Saturday, September 13, 2008

Books that...

This from Verbivore, our 'man' in the Alps.

A book you have read more than once

I read Iris Murdoch's The Black Prince more than once. Once for the pure joy of reading it, the second time to prepare for an audition for a theatrical adaptation that, so far, hasn't taken place. At least not in New York. I've read Franny and Zooey countless times. I've read Virginia Woolf's Orlando, Mrs. Dalloway, and The Waves multiple times and Hesse's Narcissus and Goldmund and Chiam Potok's My Name is Asher Lev.

A book you are currently reading

As you can tell from the pictures on my side bar, that would be books, plural. As in too many. Middlemarch, The Dead Fish Museum, In the Land of No Right Angles, and Cognitive Development are the ones that are seriously in progress. Oh, and Side Effects, which is not up there. I got hijacked by C.J.'s short story challenge which is how The Dead Fish Museum came about. I knew the author of In the Land of No Right Angles in a past life and I just couldn't resist reading it. I have really got to get back to the other two. I'm missing Middlemarch, but I have only been able to sit down to read some fiction after 11pm and I would have to be able to stay awake through a whole chapter to warrant opening it.

A book you would want on a desert island

I'm pretty consistent on ye olde desert island question - the complete works of Shakespeare. That may be cheating as one book, but it is a common single volume and it has variety enough to last a lifetime, if that would be what I spend on this island. For writing of quality of interest for its form as well as its sheer range of human content, Shakespeare cannot be beat. If forced to pick a volume with only one work in it, maybe
Hopeful Monsters because it's about so many things I don't know if I could get bored with it.

A book that made you laugh

Woody Allen's Side Effects - funny, it's the same title as the Adam Phillips book I'm reading now. I guess one is a book by a psychiatrist writing about neurotics and the other is a book by a neurotic writing about psychiatrists. What made me laugh in Allen's book is an essay about the invention of the Heimlich maneuver by inducing choking in rats. I haven't yet had a laugh at Adam Phillips book. It is largely about Freud and mental illness so I don't expect that will change.

A book that made you angry

Being and Nothingness. I had to read this book for a class in existentialism in my final year of undergraduate school. My god, is it infuriating. I threw it against the wall of my room.

A book that made you cry

Nicholas Nickleby.,
The death of Smike. Every time. The end of Tony Morrison's Sula, read in an ice cream store in Pittsburgh.

A really intense book

, see above. Crime and Punishment would be right up there. At Swim Two Boys was fairly intense - great novel and I never see anybody mention it any more. The Goldbug Variations is an amazing experience - such range, such intellectual energy, such passion - a scientific puzzle, a mystery and a love story all wrapped up into one.

A book you wish had never been written

There may have been books I wish I had never read, I'm not sure there are books I wish were never written. Well, that's not true. Some of the utter crap, like books telling people not to read Harry Potter because he practices magic from the devil. Books that teach people that some people are good, that others are not, and that there is a formula you can follow to be good. Any book that encourages anyone to evangelize.

A book you would recommend to almost anyone

For Kings and Planets
by Ethan Canin, although many people I have recommended it to didn't like it as much as I did. I think Canin is essential contemporary writing and think this one the best of his novel-length works. Charles Baxter's Shadow Play. My Name is Asher Lev - great, great story and I think everyone should experience reading Chiam Potok. Tim Winton's Cloud Street - without a doubt. Great moving story, beautiful inventive language. Truly a great reading experience.

A book that changed your life

Them's big words. I'm going to contradict every rant I have ever had about self help books and mention one I read, liked, and used - Coming Out to Parents. It's full of practical and compassionate advice and it is not as narrow as it sounds. It is about 'coming out' to anyone about anything. But that one literally changed my life. My Name is Asher Lev was my bible of the outsider experience. It was a book that gave me courage to be what I wanted and not what others wanted me to be. Paul de Kruif's Microbe Hunters was the book I read in my adolescence that introduced me not merely to the wonders of science and to experimenting in the lab in particular, but also to the idea of relentlessly pursuing your curiosity about anything and having that be worthwhile. Great book for young readers. The Vakhtangov School of Stage Art by Nikolai Gorchakov. A book that taught me there was another director who thought about theater the way I did. Brilliant book about the great student of Stanislavski who ended up founding a satellite studio of Stanislavski's own at the Moscow Art Theatre, directing several brilliant projects, and dying at around age 40. And The Music Theatre of Walter Felsenstein by Peter Paul Fuchs - a book that taught me there was another director who thought about opera the way I did. Anecdotes about the marvelous head of the Director of the Komische Oper in East Berlin from the late 1940s until the 1970s.


Anonymous said...

Ted, I'm with you on Nicholas Nickleby, which I have read at least twice, I can't remember exactly. I read it for the the touching moment of the plot that makes you cry.

Ditto to Sartre. Your answer reminds me of "Existentialism from Dostoevksy to Sartre" which was required for philosophy and literary theory.

It's been on my conscience that I have not read Chiam Potok; and honestly I don't quite get Franny and Zooey!

Anonymous said...

I haven't yet read Chiam Potok and I realize I may be missing something incredible...but he's on the list. I have Sula here on a shelf and am avoiding it until I have a week where I know I can handle the intensity. Beloved and The Bluest Eye gave me nightmares so I handle all Morrison with caution.