Wednesday, May 22, 2019

'That Will Always Stick with You'

Terry Teachout has revived a decade-old meme that I indulged in but had forgotten. Here are the rules: “Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes.” I decided to postpone reading my list from 2009 and to start from scratch in 2019:

Between Meals: An Appetite for Paris: A.J. Liebling
Life of Johnson: James Boswell
The Geography of the Imagination: Guy Davenport
Lives of the English Poets: Samuel Johnson
The American Scene: Henry James
American Musicians II: Seventy-one Portraits in Jazz: Whitney Balliett
And Even Now: Max Beerbohm
Gulliver’s Travels: Jonathan Swift
Plays and Poems: William Shakespeare
The Ideal of Culture: Joseph Epstein
Pale Fire: Vladimir Nabokov
Stories: Anton Chekhov
The Collected Poems: 1956-1998: Zbigniew Herbert
Daniel Deronda: George Eliot
Essays: Montaigne

Nine of the fifteen authors from ten years ago remain on the list. In the case of Liebling, I switched allegiance to another title (I can’t go wrong with Liebling.). Only one living author (Epstein) is there, and it was tough choosing only one of his titles. Immediately I see the absences. Where are Italo Svevo, Spinoza, Santayana, J.V. Cunningham, Proust, Whittaker Chambers, Geoffrey Hill and Gibbon? Where are the King James Bible, The Divine Comedy and Tristram Shandy? How fortunate I am to have an overflowing list.

The old list was booby-trapped with sadness. I had forgotten that the late David Myers and I assembled lists without a single shared title. Five of the books on his list I still haven’t read and probably never will. Friendship need not be rooted in agreement.


Faze said...

Yes. Where is Svevo. I'm reading "Zeno's Conscience (Confessions)" after your recent mention, and I am absolutely bowled over that I have gone through my whole long life without ever having encountered this great book and its wonderful author. Many thanks.

Busyantine said...

15 minutes, that is tough.
Mine are:
• Thomas Mann: The Magic Mountain
• Shakespeare: Hamlet
• Andrew Marvell: Poems
• George Eliot: Middlemarch
• Evelyn Waugh: Sword of Honour trilogy
• Anthony Powell: A Dance to the Music of Time series
• Henry Fielding: Tom Jones
• Robert Burton: Anatomy of Melancholy
• Stendhal: The Red and the Black
• Anthony Trollope: The Barsetshire novels
• Guy de Maupassant: Short Stories
• Anton Chekov: Short Stories
• Turgenev: Fathers and Sons
• Kipling: Kim
• Philippe Jaccottet: Selected Poems

Don Kenner said...

Interesting to see certain works appear over and over on such lists. Mine:
1. Sword of Honour Trilogy
2. Barchester Chronicles (mostly the first two)
3. Life of Samuel Johnson
4. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
5. The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis
6. Rabbit series by Updike
7. The Unvanquished by Faulkner
8. Jefferson the Virginian by Dumas Malone (I intend to read the other five volumes)
9. John Cheever short stories
10. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren
11. Lolita by Nabokov
12. I'll Take My Stand (various authors)
13. Gone With The Wind [yes, I'm a southerner]
14 The Heart of the Matter by Greene
15 Minding My Business by Percy Muir

For some reason I left off three books I inevitably re-read: Orwell's 1984, Catcher in the Rye, and The Bell Jar by Plath. Both Waugh's Decline and Fall and Brideshead Revisited could've made the list, but hey -- these are the 15 I thought of in less than 15 minutes.