Thursday, March 01, 2007

World Books?

Do you know, I'd really rather not talk about this:

The World Book Day poll for the ten books the world could not do without.

Anyone familiar with this blog will know that the Bitch hates lists, that they bore her stiff and that she has a constitutional aversion, rooted no doubt in ancestral trauma (those peasants, servants and slaves still floating about in her genes, those relatives who failed the eleven-plus), of anything which smacks of EXCLUSIVITY or COMPETITION, or choices made by any select few, most especially a self-selected few.

And she's sick of saying these things, but guesses they need to go on being said:

I'm all for schemes and ploys which draw attention to books, but I would venture that polls like this may even be counterproductive: they do nothing to encourage a spirit of inquiry about books and to broaden the canon. Time is the best critic, said Martin Amis earlier this week, and the Guardian suggests today that this list proves it. But look at all those childhood favourites and school staples turning up on the longer list, and 'time' turns into 'nostalgia' and a lazy reliance on the status quo. And the 'top-ten' list which emerges is not only the result of this impulse rather than of any true test of literature, but offers a closed conclusion, a tiny section of the spectrum of literature, beyond which, it could be implied, we need not look, because it is the definitive best.


Lisa Jean said...

I was curious, because it is a UK based site, if the ten books I put in would be on the list already. I was surprised to only have one unique title.

As for the lowest common denomimator syndrome that takes place in surveys like this one, I guess I'm just glad when people are talking about books, and if just one parent shares a book that she/he loved when young, that is a good day for me.

Adrian said...

There really is nothing to be said about it. I tried to think of something, I really did, but nothing came to mind...

Steerforth said...

I see that Crime and Punishment was on the men's list - would it have appeared before the BBC produce a popular dramatisation a couple of years ago? I doubt it.

We've become obsessed with polls and lists during the last few years and the results have been largely depressing: 'Men Behaving Badly' was voted the greatest ever TV comedy series, Robbie Williams got a higher rating than Mozart in the 'Musicians of the Millenium' poll and 'Lord of the Rings' is the greatest book ever.

The only lists worth reading are those that are unashamedly elitist and are complied by experts. For example, Taschen's '1001 Films/Books You Must See/Read Before You Die' have introduced me to several masterpieces that I'd never heard of.