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In The Zone . .Emotional Chaos . ..Number 9. . .September 11


Emotional Chaos
Weekly Column by Brian Codagnone


The Classics are overrated. There, I've said it. At the risk of sounding like a total Philistine, the primary purpose of reading the classics in high school and college was to, in the words of the great 19th Century educator Lucius Beebe, "suck the pleasure out of reading". This later gave birth to the high school gym class philosophy of sports, which is, "if you're enjoying it, you're doing something very wrong".

What led me to this conclusion is that recently, I'd been trying to improve myself by reading "Last of the Mohicans". Like many books of the era, to say it's a bit dense and overwritten is like saying that Yao Ming has no future as a jockey. For example, the author, James Fenimore Cooper (or "Coop" to his friends) takes three paragraphs to say "he got off his horse"...

"It was with a singular gesture that the Scout, also called "Hawk-eye", as was the fashion among the dusky hued denizens of that region; the Mohawk, the Huron, the Maqua, the Kickapoo, the Oneida, the Heckawi, although among the Mohicans he was known as "Deerslayer", for he was to them as a brother; did swing a buckskin-clad limb over the pale haunch of his noble Appaloosa and, in this manner, did dismount that creature..."

and so on. I think in plain, modern English this work would be shorter than the Monarch Notes version. Plus, like many works of the era, each chapter is opened with a quote from classical literature:

"Those strains that once did sweet in Zion glide,
He wales a portion with judicious care,
and 'let us worship God' he says with solemn air."
- Burns

Which is bad enough,but chapter II begins:

Sola, Sola, wo ha, ho, sola?
- Shakespeare.

Am I missing something here?

After a few chapters of this, I skipped ahead to the end of the book. It's quite different from the movie, as is often the case. In the movie, Colonel Munro is killed in the ambush, Duncan gets tortured to death by the Indians (OOPS! I CLEARLY meant to say "Native Americans", making me worse than Hitler in the eyes of the PC types, although not to the Indians, who usually refer to themselves as Indians), Alice takes a header off the cliff rather than go with Magua and Uncas dies in a fight with same (Magua, not Alice). Hawkeye, Cora and Chingachgook survive.

In the book, Cora dies after Magua (who clearly has issues), stabs her after she refuses to go off with him. Munro, Duncan and Alice all live (Uncas is still dead, although he did get a pavilion at Foxwoods named after him). Since Uncas is dead in both versions, Chingachgook by default becomes the Last of the Mohicans. I suppose he could reproduce again, but his offspring would be half Mohican and, say, half Huron or half Lithuanian mail-order bride. It gets complicated. In the book Duncan definitely wanted to do the bodice bossanova with Alice rather than the haughty (and more worldly) Cora. I guess the producers figured that a romantic angle between Cora and Hawkeye would sell tickets (or, "some violence for the guys and some romance for the gals" as I'm sure the focus group concluded). I wonder if Hawkeye would feel the same way about Cora if she looked like Rosie O'Donnell instead of Madeline Stowe? For that matter, what if they cast Danny Devito as Hawkeye? Nathan Lane as Magua? It would be a completely different dynamic... Anyway, now that I know how it ends there's no reason to plow through the book.

Which leads us to the most overanalyzed book in the history of the written word, Moby Dick. It seems beyond the comprehension of generations of literature professors that perhaps Melville read about the whale ship Essex and decided to write a fiction book based on the ordeal.

Melville: "I tell you, books about whales are hot this season!"

Publisher: "I don't know. We got burned last year with "The Complete Whale Cookbook"...

Melville: "This is different. It has it all! Adventure! Conflict! Exotic locations! Implied homoeroticism!"

Publisher: Well, okay, but I insist we call it "Moby Dick", not "Queequeg's Big Adventure"...

And, if Moby Dick is overanalyzed, what about "The House of Seven Gables"? Shakespeare? And why only so-called "Classic Literature"? Why not Tom Clancy?

"Ryan took the M-84 rocket launcher from it's foam lined Kevlar case. Taking careful aim, he released the orange safety lever and pulled the rubber-coated aluminum trigger. The missile burst from the tube at 250 mph and blew the Russian into a small red vapor cloud"... Clearly this symbolizes the basic struggle of man versus nature!

I liked the movie better...




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Home ... Misfits . Rafferty .. . S1019 .. . Star Crossed....
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Oddities ..Link To Us... Guest Comics . Online Store..
In The Zone. ..Number 9. . .September 11