Let me get it out of the way. I may well be an uncouth, uncultured, redneck from a backwater, flyover state. Guilty, guilty, maybe, and yes. Despite these serious cultural deficiencies I am not necessarily uneducated. My Alma Matter is consistently ranked fairly high in the various rankings published every year of colleges and universities. In addition, I have always read -- a lot. If you take the various lists of 100 books you should read, I have read most of them, including War and Peace.
To the meat of the matter: Catch-22 is drivel; unreadable schmaltz. So is From Here to Eternity. In fact, many of the so-called classics are crap, Moby Dick first and foremost. Joyce, Cervantes, and Milton all are impossible to read. Hawthorne I can manage, but why would I want to? Bunyan, blah. I will take bawdy Moll Flanders over The Vicar of Wakefield any day.
I just finished reading Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth. I read an abbreviated version in a compendium of Readers Digest condensed books as a kid. I liked it better forty-five years ago. I suppose the story is mildly compelling, but the writing is so-so. Certainly not Pulitzer-Prize worthy. But what do I know? I will take The Sand Pebbles if I want a picture of China in the early 20th Century.
In honesty, I want to be entertained in my books, my movies, and my art. Do you want to teach creative writing? See how Louis L'Amour or Heinlein structured a book. It may be pulp, but those guys could write and tell a story. Are you looking for dark humor? Twain was a master. Patrick O'Brien painted in words. You shouldn't have to slog through a book or movie before it can be "art". Forcing a kid to suffer through The Scarlet Letter is a sure way to make any teenager hate reading. Is that really the point of English Lit? Don't even get me started on how they teach history.
I don't want to go to a museum and study blotches on canvass, wondering if there was intent or an accidental spill. I'll take Hopper over Picasso any day. My writing is not good. If you were to read my notebook of efforts, you will see I strive to capture a moment in time. I like my art the same way. I want to say "What happened next?" or "What just happened?". "Leave 'em wanting more" should be the goal of any book, movie, photograph, or painting.
Art can best be defined by the Popeye Proviso: the Sailorman claimed "I yam what I yam", I know what I like, and that is art to me. L'Amour westerns and Elvis movies are not deep. They don't make you think. But they add amusement and color to our lives. Isn't that the point of art after all?
Some art museum in England took down a painting so that we could think about women in art in a non-binary way, or something. I don't want you to tell me how to think about art. I just want to enjoy it or not.
If I wonder why I should care about Why the Caged Bird Sings, it is OK. Some prefer Faulkner over Hemmingway or Fitzgerald over Forrester.
I wonder how many people who tout Proust as a genius ever tried to read his work? How many finished it? That my friends, is the point of this post. Do not let anyone tell you what to like or what is good.
I know, TLDR