Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Five best books about adventurers

Richard Mason was born in South Africa in 1978 and lives in New York City. His first novel, The Drowning People, published when he was twenty-one and still a student at Oxford, sold more than a million copies worldwide and won Italy’s Grinzane Cavour Prize for Best First Novel. He is also the author of Natural Elements, which was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the best books of 2009 and longlisted for the IMPAC Prize and the Sunday Times Literary Award. History of a Pleasure Seeker is his fourth novel.

For the Wall Street Journal, Mason named a five best list of books about adventurers, including:
Fanny Hill
by John Cleland (1748)

John Cleland's novel about a young woman's erotic adventures, first published 2½ centuries ago, was banned in Britain until the 1960s. Deservedly so, if you believe in obscenity laws. And the book certainly ignores the darker side of prostitution in 18th-century London. But as a candid study of human sexuality in its infinite variety, "Fanny Hill" can't be beaten. Fanny, who tells her story in a series of letters, begins as a virtuous young woman and ends up, through no fault of her own, in a London brothel that doubles as a hat shop. Her career, though lurid by any measure, is nevertheless recounted in prose that captures the rhythms of 18th-century spoken English as well as the riotous permissiveness of the age. She vows "to paint situations as they actually arose to me in nature, careless of violating those laws of decency, that were never made for such unreserved intimacies as ours." This book will incense some readers, but Fanny's character is so human, and her attitude to her experiences so essentially sane (and, yes, pleasure-loving), that perhaps Cleland should be forgiven his effrontery in creating her.
Read about the other books on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue