Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Augusten Burroughs: most important books

Augusten Burroughs is the author of Running with Scissors, Dry, and Magical Thinking, all of which have been New York Times bestsellers and are published around the world. A film version of Running with Scissors starring Annette Bening and Gwyneth Paltrow was adapted for the screen by Ryan Murphy. Burroughs has been named one of the fifteen funniest people in America by Entertainment Weekly.

He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

One title on the list:
Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

When I read the first page I had to ask, "Wait. Is this as cool as I think it is?" It is.
Read about the other four books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 26, 2007

Six American noir masters

Barry Forshaw, author of The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction, named a "critic's chart" of "six American noir masters" for the London Times.

The top two writers on his list:
Dashiell Hammett
The hard-drinking pulpmaster's streetwise Marxism informed the blistering Red Harvest.

Raymond Chandler
Chandler refined the form; The Big Sleep is a sardonic, coruscating diamond of a novel.
Read the full list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Five best books: the spirit of Scotland

Alex Salmond, a former economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland and the leader of the Scottish National Party, named a five best list of books "that reflect the spirit of his native land" for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith (1776).

With its espousal of freedom, industry and self-determination, "The Wealth of Nations" is considered a founding document of the Scottish Enlightenment, which deeply influenced the great political and philosophical movements of the modern era. I prefer to think of Adam Smith's seminal work as an economist's treasure trove. I have spent countless hours delving into its arguments about taxation, trade, public works and the division of labor, pausing for classic passages such as: "It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker, that we can expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."
Read Salmond's full list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ali Smith's literary top ten

From Ali Smith's literary top ten at Pulp Net:
My favourite opening line of a novel:

“It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” First line of Plath’s The Bell Jar, a novel whose political sharpness and fictional adeptness is so often reduced or misunderstood to accommodate Plath’s own fate.
From Pulp Net:
Ali Smith was born in Inverness in 1962 and lives in Cambridge. Her first book, Free Love, won the Saltire First Book Award. She is also the author of Like (1997); Other Stories And Other Stories (1999); Hotel World (2001); The Whole Stories and Other Stories (2003) and The Accidental, which won the 2005 Whitbread novel award . Ali Smith’s new book Girl Meets Boy: The Myth of Iphis is published in November 2007 by Canongate.
Read the entire entry, Ali Smith's literary top ten.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Ray French's top 10 black comedies

Ray French is a novelist and short story writer. He named his top 10 black comedies for the Guardian.

Number Two on French's list:
Eleven by David Llewellyn

A compulsive read, written entirely in the form of emails sent by the characters over the course of one day. Martin and his friends work in the offices and call centres of Cardiff; and in its hilarious depiction of the grim hypocrisy of modern working life, Eleven is on a par with The Office. But Martin also writes a series of soul-searching emails to himself, which he then saves in Drafts, which form a moving contrast to the razor sharp comedy. Though it takes place on 9/11, most of the characters are too drunk or stoned to grasp what's happening.
Read about all ten titles on French's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, November 19, 2007

Kate DiCamillo: most important books

Kate DiCamillo is the author of kid-lit hits such as Because of Winn-Dixie and the newly released picture book Great Joy.

She recently told Newsweek about her five most important books.

One title on the list:
Maus by Art Spiegelman. A masterpiece of art and storytelling. I get some new nuance from it every year.
Read about the other books on DiCamillo's list.

Visit Kate DiCamillo's website.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Five best books about journeys of discovery

Dava Sobel, author of The Planets (2005), Galileo's Daughter (1999) and Longitude (1995), named a five best list of books which "record extraordinary journeys of discovery" for Opinion Journal.

Number One on the list:
The Accidental Indies by Robert Finley (McGill-Queen's, 2000).

In the just under 100 pages of "The Accidental Indies," Robert Finley uses the tools of poetry to describe Columbus's trip westward -- perhaps the most familiar of all journeys of discovery -- and thereby cracks open the nature of wanderlust and destiny. Finley's Columbus is a man "immune to distances," who thrives on "that greatest of opiates, the here, here, here in there." The moment the ships set sail, Finley invokes the second person to thrust the reader aboard, to feel "the first gentle lift and fall of the dark hull under your feet. And with it the world falls away from you ... like a word you have spoken," while "a lightness and a loneliness gather under your heart." All the way across the ocean, the compass rose flowers on the page.
Read about all five titles on Sobel's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Five best books with sensational murder trials

Harold Schechter, author of the recently published The Devil's Gentleman: Privilege, Poison, and the Trial That Ushered in the Twentieth Century, named a five best list of books in which "sensational murder trials are at their most transfixing" for Opinion Journal.

Number One on his list:
The Murder of Helen Jewett by Patricia Cline Cohen (Knopf, 1998).

On the night of April 9, 1836, a young prostitute named Helen Jewett was hacked to death in an upscale Manhattan brothel. Within hours, a suspect was arrested for the crime: a dry-goods clerk named Richard Robinson, scion of an old-line Connecticut family and one of Jewett's regulars. In Patricia Cline Cohen's impeccably researched and elegantly written "The Murder of Helen Jewett," we see how the case, with its titillating mix of sex, scandal and savagery, became a media sensation -- the O.J. Simpson affair of the 19th century. Thousands of New Yorkers -- their prurience piqued by lurid accounts in the "penny papers" (the progenitors of today's tabloid press) -- descended on City Hall for Robinson's dramatic five-day trial. Despite overwhelming circumstantial evidence against him, he was acquitted after less than 10 minutes of jury deliberation.
Read about the other books on Schechter's list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Six books on the American Deep South

Sarah Churchwell, a writer and academic who has lectured in the School of American Studies at the University of East Anglia since 1999, named the latest critic's chart for the London Times. Her theme: "Six on the American Deep South."

Number One on the list:
Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner

A dazzling meditation on memory, history, destiny, race, miscegenation, class, and — of course — incest.
Read about Churchwell's other picks.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Alison MacLeod's top 10 short stories

Novelist and short story writer Alison MacLeod named her top 10 short stories for the Guardian.

Her criteria and Number One on her list:
Writing a short story is a high-wire act, sentence by sentence, foot by foot. Very few story writers work with the safety net of a plot conceived in advance. They trust in the humming tension of a single opening line or in an image that rises in their mind, or in a fragment of a character's voice. They might have a sense of where they want their characters to go; they rarely know how they'll get them there. At times it's unnerving work. Lose your concentration or the line of tension in the story and both you and it fall. The best short stories have a breathless, in-motion quality to them, a quality that makes them ideal for adaptation into film, as directors are increasingly realising. A great story ending resonates far beyond its final word. It's a hit to the brain. I read stories and love them for that hit. As the writer Elizabeth Taylor commented, the short story gives the reader the feeling of "being lifted into another world, instead of sinking into it, as one does with longer fiction". The best stories leave you exhilarated.

1. "The Nose" by Nikolai Gogol

On March 25 the barber Ivan wakes to find a nose in his morning bread roll. He is alarmed and confounded. He tries to abandon it in a gutter, then tries to throw it from a bridge but his plans are scuppered. Meanwhile, Kovalev has woken without his nose. Is it a terrible dream? No. The absence grows into an outrage. Then "a door of the carriage opened, and there leapt thence, huddling himself up, a uniformed gentleman... And oh, Kovalev's horror and astonishment to perceive that the gentleman before him was none other than - his own nose!" This story is delicious. It always makes me smile even though I now know well the exploits of said Nose, the eponymous hero. Gogol's story says the imagination, like the Nose, can go absolutely anywhere. He shows us that dream-realities have their own kind of logic. I love Hanif Kureishi's homage, Rhe Penis. Lord knows it was crying out to be done. After all, isn't the Nose sometimes referred to by Gogol as the member? I also love the fact that a statue erected in St Petersburg to honour Gogol and the story of The Nose disappeared from the face of the city in 2002 - another fitting tribute.
Read the entire top 10.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Walter Mosley: most important books

Walter Mosley is the author, most recently, of Blonde Faith, the latest installment in his Easy Rawlins series of detective fiction.

He recently told Newsweek about his five most important books.

Number One on the list:
The Theory of Relativity by Albert Einstein. His sense of human rights makes it the 20th century's foremost writing.
Read more about Mosley's most important books.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Five best: books on exploration

Laurence Bergreen, author of the recently published Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, named a five best list of books on exploration for Opinion Journal.

Number One on his list:

Through the Dark Continent by Henry M. Stanley (1878).

"Dr. Livingstone, I presume." Welsh-born American journalist Henry M. Stanley (1841-1904) uttered those words, or so he claimed, upon tracking down the Scottish missionary and long-missing explorer Stanley Livingstone beside Lake Tanganyika in central Africa in 1871. Stanley continued to investigate Africa on a series of expeditions that he described in "Through the Dark Continent" -- journeys that later drew criticism for Stanley's harsh dealings with the tribesmen he encountered. But there was no question of his courage and energy in the face of extreme hardship. This book's subtitle alone -- "The Sources of the Nile, Around the Great Lakes of Equatorial Africa, and Down the Livingstone River to the Atlantic Ocean" -- is enough to quicken the pulse.

Read about all five titles on Bergreen's list.

--Marshal Zeringue