10 Authors You Should Be Reading Keith Boyd 09.27.06
It seems like every time I walk into a bookstore its ram packed to the gills with people gawking and gaping at everything. Being a word-freak you might think that this would be heartening to me. Well I'm here to tell you dear readers, it ain't so! The bookstore used to be the safe-haven and all purpose hang-spot for freaks and geeks like me. We'd all congregate there and make surreptitious glances at each other while perusing the Philip K. Dick books or pouring over a little Allen Ginsberg. It was a nerd badge of honor and in those days of yore and you often found your mind profoundly changed by some passage of Garcia Marquez or a bit of Jim Carroll. Bookstores like the Blue Door in Hillcrest or Aardvark's downtown were palaces of musty wisdom and for a few years there it seemed I always saw the same faces eagerly pouring through the stacks looking for a connection or some exposure to the life of the mind. I'd buy a William S. Burroughs book like "The Job" and go home to blast some Bad Brains while ending up entranced by the depth and breadth of ideas packed in there. Reading felt a bit dangerous. There were texts out there with the power to change you soul and for several large handfuls of us these quests were just tied up with our whole other quest for an experience of life.
Flash forward 20 years. "Oh my stars for the love of Liza!" The word bookstore has lost all meaning. The books seem almost an afterthought to the movie tie-in merchandise. Instead of focusing on the ideas between the pages I see people with cell phones clamped to their heads, chugging a coffee, pushing along a stroller full of twins and only reaching for the latest tome that Oprah has deemed worthy. The very nature of the store has changed. It's more about marketing than ideas. Don't even get me started on the staff at these places. Suffice to say that these aren't true book people. They're too svelte and slick or perhaps too cool to care. Ask for something off the beaten path and you're likely to get a blank stare with an offer to look at the computer. Okay, okay, I'm a grouchy old man! I admit it. I turned 40 this last week and while it's not 100, I feel that it's old enough to know shit from shine and I'm telling you, these modern bookstores fall into the former category. That being said I'm compiling a list here folks that I hope will help the cause. If I contribute to the warping of even one mind then, mission accomplished! So for this month we here at blogsandiego proudly present a list of;
10 AUTHORS YOU SHOULD BE READING. Enjoy.
- Henry Miller: Henry Miller is the shit! I read a "reader" of his works this summer and it blew the top of my head off. Every page swarmed with ideas. His minute descriptions of the landscape of himself are a wonder to behold. Dig in and dig deep. It's a rocky ride at first but there is wisdom and value to be found.
- Charles Bukowski : America 's booze soaked answer to France 's Celine. His books are packed with the raw nerve ends that make us human. I think that underneath the alcohol and swagger is the heart of a Bodhisattva. A kind hearted, sad faced yet clear eyed poet of the real.
- Jorge Luis Borges : Complex wordplays of the mind. Labyrinths. Stories that start to make you feel as though you are hallucinating. The imaginary and the real colliding and colluding to make you take a second look at the world around you.
- Paul Bowles: I have never read an author who understands and presents human motive and emotions the way Paul Bowles does. The most outlandish things go down and with the ultra-real and literal narrative you come away stunned and sickened by how close to the bone he's hitting. His shorter works are perhaps the best representation of his skill but they're all good. He also translated a few native Moroccan writers to great effect. See Mohammad M'rabet to start with.
- Charles Dickens: Charles Dickens is one of those writers that people know of but usually haven't read. His books tend towards the longish and so with our "Entertainment Tonight" gnat sized attention spans he often gets bypassed. That's a shame because the stories are so much fun, the characters are so totally realized and the sentiment is always there for the underdog and the oppressed that I think more folks would enjoy his writing. Nichols Nickleby or Oliver Twist are great places to start.
- Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder: Okay that three people all together but hey, it's my list. If you've got a problem, go write your own! These guys said it all. There's always more to be said of course but these three came close to maxing it out. Howl is our great American poem. It churns the mind and hold up a mirror to every American impulse finding it nullifying, conforming and crushing. Gregory Corso has such a clever and classical word form. His language is just beautiful. Gary Snyder is an example of someone who just gets better with age. His Mountains and Rivers book is a gift to the greater good of humanity.
- Edgar Allen Poe: Oh man, Poe is just great! I can't believe how many folks haven't dug in and given his writing a test drive. The guy bloody invented both the Science Fiction and Detective story for God's sakes! If that isn't enough his short stories are just good and creepy fun. I also enjoy his gothic and over the top poetry. The Raven is actually a hilarious piece when read the right way. That's a clue with all poetry. If it doesn't hit right off read it out loud. The sounds of the lingo will sing to you and you'll get what the author was driving at.
- Louis-Ferdinand Céline: Forget about the man's poor judgment in politics. Forget about the details of his troubled life. Just crack the spine of either "Journey to the End of the Night" or "Death On the Installment Plan" and prepare your ass to get kicked. This guy is the all seeing eye from hell. He gives the once over to our human condition and after serving it up in stark detail, finds most of it lacking. I had a good friend who after reading "Death." had a nervous breakdown. This is strong stuff and packs a solid punch. If you've ever felt the tyranny and stupidity of daily life clamping their ignorant claws around your neck you resonate with Celine's books. Not for the faint of heart!
- Fyodor Dostoevsky: Long books. At times intimidating. Worth every damn second you'll spent plummeting their depths. Start with "Crime and Punishment" but don't forget any of the others. Simply put, a deep, deep look at all things human.
- Emily Dickinson, Keri Hulme, Zora Neale Hurston, Flannery O'Connor : You didn't think I'd finish this list without a few women now did you? Again another mash up but a mash up of greatness. These three author's writings are burning diamonds of the mind. Each one touches you in ways beyond description. I would recommend anything by Dickinson . I'd start with "The Bone People" by Hulme and as far as Hurston, a great place to start is "Their Eyes Were Watching God". Flannery O'Connor is a special case. She is perhaps my all time favorite writer. I love everything she ever wrote and would put it forth to you that if you want to understand the American South or just people and their motivations in general you NEED to read her books. They are all great but two that spring to mind are "Wise Blood" and "A Good Man Is Hard to Find". A very special writer!
That's all for now. Please send all ideas, complaint and your own list to me here at the site. Now get off your asses and read something! While you're at remember to support INDEPENDENT bookstores. They deserve your business.
- John Steinbeck - Tortilla Flat, The Grapes of Wrath
- William Burroughs - Junky
- Herman Hesse - Steppenwolf
- Paul Bowles - The Sheltering Sky
- Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore
- Michel Houellebecq - The Elementary Particles
- Tennessee Williams - The Night of the Iguana
- Jerzy Kosinsky - The Painted Bird
- Jack Kerouac - Dharma Bums
- Jim Carroll - The Basketball Diaries
- Albert Camus - The Plague
- Carlos Casteneda - The Teachings of Don Juan
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