Monday, July 28, 2008

Confession Time

Okay, I have a confession to make. No this doesn’t have anything to do with the potato I stuck in James Dashner’s exhaust pipe. Really sorry about the muffler, man, but it probably needed to go anyway. And this isn’t about those anonymous Go Farworld! signs someone has been plastering all over neighborhood garages. (I think that might have been Brian.) And it definitely doesn't have anything to do with that picture of Margaret Thatcher, that I added just because I had no other odd pictures on hand.

No this actually has to do with the wonderful post Kerry Blair, a good friend and excellent author, posted about the ten books you should read before you die. Before I make my confession, let me just say that I am probably the wrong person to ask this question. When people interviewing me ask what one book I would take to a deserted island, my first response is, “A book that would tell me how to get off the island, silly. Something like Deserted Islands for Dummies.” I’m also really bad at things like the live-each-day-like-it-was-your-last philosophy. I tend to agree with Lucy when she has this conversation with Sally in “You’re a Good Man Charley Brown.”

[SALLY]
You know, someone said that we should live every day as if it were the last day of our life.

[LUCY (passing by and overhearing)]Aaugh! This is the last day!! This is it!! I only have twenty-four hours left!! Help me! Help me! This is the lastday!! Aaugh!

[SALLY]Clearly, some philosophies aren't for all people.And that's my new philosophy!

With that forewarning, I confess that if I knew I was going to die in x amount of time, and I could only read ten books before I die, those books would be far more likely to include a fantasy novel than say, Dante’s Inferno. I wouldn’t even give a thought to Shakespeare, but I would probably buy the newest Dean Koontz novel. At least one of the ten would be a graphic novel and there might even be some—shudder—horror. Does that make me shallow? I’m sure it must. But you know what? I just don’t care. Yes there are times I read for deep meaning. You know like when I’m stuck in the dentist’s office and it’s taking forever, and the only thing in the lobby is a pristine copy of Hemingway’s short stories.

But in general I read to be amused. I read to be uplifted. I read to be inspired. And, as good as Grapes of Wrath is (I’m not kidding here. I really do like Grapes of Wrath in a sick and twisted sort of way.) it doesn’t pass the time the way something like “Life Expectancy” does. And it certainly isn’t uplifting. I know, I know, we’re talking “Masters” here. Writers with standing and gravitas draining out their long dead ear holes. But I don’t read to be impressed and I definitely don’t read to impress. I actually did buy a book of Somerset Maugham stories to read on my last trip. And I tried. I really tried to get into them. But I kept looking at what my kids were reading with great envy. Finally when they fell asleep, I ditched SM and started reading Star Wars.

The other day, a wonderful young woman, and teacher to be, listed her top ten books. An anonymous poster rediculed the list--presumably because it contained too much genre fiction. But as soon as I read that list, I thought, “This is the woman I want teaching my kids.” See here’s the thing. She listed books like “The Uglies” and “Harry Potter” and “Oh the Places You’ll Go.” In other words books that my kids would “get.” Books that would lift them to new heights, give them dreams, introduce them to new worlds. Books they could get into right away and enjoy. If my kids have a teacher who knows how good “The Uglies” is, I have no worries about my kids learning to read.

Now I’m not saying there isn’t a place for more weighty volumes. I mean shouldn’t college students have to suffer at least a little to get to wear the goofy caps and gowns and put letters after their name other than WAS HERE? There’s nothing like a college level literature appreciation class to make you appreciate that you don’t have to read literature all the time. And maybe it will even teach you something other than the fact that Tolstoy seriously needed some St John’s Wart.

What I am saying is that all too often we feel that reading should be work. We should preferably be reading the scriptures, and if not those, than non-fiction. But if you have to read fiction, make sure that is historically accurate, or better yet, so old it actually is history. Next time you see someone over thirty with a fantasy or Sci-Fi novel in their hand—or heaven forbid, a romance—ask them what they are reading. Watch how they blush, and kind of wave away the book as if they’d just found it abandoned on a bus station bench, and are on their way to the trash with it.

But then say, “Oh, I love that book.” And watch how quickly they open up. A fellow degenerate. Next thing you know, you’ll be discussing the difference between Stephen Donaldson and Tolkien. You’ll be comparing Card to Heinlein. You won’t need to pretend that you prefer to go to bed with a copy of 16th Century Politics and It’s Effect on Modern American Economic Psychology. You can even admit that you’ve read all the Harry Potter books, and the Redwall books—twice.

Yeah, I know I’ll never earn the accolades of the New Yorker, and my mansion in heaven will probably be a little on the small side. But it will be lined with bookshelves from top to bottom, and they will ALL be books I like. I may let my grandkids come over and read them occasionally. Heck, I’ll bet would even like Hemmingway would like to read Dean Koontz, now that he’s sober.
I'm also excited to post several new stops on my tour. It's not every day you get to discuss things like having an extra eyeball in your pocket. Enjoy!

Sarah posted a great review on her blog Toddler Drama. Sarah is a talented writer, photographer, and graphic artist. As well as being the sister of some schlep of a writer names Dashner.

Next I got to go to Disneyworld with one of my most long-time fans, Brian at Bookworm. We had a fun interview and got to watch the fireworks from the Big Thunder Railroad. My stomach is feeling much better now.

You can read a fun review of Farworld by the wonderful Reader Rabbit the 2nd here.

Or you can drop by Mrs. Magoo as seen on TV, for her review at Mrs. Magoo Reads.

Qu Grainne and I had a chance to swap stories at the Alterra – Humboldt Café. You can read about it all here.

Gamila of Gamila’s Review and I chatted as we floated along the Avon River. You can read of Q&A here. And her interview here.

Trish and I had a had a ball at Hey Lady Whatcha Readin’? Check out her interview and review, and wish her congratulations on her recent nuptials.

Queen of Chaos and her 11 year-old son read my book togther. You can read her review and interview here.

And last, but certainly not least, (as she would tell you herself) the charming, talented, lovely, and writeaholic, Tristi Pinkston wrote a stellar review and interview on families.com here and here. (Did I get in all the superlatives you asked for Tristi? J )

Thanks all. This has been a riot.

5 comments:

trish said...

I was reading someone else's blog today who'd posted lists, one of which is the top 10 something-or-other, and one of the books on the list was Ulysses by Joseph Conrad. And I was like, Are you kidding me? Have you tried to read Ulysses? Seriously, that book is difficult to follow and really not much fun. I finally had to throw my hands up, even after I got on the internets and tried to figure out what the heck I was reading. But someone somewhere (not the blogger) thinks that Ulysses belongs on a top 10 list...the only top 10 list I would put that book on is Books Not To Read Even If It's The Last Book On Earth.

Brian said...

If I had to post a list of my top ten books/series, then they'd definitely have Harry Potter, Inheritance, The Lost Years of Merlin, The Belgariad, Farworld (Great job!), The Lightning Thief, and the Hobbit. Oops. I only meant to list 2 or 3 there, but I got a little carried away. And those are just from ones that I read.

Rachelle said...

Hey, loved this post! I love reading all kinds of books depending on my mood and it's so fun to find others who enjoy them.

Queen of Chaos said...

You're so funny! Great post, Savge. :)

Mandi said...

Hey Jeff, go check out what I decided to do for the contest part of the blog tour - just so you're aware. Thanks! I'll be getting my questions to you in about a week.
www.abbottandalyssa.blogspot.com