We all read them in high school, then college. You know the books I’m talking about: the classics.
LORD OF THE FLIES and WAR AND PEACE and GIANT NOVELS BY RUSSIANS WHO REFUSE TO CALL ANY CHARACTER BY ANYTHING LESS THAN SIX NAMES.
I’m talking about literature, except true literary snobs pronounce it “lit-RAH-sure.”
It’s these Great Books that we all flipped through at three in the morning, cranking out a term paper fueled by beer with fish on the can and Camel cigarettes bummed from your roommate as you dream up phrases like “the author’s framework includes a subtle critique of dialectical materialism buried within the character’s clear delineation of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs” until you hit about 7:15 a.m., with the paper due on the professor’s desk at 8 a.m. sharp, so you start busting out sentences like “The last chapter’s use of the hierarchical opposition of day and night, does, in fact, highlight the artificial constructs of love/hate, life/death and hunger/satiation, when clearly there are no such boundaries except as defined by man — or woman, or cyborgs, sufficiently intelligent dolphins and chimpanzees trained in the art of ESL.”
Amanda the Nelson reads the classics for us so we don’t have to.
Then she writes about these books with insight and hilarity.
Her blog is a public service.
YOU MUST READ IT. Go back and click on that link.
Because honestly, all these classics do have interesting things to say, and Big Ideas worth pondering. They were simply written in a time when authors didn’t believe in these things we like to call “paragraphs” and “books that weigh less than a Volkswagen Passat.” Some of these guys make 1,032-page Stephen King novels look like their standard prologue. You know, just warming up them there writing muscles.
Amanda doesn’t talk about these classics in the usual pretentious language that we’re used to. Instead, she is hilarious.
Here is her post on why she writes in an irreverent way, a post worth reading simply because it’s damned funny: http://deadwhiteguyslit.blogspot.com/2012/02/why-irreverence.html
And I believe Amanda’s brutal, honest wit makes her better, not worse, as a critic. Because your average book critic says, “Hey, this was good,” or “This book stinks up the joint,” except they spend 500 words to say it, wasting 495 of those words (a) profiling the author, (b) comparing this book to the author’s previous stuff, (c) being so polite about it that you’re not sure what they really mean or (d) being so mean it makes you wonder if the critic hates the author instead of the book — you know, because of the thing with the guy at that place.
And here’s a bit about her from her blog, which gives you a flavor of her as a writer.
THE PERSONAL AD
Greetings! I’m Amanda Nelson, and I live in Richmond, Virginia. I’m married and have one cat and a set of identical twin boys named Rhett and Atticus, even though children scare me (especially the ones in those sad, sad backpack-leash things). I love the following: literary tattoos, irony, those cats that look like little leopards, castles, earl gray tea, couch naps, having an ambiguous ethnicity that allows me to blend in anywhere, Ella Fitzgerald’s voice, Jesus, rain when there are no clouds, the smell of honeysuckle, writing real letters (BE MY PEN PAL), and rose perfume. I do not love: post-modernism, fake nails, being sticky, celebrity politics (shuddup Sean Penn, for the love of holy hot pants), small dogs, the color yellow and therefore bananas, fast food, Twilight, reading for escapism, hammocks that are made of rope instead of canvas, chinese food, my husband’s driving, and reality television.
Amanda Nelson is a freelance writer and blogger from Richmond, Virginia. She is the sarcastic-yet-earnest voice behind the blog Dead White Guys: An Irreverent Guide to Classic Literature. Amanda is also a weekly contributor to BOOK RIOT, a bookish news and social commentary site. She specializes in honest book reviewing and reader-focused literary criticism, and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She has a Bachelor’s in History from Virginia Commonwealth University, which she mostly uses to sound smart at parties.
See? What’d I tell you. She is ONE OF US.
Because it has become a tradition, and because you may have lost her blog link already, here’s the typical Friendly Friday plug.
Amanda Nelson of Dead White Guys: An Irreverent Guide to Classic Literature
The Twitter: @deadwhiteguys
Note: these Friday shout-outs are (1) always a surprise and (2) never in exchange for bottles of wine, boxes of chocolate or suitcases stuffed with purple euros. Do I want folks to nominate worthy bloggers, tweeters and writers? NO NO NO. Because then I’d be writing friendly shout-outs to people that I don’t read, people I don’t know one bit, making it all fake and mercenary, except for the getting paid part. I have to be inspired, to see a blog post or a tweet and want to tell the world, or at least the Series of Tubes.
Reformed journalist. Scribbler of speeches and whatnot. Wrote a thriller that was a finalist for some award.