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Wednesday Reading Thursday

My favorite part of Changing Places (a bi-campus campus comedy by David Lodge) was the party game called Humiliation. Each person names a book they are expected to have read, but haven't. Everyone who has read the book puts their hand up. The person who cops to never having read the book with the largest number of avowed readers is the winner. It's called "Humiliation" because "you have to humiliate yourself to win."

Naturally it's a hit with the English faculty. One particularly competitive professor claws his way to the top of the heap by swearing that he's never read Hamlet (and loses his job as a result).

Would you be able to win a game of Humiliation? What book would you choose as your trump card? I've been trying to figure out what my best bet would be.

This is not a real Wednesday Reading post, but they'll pick up again next week, probably.


( 24 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 14th, 2016 08:33 am (UTC)
I read that one eyars ago. I don't remember anthing apart from remembering I laughed myself silly. :)
Apr. 17th, 2016 05:03 pm (UTC)
I was introduced to David Lodge by the 99 Novels, and I like him. He keeps setting out to take the piss out of his characters, only to end up sitting down to tea with them and sharing their bewilderment.

There's another book, Small World, with some of the same characters. I was planning to put off reading it until I've read some of the books I already own, but it made me laugh out loud on the first or second page, so I might just go ahead; we'll see.

Edited at 2016-04-17 05:03 pm (UTC)
Apr. 22nd, 2016 01:21 pm (UTC)
Sounds like I should re-read it then, and then go on to Small World. :)
Apr. 14th, 2016 12:18 pm (UTC)
:lol: Dangerous game, as you say... ;-)
Apr. 17th, 2016 05:05 pm (UTC)
I mean, you could play it closer to the chest, or in a lower-stakes environment (most people don't actually care whether you've read Hamlet or not) but where's the fun in that?
Apr. 14th, 2016 01:24 pm (UTC)
I haven't read The Great Gatsby. The internet has given me the impression that many people are expected to read this for school (and thus they assume that everyone's read it) but I don't know how accurate that impression is - and I've never come across that expectation in person.
Apr. 17th, 2016 05:11 pm (UTC)
I think it's an American thing? A lot of Americans of a certain age read it in high school, because it's short and relatively easy to read and has a lot of extremely obvious symbolism that teachers can put on the exam.

I wouldn't be shocked to learn that someone hadn't read it, American or not. Actually, it's hard to think of something I'd be shocked by, especially outside the context of an English department -- I have a pretty patchy cultural literacy myself.
Apr. 19th, 2016 12:37 pm (UTC)
I think it's an American thing, too. (And sometimes I wonder also if there's a greater emphasis on studying texts of perceived cultural importance with accessible symbolism in the US... but I don't know how representative the comments I've seen online actually are. Or, for that matter, how representative my own experiences were of education over here.)

I can't think of any one book that I'd expect everyone to have read. But it'd be possible to create a list of books that I'd expect people to have read at least one book from. Like a list of Shakespeare, or children's classics.
Apr. 19th, 2016 02:42 pm (UTC)
It probably varies a lot! I went to a not-great high school with a narrow lit curriculum and lots of Find the Symbolism, but when I went to college I met people whose high school lit experience had been very different.

Did you read a lot of Australian writers in school? We read almost nothing that wasn't British or American, but I think that was partly just my own high school being sloppy. Exceptions: a couple of short stories (Joyce, Alice Munroe, Kafka) and "The Doll House" by Ibsen. No Australians. :(
Apr. 14th, 2016 03:28 pm (UTC)
I've never read 'Hamlet' either, unless reading subtitles counts;p

Apr. 17th, 2016 05:14 pm (UTC)
Doesn't count as not having read Hamlet! You saw it in performance, as Shakespeare intended, and you read the words as they were being spoken; that's like double-reading Hamlet, if anything. :)
Apr. 18th, 2016 02:42 pm (UTC)
I iz double clever;p But I didn't see it in an Elizabethan theater lit by candles with authentic costumes, so I have never really seen it all;p
Apr. 14th, 2016 06:49 pm (UTC)
Ha, I like this game! Though I think I've sabotaged myself by periodically going on 'I need to read all the Big Name books" sprees. I'd be much better with movies – I haven't seen so many of the most famous ones.

But for books... 'Great Expectations', perhaps? Or 'The Odyssey'!
Apr. 17th, 2016 05:19 pm (UTC)
Great Expectations might be a good bet! I think the number of people who have read some portion of the Odyssey is much, much greater than the number of people who have read all of it, though (I'm one of the former).

I sabotaged myself by reading a bunch of Great Books in middle and high school that I now remember nothing about. I can't honestly claim to have never read A Farewell to Arms, for example, because I know I did, but I also can't remember a single thing about it except that it's not the one about the Spanish Civil War (I think???)
Apr. 18th, 2016 07:19 pm (UTC)
Ha, yes, a lot of my memories of classics are like that! There's nothing like standing in a bookstore thinking to yourself, "Was this the Great Russian Author I already read? Or maybe it was this other one? Why do all the summaries sound the same!"
Apr. 14th, 2016 11:01 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a fun game, even as I knew I'd be humiliated...a lot, lol!

Apr. 17th, 2016 05:24 pm (UTC)
If you're not up for tenure, you've got nothing to lose but your chains!

Apr. 14th, 2016 11:06 pm (UTC)
Ooooh, that sounds like it might actually be fun. Like "Never Have I Ever" for the geeky literary crowd.

I think I've gone through too many "Must read ALL the classics!" phases to win, though. I could pony up Lord of the Flies? Or maybe The Tempest or Twelfth Night - although I could only use The Tempest if seeing the play doesn't count.

I bet the winner would be anyone who could solemnly swear they had never read Harry Potter.
Apr. 17th, 2016 09:20 am (UTC)
The trouble with that is that there are people BRAGGING of never having read Harry Potter!

I've read all the above-mentioned books except Great Gatsby, which I downloaded from Gutenberg and managed a few chapters, because my teenage nephew and his cousin were solemnly discussing it one day, and believe me, they had read it! I know those two. I thought if they could, I had better give it a go.

Apr. 17th, 2016 11:53 pm (UTC)
Did they like The Great Gatsby or hate it?

I liked it all right when I read it in high school, but I liked it a lot better when I re-read it and was no longer required to notice painfully obvious things about the eyes and the ash.

Edited at 2016-04-17 11:57 pm (UTC)
Apr. 19th, 2016 10:32 pm (UTC)
I believe they liked it. They're very nerdy kids - him more than her, but she's a thoughtful reader. A lot of kids at my school were reading it because of the film, but couldn't handle it, not being good readers.
Apr. 17th, 2016 05:31 pm (UTC)
How well or badly Harry Potter would play depends on the context (the whole game depends on being in a group of people who are all invested in a "well-read" self-image to some extent). It would be a game-ender in some groups and a non-starter in others.

(My sister used to brag about never having read Harry Potter, but eventually she gave in. Now she's a hypercritical Harry Potter fan who can talk for hours about how much HP worldbuilding sucks).

In the book group I just joined, the way for me to actually win is to say, "I tried Neil Gaiman and I don't feel like trying any more." My prize is to have four people asking me whether I've given Neil Gaiman another try yet at every subsequent meeting.
Apr. 17th, 2016 11:18 pm (UTC)
Ha, if your sister and I ever met we could probably complain together about Harry Potter's flimsy worldbuilding for hours. I've been thinking about doing a reread & posting about it, but one of my concerns is that I'll just rant every week about the world-building and it will sound like I hate it and it's not that it all.

I have had a similar Neil Gaiman experience. I liked one of his books, Coraline - although not in the "I feel a fervent need to evangelize about this book!" way that other people seem to like Gaiman - and haven't really gelled with any of the others I slogged through. But nonetheless certain friends are certain that if I only read one more, I will see the light and join the Cult of Gaiman.
Apr. 18th, 2016 12:06 am (UTC)
I actually liked Gaiman's Doctor Who episodes a lot, but even then I had a strong sense of, "never try to consume this in book form." I don't necessarily dislike anything Gaiman I've tried to read, but we just don't adhere to each other in any way. His imagination and mine are worn-out velcro halves that slide effortlessly apart the minute we're let go of.

The annoying thing about the Neilvangelism that I've encountered is that (certain) people treat it like a test of sincerity: I can't really like fantasy/sci-fi/reading at all if I haven't accepted Neil Gaiman into my heart. I shouldn't let this attitude put me off, but it does a little.

Please do post about Harry Potter! I will rant about worldbuilding with you, and change my opinion 100 times, and probably try to draw a bunch of unnecessary parallels with the Cormoran Strikes.
( 24 comments — Leave a comment )


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