I'm following up on a suggestion from a previous post. Again, this is not a list of the ten worst books ever. It's a list of the ten books that are most undeservedly popular. Will I indulge some of my idiosyncrasies here? Who else will indulge them, if I don't? So here goes:
10. Mary Shelley, Frankenstein. Not for the moral, which is actually more conservative than her husband Percy might have preferred, but for the clunky and confused writing.
9. James Joyce, Ulysses. Yes, I know, it's a work of genius. Doesn't he say so on every other page?
8. James Heller, Catch-22. Cute and clever. Yossarian naked up a tree. Now I understand Vietnam.
7. Voltaire, Candide. French stylishness be damned. Ecrasez l'infame!
6. Theodore Dreiser, Sister Carrie. All the length and ponderousness of a Russian novel; all the theological and intellectual depth of a Russian tart.
5. Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions. I loved this book -- when I was thirteen. So it goes.
4. Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid's Tale. What happens when you smoke that scurf on the tundra instead of eating it.
3. J. D. Salinger, Catcher in the Rye. I met a lot of preppies at Princeton. Never saw a single one of them in a field of rye. I must have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
2. Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto. I've had to re-read it in the last few weeks. It makes up for bad economics, bad history, and bad anthropology with prudishness and sheer nastiness.
1. Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet. If you see yourself at the top of a mountain, know that it was meant to be, and that it was not meant to be.