I’m a fan of satire, dry humor. And this book has a lot of it.
So I expect to enjoy Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, but you never know. This is one of the novels you selected, so thanks for that. I’m looking forward to it. The book is set at the end of World War II and follows Yossarian, a U.S. Air Force bombardier, as he desperately tries to escape duty in the war.
Some quick facts about Catch 22:
Sometimes, when I read a book, I’m more taken by the writing than the story.
It’s not that the story is bad–it’s usually powerful, in fact–after all, an author who can captivate a reader with his writing usually has enough wherewithal to create a unique plot.
But, sometimes, when I close the book, when I read that last word, I stop and reflect more about the author as a writer than as a storyteller. And that was definitely the case with Go Tell It On The Mountain.
From a writing standpoint, James Baldwin is one of the best authors I’ve read. I gave you an excerpt of his writing in yesterday’s post, and that’s just a small sample. Go Tell It On The Mountain is beautifully told.
Here’s another passage that describes 14-year-old John’s spiritual tension as he struggles with believing in God and his hatred toward his father. It’s a theme that carries throughout the book.
Whether or not you’re into the Gone With The Wind story or the Margaret Mitchell mystique, it’s almost impossible not to admit the impact the novel has had on literature–and, really, the world.
The book, not the movie, turns 75 this month. The Margaret Mitchell House in my old hometown of Atlanta is, of course, celebrating by showcasing the original manuscript.
When I read Gone With The Wind last fall, my 5th book on the list if you are keeping score at home, it was my first experience with this book or movie. Growing up as a southerner and not having some experience with Gone With The Wind is kind of like growing up in Florida and never going to the beach. Or something like that.
But I read it–and, to my surprise, relatively enjoyed it. Scarlett and Ashley were two of the more intolerable characters in the history of fiction, but I managed to get through their nonsense.
The book (and the movie, of course) is truly iconic. Everyone seems to have a Gone With The Wind story–the first time they read the book or watched the movie, how they hated Scarlett and loved Rhett, how they felt when it finally ended. The story definitely people in all sorts of ways.
So…what’s your Gone With The Wind Story?
Are all the great authors a little bit crazy?
The reason I ask, and I apologize for being a little late to the game on this, is because of V.S. Naipaul. If you haven’t heard, the always controversial Naipaul, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 2001 and also has a book (A House for Mr. Biswas) on the Time list I am reading, had some wild things to say about female writers last week.
“I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not,” he said. “I think [it is] unequal to me.” Oh, but that’s not all. He followed that up with, “And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too.”
On Jane Austen, Naipaul said that he “couldn’t possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world.” And I’m sure she couldn’t possibly share your overinflated ego and narcissism, V.S.
When I started 101 Books, I basically jumped in headfirst and simply picked the books I wanted to read right away–The Catcher in The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird, and Slaughterhouse Five were all books that had been on my “to-read list” for years.
It all started with The Catcher. 83 books to go.
But as I’ve moved deeper into this project, I’ve realized that I really need a better plan. If I only pick the books that I want to read in the early going, then I’ll be left with a bunch of novels that I know nothing about or don’t want to read at the end.
Until last week, I had no idea how long a lot of these novels were. So I decided to go through the list and mark the page count for each book. That way, I won’t leave myself a bunch of 700 page novels to read at the end of this project.
I can spread out the long books, the short books, the medium books, and keep up a nice pace throughout this whole deal. I’ll go back through this list from time to time and update the page counts on remaining books with a new post.
So, anyway, here’s the list broken down by page count. Overall, I still have 15 novels of 500+ pages to read, including The Lord of the Rings, which tops out at a whopping 1,536 pages. On the other side of things, I have 30 books of 300 or fewer pages to read, so that’s the good news.
Here’s the breakdown:
“Temple of the Fire Baptized.”
That’s the name of the church featured in Go Tell it on the Mountain. And that name–”Temple of the Fire Baptized”–tells me some serious hellfire and brimstone preaching is going on up in there. Some shouting, some dancing, some flat out getting down.
Go Tell it on the Mountain is a semi-autobiographical novel written by James Baldwin. The book examines the role of the church in the lives of African-Americans in Harlem in the 1930s. Having grown up in the church–albeit not an African-American church–I’m definitely intrigued by this novel.
Some quick facts:
You’ve seen the story dozens of times.
It goes something like this: The mysterious bad guy from the other side of the tracks falls for the sheltered good girl. This guy has a history. Maybe he’s traveled the country via trains. Maybe he’s smoked cigarettes under the high school bleachers. Maybe he’s involved in some under-the-table business, kind of like a Rhett Butler.
But this doesn’t matter. Eventually, to the chagrin of her parents, the good girl falls for him. They fall in love, and life is wonderful. The bad guy starts to change, to transform into someone more, well, likable.
Gravity's Rainbow: Still to come in the 101 Books.
Have you ever heard of The Stockholm Syndrome?
It’s the idea that some hostages become blindly devoted to their captors. They could be in the middle of awful circumstances, but the hostages think any sign of “kindness”—providing food or water, etc.—shows good on behalf of the captor. It’s a weird thing that the mind does under extreme stress.
Anyway, Mark O’ Connell wrote an interesting, and pretty funny, article about The Stockholm Syndrome as it relates to long novels (e.g. Infinite Jest). Earlier in life, O’ Connell despised long novels, choosing to read, say five 250 word novels, over a 1,000 page beast.
But things changed when he picked up Gravity’s Rainbow.