EVERYONE Has Read This but Me - The Catch-Up Book Club discussion

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FOR FUN!!! > Which classics have the most enduring cultural references or iconic ideas?

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message 1: by NancyJ (last edited Apr 28, 2018 09:15PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) I might not be using the right terms to ask this question, so please help me out if you know what I'm getting at. What are some enduring cultural references that many people will recognize from a book, perhaps even those who didn't read the book? Which classic books have generated the most iconic or enduring ideas (or characters, plot lines, or literary devices)? Phrases or quotes might fit too. It would be cool to know where something first started.

I'm thinking of things like Dante's Inferno (views of hell), or the Trojan Horse (which came from a book by Homer, not actual Greek history).

I'm also thinking of plots or scenes that have inspired many copies. I read Tom Sawyer many times to my kids, and I began to spot the essence of the scenes in many other books, shows and movies. Examples - The fence painting trick. Taking the blame for something yourself in order to win someone over. Going to your own funeral.

If I were asking about movies, Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, and Star Wars have probably generated the most oft repeated quotes.

The basic plot idea from "Strangers on a train" has been copied many times. Sometimes the detective who solves the murder will even reference the title to quickly communicate the theory of the crime.

There is a common trick used by men trying to pick someone up, and by spies trying to gain the trust of a target. You have a friend or colleague attack or annoy a person, and then you can swoop in and come to their rescue. I'm wondering where that plot device was first seen. And what is it called other than the jerk trick?

Do you have more examples?


message 2: by Shanna (new)

Shanna The first one that came to my mind (maybe because it was mentioned to me recently) is "Big brother is watching" from Orwell's 1984.


message 3: by Laura H (new)

Laura H (laurah30) | 572 comments When I read this I thought of The Shawshank Redemption when Red says “get busy living or get busy dying”. How do we live our lives? Going through the motions until death comes or getting the most out of our lives by living every minute.

My second example comes from A Few Good Men. Jack Nicholson is on trial as the General Jessup and Tom Cruise’s character Kaffee has him on the stand.
“I want the truth!”
“You can’t handle the truth!”
Classic line that has been quoted over and over again. At the end of the day ... yeah, we want the truth. Even if it’s ugly.


So two great movies from the 90’s that were a book and a play. Great writing!


message 4: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) Shanna wrote: "The first one that came to my mind (maybe because it was mentioned to me recently) is "Big brother is watching" from Orwell's 1984."

Yes! "1984" and "big brother" are an enduring part of our vocabulary. These terms can be used to quickly describe concerns about cameras, surveillance, or any type of oversight or control policy.


message 5: by Melanie (new)

Melanie Romeo and Juliet, however most of its allusions are not textually accurate.


message 6: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Sometimes I listen to this public radio program called "Says You!" Sometimes they play a game called "derivation and definition". One of the things they always say is that 9 times out of 10 the derivation is either the King James Bible or William Shakespeare.


message 7: by Lalitha (new)

Lalitha (falcon_) | 7 comments I would think Mein Kampf would be one of the most controversial books. It changed the course of history, however I am not sure how much of an influence the book alone had.


message 8: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I wouldn't say it changed the course of history. Hitler certainly did, but the book mainly was an exposition of his beliefs. It wasn't even that big a seller, until it was requirement to read it. (In fact, it was given as a wedding gift in EVERY WEDDING in Germany after he came to power.


message 9: by Lalitha (new)

Lalitha (falcon_) | 7 comments Kirsten wrote: "I wouldn't say it changed the course of history. Hitler certainly did, but the book mainly was an exposition of his beliefs. It wasn't even that big a seller, until it was requirement to read it. (..."

Yes, I wasn't sure but wasn't the book used to brainwash people in some sense?


message 10: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1057 comments I can think of books as a whole (A Christmas Carol) and individual quotes ("To be or not to be, that is the question.") And a lot of book titles are actually from earlier works (The Golden Apples of the Sun).

But I'll have to do some pondering to come up with another example akin to Shanna's "Big Brother." Great question!


message 11: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) Lalitha wrote: "I would think Mein Kampf would be one of the most controversial books. It changed the course of history, however I am not sure how much of an influence the book alone had."

Yes. The book title is well known (as a symbol of evil perhaps), even though most of us have never read it.

If you used the book as a prop in a movie, it would sure tell us something about the character.

During the election it was revealed (by his ex wife) that Trump had a book of Hitler speeches in a bedside cabinet. It was erroneously reported as Mein Kampf, and it outraged people. I wouldn't be surprised if other politicians didn't have the speeches too. Hitler was clearly an effective speaker, in that he got so many people to follow him, despite all the hate an vitriol (or because of it?).


message 12: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1057 comments Ok, actually, how about the concept of living simply in nature... that might not be much of a meme if Henry David Thoreau didn't do it and then write the influential Walden.


message 13: by Lalitha (new)

Lalitha (falcon_) | 7 comments NancyJ wrote: "Lalitha wrote: "I would think Mein Kampf would be one of the most controversial books. It changed the course of history, however I am not sure how much of an influence the book alone h..."

Thank you. That was an interesting piece!


message 14: by Lalitha (new)

Lalitha (falcon_) | 7 comments Cheryl wrote: "Ok, actually, how about the concept of living simply in nature... that might not be much of a meme if Henry David Thoreau didn't do it and then write the influential [book:Walden|169..."

This is so true. Gandhi was hugely influenced by Thoreau's book. In a large way it influenced the non-violence movement of his.


message 15: by Brian (new)

Brian | 307 comments Most people know what a Catch-22 is, even if they haven't read the book that coined it.


message 16: by Shanna (new)

Shanna Brian wrote: "Most people know what a Catch-22 is, even if they haven't read the book that coined it."

That's interesting. I didn't know that the booked coined the phrase- not that I thought too much about it, but I guess I assumed the phrase had already been around and the book just borrowed it for the title. It's one of those classics that's on my TBR- maybe I'll move it up the list now!

I thought of another one- a little more obscure, perhaps. Among Geocachers, people milling about a hidden cache but aren't geocachers are called Muggles from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.


message 17: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) Based on my exhaustive review of 3 different web pages, I can confirm that the term Catch-22 did in fact originate from the book by Josephs Heller. One page had an excerpt from the book and it's quite funny. That's two books this week I decided I want to read, despite the fact that they are largely about war.

In a related search yesterday, I spotted the term "shawshanked" and then "pulling a Shawshank." I found many definitions but absolutely no consensus on what those terms might mean. I would have guessed prison break, but others provided ideas that were more meaningful and nuanced, referring to different aspect of the film. (I say film because I doubt many people have read the short story about Rita Hayworth's poster.)


message 18: by NancyJ (last edited Apr 29, 2018 09:50PM) (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) Cheryl wrote: "Ok, actually, how about the concept of living simply in nature... that might not be much of a meme if Henry David Thoreau didn't do it and then write the influential [book:Walden|169..."

Great example. He inspired a movement at the time I think, and still influences people today/


message 19: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) How about Iconic Characters from books? (My mind is stuck for the moment on characters whose faces I can visualize - so movie characters are getting in the way.)


message 20: by ☘Misericordia☘ (last edited Apr 30, 2018 03:32PM) (new)

☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣ (misericordia) | 7 comments Everyone doing books on Greek, Roman mythology is tapping into all of that.
For example:
Circe
Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece

Iliade
Odyssè


Galatea
Pandora
Helen
Agamemnon
Menelaus
Achylles
Ikarus
Daedalus
Odysseus
Nike
Apollo
Aphrodite
Ares
Artemis
Athena (and her owls of wisdom)
Minotaur
Perseus...


message 21: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1057 comments (shout-out to a fellow geo-cacher ;)

"Levels of Hell" is a concept from Dante, no?


message 22: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) Yes, I think that's Dante. I've never actually read it though.

I also never read Faust - making a deal with the devil - but I've seen the idea copied elsewhere. I don't know if this is also the source of the crossroads where you find the devil.

Not to be confused with the idea of coming to a crossroad in your life.


Kelly_Hunsaker_reads ... The Time Machine -- Welles invented the whole idea! The phrase comes from his book.


message 24: by ☘Misericordia☘ (last edited Apr 30, 2018 03:32PM) (new)

☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣ (misericordia) | 7 comments Utopia Self-explaining one.

Don Quixote +1 of the same

Eldorado

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table lots of epic stuff on this: Knights, Queen, Merlin the Wizard...

Most of faity tales are a treasure trove of references:
the Witch
the Hag
the Golden Apple
Cinderella
the King
the Prince (and forget not about his white horse)
the Frog
the Wise One
the Simpleton
the Fairy / Godmother


message 25: by John (new)

John | 548 comments ☘Misericordia☘ wrote: "Everyone doing books on Greek, Roman mythology is tapping into all of that.
For example:
Circe
Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece

[book:Iliade|19394..."


This! I had to read through some of the stories with my kids recently. I didn't realize how many modern concepts originated in Greek myth. Names, actions, ideas, so much has filtered into modern thought and pop culture.


message 26: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline El Dorado is actually a place. Lake Guatavita in Colombia. Beautiful place. We went there about 5 years ago now. There are many stories about El Dorado but the actual story is that the Colombian people (apparently) threw all of their gold into the Lake to stop the Spanish from getting it. Lots of gold in Colombia. And Emeralds. Saw an amazing little village not that far from Lake Guatavita where the lizards in the paving in the square were actually made of emeralds. Beautiful emerald mosaic lizards. Yeahhh...


message 27: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) ☘Misericordia☘ wrote: "Everyone doing books on Greek, Roman mythology is tapping into all of that.
For example:
Circe
Mythos: A Retelling of the Myths of Ancient Greece

[book:Iliade|19394..."


I really want to read The Odyssey (I remember some of it - the Sirens, the men turned into pigs, another man moved into his house) but I guess I have to read The Iliad first. I read some Greek and Roman mythology when I was young, but now it's all a jumble.

I fell in love with marble statues of Cupid and Psyche and I feel like I should know more about them. Do you have a recommendation?

I think mythology must be great inspiration for writers.


message 28: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) Jacqueline wrote: "El Dorado is actually a place. Lake Guatavita in Colombia. Beautiful place. We went there about 5 years ago now. There are many stories about El Dorado but the actual story is that the Colombian pe..."

That sounds beautiful. I don't think I know that story at all.


message 29: by NancyJ (new)

NancyJ (nancyjjj) ☘Misericordia☘ wrote: "Utopia Self-explaining one.

Don Quixote +1 of the same

Eldorado

King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table lots of epic stuff on this: Kn..."


I remember Man of La Mancha when I was a kid, but I've never read Don Quixote. I have an idea of what "tilting at windmills" means in modern life, but I don't think I know what it meant in the context of the book.


message 30: by Jacqueline (new)

Jacqueline I hadn’t heard it either Nancy until we went to Colombia but apparently it is true. Also there was some story to do with gold before that as well. So yes....most mythical stories have some base in fact and that’s where it comes from.

Lake Guatavita is amazingly beautiful. Actually all of Colombia is beautiful. Great food too.


message 31: by Lalitha (new)

Lalitha (falcon_) | 7 comments While on the topic of mythology, Ramayana and Mahabharata are huge influence to this day. They only differ from Iliad or Odyssey in that, the former are studied religiously to this day and form part of a culture that cannot dissociate from them. Quotes, characters and stories from them are often quoted in daily transactions even today at least in parts from where I come from.


message 33: by Cheryl (last edited Oct 05, 2019 08:40AM) (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1057 comments speaking of Cupid and Psyche, their story inspired:
Beauty and the Beast and
East O' the Sun and West O' the Moon

Or maybe the motif is older than all of the above; maybe it's in our collective unconscious. I'm thinking about C.G. Jung and Joseph Campbell though I've yet to actually read anything by them... I know them from the memes of Jungian psychology and the power of myth....


message 34: by Craig (new)

Craig | 30 comments I'm not sure that you can be much more influential than The Bible. From Adam and Eve through the story of Christ and the early church. The King James version is especially quote-worthy.


message 35: by Betsy (new)

Betsy | 884 comments Mod
What a great thread. So much of language has been influenced by the arts, indirectly if not directly, like in these examples above.


message 36: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Cunningham | 14 comments To Kill a Mockingbird
The Color Purple
The Diary of Anne Frank


message 37: by W (new)

W Animal Farm and 1984


message 38: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl  (cherylllr) | 1057 comments Big Brother, for sure.

I don't know if Animal Farm (one of my very favorite books) has anything besides "Four legs good, two legs bad," and I don't know who nowadays even recognizes that.

I think we've named a lot of valuable books that have the power to influence the reader. But I think the original poster was looking for quotes, scenarios, character types, and other iconographic bits that have power even when removed from the book. Without context, we still know the teenage Jewish girl in the attic... even if we can't remember her name or exactly when or why she was hiding.


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