Monday, May 12, 2008

Evil Books

Over at the NY Times, I have just learned that all of societies ills can be blamed on 10 books, plus 5 books that get partial destructive credit. If you want the list you can click over there.

My first thought upon reading this list, was that I should read those books. Except Mein Kampf, which might be useful as a historical document, but I won't be reading it.

This got me thinking about the banned book list that make the rounds every year. There seems to be a strong appeal for some people in declaring one book or another to be dangerous in some way. Personally, I'm more of a freedom of the press guy. Ideas can be dangerous, but you don't stop them by hiding them.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday Five is Alive!

There's a rumor going around that they will remake the Short Circuit movie. Quake with fear!

Now for the Friday Five.

- R.A. Lafferty's Nine Hundred Grandmothers. It is well-known that the best golden and silver age science fiction came in the form of short stories. Lafferty is one of the masters, his strange, tripy, and humorous stories make for excellent reading.

- Colette's The Vagabond. If you haven't read any Colette, go fix that right now. The Vagabond is about a woman's struggle between control of her life, and romantic attachment. There are some things the French just do better, and existential struggles certainly seem to be among them.

- Gustav Meyrink's The Golem. This book has everything, creepiness, a gem cutter, Prague! Seriously, if there were a better surreal story of a Jewish gem cutter in the ghettos of Old Prague who becomes deeply involved with mysterious cursed imagery and the legend of the golem, then I don't know what it is.

- Saul Bellow's Dangling Man. This is the book that launched my abiding fondness for Saul Bellow (can you call it that when you've only read two of someone's oeuvre? I know, I know, I need to read more of them). The strange beast that is one man's life during the year that he waits to be drafted to fight in World War II.

- Anne Fadiman's Ex Libris. Surprised I haven't done this one yet? Me too. She's got a new book out that I need to read also. These are essays about being a reader and lover of books. It's a good cozy collection for anyone who likes books.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quick Question: Future Readers

So here's a quick question as I continue to recuperate from my plague.

For the parents out there, are there any books that you feel a strong need to pass on to your children to read, or have given to your children to read?

If you don't have kids, then if/when, are there any books that you feel it will be important to share?

EXTRA BONUS QUESTION: Parents who have already done this? Did it work out like you hoped?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Friday Five: Sick-as-a-Dog edition

I haven't been posting with the same frequency as I usually do, and that is because I've spent the latter half of this week with some kind of hell-plague.

Anyway, here's your friday five, made up of the books that I can reach on my shelf without moving too much.

-Lenny Bruce's How to Talk Dirty and Influence People. Lenny Bruce is a very funny man, who also became very paranoid. There's the old joke, "is it still paranoia if they are all out to get you?" Sadly, the answer is yes, because paranoia involves a break from the rational, and if he kept it together he might have won. This isn't a judgment on him though. He kept it together longer than I think most people could.

-David Eddings' Belgariad. Ok, This isn't a book, it's a series of five books, but really the five books make up one story. This was my favorite series when I was about 12, and it has stuck with me and everyone else I know who read it around then. If you're an adult you might not want to read it right now, I still enjoyed it when I reread it a couple of years ago, but the flaws in his writing were much more clear. However, if you have a younger person in your life, you should definitely get them this series. Also great fun to read aloud.

-Brian Jacques' Redwall. On the subject of great fun to read aloud, it's hard to top Brian Jacques, he writes many vivid characters with distinctive accents, and there lots of fun to read aloud. Another great book to give the young person in your life.

-Adam Zagajewski's Without End. So far, I have yet to come across a Polish poet that I didn't like. Zagajewski is part of the 'younger' generation of Polish poets, which means he's not currently deceased or in his 90's. Excellent poetry.

-Alan Alda's Never Have Your Dog Stuffed. I'm not typically one to recommend celebrity autobiographies, most of them are only 'as told to' anyway. Alda clearly wrote this though, and it's done well enough that he's got a second coming. He's led a very interesting life. Even though I loved MASH, I love that he spends almost no time talking about the show in this. It's kind of an intentional swipe at the celebrity autobiography market. There's a lot that's very personal, a lot about his father and the burlesque world he grew up in.