Ten Books I Love
These are some of the books that have been important to me over the years, in no particular order. The first sentence of each (except the Callaghan book, can’t find my copy) is quoted:
- Vineland, Thomas Pynchon
a brilliant satire of the US of A more relevant now than ever.
Later than usual one summer morning in 1984, Zoyd Wheeler drifted awake in sunlight through a creeping fig that hung in the window, with a squadron of blue jays stomping around on the roof.
- Mephisto, John Banville
a Faustian tale by one of the best stylists working in the English language today.
Chance was in the beginning.
- The Clown, Heinrich Böll
a funny and devastating condemnation of human hypocrisy and implicit collusion.
It was dark by the time I reached Bonn, and I forced myself not to succumb to the series of mechanical actions which had taken hold of me in five years of traveling back and forth: down the station steps, up the station steps, put down my suitcase, take my ticket out of my coat pocket, pick up my suitcase, hand in my ticket, cross over to the newsstand, buy the evening papers, go outside, and signal a taxi.
- Under the Volcano, Malcolm Lowry
one of the most extraordinary novels I’ve ever read, about a bitter and hilarious man drinking himself to death in the blistering sunshine of Mexico while the Republicans get slaughtered in the Spanish Civil War.
Two mountain chains traverse the republic roughly from north to south, forming between them a number of valleys and plateaux.
- All the Names, Jose Saramago
a wonderful tale about an office clerk, birth, death, and the mysteries in between.
Above the door frame is a long, narrow plaque of enamelled metal.
- Pedro Paramo, Juan Rulfo
the classic surrealist tale, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ favourite, about a man who goes to find his dead father’s ghost, somewhere between Mexico and Hades.
I came to Comala because I had been told my father, a man named Pedro Paramo, lived there.
- That Summer in Paris, Morley Callaghan
in which our Canadian hero knocks out Papa Hemingway, and spoils Scot Fitzgerald’s day.
- The Gift, Vladamir Nabokov
I love Nabokov, and this is one of those weird, wonderful books about…literature and butterflies, I think.
One cloudy but luminous day, towards four in the afternoon on April the first, 192- (a foreign critic once remarked that while many novels, most German ones for example, begin with a date, it is only Russian authors who, in keeping with the honesty particular to our literature, omit the final digit) a moving van, very long and very yellow, hitched to a tractor that was also yellow, with hypertrophied rear wheels and a shamelessly exposed anatomy, pulled up in front of Number Seven Trannenberg Street, in the west part of Berlin.
- The Penal Colony, Franz Kafka
the edition I have contains “everything which Kafka allowed to be published in his lifetime:” so spare, dark and funny.
There was a time when I went every day into a church, since a girl I was in love with knelt in prayer for half an hour in the evening and I was able to look at her in peace.
- Kidnapped, Robert Louis Stevenson
Robert Louis Stevenson writes prose as it should be: clear, precise, and beautiful. This tale of adventure is and always will be wonderful.
I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father’s house.