Saturday, January 23, 2010

My 451

Just recently, I mentioned a book recommendation to Jeff, a truly talented writer and blogger, the other day and it's been years since I read it myself so I'm going to open my own copy again once I'm finished Cormac McCarthy's The Road (which I'm trying to read before catching the film).

I found Jeff through another talented writer-slash-blogger, Brian, and the book I recommended was Ann-Marie MacDonald's Fall On Your Knees.


I first discovered Ms. MacDonald via her brilliant play, Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet). Its theme and wit is reminiscent of Sir Tom Stoppard's masterpiece, Rosencrantz and Gildenstern are Dead.

The recommendation got me thinking about Farenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury which, if you haven't read it, becomes another recommendation so that you'll understand this post. Because, even though I'm an Honours English major and was required to read most all the classics out there from Dickens to both Brontë sisters to Austen and Dosteyevsky to Hemingway and James to Faulkner, the one book I would choose to memorize and recite to people were we all existing in some post-apocalyptic, Big Brother nightmare of a world that banned books, is MacDonald's Fall on Your Knees. I think it's because MacDonald speaks to the actor in me - she's an actor herself, and a playwright and author, and her writing in this novel has such a lyric quality to it, it works well aloud, for recitation.

Don't get me wrong, it's not as though I haven't read enough out there by now (and in my own opinion, I actually haven't). I've read plenty, though. I LOVE books and this one's a toughie. If I had my way, every wall in my house would be shelves of 'em and it is damned difficult to choose. For instance, this is assuming that by the time I got around to choosing other favs of mine like Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, or  J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye, a special gift given me that I'm ashamed to say I first read when I was already 25, or John Irving's A Prayer for Owen Meany (which I'm re-reading but have placed on the backburner briefly while I digest The Road mentioned above) or Tolkien's The Hobbit, anything by Enid Blyton or Wayne Johnston or the brilliant Alice Munro or Michael Ondaatje or the wordsmith Mark Helprin, such as his Winter's Tale or his short story collection, The Pacific, that these masterpieces of fiction ('kay, admittedly, Irving and Blyton are included for added fun) would already have been snapped up by someone else out there for mind storage.

And recognizing there are other books a bit more obscure that might be, perhaps, still up for grabs, like Daniel Handler's Adverbs which was recommended to me a few years back, or Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son (another gift) or Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry, or Chet Raymo's gem, The Dork of Cork; I'm telling you, it's really difficult to choose just ONE.

Anyhow, you get the gist. There are innumerable books I've enjoyed maybe equally as much or more, perhaps. But Fall On Your Knees is the story I'd want to tell people. I'm not going to give away anything to do with the plot or characters, except to say that I relate in so many ways to Frances that I cannot begin to name them all here. She was my very favourite of all the Piper daughters and spoke to my own kooky soul the deepest, the most, the best. Every author and book I mentioned above inspires my own voice, my writing, in some way.

So, here's a question for you: what would be your "451"? Which book would you choose to memorize so that future generations would hear the tale and not miss out? It's a hard one, I know, but if you had to choose just ONE book, what would it be?

(Really, I just want people to recommend some yummy stuff back to me so I'm not missing out on anything! As Ti, another inspiring writer/blogger, so eloquently puts it in her latest post, "bring it", people. )

Happy reading, everyone!

p.s. If I bump into you and you're reciting Catcher in the Rye or, say, Wuthering Heights, just, um...be prepared that I might fall in love with you. Fair warning.

Music: Wrapped Up in Books, Belle & Sebastian

18 comments:

Brian Miller said...

some great books listed there...whiuch would i memorize. wow. have never really thought about that. i will have to get back to you. must think on it.

happy saturday!

Mimi said...

Now, Nancy, let's see if I'm a dodo or a fast learner!
If the former, I'll get the son to show me tomorrow.

Have to go back and read this post properly before I comment, sorry for using it to test my learning. mimi

Mimi said...

Now to the book that i'd memorise.. can I give 2 please?
Jane Eyre for nostalgia (mine, reminds me of happy days in school)and in my humble opinion it's so well written.
The second one is a book I read about 4 years ago, but it reached places in me previously untouched by literature, and thoughts of it often come into my mind to this day. When I finished the last sentence, I immediately wanted to start it again, and being a reluctant reader, that says something. It is "The Twins" by Tessa de Loo.
And I'm the former in the above comment, the stuff I put between <s didn't post! Tomorrow!

the b in subtle said...

i'm crossing my fingers for you, Mimi. i will find your post on my own, though (the one re: potatoes). i've not read The Twins (and am excited to check it out as I am one). so thanks for that! (love Jane Eyre ;) happy reading).

thanks Brian - look forward to see what you come up with!

JeffScape said...

Wanna know something strange? I just started reading The Road two days ago.

And, yes, I'm familiar with the Snows. They had a good series, but those weren't reenactors if I recall... they were interviewing active combat units to gain warfare perspective from actual soldiers. Very slick program... I liked the "open book" with the computer animation.

the b in subtle said...

Hi Jeff - in the series, I recall them "interviewing" costumed actors (from battles that were quite far back a few centuries, etc.) - this is what I recall. I didn't see the entire series with the newer, modern-day battles. Yes, I remember the Open book - loved that concept as well.

I bought The Road a while back, but now that it's out in the theatres, I know it will come to my tiny, local, rep cinema soon and they only do a weekly run so I don't want to miss it. So I've begun it finally...I still want to read No Country for Old Men.

So Jeff - do you have a '451'?

JeffScape said...

Maybe not in the way you describe it, but, yes, I do have a book I turn to when I need "something" for my own writing.

Lonesome Dove.

I subscribe to "there's nothing new under the Sun," so I steal from McMurtry rather liberally.

Heh.

As an aside, I had the honor of writing an analytical piece on The Last Picture Show for a lit pub last year. As good as that movie is, the book is rather... shocking.

the b in subtle said...

hmmm. thanks for sharing. i've only seen the series, Lonesome Dove(my ex and i rented it years ago). huh. now i don't know whether to pick up The Last Picture Show or not. didn't curiosity kill the cat? but i guess...that'd leave me 8 lives, yet.

Marie said...

I almost failed high school English, and I typically hate reading novels, yet I loved Irving's Widow for One Year. If I could do a second one, I'd choose Vonnegut's Breakfast for Champions - just to lighten the place up a bit.

Okay, just one more: Wyndham's The Chrysalids.

That's it. But I couldn't actually memorize one - I could barely remember the titles!

the b in subtle said...

The Chrysalids is one of my VERY favourites and i can't believe i neglected to list it. Petra (whom i mention in a previous post was a name i played around with if Lochie'd been a girl, 'cept i decided early on that i wanted him to have a Gaelic name.

the b in subtle said...

p.s. loved Widow for One Year. my friend recently moved to Holland from Norway and i'm hoping to go there before my mat leave is up to visit her...thanks for checking in, Marie.

Ciara said...

Oh lord... the thought of having to choose just one book! Check out my background picture on my Twitter page... that mountain of books is real! (Although it has been moved, it is one of many...) Our house is literally lined with books, Nancy!

But my all time favourite, read-it-once-a-year book has to be Pride and Prejudice.

I could give you a sub list, but I'd be here all night...

Mama Zen said...

I immediately thought of Dr. Seuss. Subversive genius, at its finest.

Titanium said...

"Oh, The Places You'll Go" - Dr. Seuss.

And I did memorize it. I sing my daughter to sleep with the chant, when she's feeling low..

Lisa T said...

Novel-One Hundred Years of Solitude- Marquez

Kids book- Stephanie's Ponytail by Robert Munsch

Non-fiction- Animal, Vegetable, Miracle or Eat, Pray, Love (mostly because I could so easily relate to the part where she's crying in the bathroom. I'm prone to crying in the bathroom.)

JennyMac said...

Love the books you rec'd. Thanks for sharing the info. I would memorize all the work of Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

the b in subtle said...

yes, of course, SEUSS by all means. and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. i was told once i'm living out Love in the Time of Cholera apparently. i'm so thrilled to have received so much feedback! how very cool...

Ciara luv - i LOVE P&P. i can even HEAR you reciting that one - it suits you and your luverly blog. (p.s. you didn't comment on my Dead Irish Writers - i thought for SURE you'd have read THAT one - but maybe you were still away when i posted it...)

the b in subtle said...

oops forgot to link it, Ciara - here tis...