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15 Books in 15 Minutes June 11, 2009

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.

Ok, I’m not crazy about memes but the delightful Grace Athas (spouse of Peter aka Adrastos) tagged me with it on Facebook so I feel I should and it seems to be on topic with the general direction of the blog lately.

Fifteen Books in Fifteen Minutes: list 15 books in fifteen minutes that have stuck with you through life, books you keep returning to.

Easy enough, that.

The Long Way by Bernard Moitessier is one of the great sea adventures and one of the great journeys of personal discovery. He set out in the first “around alone” sailboat race in the 1960s with no radio, and quit before the end to stop in Tahiti a profoundly changed man.

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon is the great book of our generation, hands down. An encyclopedic and cryptic synthesis of everything wrong with modern life. If you want to know how to survive postdiluvian New Orleans, read this book. We are In The Zone.

100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez really needs no endorsement from me. If you read this blog you’ve probably read this book. If not, you can borrow my copy.

Little, Big by John Crowley stands equal to 100 Years in my mind as a profoundly imaginative work of fantastic fiction in which the characters live and breath as true as anyone you know. Of all the books I have read the world of the Drinkwaters is the one into which I would escape into if I could.

I had best not let poetry wait until the end. The Collected Works of Wallace Stevens is one I turn to again and again. I still have the wing-ringed and cigarette burned Selected I first read in college. Read Sunday Morning at my funeral.

The Dream Songs by John Berryman is the most remarkable use of the vernacular in poetry since Virgil. Well, I think so, but who cares about my opinion? Read one for yourself. (You can read this at my funeral as well. Damn I’m in a morbid mood, but if I don’t write these instructions down somewhere everyone’s going to forget in the hurry to figure out where to go drink after the funeral).

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson. Not a book you should try to model your life after. At least, not for an extended period of time. Just sayin’.

I don’t know whether to select the short story collection Blow Up or the novel Hopscotch by Julio Cortazer. The latter is a difficult novel to read in any order of the chapters, but I find it the most fascinating study of a set of bohemians anywhere. Given the choice of spending time with these people or with the Beats, I think I would chose The Club. And I see myself too clearly in Horacio.

Under the Volcano by Malcom Lowry. If you’ve even spent significant time in close company of an alcoholic, the truth of this book will get through to you. It is another dark book with a subtheme of the state of the modern world in the 30s. Think of it as a prequel to Gravity’s Rainbow. I also found an echo of postdilluvian New Orleans in this book once as well.

I can’t pick a single book by Carlos Castaneda, but I have a spine broken copy of the first three books that replaces my original copies lost back in the days when I thought they were an instruction manual. It turns out they were; I was just following the wrong part of the instructions. (Update: Yes I know its a fraud. No that does not change it’s impact on my life.)

I have a slim Selected Poems of Frederico Garcia Lorca (the Modern Library one) that is the one book I have probably taken from my shelf more times than any other volume. I really need to pick up the new thick paperback of the Collected en face.

Modern fantasy is a lately acquired habit of mine and it would be hard to single out one book by either Neil Gaiman or Charles de Lint, but I want to list both of them here. And I keep picking up Gainman’s recent Fragile Things collection over and over again when I need something to read. It is making it’s way onto this list. Pick up just about anything either have written for guaranteed enjoyment.

On the subject of fantasy, I’ve never gotten over Tolkien Trilogy and then some. He is the original master.

As much science fiction as I read in my youth it seems odd that nothing comes to mind as a book imprinted on my consciousness. I tend to gobble them up and spit them back out like potato chips, even to this day. Dahlgren by Samuel R. Delaney is probably the single work which can just barely claim the genre that has really made a mark, and led me to read it more than once (and it is a difficult book).

Howl, by Allen Ginsberg, I will offer up as the placeholder for everything by the Beat generation. I haven’t read On the Road for quit ea few years, but have pulled down Howl many times.

Wow, this took way more than 15 minutes, but I can’t just make a list without offering some comment. That’s just who I am.

On further thought (and after a pointed comment) I will note that when I first typed this then clicked it stupidly into the ether directly on Facebook, Confederacy of Dunces was on the list. This time it didn’t pop into my head with the other books. But then fifteen is such are arbitrary number. If I had to strike one book (based not just on initial impact and lifetime re-reads but how recently I’ve re-read it, we’ll strike Malcom Lowry for John Kennedy Toole.

Also omitted is Jorge Louis Borges, who really should be on any list of mine. We’ll just pretend I mentioned him in the context of Neil Gaiman like I did when I first wrote this.

Chalk it up to free association.


1. KamaAina - June 12, 2009

What? No “Dunces’?

John Kennedy Toole may haunt you…


2. Editilla~New Orleans Ladder - June 12, 2009

Ok, since I don’t, errrah’hem, run in your circles please allow me to play this game anyway. Your list is maniacally synchronistic with my own, so I will try not to repeat. Really though, this explains much, Noble Mon. Damn…

*Gravity’s Rainbow is off the list as doubtless you have noticed its first two lines in the masthead of the Ladder.
**These are books which I have read at least twice, which have turned my soul clock at least a full 24.
*** Sometimes I will simply list an only author as their body of work influences me as profoundly as particular volumes
**** It’s just hard to play favorites wit’da gods ya’know?.
***** The I Ching~ Wilhelm / Baynes edition and the Tao Te Ching, Translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English… jus’sayin.

1) Absalom, Oh Absalom~William Faulkner {I have read a lot of Faulkner, grew up about 20 miles from there}
2) Sidhartha~Herman Hesse (Lots’0’Hesse too}
3) Neuromancer trilogy~William Gibson
4) Cryptonomicon, and the resultant prequel trilogy: The Chaos Series {all of Neil Stevenson’s books}
5) Kurt Vonnegut
6) Providence ~Will Campbell
7) 4 Quartets ~T.S. Eliot
8) Jules Louis Borges {big fan of S Americans in general too}
9) Last Call Trilogy~ Tim Powers
10) VALIS~ Phillipe K. Dick {all PKD}
12) Issac Asimov
13) Uplift trilogy~ David Brin
14) Conversations with Lord Byron ~Ernest Lovell {my uncle}
15) Heavy Weather~ Bruce Sterling
16) Sacred Spaces~ Tom Rankin {book of Black-folk churches all within a few miles of where I grew up… had to add it too, just thought you will enjoy that one.}

Thanks youz


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