Friday, May 12, 2006

A Thing About Books

The blogger of whom I am most in awe is Patry Francis, who not only writes consistently good stuff on her blog, Simply Wait, but is a real writer, with her first novel under contract to come out next spring. I am honored that she frequently drops by and leaves comments. She is doing a book meme, which means that she blogs on a topic that is going around the blogosphere and then tags other bloggers to write about the same topic. So, this is the most recent meme with which I have been tagged.

The three most influential books in my life:

1. The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. I read this book when I was 19 years old, and all of a sudden I saw with such clarity the religious mileu in which I was brought up that it was like scales had dropped from my eyes. I don't recommend Hoffer's other books, most of which are nonsense.

2. The Holy Bible (King James version, thank you very much.) Growing up in the culture that I did, I would have to be deluding myself not to list the Bible, although as much of the influence has been negative as positive. I do not believe the Bible is THE inspired word of God, although it contains inspiring passages, just as many other spiritual books contain inspiration. Our job is to separate out the parts that are destructive from the parts that inspire us to be more like God.

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh. Much of Christian history is a history of death and destruction. If Christianity to have any ethical validity, it has to give up its exclusivist claims as the only way to salvation and learn from other traditions. Hanh shows how that can be done.

Three books I've read more than once:

1. Swann's Way by Marcel Proust. Okay, I'm in the process of reading it for the second time, but I'm maintaining my pace of 10 pages a day and it is a great book that I should have reread several times by now.

2. The Scarlett Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I recently reread this book for our reading group and will post a book report about it soon. Besides being a classic, the book is surprisingly modern, with a lot more meat than the novels by Dickens who was almost a contemporary.

3. Duane's Depressed by Larry McMurtry. No book list would be complete without naming one of McMurtry's novels. Although McMurtry is better known for his Lonesome Dove trilogy, he has written a lot of great books. This one is about a businessman who gets fed up with the rat race and starts walking every place and reading 10 pages of Proust a day. I've gotten the second part of his make over down, now I need to figure out how to give up the rat race.

Three great books that I personally hated:

1. Moby Dick. It has been a long time since I tried reading it, so maybe I should try again. But it is one of the few books that I have not been able to finish, and I finish everything, no matter how hard the going, so I do not think I am up for trying it again.

2. The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. This book reminds me of castor oil, something that young people two centuries ago had to take because it was supposedly good for them, but whose salutary effects were far outweighed by the gag reflex.

3. The Deerslayer by James Fenimore Cooper. Give me a break; who decided that this book is a great classic that school children must read? The only good thing about the book is that it became the occasion of this satirical review by Mark Twain.

Three Pure Pleasures:

1. Glitz by Elmore Leonard. Well, actually I could just list three Elmore Leonard books here. Another one I really liked was Get Shorty. Okay, so Leonard writes trashy crime novels, but they are so well done. I have them all.

2. Until I Find You by John Irving. p.g., my critic friend, has convinced me that it is wrong to like this book. Irving may be too public about airing his own sexual hangups, but he is such a good writer that I can't condemn him. So, I'll go ahead and like the book, but feel guilty about it.

3. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. I scoff at Jane Austen to my wife; I am philosophically opposed to the "Masterpiece Theater" type of literature with its upperclass English and their high-falutin' ways. But Austen did make me smile with her subtle humor. (Don't tell my wife.)

Three great books I should have read, but haven't--not yet:

1. Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov. Nabokov is formidable but such a great writer.

2. Middlemarch by George Eliot. Just another case of literary ignorance on my part. I didn't realize what a good writer Eliot was until recently when I read Silas Marner for the first time.

3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Garcia Marquez. His fans tell me I must. I'm afraid it's too surrealistic.

Three books I recently ordered:

1. The Hot Kid by Elmore Leonard.

2. Ordinary Heroes by Scott Turow.

3. Beethoven by Edmund Morris.

Now, as I understand how this book thing works, I have to tag other bloggers to write on the same topic. I tag:

Dream Kitchen
Old Secretary
The Decider
When I Grow Up


rdl said...

Sorry but I've already been tagged by Patry too, just been dragging my feet. Nicely done.

Patry Francis said...

Lots of interesting choices. This is the second time I've seen you mention Duane's Depressed. I really do have to read that one. Also Pale Fire. That's another one I've been meaning to get to.

p.s. Thanks for the kinds words.