I’m sorry, I had this little afterthought after writing the last post, in which I briefly compared the Bible to Shakespeare, and judged Shakespeare the better source. And then I ran across some standard web babble about America being a Christian nation, and that we have to get back to the Bible fundamentals, and I thought…wait a minute, the Bible is a truly horrible sourcebook for defining a national character. Why not be more selective in our literary foundations?
Let’s not be a Christian nation — it’s modeling after an ugly source. Let’s all pick better heroes. The United Kingdom should aspire to be a Shakespearean nation: literate, complex, and bawdy. Ireland can be a Joycean nation, verbally playful and inventive. The United States, obviously, should try harder to be a Mark Twain nation: cynical, humane, sacrilegious, and humorous. There is potential for this notion to go horribly wrong — Czechoslovakia, please do not become a Kafkaesque nation — but you know, steeping our countries’ youth in the best of our literature and openly saying that this is how our country could be sets up universally better role models than that demented Jehovah character.
The only problem is the variety of choices (although maybe that really isn’t a problem so much as a benefit). I’d also kind of want to live in a Melville nation, mainly because I want to see the kids wearing bracelets that say WWQD (“What would Queequeg Do?”).
Other people will have to leave suggestions for their literary exemplars of their national character. I don’t want to make the mistake of suggesting that
Sweden Finland can be the Moomintroll Nation.