After Crime and Punishment, I decided I wanted to read more good stuff. Up to that time I had been reading stacks and stacks of science fiction when, unlike today, stacks and stacks of science fiction were not available. So I bought and read some of those science fiction magazines made out of some grim grey paper that paid their writers like 2 cents a word. I had sort of dipped into the “classics” like the Deerslayer—Fenimore Cooper stuff–; but from that I had moved to more popularized juvenile versions of Fenimore Cooper stuff and read a whole series of novels that seemed mostly to involve Indians chasing white persons or white persons chasing Indians through miles and miles of forest for days on end. Guys back then could sure run.
But after C&P I decided to go for the real thing; but since I didn’t know what the real things were I started checking out books with titles like 100 Greatest Books of The World; or 100 Greatest Books of the Western World; or, maybe my favorite, 101 Greatest Books of the Western World. That extra 1 seemed to acknowledge the futility of making a list of the 100 Greatest books of the Western World. But I needed guidance and having none I did the best I could with those books; I went down the list and started checking out the ones that looked most promising. I planned to read the whole fucking lot and to come to know all that there was to know about everything that might be known.
Now of course the “canon,” or any sort of consensus about the 100 greatest books of the Western World is probably out of the question, unless you are one of those persons that likes to list things. The “canon” has been all busted up. Voices not previously present are. Plato is an old dead white guy. Obviously back then I was mislead in my reading materials by those lists and read stuff that some now consider merely testimony to the stupidity of a society dominated by white dead men. I acknowledge the stupidity of that society. But honestly, I don’t think the world is necessarily better off when one can go on line and find lists of the 100 greatest books of the western (as compiled by newspapers responding to the voice of the people) and find the that the Lord of the Rings listed as the number one greatest book of the Western World.
The Lord of the Rings was popular back in the 60s too. My girlfriend read it and recommended it to me. I read a bit and decided it was pseudo profound mythological claptrap, though I didn’t say that to my girlfriend. Those lists I read back in the early sixties didn’t have Harry Potter on it either (as some of the web lists do) and I maintain that Harry Potter is also pseudo profound mythological claptrap. I make this judgment not as a protest against the breaking up of the canon or because I oppose the vox populi, but on the basis of my having read an awful lot of the work of those dead white men who represent the western tradition of informed barbarism.