Today, we’ll look at the good stuff:
Stephen King (1980)
King keeps the sentimentality low and increases dark Bachman touches for a”child-with-powers” story that is much more than Carrie 2.0.
“Take it easy, kiddo. Everything’s fine.”
But as it turned out, nothing was fine. Nothing.
Primo Levi (1986; translation by Raymond Rosenthal, 1988)
A Holocaust survivor examines psychological aspects of the concentration camps.
Thinking back with the wisdom of hindsight to those years that devastated Europe and, in the end, Germany itself, one feels torn between two opinions: were we witnessing the rational development of an inhuman plan or a manifestation (unique in history and still unsatisfactorily explained) of a collective madness? Logic intent on evil or the absence of logic? As so often happens in human affairs, the two alternatives coexisted.
Ira Levin (1976)
The last in Levin’s incredible decade-long run of tightly crafted, clever narratives and my favorite after Rosemary’s Baby (review). I don’t want to give anything of the story away – I’d rather push you toward it and leave you there.
At midmorning, Liebermann sat in a small untidy kitchen, sipping weak tea from a chipped mug and feeling miserable because Mrs. Curry was going to cry any minute.
Vladimir Arsenyev (1923, translation by Malcolm Burr, 1996)
A Russian memoir of adventure, nature, and the wonderful Dersu Uzala.
Akira Kurosawa’s 1975 film Dersu Uzala is a great companion piece.
The twilight was still struggling with the advancing darkness, but could not vanquish it; it yielded, and vanished over the horizon. At once the stars started winking at us from the sky, as though glad at last the sun had set them free.
Peter S. Beagle (1968)
Beagle fixes the problems of plot and pacing that hampered A Fine and Private Place (review) and delivers a book with solid prose, inspired metaphor, and – most importantly – a compelling story.
“Few will mean you anything but evil, and a friendly heart – however foolish – may be as welcome as water one day. Take me with you, for laughs, for luck, for the unknown. Take me with you.”
Georges Perec (1975, translation by David Bellos, 1988)
A book that presents itself as half-memoir of World War II, half fictional Dystopian tale (alternating between the two from chapter to chapter).
It is a short, fascinating, devastating read. Don’t look at a plot description; go in as blind as you can.
I am not writing in order to say that I shall say nothing. I am not writing to say that I have nothing to say. I write: I write because we lived together, because I was one amongst them, a shadow amongst their shadows, a body close to their bodies. I write because they left in me their indelible mark, whose trace is writing. Their memory is dead in writing; writing is the memory of their death and the assertion of my life.
Daphne du Maurier (1971)
“Ever watched anyone die?” he asked suddenly.
“As a matter of fact, no,” I answered.
William Goldman (1973)
Delightful and clever. The movie’s great, but there’s so much more going on in Goldman’s book. The amount of creativity and layering of fiction is worth the admission price, but there’s a lot of heart here, too.
As to Inigo’s personal life, he was always just a trifle hungry, he had no brothers and sisters, and his mother had died in childbirth.
He was fantastically happy.
Because of his father. Domingo Montoya was funny-looking and crotchety and impatient and absent-minded and never smiled.
Inigo loved him. Totally. Don’t ask why. There really wasn’t any one reason you could put your finger on. Oh, probably Domingo loved him back, but love is many things, none of them logical.
Thornton Wilder (1927)
Either we live by accident and die by accident, or we live by plan and die by plan.
David Mitchell (2004)
Nothing is more tiresome than being told what to admire, and having things pointed at with a stick.
Take that quote, and my recommendations, as you will.