Ten Questions...Plus One... About Books

stlukesguild

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1. What is one book that changed your life?

2. What books have you read more than once?

3. What 10 books would you want on the proverbial desert island?

4. What is one book that made you laugh?

5. What is one book that made you cry?

6. What is one book that made you angry?

7. What is one book you wish you'd written?

8. What is one book you wish never had been written?

9. What is one book you have been meaning to read?

10. What is one book you would recommend to others?

11. What is one book that you feel is a visual masterwork?
 
Okay, I was spending too much time on this. It's not the most important thing in the world. It kinda felt like it was, but it's not! So, here are some answers:

1. What is one book that changed your life?

Ham on Rye - Charles Bukowski (Long story. It just did.)

2. What books have you read more than once?

Too many psychology books and unfortunately, almost all the technical books by a certain cult leader.

3. What 10 books would you want on the proverbial desert island?

Ones I haven't read yet. This one is too hard.

4. What is one book that made you laugh?

Women - Charles Bukowski

5. What is one book that made you cry?

Bastard out of Carolina - Dorothy Alison

6. What is one book that made you angry?

Biko - Donald Woods

7. What is one book you wish you'd written?

Bee Season - Myla Goldberg

8. What is one book you wish never had been written?

Well, none, but one? Maybe Mein Kampf

9. What is one book you have been meaning to read?

Grapes of Wrath - Steinbeck (I know, I know. I haven't read it yet. Exuuuse me.)

10. What is one book you would recommend to others?

Wait Until Spring, Bandini - John Fante

11. What is one book that you feel is a visual masterwork?

It's a toss up. MOMA Masterpieces or Masterpieces from the Norton Simon Museum. (Is that what you meant? Like a printed collection?)
 
1. What is one book that changed your life?

This was initially a difficult question. I began with a good half-dozen including Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, Dante's Comedia, and Shakespeare's plays, but eventually I honed it down to three. The first would be J.L. Borges' Labyrinths.

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Borges undoubtedly opened me up to the endless possibilities of Post-Modernist literature... and art. Where I had been initially hesitant about the self-consciousness and forced or mannered nature of Post-Modernism... or shall I simply say of that certain strain of Modernism that surely includes Kafka, Joyce, Beckett, Hesse and Mann (to a lesser degree), Italo Calvino, Umberto Eco, Thomas Pynchon, and endless others, Borges opened me up to a real appreciation of such. Through him I began to recognize a tradition that went back to Swift, Sterne, Cervantes, and others. Drawn ever deeper into his seductive labyrinths I was continually introduced to writers who were forever new (to me at least) and fascinating. Borges also led me to re-imagine endless familiar books in a new light: The Arabian Nights, Cervantes, Sterne, etc...

As a visual artist the Book of Kells...

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...was an absolute epiphany. This work shattered all of my comfortable assumptions about art. It completely destroyed my preconceptions about the Middle Ages... the so-called "dark ages". It undermined my clear dislike of abstraction... I mean the paintings in this book were essentially "abstract"... but undeniably beautiful. It also opened me up to artistic possibilities beyond painting... especially to the world of the book as an art form. I was soon exploring the medieval collections of museums and collecting books on the Lindesfarne Gospels, the Rohan Master, the Limbourg Brothers, the Hiberno-Moorish illuminations, Islamic and Persian manuscripts, the Paris Psalter, and on to William Blake, the Kelmscott Chaucer, Matisse's Jazz, Adolf Wölfli etc...

The third life-changing book most certainly had to have been the Collected Illuminated Books of William Blake. Like the Book of Kells, Blake completely challenged all of my preconceptions of what an artist is. As a student in art school where the hierarchy of art with painting at the pinnacle was being reinforced, Blake challenged my very notions of what an artist could be. At a point in time in which large painterly paintings in oils dominated, he freely chose to work in print and watercolor. As an artist/bibliophile Blake challenged the notion that one needed to make the choice between art and literature... between painting and books. And this doesn't even touch upon his brilliance as a poet.

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2. What books have you read more than once?

J.L. Borges' Labyrinths, Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, Dante's Comedia, Homer's Iliad & Odyssey, Kafka's short stories, Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities, Rimbaud' Illuminations, William Blake's Collected Poetry & Prose, The Song of Songs, and a good many more...

3. What 10 books would you want on the proverbial desert island?

I answered this and the other questions here a decade ago of the literature forum I frequented. My choices would be the same with one exception: I replaced John Milton's Paradise Lost with Borges' Collected Fictions:

1. Collected Works of William Shakespeare
2. Dante- Divine Comedy
3. The Bible- King James Translation
4. J.L. Borges- Collected Fictions
5. Cervantes- Don Quixote
6. Collected Works of Edmund Spenser
7. Collected Works of William Blake
8. Proust- In Search of Lost Time
9. The Arabian Night's Entertainments
10. Abolqasem Ferdowsi- Shanameh


On another day I might also replace another on this list... maybe Spenser... with Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal. 😯

4. What is one book that made you laugh?

Certainly there are more than one. Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, Flannery O'Connor's Good Country People (yes... I'm sick... I like that black humor), Gore Vidal's Myra Breckenridge, many of J.L. Borges' tales which take logical concepts to an absurd end, O'Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, Donald Barthleme's Me and Miss Mandible, Phillip Roth's The Breast and Portnoy's Complaint, Tommaso Landolfi's Gogol's Wife.

5. What is one book that made you cry?

The closest must certainly be DeQuincy's memories of his beloved Anne from his Confessions of an English Opium Eater.

6. What is one book that made you angry?

Plato's Republic. I repeatedly scrawled throughout the margins arguing with him again and again.

7. What is one book you wish you'd written?

In terms of aesthetics, Dante's Comedia... but in terms of the money to be gained, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone ;)

8. What is one book you wish never had been written?

Mein Kampf

9. What is one book you have been meaning to read?

I seriously have got to get around to reading the Qur'an... Considering the impact of the Middle-East and the Islamic World upon our current political and economic world, it almost seems irresponsible not to have read it.

10. What is one book you would recommend to others?

Any of the books on my Top Ten list, Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal, Robert Hughes, Shock of the New, Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian, Robert Alter's translation of the Hebrew Bible, William Arrowsmith's translations of The Collected Poems of Eugenio Montale,
Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities & The Complete Cosmicomics, Jonathan Galassi's translation of Leopardi's Canti, Edward Snow's translations of the poetry of Rilke,
,
11. What is one book that you feel is a visual masterwork?

The gorgeous Shanameh of Tabriz:

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A book which I've read several times and will read again is My Name is Red by the Turkish author Orhan Pamuk. It is a wonderful book about miniaturists during the Ottoman empire, the writing took me to the dark rooms lit only by candles by which the apprentice miniaturists had to work.
Another book which I've read a couple of times and which has taught me a lot about the origins of our paints is a book called Colour by Victoria Finlay
Seven Days in the Artworld by Sarah Thornton made me laugh
H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald - a beautiful book - made me cry
Terra incognita by Sarah Wheeler - travels in Antarctica- fascinating
The Tibetan Book of the Dead - Just because
Whilst I also think Mein Kampf should never have been written, having read it I found it to be the most boring thing I've read
 
H is for Hawk is a vastly over rated book. Far as falconry for healing goes, Falcon Fever, by Tim Gallagher, is far superior.

MacDonald is flat out wrong about the status of women in falconry. There are plenty. Right there in her own UK are Emma Ford, perhaps the most famous falconer in the world, and Jemima Parry-Jones, director of the National Birds of Prey Center. I'm personally acquainted with half a dozen female falconers, many of whom are also artists or artisans. Jean Sherlock is an excellent painter, as is Mary Jo Aardsma, who has lately taken to minimalism. Pam Hessey restores carousel horses for a living. MacDonald writes good descriptive prose but obviously derived from J.A. Baker's The Peregrine, which she goes out of her way to dis.

For those who dig her anyway, she came out with a DVD titled H is for Hawk-- a New Chapter, in which she notes that her life has miraculously taken a turn for the better. Whose wouldn't, after becoming an award winning best selling author with lots of dough? There's some really cool footage of goshawks for gos fans, of which I am one. But frankly, MacDonald gives me the creeps. There's just something off about her. The book is so self-indulgent it should really be called H is for Helen.
 
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Speaking as someone who knows nothing about falconry, I appreciate you writing such a detailed post. Maybe because I know nnothing I found the book almost an entry to another place and very visual.
 
Alice's Adventures in Wonderful is the first book I read that sorta rewired my brain. That and its companion Through the Looking-Glass are the two books I have read probably more than any others.

"Visual masterwork" is a very open-ended question. I'm inclined to think of books that are themselves works of art, in which case I'd consider something like Max Ernst's visual novel "Un semaine de bonté" is a masterwork. It's hard to narrow it down when there are so many great picture books and comics out there. Like, I think Ware's stories are a bit of a drag, but the work he put into the Acme issues and the compendiums is really impressive. They're all like little works of art and he has a designer's eye for packaging.

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