Posts Tagged ‘literature’
…Under God, well maybe not God, maybe Literature.
Erin and I were in the Crapters recently and she asked me an intriguing literary question. If you could only read one nation’s work of literature, the authors must have a birth certificate from this nation and (here is the fun part) you are restricted from reading authors outside of this nation, which nation do you choose?
It is a difficult question to answer. So many wonderful authors from so many different countries: Ireland, Great Britain, Japan, United States, India, Mexico.
Going to think on this for a bit and will respond later, but enjoy. Cheers.
Reading an introduction to The Surrealist Manifesto written by Andre Breton in 1924 I was struck by a phrase that Rainey, the editor to my Modern Literature Anthology attributes to a young Breton growing up, “his omnivorous reading habits.”
I like the idea of certain books being meat oriented (Carnivorous) and some being vegetable based (Herbivorous). It makes me reflect on which category certain authors would find themselves being placed in. Someone like William Shakespeare would be considered a carnivorous read, full of meaty content and sustenance. A writer like Albert Camus though would in my mind be herbivorous by nature. Camus is indeed filling but gently and lightly, not as weighed down by all of the meat, scraps, and offal that Shakespeare brings with his epic folio.
Maybe this is crazy, something to consider though.
I’ve mentioned on this blog at various times how I frequently wander over to the Washington Post Book Section and how I am a member of Michael Dirda’s “Reading Room”, a forum for all things literary. Each week Michael poses one or two threads about various aspects of reading:
- What books get you through tough times?
- What works shaped you as a reader?
- Snacking while enjoying a good book.
- Do movie ruin a good book?
And etc. For those as passionate about reading and literature as I am, it is a great resource for those: What would you put on your top 5 or 10 lists.
Recently Michael Dirda posted a thread asking “What are your ‘Get Well’ Books?” The following is from his post and I felt it was worth blogging and asking with my fellow readers:
Hi, Reading Roomers. (Every time I write “Reading Roomers” I imagine semiologists trying to decipher the subtext of the latest gossip.) I’m still in Ohio with my Mom and— in the way of these things—have just learned that my middle son has broken his leg playing basketball. It’s not the worst break in the world, but it’s changed the complexion of Mike’s summer. Right now he’s been reading through The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes instead of getting ready to hike the Appalachian Trail. When you are sick or your life strands you in a place where you can’t really do much, what books do you imagine reading? Under what conditions would you like to recover as you read them?
So, let me piggy back off of his discussion, what are your ‘imaginary reads’?
I think that if I knew I was going to have a fairly long recovery time in a bed or a hospital (*knocks on wood&), that I would attempt some of the larger literary giants that have up until this point scared me off, largely due to their length: The Brothers Karmazov by Dostoevesky, Les Miserable by Hugo, Gravity’s Rainbow by Pynchon, The Regulations by Gaddis. These are all 500-700+ reads and while I’ve read books of that length before, these authors tend to be fairly well known for being dense. How about you Erin, in what imaginary future do you foresee yourself starting and finishing Oblomov or The Kindly Ones? Some day eh….someday 😉
I recently participated in that loathsome atrocity of the Internet that is known as a “meme”. Thank you for time-wasting activities Faith. 😉
The meme in question asked people to list 30 books that come to mind that they consider impacting on their lives, books that we “carry” with us everywhere, you know, those books that we consider foundational to our personalities. At least those of us who consider ourselves avid readers, bibliophiles if you will.
A number of people cited the standard canonical English Lit. Canon, and there is much in that list that deserves mentioning and most of us have at least 1/3 of our list devoted to such titles.
One thing I saw absent from a number of people’s lists though were children’s books. Often times I think we forget how important those first few books, those first “giant” (or at least what we thought of as giant) reads were and how they subsequently shaped our entire reading future.
I thought I’d list off a few books from my childhood that I know helped shape who I am as a person and my passion for reading.
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
This book is cliche to the point of tackiness. As if someone jumped into Norman Rockwell’s mind and said to him: “I want an image of Americana set in the mountains about a young boy and his love of dogs and the outdoors.” Rockwell projected his image into Wilson Rawls and there we have it. [ Reading that back I realize how stupid that comparison sounds, but it works somehow. ]
I have a worn out copy of this somewhere in a box and I mean worn, the pages are starting to fall out from having been read so much. I think that all children go through that phase where they desperately want for a young puppy. This book captures that feeling admirably and if you’re looking for a very simple and clean story, this is worth picking up, and it is about a day’s worth of reading.
A young boy who comes from a poor family that cannot afford any puppies, so the young boy listens to some common advice: God helps those who help themselves. And this is exactly what he does, works hard at his chores and at odd jobs so that he can save up enough to purchase the dogs himself. A simple enough story but it’s full of adventure, violence, love, death, so much more. Check it out. Cheers.
Reading an article in the New York Times about Jodi Picoult and the Anxious Parent, a look at a recent book trend:
“THE ENDANGERED OR ruined child has emerged as a media entity within a culture that has idealized the responsibilities of parenthood to a degree, as has been exhaustively noted, unprecedented in human history. The more we seek to protect our children, the more we fear the consequences of an inability to do so. Increasingly over the past decade, writers of crime fiction — Harlan Coben and Dennis Lehane among many others — have made a recurring subject of children violated by predation, abandonment, neglect.” […] ““I think I gravitate toward these subjects because I’m looking for answers and I don’t have them,” Picoult told me. “But mostly I think it is superstition. There is a part of me that believes that if I think about these issues, if I put myself through the emotional ringer, I somehow develop an immunity for my own family.”
Picoult’s thoughts on putting herself “through the emotional ringer” is something that I often think about when reading literature. I’ve had many different discussions with my friends, most of whom are as passionate as I am about literature and one thing that consistently comes up is how the stories that resonate the most with us, as people, are the ones that are often the most violent, most emotionally crippling, or tragic.
There is no doubt that we all enjoy light comic reads from time to time, but personally, the stories that I re-read over and over again center on the tragedy. Two books that I can read over and over again, The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas & The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien both rely heavily on tragic and often destructive story lines that take characters into intense and often destructive places. Yet, I turn to these books whenever I seek comfort because I take comfort in these characters and their ability to face these situations, whether they win or lose.
It seems that literature often depends on the Tragic, a way of working through these issues. Random thoughts.
This is my first introduction to Cormac McCarthy who is best known for his Border Trilogy which comprises of one book that I think many have at least heard of it not read, All the Pretty Horses. It is hard for me to talk about his style as this book is different from many of his previous which seem to predominantly focus on an aging western landscape. The Road is an amazing book that will be hard to put down. The writing is fragmented and sparse which reflects the narrative, a tale of a boy and his father as they traverse a barren landscape. Some kind of natural or man-made disaster has decimated the entire population and its landscape. In this world everyone is homeless and all men are thieves to some capacity.
Some walk on the road struggling to live. Some eat others. Some capture others. Some wish only to be left alone. To own something is to be burdened and these are some of the issues that this father and son confront as they walk this landscape, struggling to make sense of their lives. Life consists of a rather dull routine for these two: wake up, find food, walk, find more food, eat, hide, sleep; repeat.
The subject of the story is depressing and rather serious, so this is not a light read, but rest assured it is also short, only 287 pages. The pacing as I said is quick and the writing is broken up which makes the reading flow much smoother. Just as these two characters, who are simply referred to as Man and Boy, break up their day into small segments, so too is the writing.
If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll pass it along to you. Also, as a side note: the book has already been adapted into a film starring Viggo Mortensen, Charlise Theron, Robert Duvall, and Guy Pierce. From what I’ve seen of the trailer, it looks to be fairly faithful to the original story.
Just started The Road by Cormac McCarthy and my first thoughts; I’m truly blown away by the style of writing (sparse and fragmented) and how McCarthy is able to place the reader alongside the two traveler protagonists. Glad I settled on this after Sag Harbor, needed something dark to get away from the happy go light summer read that was Whitehead.