Thursday, February 19, 2009

i envy people

who can make lists. or, i should say-- i envy people who find it soothing, productive or satisfying to make lists. whenever i have to make a to-do list it becomes so overwrought/overthought that the list itself overtakes any possibility of actually completing the tasks. any other kind of "best of" or "top" list becomes so laden with footnotes and disclaimers and explanations that it becomes a manifesto you'd probably need a map to read.

all this (see??!?) to say that i was reading brandi's blog last night and her list of top 10 non-poetry books challenged me to attempt to come up with my own. the fact that it's not poetry took the pressure off substantially.

the rules i made for myself: no teen/YA books i love, no philosophy/theory (sorry, everything kierkegaard or judith butler's ever written.)

SO (cringe) here's mine! complete w/ disclaimers, annotations, etc.

1) crime & punishment/ fyodor dostoevsky. (man those russians can write a protagonist!)
2) the invisible man/ ralph ellison. (couldn't sleep for DAYS after reading this)
3) speak, memory/ vladimir nabokov. (this book cemented my need to write poetry forever. even though it's an autobiography.)
4) my life/ lyn hejinian. (of course this is poetry, but i think it belongs on this list.)
5) slouching towards bethlehem/ joan didion. (love these essays like children)
6) tie: blankets + fun home/ craig thompson + alison bechdel. (coming-of-age graphic novels? yes please. the first is about a sensitive wisconsin boy growing up in the 80s trying to make sense of his inner emotional life & falling in love for the first time. the second is about an observant queer girl's relationship/childhood with an actress mother & closeted english teacher/ funeral director father. these books are both genius. also intense class/race--blankets is an undeniable portrait of a white-bred, canned religious, middle-american experience--/gender commentary)
7) portrait of the artist as a young man/ james joyce. (alter ego? lacing that alter ego with mythological context? hyper-awareness of self? check! also, um, it's clear that i love auto-biography...& only if it's non-linear/"experimental"/non-traditional. never really figured that out until i made this list.)
8) tie: lolita + pale fire/ vladimir nabokov. (yes, another tie. so what?)
9) 1984/ george orwell. (what's to say? it blew my mind. you know.)
10) the god of small things/ arundhati roy. (hey, arundhati roy! write another novel! this one was so good i was breathless at its end. seriously.)
11) (cause i can) the cutmouth lady/ romy ashby. (a lot of weird energy surrounds this book of short stories that nobody's ever heard of. queer, mostly american-part japanese orphan girl sent to live in a seedy district in japan & attend a strict all-girls school. oh yeah, and stories about legendary japanese woman-criminals somehow meshed with this. emily gould gave this book to me, several years ago when both of our lives were very different (like, before she had a wikipedia page). i think it was my birthday. she pressed it into my hands & said, "this is important." this obviously adds a whole other layer of girl mythos.)

what are yours?????


  1. I've been trying to make this list for a few days now. It isn't easy.

  2. dostoevsky, eh? He's all over the place in Nin's diary... making a priority on my to-read list!


  4. Also, I really wanted to put Brothers K. in my just filled up so quickly! I think 20 wouldn't be enough.

  5. hmmm...having a post-list panic that it was pat/trite to "tie" the two graphic novels-- as if they should be lumped together simply because they're of the same medium. ew. ugh.