(in alphabetical order, by author)
Hello, everyone. I'm your host, Alex Trebek, and tonight we're taking a look at something that not even a three-in-the-morning infomercial starring Dionne Warwick would touch. That's right--Widge's taste in books. After a long grueling research session lasting around five minutes or so, Widge provided us this long and drawn-out, visually complex and mentally fragmented list for our edification and enjoyment. So sit back, relax, punt the cat into a corner, and let's have at them. And by the way, if you don't already own the books, just click on the title to go to Amazon.com and order them, why don'tcha?
James Baldwin's Another Country. A lot of the books in this list are by African-American authors, and whether or not you agree with the whole hyphenation thing, you can't deny that these are great books. I first read the Baldwin and others on this list because of a class I took in African-American Literature, taught by the illustrious Dr. Ursula Doyle. One of the best English teachers I ever had. I was so pissed that no one had brought these works to my attention before. This particular work had characters that were so stunning, I thought to myself, "If I can write half as good as this guy, I'd be set for life!" I'm working on it! I'm working on it!
Clive Barker's Imajica. I know what you're thinking. Clive Barker? Geez, Widge, I should quit reading this right now. But wait. I don't like Barker's horror either. It seems to be Sex - Beginning - Sex - Sex - Blood - Gore - Sex - Plot - Ending - Sex - Sex - Blood. But then, Ez, our resident SDI Literatologist, told me that it was different. So I read it. Took awhile, because the bloody thing is 1000 pages long. But it's kind of like J.R.R. Tolkien on crack. It's the only book of its girth that I wanted to begin all over again once I finished it. Great stuff.
Donald Barthelme's The Dead Father. Kind of like James Joyce on acid. Complete with diagrams, stage directions, and a instruction manual in the middle of it, it's an amazing look at patriarchy and how it shapes (and sometimes mangles) our day-to-day lives. Incredible. One day I hope to make a stage play out of it. Go read it and then tell me what a whacko I am for thinking such a thing.
Ray Bradbury's Zen in the Art of Writing. I must admit that I have not read much in the way of Uncle Ray. However, I can't imagine anything coming close to affecting me as much as this did. It's a must-have for anyone doing anything remotely creative, because it's good at setting you off in any direction that you need to go. I hold it personally responsible for getting me back writing short stories again.
T.S. Eliot's Complete Poems and Plays: 1909-1950. What can I say? By far, my favorite poet. I'll never forget reading The Waste Land when I was fourteen, and thinking "Wow! That is cool as shit! I have no idea what half of it means, but that is cool as shit!" Now that I am older, I understand 60% of it, and am still moving forward.
Neil Gaiman's The Sandman. It goes without saying that his other work, especially Good Omens, which he wrote with Terry Pratchett, is wonderful as well, but The Sandman is not just a series of comic books, it is literature. Any comic book that has annotations on the Internet (and I really do think someone should actually publish them) of this great an extent needs to be taken seriously. Won the World Fantasy Award, and pissed them off so bad that they made it so no more comic books would win! Neil is the man. If you haven't read them--do it. Now. Forbin is watching.
Stephen King's The Stand. Okay, I love King. He is a swell guy not to mention an incredible writer. Many of his other works are honorable mentions: 'Salem's Lot, Dolores Claiborne, Insomnia -- the list goes on. However, this one should appeal to a bunch of people because of the bizarre twist Steve puts on the apocalypse. Bateman's wild spins on post-superflu sociology are entertaining enough, but still--check this one out. You'll like it.
Toni Morrison's Beloved. Whoa. Okay, here is a woman that needs to be taken extremely seriously. Beloved can only be compared to reading an onion. No, really. Bear with me here. You peel away this spiralling layer and then you finally get down to the truth of what happened and why. Amazing stuff. A woman is haunted by the ghost of her deceased daughter. Read it. No wonder she won the Nobel.
Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Among the 35,489 things I have to thank my parents for--this is two of them. Two because of the impact it had and also two because of the size of the damn thing. Whew. I read this while I was in college and it took me close to a year. Again, anyone involved in the creative process must check this out. An architect makes a stab at creative control. Sheesh. And also--a really scary as hell way to take over the world! I'm not kidding!
Alice Walker's The Temple of My Familiar. Alice. I love Alice. The Color Purple is in there, too, along with Possessing the Secret of Joy, but this one is my favorite by Walker. Literally a romance of the last 100,000 years, this has interlocking characters and plots and is just damn beautiful. This is the book that made me believe in reincarnation. So go believe for yourself.