Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Baker’s Dozen plus Two that Fell on the Floor.

15 books that come to mind in 15 minutes, as per Bleak Mouse (He’s ……ALIVE!) via Cowtown Pattie via Whisky Prajer, in no order of importance.


The timer is on.

1) Blood of the Lamb by Peter DeVries. I’ll let Mr. WP have the last word on this novel.
2) Catch-22 by Joseph Heller. The best introduction to the ridiculousness of the world and anything involving plans to a young man.
3) Meet Mr. Mulliner by P.G. Wodehouse. Because everyone enjoys a good story even when button-holed before leaving the premises.
4) Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. Because sleep and the road to sleep are sacred.
5) The Life and Extraordinary Adventures of Private Ivan Chonkin by Vladimir Voinovich. Chonkin is Schweik's Russian cousin who proves stupidity is the wisest position to assume when dealing with the insanity of war.
6) Immortality by Milan Kundera. It's between Calvino and Kundera, for me, as to who's the most beautiful and heavy-hitting of writers.
7)Good Soldier Schweik by Jaroslav Hasek. War is ridiculous. The Army's a joke. Hey! Let's go have an Urquell.
8) Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. Idealism on a horse that never shits.
9) The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. The best laid plans on how to use adjectives.
10) Spinky Sulks by William Steig. "Then they made him watch a parade!" How cruel can parents get!?!?
11) The Sportswriter by Richard Ford. Jersey, low level smolder and collapse.
12) If On a Winter’s Night, a Traveller by Italo Calvino. Calvino is in another world gliding by like a satellite you'll never be on.
13) East of Eden by John Steinbeck. I read this after college on a 4 month hitchhiking trip through Europe. Steinbeck scared the shit out of me as to how great a writer he was.
14)Nobody's Fool by Richard Russo. Every day dialogue spun to a cherished and unforgotten poem.
15) It's very hard to make one pick of Billy Collins' books of poems, so I'll go with The Art of Drowning. I carry one of his books, usually this one, in my briefcase daily. I pull it out and open haphazardly for a blessing for a difficult day. He is, IMHO, the most accessible poet of mulled over observations, whose delight in things mundane brings nobility to each day's passing.

Faithful readers, please, start ruminating in the next 15 minutes and make your own picks.

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Comments:
Ah, interesting choices!

I, too, thought immediately of Catch-22, but then forgot it as I mulled over titles in my brain.

Catch-22 is probably a generational thing anyway.

And yes, authors like Steinbeck make me feel exactly as you described.

This is fun, no?

Maybe we should take a cue from WP, and make a 15 (or whatever number suits your fancy) books we wished we had NEVER read.

Bleak Mouse only comes out after dark mostly. *grin*.
 
The Blood Of The Lamb is a wonderful novel. Check out Reuben, Reuben, if you haven't already read it.
 
"Idealism on a horse that never shits." Forgive me for saying so, but there is a poetry to your list, particularly in this line as it follows on the heels of Švejk.

And I, too, was walloped by Bleak Mouse's quiet reappearance -- on CP's blog!
 
CP, I think that 15 books we wish we had NEVER read would be tough, at least for me. I tend to abandon a book if the first 80-100 pages don't grip me. WP must be a true slogger, going to the end of even the least rewarding book. My hat's off to him!

K, thanks for the note. I'd read "Reuben, Reuben" and also enjoyed it. The crown jewel, IMHO, in DeVries' pantheon is "Blood of the Lamb". While I love most of his other books, I don't think he's ever as gritty and as toothy as in BOTL.

WP, How many books were pushing their way into that last #15 slot for you? Most of the 15 minutes seemed to be involved with picking the last straggler, for me at least.
 
There were six books vying for the #15 spot, and none of them were Mr. Crowley's. Embarrassing, that. But I generally approve of time constraints like this one.

I liked your Steinbeck inclusion, too. A bigger writer than Hemingway, really. When I was in University the guys I hung around wanted to write the next The Sun Also Rises. But Steinbeck's grand vision was ... grand. And his readers are the better for it.
 
WP,
I'm with you completely re. the Steinbeck v. Hemingway comparison.
Though I've read 3-4 of Hemingway's books, I never understood the hype. With the exception of "Old Man & the Sea" which I did find amazing due to the tiny, tiny stage that the book and the two main characters(one of which was pretty much dead through most of the book and only spoke in Piscine) that Hemingway successfully worked on, none of his books carried the heft of Steinbeck's.
Steinbeck was the man.
 
...and, please (I'm serious) what have I missed about Fitzgerald!? Another tortured soul writer, or something else?
 
Darko, as a Fitzgerald lover, I'd argue that no other American writer of the 20th C. could put words together like him ("the silver pepper of the stars"). Having said that, there's no question that his rep comes down Gatsby, the first part of Tender Is The Night, The Last Tycoon, and some of the short stories.

Gatsby, to me is the quintessential American novel, especially in the way it addresses the illusions of wealth and class. The Grapes of Wrath looks at the same issues from the other end, and I won't argue with anyone who prefers it.
 
K,
Thanks, again, for dropping by. I certainly won't argue with a Fitzgerald lover....but your note that no other American writer of the 20th C. could put words together like him, prompts me to list the (better) alternate of Mr. DeVries or (and here I stretch, mightily and with no malice intended to Canadians coming to this site) Mr. Michael Ondaatje (one of whose books I should have listed in the "15 in 15 minutes" list).

But one can't (and shouldn't) argue with another's love, so I'll thank you again for dropping by
 
You're right: It's pointless to debate another's love, especially when they're all so deserving! Hope to see you on Citizen K.!
 
P. S. I like your music selection. They inspired me to break out my Booker T. and the MGs box set! I'll post a video of them tomorrow.
 
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