Must Read in This Lifetime
Posted on March 18, 2011
by Adam Burgess
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Welcome to St. Patrick’s Day Weekend – at the Hops!
This week’s question for the Literary Blog Hop is:
What one literary work must you read before you die?
Now, as Christina pointed out in her original reply over at The Blue Bookcase, this question could have two potential interpretations: First, which book would I recommend to you all, as a “must read” before you die; or, Second, which book do I have plans to read, eventually, before my reading-time expires? So, let me answer both!
The book I would recommend to everyone is Lust for Life
by Irving Stone. You can read my full review for the book right here
but, in brief, I recommend the book based on it’s historical accuracy, it’s intimate look at the life of an artistic icon, and Stone’s beautiful prose and fluid language.
Irving Stone’s Lust for Life is a fictional memoir – a novelization of the life of Vincent van Gogh. The novel is based on the many letters (approximately 700) written between Vincent van Gogh and his younger brother, Theo. Stone takes an author’s creative license and invents dialogue, situations, etc.; still, many of the characters, places, and events are based on events which really happened and which were described in the brothers’ letters. The novel spans approximately ten years, from the time van Gogh leaves home to become a missionary, up to his death in Auvers-sur-Oise. Stone appropriately captures van Gogh’s temperament, as well as his passion for art, though never quite having been accepted as an artist in his lifetime, by critics or peers.
And, as to the book that I must read before I die, I think I will have to go with James Joyce. No, not Ulysses, which seems to be a staple for all of us bookish folk who really want to join the elite (whether or not we actually end up understanding the book). I do plan to read Ulysses someday, and I’ve tried twice already, but the one I really, really want to be sure to read is the sorta companion piece, Finnegan’s Wake. This one is also a chunkster, and also ridiculously difficult to read, so I’m told, but it sounds so much more interesting to me. Here are a couple of summaries:
“The book is, in one sense, the story of a publican in Chapelizod (near Dublin), his wife, and their three children; but Mr. Humphrey Chimpden Earwicker, Mrs. Anna Livia Plurabelle, and Kevin, Jerry, and Isabel are every family of mankind. The motive idea of the novel, inspired by the 18th-century Italian philosopher Giambattista Vico, is that history is cyclic; to demonstrate this the book begins with the end of a sentence left unfinished on the last page. Languages merge: Anna Livia has “vlossyhair”–wlosy being Polish for “hair”; “a bad of wind” blows–bad being Persian for “wind.” Characters from literature and history appear and merge and disappear. On another level, the protagonists are the city of Dublin and the River Liffey standing as representatives of the history of Ireland and, by extension, of all human history. As he had in his earlier work Ulysses, Joyce drew upon an encyclopedic range of literary works. His strange polyglot idiom of puns and portmanteau words is intended to convey not only the relationship between the conscious and the unconscious but also the interweaving of Irish language and mythology with the languages and mythologies of many other cultures.” — The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature
“Follows a man’s thoughts and dreams during a single night. It is also a book that participates in the re-reading of Irish history that was part of the revival of the early 20th century.” – Amazon.com
This week’s question from the Book Blogger Hop is:
“Do you read only one book at a time, or do you have several going at once?”
To be honest, I have a very difficult time reading more than one book at a time. Ever since finishing graduate school, where reading multiple books at once was not optional, I have been reluctant to try juggling my literature in that way. I find I can enjoy books much more deeply and fully if I devote all of my literary energy to them singly. Whenever I divide my attention between books, even keeping one at work and one at home, I am essentially asking my brain to keep separate comprehension compartments active, simultaneously. I don’t like doing that, because it seems to do a disservice to my enjoyment of the books, and it also hinders my ability to review each book accurately in in-depth. The only exception might be if I’m re-reading a book or books (like the Harry Potter series), which I can do without really being distracted from another, first-time read. Note: Come back on Sunday, March 20th for an author Interview and Giveaway!