Canon Falls

Fired From The Canon is a list of ten allegedly classic books which contributors to online literary journal The Second Pass suggest you refrain from reading. I enjoyed reading the list, partly because I like snark but more because I think their reasons against reading each book, whether or not I agree, are thoughtfully yet succinctly expressed. Out of the list, I have read:

  • White Noise (Don Delillo): THANK YOU JESUS. You know that thing about judging other people based on their literary/musical tastes? I rarely do that since I adore plenty of people with tastes I detest, but after reading this book I remember thinking that I could probably never be on the same wavelength as someone who loved it, and their writeup is spot on as to why.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez): I disagree. The book does feel as if it takes ages to get through, but Garcia Marquez books usually give me some of the most immersive and atmospheric reading experiences I’ve had, so I don’t like to rush through them anyway. I’m hardly an expert in the genre of magical realism and perhaps it is, as they assert, “now thoroughly clapped out”, but out of the various other magical realist books I’ve read, none has delighted me and sustained my reading attention as much as One Hundred Years of Solitude.
  • The Road (Cormac McCarthy): I gave this five stars in my 2008 reading rundown, so clearly I disagree. They may be right that it pales in comparison to Cormac McCarthy’s other books (I haven’t read any others yet, so don’t know) but as compared to the larger literary universe it more than holds its own.
  • The Rainbow (D.H. Lawrence): Read this while I was supposed to be studying for first year law exams. I found it interesting enough at the time, perhaps because the alternative was reading about property law, but now I can’t remember anything about it at all.
  • On The Road (Jack Kerouac): Yes, most of this was tedious for me. I dimly recall one bit of writing I liked, something about being in a jazz club.
  • The Corrections (Jonathan Franzen): I liked some of the writing, as I commented at the time, but their criticisms are fair too. It felt laboured and inconsistent.


  1. I heart 100 Years of Solitude, but then I really enjoy reading Allende, so “Magical Realism” works for me. The Road was well written but I did find it a bit of a struggle. It’s up there with movies like the Last King of Scotland. I know it’s good, but if I’m thinking about Legall Blonde, it’s much harder to appreciate.

  2. Heh, why would you “absolutely” think I’d have read A Tale Of Two Cities? I haven’t read a single Charles Dickens book, actually. Am generally much better read in contemporary literature than I am in the classics.

  3. Am much the same. I just had visions of you rowing up being made to read them. I occasionally go through periods where I wish I was better read (if you know what I mean) and pick up something, but I struggle with the classics more often than not. That happens with more modern writing as well though. I still grimace and feel guilty everytime I stare at A Short History of Nearly Everything (sadly not short enough), The Prize (you need to like oil to read this one) and a random book on Russian history I once bought. Those three and the Bible remain the only books I’ve started but not finished to this day.

    I imagine Bell Jar may make that list!

  4. I don’t know why you’d have those visions – what impression do you have of how I grew up?! As far as I’m concerned, my parents were super laissez-faire so the idea of being “made to read” anything (be it classics, or school textbooks) is really alien to me.

    The list of books I’ve started but not finished is far, far longer than yours. Probably because I get all my books from the library, so if the due date comes and I’m really not enjoying something, back it goes, even if I know I’m supposed to like it. Life’s too short to plough through The Fortress Of Solitude and Kafka On The Beach (to name just two of the acclaimed books I recently abandoned halfway).

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