Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Greatest Books I'll Never Read Again

Some novels are crafted so wonderfully that I want to read them more than once. Plainsong by Kent Haruf is one of these - the style is spare and lyrical at the same time. Plus, the way Haruf creates a strange little family from such an ill-assorted crew of characters is breath-taking. Jane Eyre is another, simply because I love Jane so much. Born plain and penniless, she is still one of the strongest women in fiction. 

There are some books, however, that are incredible and wonderful and yet I will never reread them. These are the top three of that list:

1.The Road, by Cormac McCarthy - When I started reading this book, everything else disappeared. I got sucked into the story of the man and the boy traveling across the face of a strange, post Apocalyptic America with only a shopping cart, and I had to find out what happened to them. Of course, what does occur is dreadful - McCarthy offers no comfort in his work, as anyone who read No Country for Old Men knows. As the boy keeps saying, there are some things you can't unsee.

2. A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini - I finished this novel at three in the morning because I just couldn't stop reading. Even though it was so late, I had to go and see my daughter and give her sleeping face a big kiss after reading Suns. I wouldn't call this a classic; it's not in the same category as The Road or Plainsong, but it's very good fiction nonetheless. Hosseini is famous for The Kite Runner - also addictive reading - but I much preferred this book. The dream scene where Laila buries her daughter alive is vivid and shocking. It's why I had to go and kiss that face.

3. My friend just lent me The God of Small Things, and I read it in a few days. After I finished it, I was in despair - hack writer that I am, I will never, ever, be able to write like that. Arundhati Roy reinvents the way a story can be told, turning it inside out like a Moebius strip, with beautifully reoccurring images (the time "ten to two" comes to mind) and an ending that breathes horror and beauty in one word. And it is dreadful, too - what the Orangedrink Lemondrink man does to little Estha is terrible - and then it gets far, far worse. 

It takes courage, I think, to write books as terrible and wonderful as these - it's much easier to write simple, fun little stories like mine. My books might be pulp fiction (and I'm okay with that) but I can still appreciate works of pure artistry and genius, unsettling as they are.


Anonymous said...

Quote: "It takes courage, I think, to write books as terrible and wonderful as these..."

that is so very true! I love your take on these things!

Hart Johnson said...

God of Small Things is on my list like this, too, though my friend Natasha argues with me every time I bring it up as not representing her India... but the language and atrocities are so powerfully juxtaposed... I suspect when i reach 1000 Splendid Suns i will feel the same (I did with Kite Runner)... which means I should probably put The Road on my list. I've avoided Cormac McCarthy... I'm a reverse snob and the hype is just... makes me want to hate him even before I read anything? Am i weird?

Johanna Garth said...

I felt like that about The Road. It ruined my life for almost three months. I kept looking up at the sky and thinking what if someday it will never be blue again. My current book that everyone says is a must read but I'm shying away from is Room. I just think it will keep me up at night, and not in a good way.

Krista McLaughlin said...

I agree about "The Road". I have no read the book, but I saw the movie because of my love of Viggo Mortensen. My best friend warned me, but I didn't heed her request to watch it with tissues. It was an amazing and heart-breaking story that I couldn't stop watching! I don't need to see it again to remember that. :)