Tuesday, September 9, 2014
In college, and it was maybe midnight, perhaps a little later, when the DJ said, "Who do you think is the best guitarist, ever. Call and let us know."
I was all over the moon about this -- who? How should I cast my vote? John Mclaughlin, Julian Bream, my current boyfriend? Or someone definitely in the running, so my vote would actually count.
"Julie, what do you think?" I asked, all in a dither, flapping my hands, "I'm going to say Clapton. No, wait, maybe Jimmy Page." It seemed so important at the time; we were very high.
Which is sort of the way I've felt when the Facebook thingy has come around every so often, asking for a list of 10 favorite books; the ones that have influenced our lives. "Don't think," they say, "just throw out some titles."
Don't think? Books are my life. I read, therefore I am. Which is why I've tucked the question in my head since at least 2010, and every so often realized a title or two. Tossed one in favor of another; re-appropriated the one that's been tossed, and tossed the interloper. Then reconsidered them both.
I don't know how many books I've read, or partially read, in my life. Gotta be thousands. And really, the only way to excise this exercise out of my brain is to lay down a line in the sand.
The best bit of literary criticism I've ever heard came from Des Zamorano. When she read Breakfast at Tiffanys, at my suggestion, she came back with, "What I love about this book, is that as soon as I read the first two pages, I knew I could relax; I was in good hands."
A writer is a pilot. With the bad writers, the middling-to-serviceable writers, the maybe they'll write something good in the future writers, there are layovers. Times when the prose jolts you awake, and you find yourself stuck in an airport, drinking a watery Bloody Mary, eating a runny grilled cheese, and feel a taxi back home might be in order.
The exceptional pilots never stop -- they take you on a journey, on a dream, their dream, yes, but their dream becomes your dream. A dream you'll dream until the last chapter, the last page, and the final line. And then you crash.
The Glory of My Father and The Castle of My Mother - Pagnol
The Unbearable Lightness of Being - Kundera
Long Ago in France - MFK Fisher
Among Friends - MFK Fisher
Emma - You know
The Great Gatsby - Ditto
Mary Poppins - Travers
Breakfast at Tiffanys - Capote
Stones for Ibarra - Doerr
EB White (anything, it's all perfect)
Wodehouse (anything, they're all alike)
Cross Creek - Rawlings