Thursday, December 12, 2013

Ten Books That Have Stayed With Me

Well, since everyone else is doing it...

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don't take more than a few minutes and don't think too hard-- they don't have to be "right" or "great", just ones that have touched you. (In no particular order...)

The Voice That Is Great Within Us: American Poetry in the Twentieth Century – Edited by Hayden Carruth. This book has literally “stayed with me” since I was 16 years old and stole it from my high school library*. It has been with me everywhere I’ve lived since leaving home more than 30 years ago, as well as on numerous trips. My introduction to poetry. And still possibly the best anthology of poetry ever produced. In terms of great work by many different great poets in such a portable size, I’ve never encountered another anthology like it.

The Bible – Despite a bad rep from being misused and abused by a lot of uptight people, it’s an amazing collection of wisdom, beauty, horror, sex, violence, poetry, literature, mystery and, frankly, a lot of freaky and dark, weird-ass shit. Existentialism didn't start with Kierkegaard, it started with Ecclesiastes. I read it every now and then to remind myself of what's really going on here.

Herzog / Henderson the Rain King - Saul Bellow. They both stay with me, as does most of Bellow’s work. His deep humanity and intelligence, and his mastery of writing... He’s meant a lot to me in my life.

The Sun Also Rises / For Whom the Bell Tolls – Ernest Hemingway. Again, I don’t know how to separate them. I read TSAR first, while sunning on an incredible rock in Arches National Park and listening to Mozart. It probably started my interest in Spain. "Isn’t it pretty to think so?" On the other hand, the ending of FWTBT made me stand up out of my chair and feel the presence of God and/or Death or Love. That’s the way I want to go out. "There’s no one thing that’s true. It’s all true."

The Park of Upside-Down Chairs - Alexandra van de Kamp. I lived with this book before it even existed. I experienced its long and painful birthing process. And it’s all around me every day. Plus, heck, I took the author’s photo. The work inside still moves me and makes me love the person who wrote it. And she’s only gotten better. At poetry and everything else.

Cutting through Spiritual Materialism - Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. I always think of Trungpa as the Brooklyn-Take-No-Shit Buddhist. This book should be read by anyone who thinks they’re on any kind of spiritual path (or not), because it will kick your ass and expose every trick and trap you invent for yourself to pretend you’re “spiritual.” Sandal slap in the face x 100.

A People’s History of the United States (Howard Zinn) / Memory of Fire Trilogy (Eduardo Galeano.) I also think of these together, as they opened my eyes to another aspect of my spiritual path. Gracias a mi padre Guillermo Glenn for laying them on me and changing my life.

Danny Dunn and the Voice from Space - Raymond Abrashkin and Jay Williams. This could be any of the Danny Dunn books I read as a young boy. I re-read most of them in the last year and still loved them. Such a wonderful series about a boy who wants to be a scientist and gets into lots of trouble. The marvel of the childhood imagination. May we never lose that.

Confieso que he vivido [Memoirs] - Pablo Neruda. The life I would like to have lived and never will.

Sixty Stories - Donald Barthelme. This one has been through several moves as well. So much creativity and imagination. So funny. So dark. So weirdly wonderful and poetic. Alexandra says she can always tell when I’m reading Barthelme because I laugh a certain way. She calls it, “The Barthelme laugh.” It’s genuine joy mixed with the pain and sadness of being alive.

* By the way, do not steal books from libraries. Libraries have terrible budgets and lose thousands of dollars worth of books every year. The books belong to the community. They're not to be hoarded by one person! People who steal books from libraries can wind up working in a library! Don't let it happen to you!

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