Apr. 11th, 2016

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Ten Books or, Where are the ladies at?

"In your status line list 10 books that have stayed with you. Don't take more than a few minutes. Don't think too hard. They don't have to be great works or even your favorites. Just the ones that have touched you."

These sort of lists are always nervous-making, but they're kind of fun — and maybe even a little interesting, too. Meme yoinked from Samuel R. Delany's facebook page. To which he seems pretty liberal about responding to friend requests.

Note that I arbitrarily limited myself to fiction. Non-fiction might make for another meme, another day.

  1. Dhalgren (by Delany himself);

  2. The Lord of the Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien;

  3. Alice in Wonderland/Through the Looking-Glass, by Lewis Carrol;

  4. The Kraken Wakes, by John Wyndham;

  5. Catch-22, by Joseph Heller;

  6. Something Happened, by Joseph Heller;

  7. The World According to Garp, by John Irving;

  8. The Mars Trilogy (Red, Green, Blue), by Kim Stanley Robinson;

  9. War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy; and

  10. Barney's Version, by Mordechai Richler

I said "kind of fun" above, but the results of my not taking "more than a few minutes" to come up with a list of books "that have touched" me is more than a little disconcerting. For a number of reasons.

First, I confess to being a little embarassed by how genre the damned thing is? Where's Goethe's Faust? Where's The Magic Mountain or Julius Caesar? What happened to The Waves or The Edible Woman?

In short, nevermind genre, where are all the women at?

While I was (briefly) thinking about it, names like Le Guin and Russ quickly came to mind, but I rejected the former because I've been more moved by her non-fiction than her fiction, and for the latter, although The Female Man impressed hell out of me as a youth, I can scarecely remember it now — and I've re-read it more than once in the intervening years.

Virginia Woolf always left me cold. In truth, if I were to wipe the slate clean, I might replace the Tolstoy or Irving with Pride and Prejudice, but when you get right down it, I don't think I've read all that many women writers. Certainly as a percentage, it's much lower than chance — even in a genre like SF (and F) — would allow. (And, y'know, much as I loved it back in the day, The Mists of Avalon hasn't aged well at all.)

Be that as it may. The books that are on that somewhat arbitrary exercise in memory and prejudice share another commonality: I read most of them quite a long time ago, at least for the first time. The Lord of the Rings and Dhalgren are pools into which I've dipped again and again (and again), and with the exception of War and Peace, I've revisited the others all more than once. As for Tolstoy, I doubt I'll go there again; it's on the list more for how much his lunatic's 100 page diatribe on the inevitability of history and the impotence of the individual to effect change is what I remember more than anything else from the book.

Still, it's a somewhat instructive exercise. What are your top 10 most memorable books?

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