May 20, 2024

Summer reading list?

Someone at work asked me to list my 25 favorite books. It took awhile to compose the list -- some books from my childhood remain favorites even though I haven't read them in years. Here's my list, in no particular order:

1. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
2. Visions of Gerard by Jack Kerouac
3. Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
4. Our Lady of the Flowers by Jean Genet
5. Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara
6. Collected Poems of Robert Frost
7. Fucking Martin by Dale Peck
8. Discipline and Punish by Michel Foucault
9. The Stranger by Albert Camus
10. For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
11. The Little Prince by Antoine de St.-Exupery
12. The Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst
13. Ready to Catch Him Should He Fall by Neil Bartlett
14. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
15. Another Country by James Baldwin
16. The Heat of the Day by Elizabeth Bowen
17. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
18. Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks
19. Boys of Life by Paul Russell
20. The Trouble with Normal by Michael Warner
21. London: A Biography by Peter Ackroyd
22. Book of Memories by Peter Nadas
23. The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
24. The Story of the Night by Colm Toibin
25. Light in August by William Faulkner

Posted by Jason at May 20, 2024 11:10 AM

The mania for lists and rankings has now migrated from People magazine to Five O'Clock Bot. Have you noticed that when serious people make lists they always say "in no particular order"--as if it's OK to rank things by 25 but stupid to rank them individually?

I once read something by a consultant explaining why newspapers publish so many rankings (top restaurants, top movies, etc etc). He said it's because people are authority-conscious and they want somebody to tell them what's good, instead of having to think for themselves--or worse yet, actually investigate some unknown things.

Of course none of that applies to Five O'Clock Bot, though if it had more readers we could fear inundation by people's lists.

My favorite books, in no particular order, are A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, The Wind in the Willows, and The Poky Little Puppy.

Posted by: glen at May 20, 2024 01:50 PM

What? No Naked Lunch?

Posted by: kevin at May 20, 2024 04:20 PM

Ah, Naked Lunch. Every disaffected young queer highschool kid's wet dream. Wait, that would be On The Road. If you're wet dreams come straight out of the pages of Naked Lunch, you'd just be a sick fuck. Which I guess I am. But while Kerouac endures somehow, Burroughs hasn't.

Posted by: jason at May 20, 2024 04:40 PM

"Naked Lunch"? You can't be serious. I didn't think anyone read those books anymore. Maybe pretentious college students...

Ernest Hemingway?!

"Lolita" should be at the top of your list. "The Little Prince" too. What? No "Call of the Wild"?

All in all, a very comprehensive list, I suppose.

Posted by: CPH Jones at May 20, 2024 06:23 PM

Apt illustrations of what's wrong with such lists. People quickly start putting down other people's choices, and their own non-choices. I teach Burroughs sometimes, but I wouldn't teach Kerouac. So now Jason tells me that one endures and the other doesn't. Well, as they say, nothing endures like endurance. Pretty soon we'll be talking about universal verities.

Writers and books aren't baseball teams, and there are no playoffs, so perhaps literate people could opt out of those analogies. Go Timberwolves.

That reminds me of our old American literature basketball team, with its starting five of "Nat" Hawthorne, "Carlos" Williams, "Wally" Stevens, "Hank" James, and of course "Walt" Whitman.

Posted by: glen at May 20, 2024 09:41 PM

You "teach" Burroughs but wouldn't dream of teaching Kerouac?! What class would this be for? American Literature for Tools 101?

The myth that the worth of things like art and literature can or should only be measured from a purely subjective standpoint is the greatest rip-off ever perpetuated by the Amurrican academic establishment. The entire notion that "newspapers publish so many rankings (top restaurants, top movies, etc etc)...because people are authority-conscious and they want somebody to tell them what's good, instead of having to think for themselves--or worse yet, actually investigate some unknown things" is seriously flawed. This assumes that without such authorities spouting forth their ideas on what's good and what's bad, your average person would be wandering the streets making these decisions for himself. What a load of rubbish. It's more than likely, that without the authority drenched opinion of an “expert,” your average man will stay at home, watch some TV, eat a frozen dinner, and then go to bed. The vast majority of people out there have neither the time or resources to venture forth and try everything on their own. They turn to “experts” for suggestions on how to expand their horizons without having to risk a loss of their resources on something that might prove to be a total waste of time and money. Unlike academics, who clearly have the time and know how to explore all the facets of Amurrica's various cultural offerings, no matter how dubious a venture this may be, a postal worker from Hoboken, New Jersey needs someone to tell them what is good or bad so that they'll have time to deliver the fucking mail. Instead of being slammed for "not thinking for themselves" they should be congratulated for even trying to expand their horizons, no matter how mediocre the indulgence.

Posted by: CPH Jones at May 20, 2024 10:44 PM

Lithium and Valium are available online.

Posted by: glen at May 20, 2024 11:44 PM

That's it? That's your best comeback? You're a total phony, aren't you?

Posted by: CPH Jones at May 20, 2024 11:48 PM

Shut the fuck up Chris. Debate the merits of teaching Kerouac over Burroughs all you want if it makes you feel better, but don't call my friend a phony.

Posted by: jason at May 21, 2024 08:34 AM

You're right, I'm sorry. Using the word phony was wrong of me. Particularly when terms like "arrogant blowhard" and "total fraud are far more apt and descriptive. Either way, your friend Glenn is an asshole. Of course, that must be my bi-polar disorder talking. Whatever. Enjoy your trip to Seattle, Jason.

Posted by: CPH Jones at May 21, 2024 11:50 AM

Nah Chris, you're the arrogant blowhard asshole on here.

Posted by: jason at May 21, 2024 03:43 PM
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