I know, I know, public votes don't mean anything. People with taste have too much taste to ring and vote. It's just for publicity - a way for the BBC to flog itself by the backdoor. But still something in you snaps when you read that the 21 greatest books ever are these.
Five of them are children's books! None by Eliot. This means these people either never read Mill on the Floss or Daniel Deronda... or just really do think Harry Potter is superior to both. Gulp.
Most have been recently adapted to TV or featured on the book list for GCSEs. You realise that as you skim the list. These people have not read Pride and Prejudice, but they liked the guy's tight trousers.
People think that good books are difficult. They think that they are safer with the chewing gum, and if they try the critically acclaimed books they will struggle. But this simply isn't true. They think good books do not have stories. This isn't true either. They have the stories - and more, much more, ladled on.
Good books are not difficult. Well, okay, Dostoyevski is difficult. What works in Russian - is almost lyrical in Russian (apparently! I don't read Russian) - doesn't always come across well in English.
But come on. Vanity Fair. Easy reading practically. David Copperfield. John Irving a hundred years before. Midnight's Children. Simply one of the greatest books of the last twenty years. (If you have never read it, believe the hype on that one.) Marquez! Can you not manage Marquez? Peter Carey even? Coetzee? Not a scrap of Coetzee? Roth? Portnoy's Complaint is just about the funniest book written.
The Thin Red Line. The Grapes of Wrath. *whispers* Songlines? I'd settle even for On the Black Hill, you philistines.
Well, you could tear your hair out. It's our world. *sigh* These people will never love books. They will never love being transported to other places, other times, other worlds - they will accept pale imitations, cheap substitutes. They will believe, despite all reason, that Gone with the Wind and The Wind in the fucking Willows are superior books to Moby Dick and Madame Bovary... actually, why be tolerant? Get me my AK, I got some slaughtering to do!