Robinson Crusoe

robinson crusoe daniel defoe classics clubRobinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe, 2/5

I have been familiar with the story of Robinson Crusoe since childhood, thanks to one of those tiny children’s abridgments that is equal parts text and illustrations, so I was pretty excited to finally get around to reading the real thing.  Surprisingly, I did not much enjoy this famous novel.

I was irritated, first off, to learn from the introduction that the author’s main talent lay in the believability of his straightforward writing style, which he used indiscriminately in the creation of propaganda for countless political pamphlets.  Now, I don’t expect authors of adventure stories to have SAS training, but I do have other criteria for fictional survival tales than “seems true.”  Because Defoe’s writing style is so very factual (which is a nice way of saying dry and prosaically detailed) and his preface to the book claims the title of nonfiction outright, I felt lied-to throughout.  Now this might not seem like a big deal; after all, isn’t all fiction basically a lie and all novelists liars?  But I feel that literature which attempts to coerce suspension of disbelief from its readers through deception lacks the authenticity and magic of literature that facilitates a willing suspension of disbelief.

It is not difficult to imagine that Robinson Crusoe was unprecedented when it was written back in 1719 and inspired a genre to some extent, but I found very little in it to admire and even littler to enjoy.

[Why I read it: Another one of those classics that just never made it onto my list until I found a nice vintage copy at the thrift store.]


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