I’m embarrassed reading my books in public these days

Ooooh, I’m so deep, man. I should get a beret! And hang out at coffeeshops, and read this book by Georges Bataille called Visions of Excess: Selected Writings, 1927-1939, I just bought. That’ll be deep, man. Do you get embarrassed reading that stuff in public? I do. I feel like I’m wearing a shirt that’s too transparent. No, he wasn’t someone I knew about until very, very recently. I found out about him in a backwards way. It turns out he informed Michel Foucault, and I was intrigued. He’s wacky. Wrote something called The Divine Filth: Lost Scatology and Erotica, and how can you not love that title? That’s the fucking best. Wait, no: the best is the short piece entitled, “The Solar Anus,” and that’s in Visions. Pornographic novels! Yes, I’m in. People thought he should be saved from himself with psychiatry! Plus he was a librarian. Whoomp! Let’s read his old-timey smut.

But yeah, I can’t read this in public. I got embarrassed reading my “important” reading on the train in New York. People would actually make comments, the same way they’d make comments about your tits. Buddy, I ain’t reading this for you. I don’t want to know you at all, because you’re a jerkoff. I want to know some shit.

Why I’m a prole: I’m not really that deep, anyways–not in my mind. I can’t pronounce French names proper-like. I’m an Eliza Doolittle that way. I took German once, so I can do those ones, but I murder French real good. I simply can’t be bothered to learn how right now. I have and I forget, just as I have forgotten how to read music four or five times. I laugh in yoga class when someone farts, because farts are funny (someone kept ripping them the other day when our teacher had us doing sit-ups). They always have been, and I can’t imagine a time when they won’t be. I don’t want to eat offal (i.e., pancreas) unless it tastes good to begin with. I have no interest in cultivating a palate to eat anything. Why should I, when pie tastes good now?

I like television. I like it too much. That’s why I’m not really allowed to have one. I end up watching the “700 club,” and infomercials from beginning to end. “Is that Freedom Rock? Turn it up!” I mean, Tae-bo was going to change my life. That’s why I had to get rid of mine ten years ago. I can’t turn it off. It might as well have a poltergeist inside of it. Someone I know got a bigger one, and has offered me hers. I want it. I want it badly. I don’t know if I’m allowed. With cable these days? And “Be Good, Johnny Weir” existing? I think I’ll be in trouble, big time. No one may hear from me ever again.

So, yeah, I’m trash. Cheap date. Bánh mì and a Diet Coke, or some garlic knots and a root beer, a show about nasty epidemic diseases, and I’m ready to roll, son!

On heavy reading: Part of why I read these books is for my own information. I want to know things. I had some good teachers over the years who gave me some information, and I want to build on it. That was how I learned who Foucault was, and Richard Brautigan, and Don DeLillo, and Audre Lorde, and–now I’m showing off. But I’m not KRS-One. I didn’t grow up in New York Public Library. I needed people to show me the way. And I want to honor my teachers and the gifts that they’ve given me by following the path. It’s heavy lifting, though.

The other reason I read these books in particular is because I am constructing a canon: a canon of books everyone talks about but no one has actually read. I am reading them so as not to be a hypocrite. Why should I talk about plots and characters that I don’t know? The thing is, it seems pretentious to take them out of my purse in line at the pharmacy (I spend a lot of time at the pharmacy, in line), but most of them are available as relatively cheap, small paperbacks at a used bookstore. I also have a fucking huge-ass purse that I could smuggle a good-sized roast beast in.

Someday, I will hopefully get over Themselves and Their Concern over my choice of books. I’ve stopped caring what they think of my bodacious ta-tas. That was a hard row to ho–er, hoe–though, and it involved getting very fat and then skinny again. Well, not very fat, but seventy pound more. Sixty pounds up, then seventy down. I don’t want to get dumb and then smart again! No stroke or brain injuries for me, thanks.

As I construct my canon, I will record it here. I haven’t written it down ever. It’s fucking hard to remember, man, I’ll tell you that much. Oh, if anyone has any suggestions, I’d be much obliged to hear them. My favorite book search engine for known titles or authors is WorldCat, because I like library metadata. My favorite for unknowns is usually Google. Amazon works in that case, too.

These are in no particular order. Just as they come to my mind. You may disagree, but it’s my fucking canon! Make your own, then. Underlined means I’ve finished them, hurrah.

Seer’s Canon of Books Everyone* Talks about but Few** Have Read, part 1

  1. Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (started this, haven’t finished, after some dude said something at the pharmacy in line–to be fair, he was nasty but hitting on me)
  2. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  3. Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon (started maybe five times, can’t get past the bananas. Thomas Pynchon is like wheat grass juice. All these people say both are good for you, but there’s absolutely no proof, it’s so hard to make yourself do it, you want credit for doing it, and you feel terrible and accomplished after consuming them)
  4. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  5. The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Lewis Stevenson (this is a novella, and really, really good)
  6. Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  7. Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare
  8. The Holy Bible by a whole lot of people, but most certainly not by the hand of God (I’ve been forced to read parts***)
  9. The Holy Koran [don’t know; depends on translation]
  10. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (I want to read it again. I was kind of loaded when I read it first, then I was fasting the second time, out in the woods, and the third time I don’t remember at all. I might have faked it in class
  11. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (I was too young to really get this one, though, and the next time I read Dickens I loved him. I think I need to reread this)
  12. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  13. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
  14. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (I started this. Spoiler: depressing as all hell)
  15. The Brothes Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  16. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  17. Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs (I can’t seem to get past the first fifty pages)
  18. Paradise Lost by John Milton (it’s better than you would think, but unless you know your Western mythology, and have a good Christian background, you might miss the best parts. Best to do it in class, if you’re mostly ignorant like me)
  19. Lolita by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov (I need to read the annotated, because I fear I missed everything he did with this novel)
  20. The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin

More later. Things to do today.

*This is relative. In some communities, these are talked about more than others. I’m giving it a wide berth. It’s kind of a list for the intelligentsia, and no, I don’t mean that in a flattering way. There is no use of that word in a flattering way.

**This was “no one,” but I’m changing it to “few.” Some people have read these. Snooty motherfuckers, whose club I guess I’m trying to join, even though my eyes glaze over when they talk, and in my head I’ve got some song playing.

***On the Bible: The amount of rape, incest, violence and contradiction is always noted, but to actually read it is shocking to me sometimes. It’s like a soap opera, how much belief must be suspended if it is supposed to be taken as truth. I mean, the world starts twice in Genesis. It does. Read it. Right at the beginning. It’s beautifully put, but very different. One has a lot of agency, with a Creator all a-creating, and one is just words into being. This is some people’s mythology, and I was raised by a good Christian lady, but she told me to take it as a mythos of a people some thousands of years ago, not a “Truth,” because of things like the world starting twice. If people actually read the words they say they believe, I think they would be a bit more skeptical. I’m not trying to be disrespectful. It’s a long-standing religious and spiritual tradition now, but there is a difference between spiritual principle and historical fact. Be kind to people: spiritual principle. God made people out of mud: myth. Lots of peoples have a myth similar to this. It doesn’t make it true. There are people trying to find ways to prove Noah’s flood happened. I don’t understand this. Still, as the West, we only have two hero stories in our culture: Arthur and Jesus. Odysseus didn’t really come through. People don’t know him. So the Bible, mad important in literature. I need to know it better.

On scared Christian Fundamentalists: I also don’t understand how your faith in your god is so tenuous that what other people say or believe will shake it. Your faith should be unshakable, no? If you are afraid that your children will lose their faith in your god because of what people say at school, it seems to me you might want to step up your spiritual and religious practice in your home life. Church is open on more than just Sunday in most communities. Are you practicing  at home? Do you talk to your children about your god? Why is that school’s job? I don’t see why teachers are supposed to be making anyone a better person of faith.

Why are you so afraid? Where is your faith? Is your god an Awesome God? Act like it. Because you act like your god is milquetoast who needs you to slap people on the playground for him. According to your book, god’s justice will be super duty tough work. Why not let god fuck up us heathens? I think we’d all like to see that smiting.

I say this because I watched my mother read her Bible and her Book of Common Prayer every morning. She’s way involved in her Church. That’s where her community is, and her friends, and her life. That’s what she does. She serves her God. And she lets other people alone about it. What you believe isn’t any of her business, and the other way round.

On boorish atheists: Oh, and fundamentalist atheists are just as irritating and fundamentalist religious types. You all sound the same! Arguing on faith. Uptight, pretentious, butting in when no one asked you. Shut the front door, unless you want to come by and tell the JWs to leave me alone, because at this point I’m ready to flash them to get them to go the fuck away! Do I have the mark of the Beast or something? Last time I looked, my right hand and forehead were mark-free, for the most part. Fer Maury’s sake.

This is the only time I’m going to ever say anything on this matter. Oh, and neither of these camps is mine. Like Aeon Flux, I take no sides. I make my own side in this debate, then I withdraw my only motion (getting some of those fans they have in churches with wooden handles, but printing them with burlesque girlies on them), and leave the room. I go out and get a taco and a horchata. I don’t pronounce that word right, either.



    • Seer McRicketts-McGee

      I haven’t read any of it! None! Just the introduction. I can tell you nothing about it of substance.

      Edit: And leave it to the Dutchman to know who Georges Bataille is. After all, it was they who not only organized this debate, it was they who didn’t need a translator to follow it:

      Part 1

      Part 2

  1. goldnsilver

    This is an awesome post (that’s coming from a person who runs a book review blog, so it might be biased). my little nerdy heart beats with glee whenever anyone talks about books.

    I experience the same thing that you do. Smut and smart books fall into a strange zone when in public – they are both unacceptable for some reason. People think that you’re showing off – and to their credit some people do that. But I just love reading.

    I was reading a collection of Greek Tragedies published by Penguin Classics at work once, and I could feel that everyone was thinking ‘little try-hard’. But I just love Euripides ‘Medea’, alright you motherfuckers!

    I also fall into the ‘uncultured person who genuinely likes this shit’ gap. I’m not interested in being thought of as well read, I don’t want to join the intellegensia. I just love reading.

    Anyway, I feel your pain. Also, I feel your pain on the Christian/Atheist thing.

    Onto the list you made:

    I don’t know how, but I’ve been around a few of the books you mentioned. I’ll just mention the ones I have read or tried to read.

    1.Frankenstein – tried to read this once, the prose was too flowery, though the concept of the story is amazing. I may try again.

    8.The Holy Bible – I’m reading this off and on at the moment. It is some crazy shit, I love it. It’s got all the good stuff – sex, blood, death, incest, slavery, brother’s killing each other. It reminds me of an old twisted fairy tale.

    11.Great Expectations by Charles Dickens – I will get to this, my Dad is a huge fan of Charles Dickens.

    14.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
    15.The Brothes Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – I tried to read ‘Demons’ by Dostoyevsky, but failed. It was too…flowery again. Like Pride and Prejudice with Russian bolshevists.

    17.Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs – I didn’t read this one, but I’ve read ‘The Wild Boys’. It was the craziest thing i’ve ever read (even crazier than the Bible so far). I didn’t really enjoy all of it, but I appreciate it afterwards because it was a totally different reading experience to anything else I’ve ever had.

    18.Paradise Lost by John Milton – I LOVE this book. It took me two years to get through. But I love it. It presents the events with more glee and better description than the actual Bible. Absolutely incredible. Apparently they might be making a movie, but I can’t see how they’ll pull that one off.

    19.Lolita by Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov – I really liked this book. I’ve read it once and I get the impression that it will get better the more times you read it. Very clever.

    20.The Origin of Species by Charles Darwin – I’m also reading this at the moment. It’s only for those who don’t get bored easily, as its very detailed and he tends to repeat himself a lot. However, I just put my David Attenborough mind voice on and enjoy myself.

    • Seer McRicketts-McGee

      Have you read The Marriage of Heaven and Hell by Blake? If you loved Milton, you might dig this one. It’s pretty fresh. It’s hard to find the ones who love Paradise Lost. But it’s really beautiful! It’s part of the “real” canon for a reason. Paradise Regained? Who cares? Not me. Boring as all hell.

      If you can think of anything else that should be on this list, lemme know…I’m ambitious. I do have a whole lotta quit in me, it should be noted. I’m a procrastinator. But I have lofty goals and will always add more to the list.

      • goldnsilver

        I’ve never really been interested in Paradise Regained either, though I will get around to it. (I’ve got a copy somewhere). I guess Jesus can’t compare to Satan flying around the unmade cosmos.

        I’ll have to check out The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. I really like Blake’s artwork (same Blake right?). Thanks for the recommendation.

        Recommendations….if you want to stick to the ‘everyone/but no one has read it’ classics, then I’d go for ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ by Oscar Wilde. I thought it was quite clever and Wilde’s descriptions are like being coated in honey (especially the first couple of pages).

        If you want to go for stuff that’s good, but not necassarily well known ‘talked about’ classics, I’d go for Watchmen by Alan Moore (and if you want to check out some real hardcore stuff go for ‘The Lost Girls’ by the same author) and ‘Nausicaa’ by Hayao Miyazaki.

  2. Pingback: Seer’s canon, continued « Occipital Hazard

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