These are books I have reviewed or generally opionated on.
DINNER WITH PERSEPHONE by Patricia Storace
This is more than a travel book–even with its subtitle “Travels In Greece.” And at first I was afraid it would predominately feminist lit, given the V shape cut into the Pomegranate on the cover. But it turned out to be the most important book I’ve read about modern Greek culture…and how it was shaped by the past. How it was shaped by other peoples, in ancient times–but most importantly since Byzantine times since any number of books cover the time period from the Pre-Socratics to the Romans.
For instance, I had known that the Renaissance didn’t reach Greece, but I never knew in what ways it affected the Greek culture, and how it still does to this day. I’ve known that Christain saints, rituals, and hoidays took the place of pagan gods, rituals, and rites…but I never realized to what extent this occured in Greece…
But it also has the quality of an epic poem…with imagery that can scarcely be captured even with photographic images.
It definitely warrants a sencond and third read, and will be indispensable for the writing process of my future novel WAITING FOR THE SUN. [close]
LOST IN THE FUNHOUSE by John Barth
Barth is one of the great modern authors–one of the saving graces of our so-called post-modern era–that gives me hope in the future of true literature. I was getting books out of storage today and ran across my Barth collection and had to add them. His short story “Ambrose His Mark” comes to mind so often, even though it’s been probably a decade since I read it last. The opening sentence is as memorable (for me) as any in literature…
“For whom is the funhouse fun? Perhaps for lovers. For Ambrose it is a place of fear and confusion.”
His “meta-language” style…making the language of the story part of the story…isn’t even what makes it so great for me. He’s a rare talent in making you enter into the narrator’s and characters’ world. He really remembered what it was like to be an awkward teenage boy.
His existentialist story “Night Sea Journey” I think is what introduced me to his writing when I was in college studying philosophy (and in particular existentialism). Barth is definitely the counter-part of France’s Albert Camus in temperament and ideology. If only I could read french to know if Camus matches Barth in linguistic dexterity.
ON WRITING by Stephen King
Quite pleasantly and undeniably surprised. (Sorry for the overuse of adverbs there, Mr. King.)
The advice on writing precise popular fiction can be found in any number of places, including a creative writing class, a number of books in the reference section, or from a competent editor, but that’s not what this book was really about. That was just the book within the book.
It’s always nice to see the inner-life of writers. I have to admit, I don’t like much of King’s fiction anymore. I did in my teenage years, but I’ve moved quite beyond the likes of King or even Grisham and Clancey now. But as an aspiring writer (and I know I’ll never have the commercial success of King), it was so nice hearing about the struggles with addiction that so many seem to have a predisposition for.
And it was nice to find out how he BECAME a writer. Where did the stories come from? Was he born to be a writer? Like alcoholism, many people have a predisposition for needing to create, otherwise they tend to become destroyer-gods instead of creator-gods–destroying self and the ones they love. King contends it was predominately his family who saved him, but any reader can see that it was both.
Also nice was finding out what authors he enjoys reading. He likes Donna Tartt (THE SECRET HISTORY) and he praises Hemingway (master of simple writing) over and over again. Two of my faves.
I was pretty sure King was influenced by Kurt Vonnegut (particulary SLAPSTICK) during the beginning autobiography. My suspicions were confirmed when he referred to Vonnegut a few times and then listed HOCUS POCUS as one of his favorites. But there is no crime in that. SLAPSTICK by Vonnegut is in my top 20 favorites.
King reads voraciously and he reads well. I was sold on him as a reader and thinker when he made a reference to “Sailing to Byzantium” by Yeats. I’m sure I’ll feel the same way when I’m a little older. Hell, I feel that way now as a 35-year-old high school teacher.
That is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
– Those dying generations – at their song
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick…
Oh, and for a really good book about alcoholism and writing, I recommend ALCOHOL AND THE WRITER by Donald Goodwin.