Big Brother Book Club: Bleak, But Not Seasonal, Classics


Maybe the holidays make people nostalgic in more ways than one, because there were a surprising number of classics on the 1 train this past week. Before you go getting all mushy thinking of Yuletide reads like A Christmas Carol or A Chr

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istmas Memory, let us be clear — the books we spotted were totally depressing. We’re talking about the kind of dark material that will send you spiraling into the dumps just from looking at the cover. You’ve been warned.

First, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights made an appearance. In case you never read it back in high school, this is not a book to be picked up lightly, as beautifully written as it is. At the moment, we can think of two things that would recommend it. If you’re hoping to drown out the memory of a bad family experience that occurred over Thanksgiving, and bracing yourself for the impending togetherness of X-mas, this train wreck story of a family duking it out and imploding out on the swampy moors of Yorkshire will do the trick. If you’ve just emerged from a messy break-up, it won’t fail to make you feel a little better or move on to greener pastures. Brontë’s psychotic couple, Heathcliff and Cathy, and the hell they unleash upon one another (and everyone in close proximity), would give any dysfunctional relationship a run for its money.

Dark themes continued with Edgar Allan Poe’s Collected Stories. We noticed a woman reading “The Cask of the Amontillado,” a story of grisly revenge and obsession. Moby Dick by Herman Melville is the heftiest volume we’ve noticed to date, with its own crazy character Captain Ahab and his obsessive hunt of the great white whale of the book’s title. It’s based on the true story of a giant albino whale who allegedly terrorized and premeditated attacks on whaling ships, managing to survive over 100 attempted harpoonings before being killed in the 1830s. The young man spotted reading looked quite proud of his success at getting more than half-way through. We would be too.

We also saw Our Town, the American classic play by Thornton Wilder (do you remember how traumatic it is when Emily dies?) and The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. The latter, which many consider a modern classic, has been recommended to us too many times to count. We remain skeptical.

All in all, there wasn’t much genre-bending this week. The one exception was someone inaugurating themselves to the ideas of psychiatrist and philosopher Carl Jung with the condensed volume of his work, The Jung Reader. It’s certainly not as dark as Brontë’s work, but we can’t think of the last time analytical psychology made anyone smile.