Column | Can you survive without reading these 21 books?
Not everyone appreciates being told to “chill out” about unmet goals.
According to USA TODAY, “GQ” magazine has ignited a firestorm on social media by publishing an article titled “21 Books You Don’t Have To Read.”
Yes, Ernest Hemingway’s “A Farewell To Arms,” J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings,” Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher In The Rye” and other classics of Western Civilization are dismissed as expendable, out-of-date and/or boring.
“GQ,” of course, is the latest incarnation of the venerable “Gentlemen’s Quarterly.” Apparently, a gentleman’s duties now include opening the door for a lady, dressing appropriately and making fun of the idiots who don’t realize that Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” wouldn’t have been so “meandering” if Huck had invested in one of those cool “must have” GPS devices profiled in “GQ.”
Although I’ve been overwhelmed by the flood of books breathlessly touting all the destinations, foods, wines, symphonies, etc. that one simply must experience before kicking off, the “GQ” article still sounds more than a tad whiney, as the elitist editors fret about a lifetime of being bullied into reading the canon of Great Books.
Although I sometimes have twinges of self-doubt about my literary laziness, these guys must have some really weird bullies in their neighborhoods. (“Gimme your lunch money! Then read a satire involving Lilliputians! Then let me dunk your head in the toilet!”)
(The “GQ” editors are giving us their professional opinion on literary priorities, but they’re amateurs when compared to my mother. She could compile a list of 50,000 books you don’t have to read before you die, especially if there are lawns to mow or lurid newscasts to watch. Bless her, she drove me to the public library twice that first glorious day I got my library card, but ever since she graduated from high school she thinks the freedoms listed in the First Amendment are “freedom from pencils,” “freedom from books” and “freedom from teacher’s dirty looks.”)
A lot of the attention the “GQ” list has attracted on social media centers around calling the Bible “foolish, repetitive and contradictory.” I’ll leave others to defend the Good Book. There’s plenty to say about other prejudices displayed in the article.
For instance, not only did Larry McMurtry’s “Lonesome Dove” make the list, but the whole cowboy mythos is derided as “a major factor in the degradation of America.” Yeah, who needs incentive-sapping entitlement programs and broken homes to run the nation into the ground, when we have cattle drives and stage coaches?
Certainly, the country would be so much better off if John Wayne had sported a man-bun and growled, “Moisturize when you say that, pardner.”
I know they think they’re performing some great public service, but the editors of “GQ” are really just the “meddling momma” of magazines. You know the enabling routine: “You mean that shrew of a wife you married instead of the nice Abernathy girl won’t let you eat triple-grease burgers? Well, Mama’s kitchen is always open.”
I don’t expect the “dressing down” in social media to stop “GQ.” They’ll probably take perverse pride in their recklessness and brainstorm sequel articles.
I can see it now. “21 product warnings you don’t have to read before you die.” “21 traffic signs you can ignore at your leisure.” “21 odd mole shapes you’ll laugh about later ...”