Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Oh Darlton... Why Dost Thou Torture Me?

There's this game I used to play with other English lit nerds when I was in university. I think we called it Shame (it's been a long time. Sigh). It works in a pop culture setting very well, too. If you're a huge fan of movies, like I am, you name the one movie you've never seen... the one you should be ASHAMED of yourself for not seeing. (For me, it's Gone With the Wind. Never seen it.) Or maybe there's a TV series you've never watched that you really should have, especially if you're writing books on Lost. *cough* I'm not even going to say what that is, for fear people will run screaming away from my blog like I'm some charlatan know-nothing. Wild horses can't drag that one out of me.

But it's when it came to literature that it got fun. I remember being out for drinks with a guy who was an assistant professor and we were playing the game, and he admitted to never having read Hamlet. I think half of us either choked on our drinks or spit them out completely. "How is that possible?!" we asked in complete bafflement. "Special skills?" he replied.

For me, that book that has been missing from my own personal canon is James Joyce's Ulysses. I know I should read it. Every day on June 16 I swear I'm going to take the day off, disappear into a basement and read the entire thing (that is Bloomsday, after all). I actually went and bought my copy in Paris at Shakespeare & Co., one of the world's most famous bookstores (my friend CK just posted pics of the store here) because that's where the book was written. I got them to stamp the front inside cover with their special stamp to prove that's where I bought it. That was in December 2000. It's been sitting on a bookshelf ever since, and every once in a while I glance over at it, send "good intention vibes" its way, and then it continues to sit for another 6 months before I glance at it again.

But now, Damon and Carlton have announced that in season 5, Ben Linus will be seen reading a copy of Ulysses in the season's seventh episode (this is in the special Dharma Access video that went out to subscribers last night; it will be on the ABC site some time tomorrow). Now I have to take the behemoth off the shelf. I have to open it and turn PAST the page with the fancy stamp. I have to read it.

I'm kind of scared.

I mean, this is something I've been building up to since my undergrad. It's like one of those things I've always looked forward to, but like Desmond and his tattered copy of Our Mutual Friend, figured it might be one of the last things I do. How do I read it? Do I check the footnotes as I go? Do I just read it straight and hope I get the feel of the lilting language, much like you do with a Shakespeare play? I feel like the thing needs to come with instructions. I talked to a friend of mine several years ago who is a well known Canadian poet and he told me the best way to read Ulysses is to avoid the footnotes altogether. So I think that's what I'll do.

I might disappear for a while. I'm not sure whether to curse the houses of Cuse and Lindelof for doing this to me, or to send blessings their way for giving me the heads up before the season actually started. (Here I am in December, and quite literally, when Damon held up the book and announced it, I dropped my head to the desk with a thud and moaned, "Why... why... WHY?!" Could you IMAGINE what my reaction would have been in March if that had been the first time I saw Ben reading it?)

But, I vow to you, gentle readers, there will be a chapter on Ulysses in my season 5 book. But you have to promise me that YOU will be reading this book, too. (And to my friends who are university English majors and professors who are reading this now... prepare for the onslaught of emails from me.)

Wow. How will I play the shame game now? I've been using Ulysses as my answer for so long I wouldn't know what to say next.

Now I don't think I can ever watch Gone with the Wind.


Crissy Calhoun said...

haven't read it either, but i think it's a good plan to read it without the footnotes! good luck, Nikki....

Anonymous said...

I've never seen "Titanic" or the one where Tom Cruise is the sports agent.

Joshua said...

Wow, me too! First, it was that one volume my home library didn't hold that I told myself again & again I'd pick up the very next time I went into a used bookstore (but would inevitably forget). Then, once I finally bought a copy, I just couldn't bring myself to start it, almost as if after so much buildup I required a special circumstance to force my hand, like fate needed to intervene somehow. And I suppose this is it.

What do you think of these passwords? Any clues in there? I tried the anagram game with the new one ('adella courey') and didn't come up with much. Except "or a clue delay", which seems terribly appropriate.

As for 'Gone With The Wind', I don't personally believe you're missing much, though I know there are those (most certainly here in Georgia) who would wish to stone me at the mention of such heresy.

Perhaps you can find a new shame that is also Lost-related... surely you've read 'The Stand', right?

Ryan said...

You *must* read Ulysses - it's a favorite of mine that I'm afraid of admitting as a favorite because people roll their eyes at me. But definitely worth it.

I must say that I love this game of SHAME. I'll play:

Film: It's A Wonderful Life

TV Series: Firefly (I know, I know...)

Novel: Pride and Prejudice, though I'm sure that Northwestern will force that one down my throat before I leave.

Chuck Power said...

Good luck. I'm not sure Ulysses will be my next one. It really is pretty intimidating. I'm half way through Valis but that's tiny. I was happy when he held up The Stand, I just read that this past summer.

Anyway, let me throw myself under the bus.
Film: The Godfather.
TV: The British Office

ChrisTemple said...

I've never seen any of the Godfather movies.

poggy said...

Oh, snap! I borrowed Ulysses from my aunt about a year ago and it has been looking at me from my bedside drawer since. SO I guess I'll just have to climb that mountain?

Jonathan said...

Nikki, admit to everyone the TV show!!! C'mon!!!

Fine, I will. You've never seen Temptation Island (ie horny version of Lost)!!! OH THE HORROR!!! YOU'RE A


Ryan, how have you never seen It's a Wonderful Life?! It's on TV like 15 times every December!!!!

As for the Shame Game, I'll play:

Book - most classics (no pictures, no interest)
Movie - Citizen Kane (and many, many others, including Gone With the Wind, but this is the one I know I should see, but still haven't)
TV - Beauty and the Geek - all seasons (I hang my head in shame)

Colleen/redeem147 said...

I tried NOT to watch It's a Wonderful Life, but Justin and Cindy made me watch it last weekend. Now I have to think of another shame movie.

I tried to read Ulysses. I should read Joyce, being Irish and all.

I haven't seen the one where Tom Cruise is a sports agent either, but I saw Tom Cruise today. Does that count?

Loretta said...

I've never read Ulysses or Moby Dick... but then I majored in psychology in undergrad, and now I'm in law school, so I'm not sure I should feel shame about that.

Maybe I should find a case that I've never read.

Anonymous said...

I have read Ulysses, but not The Stand... shame.

Bonus tracks
Film: Breakfast at Tiffany's
TV Series: CSI

By the way, your Shame-game reminds me Sawyer's 'I Never'. :)

Austin Gorton said...

The Shame game is especially fun to play with my friends, who believe, due to my majoring in English in college, working (in some capacity) at a bookstore since I was 16 and generally being a booky-book, that I must have read every "classic" book by now.

So it's great to casually say something like "I've never read the Scarlet Letter" and see the look of astonishment on their faces.

As for TV shame...I've never seen the Prisoner, which is shameful for a Lost fan. Also, Dr. Who. Never seen a single episode.

Movies? Well, I've never seen It's A Wonderful Life, which is odd because I love Christmas and Christmas movies. I've never seen My Fair Lady or The King and I, which appalls my wife, especially since I do like musicals. I'm a bit ashamed I've never seen any of Scorsese's classics (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Goodfellas).

Colleen/redeem147 said...

'As for TV shame...I've never seen the Prisoner, which is shameful for a Lost fan. Also, Dr. Who. Never seen a single episode.'

Okay, Shame-wise? You win.


The Chapati Kid said...

Everyone's coming out of the closet here, so I might as well also...

I've seen Gone with the Wind 8 times. EIGHT. And I still love it.

I've never read Hamlet. But I can quote! "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." See?

My favourite part of Ulysses is the shitting section. But that's because it's the only part I've read. What does that say about me?

Good seeing you last night!

Cedar said...

I'm an English professor, and I've never never taken a Spenser course or read "The Faerie Queene." That used to seem like a large gap in my education, but now not so much. I've also not seen "Gone With the Wind." As to television series, I've never seen "The Wire" or "The Office." As to "Dr. Who," I only started watching it recently, and I can tell already that I want to get the DVDs. The semester is finally done, and I'm working my way through the DVD set of Dr. Who season two (on loan from a colleague). Oh, and I've never watched "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." (Just kidding!--That'll put marzipan in your pieplate bingo.)