This week, October 2nd – 8th, is the National Book Foundation’s Great Books Week. Perfect timing – in honor of last month’s Banned Books Week, I decided to read a few classics that have been either banned, challenged, or both, classics that I somehow missed until now. [I’m still going – next up is One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, by Ken Kesey. Check out my bookshelf for short reviews of the classics read so far, and many more.]
I’ve just finished one of the best books I’ve ever read – Wise Blood, by Flannery O’Conner. Of course I already knew it would be a great book because…well, it’s Flannery O’Conner, how could it not be great? Yes, she is one of my idols. Oh, to write such deep-but-hilarious-at-once-prose! And to bring such corny characters to life! The woman was simply an outstanding writer. In Wise Blood, Hazel Motes returns from the army and wrestles with the fact that his family home has been abandoned, and the decision of what to do with himself. It doesn’t help that his grandfather was a tent revival preacher, and Hazel hates preachers, yet every screwy character he meets tells him he looks like a preacher. Just listen at how well-crafted this story is:
“…his face had a fragile look, as if it might have been broken and stuck together again, or like a gun no one knows is loaded.”
“He had the feeling that everything he saw was a broken-off piece of some great black thing that he had forgotten had happened to him.”
That right there is what you call excellent literature. Another aspect Flannery O’Conner perfected is dialect, something that any writer can tell you is most challenging to say the least. If you read nothing else this year, read Wise Blood.
So what are some other great books I’ve read this year? Definitely them, and We Were The Mulvaneys, both by Joyce Carol Oates, as well as several of her anthologies, and other novels (see my bookshelf). I also loved Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane, one of the best psychological thrillers you’ll ever read (though I read it last year). And, let’s see, what else…The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers. Probably best of all (read this year) was the many and various anthologies. If you enjoy classic short stories, you must have – not borrow, but own – The Creative Collection of American Short Stories – talk about a terrific treasure! This gem of a coffee-table-like book has everything from Joyce Carol Oates’s infamous Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been? to Ernest Hemingway’s Hills Like White Elephants, Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, and so much more! Not only does this book have fabulous shorts, it is also giftedly illustrated by Yan Nascimbene, one of the most talented illustrators of all time.
Whew, I’ve spouted a lot of great books here! What are some of your favorites?
October is also Bullying Prevention Month. You can help stop bullying! Click on the link to learn more.