Thursday, August 22, 2013

Literary Notes: How Do You Define “Trash”?

To call this list, as Flavorwire has, the “40 Trashy Novels You Must Read Before You Die” seems an overstatement and even, in some cases, an insult to readers and writers everywhere. And some classic and actually terrific books. Here the publication builds the case for their choices:
Here are 40 of the greatest trashy books written in the last hundred years that, if you’re not looking for perfect prose, will surely decrease muscle tension over a weekend, or on vacation. These books aren’t perfect, but each has some kind of hook -- either unexpectedly good construction, entertainingly inventive salaciousness, or historical import in and of itself. 
So who makes the list? Clearly, if you’re interested, you’ll have to make the journey on your own, but a taste tells the real story: “trash” is certainly in the eye of the beholder and, in this instance, Flavorwire has gone all the way to the classics to make their case.

For example, though I personally never thought all that much of the prose that makes up Lady Chatterly’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence, it is inarguably a classic. Other (IMHO) non-trashy books on the list include Judith Krantz’ Scruples, The Carpetbaggers by Harold Robbins (for crying out loud!), Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann (so, okay: sometimes trash is trash is trash), Delta of Venus by Anais Nin, The Black Moth by Georgette Heyer, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Stand by Stephen King and several more.

The list makes you wonder about the nature of “trash.” A lot of the included titles are chockfull of sex and scandal, so there’s a clue. And there are a couple of weirdly violent entries. But a large percentage seem to have made the list simply by virtue of having been extremely popular in their day. Gone With the Wind, for example. James Clavell’s wonderful Shogun and Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Michener’s Hawaii.

You can see all of Flavorwire’s list here and, if so inclined, you can shout at them through the comments as so many others have already done.