Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cult Classics

What makes a book a cult favorite? My co-workers and I had a debate on this. Is it just popularity? Did it have to be a best-seller? Is it something that it’s popularity relies strictly on word of word? My idea was that it had to be something that people quoted lines from it. If that was the criteria then the Bible or Qur'an would be here as a cult classic but I don’t want to get into to that. Then I debate with myself if things like the Sherlock Holmes series is a cult classic since everyone can quote “elementary my dear Watson”. Here are some authors and titles that came up in our discussion:

I wrote about Hunter S. Thompson in my blog post on authors who have committed suicide. Thompson is known for his “Gonzo” journalism more than his novel The Rum Diary: the long lost novel. This style of writing may have been influenced by his admiration and friendship with other cult writers: Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs. The Rum Diary is a fictionalized account of his time in Puerto Rico. Thompson has written on a wide variety of subjects, including the Hell’s Angels, the Kentucky Derby, politicians and sports figures. His most famous work is Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. This was originally featured in Rolling Stone magazine in two parts. It is an account of a journalist on a trip to Las Vegas for a Narcotics Officers’ Convention (and oh what a “trip” it is)!

William S. Burroughs was an American novelist, poet, spoken word performer and one of the founding fathers of the Beat Generation. He wrote 18 novels, six short story collections and essay collections. Much of his work comes from his experiences as a heroin addict; thus, his first novel is entitled Junkie. Yet his most famous novel is his third, Naked Lunch, possibly due to the fact it underwent a court case charged under the Sodomy laws. The plot is basically about Willie Lee and his travels to find his next fix. I realize this is a very simplistic summary but this novel is hard to describe so I will let you, dear Reader, make up your own mind about it.

I first read Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions when I was about 13 or 14 and I believe that novel influenced all my future reading favourites. I love satires! You have to be brilliant (in my mind) to write them. You have to understand the original subject matter well enough to know how and at what to poke fun. In B of C the plot about fans being fanatics is explored as Dwayne Hoover mistakes Kilgore Trout’s works of fiction to be a message from the Creator of the Universe. Within this novel are characters from his other novels, such as Eliot Rosewater from God Bless you, Mr. Rosewater and Rabo Karabekian from Bluebeard. The title from this novel is a well know slogan for Wheaties cereal but a waitress says it here whenever she serves martinis. Now I always heard that you shouldn’t drink before noon so when their breakfast is, I don’t know!

I must admit that even though I have read all of Chuck Palahniuk’s writing, and even look forward to reading his new works, I don’t always like them. I guess sometimes it is the style of writing. Pygmy has very stilted language and the words do not flow. This is a novel about foreign child terrorists infiltrating American families. The language used reflects the difference between American English (and slang) compared to the technical/militarized language of these “soldiers”. I guess you have to read it to understand what I am attempting to say. While Palahniuk gained his fame through the novel, Fight Club, my favourite of his novels is Haunted. I guess this is influenced by my feelings about reality t.v and its “survivor” contest. This is one novel that I both read and listened to, as the audio book is read by a full cast.

One author who's work I really dislike is Brett Easton Ellis. I know that is not popular to say now. It is not that Ellis is a terrible writer because that is not true. It is just that the characters he writes about are just so distasteful. They are so self-centered that I could not I could not even remotely relate to them. His latest work, Imperial Bedrooms, is a sequel to the 1985 novel, Less than Zero. The characters have not improved over time. Even though they are now middle-aged I don’t find they have matured into caring people. I don’t know I guess you will have to judge for yourself.

Some of the other titles that were discussed between my co-worker and fellow readers were:

by Irvine Welch
The Hobbit
by J.R.R Tolkien
Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
by Douglas Adams
by Frank Hebert
Harry Potter
by J. K Rowlings
2001 : a space odyssey
by Arthur C. Clarke
Wheels of Time series
by Robert Jordan.

Well, Dear Reader, what do you think? Are these cults classics - or maybe they are just classics?! I would love to have input on this. Who knows -- you may introduce me to my next favorite story that I haven’t discovered yet.

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