The Politically Incorrect Guide to English and American Literature by Elizabeth Kantor
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is two, two, two books in one. There is the enthusiastic author who loves classic literature, understands the context and wants us to read it. And we do want to read it after she discusses it so lovingly.
There there is the angry, bitter hater of modern interpreters who twist the classics' meanings for their own purposes. I get it. I even understand that such is part of the schtick of the Politically Incorrect Guide format. However, this book would have been so much stronger substituting thoughtful "modern interpreters may teach that ... blah, blah, blah ... and here's where they go astray" than in labeling everyone in sight and blasting them into a crater with angry, angry words. It weakened the main message and lessened my respect for the author.
I believe her on both counts, the enthusiastic and the bitter, but since most of the people reading this book already know that the modern twisting exists there was a lot of space wasted in "convincing" us.
Also, as many already have mentioned, Kantor gives American literature unnecessarily short shrift. No Steinbeck? No examination of our longer literary pieces? Despite her claim that we are a short literature and short story nation, there is evidence to the contrary. For example, let's look at one of my newest favorite books, East of Eden. Oh, wait, it's by John Steinbeck and therefore invisible. (ha!)
I still give this good marks because it made me want to read books I'd never considered before. I now wish that Ms. Kantor would write a straight forward, more comprehensive guide to literature that I could use as my own guide in exploring the classics.