Like Borges, I have always figured "el Paraíso bajo la especie de una biblioteca". In my effort to make a little heaven on earth, I read quite a bit. Not so much recently, which I can't quite figure out, though I'm tenetively blaming school (despite lack of evidence that it really is what's keeping me busy). I just finished The Human Factor, my eleventh Graham Greene novel, last night. It was one of those experiences where you get to the end and keep flipping pages for the happy resolution, the glimpse into a life that does not end in naught but pain, anguish, and separation from loved ones. But, being a Graham Greene novel and not, say, a Jane Green novel, there was no missing section. Life really does suck. Oh, and I will die alone.
I recently had a realization that, despite my constant search for good lighthearted literary fare a la Sedaris, what I really go in for is the sort of fiction that leaves me drained emoitionally. That makes even the large bag of chocolate covered peanuts that has been my main source of nourishment this weekend look pointless (and all readers here are intimately aware of my sweetooth). And that generally confirms my bleak outlook on life, relationships and my prospects at happiness. Is this perverse?
I just really get off on the emptiness these novels leave inside of me. Though I guess it's not really stealing piece of my soul but perhaps removing some the clutter I accumulate by watching vapid tv, interacting with stupid people, and sitting through entire class sessions dedicated to "passion and leadership". There are times when the impact seems unmanageable. Like when I was reading Remains of the Day and had to actually set the book aside so I could literally curl up in a ball on my bed, moan and rock from side to side. It crucified me, much like the series finale of Six Feet Under. But all these experience have an element of the spiritual in it for me. Of course, being a total emotional masochist doesn't hurt.
All this might be a preamble to books that have crushed alea's soul (now if this isn't the strangest booktalk you've ever seen, I'll be surprised). Obviously not a comprehensive list here, but perhaps the highlights. Please note, there is no intended ranking scheme here.
- Remains of the Day by Ishiguro
- Atonement by McEwan
- Jude the Obscure by Hardy
- Talking it Over and Love, etc. by Barnes (and the first section of England, England)
- Graham Greene's Catholic Quartet*: The Power and the glory, The End of the Affair, Brighton Rock, Heart of the Matter
- The Bell by Murdoch
- The Accidental by Smith
- A Little Lower than the Angels by Sorensen (every Mormon should read this novel)
*anyone on the lookout for a good band name could do a lot worse than GGCQ.