The publication of a new Thomas Pynchon novel–in this case, Against the Day–is usually enough to get us worked up into a lather. Mr. Pynchon has long been afforded exactly the respect he deserves. And yet when someone recently asked us to list 5 books they should read right now, none of Mr. Pynchon’s work made the list. That list follows:
1. The Fountainhead (Rand)
The greatest self-help book ever written, by a woman who helped herself away from Soviet tyranny to become the most important and influential American philosopher of her generation. She was also a total bitchmonkey, but nobody’s perfect. Atlas Shrugged is OK, but what’s the point, I like Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters 2 was just more of the same.
2. All My Friends are Going to Be Strangers (McMurtry)
The greatest autobiographical novel ever written besides Witness, it’s the more readable of the two. Written by a young Larry McMurtry pre-Lonesome Dove, it chronicles his life before and after he sold his first book, including funny satire about the death of the American West. Jill is the greatest female character ever devised in fiction. Quentin Tarantino makes his women read this before his puts his thing in their thing.
3. Now You See It… (Matheson)
Even Stephen King admits Matheson is the greatest horror writer of all time. (I’m not a King lover or hater, but he makes a good point.) If you haven’t read ‘I Am Legend’, which they are somehow making in to a movie starring Will Smith that is set in post apocalyptic NY, you should. My favorite of his books happens to be among the least known. People dislike it for the same reason they dislike “The Usual Suspects”–people fear what they don’t understand. Give Keyzer Soze a chance. This one takes a day to read. I think it’s a good lesson in narrative satisfaction to boot.
4 . The Unconsoled (Ishiguro)
Getting back to the more writerly side of things, there is one writer working today who is the finest writer working today. The Unconsoled is his ultimate masterpiece, the true evocation of his worldview and masterly understanding of other people. This is the true aim of the best writing. Besides Pynchon, who seriously needs to chill on me right now, Ishiguro is the greatest living writer.
5. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas (Stein)
Funny, readable, urbane and perceptive, this was not even Stein’s finest work, but it’s Stein for the newbie, so it’ll do.
While part of me is like, yo, Pynchy, quit with the 1100 page bullshit and try writing something different for a change, another, more appealing part of me says, what the hell, it’s not like anybody’s going to read a 900 page book, why not throw in the extra 110 pages for kicks. There is something to be said for being read, but when you know you’re going to the subject of approximately one million graduate theses, you might as well throw it all out there and let them figure it out. This is my personal favorite of articles to appear about the guy, by n+1 issue five contributor Gerald Howard.
Today’s song is by Doveman. If you haven’t noticed already, we like sad songs, which are really happy songs, because that is the way we feel when our mood is articulated. Go to their website, they have some quality free downloads. I like “Honey” better than “Teacup”, but “Honey” deserves a post all its own.
Happy Thanksgiving. Although a completely racist holiday which I refuse to celebrate, Thanksgiving at least allows me to see my family, and I hope, yours too.