March 30th, 2008

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 9

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
  4. Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
  5. Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
  6. Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  7. Chesterton, G.K. — Orthodoxy (183 pages)
  8. Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. — The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (334 pages)
  9. Sendak, Maurice — Where the Wild Things Are (48 pages — though only 1 page will count towards my tally)

Page count: 2060.

I debated whether or not to include this in my annual tally. Ultimately, I decided, it is a book and, hence, belongs; but, since it is a book comprised almost entirely of illustrations, I cannot justify adding all 48 pages to the tally of pages read. Instead, I will count it as one book and only one page.

I was browsing through a bookstore Friday night when I saw Where the Wild Things Are on the shelf. It had been decades since I had read it. I knew that I was going to a concert the following evening featuring a work by Oliver Knussen, who composed a wonderful little opera of the same name based entirely on Sendak's book. Thus, I couldn't very well not re-read Where the Wild Things Are right there on the spot. It took all of maybe three minutes.

And what a magical three minutes! I'm looking forward to having children just so I can read this to them. The story is wonderful and heart-warming, but the illustrations are priceless. Those in the middle of the book documenting the rumpus especially made me smile.

Relax!  Grab a Book!

Book 10

  1. Matheson, Richard — I Am Legend (161 pages)
  2. McCarthy, Cormac — No Country for Old Men (307 pages)
  3. Dexter, Gary — Why Not Catch 21?: The Stories Behind the Titles (213 pages)
  4. Ryman, Geoff — 253 (366 pages)
  5. Wyndham, John — The Day of the Triffids (267 pages)
  6. Kurkov, Andrey — Death and the Penguin (228 pages)
  7. Chesterton, G.K. — Orthodoxy (183 pages)
  8. Gibbs, Christopher H., ed. — The Cambridge Companion to Schubert (334 pages)
  9. Sendak, Maurice — Where the Wild Things Are (48 pages — though only 1 page will count towards my tally)
  10. Hurston, Zora Neale — Their Eyes Were Watching God (215 pages)

Page count: 2275.

In one of the closest races in a long time—closer even than the current race for Democratic nomination for U.S. President—Their Eyes Were Watching God edged out the other contenders 2 to 1 to 1 to 1 to 1 to a bunch of 0s. Despite voter turnout almost as pathetic as in my last book poll, my readers have managed to recommend another literary gem to me. Every time I democratize my next reading choice, you have chosen a masterpiece for me.

It surprises me that Their Eyes Were Watching God was out of print and virtually unheard of for a few decades. Yes, it is notably distinct from other works by black authors from Hurston's generation, but it certainly is not in any way inferior to them. Clearly, the cause of Hurston's neglect was political. This is a shame that has thankfully been corrected in the last thirty years, as Their Eyes Were Watching God is as good a book as I've read in the past few years.

Hurston's novel is warm, lyrical, and colorful. The story recounts the blossoming of Janie as she matures from a little girl struggling to find who she is to a woman at one with herself. Her journey is extraordinary, fraught with gender- and race-based limitations imposed by her society; she eventually breaks through, finding self-assurance, love, and fulfillment. Hurston skillfully shifts perspectives and style, between first and third persons, between literary and colloquial, between realism and mythology, and succeeds not only in crafting a compelling love story but in making music through her use of words and painting some of the most sensuous and poignant images in literature.