I think I need to re-read Richard Hofstadter’s “Anti-Intellectualism in American Life” after reading this column today in the Dayton Daily News. The piece entitled “Read any good Montaigne Essays lately?” basically mocks the idea of being well read.
D.L. Stewart mentions a list of classics a recent Newsweek piece suggests students should read … the list consists of Virgil’s “Aeneid,” Ovid’s “Metamorphoses,” Saint Augustine’s “Confessions,” Dante Alighieri’s “The Divine Comedy,” Michel de Montaigne’s “Essays,” William Shakespeare’s “King Lear,” Miguel de Cervantes’ “Don Quixote,” Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s “Faust,” Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice,” Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment” and Virginia Woolf’s “To the Lighthouse.”
Stewart responds “what does concern me, though, is that not only haven’t I read all the books on that list, I’m embarrassed to admit that I’ve never heard of some of them.”
He’s not really embarrassed, though he should be. I’ll cop to not having read all of Ovid, but to be unaware of any of these works? You don’t write something like that in a newspaper that unless you’re making a cloying attempt to cozy up to a know-nothing audience. He closes the essay with:
But if Hollywood ever makes a movie of Montaigne’s “Essays,” I’ll be sure to go and see it. Especially if it stars Julia Roberts.
Well, his loss for never having read (or perhaps even heard of) Montaigne. But if they ever make a Montaigne movie starring Julia Roberts, I won’t just stay away, I might feel compelled to call in multiple bomb threats.