Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Knopf 100--Day 23

85. We’ve probably written about Toni Morrison more than any other writer. Liz and I adore her. In fact, Beloved is on both of our top ten books of all time list, and it's actually my favorite novel. 

Anyway, Song of Solomon was arguably Morrison’s first great book. The Bluest Eye and Sula are very good books and the perfect start if you plan to jump into Morrison’s literary canon, but it was Song of Solomon, the epic American novel that follows a single family nearly a century, that was a hint at what Morrison would soon produce in her masterpiece, Beloved. (And apologies to Franzen devotees, but Morrison is the living master of the American landscape, the American story, and the publication of Beloved on the heals of Song of Solomon sealed that deal long ago. Before Morrison it was Twain, I suppose.) Morrison isn’t easy, and she asks us big, deep, moving questions and a reader must pay attention. Read Toni Morrison because it will make your life richer.  Don’t read her because you have to, or think you should (or you had a bad high school situation in your AP class...). Read Beloved, Song of Solomon, Sula, Jazz, or The Bluest Eye, because everything you’ve heard about a book changing your life is true. End of sermon. 

86. I am going to move right on to another writer that both Liz and I love, Alice Munro. Now that I think about it, Liz and I are two peas in two very differently sized pods. Anyway, I thought I would choose a Munro book that we haven't written about at all, The Beggar Maid: Stories of Flo and Rose. It's set in a small 1930's Canadian town that is filled with everything you'd want--thieves, bootleggers, prostitutes, and less exciting people like factory folk--and shopkeepers like Rose and her step mother, Flo. Although, to be fair when I say boring, Rose does date quite a bit. In fact, a good number of the stories are about Rose's love life; in one she is seduced on a long train ride by a .... that's right, a very old minister. If you had any sense at all, this is everything you would need in order to be convinced to read this book, but I will also tell you the stories are lovely, sad, and are all about the one thing that make all good stories about small towns great...they are about escape. I like to think about this collection as the one that almost got away because I didn't read it until Munro (finally!) won her 2013 Pulitzer. 

87. Listen, I am going to try and do something that simply has not been accomplished on this blog. I am going to try and convince you that the 1981 film Endless Love, which was then given a second adaptation in 2014 called, well, Endless Love ... is actually a really good book by Scott Spencer. Okay. Here is my pitch: If you've seen the 1981 version of Endless Love, unsee it. It wasn't good. Close your eyes, concentrate, and just unsee it. I know you love Brooke Shields, I know it's when you first fell in love with James Spader and Tom Cruise,  and yes I know it's hard to unsee Tom Cruise, I know this oh so well, but unsee him. Okay. Now did you see the 2014 adaptation? You did? Seek help, nothing I can do for you if you're over the age of twenty five and paid money to see that movie. The novel, the really fantastic novel, Endless Love, is about wild, erotic, dangerous, violent, crazy fucking love. Poor Scott Spencer, two shitty adaptations and then you get this theme song? That's just crappy luck.

88. I recently read Anjelica Houston's first memoir, A Story Lately Told. It concentrated on her young life and you know it was okay...a little quiet but it was fine. Now, if you want an old fashion huge loud big memoir about the Houston family, go to papa. Read, An Open Book by John Huston. It is thoroughly engaging and fun from page one. A boxer, writer, actor, philanderer (he was married five times as well), and of course great film director (Maltese Falcon, African Queen, The Misfits, The Man Who Would be King, Prizzi's Honor and of course The Dead).  He doesn't bullshit in this book, he admits his many faults and mistakes (I mentioned the marriages and cheating, yeah?). He was a huge personality, a huge talent and the book reads exactly that way.

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