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Thursday, February 24, 2005

Low Brow Standard Bearers Unite

I joined a book club in Indiana six months ago. Valparasio is only about an hour away in light traffic, and I have friends there. We only had one meeting. We read Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins and there were five of us present. Four had read it, including me. I liked it.

Ever since we've tried to get the club moving again, with no success. Somebody picked a book about the Trail Of Tears. I'm sure it's fascinating and dramatic and historically significant, but I just can't work up any interest over some Indians with limited vocabularies that died brutally over 100 years ago. What? Tecumseh painted his childhood onto a deerskin using blood and mashed pine needles? It's told entirely with images of suns and lightning bolts and rainclouds? Well. That's just peachy. If you made a movie and he got speared through from behind and lifted off the ground by the sheer force of the javelin and pinned to a burning tree then I might pay attention. I'm an American, and if there's no blood, fire, or fucking I'm going home.

I didn't mean that. I got carried away. I actually like dramas and even romantic comedies. I'll even watch the cheesiest ones. There. I said it. Take away my membership card.

I like some escapism in my entertainment. I'm certainly not a highbrow reader. Most of my consumption is trash fiction. My shelf would be sneered upon by college English majors. Hackery. I have a few writers that are deemed to be literary or at least respectable, like Patrick O'Brien and John Irving, but most of it is Stephen King and Dean Koontz and Michael Connelly and comic books. I read nothing but Hardy Boys mysteries until I was in 6th grade, folks. I tend to latch onto an author and read his entire arsenal. I could tie Orson Scott Card books to your limbs and throw you off a pier and you'd have no hope of survival.

I suppose one day I'll read the classics and try to understand literary devices, cultural significance, and the importance of a philosophical monologue, but first I gotta find out who's gonna buy the farm next in The Tommyknockers.

Leaving fiction and rejoining reality for a moment, I think the Pope will croak next. I hope they shoot him off into space in a capsule so he can race L. Ron Hubbard and Gene Roddenberry to Pluto.
2:52 PM - Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm


February 24, 2005 3:04 PM, Blogger Other Brother said...

Frank and Joe Hardy were my heroes, but I think I turned out more like Chet.

February 24, 2005 3:10 PM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Me too, but without the backfiring jalopy.

February 24, 2005 3:29 PM, Blogger Bookend said...

What really defines literature anyway? I mean...don't we define it within ourselves? So to you Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and the others you mentioned are your english lit.

February 24, 2005 3:50 PM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

I feel no shame at my choices of entertainment. I read On Writing by King and another book about Tolkien a few years ago. The commentary within them cemented my membership in the story club, as opposed to the meaning club.

The book on Tolkien, Meditations On Middle Earth, had an essay in it that struck me. I think it was "How Tolkien Means," and it told about Tolkien's disdain for allegory and writing that requires deciphering to be understood. Reading that bolstered my allergy to allegory, if you will. I've stayed away from the so-called smart books by reflex, which in retrospect is silly and closed-minded.

I really would like to expand my horizons. Right now I read for fun, but it wouldn't hurt me to try reading for education.

February 24, 2005 6:29 PM, Blogger Lightning Bug's Butt said...

I hear you. The only respectable literature I've ever read was Oscar Wilde. I've read his complete works, in fact.

He comes off a little queer, but still a good read.

What's your favorite novel?

February 24, 2005 6:54 PM, Blogger ty bluesmith said...

dude. john fante-dreams from bunker hill, or maybe dreams of bunker hill. something like that. hits you like, boom.

short sentences. angst. str8 smooth line. written for you.

i devoured all of fante's stuff, and still re-read him over breaks.

February 24, 2005 8:18 PM, Blogger Cindy-Lou said...

Have you read anything by James Michener? I highly recommend Centennial or Hawaii, great books. I love the Koontz/King stuff too, still need to get my hands on the last 3 Dark Tower books. By the way, I'm considering the radioactive tennis ball, maybe with smooth edges though. Can I be a brat and request a crescent moon for consideration? Feel free to say no.

February 24, 2005 11:15 PM, Blogger krawdaddee said...

plowing through authors until you run out of patience with their formula or they run out of books. i got lost in louis l'amours westers. after the hundredth book, they all started running together. l ron hubbard, i only made it to book seven of the ten. i read war and peace just to prove i could. i'd take patrick o'brian over those old russian guys any day.

February 25, 2005 10:55 AM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

LBB - For the past few years my favorite book has been A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving.

Thanks for the Oscar Wilde suggestion. I think I'll start a list of writers you've all recommended.

John - I'm adding John Fante to my list - thanks!

CL - my 7th grade English teacher as a big Michener fan. I'll add him to my list. He writes Clavell sized novels if I remember right.

Now which one is the tennis ball? The one with thick ink or skinny ink?

And yes, I'll try a crescent. I get bored with abstracts so it's nice to have a subject every once in a blue moon.

February 25, 2005 10:57 AM, Blogger Bottle Rocket Fire Alarm said...

Krawdaddee - I've read several short story collections by L'Amour but no novels. I enjoyed them, although I far preferred the western stories over the scrappy boxer stories.

So far I've read the 1st 5 Master & Commander books. It's been about six months since then, but I'm sure I'll go back to them soon.

February 25, 2005 11:28 AM, Blogger Imogene_Pix said...

Good literature should move you. I went through this phase in my early 20's when I could read only biographies or short stories because I was burned out on high-school lit. But I'm the sort of person who likes to read about tortured souls so I didn't discover my love of certain classics until I read "Crime and Punishment" and later "The Red and the Black" by Stendahl. I hated lit classes, but still loved reading the books. I had this ass of a professor in college but somehow he really knew how to get a good discussion going despite the pretentious English majors (sorry :))

February 25, 2005 1:25 PM, Blogger Mishka said...

I am a Stephen King fan myself and I even below to the book club so I get the books cheap when they first come out in hard cover....I remember taking a creative writing class in college and the instructor dogged on King...I had to keep my mouth shut. I like the way he writes because it feels like he is talking and I don't notice any formulas (unlike a few of the other authors I read)...

February 25, 2005 3:10 PM, Blogger Bookfraud said...

"My shelf would be sneered upon by college English majors." as an english major and a pretentious writer, i must admit i display my "literary" books and hide the trashy ones. the best is when you get something ridiculous (like A Confederacy of Dunces, anything by P.G. Wodehouse) that has the pretense of being literary, thus impressing visitors and making me feel smug.

There's no shame in Stephen King, Patrick O'Brian, or even REALLY trashy shit. Ever read "The Pugalist at Rest" by Thom Jones? Something tells me you'd dig it. Got sex, violence, serious prescription narcotic abuse, and it's Literature, to boot. One of my all-time faves.

February 25, 2005 3:11 PM, Blogger Bookfraud said...

Oh, and here's another favorite short story. it's really, really fucked up and moving at the same time.


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