Saturday, January 5, 2008

5 Classic Works of Literature

There's an interesting discussion going on Lyle Fass' blog Rockss and Fruit. Lyle, as part of his New Year's resolution, wants to read "five of the world's classics books."

I recommended this list, which is a pretty good starting point, albeit for use as a reference tool and not as definitive list. Here are my five:
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner may be the South's greatest contribution to the English language other than the second person plural (y'all).
  • I, Claudius by Robert Graves is one of my favorite novels of all time. It's wicked and wickedly funny and renders another time in a perfectly modern way. I couldn't put it down.
  • John Dos Passos' U.S.A. trilogy deserves to be up there with Faulkner and Hemingway, although hardly anyone reads it (maybe because its like a 1,000 pages of trilogy). Generally speaking, I'd pick Hemingway over Dos Passos, but I like the cache of having read a classic novel that most haven't even heard of. A masterful work of historical fiction.
  • The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera is wonderful non-linear novel. Maybe not his best work, but certainly his most complete and accessible.
  • ...and, of course, The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov is my favorite novel. He effortlessly interweaves the story of the devil coming to Moscow with the story of Jesus and Pontius Pilate. There's tons of inside jokes in Russian, which you don't have to get to enjoy the novel, so you need to be mindful of the translation.
Tough to leave out Garcia Marquez, Ondaatje, Vidal, Nabokov, Hemingway, Whitman and others. What would be your top 5?

3 comments:

CLONYC Grand Poobah - Mike said...
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CLONYC Grand Poobah said...
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CLONYC Grand Poobah said...

I too made a New Years resolution on two books per month. I have recently found Graham Greene’s work to be to my liking and am working through them all. 'The End of the Affair' caught me off guard. Made me an immediate fan. I like his first person stuff. I am now well into 'Our Man in Havana', with 'the Quiet American' on deck.

My top five are:

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Ray Bradbury is my #1 go to for Sci-Fi. I like the classic feel in his work. Take my books away? Never!!

Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. I love the Lost Generation, the 'value' and 'the bill always comes’ stuff. I wonder what Hem would say if he had seen the generation which is walking about today? Sitting at the Rotonde with a suit and tie just don't make enough 'lost-ness'.

H.G.Wells, War of the Worlds. This one actually gets my heart beating fast. I feel like I am hiding alongside the narrator half-destroyed building overlooking that crater. Well done and not to be missed.

Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front. This is one I must read in original edition (I have 4). I love the yellow dog-eared pages that have that certain smell. Growing up through the 60s and 70s I have had my fill of war movies, but this book tells of trench warfare and the men who fought it from the enemies perspective. Quickly one realizes that the enemy were just men with families and concerns not un-like our own.

Mark Twain, Huck Finn. Nothing I can say that has not been said about this classic. This past summer I happened across (at a yard sale) a leather copy with the name Samuel Clemens. This dates it to the late 1800 and it was the best $2 I have ever spent.