Do not read these famous books

book cover

I know this is going to open a can of worms, or perhaps a barrel of rattle-snakes, but it needs to be said: do not read these famous books. One thing all these books have in common is that they are too long. If they were excellent, fascinating, educational, absorbing on every page they would not have a problem. But most readers find they are not any of those things. I have read all but one of these books, and while they are talked about in literary circles, and are on lists of Must Read Books, few people ever finish reading them. Some people would hint that you are “artistically impoverished” if you have not read these books. Do not believe them. War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy This is one of the longest novels ever written. The version I read contained 1500 pages of tiny print. The story: Napoleon Invades Russia, Napoleon retreats in disarray. It is not a difficult book to read, and it is mildly interesting. But it is going to take months of reading, and probably you will feel it was not worth the journey. If it was a shorter book, it might be worth the time… Continue reading

Best Australian books

A_Fortunate_Life

 A FORTUNATE LIFE,  A.B. Facey A Fortunate Life is an autobiography by Albert Facey, published in 1981, nine months before his death. It chronicles his early life in Western Australia, his experiences as a private during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I, and his return to civilian life after the war. It also documents his extraordinary life of hardship, loss, friendship and love. During the initial days of its publication, Albert Facey became a nationwide celebrity. Despite his renowned life, Facey considered his life to be simple and “had no idea what all the fuss was about”. When asked on an interview, where the name of the book originated. He replied, “I called it ‘A Fortunate Life’ because I truly believe that is what I had”. After its great reception it has become a classic piece of Australian literature and is one of Australia’s most beloved books. Since its publication in 1981 it has become a primary account of the Australian experience during World War I. Buy paperback from Penguin books ISBN-13: 978-0140081671   GALLIPOLI,  Alan Moorehead When Turkey unexpectedly sided with Germany in World War I, Winston Churchill, as Sea Lord for the British, conceived a plan: smash… Continue reading

What I lived for

Joyce carol oates

Fiction by Joyce Carol Oates photo: Larry D. Moore This is a long book, 600 pages of smallish type. Too long, I would say. There are perhaps too many asides, too much remembering, that deter me from a second reading. But make no mistake, this book is great. While I was reading it I kept thinking what other books were in this style: John Dos Passos,  came to mind.   It is a tough book, a man’s book, it out Herod’s Herod: it is written from a male perspective, better than almost any other male writer. This is just staggering; I often wondered if it were not some trick, is Joyce a man, writing as a woman. No woman has ever written a novel like this before, gotten into a man’s skin. Never. Not too many men can.   For me, this book had a number of similarities with John Updike’s Rabbit at Rest . The way it covers so much of American life, society, business, sex, life in general. But Updike’s excellent book is superior, more direct, better fitted together, sweeter, covering more ground. But What I Lived For is up there with the best of the novels. It… Continue reading

Best American books, part 2

PART 1     PART 3 LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN James Agee and photographer Walker Evans The book Let Us Now Praise Famous Men grew out of an assignment the two men accepted in 1936 to produce a magazine article on the conditions among white sharecropper families in the U.S. South during the “Dust Bowl”. It was the time of U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal” programs designed to help the poorest segments of the society. Agee and Evans spent eight weeks that summer researching their assignment, mainly among three white share-cropping families mired in desperate poverty. They returned with Evans’ portfolio of stark images—of families with gaunt faces, adults and children huddled in bare shacks before dusty yards in the Depression-era nowhere of the deep south—and Agee’s detailed notes. As he remarks in the book’s preface, the original assignment was to produce a “photographic and verbal record of the daily living and environment of an average white family of tenant farmers”. However, as the Literary Encyclopedia points out, “Agee ultimately conceived of the project as a work of several volumes to be entitled Three Tenant Families, though only the first volume, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, was… Continue reading