That Facebook Book Meme Thing

My friend Iain Davidson tagged me with the facebook novel meme. Here are the rules: Oh, hell, never mind the rules. I wanted to provide links to the books so I decided to do this as a blog post which I'll paste on my facebook page (and of course tag some unlucky facebook friend).

Here it is. I broke some rules. So what?

Moment in the Sun: Report on the Deteriorating Quality of the American Environment by Dr. Robert Reinow was my Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. As a child I watched Reinow’s Sunrise Semester course on TV a couple of times. He would give a lecture on some manner or other by which humans were ruining the environment. Then he and his wife would put on a skit demonstrating it satirically. I especially remember the Reinow family sitting around to eat a nice dinner, and Mrs. Reinow sneaking over to the stove, opening the top of the pot in which the stew cooked, and dumping in copious quantities of DDT. “This is what we are doing to ourselves!” One day I started a project. I had just started driving and I wanted to visit every public road between Rout 9W and the Hudson River from Albany south at least a couple of counties distance. Early on during that project I came across Holly Hock Hollow Road. It sounded familiar. I drove up the road, and along it were various signs made to look like they were written by elves or gnomes, about this and that aspect of nature or the environment. Finally I came to an unoccupied (at the moment, but lived in) cottage and small complex of outbuildings. I had come to the Reinow estate. I went back a couple of times later but never managed to run into them. The book, which is the point of this paragraph, was prescient. It predicted pretty much everything that happened over the 20 years or so after it was written, from acid rain to DDT. The book made me an angry supporter of the environment, like Reinow was.

I had messed around with the Sherlock Holmes Canon here and there for a long time then one day decided to read them all cover to cover. Then I did it again. Twice. I don’t know why, I just like it.

Karl Hiassen wrote Tourist Season and then he wrote a bunch of other books, fiction, not children’s fiction, with a guy named Skink in them. I use those attributes to define the “Skink Canon” though in truth Skink himself is a relatively minor character in some of the books, and is never the main character. But he is in all of the books. The protagonist and antagonist in his novels shift though they are often similar to each other while Skink stays in place. In the swamps. Where he lives. I guess I like the Skink canon because if I lived in Florida I’d probably be Skink by now.

Everybody seems to either love or hate Anne Rice, and when they do, it is all about the vampires. The vampires are nice, and I would certainly included those stories on a longer list of books, but less appreciated but in my view better is the series related to the Mayfare Witches: The Witching Hour, Lasher, and Taltos. Creepy weird good stories. Take notes, you’ll need them. Maybe a nice genealogy program will help.

Rita Mae Brown wrote a number of novels exploring both related and unrelated themes in the same setting (though sometimes varying the century). This includes a long series co-authored with her cat. Rubyfruit Jungle is her famous, break-through, prize winning work. Amid this larger set of works is a trilogy, if memory serves correctly but I may be missing a piece (and they were written out of order but I’m giving you the historical order of the story here) that I take to represent her larger work. They are: Six of One, Loose Lips, and Bingo.

Marge Piercy’s Gone to Soldiers is an historical novel set during World War II following several different individuals of varying degrees (including zero) of connection to each other.

I read Lord of the Rings when I was too young to totally get it but I enjoyed it. (It was about the second or third “adult” thing I read). Then I read it again when I was older and then one more time. Then, when I as in the Congo with a really bad case of Malaria I read a good part of it again and the story entered my delusional state, which was … interesting. I survived both. I’ll include Hobbit in with the trilogy because it fits.

About the same time I was reading Lord of the Rings, I read The Intelligent Man’s Guide to Science (in my case, two paper back volumes, one on physical science, the other biology). It is how I got introduced to science, sort of (I was actually introduced earlier but this was my first systematic learning of science, insofar as reading a book serves in this way). The science I was reading was a bit out of date but to a kid one digit in age that hardly mattered. Black holes were a conjecture, the big bang as I recall somewhat more accepted. Many particles had not been “found” but that search was very much underway. The biology section sticks with me less probably because I’ve gone ahead and unlearned all of the 1960s biology, since I’m kind of a biologist.

When people ask me what novel to read, I often say “Hey, did you read The Egyptian by Mika Waltari yet? No? Read it!

If you haven’t gotten around to Mastering Regular Expressions yet than you are missing out.

I read One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich in the seventh grade, and it was quite life changing.

I read Deschooling Society (70 Edition) in the ninth grade. It was quite revealing.

I dropped out of school in the 10th grade. But that’s another story and there is no book.

One day my sister said, “You’re kind of a freak, here, read this,” and handed me Welcome to the Monkey House. It was my first adult fiction. I didn’t find it freaky. That must prove I was a freak. Soon after I read Fahrenheit 451, then everything by Bradbury and Vonnegut (available at the time) along with, as mentioned Lord of the Rings. So that is how I got my start on literature.

A Naturalist’s Voyage Round the World: The Voyage of the Beagle is the most revealing of Darwin, within a reasonable volume of words. I don’t know if it changed me but it has stuck with me and I refer to it often.

Although A Perfect Spy might be a perfect Le Carré book, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone who hadn’t already read the Smiley canon. And, really George Smiley is where it is at: Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality,The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, The Looking Glass War, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Honorable Schoolboy, Smiley’s People, and so on (there are about three others).

Sungudogo, the story of a pair of adventurers traveling across the Congo in search of an elusive primate that may or may not exist, reminds me of a lot of things I’ve done myself. Brilliant novel.


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Yeah, with you on Le Carre. (Not all his stuff, mind - Naive and Sentimental Lover was #%^-awful).

I think my first memorable Scifi novel was when I was about 10 was called "Slan", AE Van Vogt (recipients of a human mutation are mercilessly hunted down) then "The Stone that never came down, John Brunner (an unstoppable virus is unleashed on the world). SciFi was awesome.

By Craig Thomas (not verified) on 13 Sep 2014 #permalink

Skink doesn't actually appear in Tourist Season--he is introduced in Hiaasen's second novel, Double Whammy, along with his buddy/liaison to the real wold, Jim Tile--but one of the characters in Tourist Season, Al Garcia, does appear in some of the later books. There is at least one other book that I would consider part of the Skink canon even though Skink does not appear in that book: Skin Tight (both Mick Stranahan and Chemo appear in later novels). I grew up in Miami, graduating high school around the time Hiaasen became prominent as a writer for the Miami Herald[1], and I can attest that the South Florida of the Skink canon is only slightly exaggerated.

I never read any of the George Smiley books, but I did read A Perfect Spy, and decided to avoid Le Carre after that.

I read Slaughterhouse Five as a teen, and re-read it not too long ago. I tried some other Vonnegut works, getting through The Sirens of Titan, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater, and Welcome to the Monkey House. I started Player Piano, but got stuck about halfway through (during the big company get-together on the island), as I somehow found that world less believable than that of other Vonnegut works.

At the moment I am reading The Brothers Karamazov, and am about a third of the way in. It's probably going to take me a while to finish that one.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Sep 2014 #permalink

Whoops, omitted my footnote above:

I was lucky: I got to read Dave Barry's work before he became nationally known, because he was also a columnist for the Miami Herald at the time.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 15 Sep 2014 #permalink

Eric, good point. I had forgotten that (I read the first three novels as they came out, more or less). Yes, Garcia does appear a few times. We can only assume skink was around if not in the actual novel!

I would never recommend A Perfect Spy as a first Le Carre book. It is best appreciated only after reading the prior books, and even then, it is a slog. Perhaps it is self indulgent, even. It is one of the longest books I've ever read where I came away thinking that it would have made a fantastic short story or novella.

When I was in teacher's college in the 74 I was reading Ivan Illich - Deschooling Society made a big impression on me then.

By Doug Alder (not verified) on 15 Sep 2014 #permalink

Breaking rules is good. (But, note, Mr. Hiassen would like you to know he uses a "C" in Carl rather than a "K")

In no particular order--

The Years With Ross by James Thurber
Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
The novel series "Strangers and Brothers" by C. P. Snow. esp. "The Light and the Dark," "The Master," and "The Conscience of the Rich"
Cold Sassy Tree, by Olive Ann Burns
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
Leviathan by Paul Auster
Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (translated by Stephen Mitchell) HBJ publishers
The Mysterious Stranger by Mark Twain
The Razor's Edge by Somerset Maugham
A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Traven
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Complete Stories by Franz Kafka
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard
I Married a Communist by Philip Roth
Empire Falls by Richard Russo
Collected Stories by Ambrose Bierce
Lord of the Barnyard: Killing the Fatted Calf and Arming the Aware in the Cornbelt by Tristan Egolf

Some non-fiction:

The Village Labourer by J.L. and Barbara Hammond
Black Lamb and Gray Falcon by Rebecca West
LTI : Lingua Tertii Imperii ( LTI – Lingua Tertii Imperii: Notizbuch eines Philologen / The Language of the Third Reich ) by Victor Klemperer
The Power Broker by Robert Caro
Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman
The Mysterious William Shakespeare by Charlton Ogburn
John Maynard Keynes (a biography) (Vols. 1-3) by Roebrt Skidelsky
Don't Sleep, There are Snakes by Daniel L. Everett
William Tyndale : A Biography by David Daniell
A Collection of Essays by George Orwell
Metamorphoses by Ovid
Shakespeare's Sonnets and Plays
Literary Criticism of John W. Aldridge:
"In the Country of the Young" ; "In Search of Heresy" ; "Talents and Technicians: Literary Chic and the New Assembly-Line Fiction "
The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper
The Waning of Humaneness by Konrad Lorenz
The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burckhardt
Power, Politics and People: The Collected Essays of C. Wright Mills

By proximity1 (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Interesting book lists, Greg and proximity1.

Regarding "Heart of Darkness": I generally like Joseph Conrad, but somehow THIS [which thanks to the film "Apocalypse Now" is perhaps his mostly widely known work] utterly failed to move, much less disturb me. This goes for reading it, listening to excellent audiobook performances, AND watching the film version(s) plus their derivatives.

My only explanation for my "meh" reaction (would Greg agree?) is that my multi-decade (especially youthful) exposure/ immersion to & in sociocultural anthropology [e.g., African ethnographies] and the late 20th Century's re-formulation of colonialism effectively inoculated me against Conrad's powerful spell, at least in HOD.

On the other hand, I am captivated by "Typhoon" and his short stories, expec. "An Outpost of Progress" and the perhaps less known "Amy Foster," the latter set (surprisingly, for Conrad) in England and on land.

Finally, proximity1, surely Shakespeare's sonnets should be transferred to your "fiction" list? Since I prefer LISTENING to (vs. silently reading) poetry (which is after all an oral medium; plus, I understand it far better aurally), I heartily recommend these samples from the major industry that is Shakespearean audiobooks:

1. SONNETS — Spider's House Audio, via "Learn Out Loud" (Free Download); read by Roy Macready et al.

2. THE SONNETS — ©℗ 2010 HarperCollins Publishers Limited; read by Sir John Gielgud

3. THE COMPLETE SONNETS OF WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE — ℗ 2009 Phoenix; read by Roscoe Lee Browne, Christopher Cazenove, Vanessa Redgrave, David Warner, Elliott Gould, Samantha Eggar, Robert Foxworth, Joel Grey, Juliet Mills, Roger Rees, et al.

As for the illimitable written versions, the best affordable one I've seen (though far from being the most concise or portable, which would be the bare-bones Dover or Kindle editions) — particularly from an annotations standpoint — has got to be the 583-page paperback "SHAKESPEARE'S SONNETS," edited w/analytic commentary by Stephen Booth (Yale 1977/2000). This stunningly rich resource has got to be the "bible" on Shakespeare's sonnets, at least from my perspective.

By Joseph M. (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Follow-up to my earlier Comment:

Although the sources I mentioned should be easily Google-able, all my lovingly inserted links are gone. Is there any formatting trick to making urls show up in Comments here?

By Joseph M. (not verified) on 16 Sep 2014 #permalink

Yes but what abut Sungudogo, the take-off on Heart of Darkness!

I think that HOD flashes in and out for people who have anthropological training. It goes back and forth between being an important and shocking social commentary to being exploitative to being a somewhat incoherent story where the most interesting thing going on is being done by Marlin Brando in a movie, not in the book. For those who actually were Marlin Brando for a while (as everyone is for a while when you are alone or one of two or three in the field under those circumstances) it becomes a full on parody.

Joe I have no idea why your links are gone. If you put links in directly in the text box they should be there. If you copied and pasted from Word or something, we're all lucky the internet didn't break!

Thanks, Greg.

Yes, I put my links into the text box, primarily by pasting them from my iTunes "Description" column or from Google. I suppose the former source might qualify as "Word or something," i.e., the "something" in your last sentence. In any case, as I indicated, the items I mention are all easy enough to locate — although having active links would naturally have helped.

As for my reading of Sungudogo ... Greg, I try not to critique/comment on my friends' books. I will say only that "I knew Joseph Conrad, and you're no Joseph Conrad."

On the other hand, I did enjoy the many anthropological in-jokes.


By Joseph M. (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

You sorely tempt me on the topic of Shakespeare. Rather than expound on it here (okay, that vain hope failed ;^) ) , I'll refer you to The Mysterious William Shakespeare by Charlton Ogburn for a full explanation of why the sonnets are the closest thing we have to an autobiography of "Shakespeare"--a pseudonym which, spelled in his day was usually "shaks-per" and pronounced, "Shocks-pair" which happens to rhyme with Ox-pair, which is a pun: Ox's peer--or "equal"-- "Ox" being the author's actual identity, Edward Oxford--as he was referred to by his noblemen peers, Edward, Earl of Oxford, (the 17th) of the noble and renowned De Vere family.

Damn! I couldn't help it! So I failed at restraining myself on the topic---though you won't find precisely those opinions in Ogburn, as they are mine, though probably not original or unique to me.

My favorite Shakespeare edition is the Bantam Edition by collaborators (director) Joe Papp and (editor?scholar) David Bevington; their paperback omnibus comes in 6 volumes, comprising the works . Wonderful for their annotations and extended related texts on sources and backgrounds.

Trying to understand the plays or the sonnets simply by an unaided ear, shorn of glosses on the now obscure vocabulary and the many allusions in the texts is--as Ogbun's history shows--sheer folly for any modern person.

Besides, unless you actually knew him personally--as did the members of the royal court, and so were in on the many private jokes and insider's sly allusions,--and none of us did, you have to read the texts first before you can hope to grasp them. (Unless you just listen to words for the pleasure of the sound of them and nothing else. ) That's what he intended his distant future audience to do as a prelude to any theatre-going enjoyment. (BTW, he also did the Ovid Metamorphoses translation attributed to his uncle Arthur (Golding) from his mother's side of the family.

A "sea-change" --that phrase, which he coined--- describes how far a distance separates us today from the terms he invented and many of their original meanings and nuances.

By proximity1 (not verified) on 17 Sep 2014 #permalink

i had to stop reading Rita Mae Brown's cat mysteries because her misguided promotion of libertarianism just got old.

By Susan Silberstein (not verified) on 03 Oct 2014 #permalink

I hear ya.

This is what happens to liberal hippies who live in the country too long. I've seen it dozens of times.