Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Books In My Life

You know what, this work thing sometimes really gets in the way of my ability to blog!
But, I was thinking today (I sometimes do that, although that can be dangerous in the workplace)about Henry Miller and his The Books In My Life, a listing and description of many of the books that had an impact or influence upon him, and so I decided to do the same. In mentioning Miller, I guess I'll start with Tropic of Cancer, a work banned in the U.S. until the early sixties, concerning Miller's experiences as a starving artist in Paris in the 30's; a fascinating as well as racy depiction (hence the thirty some year ban)of a young struggling writer's existence. Almost anything by Henry Miller is interesting; he seems like a '60's guy in many ways, though living in the 1930's and '40's.

Thomas Pynchon must be my favorite, though. I had always tried to find someone who could write about how things really are or about how life really is, the true realities of existence, and for me, I think I finally found that in Pynchon a few years back, when I discovered him (for myself, he was already known, albeit in smaller circles). If one word could sum up the Pynchonian view, that word would be ambiguity. This is because Pynchon holds the view that human existence is forever plagued by a notion of ambiguity in that we can never be certain about so many things; God, what lies over the hill, whether this is all really a big plot, a big conspiracy, and so forth, and so we must therefore reconcile ourselves to this in someway, we must find a way to exist and to be at peace. In his works, it's those who don't that become what he calls paranoid , unsure of what lies around the bend, and therefore wanting to crush whatever that might be,instead of perhaps maybe trying to understand it. He provides many examples of this paranoia from our history, and I know that he is having a field day with the situation in Iraq, the war on terror, and so forth. I can't wait for the book. If you'd like to understand his world view in brief form, The Crying of Lot 49 is an excellent depiction of these ideas. Gravity's Rainbow holds much of the same perceptions, although in much larger (700+ pgs.) form.

Arundhati Roy's The God of Small Things won Britain's Booker Prize in 1997, the highest literary prize of that nation (because India, the primary setting, was once part of the Empire, I guess). Quite an accomplishment for a first-time novelist. A story of childhood,of growing up, and most centrally of hidden love,it is a very powerful and moving story, made somewhat complex at first by the large list of characters with Indian names, but well worth the effort of making it through all of the characters in the beginning. This would make a great movie, and plays like a cinema in the mind, but I hear that Roy has balked at ever turning her beautiful novel into a screenplay.

Some others include The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Doestoevsky, The Death of Ivan Ilytch by Leo Tolstoy, Fathers and Sons by Ivan Turgenev and short story collections by Anton Chekov. (Needless to say, I love the Russian writers, they express very well the human condition). I could go on and on, and on, but my shift is ending, my computer at home is broken, and the staff wants to go home. I hope I've included all my big favorites!


Blogger willowtree said...

I've always wanted to write a piece like this, but Ive never ventured. It would be so much easier to write about the TV shows in my life ha.
I was on the fence about reading The God of Small Things, but I will definitely get it now.

Interpreter of Maladies, A Fine Balance, A Passage to India (do you see a theme here?) Frakenstein...Those are some of the books in my life.
You know, you could do a whole in my lifeseries. I think things like these are good to look over- weeks, months, years later, just to see how much or if there are any changes.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Frank said...

I see an "India" theme in there, I think. In that case, you will love "The God of Small Things". As a story-telling style novel, it has to be about my favorite in this genre. The story has an Indian context, but yet is very relational to humanity in general, which always makes for a great story. I always suggest this one, and "The Crying of Lot 49" to people, but for different reasons. "TGOST" is more personal, more novelistic, more touching; while "TCOL49" is more philosophical, more speculative, so it depends also on what mood one is in when one chooses to read either of these. I could go on about books forever, one of the great passions of my life.

11:56 AM  
Blogger Åñèè§å said...

god lol the only books in my life are the ones I had to read for school....given the choice I woulda much prefer the movie n e day....LOL

6:41 PM  
Blogger willowtree said...

Yeah, India has been my theme for the past 2 years now, Ive read all of Lahiri and Mistry, Im working on completing Divakaruni and maybe Desai... maybe. I tried Sharma, but I couldnt stomach him. I wrote to Manil Suri once, and he actually wrote me back. Like- no assistant involved. That was superb. I know Ive read more, but I cant recall who else right now. Too sleepy.
Sometimes, my problem is that there is just too much to choose from.
TGOST was on my list, but I spoke to a girl who hated it so much, she scared the hell out of me, so I took it off my list. Then I found out she was an engineer, and I know many engineers have a much different thought pattern,than my own, so I put it back on the list, but not on the definite side. Until now anyway.
How many books would you say you own?

9:46 PM  
Blogger Frank said...

I think Arundhati Roy started the more recent interest in Indian writers, and although I haven't read most of the others, I think her singular, wonderful novel is probably what started the latest interest(after all, she did win the Booker Prize for it!).
An engineer, you say? Well, I think that says it all, right there! They should stay with the planning, and let the artists do the creating!
I must have around a thousand books; I'm not really sure, but I do know that there in almost every room, and in almost every available space!

4:28 PM  

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