Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Books that have Stayed with Me, Part 2

Here are the next four books on my list of twelve that have stayed with me. One more part to go.

5. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury. I could fill up half my list with Bradbury’s work but I’ll limit myself to this one. Chronicles is another collection of short stories that are loosely connected to each other around the theme of colonizing Mars. Bradbury was the master of melancholy. No one else does the haunting beauty of loneliness as well; no one else writes “sad” so wonderfully.

6. Murder in the Wind, by John D. MacDonald. I said I love the archetypal characters created by writers such as REH and ERB, but to me, no one has ever created more ‘realistic’ characters than John D. MacDonald. JDM was outstanding at putting real people on the page, and he told compelling stories about them too. This book has a number of characters thrown together during a hurricane. The interactions are a lesson in how to do characters.

7. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. In high school, I had to read such classics as The Grapes of Wrath, Silas Marner, The Scarlet Letter, and The Metamorphosis. To this day, I still think Silas Marner and The Metamorphosis are two of the worst books ever written in the English language. At least for our modern times. The Grapes of Wrath is actually worthwhile but is way too long for required high school reading. After being forced to read this material in high school, I came to the conclusion that I generally hated the classics, and to this day I struggle to get myself to read such material. Had I not already been in love with reading, High School English class would have destroyed it for me. But all this could have been avoided if they’d just let us read The Old Man and the Sea. It’s short, vivid, full of adventure, full of characters of depth, and introduced me at least to a culture I knew nothing about but found interesting. It was this book, read when I was in my late twenties, that restored my interest in the classics. Most of the classics I’ve read since then wouldn’t have gotten read without this book coming first.


8.  Northwest Smith, by C. L. Moore. I had no idea when I first read these stories that C. L. Moore was a woman. Nor would I have cared. Anyone who can write stories like this will get my attention. Smith is also an archetypal character, but there is far more vulnerability in him than in most of the characters created by REH and ERB. Having something of a melancholy personality anyway, these tales resonated strongly with me. As I grew older and began my own writing, I also wanted to create such characters. They should be bigger than life, but also have that vulnerability as well. 

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24 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Martian Chronicles was one of my favorite Bradbury books. The movie, not so much...

Brian Miller said...

see i knew there would be one i had not read....have not read the last one...i love john Mcd....his series is great...read it through a year i lived outdoors just after college...

Paul R. McNamee said...

ONly my my recent personal history did I get to Northwest Smith and The Martian Chronicles. Both are wonderful.

Anonymous-9 said...

An inspired list, Charles. Thanks for sharing it with us. Anonymous-9

Charles Gramlich said...

Alex, I liked elements of that show but overall it didn't come close to capturing Bradbury's actual work. they could probably do better with the special effects today.

Brian, yeah, the Travis McGee books are wonderful

Paul, The Northwest Smith tales were the last ones in this group to be read as well but I sure did take to them.

Anonymous-9, hey, good to see you around!

Cloudia said...

You are SUCH a writer's writer, Charles.

ALOHA to you and to Lovely Lana
from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral
=^..^= <3

eric1313 said...

Regarding Hemingway, I have to give a big shout out for For Whom the Bell Tolls. It's kind of lengthy at 500 + pages, but was well worth the read. When you get to the point where Pillar tells Robert Jordan all of the details of the rebellion against fascism that erupted in her village, it's impossible to put down.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Good selection, Charles. I agree about "The Old Man and the Sea." It is one book I want to read again. I also concur with Eric on "For Whom the Bell Tolls" which I liked in spite of the length and the use of words (that sound like expletives) translated directly from the Spanish. The ending was unexpected.

the walking man said...

I've got about 6 of the books you named The Martian Chronicles was my introduction to Bradbury, my father loved his work...*meh* I liked The Grapes of Wrath better.

Bernard Lee DeLeo said...

Great additions, my friend. 'Something Evil This Way Comes' is another Ray Bradbury great. The Travis McGee series by McDonald is my favorite (non fantasy) character series of all time.

Charles Gramlich said...

Cloudia, why thank you!

eric1313, after reading "old Man, I went and read everything by Hemingway and liked it all except for "torrents of Spring," which is godawful. For Whom the Bell tolls is certainly excellent. I don't thin it's a good introduction to Hemingway, though.

Prashant, Hemingway is the only one of among the 'classic' writers who I would say has influenced my own work.

Mark, I first read the Grapes of Wrath and found it incredibly boring because it was about farming and farmers, which is what I grew up as. The Martian Chronicles, in contrast, was full of mystery and exoticism. Too this day, I consider Chronicles far superior to The Grapes of Wrath. I do like Grapes for various reasons, and it has lovely writing, but, for me, it broke no new ground.

Bernard, oh yes, Something wicked is wonderful. That movie was also very good, I thought. Same for me with Travis McGee

pattinase (abbott) said...

Although no one John D. stays with me. Travis McGee and the Busted Flish sure do.

Riot Kitty said...

That is a really good point. The classics are generally wasted on people of an age where they can't appreciate them.

I haven't read Silas Marner, but I read Middlemarch and was bored to tears. Some classics have earned that title, IMHO, but some - well, fuck me if I know who determined these peoples' writing didn't need to die with them.

Charles Gramlich said...

Patti, amen. I love it.

Riot Kitty, Some of the classics might have been more relevant to past generations but for the modern one many simply are not. They reflect a life that is completely alien to anyone alive today

the walking man said...

That may have been a part of it Charles, my father was a Phd. Chemical engineer who specialized in new polymers, pretty cutting edge stuff for the early 60's. He'd bring samples of magnetized plastics home from the lab (think refrigerator magnets) and other stuff that was pretty amazing.

On the other hand he never would talk about his days in the country, or hunting or his family living as well as they were able.

It did drive him though--after WWII he went to U of M and went from a HS diploma to a PhD. In 5 years with a Masters in between. *shrug* needless to say I am not my fathers child.

Charles Gramlich said...

Mark, Although I grew up on the farm, I'm certainly not like my father either, who was a dyed in the wool farmer who simply loved the life. I prefer my nature more wild these days and less groomed.

Heff said...

The only book that has "stayed" with me is The Dictionary Of Cultural Literacy, because that's the way I fucking roll.

Charles Gramlich said...

Heff, For you, man, a song is book enough. It has words in it. :)

sage said...

I agree with you about the Old Man and the Sea... As for the Martians, Nevada Jack has been writing about them lately on my blog :)

jodi said...

Charles-You are such a 'man writers man'! I did read some of the classics in high school and am trying to re read some of them. As much as I love my Key West adventures-I cannot love Ernest's writing style-so manly!!

Charles Gramlich said...

Sage, Nevada Jack? I'll have to have a look see.

Jodi, have you read John D. MacDonald's stuff? Generally set in Florida.

Richard Prosch said...

You're right that nowhere is sad so wonderful as in Bradbury. I try to read DANDELION WINE each summer, and each summer it rips me up. Hey! LOVE that line about high school English. Me too but that we had a wise teacher who let me read Asimov and Clarke.

Richard said...

I've read the first two and have the others on the shelf, the last in the collection NORTHWEST OF EARTH. I'm really enjoying this series of posts.

Richard said...

I'm not sure I can understand comparing/contrasting Bradbury with Steinbeck. Wha?