On those days when the weather is not conducive for enjoying the outdoors, turning to reading is always a good bet. Rather than spending one’s time glued to a television set, which certainly cannot be good for your mental state, a book is always a better option. It baffles me how few books people actually read, especially when you consider the greater availability and diversity to choose from. Even those people who do read are probably reading some nonsense like ’Fifty Shades of Grey’ or ‘Twilight’. It does not always have to be a book either; there are poems available for purchase or even online.
I spend a considerable amount of my time reading. Most of my interest lies in classical works. Anything written after WWII has not been read by me. It seems that after the war Western culture took a nosedive into oblivion. We ceased making culture and began attacking it instead. T. S. Eliot, C. S. Lewis, and R. R. Tolkien seem to have been the last wave of great English literary figures and with their passing so too passed Anglo literature. Whether it continued to live for some time in France, Germany, Italy, Russia, or elsewhere I am not sure.
My suspicion is that this is due, in large part, to the proletization (not a real word) of our culture. Low culture became the only form in demand while all things that even resembled high culture were ignored or degraded. Television and radio became popular instruments for this proletization because it worked on an egalitarian leveling of society. Value became equivalent to its popular demand. Literature is outside the realm of the market, in its ideal state, because it pertains to loftier notions than being a mere consumable item.
Wherever popularity to the masses becomes the judge of someone or something’s worth, there will be an inevitable decline in its actual value. We can observe this with our leaders, art, literature, music, language, religion, and basically all forms of culture. The masses have an instinctive drive to make it a race to the bottom. Of course, there are Western elites who would agree with these conclusions, to an extent, but our elite are egalitarian elite. They work from some ridiculous assumption that all people should have equally respected opinions on all matters and are all equally capable of higher knowledge if they were simply given a chance.
Any time spent in the real world should immediately disprove these myths. To say Lil Wayne is just as good at creating music as Beethoven, is not simply two equally valid but disagreeing opinions. One is objectively superior to the other. That does not mean you have to like Beethoven but it does mean not only you, but we as a society, should understand there is such a thing as high culture which is objectively superior in form to popular culture. This is the consequence of egalitarian doctrine.
There has always been, in one society, high and low culture. T. S. Eliot noted this fact in his ‘Notes Towards the Definition of Culture’ (1948). But the hierarchy was respected. Unfortunately beginning in the late 19th century and coming to fulfillment in the early 20th century, this respect broke down. A general reduction in the intellectual capacity of the West ensued. Instead of bringing the masses up, the masses brought culture down. For anyone who is not sold on egalitarianism, this would have been easily foreseeable. Culture had to be sacrificed in the name of equality. Literature was perhaps the last art form to succumb, with visual art having arguably fallen in the early 19th century.
At some point egalitarianism will become an abandoned concept, hopefully before it lays waste to the struggling remains of Western civilization. Once this time comes we will be able to rebuild our societies. Respectable visual art, music, politics, leadership, and literature will arise again after being given some breathing room. In the meantime it is the responsibility of everyone who has a hierarchical view of society to preserve and transmit the great works of Western minds. Below are some of my personal favorites that I believe deserve to be read and appreciated by everyone.