A simple way of keeping fashionable but unworthy books off required reading lists

Jeffrey Folks writing at American Thinker points out that Toni Morrison’s books—celebrated, awarded, and considered must reading just a few years ago—are now little read.

Which reminds me of an idea I shared with a literary friend recently. When the reading lists for great books programs in schools are being discussed, and various contemporary, politically fashionable books are being proposed to replace the classics, a simple question should be asked: “Will people still be reading this book a hundred (or fifty, or twenty) years from now?” That simple question will resolve the issue. We know that the Bible, Shakespeare, Sophocles, Jane Austen will still be read a hundred years from now, a claim that no one would seriously make for Alice Walker’s The Color Purple or Toni Morrison’s Beloved. Therefore Walker and Morrison don’t get on the core reading list. No fuss, no muss.

- end of initial entry -

February 14

Jim C. writes:

I have a simpler suggestion:

Imagine a great books meeting at Columbia. Someone suggests Morrison, to which the reply is:

Excuse me, Morrison’s contemporaries—geniuses like Bellow, Bartheme and Kundera—actually wrote masterpieces. What is Morrison’s masterpiece? [response is “Beloved”]—OK, we’ll place it on the list if—and only if—you can pass a polygraph attesting to its greatness

I can dream, can’t I?

Rick Darby writes:

I can’t find a record of it on the Internet, but when Toni Morrison won the Nobel, another author (Joseph Epstein?) who was asked to comment said, “I hope it will encourage her to write better.”

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 13, 2010 01:54 PM | Send

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