Saturday, September 30, 2006

Why We Read - The Western Canon According to Ivan Von Noshrilgram, Sr.

Why We Read - The Western Canon According to Ivan Von Noshrilgram, Sr is from Alistair Vogan's short story collection Beyond Good and Eviler.

Books. Why? And, really, to what end?

Books are often heavy. But they are useful. Books - or livres in French - help us understand the writer's intention. "What does the writer mean?" we might ask. One may regard a book affectionately, watch it closely on the shelf in its natural habitat, but to read is much more fruitful. It brings us closer to the author.

In the summer of 1972 Ivan Von Noshrilgram, Sr. created a digest of the very valuable Western Canon. Why an abbreviated Western Canon? Life is short. With the demands of life who has time to involve oneself with ideas, or more importantly, the thoughts of others? And, if you are operating heavy machinery, like a hair-dryer, or a large riffle or something, isn't that dangerous? ...Yes. But these are dangerous times, and dangerous times require extreme measures. One of them is reading.

What follows is The List interspersed with quotes from The Von Noshrilgram Problem: Philosopher-Botanist, or Extinguished Firewalker? which we believe demonstrate his peculiar genius. Eunice and I, and everyone at The Foundation hope you find this of some value.

William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)

"Gee. I like those stories by William Shakespeare - whatever language that is he writes in. Born in sixth year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth he had a mind greater than all others. He was ahead of us then; he is ahead of us now. Some would argue, as literary scholar Harold Bloom did the other day when we were eating toast, that William Shakespeare invented the human too. Imagine that.

I think you should read "the Bard", however, there is an order in which his most successful works should be tackled. To crack the nut that is Mr. Shakespeare I recommend the following plays":
1) The First Part of King Henry the Sixth

2) The Second Part of King Henry the Sixth

3) The First Third Part of One-eighth of Henry the Twelve

4) Most of Henry

5) Just Henry's Bum

6) Romeo and Juliet
7) also, the one with all the talking, where the people die at the end


"...The Greeks were sober thinkers. And they worked out a lot. They also influenced a lot of people that followed them. (That's why they're in the canon and you're not.) I highly recommend this list, if not for the wisdom of these early people then simply for reassurance that there are some important recurring themes in literature... Watch the cat there. Look out! my slippers!":

1) Rhesus

2) Medea

3) Phoenician Women Wowsy wow wow

4) A Letter Concerning Toleration

5) An Essay Concerning Human Understanding

6) Hugging 'the Right Way'

7) Shut Up Eat Your Dinner I'm The Adult

8) Because I Said So I am Taller And My Mass is Greater

9) An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (The sequel)

10) I said "Just Do It Young Lady"

The UNIVERSE (How does it reeeeally work?)

"...The Universe is there. No, there. ...There! Look at my finger, AND FOLLOW IT KID. ...Well, it was there a second ago. When? When you stepped out for crackers. Anyway there is a universe...why not try to understand it?...":

1) On the Sphere and Cylinder Measurement of a Circle

2) Quadrature of the Parabola

3) On Spirals

4) The Straight Line, Curvey Ones Too

5) How to Use a Yo-yo, volumes 1 through 18

"...Your mother called...":

1) Selected Papers on Hysteria

2) The Origin and Development of Psycho-analysis

3) The Interpretation of Dreams

4) I Didn't Say Banana I Would Know If I Had Said Banana

5) You Definitely Said Banana I'm a Medical Doctor
Edited by Alistair Vogan