Monday, November 29, 2004

Intellectual Pecking Order

A little while ago, we asked people what their
favorite movie lines
were. Showing the difference between men and boys, today Hugh Hewitt asks what novels are worth rereading.

Hugh, who really is a scholar and a gentleman, nominates several worthies--including The Lord of the Rings.

I would add The Great Gatsby. I speak with zero authority on the subject (I'm the most poorly read homo sapiens in this hemisphere, a fact which I blame--nearly convincingly!--on a college education which afforded me the time to read not a single real book), but I love Gatsby the way a 15-year-old loves porn. (If you still need convincing, Chris Hitchens loves Gatsby, too.)

Still, the person we should really turn to here is Skinner, who surely has smart thoughts on all of this. David?

Update, 11/30/04, 4:52 p.m.: Galley Friend K.T. sends in this erudite missive:

* Tongues of Angels, Reynolds Price. If you haven't read it, you should. Price is one of the great Southern writers: lyrical, prolific, deeply religious, and with a way to spin a phrase that will wind you up backwards. He's complex, fascinating, and his writing evidences compassion for his characters, unlike some so-called "great novelists" who prefer to take their characters out for a good thrashing just because critics reward angst. The first read through, it seems childlike. The second read through, it's hopelessly complex. And by the third, you're savoring each sentence and finding nuggets in there you didn't know existed and phrases you'll quote to your friends.

* To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Not modern, but worth re-reading whenever you feel a little doubt about the way the world is and should be.

* What the Scarecrow Said, Stewart Ikeda. A beautiful moving portrait of Japanese internment camps and the strange bedfellows that wartime may bring. Reread when you want to feel better about human nature . . . or worse.

* Anything by Anthony Doerr. Tony's one of the young writers of our generation who can make prose sing. He is best known for his collection of short stories entitled "The Shell Collector" but his new book Grace is complicated and interesting and challenging all in one.

8 comments:

CSG said...

Shaara's The Killer Angels

David said...

I was perusing my bookshelves to see if there was some other novel besides LOTR that I would re-read when it hit me -- there are still too many really good books out there that I haven't read. Re-reading a novel takes time away from reading another great one for the first time (for instance, I will confess that I've never actually read "Gatsby"). So I would think that the list of novels to re-read would be necessarily short.

Yep, I think Tolkien's three volumes make for a pretty good list by themselves.

Anonymous said...

I agree- have read "The Great Gatsby" at least 4 times. The story speaks volumes about the American psyche - cautionary tale, but also underscores what makes us a great people. Should be read by everyone in this country. The quality of the writing especially makes it enjoyable and worth re-reading. The films done on this novel have been disappointing and should not discourage readers.

Birkel said...

Not to be too pedantic, but I'm sure Mr. Hitchens hates being called Chris and would rather be called Christopher. (IIRC)

Shakespeare is good for second reads. In HS, it was all about sword play but as an adult it's all double entendre and adult themed. Quite clever.

Anonymous said...

Eliot's Middlemarch. No question.

miklos rosza said...

Anthony Powell's "A Dance to the Music of Time" gains on each rereading and remains highly entertaining. Sometimes compared somewhat slightingly to Proust, but much underrated and underread. "Ulysses" is better the second time through, with the caveat that there are some serious longeuers. Flaubert's "Sentimental Education" is less frustrating when you don't expect Frederic to become heroic. I can't bring myself to reread Thomas Mann or Yukio Mishima, but I reread "The Wings of the Dove" by Henry James while stuck in New York a few years back and it not only, uh, literally flew... but I found much more, sentence by sentence, clause by clause, than I ever expected. "The Diary of a Country Priest" by Georges Bernanos still does its job, and scalds. "Mr Sammler's Planet" by Saul Bellow holds up, highly comic, as is "Humboldt's Gift."

Anonymous said...

The previously mentioned novels are all great reading, but I find with all the Reality TV and news bombardment, a bit of fantasy is a nice change. I recently confiscated my son's copy of Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson. It's a nicely done prequel to Peter Pan and well worth the read for children and adults.

On the even lighter side of things, one that I have re-read many times over is Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy series. An extremely funny look at everything from how to fly, to the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. A definite must read.

Patrick said...

The Old Man and the Sea. You can knock it off in an hour.