Thursday, July 2, 2009

How does the best book of all time not have 'Zombies' in the title

Two things, and I’ll make them quick so you can get to your holiday weekend. (I grieve for you if you are on of the unfortunates who have to work Friday.)

First, United States District Court Judge Deborah A. Batts ruled on the Salinger case. Fredrik Colting, otherwise known as John David California, cannot release “60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye.”

I am not shocked, nor am I disappointed. I wanted a sequel to “Catcher in the Rye” like Amy Winehouse wanted rehab. (That is, to say, even if it was good for me, I still wouldn’t want it.)

But if you want to read Rye II: Holden’s Golden Years, you can probably find a copy online. It’s already been published in Britain.

You’ll notice Colting played the naive Swede again in the linked story. He previously said, “We don’t sue people in Sweden.” This time, he writes in an e-mail, “Call me an ignorant Swede, but the last thing I thought possible in the U.S. was that you banned books.”

Once again, I wonder how Colting didn’t see this coming. Has he never read anything about Salinger the last 40 years? The man refused movie rights to Steven Spielberg. He stopped a college theater troupe from performing a stage version of “Catcher.” Did he really think Salinger was going to let the sequel or parody or whatever-you-want-to-call-it pass unmolested?

Second, Newsweek has compiled a list of Top 100 books. I know, I know. These things got old a decade ago, but Newsweek took an interesting tact. Instead of gathering a group of experts, they used previous existing lists to compile their own.

The Modern Library list, St. John’s College reading list and Oprah all factor into the final ranking.

And the list itself? These things are subjective and should be treated as such. My favorite author, Thomas Hardy, didn’t write any of the top 100. He was trumped by everyone from Herodotus to A. A. Milne.

I couldn’t find the mathematical formula that Newsweek used to compile the list. I suspect there was still some decision-making done. How else do all four of the Shakespeare selections wind up contiguous?

A couple of other interesting patterns appear. The late 20s and early 30s are littered with social manifestos. “Democracy in America,” “The Social Contract,” “Das Kapital,” “Leviathan,” and “The Prince” are all within eight books of each other. (All of them outrank “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Hamlet.”)

Do I agree with the list? Of course not. These things are designed to start arguments, not finish them. So my suggestion is find someone who likes to read, show them the list and listen to them rant for an hour or so about how “Crime and Punishment” was slighted.

If you’re smart, you’ll start the argument around 3:30 p.m. so you can quietly segue into a long weekend.

-Jason Lea,

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