Gentleman’s Quarterly has proposed refashioning contemporary culture by unmooring it from the past, a feat that can be accomplished — in part — by updating lists of required reading to fit the modern Zeitgeist.
In their essay titled “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read Before You Die,” the editors of GQ recommend rewriting canons of Great Books by swapping out works that are hard to read, dangerously backward, or politically incorrect with more contemporary works that conform to the values and sensibilities of the modern cultural elite.
So, out with Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, and of course, the Holy Bible, and in with chick-lit, inclusive language, edgy plots, and entertainment purged of traditional values or outdated suppositions about the human person, family, and society.
The Great Books are taken down in one fell swoop. “Some are racist and some are sexist, but most are just really, really boring,” we learn.
First among these “overrated books” is the Bible, for which the GQ editors reserve some particularly choice epithets. It is “repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned,” or, in a nutshell, “certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced.”
As a substitute, why not read Agota Kristof’s The Notebook, the editors suggest, “a marvelous tale of two brothers who have to get along when things get rough.”
Their scorn extends well beyond the Good Book, however.
Pulling no punches, GQ says that the “cowboy mythos” of Lonesome Dove, for example, “with its rigid masculine emotional landscape, glorification of guns and destruction, and misogynistic gender roles, is a major factor in the degradation of America.”
Instead, we are told to read The Mountain Lion by Jean Stafford, which “acts in many ways as a strong rebuttal to all the old toxic western stereotypes we all need to explode.”
Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, on the other hand, “is without any literary merit whatsoever” and therefore should be replaced by Olivia, the Sapphic story of a British teenage girl who falls in love with her teacher Mademoiselle Julie.