Sunday, January 01, 2006

2005 - (Re Reading Lists)

Every year, the critics come out with reading lists, reviewing books that have been published that year. I don't see the point. Books have been around for some two thousand years, meaning that the most interesting books are hardly ever the most recent ones. And our favourite books are usually the ones that we can read and reread; meaning that we are almost never able to tell others whether a book is good after reading it for the first time. And sometimes, the books that we read are poorly written versions of a future book that may never be written.

In that spirit, I offer my own reading list for 2005 ...

A Thurber Carnival
Essays by a great American cartoonists and cartoons by a great American essayist, in the one volume. I bought this edition in a Melbourne secondhand store - I'm not sure which one. It took me some four weeks to finish this book, not because it was big, but because I had other things on my mind at the time. Worth it, if nothing else, for the comic, 'The Bloodhound and the Bug'.

Modern Manners
This is one of the funniest books I have ever read. As a matter of fact, almost all of the books by P. J. O'Rourke fit that description. 'Modern Manners' is an etiquette textbook for the late 20th century - less of a parody of old values than of 'modern' people who have no values. The book is expertly designed, set out in columns, with pictures, tables, quizzes, and educational footnotes. A pity the cover is so awful.

The Pushcart War
This book begins with an introduction by 'Lyman Cumberly, author of The Large Object Theory of History' and the first chapter begins with one of the main characters being pitched head first into a pickle barrel. And if that doesn't explain to you why I love this book, nothing will.

Not So Much Reread as Relooked
Monster Land
A picture book by Hans Arnold; there is a ludicrous amount of detail in every picture. The cover is a lurid orange, while the pictures inside are black and white. The monsters are a perverse combination of man, woman, machine, and animal: quaint, picture-book style fairies and goblins on the verge of changing into something much more fearsome.


Tim said...

I haven't read Modern Manners, but O'Rourke's Bachelor Home Companion is one of my favourites. As a teenager I read his books over and over. I didn't understand most (possibly any) of the politics, and now that I do understand the politics I don't always agree, but by god he is a funny man.

TimT said...

I actually don't like Bachelor Home Companion that much. Some of O'Rourke's funniest pieces are apolitical - his book reviews, for instance, can be hilarious. He's nowhere near as partisan as other self-styled comedians (eg, Michael Moore) - he basically takes human idiocy as his subject. And there's no lack of that, wherever you turn.

Lambert said...

Parliament of Whores by O'Rourke caused me to fall down gasping for breath, I was laughing so hard. Thurber is witty and a good read. Try S.J. Perelman -- same vintage, he was a Hollywood writer. Wrote for the Marx Brothers, among others. "The Rising Gorge", "Baby, It's Cold Inside", "Westward, Ha!" are all classics

TimT said...

I've been meaning to buy some S. J. Perelman ... thanks for the tip-off.

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