Saturday, April 24, 2010

Honest Scrap, part 1: The Books that Did

This past week, Momma Fargo gave me an Honest Scrap Award! I received this award once before, when I was first blogging, and it helped my confidence immensely. (Thank you, Christopher.) I am thrilled to win it a second time. And again, more confidence! So thank you Momma Fargo at The Boogie Man is My Friend.

For those of you who have not checked out her blog, she writes about juggling law enforcement duties, talkin' whack and getting whack talk back, the love she has for her family, pets, craziMom, and I believe humanity in general. You can get a laugh or an insight at her blog any time.

This time, I've decided to use the "Ten Things to Learn About Me" to be ten books that Changed My Life or Got Me Through. They also define my areas of concern, my Scrappin' personality--I am a Crusader, my readers, so it's a combination of dreaming and working here. So I think there may be something for everyone.

Kid Stuff
1. A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson.
I had an illustrated version. I loved most of these, because RLS talked about pretending. Making a ship out of two chairs, for one. The Land of Counterpane, where you fight army battles over the patches of a quilt. Not all play is directed play. Sometimes I think we over-parent, never leaving kids alone enough to dream it out. Uh, they still need to pick up after themselves and go to bed on time, though.

2. Up A Road Slowly by Irene Hunt.
I received this book for Christmas one year when I was in grade school. I didn't understand it fully for years. A young girl's mother dies. The girl lives with a maiden aunt. The story is how the girl learns that cool-collected people also love deeply. That you do not have to be the best-loved to be well-loved. Hard lessons for all, and beautifully told.

Science Fiction and Fantasy
3. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
When I was recuperating from getting hit by a car, a friend gave me this set of books. Who Knew you could make a world this huge with words? This series got me started on science fiction of all types. But also I studied Tolkien, then King Arthur and then Welsh mythology and Norse literature. What an incredible journey. Later, I figured this out: Tolkien was also a nature writer. He knew trees, weather, the look of frost on the grass. What an amazing adventure in the book and from the book.

4. Dune by Frank Herbert.
I keep only the first one. Invented absurdities start to bedevil the series in book 2. But the first is a masterpiece on ecology, cults, religion, self-control, power, politics, feudalism, corruption--and a damned good story. Nowadays, to me it looks ahead of its time, because it incorporates much of the culture of Islam. It won't teach you Islam, of course, but it does show cultural and environmental pressures that helped form it.

5. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein
An incredible book on social organization: manners, marriage, and politics. A good read and short, too, and often defines my sense of politics.

Nonfiction (mixed with related Fiction)
6. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Alex Haley plus 3 more, cheating
When I was in high school, I was reading a book a day. Therefore, people like Dickens, of whom it was Impossible to read in a day, had special significance. I could think about the characters longer. The Autobiography of Malcolm X was another two-dayer. I remember vividly his description of hair-straightening--"conking" your hair, ouch! and the Lindy Hop.

It formed the basis for many other reads, including Jubilee by Margaret Walker, and This Was Harlem by Jervis Anderson, also very great books. Jubilee is a fiction novel of slavery and Reconstruction, and I liked it better than Roots. This Was Harlem is a fantastic history that remains way relevant to current cultural phenomena, like the 'rent-party' and the role of ministers. It's also a great backgrounder to Ralph Ellison's The Invisible Man, another fine read.

7. From those Wonderful Guys Who Brought You Pearl Harbor by Jerry Della Femina
Della Femina was an advertising executive, and he writes about the tilted world of promoting products. I think it started me off on deconstructing advertisements and eventually news video. It is hysterically funny, but dated, since he is telling stories from the Sixties and Seventies. Does anyone but me remember Braniff Airlines and Pucci prints on the stewardesses? My dad Loved them: glam to the max. Like James Bond's airline or something, now belly up for decades.

8. The Craft of Power by R.G.H. Siu, plus three more
Back when I was working for a coke-headed boss who loved to analyze things . . . I ran into this book. I was fascinated by everything it explained about the Take-Charge-Make-A-Killing 1980's. It also filled in the gaps in my imperfect reading of Machiavelli--previously seeming only applicable to third world countries--and led me to Musashi's Book of Five Rings, James Clavell's Shogun, and thence to The Art of War by Sun Tzu.

Oh, my coke-headed boss? His wife flushed a thousand or more dollars of white granular down the john and filed for divorce. I left shortly thereafter to do Anything Else, Just Give Me A Job.

9. Women in Art by Whitney Chadwick
In this book, Chadwick talks about some incredible art, but that's not why it's useful. She writes about how women in art (or any group) is set up in the press or popular discourse to be in competition with each other rather than the industry at large. It explains divide and conquer, in other words, within the world of public relations.  I read it as a kind of manifesto on how to look at backgrounds and environments of conflict. Each chapter has a kind of lesson like this. Low price, with good quality art reproductions and timeless lessons.

Fiction, Unmixed
10. Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
Post World War II, a half-Native American, half-white semi-outcast has PTSD. This book documents his rise from everlasting miasma to a full life amid the limits of the reservation. The mental health community could not help him. The tribal ceremonies didn't work. Eventually he finds a shaman who can adapt ceremonies to circumstances. Tayo goes on a quest that somehow follows, loosely and yet fully, an old story. He finds his way back to the world. But this is not a feely-good book, it's about stupid choices, selfishness, self-hatred, and ongoing limits. It's a good book for a person who needs passage out of trouble.

11. I said there would be something for everybody. I can't resist putting out some Great Books. But the truth is, I also have Common Taste. Sara Paretsky, Georgette Heyer on Regency romance,  the Scarpetta books . . . Dashiel Hammet and Raymond Chandler, and Daniel Goines, almost illiterate, but fiction based on Detroit slum culture. Unbelievable, yet I think a true window.

I read one romance, A Perfect Rose, every day while my husband was sick. The hero was dying and was trying to get the good out of life in the last months. It helped me realize my life also needed to be lived. It helped me realize my husband needed to get out and do things. The binding blew up and pages scattered all over the bathroom. I still read it, tucking pages back in as necessary. So was that not a great book too? It was. The best one, because I needed it at the time. I think everyone has a book or two like that. Or at least a song like that.

Okay, I am now supposed to pick some Honest Scrappers! You tell ten things about yourself and then pick five to ten awardees. Since this post is already longer than Methuselah's beard, that's in a second post . . . tomorrow . . . .


Momma Fargo said...

What a great idea! I love the book thing. And thanks for the nice things about me. I love you and your blog! Congrats on your deserve lots more! I've read most of the same books as you..crazy.

Unknown said...

Any award you receive is duly deserved Miss Annie. =) Congrats!!

And I only see two common series between us...The Lord of the Ring series and the Scarpetta series.

I read the Lord series when I was young..probably around 12 or so and I was introduced to the Scarpetta series about 7 years ago. I ate everyone of them up and now anxiously await the next release.

Karin Slaughters books are supposedly like Cornwells so I'm starting them. Eventually.

Congrats again Ann! And I'm headed over to Momma Fargo's now.

Ann T. said...

Dear Momma Fargo,
Thank you again! And a good book sometimes gets around. Though I notice none of them are on Oprah's list. Go figure.

Ann T.

Dear peedee,
Thanks for the recommend on Karin Slaughter. I will check her out. I also got a recommend on George Pelecanos, more hard-boiled deets, which of course is the bomb!

But Patricia Cornwell can't write fast enough for me, and she's gettin more woo-woo all the time, so, EXCELLENT!

Thank you!
Ann T.

Slamdunk said...

Creative approach Ann T. I enjoyed your book list.

I don't remember if I read the same book on Malcom X or another, but I enjoyed contrasting his life and the changes versus Nathan Bedford Forrest--someone considered one of the greatest military leaders, the founder of the KKK, and a rejector (that may not be a word) of the organization later in life.

Anonymous said...

Lord of the Rings and Dune (first book only) my two favorites as well.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I have dance all around reading about General Forrest, but the time is come. Do you have a recommendation?

There must be three million books on the Civil War, and more every day!

Thanks for writing in!
Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear tgace,
I seem to remember you are not big on fiction, and my usual reading is all fiction with excursions into the non.

But both LOTR and Dune were so encompassing--incredible!

Thanks for stopping by,
Ann T.