Monday, May 14, 2007

INTERMISSION



It happens sometimes. You're sitting comfortably in your theater seat, a ginormous tub of artificial buttery-flavored popcorn in your lap, a drum of cola in the cup holder, all is well with the world.... and then the phone/pager/whatever goes off. So it's back out to the lobby to see who's calling.

Turns out it's D. G. D. Davidson over at The Sci-Fi Catholic passing along a meme he inherited from Thursday Night Gumbo. It's my first meme and my initial reaction is to feel flattered. I've only been blogging a short time and from what I can tell, the meme is kind of the blogosphere's way of saying, "Gooble Gobble, Gooble Gobble, we accept you, one of us!" But then I realize I'm supposed to respond to it and write something. No big deal right? We're bloggers, we write.

Well, the meme is the latest Booked By Three where you list three books everyone should read, three authors everyone should read, and three books nobody should read. Books? What are these things which you call "books"? I'm the guy who watches movies all the time! You mean I'm supposed to read something other than subtitles? Oh well, I'll give it my best shot. But looking around at some of the other responses to the meme it's easy to see that most of the big guys have already been mentioned. Lewis, Augustine, Chesterton, Tolkien, Shakespeare, Hemingway, The Bible, Tolstoy, they've all gotten their due. And I could go that route. The Hobbit really was a life changing book for me in the fifth grade and I've been known to crack open the Bible on occasion. But I've got a shtick to uphold so I think I'll approach the meme the same way I do my movies. Following are some books you might not normally go to for high-brow literary merit, but I feel might reveal something worthwhile if you just dig deep enough. Or in the case of the last three, books that try to reveal something worthwhile but end up falling a bit short. (I'll also follow D. G. D. Davidson's lead and separate the first category into non-fiction and fiction.)

THREE NON-FICTION BOOKS EVERYONE SHOULD READ (PROBABLY)

1. Any good Art History survey book, especially if it is Contextualist in it's approach. Wait, don't nod off! With a good art history survey you can learn all the stuff you can in regular history AND you get pictures! Plus, developing visual literacy is probably a good idea in a multi-media culture. If nothing else, you'll be able to explain in important sounding words why most modern Christian church buildings are hideous and psychologically detrimental to a religion which believes in the Incarnation.

2. If Chins Could Kill - Bruce Campbell's autobiography on how he got his start in B-Movies. This tome is representative of why B-Movie and character actors often deserve more respect than their mega-star counterparts. At the end of the day, no matter how much you love your craft, it's still just a job and isn't the most important thing in the world. (If you're not a Campbell fan, you can replace this with How I Made A Hundred Movies In Hollywood And Never Lost A Dime by Roger Corman.)

3. Holiness For Beginners - a really short, but brilliant, book by Benedictine monk Dom Hubert Van Zeller that guarantees holiness! Of course, he spent 60 years in a monastery, so there's a bit of a commitment factor involved for best results.

THREE FICTION BOOKS EVERYONE SHOULD READ (MAYBE)

1. The Haunting of Hill House - One of the best written stories ever, regardless of genre.

2. The Stand - Critic Harold Bloom dismisses Stephen King as a writer of Penny Dreadfuls. G. K. Chesterton writes in "A Defence of Penny Dreadfuls" that "one of the strangest examples of the degree to which ordinary life is undervalued is the example of popular literature, the vast mass of which we contentedly describe as vulgar." At the age of twelve you couldn't pay me to read Moby Dick, but I read this book in a few days. And it has some themes I still appreciate all these years later; a near-apocalyptic struggle fought on physical and spiritual planes, characters who may be gray but must choose sides that are clearly drawn in black and white, and a climatic battle which is won not through a mighty battle but by a small sacrifice.

3. Tropic Of Cancer - I would be dishonest if I didn't include this, having read it three or four times during my "I don't need no stinkin' organized religion" days. Big chunks of the book are offensive to the Christian worldview (or even a moralistic Atheist view for that matter), but when the book isn't venturing into borderline pornography, the prose has a quality irritatingly missing in many modern Christian friendly works; the sheer beauty and joy of living, even (and sometimes especially) when suffering or living in squalor. "It is now the fall of my second year in Paris. I was sent here for a reason I have not yet been able to fathom. I have no money, no resources, no hopes. I am the happiest man alive."

THREE AUTHORS EVERYONE SHOULD READ (POSSIBLY)

1. Lewis Carroll - Because a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men, and even more so by goofs like me.

2. St. John of the Cross - In these days of the Buddy Christ it's okay to remember Christianity can occasionally be tough, miserable, and lonely.

3. E. E. Cummings - All the joy of Henry Miller with 99% less pornography!

THREE BOOKS NOBODY SHOULD READ (UNTIL PROPERLY WARNED)

1. American Psycho - This is meant to be some kind of indictment of 1980s decadence and an American society which creates monsters like the protagonist by continuously championing banality in all of its forms. For my tastes, it's really just a steaming pile of pretentious dog squeeze.

2. The Fountainhead - I'm sure this is arguable and just lost me the respect of a number of people, but for me this wasn't literature, it was pontification glossed over with a plot that stretches suspension of disbelief thinner than any sci-fi/fantasy novel I've ever read.

3. A Separate Peace - Okay, not really. But they forced me to read this in high school rather than Of Mice And Men. I've held it against the book ever since. And it is pretty boring, so there.

Well, that was a lot more long winded than necessary (as usual) but I muddled my way through. I can hear Devil Dog starting up now, so I'd best get back to my seat. Oh, I almost forgot, I'm supposed to pass the meme along to someone else. Hmmm, I've only traded a couple of comments with Ian Stewart over at Upper Fort Stewart, but he has a thing for books, so this should be a little easier for him than it was for me. Just in case he's not a regular visitor here, someone might want to let him know he's been memed.

9 comments:

Ian said...

I've been memed!

I think I need to make a big, monster meme-catch up post now. I'm super-bad at responding to these things.

Jeff Miller said...

I had no idea Bruce Campbell had an autobiography, I might have to check it out considering that I love his work. Being a B movie actor and having a last name that starts with Camp is providence for you.

EegahInc said...

You gotta love Bruce. I haven't picked up his second book yet, Make Love The Bruce Campbell Way yet, but it sounds like a good one too.

Deep Furrows said...

A Separate Peace is a nice short story (not a novella) in search of an editor.
Fred

EegahInc said...

Hi Fred, thanks for dropping by. I actually do appreciate a lot of the themes in A Separate Peace. At that time, though, I was just "discovering" literature outside of fantasy and there were so many other classics I wanted to get to rather than that one. Is it a sin to hold a grudge against a book?

I checked out your blog and found it very interesting with a lot of good pieces on theology to reflect on. I would be disingenuous, however, if I didn't admit I immediately gravitated to the review of Splash :)

dadwithnoisykids said...

Suddenly I am craving a Dr. Pepper.

Why?

EegahInc said...

Don't question. Buy, buy, BUY!

Xavier Martel said...

I can see putting the Fountainhead on the list, but not without putting Atlas Shrugged on there as well. The Fountainhead reads like a right-wing version of John Dos Passos, which was all the rage back in the 40's. I really don't see anything more banal in Rand's writings than in Hemingway. Atlas Shrugged, on the other hand, has to have about the most absurd plot ever devised (with the possible exception of "An Inconvenient Truth"). I really wish they'd make a movie out of Atlas Shrugged, just so that it could get an R rating for all the cigarette smoking.

EegahInc said...

I'll have to take your word on Atlas Shrugged because, in all honesty, after reading The Fountainhead, I refused to read anything else Rand published. I'm not sure if that's fair on my part, but really, after almost 700 pages of The Fountainhead, I'm not sure what she has left to say to me.

And how many times do I have to tell all you nice people to be careful what you wish for? Atlas Shrugged is currently in pre-production with Angelina Jolie possibly set to star. From Lions Gate, the people who brought you Highlander: The Source and Delta Farce....yeesh!