experience, then the classic definition seems to fit.
As far as books on the floor, traces of ADD (well great steaming piles really) sometimes leaves me in the middle of several books at one time that wind up on the floor after the cat has knocked them off the night stand or end table in the quest for whatever I am drinking at the time (he is quite happy with the Petite Sirah's that have been showing up lately)

Posted by: Brian at November 4, 2003 at 07:39 AM

I agree!! Classics do not have to be "old"...classics are TIMELESS...not antiques.

If I may Id like to suggest a rather recent "classic" that is gaining popularity...which may or may not spell its doom...but once you read the first few books, I highly doubt you will think so:

Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin series (20 books!). Start with Master & Commander, then Post Captain, which reads a lot like a Jane Austen novel.

Posted by: Sharon Ferguson at November 5, 2003 at 11:26 AM

I have been a Hornblower fan since I was a kid but have to admit that I read books that movies are based on (makes the movie more interesting sometimes, sometimes not) so will probably read the series starting with that book.
Knocked off Four Feathers and really enjoyed it. Other things by that author escape me but are pretty good if you enjoy that style.

Posted by: Brian at November 5, 2003 at 06:11 PM