Worshipping the Past (or “How Robinson Crusoe Made Me Seriously Question Ever Reading Another Classic Book…Like Ever”)

Robinson Crusoe

There’s this popular idea that everything in the past was better than it is today, especially when it comes to art and entertainment. Older movies are better than the endless parade of sequels and spin-offs Hollywood marches into theaters month after month. Music nowadays is soulless corporate garbage compared to the music of past decades. Nothing on the 500 channels TV offers today compares to the classic shows that aired back when there were only three channels. Young people today have no respect and why can’t they tuck in their shirts and so forth and so forth. Everything sucks now!

The same ideology and past worship exists in literature as well. If you’re a lover of literature you’re always encouraged to read “the classics.” There’s no official list or anything but most book nerds can agree that certain classic novels MUST be read or else one’s book nerd license will be revoked. As an English teacher and a lover of literature I try to sprinkle a classic here and there in my reading queue every now and then so no one can ever say to me, “You mean you’ve never read (insert title of a book that my having not read qualifies as a crime against humanity)!!!1”

That’s how I met Robinson Crusoe.

There’s no need to summarize the plot of Robinson Crusoe. It’s a CLASSIC! It’s the first ever “Dude gets stranded on an island and has to survive on his own” book ever and created the entire genre. It’s also one of the worst books I’ve ever forced myself to finish. Now let me just say that I absolutely LOVE how awful it is (in the same way I think Nicolas Cage is the greatest actor ever to grace God’s green earth). Let me also say that I’m fully aware I’m judging from my current perspective in the year 2014 and not the year of its publication and intended audience (1719). And finally let me say that I don’t mind bad-mouthing the book because nothing I say will matter because it’s a CLASSIC.

I could write an entire post reviewing the book, but here are the highlights:

– Robinson Crusoe spends 28 years alone on an island and it doesn’t change him AT ALL! Like, 0%. He’s exactly the same at the end of the book as he was at the beginning. Zero character development. No arc. Nothing.

– NOTHING happens while he’s stranded on the island…nothing. He’s never in any danger, he’s never afraid or hungry or sick. He’s fine the entire time. He farms. He hunts. He tricks goats into following him back to his home and murders them. It’s 28 years of a whole lotta nothing.

– The one thing he DOES do is massacres a bunch of black people and then forces one to be his slave and convert to Christianity. Sympathetic protagonist? Not so much. I hope no one in Ferguson, Missouri ever reads this book.

– This one’s my favorite. To give you an idea of how ridiculous this book is, let me reveal to you its original title. It was not originally published as Robinson Crusoe. No, instead, it was first printed under the title, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver’d by Pyrates. Yup. Five lines long. Oh, and they give away the ending…in the title. The past sucked!

I could go on and on…but I’m not going to. The craptitude of the book was so intense it made me start to question exactly what it is about the past that makes us think it was so great. Everything is so much better now than ever before. Watch an episode of Full House and then watch an episode of Breaking Bad directly after. Your brain will cave in on itself. Music is so diverse now that there is literally something for everyone. Why were the Beatles so big? Because they were pretty much the only show in town! Young people today are just as disrespectful and lame as they’ve always been. This past worship needs to stop. Appreciate what we have now because it will be replaced by something way better in a matter of minutes.

Oh, and movies…wait, they do suck now. Peace out. I’m going to watch The Goonies…or maybe Castaway…

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~ by themoderntranscendentalist on November 25, 2014.

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