Friday, June 25, 2010

You are what you read (The Jon version)

Awhile back, as you long time readers will no doubt remember, my fellow Scribblerati Agent Mark Teats wrote a blog titled: “You are what you read”, listing some of his long time favorite and most personally influential authors. A fun and insightful read, I thought it was a fantastic idea, one I fully intended to copy as soon as it was my turn to blog again.

Then I forgot all about it.

I forgot a couple of times, in fact, but now—thanks Google Calendar!—I have remembered!

Let’s begin:

(And, of course, there are many other authors and books that I love, even though they are not included on this list, which is transient and appears here in no particular order. Mmm-kay?)

Some of My Favorites, a list by Jonathan Hansen

1. On the Road: Kerouac

There are some who have a problem with this book and its style. There are some who have issues with the culture he helped create (issues I share), but still, this book speaks to a part of me, to who I used to be, to who I wanted to be, and I’ll always love going back to read it again. It’s like visiting old friends and good times.

2. In Cold Blood: Capote

This last school photo of poor doomed Nancy Clutter still haunts me, as does the kind of runaway freight train inevitability of this book, the horrible tragedy and sadness of it all. I came to this book late in life and it simply dazzled me. It is fantastic, one of my very favorites. Capote writes the wide open spaces, perfectly realized, perfectly executed, it is brilliant. Brilliant.

3. Catcher in the Rye: Salinger

So much has been said about this book, about this author, about the culture and hype that surrounds it, that there is little that I can add, except: I read this in fourth or fifth grade and Holden Caulfield blew my mind—like out the top of my head, blew my mind. The quote: “People never notice anything.” That was it, man. In my young head… that was it.

4. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: Thompson

I think all young men of my particular ilk have a Thompson phase. I know I did, maybe still do. The trick is, once you can see the other side of it, is to not spend the rest of your life doing a poor imitation of the man’s signature wild man style... most are unable to do this and spend forever wallowing in mediocrity, because no doubt the man was a unique talent, one sorely missed these days. This here: “And that, I think, was the handle - that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of old and evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look west, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” Brilliant.

5. Among the Thugs: Buford

Man, let me tell you—if you want crazy... Have you ever wondered what would happen when a man sucked another man’s eyeball out of his socket during a fight? No? Dudes... don’t read this book then. And that is only ONE of the crazy ass things these crazy ass, real life Man U fans actually did... in real life! They practically burned Juventus to the ground! Why? Because they were there! Amazing book! Amazing.

6. Lyonesse: Vance

As a kid, I was... restless... so Mom would ship me off during the summer. Sometimes, I would visit my Aunt in Los Angeles and she lived in a zombie proof fortress, kind of near Little Tokyo, on the corner of Crack Head Street and Staff Infection Avenue... so, I didn’t get to play outside much. It was always a fun visit, the loft was spacious and we did lots of fun stuff, but still, sometimes there was down time and LA had weird TV and I was like...9 and it’s not like I had brought a bunch of my toys and stuff with, so one day in a B Dalton, I wanted to buy a book. I picked one with a Green armored Knight riding a Purple striped Tiger and was like: “Oh hell yes, this one.” (Paraphrased). And my Aunt said: “But that’s number two... Here’s number one.” And she picked up this one:

“You should get the first one in the series.” And I said: “...” There was no denying the logic, so with slumped shoulders and a last longing look at the Tiger riding Knight, I got it (Holden Caulfield hadn’t taught me rebellion yet) and took it back to the Loft. Since then, I’ve probably read it two dozen times. I read my first version to pieces. The story of the slowly sinking Elder Isles, the invading Ska, the Sorcerer Murgen, and young Dhrun, poor Princes Suldrun, evil King Casmir and Prince Alias one day washing up on the beach is simply... Great. High Adventure. High Fantasy. Tons of characters. Jack Vance is a mad genius. It's a fantasy to be swept away in. It may have even been the first "real" book I read as a kid. I Loved it. It was way better than the purple Tiger book...

7. The Road: McCarthy

Cormac McCarthy is so good, I forgive his lack of quotation marks and dialogue designators. The Road and No Country for Old Man blur by, so spare and yet so richly illustrated, while Blood Meridian is a literary ass kicking. He is brutal and beautiful and his work is staggering. He is so good, it’s intimidating.

8. True Grit: Portis

I’ll make an admission... I’ve never seen this movie. I’ve heard it’s good and once I come across it on DVD, I’ll totally watch it, but yeah... never seen it. So I went into reading this with only a slight image of John Wayne in my head and honestly, this book is amazing. Amazing. It’s one of those books that came flying out of left field and landed in my lap and I was like: “Huh...” Nothing but fun and written like a house a’fire. A total blast. The most amazing part is how aware the book seems, how honest and insightful, all while maintaining the classic tropes of the Western. And now the Cohen Brothers are making it into a film that is supposed to be faithful to the book? Sweet...

9. The Stand: King

So, maybe I’ve mentioned this before, either here or over at my own blog, but I love comics and one of my favorite things to do as a kid was when I would go visit my Grandparents in Boone Iowa, I’d slip away at some point with all of my crumpled bills and handfuls of coins and walk to “downtown” Boone to visit the Hallmark store. In the back they had the biggest shelf of comics my used-to-the-spinner-rack eyes had ever seen. In a time before my first comic shop... this place was heaven and I would carefully count all of my money, so I could buy the most amount of comics available. It took some time, effort, and arithmetic, let me tell you (especially since I was reading all the ones I couldn’t buy), but anyway, after much deliberation, I picked up my stack and started toward the front when a cover stopped me dead... "wha..?":

An extra 400 pages?!?! 400!?!? Now, you need to understand, this book, Star Wars, and the Road Warrior (I still didn’t have the guts, at the time, to watch Night of the Living Dead), they had awaken me to storytelling, opened doors in my head and lit my mind on fire. An extra 400 pages!!! I'd already read the edited version, devoured it, so without pause, without a thought, I left my comics behind and used my money to buy this book. I still have it too. The covers are gone and the first few pages of the front and back, I know it well. This is an end of the world, multi character, Good vs. Evil masterpiece.

10. A Game of Thrones: Martin

Here’s my second admission: I hate fantasy. I love Tolkien, because he’s Tolkien, but all the deformed bastard children he’s whelped in the time since... ugh. Bloodless, sexless, lame half wits, lacking... EVERYTHING that could be considered good...ugh... I had given it up, man. I didn’t want any more. I was done. I mean, I’ve since discovered authors who write kick ass, fantastic fantasy with realistic characters and are good and awesome and well done, like Joe Abercrombie or Richard K. Morgan, for instance, but George here, he was the first one on that road for me with this fat, sprawling monster of a series where powerful houses vie for the throne while an ancient evil grows behind a 300 foot tall wall of ice. The best part of these books is the fear, absolute best part... any character can die in these books, any one of them, and he’s more than proven his willingness to kill, maim, or just generally run through the ringer any character you might think would normally be safe... Let me assure you, they are not. Fantastic books, huge, involving, well-written, they are hardcore. If the idea of what hitting someone with a mace would actually do makes you squeamish, then don’t read these. Seriously brutal. But brilliant. The only (potential) problem is that there’s supposed to be six books and only four are out right now, and it's been awhile, so George is at that tipping point most long term fantasy series authors find themselves at eventually, the point where the story may spiral out of control and never end—fingers are crossed that he is able to land this beast, especially because HBO is doing a series next year. A season per book! WOOOO!

Winter is coming.

I’m so excited.

Anyway, what are you reading?



Mark Teats said...

Nice post, Jon. We have some similar tastes (The Stand and The Road are on my list of fav books too), but you've given me a couple books to read.... "True Grit" was on my dad's bookshelf when I was growing up, but I never read it. Maybe now is the time.

Shawn Enderlin said...

I love reading these - it's fascinating how varied everyone's tastes and influences are.

Another thing I'm always struck by is how everyone has always read so many non-genre authors. I have made a few occasional forays outside the sci-fi/fantasy landscape but I rarely find much solace there.

Qlaudie said...

Oooo...this is exciting! Well done, Jon. Your choices are VERY masculine, in the truest gender sense. This makes me think that Lisa and I should do similar posts. And then Shawn should too, so he's not left out.

Shawn Enderlin said...

yeah, don't leave me out.

Jon said...

Well... I AM pretty manly, as anyone who has seen my awesome HALO skills can attest to...

Jon said...

Also, yeah, you all should definitely do one. I'm interested.