Five Most Intense Reads

Which, I’m finding, aren’t at all the same as my five favorite books. Ridiculous, yes? Wish I had some fix for that, or at least an explanation, or suspicion. I mean, it’s kind of presupposing some major disconnect between intensity and . . . I don’t know: appreciation? Revisitability? Not some Pirsig-ish ‘quality,’ I don’t think. But who knows. Anyway, today, were I picking my five favorite-ever books, they’d look something like this:

  • The Magus, Fowles
  • The Virgin Suicides, Eugenides
  • Catch-22, Heller
  • Love Medicine, Erdrich
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Marquez

Which, yeah, is probably just a whole reversal of all the other ‘Top 10’ lists I’ve posted wherever. Even now I’m tempted to start listing the usual suspects here, but’ll resist, just because that always feels like cheating. And what I’m meaning to talk about here anyway are ‘intense’ reads, which hit me very viscerally, caught me just totally unaware. These:

  • The Girl Next Door, Ketchum
  • The Life of Pi, Martel
  • The Road, McCarthy
  • A Confederacy of Dunces, Toole
  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Albom

And yeah, I know: that fifth book’ll get me boo’d out of most rooms. But the Ketchum’ll probably keep me from getting in most, too. I don’t know. Those are the ones that hit me the hardest, anyway. In, it looks like, about four different ways.

Another list I see I’ve thumbnailed but not-yet-completed is some made-up category of ‘Most Fully Imagined.’ So far on it I have Riddley Walker, A Clockwork Orange, maybe The Name of the Rose and Delaney’s The Einstein Intersection or Vizenor’s Bearheart. It was all ordered where it made some kind of sense, but I lost the receipt I’d cribbed it on, and think the category might be forced anyway — I’m thinking it should be something more like ‘Novels that Don’t Feel Like Fiction,’ and have Allison’s Bastard Out of Carolina there at the middle, somehow. Except what can even approach Bastard, right? The Things They Carried, I suppose. Maybe Crews’s Childhood: an Autobiography of a Place, except that’s not even really fiction, only now I’m kind of edging towards a list I would qualify more by, as Llosa uses it, ‘sincerity,’ which is where I would try to stuff VALIS or Ubik, say, or Notes from the Underground (as for where/how to put The Crying of Lot 49 : never figured that one out — it’ll fit with ‘conspiracy’ novels, but is different too, is more in keeping with Wright’s Going Native, or even Coover’s Ghost Town).

Another cool list, I think, would be ‘Technical Feats in Fiction,’ headlined of course by Danielewski, probably Only Revolutions there, but my tastes would run more to Amis’s Time’s Arrow, DM Thomas’s The White Hotel, Egolf’s Lord of the Barnyard, To the Lighthouse, Barth’s The Sot-weed Factor or The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor (which usually stars as the Lost Highway/Twelve Monkeys of my bookdom). Not sure. Still, and probably forever, a very nebulous, bad-idea — as in ‘never complete’ — list.

As for recommends: I just hit Eric Shapiro’s It’s Only Temporary, and it was very cool. And was lucky enough to catch Grindhouse down at one of the Alamo Drafthouses in Austin, meaning I got all the old trailers too, even the strictly-local (yes?) Hobo with a Shotgun. My only wish with Grindhouse was that Roth’s Thanksgiving trailer, like Hatchet, was going to get that full-feature treatment. Talking regrets, though, man: it so hurt watching that Charger and that Challenger get ruined in Deathproof. I mean, and that was real sheet metal, I’m pretty sure. Sad times, but it did make the stunts really work, I suppose. And that diner-scene with the second set of girls, it’s something of a feat, I think. Is it one long, uninterrupted shot, like Russian Ark or something (just with interesting stuff). Either way, I was just very impressed. Put me right in the frame of mind of that long, deputy-shooting scene in House of 1000 Corpses. Except that there of course the ‘dialogue’ was silence.

Author: SGJ