ALMOST CATCHING THE TOSSED GAUNTLET
M’ bud, Seumas Gallacher , tossed me the gauntlet. wp.me/p2pTaK-rg He actually tossed five gauntlets to five receivers. I’m sure the other four caught theirs. Congrats, but I missed mine!
Steel gauntlet and big toe do not a merry meeting make.
But … not allowing a throbbing hallux to daunt this fisherman’s challenge, I cast the net of my memory out into the teeming sea of literature and snag my personal five favorite books.
These are the books whose special dog-eared pages can still tease out of me a smile or a tear after the third or thirtieth read. They might not be the critic’s choices. They may not be your favs. But dare you say they are not worthy of inclusion on Jay’s Doggone good Reads bookshelf, I want to cordially invite you to my boat. I have a dandy little plank I would like you to test out. Arrrrrrrrg!
So, here goes, dear readers. The selections are in no particular order. And, you writers out there … I reserve the right to revise the list after I’ve read your masterpieces. But, at this moment here are my choices:
A Child’s Christmas in Wales, By Dylan Thomas: This little book (I’ve seen it under its own covers, but it’s so small it’s usually included with his poems. But, it deserves its own sovereignty.) is meant to be read aloud—and in a Welch accent, I might add! Wanna know what a Welch accent sounds like? Listen to Dylan Thomas reading A Child’s Christmas in Wales. http://binged.it/ZbasXw If you’re like me, after to hear it you’re gonna want to have your own copy. Why? So you can read it aloud. Children especially love hearing it. I said Thomas’s words are meant to be read aloud. It’s truer to say they’re meant to be eaten! Like fine cuisine. Oh my! I’ve said it and it feels so good!
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates, By Tom Robbins: In my opinion Robbins is a dangerous writer for a fledgling writer to read. Just sayin’. He breaks all the rules with his rendering of characters and plot and breaks them so seamlessly, so easily, so freely and with such astounding craftsmanship that an impressionable writer might easily come under his spell. I know I did! After reading this very book, I was a miniature Tom Robbins for my next 300,000, or so, words. I say “miniature” advisedly. I could never bring off the outrageous panache of the original. Mine was always a diluted, “miniature” version. But, to his favor, only greatness can bring about such an effect!
Look Homeward Angel, By Thomas Wolfe: I need to remind some of my readers that there are two Thomas Wolfe’s. There’s the one who wrote in the 50s, 60s and 70s. Then there’s the real Thomas Wolfe (he says with a wry smile). The author I’m speaking of was contemporaneous with Hemmingway. Anyway, I cut my newbie teeth on Thomas Wolfe. He was a literary steamroller. There is sheer power in his words and nowhere is that more representative than in Look Homeward Angel. I’ve heard it said that Wolfe will never be found in the Pantheon of American writers because they lack a certain “finished” quality … and I tend to agree with that assessment. But the emotional honesty and rawness that’s found in his prose is more a monument to me because of the lack of polish. Sometimes the excitement in one’s writing can only be spontaneous and polishing dulls its fine edge. And Besides, Wolfe stood over six-and-a-half feet tall and scrawled his mighty words on a tablet which was laid on top of the refrigerator. While apocryphal, it’s been said he used to beat his head against the wall to slow the pace of words that bubbled & frothed out of his brain. You just gotta love that!
Tropic of Cancer, By Henry Miller: Lawdy, how naughty I felt reading Tropic of Cancer in the 60s when it was declared to be “non-obscene” by the Supreme Court. I was about 20 at the time. Being “non-obscene” didn’t mean I wouldn’t be umbrella’d by a little old lady who watched me leering at the pages in the park, but at least I had no fear of being arrested. By today’s standards the book would raise nary an eyebrow. Both the Tropic books were important to me as a living document of life in the 30s and in Paris. Important literary and art figures wandered in and out of the pages—with their literary and artistic idiosyncrasies. Also, lest we forget, Henry Miller was not a shallow thinker. He helped bring sexuality out of the closet and cast it in an almost spiritual light.
The William Saroyan Reader, By William Saroyan: This is a compendium of some of William Saroyan’s best short stories along with a play, The Time of Your Life that won him the Pulitzer Prize. He declined the Prize because he believed that “commerce should not judge the arts.” I admire, so much, the integrity of the man behind the artist. William Saroyan (I think I’ll call him Bill) lived just up the street from me—well, 70 miles up the street, in Fresno, California, from which his stories derive their inspiration as well as their energy. Saroyan is sheer joy to read. His rambling yet organically controlled sentences, his down-to-earth characters who strike such a chord of reality, his settings that scintillate and drag you into the present moment—this is what makes Saroyan one of the most seminal writers in the twentieth century.
And, now, I’m going to wish the following five bloggers better luck than I in gauntlet catching. This is your assignment if you choose to take it (and, may I say you were chosen because of your high intelligence—to be sure—but also because you’ll do anything to take a day off your present project. Also, you dread with a dread the world’s never dreaded before of being invited to my boat.) When you’ve published your five favs make sure it includes at the bottom the five bloggers to whom you are going to toss your gauntlet, spear or grenade.
Without further ado, readers, put your gauntleted hands together for:
Clive Eaton http://www.cliveeaton.com/
Sonia Medeiros http://doingthewritething.wordpress.com/
John Betcher http://www.johnbetcher.com/index.html
Teresa Cypher http://dreamersloversandstarvoyagers.blogspot.com/
Hamilton C Burger http://hamiltoncburger.com/Hamilton_s_Blog.php
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From → OFF THE BEATEN TRACK