The other day I was browsing a yard sale, when the proprietor, a man about my age in a tank top and baggy shorts, with a cigar stuck in his face, said, "Hey, I think this box of romance novels has your name on it. I'll make you a deal!" I was stunned. I physically recoiled. Do I look like someone who reads romance novels?! I turned on my heel, went straight to my car and drove away as quickly as I could.
Old FriendsCoincidentally, last night I was reading blogs and Diane Perin Hock, who always has great book recommendations, had this meme about books on her blog. I thought I'd give it a shot.
One book that changed your life: Life-changing is a tall order for a book, but one book that stands out in my mind as really affecting me was Franny and Zooey, by J.D. Salinger. It was probably because of my age and my place in life, when I read it. I was in college and I wasn't going through the existential crisis that Franny was, but I could feel what she was feeling and knew those people she was so tired of—"the haters"—the snobbish, the intellectually superior. I understood her need for escape, for turning inward and lolling and indulging. And then, in the second story, her brother Zooey tells her stories and points out the obvious, yet not so obvious truth that in her search for religion and meaning she is missing the holy all around her. "You don't even have sense enough to drink when somebody brings you a cup of consecrated chicken soup--which is the only kind of chicken soup Bessie ever brings to anybody around this madhouse."
I read this book again every few years. I own a worn hardcover copy and it has dried leaves and notes tucked into it. At the end I feel as Franny does. It leaves me peaceful, smiling at the ceiling.
One book you’ve read more than once or twice: Franny and Zooey, (see above). Another book I have read several times and am probably due to read again soon is The World According to Garp, by John Irving. It is funny, tragic, sad, bizarre, but the characters are moving and human and make you care so much for them. When Garp chases down cars that speed through his neighborhood to lecture the drivers on safety and the danger to his children, anyone with children will identify with that irrational fear and hyper awareness of how dangerous the world can be.
One book you’d want on a desert island: Oh, this is just too hard. If I had only one book, I'd probably read it and then walk into the ocean.
One book that made you laugh: Me Talk Pretty One Day, by David Sedaris. Actually, anything by David Sedaris makes me laugh.
One book that made you cry: Beloved, by Toni Morrison, really brought home the inhumanity of slavery in such personal terms.
One book you wish had never been written: Well, anything with a message of hate. Mein Kampf comes to mind, though I've never read it.
One book you’re currently reading: Portrait of an Artist: A Biography of Georgia O'Keefe, by Laurie Lisle. I am slogging through this book. I am interested in Georgia O'Keefe, but this seems a very dull, dry biography. It is also a poorly printed book and irritating to read because the type is ugly and blotchy looking.
One book you’ve been meaning to read: The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon. It's on my nightstand. I started reading it, but my mind wandered. I couldn't focus. But it has gotten rave reviews and sounds quirky and funny, so I am going to give it another go. Maybe it's a book for a long airline flight or a stormy day.
*And that "crap" that I have been reading? The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks. Pure schmaltz. This book was a big bestseller, but it is so gaggishly romantic and goopy and poorly written I was embarrassed for the author. Yech. If you want it I'll send it to you—don't pay money for it—but honestly, you don't want it.