A Meme from Quid Plura?

Introductory Text below from Quid Plura?  The choices, distinctly my own.

Memes come, memes go, and I rarely inflict personal stuff on readers of this blog [I copied this from Quid Plura, but how well you have already come to know how untrue it is for me]. However, this meme is fun: list the ten books that most influenced you. Forget the books you love, or the books you think you need to say you’ve read; instead, list the books that answer the question, “Who are you, and how did you get that way?”

Tom Sawyer--From the time of first reading until today, I have never lost the sense of freedom and of what it is just to be a boy with the interests and the foolishness of a boy, with the pranks and those things that are deadly seriously.  And, there is no skill more powerful than convincing everyone that painting the fence is a privilege worth paying for.

Treasure Island--See Tom Sawyer.  Plus--action, adventure, and a sense of coming into your own.

Dracula--From the time of reading I have never lost the sense that the world is populated with more than what science displays for us.  It is irrelevant to me that Dracula qua vampire did not exist, what He represents is a view of the world as more than material.

The Collected Works of H.P. Lovecraft--As much as he might have despised the thought, H.P. Lovecraft does what Dracula does--it gives a sense of a universe without limits--malign, antagonistic, powerful--but deeply mysterious.  It is interesting that an avowed atheist could compose such fundamentally theistic works.  And I don't mean by that mere mockery of the Gods.

The King James Bible--The language will never leave me.  It informs my thoughts, my writings, the writers I like.  Faulkner brings it back for me, as do many of the English writers of the early 20th centruy--round, orotund, unspoken.  It is the language of mystery.

Ulysses--Life as mystery, life as engagement, life as joyous, life as encounter, life as it is meant to be lived aware not only of yourself but of the mysterious conjunction of events that make up a day.  Reality captured in all of its myriad shades.  Ulysses is an education in how to view life--rollicking, comic, harsh, and sad--but ultimately--"Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting. . .then he asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts all perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will Yes.

And that is what Joyce leaves us to take away.

Lord of Light--See mystery, see new way of looking at things, see opening up to a world of difference.

Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass/The Hunting of the Snark--The world as weird and wonderful--logic turned on its head and yet sounding very much like things that come from my fellow humans every day. 

The Martian Chronicles/Dandelion Wine--Repeat all the above--mystery, a world within a world, a world outside of the world, worlds transformed, and all in the space of a human head.  Our terrors, our hopes, our dreams, encompassed in a pair of sneakers and a summer vacation or "Ylla" with her gun that sounds like bees and "Usher II" which presages and wreaks revenge for Fahrenheit 451.  The world as poetry made manifest.

Le Morte D'Arthur Et exspecto in resurrectionem Arturus Rex, regnum Brittaniae.  I still await his return from Avalon and every spring engage Mr. Mallory once again as I await England's darkest hour with its promise of its most shining.  Again the world as mysterious, lovely, and dark.

All of these works formed my sensibility--my love of the surreal and my preference for the hours of evening and night when the things turned dim and dark by the sun can emerge to wreak havoc or to paint fairy circles on the lawn.  Foolish, perhaps, but to deny it--what silliness. 

Please feel free to join in the fun either in the comments or at your own blog.  You don't need to list all of your ten if you're not so inclined, just one or two--but most importantly--why.


  1. Alas, I cannot find my way into and through Joyce's masterpiece. Perhaps I will include it in my "must read before the Social Security Administration catches up to me" list. Though _Ulysses_ and _Finnegan's Wake_ remain unread by me, I frequently return to the much preferred short stories in _Dubliners_.

  2. Dear R.T.,

    That is a shame. The promise of "The Dead" bears fruit in both _Portrait. . ._ and more so in _Ulysses_. As much as I like _Dubliners_, it really is the entree to the more complex works.

    I think a lot of people are thrown by the huge critical apparatus that is erected around Joyce and his masterwork. Just like Proust, it is better to ignore the commentators and go straight to the work. While it takes time and focused attention to get through, the rewards in language, in image, in story are well worth it.

    But then, you already know that I feel that way. I would definitely add _Ulysses_ to the list. And if the Alice books were as foundational to you as they are to me, then _Finnegans Wake_. I don't recommend the latter to very many people because it is quite a different sort of work, and one that while I admire it, I also find myself scratching my head and saying--now why would someone do something like that.

    Thanks for writing. I loved your list as well.




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