Thursday 24 August 2017

Top 50 American novels - discuss

As I did a BSc for my first degree I feel I've never got to grips with the Great American Novel. Somehow I haven't met enough Americans or Eng Lit graduates who majored in American Literature.
What do you think of this list? Are they the best 50 titles? (I've missed out the ones I've actually read).
1  Huckleberry Finn - Twain
2  Catcher in the Rye - Salinger
3  Scarlet Letter - Hawthorne
4  In Cold Blood - Capote
5  East of Eden- Steinbeck
6  Little Women - Alcott
7  Catch 22 - Heller
8  Death of a Salesman - Miller
9  The Stand - Stephen King
10 Leaves of Grass - Whitman
11 Outsiders - Hinton
12 Crucible - Miller
13 Absalom - Faulkner
14 Charlotte's Web - White
15 Invisible Man - Ellison* reading it now
16 Sophie's Choice - Styron
17 The Sound and The Fury - Faulkner
18 House of Mirth - Wharton
19 American Tragedy - Dreisser
20 The Sun Also Rises - Hemingway
21 The Heart is a Lonely Hunter - Carson
22 Main Street - Lewis
23 Cannery Row - Steinbeck
24 Ethan Frome - Wharton
25 The Bridge of St Luis Rey - Wilder
26 Herzog - Bellow
27 Franny and Zooey - Bellow
28 O Pioneers! - Cather
29 Their Eyes were Watching God - Hurston
30 Rabbit Run + 2 - Updike
31 Breakfast of Champions - Vonnegut
32 Accidental Tourist - Tyler
33 World According to Garp - Irving
34 Angel of Repose - Stegner
35 Beloved - Morrison
36 Crossing to Safety - Stegner
37 Confederacy of Dunces - Toole
38 Killer Angels - Shaara
39 Native Son - Wright
40 My Antonia - Cather
41 Death Comes to the Archbishop - Cather
42 The Good Earth - Buck
43 Wings of a Dove - James
44 Maltese Falcon - Hammet
45 Shipping News - Proulx
46 Naked Lunch - Burroughs
47 Tortilla Flat - Steinbeck
48 The Things They Carried - O' Brien
49 The Stand - King
50 One Thousand Acres - Smiley

I would just say I have read Faulkner's 'As I Lay Dying' and I'm not interested in reading any more Faulkner - at least not yet...
What do any of you think of this list? Anything vital that's been left off? Any other recommendations?

With thanks !

Sunday 13 August 2017

Space Oddity

I had the oddest dream last night. For quite some time I was puzzled about the subject matter - where had I got the idea - or imaginings - for deep-space travel? And why was I so relieved it was morning and I wasn't really stuck on a space ship with people clamouring for my attention?

It struck me that maybe I had gone to bed thinking about comets - the Perseid shower is supposed to be visible in the evening sky. Here I could see very little, apart from a few stars and lots of cloud. It could explain why I had gone to sleep with notions of celestial beings but why was I appeasing crowds of folk on a space ship? Is it because I have been planning a big party for my husband? ( But that's not until 2018!)

Hey ho. Whatever the stimulus was for my extra-terrestrial reveries the joy with which I woke up, free from cares and responsibiliies for my fellow passengers, was palpable. The feeling was of liberation, of having nothing to worry about and of having nothing in particular to even think about. I woke up as if on holiday - simply relieved of everyday concerns.

Of course the images from my space travel disappeared very quickly. I do, however, remember characters in my dream were dressed in shiny white space uniforms. But many were also wearing fancy dress and I seem to remember tables full of trifle and jellies featured quite strongly. One of the oddest aspects of the dream was people asking to get off, as if we were on a bus, and groups wanting  to alight at a variety of 'bus' stops. I had to keep them calm and repeated that they must wait. Another abiding sensation I took away from the dream was that I knew I had to keep everyone safe and I had to stay on the ship until the bitter end. I was very busy telling people to take care of their belongings as well as dealing with their dietary requirements. I could almost have been running a school trip - but for whole family groups - not just for a class of twelve-year-olds!

At the end of the dream I had managed to quash everyone's worries and reassured them. I had met each request or demand and kept them safe until they were able to get off the space ship at some extra terrestrial airport lounge... When I awoke it was barely 6.30 am, far too early to wake or get up, but so enlivened was I by having discharged my duties as space hostess I couldn't get back to sleep!

I wrote down the details from my space travel, such as they were, and remembered I'd done something which, although prosaic, might explain my 'high' feelings. I'd taken paracetamol with caffeine in 2 separate doses the day before. I'd also had an Aperol Spritzer, the drink that's sweeping Europe, according to the barman at our riverside local. Is it the effect of this cocktail which had created my fantastic space trip? I don't watch Dr Who and I haven't been thinking of Bowie nor his Space Oddity. I haven't been entertaining friends or family enmasse but I have had paracetamol-with-caffeine for a trapped nerve in my back. I had cleared  the kitchen garden and made new paths, all of which had made my back pain flare up. Is it the realisation I no longer have to dig the veggie plots, nor re-stain fence panels, nor clear unwanted honeysuckle - which has been a devil to shift - nor transport garden waste to the 'green bin' that has given me the feeling, on waking, of great elation? Has doing the garden been weighing on my mind? But what has making new paths in our kitchen garden got to do with the overriding responsibilities of space travel?

Yesterday, after my gardening chores were over and I was lying down, resting my back, I did watch an excellent BBC version of Priestly's 'An Inspector Calls'. Had I, perhaps, taken the message of the play, to be responsible for everyone we meet, to heart? Could that explain my own 'space oddity'?- the notion that if you don't treat people with courtesy they might suffer as a result of your actions. Might these thoughts have affected my subconscious? Are these the thoughts I had when I closed my eyes last night? I do know this morning I have nothing to worry about. Well, nothing apart from querying why I had such an odd dream, full of an overwhelming burden that I was responsible for everyone on that space ship. Now I've written my blog and discharged my duties I can relax, have a cuppa and get on with my day.

Can't I?