in which the author discusses five books he’d read, if time permitted.
1. Parallel Stories, by Péter Nádas, translated by Imre Goldstein.
This book is really long and by an intense Hungarian dude. It’s probably about the entire history of the 20th century or something. Certainly, you will feel like a bad-ass even if you only read the first 45 pages. Then, when you ask a friend what he or she is reading and they say “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” or “that book about zombies by Colson Whitehead,” you can sniff and say, “Oh really? I’m reading Parallel Stories by Péter Nádas, so suck it.”
2. Bento’s Sketchbook, by John Berger.
In this book, a sort-of obscure essayist who once won the Booker Prize offers his thoughts on the power and meaning of artistic expression in a critical-theory-ish fashion. Depending on one’s mood, this could either hit the spot or really suck, but the book, like many by sort-of obscure essayists who once won the Booker Prize, is really short and has pictures, so it’s not a major commitment or anything. In fact, the whole affair is a bit like making out with that gal or fella you always were fascinated with in high school, but making out with them after the homecoming game at a party instead of actually going on, like, a real date or something.
3. No Higher Honor: A Memoir of My Years in Washington, by Condoleezza Rice.
Scenario: The former Secretary of State moves to town. She’s really smart and has a great smile. She plays the piano and knows about football. She might be a lesbian, but no one knows for sure. Do you: a) Ask her on a date before determining whether or not she really wanted to invade Iraq?; b) ask her on a date after confirming whether or not she really did want to invade Iraq?; c) ask her on a date before determining whether or not she is a lesbian?: d) ask her on a date regardless of her sexual orientation?; or e) all of the above? CONDI APOLOGISTS UNITE!
4. Mrs. Nixon: A Novelist Imagines a Life, by Ann Beattie.
Nobody I know seems to have bought, read, or talked about this really great underrated novel by Curtis Sittenfeld that offers a thinly fictionalized version of events in the life of Laura Bush. So, just on the strength of that relatively unknown novel about a First Lady, I’ll recommend this one.
5. The Prague Cemetery, by Umberto Eco, translated by Richard Dixon.
I’ve been scared of Umberto Eco ever since I saw the film version of The Name of the Rose starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater really late one night on Skinemax and there was this freaky shot of a bloody, beating heart that I believe had been ripped from some unlucky person’s chest. I’m not sure if the heart belonged to Mr. Connery or Mr. Slater, but I wasn’t sticking around to find out.