Saturday, August 30, 2014

Appreciations: 20 Novels That Have Stayed With Me

Over the weekend, a friend issued a challenge to myself and several other Facebook friends to come up with 10 books that have “stayed with me.” I groaned when I first saw this. How could I come up with as many as 10?

Before long, however, my mind had raced far past that original limit. Moreover, though the challenge was to list 10 “books” in general, I noticed that only two or three on the list were not fiction.

Eventually, I decided to tweak the assignment—not just go beyond 10, but to limit myself to novels. (At some point, I’ll list 10 favorite nonfiction books—a roster that will surely include Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, Thomas Merton’s The Seven-Storey Mountain, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.) I decided not simply to post this on Facebook, the origin of the assignment, but also—in a mad attempt at, if you will, leveraging my brand (or, better yet, conserving my energy!)—post this on my blog, too.

In one important sense, however, I have stuck closely to the original challenge. I’m not going to argue that these are the best or most important books I’ve ever read, nor even—beyond the first two choices—that their importance is in the exact order of how I’ve listed them.. But the operative verb in the title—“stayed”—determines these selections. Something about all of these novels have stayed in my recollection, even after a number of years—a scene, a style, a sensibility toward the world. 
  1.  “The Great Gatsby,” by F. Scott Fitzgerald (pictured)
  2.  "The Sun Also Rises,” by Ernest Hemingway
  3.  “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” by Mark Twain
  4.   “Appointment in Samarra,” by John O’Hara
  5.  “Anna Karenina,” by Leo Tolstoy
  6.   “Washington Square,” by Henry James
  7.  “The Fixer,” by Bernard Malamud
  8.  “The Way We Live Now,” by Anthony Trollope
  9.  “Bright Lights, Big City,” by Jay McInerney
  10.  “Confederacy of Dunces,” by John Kennedy Toole
  11.  “Bleak House,” by Charles Dickens
  12.  “The Woman in White,” by Willkie Collins
  13.  “Cousin Bette,” by Honore de Balzac
  14.  “The House of Mirth,” by Edith Wharton
  15.  “Revolutionary Road,” by Richard Yates
  16.  “Eugene Onegin,” by Alexander Pushkin
  17.   “You Can’t Go Home Again,” by Thomas Wolfe
  18.  “Sophie’s Choice,” by William Styron
  19.  "Tom Jones," by Henry Fielding
  20. “Ulysses,” by James Joyce

Quote of the Day (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., on Freedom and Struggle)



“Freedom is inseparable from struggle; it is a process, not a conclusion.”— Historian Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007), The Politics of Hope (1963)

Friday, August 29, 2014

Photo of the Day: Summer Singular Sensation, Chautauqua NY



I’m a sucker for a brass band in a small town on a mild summer’s day. I got what I wanted early one afternoon this month, when I photographed the Chautauqua Community Band and an appreciative crowd in Bestor Plaza at the Chautauqua Institution.

The architecture of this upstate New York village founded in 1874 is as picturesquely American as you can get. So was the band’s bill of fare—mostly Broadway tunes, along with John Philip Sousa’s “Washington Post March.”

That afternoon, I had to work on some writing that required the use of Chautauqua’s library, so I could not linger outside, much as I wanted to. But for several minutes, I smiled as the band, under the direction of Jason Weintraub, played the bouncy ragtime rhythms of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer,” and my heart lifted and kicked to the joyful strut of Marvin Hamlisch’s climax to the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical A Chorus Line, “One (Singular Sensation).”

Quote of the Day (Albert Camus, on Deeds and Emotion)



“I know that man is capable of great deeds. But if he isn't capable of great emotion, well, he leaves me cold.” — Nobel Prize-winning French novelist Albert Camus (1913-1960), The Plague (1947)

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Quote of the Day (Andy Richter, on His ‘New Dating Service’)



“In all honesty, my new dating service, ‘Well You're Not So Great Yourself’ hasn't really taken off like I'd hoped.”— Andy Richter, August 27, 2014 tweet