As part of week three of the Buccaneer blogfest, we were asked for our five favorite books. In my previous post, I lamented the fact that I don’t read a lot, which made coming up with this list a bit of a challenge. (I cheated a bit by inserting a graphic novel.) The first four came easy enough, but the fifth spot took some thinking. This list represents books that have resonated with me and inspired me in my own writing. What does your top five look like? Comment and let me know!
The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
“But the others were only tired, tired of the winds and the cold and the dark, tired of brown bread and potatoes, tired and listless and dull.”
I love the entire Little House series, but The Long Winter stands as my favorite. I read it at least once a year. When a series of blizzards hits the town of De Smet, South Dakota, the Ingalls family is stuck in their home for months, struggling to stay warm and not starve to death. In many ways the first volume of my upcoming novel Paradise Earth is an homage to this bleak tale of desperate survival.
The Passion by Jeanette Winterson.
“Somewhere between fear and sex passion is. The way there is sudden. The way out is worse.”
The Passion is another book that I enjoy once a year. It was the first book that I read that truly showed me how a novel could be art. It is a love story between a simple French soldier following Napoleon from rule to ruin, and the cross-dressing, web-footed daughter of a Venetian boatman. The narrative is interesting, but it is the exquisite language that lifts this novel into a masterpiece. The words do more than simply move the plot along, but rather explore the rich emotional landscape of character, world, and subject. It is a book about passion, not just the kind that makes two people fall in love, but also the kind that leads ones to the battlefield.
Flex Mentallo: Man of Muscle Mystery by Grant Morrison with art by Frank Quitely
“They love us … They’ve always loved us … They’ve come to save us all.”
Flex Mentallo bumped Ghost World off as my favorite graphic novel. Pop-star Wallace Sage may have taken a bottle of paracetamol or they may have been M&M’s. He may or not be dying. Either way his mind is screwed. He lays down in an alley and phones a suicide hotline, not for help, but to talk about his life and comics and his life in comics. The four-page mini-series constitutes his ramblings that weave in and out of a story about a superhero he created named Flex Mentallo. The narrative is a surreal dose of metafiction peeking at how fiction invades our own reality. In particular it looks at the concept of the superhero through the decades and asks what purpose they serve us.
Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
“Fight club isn’t about winning or losing fights. Fight club isn’t about words. […] There’s hysterical shouting in tongues like at church, and when you wake up Sunday afternoon you feel saved.
Fight Club knocked me over. The prose is sharp and punchy, piercing and pummeling to the meat of the matter. In my own writing I’m not a big fan of long descriptions and settings, so I appreciate Palahnuik’s succinct style. His work also has a conversational style: it reads like an extended monologue. After reading this novel I was ready to declare Palahnuik my new favorite author, but his other books haven’t sold me, exhibiting a degree of sameness, almost to the degree of self-parody.
Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
“They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.”
Geek Love is the kind of novel I could see myself writing as it contains two of my favorite topics: circus freaks and cults. The story is about a family of sideshow performers that uses drugs and radiation to literally birth new talent. One of the children, a boy with flippers for hands and feet, starts a cult which encourages adherents to cut off body parts to achieve inner peace. The novel is creepy and eerie, dark and twisted. Director Tim Burton was said to have bought the rights years ago, but the film remains unmade. That is shame because I would like to have seen Johnny Depp with CGI flippers.