I have friends who majored in English in college. They are generally fine people, but a little constrained, a little too focused on getting things “just right.” I guess what I mean is that many of them seem to be stuffy perfectionists.
Someone once said confession is good for the soul. If so, my soul should be in fine shape; I hereby confess that I did not major in English as an undergraduate. As you might have guessed, I majored in history, with a minor in political science, which is an oxymoron in the same class as “military intelligence” and “jumbo shrimp.”
As you might have noticed, my lack of having a plethora of semester hours of credit studying Mr. Shakespeare, Mr. Chaucer and sundry Victorian poets has not kept me from writing occasional book reviews for this newspaper.
I was at the Goodwill store in Troutman recently, looking for something economical (cheap) to read, and came upon a book that I could not resist picking up: “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” Honestly, how could I pass up a book with that title? Not to mention the somewhat lurid cover. The co-authors are listed as Jane Austin and Seth Grahame-Smith. You may have heard of Jane Austin.
Mr. Grahame-Smith, not as well-known, is also the author of “Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter,” published in 2010. According to Google, both that book and “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” have been made into feature films (2012 and 2016, respectively). I would imagine these satires (parodies?) might appeal to the same audience that appreciated 2010’s “Dick and Jane and Vampires,” by Laura Marchesani.
“P&P&Z” looks like it will be a fun read. I would have gone on to write that I plan to compare it to Jane Austen’s original classic volume, sans zombies, in an upcoming column, but as I confessed earlier, not being an English major, I have not read the original “Pride and Prejudice.” To be truthful, I have also not read “Wuthering Heights” or “Little Women” and have no plans to do so in the near future. I have, however, read a large number of books that would cause many a fair-skinned, conservative, sincere English major to blush uncontrollably.
I am aware that these three last-named books used to be on every list of Books You Should Read that was ever cranked out by the National Association of English Teachers (aka “The Emily Dickinson Fan Club”), but somehow, I have survived without reading them.
In my defense, however, I have read Gibbons’ “The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire,” Shirer’s “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich,” all of the Sherlock Holmes books and at least eight translations of Homer’s “The Odyssey.” Ditto for the major works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne. I am conscientiously making an effort to fill in the gaps in my knowledge and appreciation of Great Literature.
Inspired by and based on last year’s “The Great Read,” the compilation of America’s 100 most loved books, I composed a reading list for myself. I plan to devote a large portion of my free-reading time to my list just as soon as I finish reading two of the Jack Reacher novels by Lee Child, Craig Johnson’s 15-book “Longmire” series, six or seven of James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux series, plus a few of the most recent novels in John Sandford’s 29-book series featuring Lucas Davenport, one of my all-time-favorite fictional detective characters.
I wish there were more than nine books in Robert B. Parker’s Jesse Stone series, as I have read his entire opus, but Mr. Parker went to that great Library in the Sky in 2012.
Then, perhaps when I am sufficiently educated to appreciate the Finer Things in Life, I might get around to reading the works of Miss Austen and her 19th-century English friends. I should live so long.
And you English majors out there, lighten up. Find an easy chair; open up a cool, long-necked brew; and read a popular novel once in a while, perhaps one of those mentioned above. I would suggest one of the Jack Reacher novels. Author Lee Child employs lots of sentence fragments and writes short chapters. He often leaves descriptions to the reader’s imagination. And he sometimes begins sentences with “and,” a real no-no for the grammatically obsessed.
Most of the books I mentioned are available at the local library, or you can go to a local Goodwill or Habitat for Humanity store and buy your own copies to pass out to friends after you have read them. Read something for fun, then try out some of the 100 best loved on “The Great Read” list.