Canon * Fodder

I am a reader by habit and by degree. ‘The’ Literary Canon has never worked for me intellectually or politically (as if the two could be extricated!).  This is true of the ‘traditional’ canons as well as the ‘new.’ For a general understanding of the ‘tradional’ canons think various holy works and dead white guys (in terms of literature). The ‘New’ canon…HA! It incorporates just about anything which was not covered by the ‘traditional’ canon. Which is not to say that there aren’t MUST READ texts which have been canonized, there have been. For me personally the ‘New’ canons hold any number of works that speak to me. Though, as widely contested and as broadly interpreted as the ‘New’ canon is I prefer to just make up my very own canon as I read along.  However, I do find myself on occasion compelled to engage with “Classics” the likes of which I have probably heard reference to for years. Sometimes those engagements work out smashingly well and on other occasions my disdain for publicly subscribed to canons is more than validated.

Strained Strange Land

To that end, I read a “Classic” just about a week ago. Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein has often been hailed as a sci-fi classic! And maybe it was, in 1961. Though, I am hard pressed to imagine how, by very basic literary standards that could be true. “Sci-fi” contribution aside the story in this tale comes completely apart half way through! It turns to NONSENSE! That can not be “classic.” I will not pretend that I am versed enough in the sci-fi genre to speak to Heinlein’s contribution, I am a Star Wars kid and by my standard…well I just don’t see it. Nor, for that matter can the ‘Chick’ in me get past the dated sexist depiction of women. Fucking gag me.  One more “classic” I wish I had left on the way back shelf.

Carry It With You Canon

In terms of my own Canon, however, I revisited a book that I love this week! While travelling through the Southwest this past week it occurred to me that it had been far to long since I read Wilson Rawls, Where The Red Fern Grows! Not entirely certain why the book came back to me in that setting, except, perhaps it looked like the kind of terrain a person would not want to roam without a very good friend or two? Whatever, the impulse, I swung through the library to grab a copy and upon rereading I was struck by an underlying theme I did not carry away with me in my childhood. I thought it was strictly a coming of age story, a boy and his dogs. Rawls, depicted the bonds of friendship and loyalty in a relationship so pure it would take a die hard cynic to be unmoved by the relationship of Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann. What I missed though (entirely) was the secondary(?) theme of Faith. At every turning point in this book Billy is compelled to ask his ‘higher power’ for an assist. Literally, the character hits his knees to pray repeatedly through out the story and on each occasion his request/appeal/demand is met. Though, not in a manner that Billy would or could fully appreciate in his young life. So central and recurrent is Billy’s relationship to God it is absolutely hilarious that I re-entered the text with out a single recollection of faith as a theme in the book. Whichever theme one finds most intriguing, Where The Red Fern Grows, absolutely makes my carry it with you canon.


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