James Joyce’s masterpiece “Ulysses” is the subject of The Economist’s most recent “Books, Arts and Culture” column, with a focus being, not surprisingly, on the work’s place in the canon of Western literature.
One of the best points made in the piece is the excuse given by many today about why they’ve never picked up the 750-plus-page book: “(A) complaint with “Ulysses,” or smart books in general, is that they are too long or too dense, or both, and we simply don’t have the time to ‘waste.’”
Yet, as The Economist correctly points out, some of these same folks will also brag of finishing the 4,000-odd pages of George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” (i.e., the Game of Thrones books), or of blowing through all four seasons of “Breaking Bad” in a weekend.
Unfortunately, though, at some point in the not too distant past, it became trendy to bray about one’s lack of literary chops.
Whereas even 50 years ago many aspired to read the great works, and, therefore, appear as something other than a half-educated cretin who couldn’t tell Balzac from a baseball box score, today there exists a significant number who are not only unapologetic for their lack of erudition; they, in the fact, revel in their lack of learning.
But the point here isn’t to castigate those who would rather spend their idle time watching “Family Guy” or create an endless loop of “Friends” episodes so that that wacky gang of 20-somethings will always have a place in their homes.