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A wondrous thing occurred in 2002. It was the publication of a book written by Jonathan Safran Foer called, Everything is Illuminated. This luminous thing dwelt on my bookshelf for many years until one of you mentioned it a few days ago, prompting me to pull it from my shelf and now, NOW a powerful example of how imagination is more important than knowledge dwells within me. One Hundred Years of Solitude has been bumped to number two on my all time favorite books list.

everythingis

When it is not possible to know where we come from, or who our great-great-great-great-great grandmothers were, and when it is not possible to make sense of human suffering, we can create ineffable stories bordering on magical realism that are more true than the truth. From failure, wondrous things can bloom, from loss, love and beauty are born, from darkness, illumination occurs.

I hope that you are not too jaded, dear readers, to take this book to bed with you, because if you are an artist (and you are) and if you are a writer (and you are) then you need to know how the impossible is possible. You need this knowledge to dwell and swell within you.

Listen, this young American man went to Ukraine to find the woman who may (or may not) have helped his grandfather escape from the Nazis, and he failed. He was only 20, and ill prepared for this task. He had only a photograph, a first name, and the name of a small village that no longer exists. Because he failed to find anything, he made it all up. He took a few scraps of something real and invented a legendary great-great-great-great-great grandmother, he invented a village, he invented a history and he wove it all into true events in human history and told a story that is more efficacious than the truth.

This idea is not new. Tim O'Brien showed us this in The Things They Carried, and others long before him have demonstrated this as well. But you have not seen it on the level that Foer has given. You have not seen anything so luminous. Take a pencil with you on this journey, because you will want to underline numerous passages, and you will want to document the strange dreams you will have after you have read these passages, you will want to nurse the spell it casts on you, you will want to lie underneath the stars and feel the aftershocks of this book contract through your being.
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Dear Cormac McCarthy,

If you want me to read your National Book Award-winning trilogy that begins with All the Pretty Horses, then in the beginning, when you are introducing your characters to your readers, do not make it so freaking difficult to figure out who is telling the damn story. Because, look, when you introduce new characters, and don't give the reader any threads of comprehension as to how they are related or who the frell is speaking, then your average Mtv generation reader will give up about 10 pages in. Life is too short to read books that frustrate and bore me. For you, and for [livejournal.com profile] superhappytime and [livejournal.com profile] 1gr8poetess and for the sake of my own damn ego and love of great literature and also for my budding love of the Texas/Mexico border I gave you a second chance. I went back and re-read the first 10 pages right after I read them and was still confused and bored. If that's all part of your style or whatever, then that's fine. Just know that one girl in Northern California is gonna quit your book and talk smack about you in her Attention Deficit-addled blog.
create_destiny: (Road To Karma)
We must all hail Mary Karr!

I'm serious. I recently read her memoir, The Liars' Club and hot damn, something good has come out of Texas after all!

Mary Karr is foremostly, a poet. This memoir of her childhood growing up in a small, east Texas oil town, was first published in 1995. The thought of how this woman's writing has managed to escape me until two weeks ago is unnerving. I blame all of you, actually, for not telling me about her sooner. Jesus and the angels will help me recover from this most bitter betrayal.

Liars.Club

From the first page of this book I was sucked in. I had to sleep with it next to my head on my pillow and carry it around with me at all times. When I finished it, I wanted to read it all right from the start again. Her writing is brutal, ballsy, alluring and sharp.

Mary was the type of child who, at the age of nine, climbed up a tree and started shooting bbs at the family of a boy who insulted her. She would flip off her grade school teachers and tell other authority figures to, "Eat me raw," thinking it was just another way of saying, "Kiss my ass."

Yeah, so when you see your neighbors' children behaving like anarchist strippers on crack and you wonder if you should call child-protective services, you might want to read this book first, because its hilarious and tragic and the best damn thing I've read in a long time. And I'm not saying it should have any bearing on you making that call. That's between you and God. What I'm saying is Brutally sharp alluring balls, people, that's all I'm sayin'.

Nihilorama

Jan. 14th, 2007 01:16 am
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Reading White Noise by Don DeLillo is the literary equivalent of 18 paranoid hours of non-stop channel surfing while chain-smoking and nursing a migraine in a smoggy, over-crowded city. On meth.

Do you want to know why this is one of the most important books of the 20th century? )

x-posted to [livejournal.com profile] hipsterbookclub
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I've been reading the highly acclaimed The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. I'm going to attempt to write a letter to this author without resorting to the use of profanity.

Oh Andrew, Andrew, Andrew Solomon;

What a spoiled, misguided, little man you are. I wanted to like you. I wanted to learn something about myself from your book. I tried not to judge you when you spoke of disagreements with pony riding instructors as precursors to depression. I tried not to judge you when you told me about the "splendid" time you had after your senior year in college when you went to Italy, France, Morocco, Vienna and Budapest. After all, it's not your fault you were born into money. I even reserved judgment when you told me about how you became so depressed that you had fifteen unprotected, homosexual encounters in an attempt to contract HIV and therefore have a legitimate excuse to kill yourself.

But all things, my dear, dear Andrew, must come to an end. And the end of my tolerance for you came when you told me about going to Africa to receive an alternative, voo-doo type treatment for your depression in which you "spooned" with a bound ram under a pile of blankets while natives danced around and beat you and the ram with a live chicken and then the ram was slaughtered and it's warm blood was rubbed all over your naked body which you described as "peculiarly pleasurable" and then you drank a Coke.

I am utterly horrified and disgusted. How you got the 2001 National Book Award for this whiny, putrid pile of crap is beyond me! You sir, depress the hell out of me! May God save you!
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1. Cry, The Beloved Country - Alan Paton

I read this book when I was 17 and did an hour-long oral presentation on it for a high school English class. Ten years later I re-read this book and was blown away by how much I just didn't get the first time I read it. I'm going to try to re-read this book every ten years to see what else I'm missing. Paton is an elegant writer. I have a thing for books set in Africa.

2. The Brothers Karamazov - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I read this book shortly after I became fascinated with everything Russian. After reading this book I read Elder Ambrose of Optina by Fr. Sergius Chetverikov. Optina is a famous monastery in Russia that Dostoyevsky visited frequently. Dostoyevsky wrote The Brothers with the specific intention of depicting the real-life, clairvoyant monk, Elder Ambrose, with whom he often sought spiritual counsel. Dostoyevsky's fictional character, Elder Zosima, was modelled after Elder Ambrose and Dostoyevsky put many of the words spoken by Elder Ambrose directly into the mouth of Elder Zosima.

I also just love Dostoyevsky because he was a tortured soul and I tend to like tortured souls because I myself am a tortured soul.

3. Till We Have Faces - C.S. Lewis

A re-telling of the classic tale of Psyche and Cupid. I really identified with the main character's god-angst. This book gives readers a picture of what it would be like to live with an orthodox pagan worldview, not this neo-happy-go-lucky-paganism that is popular today.

4. Middlemarch - George Eliot

They knew how to write back then (1871). If you think you're a good writer, read this book and realize that you're not.

5. Out Of Africa - Isak Dineson

Breathtaking, elegant, and a fascinating look into Africa.

6. Things Fall Apart - Chinua Achebe

Another fascinating look into Africa.

7. The Chosen - Chaim Potok

A great book for young and old adults alike. A peek into the lives of Jews (Orthodox and otherwise) living in Brooklyn during WWII.

8. Love Medicine - Louise Erdrich

I read this book for a American Indian Literature class I took last fall. I love the way this woman writes and I copied entire passages into my offline journal.

9. Black Elk Speaks as told to John G. Neihardt

Another book I read for my American Indian Lit. class. I venerate Black Elk as a saint and hope to paint an icon of him some day and make a pilgrimage to his grave.

10, One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I'm reading this right now and I'm spellbound.


Honorable Mentions:
Youth of the Apocalypse - Monks John Marler and Andrew Wurmuth
1984 George Orwell
Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
Tonto and Lone Ranger Fist-Fight in Heaven - Sherman Alexie

***For extra credit tell me how many of my top ten books were written by women. Do not include honorable mentions.

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