One of my favorite people just did a list of books that she loves, and I thought I would blatantly copy her idea. Thanks, Liz!
I have books everywhere in my house. My goal has always been to have a library one day, and much to my husbands disdain, we cart these books with us every time we move. A lot of them are crappy paperbacks, a good handful are first editions, but it doesn’t really matter either way to me. Their spines line up and I can tell you where to find what you are looking for even though they are in no order. They tell two stories for me, the written one and the story I see when I when I look at them.
So I just went to the the closest two bookshelves and grabbed ones that I have read more than once and figured that would be a good place to start.
1. Self Help by Lorrie Moore: If you haven’t been reading Lorrie Moore, then you are welcome. I’ve just gifted her to you. She is my favorite author. She is wickedly funny and in a turn, devastating, both of which are very hard to do. My copy of Self Help is old and worn, and it has in it what I consider to be one of the top five short stories ever, Amahl and The Night Visitors, A Guide to the Tenor of Love. I wish you could read it right now and we could talk about it. I’ll wait.
The first line is, “Understand that your cat is a whore and can’t help you.” Enough said, no? It is about a couple falling apart, about a woman afraid of the world. It is a perfect piece of fiction.
The couple keeps misunderstanding each other, a smaller side effect of not understanding each other in the big picture of life. In one part she says, “There are lots of people in this world, Moss, but you can’t be in love with them all.” “I’m not,” he says, “in love with the mall.”
One more line: “When he is gone, the world will grow as dull as Mars.”
Note to the writers here, in another story, How To Become A Writer, the first sentence is, “First, try to be something, anything, else.” Love it.
2. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr
This book is Mary Karr’s vivid memoir of her very troubled childhood. I continue to be amazed at the vividness of her memory. It is crystal clear and it rings with truth. More than anything, at the end I felt like the book was a love story from one sister to another, and I wanted to wrap it up and give it to my sister. If I would have read this when it first came out, it may not of bowled me over like it did. It was a couple years later that I stumbled across it, after my family had gone through several devastating blows in a row and we were all trying to reconcile what we had been through.
I have one page marked in this book, one quote that struck a chord so deep me I read it over and over again.
“I don’t know when all the fight drains out of me, but it does. You could lead me by the hand straight into that fire, and I doubt a squawk would come out. I can’t protest anymore, and I can see the Lecia has been scooped pretty empty too. We are in the grip of some big machine grinding us along. The force of it simplifies everything. A weird calm has settled over me from the inside out. What is about to happen to us has stood in line to happen. All the roads out of that instant have been closed, one and by one.”
3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
Anyone who knows me has heard me say of this book, “It REALLY IS a heartbreaking work of staggering genius!” I remember that there seemed to be people that loved this book and people that hated it. I cannot understand the hate. Maybe it was my age, where I was in life, or that I wasn’t expecting it, but this book will kick you in the nuts even if you don’t have nuts.
I can’t even quote from it, it has to be read as whole.
4. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
This is where all my real life friends leave me, because they have heard this too many times. So, when I was a senior in college I taught a freshman survey class and the subject was this novel. I decided that they MUST hear from Chuck himself, so I pretty much stalked him via his people, and one day I got to work and checked my voice mail and it is straight up Chuck Palahniuk, asking me to call him back. I KNOW, RIGHT?
So I did, and he agreed to come speak to everyone, plus he granted me an interview because I was editor of the lit mag. So after he spoke we walked around town a little bit, and then we went and had lunch at this little place that used to be bank, and the vault was still operational. So I interviewed and had lunch with Chuck Palahniuk in a bank vault. Amazing!
This novel is amazing. The first sentence is “Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that Tyler’s pushing a gun in my mouth saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die.” It is macho and brutal, but deep and funny. It’s about men and fathers, and men and God, and society and waking up to your real life.
When I interviewed him he said that his favorite novel was The Great Gatsby, and that he used Gatsby as a model for Fight Club. He said that it is really just a less glorious character telling the story of the real glorious character, and that a woman was the reason for it all. I thought that was interesting.
He also told me that after the novel was made into a film, everywhere he goes he is bombarded by waiters, cooks and other restaurant staff telling him the terrible things they do to food. DO NOT, he says, ever have the soup.
I had a big stack of books to go through, but I didn’t plan on blathering about so much, so I think I will stop here. I am going to find a way to link GoodReads to this blog so that we can all share recommendations more, it really is my favorite way to find a book.