Gut Rumbles

February 16, 2007

Militant middlebrow

Originally published January 12, 2005,

Someone wrote me an email calling me a "militant middlebrow" because I never finished Moby Dick and I don't appreciate "ornate" literature. I don't know what the fuck he's talking about.

I majored in goddam ENGLISH LITERATURE in college. I've read a LOT of books in my life, from the "ornate" to the ridiculous. I read The Canterbury Tales in the original Early Middle English and I loved those stories. I liked many of the Romance Era writers. I think Shakespeare was a genius, even though he stole every plot he ever used in a play. I liked Sinclair Lewis, too.

But I DID NOT like Herman Melville, Henry James or Fydor Dostoyevski. If that makes me a "militant middlebrow" because I thought those guys were long-winded, boring hacks, then so be it. I preferred Mark Twain and Jack London. Hell, I preferred Edgar Rice Burroughs over those "ornate" writers.

But at least I read them, or tried to. I didn't like what I read. Anybody who calls me "middlebrow" for THAT sounds a lot like a New York art critic who calls a pile of garbage "art." Garbage is garbage, no matter how "ornate" you try to make it.

I suppose that I lack the necessary sophistication to see a dog turd and call it a rose.

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